BBC Radio 4's 'The Film Programme' talks to George A Romero. 'Forty five years after the release of genre-defining Night of the Living Dead, Francine Stock talks to the director George A Romero about inventing the undead zombie and where he might unearth horror in contemporary society. Plus why he doesn't rate Stanley Kubrick as a horror director.' [SL BBC Radio 4 episode] [more inside]
A month after its release, Naughty Dog's sweeping interactive epic The Last of Us is being hailed as one of the best games of all time, with perfect scores even from notoriously demanding critics. Inspired by an eerily beautiful segment from the BBC's Planet Earth, the game portrays an America twenty years after a pandemic of the zombiefying Cordyceps fungus (previously), leaving behind lush wastelands of elegant decay teeming with monsters and beset by vicious bandits, a brutal military, and the revolutionary Fireflies. Into this bleak vision of desperate violence journey Joel, a gruffly stoic Texan with a painful past, and his ward Ellie, a precocious teenager who may hold the key to mankind's future. Boasting tense, immersive gameplay, compelling performances from a diverse cast, a movingly minimalist score from Oscar-winning Gustavo Santaolalla, and an array of influences from Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, it's already being slotted alongside BioShock Infinite and Half-Life 2 as one of modern gaming's crowning achievements. And while it's hard to disentangle plot from action, you don't have to buy a PS3 to experience it -- YouTube offers many filmic edits of the game, including this three-hour version of all relevant passages. And don't miss the 84-minute documentary exploring every facet of its production. [more inside]
The Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's Film Review YouTube channel has a lot of videos of film reviews from the livestream of their BBC radio show and podcast, going back about five years. They are sorted by genre, film rating, geographic origin and one special category, Classic Kermodean Rants, which includes his reviews of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Sex and the City 2, in which he ends up sing-shouting The Internationale, and Angels and Demons, which woke a man from a coma (mp3, story starts at 5:10, and it is followed up here, beginning at 5:30).
"What is a cult film? A cult film is one that has a passionate following, but does not appeal to everyone. James Bond movies are not cult films, but chainsaw movies are. Just because a film has become a cult movie does not automatically guarantee quality. Some are very bad; others are very, very good. Some make an awful lot of money at the box office; others make no money at all. Some are considered quality films; others are exploitation movies. One thing cult movies do have in common is that they are all genre films - for example gangster films or westerns. They also have a tendency to slosh over from one genre into another, so that a science fiction film might also be a detective movie, or vice versa. They share common themes as well, themes that are found in all drama: love, murder and greed." - of the British TV film slots accompanied by an introduction perhaps the most celebrated is Moviedrome, running between 1988 and 2000 and presented first by Repo Man director Alex Cox and then film critic Mark Cousins. [more inside]
Jake Cole of the film blog Not Just Movies discusses the semi-legendary hour-long debate about Monty Python's Life of Brian on the BBC Four program Friday Night, Saturday Morning. The debate features Pythons John Cleese and Michael Palin on one side and opposite them broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, the Bishop of Southwark.
Russell T. Davies and then Steven Moffat have done their own transformations, which were fantastic, but we have to put that aside and start from scratch. Variety reports Harry Potter director David Yates wants to reboot Doctor Who. Topless Robot reacts.
British manned space flights; an insidious threat from outer space; a man mutating into an evil alien, his human consciousness being eaten away; and a scientist - utterly anti-Establishment, courageous and cerebral - the only man who can fight it. No, not Doctor Who, but his highly distinguished predecessor, Prof Bernard Quatermass. A decade before Doctor Who first aired, the The Quartermass Experiment was the first science-fiction TV serial produced for adults, and a live-to-viewers BBC production, to boot. The show ran for six episodes in 1953, of which only the first two episodes are known survive. The short sci-fi series spun off three original sequels and a radio drama-documentary, along with movie re-makes of the first three series by Hammer Films. BBC brought back live TV with a 2005 adaptation of the original 1953 series. You can watch the various series on online (in parts on Daily Motion), thanks to fans of The British Rocket Group. [more inside]
As discussed over the weekend, in less than two weeks the millions of videos uploaded to six-year-old erstwhile YouTube competitor Google Video will no longer be viewable. Though a download button has been added to each video page for easy back-up, that will only be available though May 13th, and the company will not be offering transfer service for users with YouTube accounts. The search giant has been slowly winding down the service over the years since their billion-dollar buyout of YouTube, controversially revoking purchased content (with a refund) in 2007 and disabling new uploads in 2009. The shutdown is a big blow to the web video ecosystem, as Google Video was one of the few major services to allow free hosting of long-form video, including the content for many popular MetaFilter posts. But all is not lost! Reddit users have organized a virtual potluck to share the most interesting and unique videos not available anywhere else, and the Archive Team, preserver of doomed web properties like Geocities (previously), is partnering with Archive.org to back up as much content as possible. In that spirit, click inside for a list of some of the most popular Google Video-centric content posted here over the years. [more inside]
Five years ago this week, the BBC started broadcasting one of the most extraordinary documentaries ever to grace television: Planet Earth. The culmination of five years of field work, it employed the most cutting-edge of techniques in order to capture life in all its forms, from sweeping spaceborne vistas to shockingly intimate close-ups -- including many sights rarely glimpsed by human eyes. Visually spectacular, it showcased footage shot in 204 locations in 62 countries, thoroughly documenting every biome from the snowy peaks of the Himalayas to the lifegiving waters of the Okavango Delta, a rich narrative tapestry backed by a stirring orchestral score from the BBC Concert Orchestra. Unfortunately, the series underwent some editorial changes for rebroadcast overseas. But now fans outside the UK can rejoice -- all eleven chapters of this epic story are available on YouTube in their original form: uncut, in glorious 1080p HD, and with the original narration by renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough. Click inside for the full listing (and kiss the rest of your week goodbye). [more inside]
Canadian horror flick Pontypool (trailer) is a modern zombie tale quite unlike any other. Loosely based on a dense, complicated novel by Tony Burgess and inspired by Orson Welles' War of the Worlds, it tells the story of Grant Mazzy, a grumbling yet likable radio host (played by veteran character actor Stephen McHattie) whose penchant for philosophical ramblings gets him booted from Toronto to the sleepy winter pastures of Pontypool, Ontario. One bleak morning, as the outspoken Mazzy chafes against no-nonsense producer Sydney Briar, disturbing news begins rolling in of a series of bizarre and violent incidents sweeping the town. Trapped in their church basement broadcasting booth, Mazzy, Briar, and intern Laurel-Ann Drummond struggle to understand the odd nature of the crisis and warn the wider world before it's too late. But this is no ordinary virus, and they find their efforts may be causing far more harm than good. You can watch the film on YouTube horror channel Dead By Dawn (1 2 3 4 5 6 7), but if you're pressed for time you can also experience it in its more logical form: as a one-hour BBC radio drama voiced by the original cast. And after the credits, make sure not to miss the film's playful non-sequitur coda.
Nigel Kneale's adaptation of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four was one of the most controversial television programmes of its time. Broadcast live, it made "unusually extensive and imaginative use of filmed inserts (14 in total). These sequences bought time for the more elaborate costume changes or scene set-ups, but also served to 'open out' the action." And now you can watch it too! The full version is currently on Youtube. Short of the John Hurt film released in 1984 being posted online, the 1954 BBC TV adaptation is about as doubleplusgood as it gets for now. [more inside]
From the BBC blog of documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis: Experiments in the Laboratory of Consumerism 1959-67: "I have quite a lot of film from the archives that was shot in the Madison Avenue agencies in the mid 1960s, and I thought I would put some sections up. It is great because it shows some of the major advertising men and women of the time, many of whom are the real-life models for characters in Mad Men." Includes a 9-minute video interview with the late Herta Herzog. [more inside]
Some kind soul recently uploaded, in five parts, a 1991 BBC Omnibus television documentary about Peter Greenaway, who never ceases to inspire me in his dedication to push film into new, richly interesting places, to liberate it from its addiction to stale 19th-century psychological narrative and to open it up to accept and incorporate all manner of artistic information it's usually denied. Cleverly titled Anatomy of a Filmmaker — Greenaway is an enthusiast of the nude human figure, which he sees as the single constant of art — it covers the filmmaker's career from his earliest shorts up through Prospero's Books. There are bits about the time he spent honing his skills cutting together British propaganda, his experience with painting and his longtime collaboration with Sacha Vierny. It also presents subsections on Greenaway's own inspirational creators, including John Cage and the increasingly-intriguing-to-me R.B. Kitaj.
Architectural critic and writer Reyner Banham loved Los Angeles. (Last link is a BBC documentary, circa 1972, 52 minutes -- NSFW at 47 minute mark) [more inside]
The Thirties in Colour is a four-part series using rare colour film and photographs to give poignant and surprising insights into the 1930s. [Previously] [more inside]
A Matter of Loaf and Death is the new BBC Christmas short from Nick Park and Aardman. In the mock murder mystery, Wallace and Gromit start a new bakery business, Top Bun. The short, Park's first since 1995, will introduce a new love interest for Wallace, Piella Bakewell, a bread enthusiast.
The mother of all Mother Nature programs premiered in the US this weekend on the Discovery Channel. The 11-part series makes the most of three remarkable camera technologies: shooting in total darkness, counter-vibration stabilizers, and 1000 fps sequences. Here are some clips of: penguins sliding, baboons swimming, and birds of paradise mating. Finally, here's footage from the original BBC version (with the much preferred David Attenborough narrating) that shows, for the first time,a snow leopard hunting in the wild.
Threads (Google Video, 1hr 50min). Classic Reagan/Thatcher era nuclear war film that scared the bejeezus out of everyone in 1984 (including my 14-year-old self). [good background previously]
Japanese professor Kenji Sugimoto has a long-standing fascination with the brain of Albert Einstein. In the early nineties he travelled to the United States in search of it. This bizarre 1994 documentary (YouTube, multiple parts) by Kevin Hull (UK) chronicles his quest. Fake or real? [more inside]