Sunday, 31 May 2009

Across The Seas of Mind: Now available from Amazon!

My 2008 anthology ACROSS THE SEAS OF MIND is now available at Amazon.com thanks to the publishers I use. Once you've got your copy, feel free to post a review or a rating. You can find the book on Amazon.com at the following link:

'Across The Seas of Mind' by Andrew Hawnt on Amazon.com

Sunday, 17 May 2009

John Hughes: The Brat Pack films that defined an era - Part One: Introduction

John Hughes: The Brat Pack films that defined an era Part One: Introduction
By Andrew Hawnt

There is a series of films made in the 1980s that perfectly captured a particular brand of humour, a particular era of popular culture, and a particular time of life for millions of people all over the world. The misadventures of everyone's teenage years go a long way to shaping the people that we become, and it is easy to get caught up in the angst of the age when living through it yourself. The teen movies from the mind of John Hughes gave something special to the misfits and dreamers of a generation, and continue to do so for new fans now.

Thankfully, the films have not lost much of their lustre or impact for many fans as years have passed. John Hughes would, of course, go on to create films such as Home Alone, but it is the teen Brat Pack movies of the 1980s that he is most fondly appreciated for. Over the course of a series of articles, I'll be looking into what made these films so special, one at a time.

This is a labour of love. The films I'll be covering, namely Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, mean very much to me. I discovered the work of John Hughes when Weird Science was aired on British TV one night back when I was 15. Following that exposure, I was hooked. I picked up the others as soon as I could and certainly got my worth out of those classic VHS tapes. I still have each one, and although DVDs have replaced pretty much everything, I can't bare to part with those films. They were like friends to me at the time.

I saw those films as something of an escape from the troubles I went through at that point in time, but I also saw them as a reminder that I wasn't the only one who had tough things to deal with. They also made it clear that life can be funny just as much as it can be upsetting, difficult and downright odd. This period of John Hughes' career ended in 1987, when he branched out into broader comedy with Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Something is missing from the current crop of teen films. At least to these eyes. This may be more to do with my advancing age marching on past the 30 mark and towards oblivion, but it may also be to do with the fact that the film industry, popular culture and society as a whole were rather different back then. That said, many of the situations and problems faced in these films are things that will fit with every generation.

After the 80s, the audience that had grown up on the films of John Hughes found a new, more adult hero in the form of Kevin Smith, whose films Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy did the same thing that the classic John Hughes films did for their target demographic- told them that there was someone out there making films that understood what it was like to be them, to grow up surrounded by pop culture, changing fashions, changing attitudes and changing technology.

John Hughes' personal and private life does not interest me, as it should be. What I want to talk about is a series of his films that helped shape me as a person and were there for me when I was without a friend in the world. It is a strange relationship that you build with these films, and I look forward to exploring that relationship for you.

Coming soon: Part two- Sixteen Candles

(c) Andrew Hawnt 2009

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Laid To Rest: A review of the new horror hit on DVD

The horror genre has been treading water for a while now, thanks to the endless remakes of classics and Western retoolings of Asian horror films. It had been growing stale for a while, but that rash of remakes has been, for want of a better term, nailing the genre's coffin shut somewhat.

Thankfully there are still the odd gems that crop up and take you by surprise. Laid To Rest is just such a film. The premise is very, very basic. Masked psychopath butchers a bunch of people. That's about it as far as the story goes, but it is handled in such a way that it feels very fresh and very powerful. The difference is, you're actually bothered about these characters throughout the film, and when various people meet their (very) grisly ends, you're hooked even more.

Laid To rest is an independent slasher film from director/writer Robert Hall, and stars his wife, Bobbi Sue Luther, in the lead role. The rest of the cast raised an interested eyebrow when I first heard about the film, as it features both Lena Headey and Thomas Dekker from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, as well as several other very talented people. The cast is on a rather higher level than your average sslasher effort, which goes a long way to pulling you into the tense story.

Star of the whole thing is undoubtedly ChromeSkull, a new slasher icon that brings to mind a sleek amalgamation of Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Patrick Bateman and in terms of cruelty, Hannibal Lecter. Without saying a word, he is a huge presence, played to chilling effect by Nick Principe, who is destined to play some of the aforementioned titans in other films. He has to be. Anyone that can put that much charisma into a performance while wearing a chrome skull mask and never saying a single word is meant for greatness.

The production values of the film are excellent considering its budget, with some truly impressive splatter and very inventive kill scenes. One particularly grisly moment comes when a character's entire face is hacked off in full view of the camera. Cinematography-wise it is reminiscent of other recent urban horror efforts such as the Wrong Turn films, but the crew have put a very personal spin on things. With a small cast, great visuals and the makings of a new legend in the ChromeSkull character, Laid To Rest really delivers everything a horror fan can want in a film.

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Extras: Making of Feature, Special Effects feature, Deleted scenes, bloopers.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Clerks 2: it’s turning into the new Breakfast Club

I slipped Clerks 2 on again last night while home alone, and came to the realization that it has become an adult version of The Breakfast Club to me. The film that saw me through my teenage years has finally been usurped by what is pretty much its logical successor. Clerks 2 means a lot to me.

I know it seems a little sad to say that a film hits you somewhere very personal, but Clerks 2, for all of its crude humour and obscenities, is a raw look at friendship and coming to terms with life as it advances.

There are some moments in the film that are very lyrical, and the interplay between the characters reminds me a little too much of my own circle of friends. I’ve always said, ever since seeing the film at the cinema with a bunch of friends when it first came out, that it felt like I was living the plot. I’m not, not by a long way, but there are situations and trains of thought in that film that are universal to my generation.

I’m 30 now, and youth is giving way to responsibility, alongside the realization that adulthood is well and truly underway. I’m still the puerile, excitable little geek I’ve been my whole life, but things are evolving and I’m becoming a little more sensible and a little, dare I say it, wiser. That’s the beauty of Clerks 2. You get to see Randall and Dante finally take control of their lives. Yes, Dante and Becky don’t come together under the best of circumstances, but their plight feels real.

Want to give yourself a reality check and remember what it is like to actually feel and think and live? Watch The Breakfast Club and Clerks 2 back to back, and remember that while life is far from perfect, it can be pretty damn sweet.