Posts Tagged ‘trainspotting


First Feature: “Shallow Grave,” Danny Boyle



Welcome to a new article called First Feature, where we profile a Director and their first movie.


This month’s Director-at-large: Danny Boyle

His First Feature: “Shallow Grave” (1994)


Danny Boyle is a British director who cleaned up this past year’s Academy Awards with his movie, “Slumdog Millionaire,” based on the novel by Vikas Swarup. Overall I’ve enjoyed Boyle’s work which has given the cinematic world pieces to talk about. “Trainspotting,” helped to put Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle on the map (McGregor would go on to become Obi-Wan Kenobi and Carlyle would eventually become a Bond villain). I’m probably one of the few who enjoyed “A Life Less Ordinary.” “28 Days Later” reinvented, if not reinvigorated, the zombie-movie franchise (“Resident Evil” doesn’t get all the credit). “Sunshine” had great special effects but was only 2/3 of a good movie (not a big fan of the last third of it).


Boyle worked in TV before his first movie, “Shallow Grave.” In “Shallow Grave,” three flat mates (Ewan MacGregor, Christopher Eccleston, and Kerry Fox) are auditioning for a fourth flat mate to help share the costs. After breezing through and testing several applicants they agree on Hugo, a purported writer. The morning after Hugo is accepted he doesn’t wake up. The three force open his door and find that he OD’d on heroin and left a suitcase full of money. Unbeknownst to them there are two prisoners trying to track down Hugo and the money. The trio makes a pact to stay silent and cut up Hugo’s body, leaving him in the woods. While McGregor and Fox start going through the money, Eccleston has other plans. He takes the money and hides it in the attic, thus beginning his descent into darkness. The three have it in for one another and when the cops and prisoners come around it all becomes a slow spiral into hell.


“Shallow Grave” is as good a “starter” film as any. It’s funny, dark, and psychological. All three actors are great. Incidentally it was the first movie for McGregor, who teamed up with Boyle again for the movies “Trainspotting,” and “A Life Less Ordinary,” before striking out and getting the role of Obi-Wan in the “Star Wars” prequels. Christopher Eccleston would later appear in the “Gone in 60 Seconds,” remake as well as the first season of the new “Doctor Who.” Fox was in “Welcome to Sarajevo,” and mainly acts in British fare.


Boyle’s themes and styles have roots in “Shallow Grave.” The opening scene is a frenetic, techno-thumping tour of flats in England. Using techno music to accentuate a scene can be found in “Trainspotting,” “A Life Less Ordinary,” and especially “28 Days Later.” His use of a mechanical baby doll to portray a creepy sense of innocence is like the scene from “Trainspotting” where McGregor is hallucinating and sees the baby crawling across the ceiling. And yes, every Danny Boyle movie has a scene in the bathroom: in “Shallow Grave,” McGregor has the crap beaten out of him; in “Trainspotting,” McGregor crawls into a the “shittiest toilet in Scotland” to retrieve some drugs, and in “A Life Less Ordinary” McGregor stands in the bathroom and hatches his plan to confront the CEO about the loss of his job.


For more info on Danny Boyle, check out his IMDB at:







A Primer for the Indies: Ten Must Watch Independent Films

After a small break, the Film Guys Online / Chasfilm Productions Office of Cinematic Research brings you the




Note: This is a “primer” for watching indie movies. It was difficult coming up with the right ten, but it’s just my opinion, right?


10. “Sling Blade” (1996 ) – Billy Bob Thornton was just a supporting actor when he plucked his money down and came up with this tale of a mentally-challenged guy named Carl who is released from the mental hospital. Walking back to his hometown he befriends a kid and his mom, whom he tries protecting them from the mom’s boyfriend (Dwight Yoakum). Thornton was and probably is the first Billy Bob to win an Oscar for Best Screenplay.


9. “Reservoir Dogs” (1992 ) – Sure, he’s better known for “Pulp Fiction,” “Kill Bill,” and “Jackie Brown,” but I still enjoy “Reservoir Dogs.” This film, based on the Honk Kong action flick “City on Fire,” is about a jewel heist gone wrong. Starring Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, Michael Madsen, Lawrence Tierney and even QT himself, this is arguably one of the best independent gangster movies. And once you’ve watched it, you’ll never think of the song “Stuck in the Middle with You,” in the same way again.


8. “Trainspotting” (1996 ) – Danny Boyle’s follow-up to “Shallow Grave” gave us this UK story of Scottish folk on the score for heroin and other drugs and how their lives turn upside down. It introduced those of us here, “across the pond,” to Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle. This movie was nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Boyle would go on to direct “28 days later,” Ewan would become “Obi Wan Kenobi,” and Carlyle would be seen in another indie favorite, “The Full Monty.”


7. “Swingers” (1996 ) – “You’re money, baby.” Directed by Doug Liman and written by Jon Favreau, “Swingers” is a look at a group of wannabe actors trying to break into the Hollywood scene. The film ushered the above catchphrase into the culture’s vernacular and re-introduced swing dancing to the masses. Liman would go on to direct “Go,” and “The Bourne Identity,” Favreau would later direct, “Iron Man,” and Vince Vaughn would become a leading man in films such as “The Break-Up,” and “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.”


6. “Boondock Saints” (1999 )– Once I bought this film on DVD, I loved it. “Boondock Saints” is about two brothers (played by Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus) who become the “protectors” of their neighborhood as the Russian mob tries to slowly take it over. They are being tracked/ watched by effete FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe). The coolest part of the film is when Dafoe’s character actively “describes” how different events took place.


5. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004 ) – Ever have a girlfriend/ boyfriend that you wanted to erase from your memory? Check out this tale from director Michael Gondry about a guy (Jim Carrey) whose girlfriend (Kate Winslet) erases him from her memory. When he goes to do likewise, he finds that he’s made a mistake and tries to stop the erasure from completing. Also stars Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst, and Tom Wilkinson. It won an Oscar for Best Screenplay.


4. “Brick” (2005 ) – “Lunch is a lot of things. Lunch is complicated.” Take Dashiell Hammett dialog and put it in a modern SoCal High School environment where Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is investigating the mess his ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin) has gotten into. Once she is found dead, Brendan is inside a maelstrom of drugs, thugs, and assorted low-lives. Hardboiled noir has never been better. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is best known for playing Tommy in “3rd Rock from the Sun.”


3. “Snatch” (2000 ) – A search for a caravan (trailer) leads to two unlicensed boxing promoters into a madcap tale involving a diamond as large as your fist, a compulsive gambler named Franky Four-Fingers (Benicio del Toro), a jeweler named Doug the Head, and a Pikey bare-knuckles boxing champ named Mickey O’Neil (Brad Pitt). Great editing, soundtrack, and comedy make this a must-see. This film propelled stars Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham.


2. “Gone Baby Gone” (2007 ) – Ben Affleck’s directorial debut of Dennis Lehane’s novel about a little girl missing from her crack-addict mother and the cover-up of the disappearance was nothing short of impressive. Of all the indie films of 2007, this was my favorite. Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Ryan, and John Ashton, this movie is worth it for the cast alone. Of note, Amy Ryan’s Boston accent was so convincing that a security guard kept her from entering the filming lot; a fellow actor had to let her in.


1. “Memento” (2000 ) – “Remember Sammy Jankis.” With these words tattooed on his skin, former insurance fraud investigator Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is on the hunt for his wife’s killer, one “John G.” Problem is, his memory only lasts for 15 minutes and he can’t create any new memories. His only kinship comes from “Teddy” (Joe Pantoliano) and “Natalie” (Carrie-Anne Moss), both Leonard has trouble trusting. Director Christopher Nolan’s indie opus cost $300,000 to make, and he raised the money while showing his film “The Following.” After “Memento,” Nolan signed a contract with Warner Bros. and has since directed, “Insomnia,” “Batman Begins,” “The Prestige,” and “The Dark Knight.”