Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Shane Meadows confirms first TV drama - We Were Faces

After months of rumour, tantalising tit-bits and many respective fingers crossed, it has been confirmed today that cult British film director Shane Meadows, will be making his first foray TV drama, with a drama series continuing of the story begun in his award winning and critically acclaimed film 'This Is England'.

The drama, to be called We Were Faces , which will pick up the story in 1987, some four years after the end of the story in the film, will be screened on Channel 4 in 2010 as part of a shake up of their schedules in the wake of the cancellation of the ratings free faller Big Brother.

We for one already can't wait to see it, and we commend Channel 4 for having the nouse to commission this work in what promises to be one of the TV highlights of 2010.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Whats happening at

Those regular visitors to Alt-flix, will have been aware of the site re-design that has been taking place recently. Our blogs have been less frequent than previously and we suspended the new DVD release schedules earlier in the year. This was in order to facilitate a couple of major expansions for the site.

Firstly, coming very shortly, a new structure for the site that will see a further increase in up to date film news being made available on the site, along with a much improved functionality for the new DVD releases section (thanks for all your feedback and improvement suggestions over the past few months), increased blog postings and, and our twitter site which launched a few days ago (which is rather bare at the moment, but will be bulging very soon).

Secondly, we are just launching a sister site to Alt-flix, which is The Cult Of TV which will feature the very best in cult and contemporary television. It's only a few days old and is still taking shape, but you will already find a few features on cult classic TV shows such as Sky, The Jensen Code, A Kind Of Loving along with new TV DVD release schedules, and a twitter site etc.
Keep an eye on what's going on at The Cult Of TV, because there is lots of features and content on classic cult TV to be added very shortly.
One last thing. Sorry to blog all at once, but we have had a few things to catch up on during our tradition Summer 'closedown' fortnight. We are still a bit behind with your emails due to the closedown, but we'll be back to normal before the end of the week. Thanks for your patience. It's good to be back.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Brand new The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus HD trailer

For those of us not really ones to keep up with the latest mega-money Hollywood blockbusters, it's easy to lose trace of how good CGI is becoming these days. Sure, all too often it's allied to pitiful scripts and big bucks merchandising / sponsorship tie-in's, but over the last couple of weeks we have seen two stunning (actually breath-taking) trailers that have showed us what CGI can be in the hands of true genius directors.

A couple of weeks ago we watched in awe at the HD trailer of Tim Burton's forthcoming adaptation of 'Alice In Wonderland', which is has to be said visually looks as impressive as anything we've ever seen in any film before. So much so that upon it's release we'll definitely be hunting down a cinema that will be showing it in 3D. It's being released on 5th March 2010, and yes, it does feel like we are wishing our lives away waiting to watch it on the big screen.

A film that we have been waiting to see for quite some time, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, (Terry Gilliam's latest film) has also just released its official trailer. This is another trailer that we were amazed by, we of course expected nothing less the legendary lavishly immaculate Gilliam visuals, but this time the CGI seems to actually to have matched (and captured) his imagination. Check out the trailer below.

It looks to our eyes a wonderful mix of Brazil and Munchausen with some Time Bandits thrown in for good measure, which to us seems like an ideal blend.

Given the circumstances that the film was made under (that of the very sad passing of that fine actor Heath Ledger), it seems the film may receive wider audience than it might otherwise have expected. So rather than with previous Gilliam films, this may actually hit the mainstream box office rather than skirting around the arthouse circuit. This hopefully will give the money men more faith in Gilliam as the genius director that he undoubtedly is, and just perhaps, he won't have to struggle so hard and for so long to get his next features made.

The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus opens in UK cinemas on 16th October. We'll be there.

Winstanley DVD, Blu-ray and book, you lucky people.

Winstanley, the original "no budget" historical epic was released by the lovely people at the BFI on 3rd August.

No sooner had we seen the release of Comrades - a film charting the trials and tribulations of the Tolpuddle martyrs, then we get the wonderful release of Winstanley, charting the experience of a group known as the Diggers - a peaceful group who existed briefly during the English Civil war and whose beliefs have been likened to early communists.

We have been long term fans of this quaint but remarkable film, it making number 24 on our list of "must see" British films. The film itself was finally finished in 1975, but that it was ever made at all is something of a miracle. Directed by Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo, the film was made with an incredibly small budget, with a crew who were made up of volunteers, and a cast of similar volunteers (only one of whom had any previous acting experience). From watching the film you would have absolutely no idea that this was the case, the film looks amazing (even shooting in black and white for cost saving purposes adds a marvellous aesthetic to the film). The attention to detail in film is absolutely top rate, from the detailing of clothes along to using the correct breed of livestock that would have been used in small holding during the mid 1600's.
A region 1 DVD and overseas VHS had been available for the last few years, but it was an absolute delight when the BFI announced that Winstanley would finally make its UK DVD and Blu-ray release debut on August 3rd 2009. It also announced some extra features on the discs:-
New restoration by the BFI National Archive.
New filmed interview with Kevin Brownlow and Mollo (38 mins).
It Happened Here Again (Eric Mival, 1976, 48 mins) – the making of Winstanley
9 Dalmuir West (Kevin Brownlow, 1962, 12 mins) – a record of the last weekend of Glasgow trams.
Illustrated 32-page booklet with contributions by Marina Lewycka (author of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian), Eric Mival, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Tom Milne, and David Robinson; plus biographies and credits.
Thus far we have watched the film (and it looks incredible in its remastered glory) and all the new extra features twice over. It has inspired us to hunt down It Happened Here Brownlow and Mollo's previous film from 1964, (also a "no budget" volunteer-led film) set in a fictionalised Britain under Nazi occupation. We have also ordered Kevin Brownlow's recently published book entitled 'Winstanley: Warts and All' , an account of the making of Winstanley, which sounds like a incredibly interesting read.
Sure, we've had a rotten Summer weather-wise, but at least we have been royally entertained with some amazing (if unexpected) DVD releases.

Bill Douglas' Comrades is released on DVD and Blu-ray, comrades.

Well Comrades, something happened on the 27th July that we thought we'd never ever see happen, Bill Douglas' great lost (and last) film Comrades was released on DVD in the UK.

The films own history was something on an epic, and since its very brief cinematic release in 1987, one showing on TV and an incredibly brief sporadic international VHS release, nothiog had been heard of the film since. That was until February 2009, when Film4 announced it would be showing the movie on its free movie channel. This is what we wrote at the time: -

"Comrades is a cinematic account of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of Dorset labourers who in the early 19th century took a collective stand against the unfair treatment meated out by their land owner. The land owner and the judiciary sought to crush any dissent amongst the peasant classes and the labourers were transported to Australia for their 'crimes'. The film had a terrific cast that includes James Fox, Michael Horden, Freddie Jones, Robert Stephens, Immelda Staunton, Keith Allen and Philip Davis, and was finally finished in 1987 (after endless production problems), and nearly 10 years after Bill Douglas had completed his life trilogy (My Ain Folk etc). Comrades received a limited cinematic release (no doubt in part due to its unfashionable theme and its 3 hr plus running time), and subsequently received only a couple of plays on television on Channel 4 (who co-funded the project) . It also received a very low key and brief VHS issue, but it has been long out of print and impossible to find.In the wake of Bill Douglas' death the BFI released the Trilogy on DVD, here is hoping that the premiere of Comrades on FILM4 is the first step to seeing this lost classic released on DVD very soon. "

Comrades, was dutifully played in its uncut glory and it didn't dissapoint. With such a fantastic film I can only assume the delay in getting it back on TV was due the myriad of owners the film is rumoured to have had.

Then came news of not only a full DVD release, but also a blu-ray edition (for those that do). Both editions came with a treasure trove of additional features:

Lanterna Magicka – Bill Douglas & the Secret History of Cinema (2009, 60 mins), an insightful new documentary on Douglas’s life and work
Visions of: Comrades (2009, 15 mins), cast-members recall making the film
Bill Douglas interviews (1978, 33 mins), exclusive presentation of a remarkable interview in which Douglas discusses his method and creating approach to writing and directing
Home and Away (Michael Alexander, 1974, 30 mins), charming short film co-scripted by Douglas
Original Comrades trailer
On-set report from the set of Comrades
Illustrated booklet with essays, production material and credits.

Due to summer holidays, I only managed to watch the DVD right the way through on Saturday. The extras on the DVD are absolutely superb. I would say that this along with the release of Winstanley is our DVD highlight of the year so far.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

John Hughes RIP

Director John Hughes has left the building, and gone to that great screening room in the sky.
In a career that spanned a few highs and many more high money making artistic lows, he has left behind a legacy of a significant contribution to popular cinema.
Whilst have happily avoided his entire post 1990s output, we have to admit the guilty pleasure of having enjoyed much of his earlier work.
The Breakfast Club really is where the story should start, with Hughes practically inventing the 1980s teen flick genre. The film had a great energy, a great cast, a superb soundtrack and a story that took a whole weekend to write. Hughes followed up the hit with some further polished teenage angst films, the pick of them being Some Kind Of Wonderful and Pretty In Pink.
With further films he strayed much further into the comedy genre with films like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Weird Science, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Uncle Buck.
His last great film (in our opinion was) was the Christmas holiday favourite National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, which is great dumb fun.
Where we must leave the story (for all reasons of artistic taste), is where Hughes' most successful (financially) films begins with The Home Alone series, The Beethoven series, Curly Sue and Flubber etc.
We'd prefer to remember his 1980's heyday, (when we were teenagers ourselves) renting his films on VHS with our dodgy hairstyles, and his films' 'kicking' soundtracks, and thinking that middle America must be a better place to grow up in, than the dreary streets of little Britain.