Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Western Steampunk lives in Nickel Children!

The first scene in Kevin Eslinger's short film Nickle Children is like something out of the Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. A family meal is interrupted by the arrival of a sinister character we come to know as the Sheriff, played by Jeremy Snowden. After sitting down and helping himself to the family's food, an act of violence ends with a boy, Jack (Easton Lee McCuiston), being stolen away into the night. Unfortunately the scene wants to be stronger than it winds up being. Tarantino tried the same homage to Leone in the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds and came up equally short. It doesn't reflect the quality of the films, its just that Leone is a hard act to follow...how can you top something that has already achieved its apogee?

Made on a shoe string budget, Nickle Children is quite good, despite its opening scene. Clocking in at about 16 minutes, the film follows Jack as he tries to survive, and eventually escape a child slavery and prostitution ring with the help of an Airship Captain and her companion. Its a very serious subject matter with some genuinely heartbreaking scenes. While the kidnapped girls are being forced into prostitution, the boys are forced to fight in bloody cage matches while the adults bet on the outcome.

Nickel Children takes place in (or near) Dust Bowl, Kansas in 1885. The Union Army has lost the Civil War and its now the Confederate States of America; however very little information is given to specifics for the film. What IS know, however, is that this is an American West populated by Steam Powered gadgets, flying machines, and Flesh Golems.....and its from this world that we meet Anastasia, the presumed heroine of the film. We first glimpse her at the cage fights the boys are having. She pops up every once in a while, helping Jack by giving him tools to escape the chicken wire cages him and the other children are trapped in, and its her who takes on the Flesh Golem and the Sheriff's men in arguably my favorite scene in the movie.

In fact all of the principle actors did a very good job in their roles with Amanda Bailey as the standout performance. She makes Anastasia into a dynamic, ass kicking Steampunk heroine.

For an independently financed film, Nickle Children actually uses its money wisely. The set design, while sparse, is effective in conveying its back alley setting. An appropriately dirty basement is a perfect place for the cages the kids are locked up in. Most of the money looks like it went towards the Sheriffs lushly decorated quarters with its fabric'd walls and statuary; There is a giant clock imbedded into one of the walls. Pictures of the characters and sets can be found HERE, and you'll see what I mean about the clock!

In fact besides characters and sets, the costume designs are very well done with Anastasia, her companion Dr. Montague, and a character called The Ringmaster's costumes being particular standouts. The rest of the cast of background players is filled out with members of the local Steampunk community in Atlanta and Nashville, where the film was shot. Steampunks can always be counted on to deliver, and they don't disappoint.

Eslinger is hoping to eventually turn the film into a Web series or feature film. Until then, however, he's focusing on other mediums like comics to tell the story of Anastasia, Jack, Dr. Montague and the Airship Zephyr. I hope he succeeds, I found myself really enjoying the main characters in the film and, as they walked away into the distance in the final scene, I found myself wondering where it went from here.

Until then however, the DVD is coming out soon, you can keep an eye out for it at the films official SITE. They also have a Facebook page, and a YouTube channel

Also, Paul Green over at the Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns site just did a really good interview with Kevin Eslinger and did a review himself.

Here's the extended Sizzle reel to give you a better idea of how the whole thing comes together:

I agree with Paul's assessment. When Weird Westerns tend to be so consumed with the walking dead, its refreshing to see a film that takes the genre into a different direction.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Gunstringer!

I wasn't sure about this game when I first saw it. Its for the XBox and it uses Xbox's Kinect controller which uses laser sensors from a box on top of your TV to move things on the screen. Its basically meant to get you off your butt and moving around, maybe even getting some exercise! I don't have a Kinect controller but after looking deeper into this game, I'm liking what I'm seeing.

The Gunstringer is basically a puppet show. You are playing the "role" of a puppeteer controlling a marionette named The Gunstringer. The Gunstringer is a skeletal Day of the Dead-esque gunfighter who has returned from the grave to take revenge on his old gang who shot him the back.

Not only is the character of Gunstringer really well designed, but his old gang is FULL of interesting and strange characters....from an Oil baron made of metal to a giant Wavy Tube Man, and others. Twisted Pixel, the company that made the game, have opened a Developers Site and they have posted some of the character designs, with more to come I imagine.

You can watch the Trailer HERE but what really got my attention is the 15 minutes of gameplay footage I posted below where you actually get to see the game in action. The graphics are beautiful, the designs are fun and if this was a controller based game Id probably get it...but unfortunately it won't make me buy a Kinect.

My only complaint is that, since you are supposed to be performing in a puppet show, the periodically cut back to the audience watching your show, it takes me out of the story a bit...but at the same time it completely supports the game's premise so I can't be too upset.

The Gunstringer is supposed to be released sometime later this year, so keep a look out! Until then, however, enjoy the video:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fighting Zombies on Revelation Trail!

If you have seen the trailer for that new video game coming out called Dead Island, you'll see what it is I like best about zombie movies. It isn't a Western in any way, its a game is about a zombie outbreak on an island resort. The trailer focuses on one family and this outbreak basically takes what was supposed to be a fun holiday getaway into Nightmare ending with the untimely death of everyone in the family. Its a very sad trailer, and it really hit home the power that a zombie movie can have if done correctly. The best Zombie stories are about loss and change and things never being the same. Your wife or daughter could die and worse, come back as a flesh eating creature that tries to kill you.

You can watch the trailer HERE, but be warned, its REALLY sad...

Well there is a new independent production coming out called Revelation Trail that seems to be very much about that same idea. This is their premise from the film's official website:

Revelationtrail.com is the collaborative effort of filmmakers, artists and web talent from around the country, each contributing their own experiences and strengths to tell the story of the undead rising in late 19th century America.

There is death. There is blood. There is action. But most importantly, there is a glimpse at the human condition with each of our characters in Revelation Trail. Sometimes, it takes just the undead to remind us what it means to be alive.

And then I saw this, a scene from the film, and I think I'm starting to get what they are trying to do:

They haven't said when the film will come out but they are supposed to be filming it this summer. If you want to keep an eye out for it they have an Official Website HERE that has videos and other stuff, a Youtube page HERE (where they have a series of shorts called Lillith's Story that serves as a sort of prequel to the main film) , and a Facebook page HERE.

Yes,its another Zombie Western, and I know Ive complained about the sheer amount of them in the past, but as long as the stories are good they should be worth watching...plus how can anyone complain about the release of a new Weird Western? Of course there have been enough bad ones in past to be a little overly cautious, but here is their long Sizzle reel for a better look at the film. Its way more action oriented and probably shows what the film will be like when its not pondering serious Zombie Apocalypse issues. Enjoy!