Scifi Sitcom Brain Storm

Occasionally I have known to blurt out creative ideas on twitter, and the one that keeps coming back to me is writing a Scifi Sitcom.

Now these have been done, most notability with Red Dwarf, but I was looking for a Time Travel Twist.

I have just had a quick pen and pencil draft of of a pilot, but it reads back as a poor Steven Moffatt Episode of Doctor Who. (Not to say that Steven Moffatt’s Doctor Who is poor, just this plot seems a bit like a duff episode).

I know a lot of the Doctor Who of late has had a LOT of humour, but I was looking at a 6 episode 30 minute laugh-a-thon scifi idea. Which could allow character development.

Now what style?

I had thought a bit Basil Fawlty in a time machine, with some nice time travel paradox farce.
Or a Police Squad / Airplane / Naked Gun style comedy packed with in jokes, sight gags and breaking of the third wall.

I had a quick thought about casting and came up with 2 names Al Murray and Richard Herring. I have been stalking Richard on Twitter for a while, as I was a huge fan of his work for the past 20+ years.

Apparently Richard Herring does have a multiverse comedy in the works (very much look forward to it). But I still get a Pub-Landlord-as-The-Doctor style sketch going through my head. Now obliviously I don’t want to be so brash as to hijack an existing character and work it into a Doctor Who spoof. But I still like the idea of having Al Murray as the Time Travelling comedic lead. Bumbling through time ala Frank Drebin.

A few things I would need to do to take this to the next level, I am no stranger to writing comedy (I submitted many sketches and a sitcom pilot to the BBC back in the early 1990s) but I am a big stranger to getting it commissioned.

First step. Work on my characters and a loose 6 episode story arc with lots of laughs and get a pilot of episode one written.

I will post updates here.

Crooks In Cloisters ? DVD Review

StudioCanal are making a bit of a habit of releasing classic British comedies, the one?s you used to see on Sunday afternoon TV. On DVD from 9th July comes the UK premiere of 1964 caper-comedy ?Crooks in Cloisters? starring Barbara Windsor, Bernard Cribbens and Ronald Fraser (among a host of other British comedy thesps). After pulling off a daring train robbery, ?Little Walter? (Ronald Fraser: The Misfit) and his crew are forced to lie low, away from the attentions of the monstrous Superintendent Mungo. The six of them set up business in an abandoned island monastery off the Cornish coast disguised as monks, despite the fact that none of them really qualifies as a monk – least of all Walter’s girlfriend ?Bikini? (Barbara Windsor). True to form, old habits initially die hard and soon their vows of poverty give way to a massive counterfeiting operation. Successfully dodging visits by tourists and even real monks, the gang are taken by surprise to find ?the simple? life starting to grow on them, but is it too late for them to turn over a new leaf and escape Mungo?s clutches?
It?s a by-the-numbers British 60?s comedy, silliness and sauce with lashings of slapstick. Barbara Windsor is at her ?Carry On? best, all legs, breasts and big hair; while Bernard Cribbens continues his run of playing foolish, almost simplistic, characters. And it is in these tropes that the real shame for the movie comes, because while the setting is unique, very little else about the film is. It is another Carry-On lark, another Ealing-caper, another comedy-ensemble that underuses its stars. Unlike some recent re-releases, ?Crooks In Cloisters? feels a little ?cookie-cutter?, something just knocked out quickly while the studio had a group of actors available on contract. There is no sense of love or passion from the cast, they are just ?doing their schtick? for a pay-cheque. And this is a shame as the movie has some heart and quirkiness that makes it endearing if not enthralling. The real problem is that the writer appears to have strung together a series of sketches, all of which would be fine within a TV show, but failed to tie them together with a worthwhile plot. Quite why Bernard Cribbens agreed to be in the film makes little sense, since he rarely speaks and seems to be only interested in sharing screen-time with an ornery goat.
The 1960s are fondly remembered for being a period of British film superiority and innovation, and in many respects they were. But they also suffered from the same malaise Hollywood suffers from today?that of bandwagons and never knowing when to stop. While there were some fine comedy films made in the decade, many of them featuring the stars of this movie, ?Crooks in the Cloisters? just isn?t one of them. Don?t get me wrong, it isn?t a disaster (except in some of the dialogue dubbing which is so out-of-sync it is an unexpected comedic moment in its own right), there is a warm, safe feeling to the film, one that makes it the perfect Sunday-afternoon movie to lightly snooze through. The cast are enjoyably manic, and 1960s Barbara Windsor is always a delight to watch. If you tell your brain to pop out for an hour and a half and switch off your modern day sensibilities, this film will entertain. You will have the urge to question WHY they pretend so hard to be real monks, and WHY anyone in the area would give two hoots about these chaps on the island. You might wonder at the predictable and rather coy love-story, or how Barbara Windsor?s character so easily falls in to the role of cook & cleaner. BUT?ignore these thoughts and relax. Sit back and enjoy some (fairly) innocent silliness. ?Crooks In Cloisters? doesn?t win any points for originality or innovation but it does tickle a few funny bones, and it is that rarest of things in our modern world?it allows you to switch your brain off for an hour and a half. And for that it is a DVD well worth watching (that and Barbara?s BIG hair?just magnificent!)

The DVD transfer is nothing spectacular, but the picture quality is good. There are some occasional aspect-ratio slips, where scenes appear too wide or too stunted, but this is rare. The sound is 2.0 mono, so nothing to be writing home about, but then what do we expect from a 1960s movie? The real shame, as with so many of these DVD releases of classics, is the lack of ANY supporting material. There must be press packs, photos and essays out there, so why not put them on the DVD? Why no retrospective documentary with the surviving cast & crew? This is hailed as a celebration of the 75th birthday of Barbara Windsor so why no short feature on her and her importance to British cinema? At ?15.99 this is an expensive vanilla release, one for British comedy fans only.

Go To Blazes Fires On All Cylinders ? DVD Review by Neil Gardner

Go To Blazes [DVD]
Go To Blazes DVD
It had been a bad day, no, make that a BAD day. I had been caught in terrible traffic and ended up late for an important meeting (with a lawyer, even worse!) which then made me late for a studio recording session, and then I was caught in some more terrible traffic trying to get home again. My fianc?, and erstwhile editing cohort, back home was having an even worse day?she was supposed to be editing a new audiobook but the editing software kept crashing, the new and expensive PC we?d just bought wouldn?t work and generally everything went mammory-glands-up! So as 8pm rolled around we plopped ourselves down on the sofa, both in grumpy moods and tired. It seemed as if this day would end with a dark cloud over it for us both. But then I suggested we pop in the new shiny DVD review disc I?d been sent from the lovely people at studiocanal and see if the film might lighten the mood. And you know what? Cor blimey guv?nor, it only darn well worked, didn?t it, eh? Phwoar!

January 30th 2012 sees the release on DVD of the classic British comedy GO TO BLAZES, on its 50th anniversary. This is a perfect example of how 1960s British comedies, Ealing comedies no less, brought joy and pleasure to millions. It tells the tale of three loveable ne?er-do-wells, Bernard (Dave King from The Long Good Friday), Harry (Daniel Massey from Bad Timing) and Alfie (Norman Rossington from The Longest Day) who keep failing in their smash-n-grab burglaries, but one day come upon the idea to use a fire engine as the perfect getaway vehicle. Of course, being an Ealing comedy, slapstick, japes and a constantly unravelling plan all get in the way of success, as does the gorgeous Maggie Smith (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Harry Potter) who plays a French/Cockney fashion designer. Throw in to the mix a peach of a mad-scientist/pyromaniac played with relish by Robert Morley and plenty of fire engine antics and you have a perfect cure for what ails you.

The story is simple, but a lot of fun. Watching these foolish chaps have to learn to become real firemen is hilarious, while all the time you can enjoy the sights of London in the early 1960s?we played the old favourite game of ?Oooh, that?s, um, that?s?.oooh? while trying to spot streets we knew, or half built landmarks that we take for granted today. Maggie Smith (always a favourite in this household) is sexy and sophisticated, bringing some much needed glamour to an otherwise ?blokey? film, but don?t be fooled, she?s not there just to look pretty, there is a wonderful subplot involving her shop and an insurance claim, and she gets to show off some of those incredible acting chops she is so highly regarded for. This is high farce, true British comedy classic and perfect viewing for all ages. It will bring a big smile to your face, and is just the tonic after a long tough working week. I have to disagree with some other reviewers who say this film doesn?t stand up to many of the other Ealing comedies or the Carry On series. Personally I find this film tighter, more specific in its comedy, better written and broader in ambition than many of those other films. It also has very little of the infantile and sexual ?comedy? that pervades so much of the 1960s British comedy film catalogue?such a nice change, and one for the better.

But but but?a 50 year old film, transferred to DVD in the HD world of today?is someone having a laugh? Well, surprisingly, no. This is a beautiful upscale, with vibrant colours, a killer audio track (mono 2.0 not surround, but it really doesn?t matter) and absolutely no sign of film degradation or noise. To put it bluntly, it is a gorgeous viewing experience. The reds of the fire engines spring out of the TV, with no bleeding or softness. If I had to find fault, it is that on two or three short occasions there is either a strange rippling effect (such as on a close-up of a fire engine bell), or an off-putting wide fisheye lens effect. The first I am sure is an artefact of the up-scaling/restoration process and can be forgiven easily (it happens once) and the second comes from the original film and the lenses used, the odd quality being more manifestly obvious on a large wide HD TV. Again it doesn?t detract from the enjoyment of the film. This is the film?s first ever release on DVD and it is a corker. Well worth watching. Be warned though, the DVD has no extras so it may feel a little expensive in this world of bonus features, triple-play packs and 3D releases. Is it worth buying? If you are a fan of Ealing/British comedies I would say buy it immediately. If you are looking for a good enjoyable film to rent, go for this one. As a casual purchase, the price feels a little steep, but you most certainly get a great movie for your money.

GO TO BLAZES is a wonderful example of British comedic film-making at its finest. Superb actors, fun script, all the fun up there on the screen and no padding in sight. The only downside is you?ll start thinking about buying your own fire engine?now, is there an ebay for old fire engines?

Year One On DVD and Blu Ray

Year One - Hit and Miss Jack Black Comedy
Year One - Hit and Miss Jack Black Comedy
YEAR ONE stars Jack Black (Tenatious D, School of Rock, Tropic Thunder) and Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad) as an unlikely duo of primitive men who, after being exiled from their tribe, set out on a what can be described as a historians bad dream of the ancient world. Along the way, they encounter a host of famous historical figures played by a tribe of film comedy?s best, including Hank Azaria (Night at the Museum 2), David Cross (TV?s ?Arrested Development?), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad), Oliver Platt (2012, Frost/Nixon), Paul Rudd (I Love You, Man) and Horatio Sanz (TV?s ?Saturday Night Live?).
Now, YEAR ONE journeys from the ancient world onto Blu-ray and DVD, which include both the original theatrical version of the film and an all-new Uncut Version with even more irreverently funny footage not shown in cinemas, plus cool bonus features like deleted scenes, extended and alternate scenes, an alternate ending, Line-o-Rama, gag reel, audio commentary with director Harold Ramis, Jack Black and Micheal Cera, the making-of featurettes ?Year One: The Journey Begins,? ?Sodom?s Got?em? and ?Leeroy Jenkins: The Gates of Sodom,? and more!
Exclusive to the Blu-ray Disc? of YEAR ONE are the highly evolved special features ?Year One Cutting Room,? which lets viewers create their own video using clips and music from the film, and share it on BD-Live?. YEAR ONE also includes the newest BD-Live feature from Sony Pictures: movieIQ, which lets viewers access real-time trivia information about YEAR ONE?s cast, crew, music and production, all while watching the movie (powered by Gracenote). The Blu-ray version also features cinechat, which allows movie watchers to send on-screen instant messages to friends around the world while watching the movie and, finally, a Digital Copy for playback on PC, PSP?, Mac or iPod.
YEAR ONE is priced at ?24.99 RRP (Blu-ray), ?19.99 (DVD) and ?12.99 (PSP).

From The Cover Of The DVD
History was made…by these guys? Zed (Jack Black) and Oh (Michael Cera) are cavemen who stumble out of the mountains into an epic journey of biblical proportions. One?s a bumbling hunter, the other?s a gentle gatherer; together, they become unlikely participants in history?s most pivotal moments. Directed and co-written by comedy legend Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day, Caddyshack, Analyze This), YEAR ONE is rude, crude, wildly absurd, deliciously tasteless and laugh-out-loud funny!
YEAR ONE was written by Harold Ramis and the writing team of Gene Stupnitsky & Lee Eisenberg (upcoming Ghostbusters 3, US TV?s ?The Office?). Its cast also features Olivia Wilde (TV?s ?House M.D.?) and Vinnie Jones (X Men: The Last Stand).

Bonus Material Included on All Versions
Both Theatrical and Uncut Versions of the Film
2 Deleted Scenes
Commentary with Director Harold Ramis, Jack Black and Michael Cera
10 Extended and Alternate Scenes
Line-o-Rama
Gag Reel
?Year One: The Journey Begins? Featurette
Blu-ray Exclusive Bonus Material
Alternate Ending: Sodom?s Destruction
?Sodom’s Got’em? Featurette
?Leeroy Jenkins: The Gates of Sodom? Featurette
Year One Cutting Room: Create your own video and share it via BD-Live! (A Blu-ray first)
cinechat: Send on-screen instant messages to your friends around the world while you watch the movie together
movieIQ: Real-time in-movie information about the cast, crew, music and production via BD-Live (Domestic Only)
A Digital Copy of the film for PC, PSP?, Mac or iPod

Doghouse DVD Review

Watch out for the psychotic, homicidal Zombirds of Moodly
Watch out for the psychotic, homicidal Zombirds of Moodly
Danny Dyer and Noel Clark walk into a bar and are joined by a comic book geek and a few other liklely characters… Sounds like a poor joke, but is actually the start of a not bad Horror Comedy.

Directed by Jake West (Razorblade Smile, Evil Aliens) this is another ‘British Horror Comedy’ that unlike a lot of others does actually work. Yes it is gory, yes it is ‘laddy’ but where the likes of Shaun of the Dead (the bar setting British horror comedy) brings alot of popular culture references, Evil Aliens brought the slapstick and the gore and Lesbian Vampire Killers brings the lesbian vampires, Doghouse brings the laddy, boys night on the town crew and dumps them into a small isolated town with a zombie problem.

Being a group of lads, out of favour with their respective other halves, the film shows another side to the battle of the sexes as all of the zombies are female (zombirds!).

Amongst a number of number of Zombie set pieces and actually lacking the obvious one of one of the survivors being infected – but not telling everyone and turning at an inconvienient moment (which couldn’t happen as the zombie virus only infects females) there is actually a fair bit of characterisation which helps hold the film together. I hate to say that Danny Dyer is type cast but he does seem to play the same ‘av it’ laddy character in most films, indeed a bit of a script tweek and this could be the same character Danny played in Severence (last seen sailing in to the sunset with 2 near naked twin strippers).

Stephen Graham stands in as the ‘main protagonist’ but actually pails into the scenery beside Danny Dyer, Noel Clark and Lee Ingleby (comic book enthusiast Matt).

Noel Clark (Adulthood, Kidulthood and Doctor Who) steals the show with his choice of wardrobe (see the film, not saying here) but I couldn’t help draw comparisons between his character Mikey in Doghouse and his character Mickey in Doctor Who (both are in an lax relationship, both are very close to their Nan etc).

Look out for cameos fromBrit horror babe Emily Booth (Evil Aliens, Gorezone magazine, Zone Horror) as the Snipper, though it is a bit difficult to see that it is her, Don Beech from The Bill and Mary Tamm from Doctor Who

Nice, sometimes dark, and gritty horror comedy may fail to be a classic like Shaun of the Dead, but is a great way to spend a couple of hours one weekend, or maybe as part of a halloween lads night in.

ZombieLand

Woody Harrelson enjoying his job and a bunch of big guns

Columbus (Eisenberg) is a big wuss ? but when you’re afraid of being eaten by zombies, fear can keep you alive. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) is an AK-totin?, zombie-slayin? badass whose single determination is to get the last Twinkie on earth. As they join forces with Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin), who have also found unique ways to survive the zombie mayhem, they will have to determine which is worse: relying on each other or succumbing to the zombies.

Zombie comedy films usually fall into one of 3 categories – poor spoofs, failed real horror movies and Shaun of the Dead. Now we have an attempt of a new contender, will it make the fourth category of good zombie comedy film?

Zombieland tells the story of two men who have found a way to survive in a world overrun by zombies. The film is directed by Ruben Fleischer and stars Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. Zombieland is in cinemas on October 9th (no info on DVD / Blu Ray release)

Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel

Anna Faris (left) Chris O Dowd (right)
Anna Faris (left) Chris O Dowd (right)

The strapline for this time travel film sounds very much like an updated version of a VERY old joke…

Three men walk into a bar; two geeks and a cynic.

But the story does start with three ordinary blokes who all have aspirations and hopes for an exciting and better future. They’re stuck in tiresome jobs, with little prospect. They are frustrated and life on the whole appears placid.
They’re just about to sit down and proceed to have an average night out in their local pub, a couple of beers, a bit of banter and putting the world to rights (as we all do). There’s no reason to suspect anything strange is just about to happen.

The first of the geeks, Ray, has a known obsession on time travel, so when he is approached by Cassie, a woman who claims to be from the future, he naturally suspects a joke from his companions.

The second geek, Toby, is obsessed with movies, and upon hearing Ray’s story of the woman from the future, of course assumes that Ray is pitching him a movie plot. And Pete, the cynic, naturally does not believe a word of Ray’s, until he by chance stumbles through a time leak into the future of the bar (as you do). Which happens to comprise full of corpses, including his own.

This activates a series of inadvertent trips to and fro through time, during which our heroes frantically try to avoid multiple earlier versions of themselves, to avoid creating a time paradox, in an attempt to unravel the mystery of just who is trying to kill them and why.

When Ray and Cassie get together in the garden and the world spins back on its axis, everything is back to how it should be. Or is it? When Ray mentions the other woman he met in the bar, Millie, to Cassie all hell breaks loose… Serious questions are raised, such as; exactly what are the golden rules of timetravel? What exactly is a paradox? And whats really so bad about ceasing to exist? Whose round is it? Is the sell-by date on a packet of crisps really that important? And most importantly of all, can Ray get it on with Cassie, the woman from the future?

British comedians Chris ODowd (“The IT Crowd”), Marc Wootton (“High Spirits with Shirley Ghostman”) and Dean Lennox Kelly ( Dr Who – The Shakespeare Code where he played Shakespeare) star with Anna Faris (far to many Scary Movie films) for Gareth Carrivick ( Vicar of Dibley, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, Beautiful People – to name a few) who is making his feature directorial debut and a script from first time feature writer Jamie Mathieson.

FAQ ABOUT TIME TRAVEL was filmed at Pinewood Studios and on location in Buckinghamshire and Middlesex.