Postbox next to Central is good

Wow, the postbox outside Central Station gets fast delivery. I popped the DVD we watched on Saturday night into its Quickflix envelope and dropped it into the postbox yesterday. Quickflix have just emailed me saying they received it. Wow!

The film itself was Blood Simple, the Coen brothers' first film, which I've been trying to get for years. Brilliant film, with many of their hallmarks already in there, including the fat private dick driving a Volkswagon Beetle that popped up in The Big Lebowski.

We also went along to see Erskineville Stories on Saturday night. Shown on a big screen in Erskineville Park, it featured a bunch of old timers telling their stories about Erskineville. It's one of my favourite parts of Sydney, and we would have bought a house there if the prices hadn't been so ridiculous. The stories were great, with lots of humour and interesting tales of this suburbs' past as working class housing.

My grandmother was born in the slums of Forest Lodge and grey up in slummy Annandale, now two of Sydney's more expensive inner city suburbs. I always enjoyed hearing her stories of growing up through the Depression, with periodic epidemics, crowded housing and grinding poverty. As soon as she and my grandfather were able, they moved to the then-outskirts of Sydney to the garden suburb of Concord West. Last year we sold her house for nearly a million dollars!

Children of Men

I signed up to Quickflix recently on their free trial. The service is good, but I don't think we get through enough movies to make keeping it worthwhile.

However, one of the movies we got was Children of Men. I remember reading rave reviews of this when it first came out and had long meant to catch it, but hadn't got around to it. Now I see why the reviews were so positive. It's a brilliant film.

Sci-fi has to balance an interesting premise with a well-told story. Far too often, a great premise isn't enough to hold your attention without good storytelling (I'm looking at you, Philip K Dick). This film gets the balance about perfect, with a really interesting premise and a masterful texture. The story itself is suspenseful enough to keep you hooked.

The most exciting part of this film was its textures, the background of a decaying society and dark forces swirling. I've always been a fan of distopian near-future, and there are plenty of elements of Max Headroom and Mad Max in this movie, along with some modern twists of refugees to accompany the societal collapse.

Loved this film and if you haven't seen it, I'd strongly recommend you get it out and watch it.

Black Sheep

Black Sheep movie poster

We just got back from seeing this great film. In the great Kiwi splatter tradition that brought us Derek (Dereks don't run), it's a zombie flick. With sheep. There's even a lawnmower homage. And Weta did the effects.

Utter brilliance. Go see it if you can.

The Truth About Weapons of Mass Destruction

The Truth About Weapons of Mass

I've built a web site for my mate Hanesy's film, The Truth About Weapons of Mass Destruction. Check it out. I'm still working on getting the blog embedded inside the design properly. And Hanesy hasn't yet put the film itself online, but it will be soon.

The Truth About Weapons of Mass Destruction

Paul Hanes in The Truth About Weapons of Mass Destruction

My mate Hanesy's film, The Truth About Weapons of Mass Destruction, after a long and tortuous birth, is about to hit the festival circuit. I haven't seen the final cut but the earlier cuts were great, give or take a long bagpipe sequence.

The film follows Paul and his mates travelling from London through the Channel Tunnel to the World War I battlefields of Belgium and Northern France. Over the course of that war, millions of chemical weapons were fired across no man's land. A large proportion of these weapons failed to detonate in the muddy quagmire that was the front, and some of the chemicals used are stable enough to still be viable today.

Paul drives around the fields and finds some of these unexploded weapons of mass destruction lying by the road awaiting collection by the Belgian Army's specialist bomb disposal unit. He then meets up with that unit and tours with them to see the process of destruction of these weapons. One hilarious scene has the Belgian army guy telling them that if the filmmakers see him running, they should "run faster".

The main thrust of the movie is to point out how easy it would be to collect some of the unexploded shells and use them for terrorism. Only an hour's drive away from London, these shells are lying in fields for weeks at a time waiting for someone to pick them up.

What's truly scandalous is that the countries responsible for making and firing all these scary weapons are being tight arses on paying for their disposal. It's mostly left to the Belgian government to fund the collection and destruction of these weapons. Paul's film shows why it's in everyone's interest to ensure that these weapons are collected and destroyed quickly and securely so they don't fall into the wrong hands. They're going to be turning up in the fields of Belgium for the foreseeable future.

I can just imagine the furore if the europhobe newspapers like The Sun or the Daily Fascist got hold of it. Another peril from those garlic-swilling continentals!

Congratulations to Paul for making it into the shortlist for an award at the Swansea Bay Film Festival and the offical selection at the Everglades Film Festival in South Africa.

More 4: how long until it's wall-to-wall Friends?

Channel 4 launched their new "adult entertainment" channel, More 4 last night. It was pretty good, all things considered. The Daily Show was great, and the comedy about David Blunkett was pretty funny (though it portrayed him as much more naive than I think he really is).

Thing is, I'm sure E4 launched with the same fanfare. Now whenever you switch it on, they're playing one thing: Friends. Does E4 even show anything else?

Free DVD rental

I've been using the free trials of all these companies providing DVD rentals by post. Quite a nice idea and if we watched more films, it would be worthwhile. As it is, I'm storing up movies to watch at leisure while these companies are in gold rush mode and offering unsustainable free offers.

Our of the three I've tried so far, I have to say that Blockbuster, the evil Amerikkkan multinational, have the best service. The range is far and away the best.

By way of example, neither of the others have Godard's classic Breathless, which I've been keen to watch for a long time, but Blockbuster has it. It's in the interest of these rental companies to have obscure films, because they're only likely to be of interest to a limited group but takes the heat off their high-demand blockbusters. And surely real film buffs are their target audience?

DVD rental gold rush

There's currently something of a gold rush mentality going on with the DVD rental companies here in the UK. Dozens of them have sprung up in the last few months and they're all trying to get your business with free introductory periods.

Using this handy list, I'm planning to get free DVD rental for the next few months, cancelling at the end of the free period.

The services are actually pretty good, and the prices keep coming down. I might end up keeping one of them after all the free periods anyway, though I'm not enormously impressed with the range of the current one, Love Film. I think the range could be wider.

This movie doesn't want to be seen

We keep trying to see Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut and being foiled. A week ago we tried to see it at The Other Cinema only to be foiled by the person I spoke to giving me the wrong time. Then we tried to see it at The Ritzy in Brixton only to be foiled by London Underground. We waited for half an hour at Victoria until we knew we were going to miss the film. Ack!

It's still on for the rest of the week, so hopefully we'll manage to catch it...