Short Film

A Short Mission #1: Dr. Easy


Welcome to the very first of (hopefully) many short film showcases here on Cinema Chords, and we’re kick things of in humungous proportions, as we take a look at Dr. Easy. This is a short film from Shynola, primarily a music video company aiming to branch and expand out of that. It was released by Film 4/Warp Films just a few months back, and had us in awe the first time we saw it following the global release on Twitter.

Dr. Easy places us outside a house presumably in London, with the road littered with police demanding a man inside step down. We see numerous personnel, armed to the teeth. A skinny android unfolds from a small port in a van, and begins to move, it’s holographic face glowing with surging blue light. It ascends the stairs and scans its surroundings before reaching the top floor where the subject stands. We see a man, Michael Sawyer, holding a shotgun. He’s bleeding profusely from the mouth and can’t talk due to a police sniper wound, and seems very distressed. Dr. Easy treats him attentively with a local anaesthetic, before realising what Michael’s intention is. We can only helplessly stare at Michael’s fate as it unfolds, as we see a glimpse of humanity in the robot’s cold display.

Obviously the first praise goes to Dr. Easy, and it’s empathetic voice by Geraldine Jones. It seems so robotic and cold at first, with its gangly frame and garish structure, but the voice and motion goes to personify it as human. By the end of the very brief time frame of 9 minutes, you will almost certainly feel empathy for the machine. The pacing of Dr. Easy is timed to a tee, and manages to build such tension and suspense which is almost impossible for such a short film. From climbing the stairs, analysing it’s environment, and pleading for Michael to surrender. Each step it pulse-pounding, building to a shocking crescendo as the short climaxes.

We can’t recommend Dr. Easy enough. I hope you enjoyed watching it, and I certainly look forward to seeing more of what Shynola can do.

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FeaturesMovie Lists

10 Sequels That Just Weren’t Meant To Be


There are so many films we all dream will get the sequel treatment but then there are so many we just can’t for a reason understand why they made one, let alone two or three.

Here is the definitive list of sequels which were nearly but never came into existence, ranging from the ‘that needed to be completed’ to the ‘thank you universe for not letting that happen’.

1: Superman Lives

tumblr_inline_mk12s07jd11qz4rgpA reboot of the franchise in the ‘90s, which was to be directed by Tim Burton and written by Kevin Smith. Who was going to be Superman? None other than Nicholas Cage.

The movie would have been an adaptation of “The Death of Superman” storyline from the comics.

Should it have happened?

Judging by what Tim Burton did to the Batman films, a categorical no. And Cage as Clark Kent is just wrong. So, so wrong.

2: Mrs Doubtfire 2

Senora_Doubtfire_Papa_De_Por_Vida-Interior_FrontalAlthough the intention was there, Robin Williams claims that it simply couldn’t be written: the plot couldn’t really go anywhere now that her true identify was revealed.

Should it have happened?

Even though Mrs. Doubtfire was a fresh and funny approach to comedy and is still Williams’ highest grossing film, a sequel would have just seemed like a plug to make more money, therefore probably lacking in originality.

3: Unnamed 4th Spiderman

TOBEY_MAGUIRE_SPIDERMANA film that looked into Peter Parker’s school life. Tobey McGuire quit after reading the script and Sam Raimi was never involved.

Should it have happened?

If Raimi and McGuire were up for another one, as the franchise was a great addition to the superhero genre, it would have been welcomed. But without those two, Spiderman 4 would have been absolutely implausible.

4: Napoleon Dynamite 2

20060718_napoleon_dynamite_2Nothing was confirmed and it is still uncertain how far the project went, but, in 2006 Efren Ramirez, Pedro, told a radio station he was in talks about a sequel. Whilst an animated spin-off series was aired with the entire original cast returning to reprise their roles in January, 2012 it was as soon as May of that same year the Fox announced their decision to cancel said series.

Should it have happened?

Heck yes!

5: ET 2: Nocturnal fears

Drew-Struzan-etA very weird, disturbing proposed sequel involving E.T’s fellow alien chums coming down to earth and torturing Elliot for information about where the little brown guy went. E.T. turns up at the end and takes the kids away to safety. Spielberg later decided it wouldn’t fit in with the original (cant see why).

Should it have happened?

Maybe a sequel involving E.T. would have been a good idea, but one with echoing screams of children in the middle of a forest? I’m not so keen.

6: Matrix 4

am_6_4354462_421079What nearly happened?

It had been rumoured for years and still is and after the Wachowskis had a law suit filed against them for $300 million, accusing them of stealing the idea to numbers 2 and 3, perhaps this will never happen.

Should it have happened?

The Matrix was a classic, but the subsequent sequels were getting worse. Perhaps it would have been good, but with no plot details we will never know.

7: Forrest 2: Gump and Co.

forrest-gump-frases-celebresAfter the massive success of the first Gump film, script writer Eric Roth set to work on another movie in which Forrest makes more cameo appearances in certain historical scenes such as the taking down of the Berlin wall, dancing with Diana and strangely, helping O.J. Simpson escape from the police. This is the kind of stuff you might be able to get away with pre 9/11, but as the script was turned in literally on the 10th of September 2001, it was deemed a no-go. Roth said to “We don’t think this is relevant anymore. The world had changed [after 9/11].”

Should it have happened?

It simply wouldn’t have been the same and the thought of seeing Gump help O.J. escape destroys all the warm feelings we have towards Forrest.

8: Gladiator 2: Christ Killer

20090506_nickgladiator_560x335Russell Crowe asked singer-turned-actor Nick Cave to write a sequel to the film, already with the whole plot set out. Cave, according to Yahoo!, described the plot as follows: “The gods are dying so they send Gladiator back to kill Christ and his followers.” In doing so, he becomes an eternal warrior but has to kill someone who ends up being his son.

Very much in keeping with the original, it seems that Crowe was the driving force behind this, but it fell at the first hurdle, rejected by the studio. What a shame.

Should it have happened?

In no way, shape or form. Another case of a classic movie having a proposed sequel simply because the original was popular. A bit like E.T. 2 in the way that it wouldn’t have fit in with the first film.

9: Lord of the Rings (Beatles Style)

BEATLES-LOTRNot the actual title and not really a sequel, the Beatles wanted to make a film adaptation of the legendary book series by Tolkien. Ringo was to be Sam, Lennon to be Gollum, McCartney to be Frodo and George to be Gandalf. With Stanley Kubrick up for the film, unfortunately Tolkien owned the film rights and wasn’t so keen.

Should it have happened?

Erm, yes. John Lennon as Gollum would have been a sight to see.

“Our life together is so precious together…”

10: Batman v Godzilla

bvgartA follow-up to King-Kong vs Godzilla, a chap named Shinichi Sckizawa proposed the idea of Batman and Robin, with the help of Batgirl, facing the giant lizard in a truly epic battle. In an attempt to emulate the success of the crossover of the gorilla and lizard, Sckizawa’s idea never got that far and not even a script was written.

Should it have happened?

With films out there like The Love Guru and Disaster Movie, why on earth was this film not made? Batman and Godzilla is a combination to die for and this film would have been an instant cult classic.

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Cult Cinema

Guilty Treasures: 1969’s Easy Rider

Road movies are certainly the most simplistic of movies. Generally appealing to a certain type of film lover, movies with long stretches of road with fast racing vehicles have never been overly complex. Many just enjoy the view, the sentiment and those obsessed with anything with an engine can appreciate the love of cruising around countries.

Easy Rider, despite its box office success and influence, will always be considered a cult classic because it took this effortless plot, threw in copious amounts of drugs and set it loose on a journey of freedom and ideals.

Directed by and starring Dennis Hopper, alongside Peter Fonda, Easy Rider was filmed back in 1969. It follows the adventures of Billy and “Captain America” as they chug from Los Angeles across the back roads of the U.S.A. Along the way, they ingest copious amounts of alcohol and illegal drugs, meet a whole host of friendly characters, encounter hostile ones and ultimately enjoy their freedom. Supported with a great soundtrack from Steppenwolf (because Born to the Wild is one of the most iconic songs here) to Bob Dylan and a wavering hippy ideology, Easy Rider has become a send up of everything the late sixties embodied.

Easy Rider boasts some terrific performances and directing. Despite the fact that director and star Hopper was out of his mind for most of the shoot, he still elicits some seriously provoking moments. One particular moment, in a church in St. Louis is a head trip. High on whatever drugs they can find, Billy and Captain find prostitutes and run amok on the sacred ground. If you have seen any movie with drugs, you’ll know that what follows is essentially a series of crazy but haunting images in a graveyard. But this is cut with an on-point Fonda as high Captain speaking to a statue as if it were his mother. It is one of the many improvised moments that Hopper induced, making Fonda speak to his real-life mother who had committed suicide. Hopper, as temperamental and drugged as he may have been, still managed to craft an impacting movie that sent up and tore down the ideals of a free America.

easy-rider-shotMany will remember Easy Rider for launching star Jack Nicholson into his career. Sure, you follow a loose story about drinking, friendship, campfire chats and awesome bikes. But when they meet Nicholson’s George Hanson, the film begins to ooze with charisma. Nicholson’s engaging personality as the alcoholic Hanson pushes a movie that could easily have become tiresome and boring. And, despite his short screen time, Nicholson is the one that audiences remember the most.

Easy Rider is ironic in the fact that as much as it is about the freedom of the Sixties “hippy culture,” it set about the downfall or certainly, the discouragement of that era. Hopper’s piece is formulated well though and although he was tyrant to his crew and harboured designs for a three hour long epic, those who survived managed to salvage the movie into the status it is now. It transitions through the drug-addled scenes with cutting and choppy realism whilst panning on the driving scenes; using cinematography to capture realism. It stretches, winds, stalls and speeds.

Easy Rider remains the classic and iconic road movie.

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Spartacus Would Be Proud


You don’t get ranked fifth on the American Films Institute’s ten greatest epic films for nothing, but is Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece simply an ‘epic’ or does it bear more ideological themes than first expected?

Spartacus is the tale of a slave who manages to guide an army to a revolution against the Roman Empire. Based on a true story, Spartacus is truly a revolutionary symbol; that’s all well and good, but this is was over 2000 years ago, so many assume that this is merely a fantastical tale from the past. But, on closer inspection, it’s not as simple as that.

Released in 1960, Spartacus was distributed at the height of the Cold War. Tensions were high and a revolution was the last thing on both the American and Soviet’s wish lists. Make no bones about it, the film was never going to be a catalyst for a revolution, but, in its own subtle way, the film and its creators managed to defy the American government. For example, Kirk Douglas, the actor who plays Spartacus, co-produced the film through his own company, Bryan Productions. Infamously, with the American government on high alert of a communist invasion, the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) publically expelled and humiliated ten high-profiled directors and screenwriters, blacklisting them from the entertainment industry. The punishment was so severe for these so-called communist sympathisers that some were sent to prison. This was a farcical and exaggerated procedure as many of their public trials were based on little proof; some simply declined to answer, expressing they did not have to, and they were branded dangerous.

Kirk Douglas, in true Spartacus style, employed a blacklisted screenwriter in Dalton Trumbo to adapt the film. Douglas also hired blacklisted actor Peter Brocco, proving that he strongly disapproved of the government’s actions. Douglas also made sure Spartacus had deep roots in religious grounds. He wanted the story to mirror the story of the Jewish people, as he was a devoted Zionist. This caused a few problems, as screenwriter Trumbo, was more interested in making it a comment on the modern-day politics regarding the Cold War, understandably after his denouncement. Once again, this film openly opposed the government: not only did it employ blacklisted ‘Soviet sympathisers’, the film openly signifies the struggle of the Cold War.

Another way that Spartacus ruffled a few feathers is through explicit dialogue within the film. In the scene where Gracchus is found guilty of helping the revolt against Rome, Crassus (Laurence Olivier) says, “In every city and province, the list of the disloyal have been compiled.” This clear jab, by Trumbo, at the watchdogs is perhaps not so subtle, but neither were the methods of the HUAC. This is made even more poignant for the fact that, at the time of filming, the blacklisting was still on going. Evidently, Hollywood took note: both Hedda Hopper and John Wayne expressed their distaste for the film, condemning it as “Marxist propaganda” prior to its release. Showing their clear right-wing views, these Hollywood legends recognised the anti-governmental messages in Spartacus.

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But what is Spartacus about? Revolution through violence? A humiliation of authority? The ultimate underdog story? Love, explains Douglas: “Love predominates all through the movie: love between Spartacus and Varinia, love among the men; the whole revolt was based on a love of freedom, a love of humanity.” There is no doubt Spartacus is a truly inspiring story, which is wonderfully told by Kubrick. Although the theme of love is predominant, it did cause some controversy with its strong political undertones: the use of blacklisted screenwriters and actors, the explicit jabs at authority and the religious symbolism shows that this film was just as hard-hitting in the 1960s as Douglas’ character was in 60BC. Spartacus would be proud.

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The Keys to Successful Low-Budget Filmmaking


Their name is Lumiére, and they have just invented what will become one of the most revolutionary technological inventions of the 20th century – the motion picture camera. Their invention was an incredible leap for its generation; to be able to capture movement, and not just a single moment in time, was unprecedented.

In 1895, the Lumiére’s invited people along to a private screening of ten films shot using their patented ‘Cinématographe’, later taking their device and films on tour with them all around the world. Innovators and entrepreneurs descended on the new artistic platform leading to a global boom in motion pictures.

Just like all technology, production costs began to drop, size and weights of equipment began to shrink, and new inventions and advances in sound and colour technology helped revolutionise how films were created.

As the technology advanced, so did people’s understanding of it. This resulted in ‘film’ being viewed as an art form, instead of mere novelty. Early theorists such as Lev Kuleshov and Sergei Eisenstein evaluated film as an art, creating ideas which have since become so crucial and influential to the creation of films.

It would be almost inconceivable to these original innovators that 1.08 billion people would have the ability to create a motion picture with gadgets right in their back pocket. The smart phone has transformed the way that we look at ‘film’, the way we can create, edit and share it with barely any boundaries or limitations, and to a worldwide audience in seconds.

This model is paralleled by DSLR, handheld and video cameras that have all increased in quality and reduced in size and cost. This has given the green light for ‘low-cost films’ to reach successful dramatic release; The Blair Witch Project cost $60,000. Paranormal Activity cost $15,000. El Mariachi cost $7,000. The list continues, and with the continued advances in technology, it will continue to grow.

However, has this liberation led to a decrease in quality?

Every minute, over 100 hours of footage is uploaded to YouTube. There were over 45,000 unique titles submitted to Withoutabox (an online film festival submission website) in 2010. But how many of these are actually of any worth?

It’s no lie; film has not been perfect since its creation. There have been huge flops whether that is critically or in the box office. But the sheer quantity of film has increased massively in recent years, and through a gigantic rise in visual media such as cable/satellite TV, smart phones, tablets, social media websites and video hosting websites, we are given access to almost anything we want.

urlNevertheless, some of these crappy cheap flicks strike lucky and reach cult status. Birdemic, for example, directed by James Nguyen was made for $6,000 and has become infamous in the movie world. Despite its nauseating CGI, awful acting and disastrous directing, it paved the way for Nguyen to obtain funding for Birdemic 2 and the intriguingly titled Peephole, the Perverted.

It’s not all bad news for low budget films, with Kevin Smith’s Clerks being a prime example. Made on what is considered to be a shoestring budget of around $27,000, Smith worked in the shop he filmed in to raise money for the movie, maxed out ten credit cards and was forced to use black and white film to reduce the cost. However, Miramax picked up the film after a screening at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was given another $230,000 for post production and distribution. The film went on to make $3,151,130 at the Box Office. As it turned out, Smith had a talent for screenwriting and directing, moving on to be a success in Hollywood.

Smith had a dream, he had a script, and he had the drive, and he found success. That is a model that all wannabe film makers urge to imitate, but often do not. Even with an incredible technical emancipation, talent and luck need to be present too.

The huge quantity of unique titles being submitted to Withoutabox does not necessarily reflect the quality, and only a small percentage will actually go on to win anything.

Where film makers have triumphed is in simplicity. Look, for example, at the amazing success of Paranormal Activity, made for only $15,000 and grossing over $100,000,000. One reason credited to Paranormal Activity’s achievements was its marketing campaign. Paramount’s co-president of marketing, Josh Greenstein, said:

“…we didn’t want to show your usual kind of scenes and cutting-style horror movies have been using. We wanted to use an experiential sell to help dictate how and where it rolled out to the consumer.”

The modern day audience is unconsciously sophisticated. In other words, we have become accustomed to superb quality VFX, HD quality viewing and the over-used viral marketing technique. Paranormal was never marketed as a ‘found footage’ type movie, like the Blair Witch Project, but instead as fiction. The film was made to scare, not for the audience to question its reality.  It also understood that one’s imagination is far superior to whatever VFX can create. We never see the demon in Paranormal, and it’s that very key factor that terrifies us.

So is simplicity the key to a successful low budget film?

It seems that even with what turned out to be hugely popular films, it was the marketing of them that eventually lead to their success, regardless of how strong the idea was. Hollywood blockbusters often have multi-million dollar marketing budgets, and no independent film can match that.

It seems that even with a modern liberation of film production, without a healthy dosage of talent and luck, you’re not going to have the next Reservoir Dogs. But that is no reason to stop making films. As the late and great Stanley Kubrick said “If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.”

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