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September 07, 2008

On certification

I went to see The Dark Knight a few weeks ago. As well as seeing it for my own enjoyment, I had half an eye out to try and decide if it would be suitable for my (seven year old) son. As it happens, I didn’t need half an eye, or even a quarter or a tenth; it is hugely, wildly, inappropriate for seven year olds. So much so, in fact that the BBFC received more than 80 complaints about the 12A certificate that the film had been granted, and they felt obliged to defend the decision:-

The film regulator’s spokeswoman Sue Clark said the sequel was a fantasy movie with only implied violence. But she admitted that the British Board of Film Classification had carefully considered giving it a 15 rating. The 12A rating states that a film should not “dwell on violence” and “does not emphasise injury or blood”.

And she also explained that the next rating up, a 15 certificate, would have stopped some people who wanted to see the film doing so:-

She added that a 15 certificate would have denied an important part of the superhero’s fan base the chance to see the film. “Younger teenagers would not have been able to see it, and they are the very people who are going to love it. “We would have ended up with far more complaints from people who wanted to see the film and couldn’t,” said Ms Clark.

The BBFC’s actual decision can be found here.

(Interestingly, the BBC also looked at how other countries had certified the film – only one country, Finland, had specifically barred some children (those under 13) from seeing it; every other country had allowed it to be viewable by all, either explicitly, or implicitly by using discretionary rather than mandatory ratings.)

I see two problems here. The first is the range of certificates which the BBFC uses. In order, they are:-

  • U Suitable for all
  • PG May contain scenes unsuitable for young children, but children of all ages may still attend unaccompanied.
  • 12A May contain scenes unsuitable for young children, and children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult
  • 15 No one under the age of 15 may see this film in a cinema
  • 18 No one under the age of 18 may see this film in a cinema

I had thought, before I went and checked the BBFC web site, that there was also a 12 certificate which barred children from under 12 from seeing the film in the cinema at all, accompanied by an adult or not. But there is not. There is a 12 certificate, but it applies only to renting or buying movies on DVD. Typically, films which are 12A in the cinema will end up as 12 certificate when they’re released on DVD.

And that’s the problem. The earliest age at which the BBFC can actually stop children seeing a film in the cinema is 15. There is no certificate which absolutely bars children of any younger age. This makes the BBFC’s comment about not wanting to stop young teenagers from seeing Dark Knight slightly more defensible, but what it gives with one hand it takes away with the other, since it also makes the BBFC look like idiots for not having a mandatory 12 certificate for films in the cinema.

The inevitable consequence of this gap is that film-makers will always aim for a 12A or PG certificate, since a big part of their audience is indeed young teenagers, and a 15 certificate would ruin that. So films as diverse in tone as The House Bunny, The Dark Knight, The Duchess, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (a holocaust film), Get Smart, Indiana Jones 4 and the last two Harry Potter films have all been 12A certificate. But the difference between a broad comedy like Get Smart or an action movie like Indiana Jones 4 and Dark Knight is substantial, and that brings me to the second problem.

It doesn’t seem to me that the BBFC is very good at assessing the tone of a film. Dark Knight and Spiderman 1/2/3 are both superhero films and summer blockbusters, but they’re worlds apart tonally; Spiderman is a bright, breezy cartoon, whereas Dark Knight is a brooding, morbid sort of film, devoid of anything you might call a happy ending, where bad things happen to good people for no particular reason. It’s a nihilistic and morally repugnant film (and that’s not necessarily a criticism; it’s a well made and powerful film of a certain tone, that’s all) and the BBFC don’t classify for nihilism. Sure, if you watch the scenes of violence carefully, the film’s editors are careful not to show blood or dwell on the corpses, and much of the violence you might think you saw is actually cut away from before the act itself. But the questions of who’s committing violence on whom and why are a level above the portrayal of the act itself, and the BBFC seem oblivious to that level. They have guidelines about “mature themes”, but they’re really about specific acts – drug taking, sex, cruelty – disguised as themes. There ought to be a mandatory 12 certificate, and Dark Knight ought to have been certified so, not for “contains moderate violence”, but for “tonally dark and therefore unsuitable for young children”.

(In the interests of balance, here’s a well argued take in the other direction, though it’s arguing specifically that Dark Knight ought not to be a 15 certificate. I wonder if the author would feel differently about a mandatory 12 certificate, were it possible to award one.)

July 15, 2008

Ghost Town

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What if the Sixth Sense was a comedy?

April 23, 2007

Sunshine movie review

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Sunshine movie poster

Things to remember if asked to send bomb to re-ignite sun

  1. Send robot, not humans. Humans get maths wrong, forget stuff and go mad. Plus makes ship one thousand times more complicated with oxygen, food and shielding, plus wretched crew want to come home afterwards.
  2. If sending humans, don’t take nervous tics, edgy eye movements and tendency to start SHOUTING SUDDENLY as desirable attributes.
  3. But do favour glossy hair, attractive stubble and bright blue eyes. Ship spec to include eye-level lighting in all areas so that eyes can glint brilliantly even if face in shadow.
  4. Don’t include observation deck. Staring at sun for prolonged periods causes, at best, headaches and eye strain, at worst, hideous lesions and full-blown psychosis.
  5. Don’t call ship Icarus. Is stupid name, like calling new boat Titanic. Suggests a lack of confidence in mission. Also, if first mission fails, don’t build second ship and then call it Icarus 2; is tempting fate to unreasonable degree. Choose something upbeat like Sunbeam instead. Or possibly Sunchyme after Dario G’s cheery pop hit.

Things to remember if asked to make film about re-igniting sun with bomb

  1. Making everything in front of space shield too bright to make anything out and everything behind shield too dark to make anything out not a recipe for aiding audience understanding.
  2. Decide whether making sci-fi actioner, slasher pic or psycho-drama before starting film. Especially, don’t make a third of each and then glue them together hoping nobody will notice.
  3. Avoid pointless jump cuts, flash frames and freeze frames. Not big. Not clever.

March 02, 2007

Bee movie

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Always been a big Jerry Seinfeld fan. Loved the sitcom, loved the Comedian documentary. A particularly cute thing about Comedian is that the trailer carefully avoided showing you anything of the documentary itself in favour of being a neat, self-contained spoof of trailers.

And now he’s at it again; he’s written (and will star in) an animated movie, Bee Movie (ha). But trailers for animated movies present something of a problem: if you’re not Pixar then your trailer will just look like yet another in a long line of identi-kit clone movies about wise-cracking animals, and you’ll struggle to generate any recognition or enthusiasm, especially if your audience has already seen Barnyard.

So Jerry has rather neatly side-stepped the problem with a couple of teaser trailers which show a side of computer animation film making that you probably won’t have seen before, with guest appearances from Eddie Izzard and Steven Spielberg. Funny.

July 25, 2006

Happy Feet trailer

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It's a common complaint nowadays that trailers give away too much of the movie they're trying to entice you to go and see. Not so with this one: I like it, but what the hell is it all about?

May 03, 2006

Cruise has nerves of steel

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Tom Cruise gets a tanker driven over himTom Cruise has gotten himself some bad press recently what with the weird, hard–to–believe marriage/pregnancy with Katie Holmes and the wrong–side–of–eccentric pronouncements about depression and appropriate treatment. But my word, whatever his dodgy beliefs and peculiar personal life, I watched this clip and I take my hat off to the man; he has nerves of steel.

It's a behind–the–scenes clip from the making of his new Mission Impossible 3 movie, and it shows, as far as I can tell, an absolutely genuine sequence in which he lies down in the middle of the road and waits for a tanker to drive towards him, jack–knife and pass right over his body. If you'd seen it in the film itself, you'd assume that the tanker or the body or both were all done inside the computer, but I'm pretty sure that this isn't what's happening here; it's for real. Whatever he earns for the movie, it wouldn't be enough to get me to do that.

April 25, 2006

Pinkerton on Narnia

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Jay Pinkerton watched the Chronicles of Narnia DVD and really didn't like it. I thought it had the odd problem myself, but Jay was much more scathing:

Narnia, meanwhile, has a talking rhino run through the middle of a battlefield skewering centaurs and bears, and I’m sitting there wondering if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Hooray! The brave rhino killed the evil centaurs! Or… boo! The dastardly rhino killed the noble centaurs! Or… something.
In one scene a pair of badgers have a conversation with Santa Claus, and in another a human on a talking horse does battle with the White Witch of the North while griffins divebomb centaurs, and your head’s just spinning from the random senselessness of it.

September 28, 2005

Gaiman & Whedon: Together at last!

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If you're a fan of Buffy, Firefly, Sandman, Good Omens or any of a pretty long list of great fantasy work then this interview with Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman is a good read. They're both erudite, witty people, so their views on their own work and on pop culture generally are interesting and entertaining. Joss Whedon on the upcoming Wonder Woman movie he's working on:-

TIME: You're working on Wonder Woman now, right?
JW: I am.
TIME: How's that going?
JW: In my head, it's the finest film ever not typed yet.

And Neil Gaiman on the endless rewrite process that Hollywood insists on going through when adapting original work for the screen:-

JW: I find that when you read a script, or rewrite something, or look at something that's been gone over, you can tell, like rings on a tree, by how bad it is, how long it's been in development.

NG: Yes. It really is this thing of executives loving the smell of their own urine and urinating on things. And then more execs come in, and they urinate. And then the next round. By the end, they have this thing which just smells like pee, and nobody likes it.

I can't remember whether Time is one of those magazines that puts articles online for about a week and then moves them into a subscriber-only archive, so if you're reading this in 2008 and the link doesn't work then, you know, sorry.

August 29, 2005

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory movie review

Whether or not you enjoy this movie will depend to some extent on how you feel about the main character from the original book being completely changed. In Roald Dahl's original 1964 novel, Willy Wonka, the owner of the eponymous chocolate factory, is a smart, mischievous, fully-realised adult, albeit one who is, as we would say today, in touch with his inner child. Here's how Dahl describes him:-

His eyes were most marvellously bright. They seemed to be sparkling and twinkling at you all the time. The whole face, in fact, was alight with fun and laughter. And oh, how clever he looked! How quick and sharp and full of life! He kept making quick jerky little movements with his head, cocking it this way and that, and taking everything in with those bright twinkling eyes. He was like a squirrel in the quickness of his movements, like a quick clever old squirrel from the park.

Gene Wilder's brilliant realisation of this description in the 1971 film of the book, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (apparently it was felt that American audiences in 1971 weren't ready for a film with "Charlie" in the title) presumably left the makers of the 2005 version with something of a problem: should they try and find someone to do a copy of Wilder's performance, or go for something quite different? Not unreasonably, they decided to do something different, but arguably they took this to extremes: Johnny Depp's Wonka is a damaged man who has great difficulty relating to other people and has that most fashionable of quirks, unresolved issues with his father. (He can't even say the word "parents".)

This changes the dynamic of the story completely. In the book, and the first film, Willy Wonka rescues Charlie, saving him from poverty and changing his life forever. In this film, Charlie rescues Willy Wonka, helping him to resolve his issues, providing him with a family life, working alongside him. It's a fundamental change, and although there's nothing wrong with this new version of the story, it's a huge leap away from the book.

That caveat out of the way, everything else about the film is brilliant. The chocolate factory is a visual feast (ha), the children are cleverly updated for 2005 but just as wonderfully obnoxious as the book and the first film had them, the dialog is smart and funny, and Depp's performance as Wonka, provided you're willing to accept that he's not the Wonka from the book or the first film, is great fun. Charlie and Grandpa Joe are both huge improvements on their incarnations in the first film (although I did find myself wanting to shout out "It's Basil Fawlty's builder!"), and it's nice that the other grand-parents and Charlie's mother and father get a little bit more time and fleshing out. A few things to watch out for:-

  • The gag about the flag museum had the adults I was with roaring with laughter, and the children we were accompanying saying "What? Why are you laughing? What's so funny?"
  • Wonka's father warns him that he will not be there when he returns. And he's as good as his word; When Wonka returns, his father's house is gone, ripped right out of the middle of the terrace it was standing in. Later, we see the house perched incongruously on the side of a mountain, and the absolute best thing about this terrific visual gag is that it's never explained. It's just presented matter-of-factly for you to take or leave. Brilliant.
  • Where is Wonka's factory located? The film is set in the real world – at the start we see crates labelled with London, New York, Cairo and so on. But at various times with various accents we seem to be in England, America or somewhere else entirely.
  • All the Oompa Loompas were played by one man – Deep Roy. He's cloned through the magic of computer graphics into dozens of Oompa Loompas, and perhaps predictably, there has been some discussion about whether or not it's fair to hire one man when the film could have given work to dozens.
  • The songs have been updated, but as somebody else (Tom?) pointed out, the sound mix for the songs is rubbish; the music and the effects completely drown out the lyrics. Fun use of different styles, though – disco, west coast, metal.
  • My favourite throw-away gag is when the glass elevator is flying the characters through the factory, whisking them high above room after room. The effects are a bit over-sized, even for the chocolate factory, but there's a priceless moment when the elevator zips through a room in which – very briefly – we see a bright pink sheep being sheared. Willy Wonka looks slightly shifty and says "I'd prefer not to talk about that". What can he mean?

August 28, 2005

The Island movie review

Movie image
The Island
2 out of 5 stars

Michael Bay, by his own admission, makes movies for teenage boys. What this means is that in a Bay movie, you can be fairly, indeed absolutely, sure that there will be beautiful people in flattering lighting, action, guns, and plenty of stuff blowing up real good. Going to see a Michael Bay movie and then complaining about any of those things is like drinking coke and then moaning that it's a bit on the sweet side.

So there's not a lot to say about The Island other than it does what you expect. The story isn't much, a lacklustre mix of Logan's Run and Coma (Logan's Coma?) and nothing that happens isn't hugely predictable from the first five minutes of the film. But there are a couple of mildly interesting things to note:-

  • There's an absolutely stupendous car chase sequence in which our heroes evade (actually, not so much evade as utterly destroy) their pursuers by hitching a ride on a big truck and then untying some enormous train axles which the truck is (conveniently) carrying. These huge axles fall off the truck, down on to the road and vehicular carnage ensues in a genuinely stunning sequence. It's a shame that this sequence is immediately followed by an incoherent, seen-it-all-before jet-bike chase which is a thousand times less well realised.
  • Michael Bay has a strange approach to editing his action sequences. In films generally, and action sequences in particular, part of the point of editing is to clarify what's going on. In a chase sequence, say, you want to know who's chasing who and where the pursuers are in relation to the pursued, where the chase is going, whether the gap is narrowing, and so on. Good editing, traditionally, is one of, maybe even the key, way of helping to show these things. But Bay utterly ignores this tradition; his edits are incredibly quick, and don't attempt to do anything to establish geography or the relative positions of the characters. Instead he seems to prefer to make sure that all the images in his sequences are as striking as they could possibly be – there isn't a dull frame to be seen – and that they edit together to make a sort of action tone poem; the sequences are frequently visually stunning, but you sacrifice all narrative coherence to get them. If you can live with that, it's quite fun, but if you're used to more traditional editing it's just annoying. (Apparently old-school editors have a term for this style: frame-fucking.)
  • Scarlet Johansson has an amusingly self-referential moment when her character watches the "real" (if there is such a thing) Johansson in a Calvin Klein video. Art imitating life?
  • Johansson was just twenty when this film was made. How long before thirty is too old for a female lead in an action movie?

February 17, 2005

Hitchhiker's trailer

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The official trailer for the Hitchhiker's Guide movie has now been released – on the home page of Amazon, funnily enough. It looks absolutely spot on; the characters, the styling of the effects, the Guide itself – and especially Marvin, who cracks me up in the trailer despite not saying a word. And although I don't remember the spades gag that pops up at the end of the trailer from the books, it's absolutely in the spirit of Douglas Adams it seems to me.

January 27, 2005

Mr and Mrs Smith

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Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie play husband and wife who are both assassins, but neither knows it of the other until they get assignments to kill… each other.

This is one of the darker horses of next summer's movies; the trailer has plenty of big guns and explosions, but it's hard to read what the tone of the film's going to be. Some bits play like light comedy, others seem darker; once the lead characters work out what's going on, they seem to be trying to zap each other with relish, which suggests that the tone could be quite black. If it's another War of the Roses or Prizzi's Honour then it could be great. And Doug Liman hasn't made a bad film yet; Go, Swingers and Bourne Identity have all been cool. So… maybe.

January 08, 2005

Alan Rickman is Marvin the Paranoid Android

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Inspired casting for the new Hitchhiker's Guide movie: Alan Rickman will be the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android. Just perfect; I can imagine a slightly more lugubrious version of his Professor Snape hitting the mark exactly. In a smaller but still amusing casting choice, Bill Bailey will the voice the tragically doomed, mid-air-and-falling-fast whale.

December 09, 2004

The Incredibles: Movie review

The Incredibles is a great film, one of the year's best. The omens were always good, since Pixar haven't made a bad movie yet (Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo) and the director, Brad Bird, comes with impeccable credentials; he worked on The Simpsons and then made the brilliant, under-appreciated animated film The Iron Giant.

What's suprising about The Incredibles is that it's been written for a different audience from previous Pixar films; it runs for two hours, which is long for an animated film, and it's liberally laced with chases, giant robots, violence, explosions and all the usual perils, plus some impressive new ones. It's more James Bond than Buzz Lightyear (in the US, it gained a PG certificate, though our more relaxed BBFC passed it – rightly – as U certificate).

The more adult tone works well; the film is as thrilling and spectacular as any live action equivalent, and manages also to be smarter and more insightful than most: there's a knowing nod to adults in the handling of Mr Incredible's mid-life crisis, and a subtle dig at political correctness – when Elastigirl (Mrs Incredible) tells their young son that he musn't use his super-speed powers on sports day, she reproves him by saying "Everyone's special, Dash", to which Dash disdainfully replies "Which is another way of saying that nobody is". Nice.

Two other stand-out moments: the villain's secret island base is clearly an homage to the many wonderful designs that Ken Adam did for the James Bond films, and the look of the base – the monorail gliding through the trees, the 1950s furnishings, the gleaming empty corridors – is just sensational. And Brad Bird almost steals his own movie by voicing Edna Mode, costume designer to the superhero fraternity, who is a hysterical cross between Bond's Q and Coco Chanel. Her explanation of why capes are not a good choice for the superhero is worth the price of admission on its own.

December 08, 2004

Forgotten: Movie review

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My guess is that when Forgotten was still just an idea, it was signed off for production on the basis of two things; a creepy and ambiguous premise about memory manipulation, and a cool special effect for whizzing people up into the sky. The makers got lucky a couple more times early in the film's gestation, too; they got Julianne Moore as their lead, and she's a talented actress who does a good job delivering a mixture of sadness and determination. And the art direction and cinematography are both a notch above what you might expect for a modest picture like this, with elegant gliding helicopter shots and a muted, steely palette conveying the sombre mood of the film.

Sadly, that's where the goodness ran out. Somewhere along the way, somebody forgot that a good, creepy premise, a talented actress and good-looking footage won't save you if you've neglected to write a story, and, crucially important point, an ending. The film moves swiftly from ambiguity to a not-particularly-great X-Files conspiracy theory, and from there to an ending that's so utterly feeble that it makes it all too clear that the film's writers had utterly failed to think about important questions like How? and Why?, leaving the audience to ask itself other questions, such as What?, and Duh? Pity; if the film had sustained the quality of the first half hour it would have been great, but as it was, it was no more than, sigh, forgettable.

August 09, 2004

I Robot

Before talking about the movie itself, I should say in passing that I chose to use the Spanish version of the movie poster in preference to the US one. I don't know why, but something about it just appealed to me more.

The film itself… well, it wasn't completely brain-dead and it didn't totally suck. That's progress for Will Smith, whose last two films were the disappointing Men in Black II and the utterly abysmal Bad Boys 2. One imagines that it was important to him not to make another total turkey this time around, and whether for that reason or just because the source material was better, he turns in a reasonable performance, toning down the wise-cracking (though reportedly the film-makers had to work hard to keep additional asinine one-liners from being added to suit him), and showing little hints of something other than glib cool.

The effects were a mixed bag; the city-scapes were nice (although they're easy to do, since they're basically just big paintings), but the underground motorways were rubbish, looking more like a video game than anything even vaguely real (why do film-makers persist in believing that future cities will move all their express lanes underground?) and although the robots were effective while still, once they got into running, jumping and fighting, they blew their credibility completely, as CGI creatures often do, by being faster and stronger than would be physically possible.

But the effects triumph of the movie is Sonny, the lead robot. Like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, he's played by an actor, so you get expression, body language and graceful, believable movement, and then the robotic appearance is painted over the actor in post-production. It works startlingly well, and makes the character compelling – and convincing – to watch, unlike all the pure-CGI robots.

You'll notice I've said nothing about the plot. That's partly because the film works better if you know as little as possible about it, but also because it's disappointing in a number of ways: first of all, it's described as "Suggested by the stories by Isaac Asimov", which seems a bit mean; second of all, although it is indeed derived from Asimov's well-known short stories, it suffers from the problem that lots of other films have been to the same well-spring before it. As much as the film is "suggested" by Asimov, it's also "suggested" by Terminator, Westworld, The Matrix, 2001, Blade Runner and many more. If you've seen any of these, you already know that Bad Things Happen When Robots Get Too Smart, and if you already know that, then I Robot has few revelations for you. And although the film attempts to consider questions of consciousness and morality, it does so rather feebly in comparison with just about any of its predecessors, or indeed the Asimov originals. Furthermore, by the end, the film clearly has no idea how to answer the philosophical questions it's raised, and glosses over the issues so completely that when it's finished at the cinema I'd like it to come round and do my skirting boards.

So three stars out of five for trying to be better than dumb and partially succeeding, plus a wonderful combination of acting and effects in Sonny. Docked two stars for ultimately abandoning ideas for explosions and some ropey, video-game style effects, especially in the fight sequences.

Finally some very mild spoiler thoughts if you've seen the film:-

  • What happened to the cat? Last we heard, it was in the trunk of the car. But we know what happened to the car.
  • The product placement was just appalling. Fed-Ex, Audi and – especially – Converse should just be ashamed of such blatant, embarrassing plugs.
  • I thought the violence done to the robots was interesting. At various times, they are crushed, dismembered and shot at point-blank range. Had they been human characters, their various fates would have been unwatchably horrific. But as robots (sentient robots, mind you, easily as smart as humans) it's apparently unproblematic and only 12A-cert to see carnage wrought on them. Curious.

June 10, 2004

Day After Tomorrow: movie review pt 2

Still here? You are such a geek. Those effects in more detail, then: the opening helicopter move over the ice and water was pretty good; all CG right up until we see our heroes, and then blue-screened. I‘d bet it was done with Maya and mental ray. The helicopter sweep was well done, the water was fine and the ice was mostly okay, but you could see the fractals where they modelled thin snow on top of translucent ice. Fantastic matte painting though.

Ths shots from outer space were also very good for all-CG work; really big volumetric displacement mapped objects (the clouds), and the lighting was excellent – global illumination for sure. Must have taken forever to render. And the big flood scene was excellent; some miniature work but CG for the spray and the elements that the water picks up and throws around. In general the particle work for the frost, snow and ice was flawless, but the water was slightly off here and there.

The scene where ice races down the sides of building and then chases our heroes (!) was ridiculous, but the ice effect was really well done; it‘s fiddly to do translucent material on top of something else, because calculating the proportions of reflection and the internal bouncing around is hard. But without it, it would have looked more like dust or plaster.

The sunlight breaking through in the final scenes with the helicopters was exaggerated to the point of lunacy, but that‘s the cool thing about sunlight and cloudscapes; you can go nuts on them without bothering the audience, because crazy lighting effects do happen – albeit rarely – in real life. They were also unusually restrained in resisting the God camera with the helicopter shots; with CG scenes, you can put the camera in places that would be unworkably difficult or dangerous in real life, so one dead giveaway for CG is a shot where the helicopter flies within 6 inches of the camera, or the camera goes places a real camera clearly couldn‘t. In general too, they were quite good about showing their effects in bright light, in long shot, and in reasonably long takes – the mark of confidence in your work. Effects that you see mostly at night or in the rain (Godzilla) or in very quick edits (Armageddon) or close up so you can‘t judge scale or context (MIB2) are normally being disguised for a reason.

Things that didn‘t work so well: the wolves were only partially successful; the fur was great, but the facial expressions were pretty ropey. it was done in very fast cuts though, and I suspect that was as much to cover up the naffness of the modelling as to generate tension. And the digitally added clouds of breath never looked quite right; they‘d have been better comping in real breath clouds rather than doing CG. Perhaps that was why they were so casual about whether they bothered to add it in or not.

If you went to see it just for the effects, I reckon you‘d be pretty satisfied. But that‘s a pretty poor excuse to see a movie, and frankly a ridiculous thing to write a review about. Won‘t happen again. :)

Day After Tomorrow: movie review pt 1

Movies like this are tricky to review. The plot is ridiculous, there are no characters to speak of, and the structure is all over the place, with almost everything of interest happening in the first half of the film. Even the science, which the makers have laughably claimed is exaggerated but plausible, is risible. (At one point, the storm sucks vast quantities of frigid upper atmospheric air down to the surface, supposedly flash-freezing any living thing caught outside. However, any A-level physics student could tell you that the air would warm on its descent in response to the requirements of the Ideal Gas Law, and would never be able to flash-freeze anything. One scientist in the movie seems to remember his school-book physics and asks, "But wouldn't the air warm as it descends?" But his colleague replies, "No, it's moving too fast!" Argh! The Ideal Gas Law applies no matter how fast the air is moving.)

So it should be completely devoid of merit, right? Almost. Like many summer movies, DAT stands or falls pretty much entirely on the quality of its effects. As silly as it sounds, we seem to have reached the point where audiences have become complicit in the idea that film-makers can discard literally every element that's normally taken to matter in film-making, as long as they provide some impressive scenes of spectacle in their otherwise meritless movie. And by "spectacle", interestingly, we seem to mean "wholesale destruction".

So. The review pretty much stops here, unless you have an unreasonable interest in visual effects, in which case see part 2. If you don't (or like Chris and Chris you think you're better off not knowing about them) then DAT is two hours of talentless drivel with perhaps fifteen minutes of reasonably impressive spectacle. If that sounds like a fair trade to you then you'll like it. If not, then don't bother.

June 08, 2004

The Incredibles

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The Incredibles is the new computer-generated cartoon from Pixar, opening in November. The trailer looks fantastic; witty in the style of the first Toy Story, a knowing spoof on superhero lore, and of course those gorgeous, trademark Pixar visuals, all shiny costumes and lustrous surfaces.

Watch for the "Where's my suit?" gag near the end; is it me, or is that Samuel L Jackson? Jackson and Pixar – together at last!

April 07, 2004

Compare and contrast: Starsky & Hutch and The Passion of the Christ

Oh dear; now I'm out of control. Must. Blog. Every. Piss-take.

Compare and contrast here

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