Wednesday, 31 August 2011

[499] Kill List Interview: Ben Wheatley, Neil Maskell and MyAnna Buring

I had a lot of fun with this interview, for must-see British thriller Kill List. Turns out that Ben Wheatley is a marvellous chap, and MyAnna Buring and Neil Maskell are pretty pleasant, too.

Have a read - and make sure you see the film! It's out this week, in selected UK cinemas.

After receiving its UK premiere at FrightFest last weekend, the terrific, terrifying Kill List is released on Friday. In anticipation, we spoke with director Ben Wheatley, and stars Neil Maskell and MyAnna Buring, about low-budget filmmaking, improvising on set, and how best to describe this twisty, twisted film.

Kill List is a really interesting cross-genre film. It starts off in a similar mould to [Wheatley’s previous film] Down Terrace, with the domestic setting, but then you pull the rug a couple of times on the audience. What was the starting point for the film? Did you set out to make a horror movie?

Ben Wheatley: There’s a lot of different starting points, I think. There’s one which is that we definitely were going to make a horror film after making a crime film. We didn’t want to make another crime film. Lots of people have been saying, “Oh, it starts like a crime film”, and the first few times I heard it, I was like, “Aw, shit, I guess!” But I never think of them as criminals, they’re more like blue-collar soldiers. There’s no geezer with gold chains who gives them the cash to go and do their stuff.

Then there was this thing. We’d written a thing called
Get Jakarta, which was for Neil to do. There was a possibility of doing this thing in the Philippines, so we were going to go out there and shoot it. This was quite early on, I think. I think this was still while we were doing [UK comedy series] Wrong Door, even. It was bubbling along.

It was basically like
Get Carter, which becomes like a HP Lovecraft thing. So he goes out to find his mate, but then his hand gets cut, and he gets infected and he starts hallucinating. But nothing ever came of that, but that basic thing was kicking about. And then there was a casting idea.

Obviously, I worked with these guys on
Wrong Door, and Michael Smiley was in Wrong Door as well. And after working with him in Down Terrace, I really wanted to work with him again. So it started to become this idea of getting Michael and Neil together, and then what would they get up to.

And then we were trying to do a short, which was with MyAnna and Neil, and that didn’t come off, but we had a meeting, and got them together. So we had different bits of casting kicking about, and then it all started to coalesce into this movie.

And all the script was written specifically for these people, so there was no casting in the traditional sense, we just shot a five minute, six minute chunk of
Kill List, and we showed the financiers that. And we went, “This is who it’s going to be”, and they went, “...okay!”

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

[498] The Skin I Live In (2011) Review

Man, yet another brilliant, messed-up film with twists which I can't give away in the review! Just go and see it, will you?

After thirty years of campy comedy, passionate drama, luscious female characters and brightly coloured set design, it’s a joy to see that Pedro Almodóvar still manages to surprise the audience, and have fun while he’s at it. His latest film, The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito), carries on from 2009’s neo-noir Broken Embraces in its cheeky co-option of genre tropes, although where that film was still sensual and perky, this new effort is decidedly perverse.

Long-time collaborator Antonio Banderas stars as Robert Ledgard, a brilliant doctor who specialises in reconstructive surgery. He also conducts revolutionary research in his secluded home, where he experiments on a young woman, Vera (Elena Anaya), whom he holds captive. Dressed in a body stocking, and under constant, voyeuristic surveillance, Vera holds the key to a major medical breakthrough, as her skin is extremely resistant to heat.

With its mild sci-fi concept, and compelling mystery, the film does not resemble a typical Almodóvar film, although the wonderfully over-dressed sets, where clinical, futuristic laboratories rub shoulders with rural Spanish architecture and eclectic, polystylist interiors, do recall the director’s visual flair, even if the vibrant colours have been exchanged for a more muted, stark palette.

Just as surprising is the director’s complete dedication to the genre, with energetic montage sequences of petri dishes and pipettes, as Robert gets to work conjuring up his artificial skin. Likewise, the intrigue builds as we watch Vera, isolated from the world just as her inhuman barrier distances her from human feeling, go about her daily routine of yoga, reading, and creating patchwork sculptures.

Odd flourishes crop up from time to time, such as Robert’s anachronistic predilection for smoking opium, or the appearance of overly dramatic intertitles. However, the director’s straight face is maintained. At least, that is until a man in a tiger costume (the son of Robert’s housekeeper) turns up, and not only disrupts the characters’ secluded existence, but the film’s own sense of sanity.

Read the full article here.

Monday, 29 August 2011

[497] Kill List (2011) Review

Last year, I was really taken by Down Terrace, a film directed by Ben Wheatley - who, it turned out, is a friend of Nerdgasm team leader and London Loves Comics blogger Dom Sutton. So, of course, I was pretty excited to see his new film, Kill List. And, damn, was it surprising.

Note: Kill List is a film that works wonderfully with its surprises left intact. The following review doesn’t delve too deeply into spoiler territory, but if you prefer to experience the film unspoiled, then we recommend you just go and see it.

Just over a year ago, we here at Den of Geek were taken completely by surprise by Down Terrace, a low-budget, domestic crime drama directed, co-edited and co-written by Ben Wheatley.

With its understated charm, and disarming sense of humour, the film stood out among the dreary drama and urban grime that clog up the British film industry - although, unfortunately, it didn’t get half the attention it deserved. Thankfully, this is being rectified for Wheatley’s follow-up, the surreal thriller-horror mish-mash Kill List.

Read the full review here.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

[496] BytesCorp: The Office

This week, BytesCorp moved into an office - our office.

How swish! It's in between London Bridge and Tower Bridge, and has been kindly donated to us by Ideastap. Read more about that here, in an article which also features our first ever interview as a company.

It's a lovely place. Inspiring, well-located, and, crucially, full of cake. Crikey, we'd better get started on the next thing, now...

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

[495] Behind The Bytes #5: Yoshi & The Death of Birdo

Brace yourselves...

Episode 5: The Behind The Bytes Special. With Birdo dead and the gaming world in disarray, the intrepid news hounds at BTB tackle their greatest scandal yet: a thrilling mystery which takes them straight to the murky heart of Nintendo. Stones will be turned. Preconceptions will be blown. And cakes will be baked.

This was an ambitious episode, a finale in which we break all of the rules that we'd slowly built around the Bytes format. Exteriors, dialogue, locations, night-time shoots, handheld shots with movement. It was exhausting, but showed that we could do something very different. I think it works. It's certainly rather bonkers. Anyway, have a watch.

And that's our miniseries. 5 episodes in 5 months, and we're just about to break 70,000 hits on Youtube. That's quite encouraging! Don't worry, we're not giving up completely. BytesCorp will return, in a slightly different form, in October. Developments are ahead, I assure you.

But let's not consign Bytes to the scrapheap of memory just yet. Here are some behind-the-scenes photos from the finale.

First up, Nick & Ed standing on the balcony of Tozai Towers, East London. What a view.

And Ed, in Tozai's alt-costume, being a little bit Ozu with our low-angled shooting.

A rare view of Nick, on location at the Royal Exchange (an on-the-day change of location, as it was more convenient and less crowded than the Bank of England, which was in the script).

Still at the Royal Exchange, with Ed shooting the establishing shot, just before handing over the camerawork reins to me and filling the role of Jeff Tozai: Font of Information.

Unfortunately, I don't have any shots from our night-time shoot at the Barbican, but that's probably because that evening was filled with tension, as we kept throwing sandwiches into the lake, constantly looking over our shoulders at the one lone security guard ambling around the complex. When we started this, I wouldn't have guessed that we'd go out like that. It's certainly a way to go out, though.

Thanks for all the comments and support so far. We'll be back soon with more BytesCorp frivolity!

Monday, 22 August 2011

[494] Villain (Akunin, 2010) Review

It's very rare that I let the wider context of a film's release affect my review, but in this case, I had to make an exception.

It would be improper to review Villain (Akunin), the award-winning Japanese drama which is getting a limited UK release this week, without acknowledging recent developments regarding its distributor, Third Window Films. As part of the recent rioting that has flared up across the country, Sony’s main DADC warehouse in Enfield was subject to an arson attack, resulting in many independent labels (both music and film) losing vast numbers of their stock.

Third Window, who have garnered a reputation for releasing esoteric, quirky, or just flat-out brilliant East Asian films, is one of the many businesses that now find themselves in an unfortunate spot. In their particular case, almost 20,000 DVD discs have been written off, and to replenish the whole catalogue would be a great investment.

A setback like this could be fatal. For these companies, the home entertainment market is their main source of income, providing much of the capital used to acquire, exhibit and promote new films. Theatrical releases themselves are more about getting the word out, working as a loss leader that only starts to pay off once the DVDs roll out later on, and interest has had a chance to gather.

This brings us to Villain. While it may not be the strongest, or most audacious entry in the Third Window catalogue, it is nonetheless another fine, if flawed addition. Adapted from the novel by Shuichi Yoshida, the film was a tremendous critical success in Japan, scoring 15 academy award nominations (winning five), and topping the film of the year list in influential film mag Kinema Junpo.

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

[493] WAW+P Radio #10: Reinhard Kleist

Ten episodes of podcastery! It's only taken me a year. So maybe my output hasn't been as prolific as I'd hoped, but surely it's all about quality over quantity?

With that in mind, stuff this episode in your ears. For me, this year has been full of German comics, from Arne Bellstorf's Baby's In Black, to the raft of autobiographical books by Mawil that Blank Slate put out a couple of months ago. They're all fantastic, and now we can add Reinhard Kleist to the list. I recently got around to reading his Johnny Cash graphic biography, I See A Darkness, and found that it was just as beautiful as the entire world said it was.

His new book is another biography, Castro. I'm only halfway through it, but it's looking great so far. I love his style, full of expressive brush-strokes and big splodges of black ink. And it turns out he's not only a great guy to talk to, but he also has a killer taste in music - as is evidenced by the podcast below. Here's a blurb:

We Are Words + Pictures host Michael Leader talks about graphic biographies with German comics artist Reinhard Kleist, the creator of Johnny Cash: I See A Darkness and Castro.

To find out more about the We Are Words + Pictures collective, visit their site at:

Reinhard Kleist -
SelfMadeHero -

Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues
Johnny Cash - I See A Darkness
Johnny Cash - Greystone Chapel
Afghan Whigs - What Jail Is Like
Monster Magnet - Negasonic Teenage Warhead
Baroness - The Gnashing

Listen below, or right-click here to save. I have another interview primed already, which just needs a little tinkering, and then there's all the amazing material from New Cross Turn Left. So, once I get time, you should be drowning in comics chat.

In the meantime, have a listen, leave a comment, and maybe go forth and evangelise!

Monday, 15 August 2011

[492] Rise of The Planet of The Apes Roundtable Interview

Apes will rise; press junkets will be held; questions will be asked.

Already a surprise hit in the States, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes has been notching up positive reviews from all quarters, dispelling much of the trepidation that greeted the initial plans to reboot the iconic sci-fi series.

With the ape revolution occurring now on British shores, we (and a bunch of the country’s best bloggers) had the chance to chat with director Rupert Wyatt and visual effects supervisor Dan Lemmon.

Besides going into great detail about the performance capture technology that turned Andy Serkis into lead ape Caesar, they weighed in on the 3D debate, told us their thoughts for the future of the series, and even threw a couple of compliments in the direction of the much-maligned 2001 Planet Of The Apes flick, directed by Tim Burton.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

[491] Behind The Bytes #4 - Duke Nukem: Reluctant Misogynist

Here we go again... another episode of Behind The Bytes! This time, we look at everyone's favourite buzzcut bro-dude, Duke Nukem.

Episode 4: The twisted story of Duke Nukem, misunderstood babe-saviour. Expect atomic gossip, tyrannical tykes, and a double-bluff that changed the gaming world... forever.

Watch it! Love it! Share it!

We're currently hard at work on the Bytes-finale, coming later this month. So damn hard, I tell you...

Watch this space for more updates from behind the scenes of Bytes. In the meantime, however, check out the new episode!