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May 16, 2010

Ridley Scott's Robin Hood: Wasted Opportunity

Writing about web page http://www.robinhoodthemovie.com

Movie image
Title:
Robin Hood (2010)
Rating:
2 out of 5 stars
 


I'm a fan of Ridley Scott. He's both a great and a terrible director, as much in terms of his choices of what to direct as how to direct. He's got one of the most varied careers I've seen ranging from great and interesting sci-fi (Alien) to exciting action (Gladiator) to absolutely atrocious (G I Jane). He's also a clever director. Over the last few years he's tackled some important issues, events and mythologies. To his credit, he tries to expand beyond the usual Hollywood tripe-history and cram cultural, religious and social context into a mytho-historical framework. He never really succeeds in entirety but at least he tries. And even where his films aren't great, they're usually enjoyable. Black Hawk Down was not a great movie. It was clumsy, overtly pro-American and almost racist in its disregard of the killing of hundreds (or thousands) of Somalis, while focusing on the poignant deaths of the American few. But it was a good waste of time. Kingdom of Heaven improved the formula with some great performances (and some muddled and terrible, thank you Orlando Bloom) and an attempt to at least analyse beyond the usual black and white simple expositions.

Something prevalent throughout his career is the feeling that he's made his films under an immense production burden and that he often takes compromises. cf Kindom of Heaven with Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut (or Blade Runner et al). It really is no different here. Robin Hood belongs to nearly everyone's repertoire of favourite myths and fairy tales. It revolves around the perfect and very nearly plausible protagonist of Robin Hood; an aristocrat who is utterly selfless, who loses his wealth and is reduced to a life of subsistence. It's not the perfect story of class-warfare but it is a wonderful dream. And it's been realised as some equally-wonderful movies. Who can forget Errol Flynn's performance in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Disney's even made a version with some lovable characters.

 

So Ridley Scott's made a version. And he tries ever so hard. And the result sees him stumbling over the elements as he pieces them together. The result is a horrible mish-mash. Russell Crowe is completely miscast and his attempts at effecting an English accent are annoyingly distracting. The first few minutes we hear him he's leaping from a Yorkshire accent to something of a bit more Geordie flavour. A BBC Radio 4 presenter suggested it might have sounded somewhat Irish, prompting a humourless walkout by Crowe (see video/embed) Cate Blanchett as Maid Marion is something we could have almost done without. OK, we get it. You like strong female leads. We like strong female leads. Weaver is wonderful in Alien and though G I Jane is an awful movie, we appreciate the sentiment. But Marion in this film almost destroys the historical cohesion. One minute she's ploughing a field with the peasants, the next she's saving their lives with her drawn sword and then she's riding into battle with a group of children. Is he saying something about the Children's Crusade? Is he nodding to Blanchett's ElizabethI don't know. It's just unlikely, distracting and needlessly lengthening what is already a lengthy story. It also continually attacks any hint of plausibility. 

Even the comic relief is somewhat off. Robin Hood's merry men (in this case  Scarlett, Little John and A'Dayle) hail from Wales, Scotland and Ireland! A United Kingdom? Of course not. Any Welshman out there care to tell me when the Welsh felt happy serving in an English army? Not sure it would have been in the 13th Century. Friar Tuck is out on the sidelines desperate for a little bit of filmtime but relegated to some minor light-hearted bee stings.

Don't get me started on the script. 'Every Englishman's home is his castle'. Really Ridley? Really? Punning on the word 'night'? A million History and English Literature students everywhere  facepalm in unison.

What about the context of the film? Like everything else it's a muddle. Saxon 'Robin Longstride' takes the role of Saxon-sympathising Robin of Loxley when he's killed returning King Richard the Beerheart's crown from France. Deep breath. He then falls in love with Maid Marion who swoons over him while 'Sir Godfrey' is busy rampaging throughout the country to turn the northern barons against the newly-crowned and duplicitous King John in preparation for a French invasion spearheaded at Dover. It's up to Robin to foment English patriotism to rally the people around not so much the King as the country in order to ensure that King John signs the Magna Carta which is more-or-less framed as being the equivalent of the constituion of the United States. It really wasn't, Ridley. I presume this is something thrown in to make sure Americans pay attention for the last half of the movie, but I could be wrong.

So why is it a wasted opportunity? Because it ticks a hell of a lot of boxes. Great cast? Check. Huge budget?  Check. Amazing locations? Check. Great plot/screenplay? Ooh er.

PS - major piece of transition missing just before the end of the film. See if you can spot it! 


I really wanted to like this film. I convinced my friends to come watch it with me, stupidly picking it over the acclaimed Four Lions as our weekend cinematic foray. I came out more disappointed than the other two. I can only hope that if another is made, it's with a much, much better script.  


December 23, 2009

Review: James Cameron's 'Avatar'

Writing about web page http://tieyourcamel.co.uk/movies/review-james-camerons-avatar


About four months ago I was invited to watch a long preview of James Cameron's hugely expensive'Avatar'</a>. I predicted it would be 'Pocahontas in Space'. I continued:


Civilised-but-crippled (just physically?) white man gets out of his depth in an alien world, has his life saved by a native woman (with a strange accent!), slowly assimilates into their culture and way of living managing inexplicably to better the natives at their own way of life before, for some reason, the white civilised culture (with token ethnic characters) tries to 'save' or attempts to eradicate the native population.  


It turns out I was exactly right. If you're looking for a highly-original plot, Avatar's not the film for you. But then Cameron's speciality isn't really originality; it's the ability to take a cliche and make it fun, exciting and interesting. And I have to admit that I was misguided in my expectations. I thought the film would be terrible. I was wrong. It's an awesome cliched monster of a film that is best enjoyed in a cinema with a big screen.


So what is it really all about? A former marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), gets roped into working with the 'Avatar Program' on an alien world ('Pandora' - what will happen when we open up this box I wonder!). The program's a corporate-bought scientific exploration into the planet's native flora, fauna and 'indigenous'. Sully's role? To replace his brother (and save the company money regrowing an 'Avatar') and to use his marine expertise to safeguard the science crews. He also has another mission: to spy on the indigenes to find a way to remove them from their central home-place; a giant tree called 'the Mother Tree'. In this he's enlisted by a hard-ass Patton-type character, Colonol Quaritch (Stephen Lang) and Mr Big Corporate Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi). 


Nothing original here. Cold-hearted Sully, uncaring cog in the colonial machine lives with the indigenes for a while and 'goes native'. He realises how awesome their way of life is and does all he can to protect it. He bests the natives at their own game and becomes a demi-God/chieftain in the process. We've seen it all before: Pocahontas, Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai etc. 


The dialogue is not great and at times it's pretty atrocious. The actors manage to lift the film above its hideous script and the awkwardness sometimes becomes more convincing when delivered by any of the 'Na'vi' or Sam Worthington. Subtlety isn't really present in this film's themes. The indigenes are more in tune with the environment than the colonisers who view them as savages? Well I never! I have expected the characters to burst into 'Colors of the Wind'. There are even some Ferngully-esque bulldozers romping around. 


The CG, however, is top-notch - monumental even. But then again what did we expect from a Cameron film? He's gone beyond the CG and created an entire eco-system. Although the Biological Internet and hair connections aren't very convincing, he's at least consistent. Most of the animals have six legs, suggesting a common ancestry. The flora is lush and varied.


This is not really a film - it's a spectacle. I doubt it would be as interesting on the small screen (yes, even in HD on our large HD Televisions). It needs a large, clear screen, a set of 3D glasses and a throbbing sound from high-quality speakers. You don't want to over-analyse it; just enjoy the ride. Go watch it while it's still available!


Rating: 7/10 


NB - I would have rated this film more highly had it had something resembling decent dialogue. As it stands it's really good fun but not much more. It should make an excellent game but, apparently, the tie-in they've licensed is predictably terrible (tie-in curse). Perhaps an MMORPG will some day be in the works?


December 22, 2009

Watch Godard's '2 or 3 Things I Know About Her' free today.

Follow-up to Watch Resnais' 'Hiroshima, Mon Amour' free today! from The Story of Hamid-o

The Auteurs has decided to gift us with another French classic today, just in time for Christmas! This time it really is the last day to catch it and they're ending on a high note: Jean-Luc Godard's '2 or 3 Things I Know About Her'. This is the last film of the Stella Artois 'Recyclage de Luxe' film festival on the Auteurs. Watch it here, today, for free in the UK only: The Auteurs(18+)


January 08, 2008

At long last…

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5B6nysheec

Der Erlkönig

When I was in elementary school, we used to have a special assembly every week where one of the teachers would talk about a subject they were particularly interested in. I don't remember many of the subjects (bearing in mind this was nearly 15 years ago!), probably because it was little more than a teacher's show and tell. But one of the assemblies that I remember vividly involved our humanites teacher. He brought in his music player and gave a brief introduction about why he loved classical music. Then he told us all to close our eyes and listen. And he played a German piece for us.

At the time I didn't know much German except for the odd phrase, so the meaning was completely lost on me, but I remember that when I was listening blind to the peice, I found it intensely moving and one phrase stuck with me "Mein Vater, mein Vater". I would repeat that line to myself every-so-often throughout the years, but I was never really able to find the song (this is long before wikipedia and google ladies and gentlemen!).

I was thinking about it the other day, so I flexed my google muscles and within moments I'd found it: Der Erlkönig. A Schubert piece written to the words of a Goethe poem. I can't comment on the history of it or the politics about it, but I'm going to try to learn more. It's a great piece.

Close your eyes and have a listen.


May 15, 2007

Song of the Week: Naruto Shippuden

Writing about web page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naruto

Naruto ShippudenThose of you who are fans of Naruto will no doubt already be watching Naruto: Shippuden and will have already heard the song I'm linking. It's performed by some sort of rap/pop band and it's really quite catchy. I'd recommend closing your eyes when it plays because all I can think of when watching them dance like smacktards is "Kevin Federline crossed with Jin". It's a nice song - give Naruto: Shippuden a watch!



March 29, 2007

Who isn't proud of 'our boys'

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1agtAW3m54

I'm glad to see that our taxes are going into something useful.

*warning - video contains offensive language and an offensive situation NSFW*

It's thrilling to know that the troops are clever enough to film their escapades. Idiots. 


February 04, 2007

Fantastic He–Man Spoof…

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLQBEmr7MDw

Stumbled across this brilliant He-man spoof video a little while ago. The animation is great and it certainly made me chuckle - it's even got He-man's trademark run and some groanilicious puns!


January 30, 2007

He–Man, She–Ra and Sexual Harrasment

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0YPHeRrmIA

Saw this video linked on a forum and it made me chuckle a fair bit.

Remember at the end of those '70s/'80s toons, there'd generally be a moral message at the end that was somehow linked to the plot? So if, for example, Skeletor had stolen He-Man's sword, we'd have He-man warning against thievery at the end of the episode, or we'd have Captain Planet and his friends talk to use about the wonders of recycling...

Well I have no idea in what context this moral-of-the-story could have come up:

Crikey.

Do cartoons do this kind of thing anymore? What do kids watch these days? 


January 27, 2007

101 Dumbest Moments in Business

Writing about web page http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/biz2/0701/gallery.101dumbest_2007/index.html

Some of the best include:

#17

A jury in Fresno, Calif., awards $1.7 million in damages to Janet Orlando, who quit her job with home security company Alarm One after team-building exercises during which she and her colleagues were forced to eat baby food, wear diapers, or submit to being spanked on the butt with a rival company's yard signs.

#22

In June, BusinessWeek publishes a cover with the headline "Bill Gates Gets Schooled" showing the Microsoft chairman in front of a blackboard.

The magazine itself gets schooled when observers point out that Seattle Weekly used the same line and a similar image a year earlier.

#27

In August, RadioShack fires 400 staffers via e-mail. Affected employees receive a message that reads, "The work force reduction notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated."

Very surreal: such a Dilbert moment.

#50

Mick Woods purchases a package of cooked ham made by British food processor H.R. Hargreaves & Son. After reviewing the complete list of ingredients, which includes "dog s**t," he loses his appetite.

Hargreaves fires the employee responsible for the prank and begins a recall of the mislabeled packages.

#67

Sony runs a billboard campaign in the Netherlands depicting a Caucasian model rudely gripping the jaw of a woman of African descent to promote its PlayStation Portable in "ceramic white."

Sony initially defends the campaign, saying it was meant to "highlight the whiteness of the new model," but later apologizes.

sonyracism

This is one of the more recent problem's Sony's encountered. We've had exploding batteries, racist ads and, perhaps most annoying of all, one of the Sony CEOs had the balls to say "We decide when the next generation [of gaming/tech] begins. Arrogance. 


January 22, 2007

Not Impressed

The Apprentice Season 6

da

The quality of The (US) Apprentice has been decreasing with every season. Season 6 marks the biggest drop in quality yet. We've gone from a reality show which actually seemed relatively professional and grounded in plausible business quests (as far as a reality show of its kind could be) to a Melrose Place Oligarchical Circus where Trump spends one half of the episode masturbating his ego whilst his two half-siblings share uncomfortable and hateful (Freud might say incestuous! I wouldn't) glances at one-another. The other half of the episode is spent with the "Contestants" running around like a group of retarded monkeys. 

The board room is even more ridiculous. The pathetic displays of smarmy toadiness and virtual begging makes me more sick to the stomach than the contestants of American Idol who don't realise that they're embarrassing themselves, their families and anyone who's watching or listening, by begging the "judges" to "give them one more chance".

So what's been going on in California so far? Well they've pitched a tent,  had a car wash, sold bikins and run hollywood tours. OK. They may have had a lemonade-selling episode in the first season but for crying out loud, at least there was a modicum of dignity. Even that Ivanka girl from season three (was it three?) had more dignity in stripping to sell M&Ms than these idiots do in washing cars. 

35 minutes of Trump pimping himself, his products, his hair and occasionally throwing his children a bone. 5 minutes of actual work from the contestants (replete with crappy music and even crappier editing) and 5 minutes in the "boardroom" where Trump tries his best to extend the proceedings by wading around in the shitpot and kicking it about a bit.  


December 29, 2006

CSI Miami…

I don’t expect much from a lot of the TV shows I watch on a regular basis. I put them on in the background while I read or play video games or learn vocab.

One of the shows I enjoy “watching” is CSI Miami. I watched Seasons 4 and 5 with my girlfriend (pausing every five minutes to say (wait so that’s his dead brother’s wife or his girlfriend? Why does that blonde one have a stalker? etc. etc.) and I liked it. I think the acting’s of a pretty good quality and there’s something of a James Earls Jones quality to Horatio Cane’s voice. It’s not quite as deep, but it has that same disarming and calming factor. Even when spouting off the usual SLAP-ME-BEFORE-I-SLAP-MYSELF cliches/puns that crop up in every episode with at least one just before the title screen. Just this minute he’s come up with “She should have been seeing the time of her life here in Spring Break… not the end of it”.

Anyhow, the rant. I can live with the idea of Cane being some sort of combination of Police Chief/Lieutenant/CSI/Vigilante/Man-of-the-family. Hey, it’s fantasy! I can live with the idea that a woman can wear skin-tight clothing whilst somehow concealing a kevlar vest (wait… we can see the shape of her boobs… and she’s wearing a bullet-proof vest? Oh my!). I can even live with the idea that these guys can increase a picture’s resolution “Hey gimme a close up on quadrant 19 of that shitty mobile phone picture. Can you give me a close up? OK can you clear it up a bit? Well shit, of course you can! Now I can see a license plate in the reflection on this guy’s sunglasses! How convenient!”

What I can’t live with is the fact that these guys are forensic scientists. And they have to be told some of the most elementary scientific facts in order for the story line to progress.

For example, one of them receives a dose of alpha radiation. The Ditzy Blonde bullet expert says something like “Well what does that mean?”. Speed then has to explain the differences between Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation to her (not that he does a good job of it). WHAT THE HELL. I remember this stuff back from when I was 12 years old. I can appreciate that not all audience members will know bits and pieces of basic physics but Christ, give us some credit. Make one of the CSIs explain it to a Police officer or even a child. It drives me absolutely crazy.

And if I hear a CSI say to the other for the billionth time “Oh you have a print? Run it through {what is it? AFIS? That fingerprint database})” I will strangle myself with my own socks. HE’S A CSI TOO. HE’S JUST BEEN WORKING ON GETTING THE PRINTS. YOU DON’T THINK HE KNOWS ENOUGH BY NOW TO RUN IT THROUGH THE FRICKING DATABASE? WHAT DO YOU THINK HE’S GOING TO DO? “Oh we have a viable print? Better file that away and never do anything with it. EVER.”

God damn.


December 10, 2006

Blatently Best Christmas Ad Ever

Remember the little Christmas animation we all used to watch on a yearly basis called The Snowman ?

Ever indulged in the delightful Irn Bru (Pride of Scotland!)?

This is what happens when you mix the two:

But to be honest the only advertising Irn Bru ever really needed was Rab C Nesbitt. Jamesy ye bashtard, I tell you this, boyo, I tell you this!


December 02, 2006

Videos of the Day

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com

Today’s Theme: Transformers the Movie

I remember back in my first year at Warwick there was a video floating ‘round on DC++ of a VW Beetle-like white car parked in a nondescript location smoothly transforming into a humanoid shape complete with shield and gun. It was extremely impressive.

Then came a car advert which pretty much ripped off the aforementioned video. Bastards. (Anyone remember the advert I’m talking about?)

Now that the Transformers movie is soon to hit our screens, courtesy of Michael Bay (yay Pearl Harbour, The Island and other big-budget crap… to quote Team America “How does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies?”), it seems that youtube has been hit with a load of vids created by fanboys in honour of one of the greatest ‘toons of the eighties.

1) Ultra Magnus Transformation – an excellent video. If anyone’s seen the first shot leaked on aint-it-cool-news.com (subsequently removed), you’ll see that Michael Bay has gone and Matrixified the Transformers (thank you Michael. Asshole.) This video showcases how professional and loving fanboys can be. It’s really impressive.

2) Sideswipe Transformation – the video has been slightly ruined by the attempt to dress it up as stolen footage from the movie. Still you can see how well-done it is. If this was how Michael Bay was going to be treating the movie, I could get genuinely excited.


December 01, 2006

Chinese Music of the Week

1) 爱相随 – Ai Xiang Sui – “Love Follows Us” – This song is by 周华健 (Zhou HuaJian – Emil Chau Wakin It’s quite a nice song though, like many of his other songs, it’s very much a pop song. But, like many of his other songs, it’s also a good song.

You can download this song from Here

2) 味道 – Wei Dao – (Your) Scent – By 辛晓琪 (Xin XiaoQi). I like this song. It’s quite soft and sorrowful and at the same time shows quite a passion in the lyrics:

想念你的笑
XiangNian Ni De Xiao – I yearn for your laughter.
想念你的外套
XiangNian Ni de WaiHao – I yearn for your coat.
想念你白色袜子
XiangNian Ni De BaiSe WaZi – I yearn for your white socks.
和你身上的味道
He Ni ShenShang De WeiDao – And your body’s scent.

Quite moving although seemingly ridiculous.

You can download the song here


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