Epic Beard Man

Earlier this year a video filmed on a bus in Oakland revealed much about how modern life can be filmed and processed by the public.

When a fight broke out in February aboard a transit bus in Oakland, California, it might not have seemed an especially unusual incident to anyone familiar with public transport in a major city.

What made this this particular one interesting was the way in which the decision to film and upload the footage to the web (itself a modern compulsion) opened up particularly post-modern can of worms including issues of race, violence, the Vietnam war and modern technology.

This ‘Know Your Meme’ video from Rocketboom explains how the footage became a viral phenomenon and how one of the men involved became known as ‘Epic Beard Man’:

The man that threw the punches gave his side of the story here:

The man who got punched gave his version of events to a local radio station here:

As you can see, they don’t quite match up and just provoke further questions about the incident and those involved.

When you take into account the tsunami of comments online about the affair, along with the endless parodies and interpretations, it only becomes harder to get a handle on what went on and what it all means.

There is even a Mortal Kombat version of the fight:

There is a fairly detailed Wikipedia entry titled AC Transit Bus fight but it isn’t exactly conclusive.

When much of contemporary ‘reality television’ consists of carefully constructed narratives, there is a strong case to say that this incident feels more real, as what was a confusing and messy fight gets endlessly reinterpreted through different voices on the web.

> Know Your Meme at Rocketboom
> The AC Transit Bus fight on Wikipedia

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 30th August 2010

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Four Lions (Optimum): When this project was first announced, it promised to be another taboo-shattering project from Chris Morris, one of the most brilliant satirists of his generation.

After pioneering work in radio (On the Hour) and television (The Day TodayBrass Eye) which lampooned media and politics with diamond-sharp precision, it seemed like a bold and fascinating prospect.

Set in an unnamed northern town, it centres around four disenchanted young men: Omar (Riz Ahmed) is the unofficial leader determined to become a martyr for oppressed Muslims around the world; Waj (Kayvan Novak), a recruit who essnetially does what Omar says; Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a white Islamic convert obsessed with operational detail; and Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), who struggles trying to train crows to fly bombs through windows.

For the most part, the feature directorial debut of Morris is highly impressive. The comedy is rooted in detailed research which gives it an uncomfortable authenticity, whilst also providing some stand out set-pieces.

The performances are excellent, managing to convey the arrogance, ambition and stupidity of extremists, with Riz Ahmed especially good as the ringleader.

As the film moves into its final third, it manages to combine comedy with the more troubling realities of terrorism, which is an impressive juggling act by the filmmakers.

It isn’t as ingenious or as polished as Morris’ previous work, but as satire it manages to process one of the darkest contemporary problems with a rare tact and skill.

Extras include:

  • Deleted scenes
  • Background material: Lost Boys & Interview with Mo Ali
  • Interview with cast from Bradford Film Festival premiere
  • Behind the scenes

> Buy Four Lions on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK

Sherlock (2entertain): Coming just months after a big-budget film about the famous detective, this three part BBC series could have been another excuse to cash in on the fact that Arthur Conan Doyle’s character recently came out of copyright.

Fortunately, this contemporary take on the classic stories is a witty and inspired update and manages to preserve the essence of Holmes while transferring it to modern London.

Co-created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a consultant to the police who helps solve puzzling crimes with the help of a doctor (and ex-soldier) John Watson (Martin Freeman).

Although there were plenty of potential pitfalls, the fast pacing and breezy intelligence make this well above average for what normally appears on prime time British television.

The DVD and Blu-ray features the three episodes “A Study in Pink”, “The Blind Banker” and “The Great Game” and come with the following extras:

  • Audio commentaries: Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss and Sue Vertue on “A Study in Pink” and Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Mark Gatiss on “The Great Game”.
  • The unaired pilot episode, which is a 60-minute version of “A Study in Pink”, directed by Coky Giedroyc.

> Buy Sherlock on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK

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ALSO OUT

Cemetery Junction (Sony Pictures Home Ent.)
City of Life and Death (High Fliers Video Distribution)
Clint Eastwood Collection (20th Century Fox Home Ent.)
Furry Vengeance (E1 Entertainment UK)
Hot Tub Time Machine (20th Century Fox Home Ent.)
Jerusalema (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK)
The Last Seven (Metrodome Distribution)
The Magnificent Seven (MGM Home Entertainment)
When You’re Strange (Universal Pictures)

> The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
> UK cinema releases for Friday 27th August 2010 including Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

The Last Exorcism on Chatroulette

Movie marketing via social media sites doesn’t always work but the use of Chatroulette to plug The Last Exorcism was both clever and effective.

Over the last few years Lionsgate have got used to marketing horror films in a savvy way and some, especially the Saw franchise, have proved hugely profitable for the studio.

The Last Exorcism was their most recent US release and part of the concept is that what you are watching is ‘found footage‘, a technique used in previous films such as The Blair Witch ProjectREC and Paranormal Activity.

This kills two birds with one stone, as it enhances the realism of the material and helps keep costs down as audiences buy into the idea of the spooky, low quality footage at the heart of the film.

Made for around $2 million and acquired by Lionsgate for under $1 million, this was one to keep the studio accountants happy, even though they would have spent a fair amount giving it a wide release across the US.

Part of the marketing campaign was to freak out users on Chatroulette, a site where people can randomly video chat with strangers, and it proved an inspired way to create buzz.

This edited compilation of the best reactions has so far got over 2.5 million views on YouTube:

Although the film is currently neck and neck with Takers for the number 1 slot this weekend, it will still earn around $21 million this weekend.

The Last Exorcism opens in the UK on Friday 3rd September

> The Last Exorcism at the IMDb

> Chatroulette at Wikipedia

Jerry Stiller visits the Seinfeld house

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Actor Jerry Stiller recently paid a visit to the house that his character in Seinfeld once ‘lived’ in.

Stiller played George Costanza‘s dad Frank on the classic sitcom and the New York Daily News recently took him to the real life location in Queens, New York that was used for exterior shots (interiors were filmed in Hollywood).

The following video shows what happened when Stiller decided to ring the doorbell and meet the current residents of what once doubled as the Costanza house.

> Read the full story at the NYDN
> More on Seinfeld at Wikipedia

UK Cinema Releases: Friday 27th August 2010

NATIONAL RELEASES

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Universal): This live action adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic series is the story of a Toronto bass playing geek (Michael Cera) who falls in love with a delivery girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), only to realise he must fight her ‘seven evil exes’.

What follows is an action-comedy hybrid in which director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) throws a barrage of visual artillery at the screen in order to recreate the look of comics and computer games.

Although it will have a devoted fan base, a question mark remains over the mainstream appeal of the material and the hyperactive way in which unfolds.

Although I found the film a colossal disappointment, especially given Wright’s track record, it is likely to find a more receptive audience here in the UK amongst a certain niche.

However Universal will have good reason to be nervous after it opened in the US two weeks ago. Despite mostly warm reviews, huge buzz at Comic-con, the fawning support of leading geeky websites, plenty of tweets and an expensive marketing campaign, it absolutely bombed, leaving many at the studio scratching their heads in disbelief. [Empire Leicester Square & Nationwide / 12A]

Grown Ups (Sony Pictures): Adam Sandler’s latest goofy comedy is about five friends (Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider) who reunite after thirty years to celebrate a Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Despite a torrent of negative reviews this has actually made a decent chunk of money worldwide, although it will probably be swiftly forgotten in the coming months. [Nationwide / 12A]

The Girl Who Played With Fire (Momentum Pictures): The second film adapted from the enormously successful Stieg Larsson trilogy of novels sees Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) return to Sweden after a year abroad only to fall under suspicion for murdering a journalist and his wife.

Although the Hollywood version of Larsson’s Millennium trilogy is under way with David Fincher at the helm, these native versions have done excellent business in Europe and with the novels still selling at a rapid pace, the second film is also likely to prove an art house hit. [Key Cities / 15]

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid (20th Century Fox): A live action (and partly animated) comedy film based on the illustrated books by Jeff Kinney. It stars Zachary Gordon as a kid having a tough time at school and also features Rachael Harris, Steve Zahn, Devon Bostick and Chloë Moretz.

Strictly aimed at family audiences, it arrives with little buzz and seems like it will find a bigger audience on DVD. [Nationwide / PG]

Avatar: Special Edition (20th Century Fox): James Cameron’s futuristic sci-fi blockbuster about an injured marine (Sam Worthington) who goes native on an alien planet gets a full re-release despite already being the most successful film of all time at the global box office.

This version will feature around 10 minutes of extra footage but it will be interesting to see how it does. The target audience appears to be those who didn’t see it first time around in 3D and those who want to see it again. [Nationwide / 12A]

ALSO OUT

Dog Pound (Optimum Releasing): Based on Alan Clarke’s Scum, this prison drama focusing on youthful delinquents in the US (although actually shot in Canada) by French director Kim Chapiron. [Key Cities / 18]

The Last Seven (Metrodome Distribution): A low budget British thriller which features Danny Dyer and Tamer Hassan. [Key Cities / 18]

The Maid (Artificial Eye): A Chilean drama from director Sebastián Silva about a maid (Catalina Saavedra) who serves an upper-middle-class family. [Key Cities / 15]

Wah Do Dem (Picturehouse): A US indie film about a twenty-something drifter (Sean Bones) who ends up travelling to Jamaica. [Key Cities / 15]

The Leopard (bfi Distribution): A re-release for Luscio Visconti’s epic 1963 film about the upheavals in 1860s Sicily, starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon.

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> UK DVD and Blu-ray picks for this week including The Gold Rush and Lebanon
> Get local cinema showtimes for your area via Google Movies