Tuesday, May 31, 2011

'I Am Going To Thailand'

Back in issue 3 we named BJ Novak one of our top 10 cult actors working today. A DJ has obviously recognised his genius, taking one of his best monologues from The Office and remixing it into a stompin' dubstep track.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mad by Name, Mad by Nature

Matthew Jaffray on why Mad Max 4 is the most cursed film in Hollywood.

Nambia, February 2003. Mad Max 4: Fury Road is in the middle of pre-production. Millions of dollars have been spent hiring hundreds of people, building expansive sets, scouting locations, leasing trailers and developing the film. The shoot is a few weeks away, and Mel Gibson is set to bring back to the screen one of cinema’s most iconic action heroes. But none of that matters because production will soon be shut down.

It seemed like the timing was perfect. The films that were a cult success in the eighties had blossomed into revered classics and Gibson was at the height of his Hollywood clout, meaning this time, there was to be a colossal budget to the tune of $104 million. To put that into perspective, all three previous films cost a combined total of under $20 million.

Security concerns regarding the war in Iraq (hello? Different continent!) saw things put on hold for a year. Ultimately though, things were scrapped altogether a few months later. This was just another disaster in a production history that would make even Terry Gilliam cringe.

In a way it’s a miracle that the now Oscar winning director George Miller even got the enthusiasm to set himself on the long road of creating a new Mad Max film. Close friend and fellow producer of the series Byron Kennedy was killed during pre-production on Beyond Thunderdome in a helicopter crash while scouting locations.

Devastated by the loss, Miller stepped down from the director’s chair to be replaced Geroge Ogilvie, though he was later persuaded to come back and film the action sequences. The result was a noticeably uneven film which remains by far the weakest of the trilogy.

When Miller eventually came round to the idea of doing the third film, there was a lot of wrangling to get the rights. Warner brothers had released Mad Max 2 and Mad Max 3 in America, but Miller wanted to do Fury Road at Fox, who offered him a huge budget, creative control and had a deal with Gibson’s company Icon. Finally, the dispute was settled when Miller agreed to step down from directing Warner’s Contact with Jodie Foster, to be replaced by Back to the Future creator Robert Zemeckis.

With the issue of the rights put to bed, Miller spent the next three years writing a script which would have to be re-written following Gibson’s departure from the role in 2004 citing his age as his desire to further his directing career as the main reasons.

Things seemed dead in the water. But in 2006, Miller declared he wasn’t finished with Mad Max and proposed to do Fury Road with a re-vamped script and a new actor cast in the role of Max Rockatansky. Tom Hardy was cast in 2009, quite a while before Inception made him a bonafide star, as well as Charlize Theron. Production was slated to begin in 2010, this time in Australia.

Yet again no camera’s rolled. Not one scene was filmed. Just days before shooting was to start, the heavens opened and a rainfall of biblical proportions dampened any chance of production. As Miller put it: "it rained the heaviest it had in 10 years. I’ll never forget the first day — we were holed up in a big sort of shed watching the rain. We couldn’t shoot."

Details of the story of Fury Road have been hotly guarded for a decade now. The casting of Tom Hardy suggests it will not be chronologically the fourth instalment but a reboot. All that’s known of Charlize Theron’s role is that she plays a one-armed woman. While the only leak about the production so far has been form a stuntman who said there are 298 stunts scheduled involving 130 vehicles and as little CGI and green screen work as possible.

Will Mad Max: Fury Road ever see the light of day? According to Miller, yes. "All the contracts are signed. It’s a locked-in film. It has been for 18 months now. We will restart pre-production later this year and begin early next year — weather permitting." But similar sentiments have been made before, after the Nambia shoot fell apart. Meanwhile Tom Hardy’s role as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises has pushed back production another few months. While the decision to shoot in 3D pushes the budget up significantly. There have even been rumours that Miller now intends to shoot two Mad Max films back to back. That it has taken 20 years to get this far, this seems quite ambitious, but here’s hoping he pulls it off.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Originally Appears in Issue 6

In each issue Declan Aylward dives head first into the weird and wonderful world of the web, and reports back with his findings.

Echo Bazaar

Three decades ago, London was stolen by bats. That, intriguingly, is the stage-setter for Echo Bazaar, a ‘10 minutes a session’ browser game that bases itself on your Twitter or Facebook account, but won’t gain you the pitying and vaguely irritated looks a Farmville addiction can bring on from your friends and co-workers. Part of this is because Echo Bazaar keeps its spamming of your friends to a discreet minimum. It’s more a polite cough of an aged butler than a raucous, marketplace screech most of its ilk use to announce their presence. Mostly though, it’s the setting that will get its hooks into you. Set in an underground, alternative world that feels like Neil Gaiman and Terry Gilliam collaborated on a HP Lovecraft theme park under the supervision of Terry Pratchett, the curiously genteel Fallen London is rife with flirtatious devils, melancholy curates and, of course, the mysterious Masters of the Bazaar themselves. The game is essentially card-based and once you’ve been dropped into the Neath you use the opportunity cards you draw to find accommodation, earn what passes for money this close to Hell, uncover hidden plots or even invite your friends to social events in your spiffing new lodgings. The game’s focus on storytelling and intrigue over violence and mayhem has even earned it attention from a mainstream gaming industry fast becoming bored with hulking space marines mowing down hordes of hapless aliens. Pay a visit to the Bazaar and, who knows, you might even hang up the blaster rifle yourself in favour of an expertly wielded bag of fierce mint humbugs!


Has anyone else been wondering what Kevin Smith is up to these days? Well, apart from writing and directing a pretty creepy looking horror movie called Red State, he has been hiding out at a place called Smodcastle. Billing itself as the world’s first and only podcasting theatre, Smodcastle is Smith’s LA venue for a whole host of internet events that those of us too pasty and freckled to spend time in the City of Angels can catch at smodcast.com. Every day of the week a new podcast is available on the site. Some are recorded live at Smodcastle, some rare ecorded studio-style off the premise. But all are hilarious, interesting and, needless to say, very offensive to the lemonade-and-buns brigade.

The podcasts on offer cover a host of topics, but whether you’re listening to Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier shooting the shit in the titular Smodcast, catching up with movie industry news in ‘Hollywood Babble-On’ or indulging an inexplicable ice-hockey fascination with Puck Nuts, the banter will have you chuckling to yourself like a crazy person on the bus. If you really crave your Jay and Silent Bob fix, every Wednesday ‘Jay and Silent Bob Get Old’ gives you a chance to hear about how our heroes are doing now that they are both settling down and maturing. Mature is a relative term though, and anyone who doesn’t find endless, graphic dick jokes entertaining should really pass this site by and renew their subscription to Justin Bieber’s no-doubt squeaky clean podcast instead.

Mystery Solved!

He may not have a psychedelic van and a talking great dane, but Colonel Randall Thaddeus Winchester IV of the Mystery Solved! webcomic certainly gets the job done. Created by Zack Kruse and drawn by a different artist for each of his adventures, the good Colonel and his trusty manservant Jenkins travel the globe investigating and disproving phenomena like alien cattle mutilation, bigfoot and fairies. The comic delights in showing the wilful ignorance that must persist for most myths to survive, and contrasts this with the Colonel’s sound science. I would be lying if I said that sharing a smug sense of superiority with our intrepid investigator wasn’t part of the appeal. The fact that each adventure is illustrated in a different style keeps the comic fresh. It’s fun to watch how far in the air each artist manages to stick Jenkins’ nose, but the wacky, almost Beano style writing maintains a firmly consistent feel. While it might not have the cutting edge satire of Penny Arcade or the relevance to modern singletons that Girls with Slingshots has mastered, Mystery Solved! is a reminder that sometimes it’s nice just to settle back for a simple Scooby Doo style adventure and a pat on the back to ourselves for never believing in ghost stories in the first place. The comic is updated every Thursday so check back regularly to keep abreast of the Colonel’s most recent debunking.