Tag Archive: Movies


The CW's The Flash
First: did you miss ME?

In case you’re wondering where I’ve been, the answer is: BUSY.

My world outside the blogosphere has been chock-full of writing assignments in the tech arena. In parallel to that, there’s developing my own brand of crime and suspense fiction, trying to sell my screenplays, and the whole “trying to have a life” issue.

One of the jobs I did recently was a preview / review of The CW’s “The Flash”, for the UK market. I put it out through the Xtreme Entertainment Network, a start-up based in London. Xtreme specializes in video games, movies, TV, and related media.

Could be an outfit worth watching. “The Flash” certainly is.

You can check out

My Review, Here…

Peace.

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BAU-SoTL-CriMinds

BAU is an abbreviation for Behavioral Analysis Unit, a department of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC).

The BAU and NCAVC provide behavioral based investigative and/or operational support to the investigation of complex and time-sensitive crimes, typically involving acts or threats of violence.

These are the people most famously known for profiling and catching serial killers, arsonists, kidnappers, and certain brands of terrorist.

BAU Operations

The BAU receives requests for “criminal investigative analysis” from federal, state, local, and international law enforcement agencies.

Criminal investigative analysis involves reviewing and assessing the facts of a criminal act, interpreting offender behavior, and interacting with the victims, as exhibited during the commission of a crime, or as displayed in a crime scene.

BAU staff conduct detailed analyses of crimes for the purpose of providing one or more of the following services:

* crime analysis,
* investigative suggestions,
* profiles of unknown offenders,
* threat analysis,
* critical incident analysis,
* interview strategies,
* major case management,
* search warrant assistance,
* prosecutive and trial strategies, and
* expert testimony

Recently, the BAU released “The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective” report to guide school administrators, teachers, parents, and law enforcement in identifying and evaluating threats in schools.

The BAU also keeps a reference file for experts in various forensic disciplines such as odontology, anthropology, entomology, or pathology.

Real Life…

Contrary to popular belief, there is no such position in the FBI as a “profiler”.

…and Reel Life

The BAU (known in those days as the Behavioral Science Unit) plays a prominent role in the novels of Thomas Harris, notably “Red Dragon”, and “The Silence of the Lambs”. Both books became movies.

Here’s a YouTube trailer for “The Silence of the Lambs”, setting the scene for BAU Section Chief Jack Crawford (played by Scott Glenn) to give FBI trainee agent Clarice Starling (actress Jodie Foster) her mandate to interview the notorious serial killer Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (the Oscar-winning Sir Anthony Hopkins):

Criminal Minds

The BAU is at the center of the CBS weekly drama series “Criminal Minds” and its spin-off, “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior”

Unlike many police procedurals, rather than focus on the crime itself, “Criminal Minds” concentrates on profiling the criminal – called the “unsub” or “unknown subject”.

The series follows a team of profilers from the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit based in Quantico, Virginia.

Principal characters in the show include:

Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner (played by Thomas Gibson):
Unit Chief of the BAU team. A former prosecutor, and one of the most experienced agents in the BAU. In season five, his estranged wife Haley Brooks (Meredith Monroe) is murdered by fugitive serial killer George Foyet (C. Thomas Howell), also known as “The Reaper”, and Hotch is given sole custody of his son Jack.

Derek Morgan (actor Shemar Moore):
Supervisory Special Agent (SSA), and a confident, assertive, often hot-tempered character. Derek was a troubled Chicago youth headed for juvenile delinquency, until he was rescued and mentored by Carl Buford (actor Julius Tennon). Buford turned out to be a sexual predator who molested Derek and other young boys – an experience that colors Morgan’s dealings within the BAU. He has a special relationship with Technical Analyst Penelope Garcia, and the two have a unique banter and mutual understanding.

Dr. Spencer Reid (played by Matthew Gray Gubler):
Supervisory Special Agent and boy genius who graduated from Las Vegas High School at age 12, and holds PhDs in Mathematics, Chemistry, and Engineering, as well as BAs in Psychology and Sociology. As of season four, he is also working on a BA in Philosophy. Dr. Reid (his preferred title; it deflects judgments about his age) has an IQ of 187, can read 20,000 words per minute, and has an eidetic memory.

Here’s a YouTube clip of the good doctor, in full flow:

Understandably, most of the members on the team are intimidated by his profound knowledge.

Jason Gideon (played by Mandy Patinkin):
A Senior Supervisory Special Agent widely known as the BAU’s best profiler. Gideon was the team’s acting sage, in the initial seasons of the show. After a series of emotionally troubling cases, and the murder of his friend Sarah by fugitive serial killer Frank Breitkopf (Keith Carradine), he heads off into the Nevada sunset, destination unknown.

David Rossi (actor Joe Mantegna):
Senior Supervisory Special Agent, who worked in the BAU at its origins, then took early retirement to write books and lecture on criminal analysis. Rossi volunteered to return shortly after Senior SSA Jason Gideon’s departure, and fill the perceived “experience gap”.

Jennifer “JJ” Jareau (played by A. J. Cook):
Supervisory Special Agent. In seasons one through five, she served as the team’s Communications Liaison to local police agencies. Forced to accept a promotion at the Pentagon in season six, “JJ” later returned to the unit, becoming a legitimate profiler (whatever that is; see above) in season seven. Jennifer is also the only human being on the planet who calls Dr. Reid, “Spence”.

Elle Greenaway (actress Lola Glaudini):
A Supervisory Special Agent, assigned to the BAU as an expert in sexual offense cases. Elle suffers severe emotional trauma after being shot by an unsub in season one. In season two, while alone on a stakeout for a suspected serial rapist, she shoots the man in cold blood. Despite her colleagues’ doubts, the local police deem it self-defense. Elle later resigns from the BAU, with the declaration that this is “not an admission of guilt.”

Emily Prentiss (played by Paget Brewster):
Supervisory Special Agent, and daughter of Ambassador Elizabeth Prentiss (Kate Jackson). After SSA Elle Greenaway leaves the BAU, Emily shows up with papers assigning her to the BAU, as a replacement. Emily is fluent in several languages – a legacy of her upbringing, and her professional past as an agent of Interpol.

Penelope Garcia (actress Kirsten Vangsness):
The team’s Technical Analyst. She joined the BAU after bringing attention to herself by hacking the FBI database; she was offered a job in lieu of a jail sentence. She usually supports the team from her computer lab at Quantico, but occasionally joins them on location when her skills can be used in the field. She enjoys a flirtatious relationship with SSA Derek Morgan, often engaging in comical banter of a sexually suggestive nature (usually over open channels), when he calls in for information. When SSA Jennifer Jareau leaves the BAU, Penelope takes over her job as Communications Liaison. She maintains this role after “JJ” qualifies as a profiler, and joins the rest of the team in the field.

Dr. Alex Blake (played by Jeanne Tripplehorn):
An FBI Linguistics Expert and professor at Georgetown University who joins the BAU after SSA Emily Prentiss transfers to the Interpol office in London.

“Criminal Minds” premiered September 22, 2005, on CBS. On May 9, 2013, CBS renewed Criminal Minds for a ninth season.
The show is produced by The Mark Gordon Company in association with CBS Television Studios, and ABC Studios.

And it’s well worth a look.

Speaking of which here’s the BAU team at work, courtesy of YouTube:

That’s it, for this one.

Hope you’ll join me, for the next.

Till then.

Peace.

Batman-Detective

Batman is a fictional character, a superhero appearing in comic books published by DC Comics.

He was created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, and first appeared in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939).

The Premise

Batman is the costumed alter-ego of billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne.

Orphaned as a child when he witnessed the death of his parents at the hands of an armed mugger, the young Wayne spent his formative years developing the skills needed to exorcise the demons of his traumatic childhood experience.

“Exorcise”, in this case meaning “Become a costumed vigilante”.

As the Batman, Wayne prowls the night, striking fear in the hearts of evildoers with his nightmarish outfit, incredible hi-tech gadgets, and fearsome combat skills.

From the archives of YouTube and ClevverU, here’s a crash course on the Dark Knight, for you:

The Tech

Wayne’s Batsuit incorporates the imagery of a bat, in order to frighten criminals.

Though the specifics of the Batman costume have changed repeatedly across various stories and media, the most distinctive elements remain consistent: a billowing cape, a cowl covering most of the face and featuring a pair of batlike ears, a stylized bat emblem on the chest, and the ever-present utility belt.

Possessing the properties of both Kevlar and Nomex, the suit protects him from gunfire and other significant impacts.

The costume’s colors are traditionally blue and gray – a scheme which arose due to the way comic book art is colored.
More recently (and specifically since the Tim Burton “Batman” film of 1989), an all gray / black scheme with gold coloring on the emblem has been the norm.

Batman keeps most of his field equipment in a utility belt.

Over the years, it has been shown to contain a virtually limitless variety of crime-fighting tools. Different versions of the belt have these items stored in pouches, or hard cylinders attached evenly around it.

The ‘Tec

What isn’t widely acknowledged is that Batman is also hailed as the number one detective, in the world of costumed heroes. With deductive skills to rival the legendary Sherlock Holmes.

They don’t call him The Darknight Detective, for nothing.

From YouTube, here’s a collection of clips from “Batman TAS” and “Justice League”, highlighting those mad skills:

Those Mad Skills

Batman has no inherent super-powers. To compensate, he must rely on his scientific knowledge, detective skills, and fighting prowess.

In the stories, Bruce Wayne / Batman spent a significant portion of his life and fortune traveling the world and acquiring the skills necessary to wage his war on crime. As such, his knowledge and expertise in just about every discipline known to man is almost unparalleled by any other character in the DC Comics’ Universe.

He is a master of disguise, often gathering information under the identity of Matches Malone, a notorious gangster.

Batman is also skilled in espionage, and his ninjutsu training has made him a master of stealth, who can appear and disappear, seemingly at will. He is also well versed in escapology, allowing him to break free of near inescapable deathtraps with little or no harm.

Batman is an expert in forensic investigation, interrogation and counter-interrogation techniques. He has the ability to function while tolerating massive amounts of physical pain, and even to withstand telepathy and mind control.

A formidable array of talents. And with his enemies in Gotham City and beyond, he needs them.

Those Mad Killers

Batman faces a variety of foes, ranging from common criminals to outlandish supervillains. Many of them mirror aspects of the Batman’s character and development, and often have tragic origin stories that lead them to a life of crime.

Batman’s arch-nemesis the Joker – a green-haired, chalk white-skinned, clown-like criminal psychopath – is essentially the Batman’s polar opposite.

Other recurring enemies include Catwoman, Bane, the Scarecrow, the Penguin, Two-Face, the Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and Ra’s al Ghul.

Memorable characters, all. And ripe, for mass media.

The Show Goes On

And on.

Since his first appearance in the late 1930s, the Batman has been featured in comic books, novels, stage plays, TV series, and movies (in both animated and live-action formats).

His eagerly anticipated next appearance at the cinema will be in the next installment of the new Superman franchise, which will star Henry Cavill, as the Man of Steel, and a contentiously cast Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman.

It’s your standard comic book adaptation casting fiasco.

Remember the hubbub that erupted back in the day, when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman?

“He’s too short!”

“He’s too weedy!”

“He’s a comedian!”

He was good.

One of the better ones, actually.

So. We’ll await developments.

And I hope you’ll await my next story, in this series.

Till then.

Peace.

Detectives, Great and Good

Detectives, Great and Good

Cop. ‘Tec. Gumshoe. Shamus. Investigator. Private eye.

Many names. One mission.

When a heinous crime has been committed, you’ll find them.

The intrepid men and women of literature, movies, and television. Always at hand, to unmask the evildoer. With a brilliant deduction, a vital clue, or simply a smoking gun.

I’m talking fictional detectives, here.

And that’s what I’ll be discussing, in a series of blogs, during the coming days, and weeks.

Months. Years, maybe. Because there’s an awful lot of them, out there.

Now, a formal discourse might split the topic into logical classifications, like:

the amateur detective (Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher, Lord Peter Wimsey)
the private investigator (Holmes, Marlowe, Spade, Poirot, Magnum, etc.)
the police detective (Dalgliesh, Kojak, Morse, Columbo, Clouseau);
the forensic specialists (Scarpetta, Quincy, Cracker, CSI, John Thorndyke).

But me? I’m not that logical.

So, I’ll be going alphabetically.

And subjectively.

I’ll consider those characters who have influenced me over the years. Or generated a global following. Or made a notable impact, in some other way.

Spanning all kinds of media, and covering fictional investigators of all stripes.

There’ll be visual aids, too. Like this tribute to detectives and hired guns, from misterplasticman, on YouTube:

Just to get you in the mood.

Be kicking off, soon.

I hope you’ll join me.

Till then.

Peace.

It’s Christmas, again. So, television networks the world over will be regurgitating their standard seasonal fare of old movies, holiday specials, and… well. Old movies.

Santa's Little Helper: Michelle Monaghan, in Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (2005)

Tinsel and glitter, as brought to you, by Tinseltown.

Here are four of my favorites – thumping good feature films that actually feature Christmas, prominently, in them.

Plus one that shouldn’t have. Really.

First, The Good

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Neo-noir with a quirky edge is writer / director Shane Black’s stock in trade.

This one centers on amnesiac schoolteacher Samantha Caine (Geena Davis), who hires down-at-heel private eye Mitch Hennessy (played by Samuel L. Jackson) to help reveal her true identity.

Turns out Samantha is actually Charlene “Charlie” Baltimore, a kick-ass government hitperson capable of singlehandedly wiping out an entire contingent of her fellow CIA operatives. And making Bond and Bourne look like a couple of cringing amateurs.

Breathtaking stuff, in the best action movie tradition.

Die Hard (1988)

Director John McTiernan’s 1988 thriller was the seminal confined-space actioner.

This had everything: An ultra-cool hero, in Bruce Willis’ cop, John MacLane. An ultra-cool villain, in Alan Rickman’s mastermind, Hans Gruber. Designer terrorists, huge-budget pyrotechnics, and a relentless series of white-knuckle escapes, in the aforementioned confined spaces.

The film “inspired” a slew of imitators, in subsequent years – none of which came close to matching it. The original, and best.

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (2005)

Another from the Shane Black stable. Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang features aspiring actress Harmony Faith Lane (played by Michelle Monaghan), petty thief turned wannabe actor turned amateur detective Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey, Jr.), and gay private eye turned studio consultant Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), in a convoluted tale of murder, mayhem, mismatched goons, and severed fingers.

I’m a sucker for neo-noir, in any form, Michelle Monaghan is goofy hotness personified, and I do like this film.

Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion (2005)

This 2005 seasonal special introduced the plucky Rose Tyler (played by singer / actress Billie Piper) to the manic genius of David Tennant’s portrayal of the time-traveling Doctor’s 12th incarnation.

Alien spacecraft over London, a homicidal Christmas tree, sword-fighting, and the regeneration of a severed limb. Magic. Pure and simple.

“Six words. Six.”

Now, The Unfortunate

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

Hard on the heels of Superman: The Movie and its runaway success, producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind and director Jeannot Szwarc tried to keep the money train rolling, by reinterpreting another legend.

Bad idea. Terrible.

Not even comedy-icon-of-the-moment Dudley Moore could save this turkey – which should have been roasted, at birth. Twice.

Turkey, indeed.

Hmm.

That’s what we’ll talk about next, I think. That, and reindeer.

Till then.

Peace.

So, the script’s been written, actors cast, locations secured, props set up, and cameras put in place.

Now begins the daunting task of making a decent movie.

A lot of that burden falls on the shoulders of the film’s director – along with the responsibility of deciding on and / or managing any changes that have to be made.

Shooting Incident Productions’ “Trick” is directed by Jay Spencer and Jamie McEvoy.
We’ll be hearing from Jay, later on in this series.

For now, let’s get the inside scoop on the project from man-on-the spot, Jamie McEvoy, in his own words:


"Trick" movie director, Jamie McEvoy

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I am a 20-year-old filmmaker at Leeds and Bremen based video
production company Shooting Incident Productions.

Q: How did you get into directing, and what kind of work do you do?

A: I discovered my passion for filmmaking at the age of 15. One day I
was sat at home, bored, and I was suddenly overcome with an
overwhelming urge to make my own movies! I was always passionate about
watching movies and in the back of my mind knew I wanted to be in the
industry in some capacity, but on that day I made the decision that I
was going to make movies and nothing else.

I got a £2,000 camera and started on my journey, from making little
clips with my friends in my back garden and in the local woods, to now
making feature films in Europe with an entire cast and crew.

Q: For “Trick”, what changes – to the script, locations, or cast – did
you have to make, to reflect conditions on the ground?

A: Not much really, we have decided to turn the film into high
contrast, black and white, as it adds a lot of grittiness and a
richness to the visuals.. We changed the cafeteria scene to take place
in a strip bar.

Q: Did the shoot go smoothly? Any noteworthy events, on set?

A: The shoot went very smoothly. Everyone involved on set took
direction superbly and just focused on getting the job done. Jay and I
knew exactly what we wanted from the very start so that made things
much easier.

Q: And, the future? Any upcoming projects we should know about?

A: We are signed on to direct, shoot and edit another feature film
called “Yoga, Booze and the Road to Nirvana”. It is from the same
writer and producer of our first feature film, “Insomnambulists”, that
we made earlier in the year. We expect to begin production early next
year. In the mean time, we have always been interested in making Des
Nnochiri’s screenplay, “Best Friends Forever”. That may well be our
next project.

Q: Thanks, for your time Jamie.

Okay, so. Not too many complications, with this one.

But film-making is a highly fluid process. Changes can and do occur, for any of a number of reasons. For instance:

Script Rewrites
A screenplay may undergo several revisions, between the screenwriter’s original draft and the version that finally makes the screen. The aim each time is to make the script better: tighter action, greater emotional impact, targeting a particular audience,  or whatever.

Casting Changes
That actor / actress the lead role was written for might develop rheumatic fever on the eve of the film shoot. Or be unavailable, for legal reasons. Or opt out, at the last minute.

What do you do?

The Sylvester Stallone / Wesley Snipes action blockbuster Demolition Man was originally written as a vehicle for Bruce Willis.
Early drafts of the screenplay feature a lead character called William Wade, whose laconic, ultra-cool tough guy persona was tailored for Bruce. Who left the project, for contractual reasons.

So a new script was written, with a character named John Spartan, who was modeled on Sylvester Stallone. The rest is history. Sort of.

Legal Wrangles
Copyright issues. Registered trademarks. Ongoing lawsuits.
These have strangled many a budding film project, at birth.

Ever see the TV series, The Young Bruce Wayne Chronicles? No?
That’s because Warner refused to release live-action television rights to the DC Comics Batman character. So the CW were forced into a radical rethink.

Young Bruce Wayne became young Clark Kent, became Smallville. And a legend was (re)born.

Location Issues
It’s not easy, renting a disused nuclear plant. Or finding one, for that matter.
So that laboratory scene might have to take place in a vacant warehouse, instead.

And the epic gun battle, on the beach? At midnight? Probably works better at noon. Indoors, if possible. Because the monsoon season’s just started, in the city outside.

And so on.

Stuff Happens
From day to day. And not just the weather.

You know the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark?
The scene in the market, where Indiana Jones faces off against a huge, scimitar-wielding killer?

In the original screenplay, this was choreographed as an elaborate duel between sword and bullwhip.
On the day, legend has it that Harrison Ford developed stomach problems.

So the scene was completed in one shot. BAM!! Literally.

BTW, did you know that all the action in Transformers 3 – even the domestic and military stuff – was originally meant to occur on the surface of the moon?
I’m kidding. Still; might have been cool. That way, we wouldn’t have had to hear them speak.

In the next instalment of this series, you’ll be meeting one of the stars of our movie. Till then.

Don’t be a stranger; wear a name tag, or something.

Peace.


The Same. But Different.

It’s the mantra that’s drummed into the heads of every screenwriter who’s (supposedly) preparing a fresh take on an old idea.
And it’s especially important, if you’re doing a remake. Or a rebrand / relaunch of an existing franchise.

You have to give the audience what they expect from the brand – what they love, loathe, or fear. But you have to put a new spin on it, to re-engage their interest. And hopefully, pave the way for the new-old franchise to continue.

Not everyone succeeds in this.

I’m sure you can think of numerous examples (right, kids?) where your primary reaction is: “Why did they bother? The original was fine. Much better than this crap, anyway.”

Occasionally, though, someone gets it right.

Director J J Abrams, and the team that gave us “Star Trek,” for example.

I saw the film on DVD recently, and I’m currently picking my way through Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman’s screenplay (diligent screenwriter / eternal student that I am).

It’s all there. The cast of characters we know and love. The technology. The backdrop.

Same.

But it’s not played out exactly the way we remember.

Different.

They’ve achieved this by staying within the conventions of the science fiction genre: An alternate reality, where the same people exist, but their life situations have been altered.

And they’ve assembled a group of actors who are instantly recognizable as the people they’re supposed to be, in appearance and mannerisms. But there are no 1960s beehive hairdos in evidence. Modern-day vernacular. And inter-personal relationships that provide more than enough mileage for Star Trek 2, 3 and 4 (Or however many they choose to make). Where, presumably, we may get to see Klingons, the conman Harry Mudd, and those pesky Tribbles – in different circumstances, of course.

It works. It’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it.

Even if you’re not a devotee of the franchise, the film stands scrutiny as a good entertainment, in its own right.

Have a look at the trailer (or better yet, see the film), and judge for yourself.

Live long, and prosper.

Peace.

Rebranded New Horrors

(Or “Eat Your Own Heart Out, Rob Zombie”)

Halloween again. Time for the networks to regurgitate a bunch of old horror standards, from yesteryear.

Or for you to go out and rent them.

Before you do, I’d like you to stop and consider how some of those classics might play, now.

Modified. In the spirit of rebranding.

I’m talking about titles like:

The Wolf Man
Jared Lucan, abandoned in the wild at birth and raised by wolves, hacks a ruthless ascent to the head of his pack.
Returning to civilization as a zoologist, he leads his pack on a campaign of murder and mayhem in the big city, eliminating his peers, as he plots his course to the top of his new profession.

FrankenStoned
Undergrad medical students, experimenting with a new designer narcotic, administer the drug to cadavers in the med school morgue – with catastrophic, rejuvenating results.

Creatures From The Black Lagoon
A toxic spill from a secret military installation in the Everglades mutates the aquatic population of a lagoon, unleashing a deadly army of semi-humanoid amphibians.

The Hunger
In a near future where climate change and disastrous strains of GM crops lead to a worldwide and critical shortage of food, roving bands of cannibals vie for survival against the last knots of resistant humanity.

Anaconda
Cold-blooded. Cold-hearted. Her limbs and jaws possessing an awesome, crushing strength – the product of an advanced genetic splicing procedure. She is death to all she meets. And now, she’s in LA.

Piranha
They can shred a buffalo carcass to the bone in less time than it takes to recite the alphabet. Now, a demented marine biologist has bred a strain with near-human intelligence. And an inhuman desire to increase their numbers – by eliminating the dominant species on the planet.

Shocker
Twenty-five years after psycho killer Horace Pinker was electrocuted and ionized into the power distribution system, an overload at a hi-tech switching station digitises the monster, and sends him on a global killing spree – using all the resources of the World Wide Web.

Friday the 13th
It’s back to basics, as an ancient superstition is given added punch by the intervention of Satan himself.
Unlucky? Even staying in bed with your doors and windows barred may not be enough.

Jaws
The residents of a major city are terrorised by a vicious serial killer – a malevolent dentist who is assembling a trophy case of relics, ripped from his still-living victims. Their jaw bones.

Hallowe’en
Don’t open the door. Eat the candy yourself. Those aren’t kids, trick-or-treating out there.
The spirits of the dead are out and about. And they’ve come to reclaim this night, as their own.

And I’m sure you can think of others.

Have a Happy Hallowe’en.

And, hey. Let’s be careful, out there.

Peace.