Archive for March, 2010

Alice In Wonderland Review

Posted in Film Reviews And Conversations with tags , on March 17, 2010 by Adam Broome

The latest product in a seemingly endless partnership sees Tim Burton and Johnny Depp teaming up once again for a gothic re-telling of Alice In Wonderland. This version of the classic tale sees Alice at the age of 19, introduced to us during her engagement party, before tumbling down the rabbit hole. And we all know where it goes from there. I saw this film in 2D, and after watching Avatar in 3D, I can honestly say I couldn’t really see much difference. The CGI world Burton creates on screen is every bit as spectacular as anything from his previous films.

Matt Lucas appears as a pair of silly twins, who only serve to annoy rather than entertain, as does Alan Rickman’s blue, sheesha-smoking caterpillar. This goes for most of the characters in Wonderland also, although the smiling cat looks as cuddly as Bagpuss.
Now, about Johnny Depp. For those who live in a cave, he plays the Mad Hatter. A lot of people have said he is just too manic and crazy in this film to be good. To some extent, ‘they’ would be right. However, to convey such a lunatic on screen is a hard sell, so I do salute the attempt. There is a lot of craziness and stupidity in this film – think Beetlejuice. You’re either on board, or you aint.
The silly characters (and whilst I’m at it, rather silly story involving the Jabberwocky) aren’t the big problem for me however. The first and last scenes act rather out of place, as if to add realism to a none-sensical plot. ‘Wonderland’ itself seemed to lack magic, especially after creations such as Spirited Away or The Nightmare Before Christmas. The distinct lack of sparkle only serves to make you feel trapped with the manic characters therein.
It is important you should also note that this is foremost a children’s film, bearing much more resemblance to Charlie And The Chocolate Factory than Sweeney Todd. I hated Charlie And The Chocolate Factory… so you can probably see where this is going. I felt that this film lacked Tim Burton’s usual gothic-fantasy look. It just looked like a dull version of the Narnia series (plus, the ending is just the latest in the ‘big battle finale’ kids films). To be dark and have menace would have made this less of a kid’s film though – he had their needs squarely at heart, which meant I got quite bored, and reminisced of Burton’s spookier escapades.

6/10

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Hyde Again – The Posters

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , , on March 10, 2010 by Adam Broome

So, after being let down by the lead actress, I found myself with a harsh realisation that no matter what sort of media I would ever be producing, I could not count on friends to be willing to step up in front of the camera. All in all, I put the project to one side for quite a while whilst I worked on other modules. In future, I will endeavor to secure a more solid cast, either from the drama department of Ellen Terry, or elsewhere, to become involved in the starring roles. However, with deadlines fast approaching, I found a saving grace in flat mate James, who had previous acting experience and was willing to help me out. I had decided that the idea would work well with a female in the lead role, but as the original concept was based around a young male anyway (see ‘Introduction to Hyde Again’), I figured the idea could still be accomplished with James.

The first thing to get out the way was the TV posters, that would be displayed on billboards to accompany the broadcast. I needed to produce an idea of what the finished item would look like. I knew I wanted a photo of the main character, and I wanted to convey his two personalities. I knew the best way was one of two options – one-point lighting, or reflections. Having considered reflections, I was walking by a bank one evening and saw this wall of light, changing from red to blue. The idea was sold more or less straight away. One-point lighting involves only one of the usual three lights used in film production (most commonly a side light). Without any lights to illuminate the face, one side of the face is lit, and one side is not. This suggests a dark side / half to a person’s character.

James and myself went out to the bank location one night, and I took several photos using my DSLR camera. The idea was that red would signify danger, so I had James pull a menacing / evil face during the red lights (I eventually settled on the most theatrical). In contrast, I wanted the blue to convey the other character – the shy, sensitive character. The plan was to make two different posters based around the same theme – one would show ‘Hyde’, the other would show ‘James’. One poster would not make all that much sense without the other one, but I liked the technique (I’d previously seen it used during advertisements for the original ‘Hellboy’ movie). The tag-line for the show ‘Two Minds Are Better Than One’ would be added, and at the bottom would be all the information a person would need to view the initial screening.

Once the photos were taken, I had to sift through all of my many shots to choose the final two. Here are some good ones that did not make the final cut:

Overall, these shots were not chosen, either because the lighting was wrong, or it just didn’t look right in my mind’s eye. I can say that I didn’t choose some of the innocent photos in blue because James was looking upwards, and I realised the effect of ‘shyness’ was greater when his gaze was fixed to the floor. My instructions were only for ‘shy James’ to not look at the camera, and ‘evil James’ to look directly into the lens.

Photos chosen, the next thing to do was implement photoshop. I got to work straight away, and managed to discover a tool that created a nice sidebar with which to write the text in. The tag-line was written in an ‘Olde-England’ font face (to serve as an in-joke to the original story), and other text was written below. Here is what one such rough copy looked like:

However, I realised this looked wrong. The text at the bottom was wrong. It just didn’t look the part. Having used Google to research a little more into what an ‘ITV1’ poster actually looked like, I was able to get a better idea. After another session on photoshop, I managed to implement the ITV1 logo, which made it look a lot better. And the end results:

Overall, I was quite pleased with the way these turned out. It only took the best part of three days, and it is very close to what I originally had in mind. I think the colours work well, and even though some of the lighting is ‘blotchy’, it conveys what I was aiming for quite well. I considered playing about with the eyes in the ‘evil’ photo, but eventually decided it was best to leave it be. Ironically, in the background of the ‘evil’ picture, a ‘hoody’ just happened to be cycling past on a bike. Purely coincidental – this fits in perfectly with the events surrounding the first transition of Hyde. I think the ‘1’ on ‘ITV1’ is a little hard to read – perhaps it would have been better to colour it white instead.

The Crazies Review

Posted in Film Reviews And Conversations with tags , on March 6, 2010 by Adam Broome

Quick on the heels of The Wolfman released only two weeks beforehand, The Crazies hits the big screen, and again I head to the Odeon to witness the spectacle. Again, this is a remake trying to stay true to the original formula (hence the rather well-adapted 15 certificate).


The story is one that’s been built upon many a time since the original – set in a sleepy country town in the middle of nowhere, a town sheriff (here played by Timothy Olyphant, an actor I’ve been a fan of since seeing him in ‘Go’) investigates several bizarre acts of seemingly motiveless violence. People seem to be going crazy for no reason – that is, until, a plane carrying a mysterious cargo is found in the nearby lake, which just so happens to be the town’s primary source of water.
Before you know it, the military has turned up, with active orders to quarantine the town. But it’s not long before the soldiers start gunning everything in sight, and the infected ‘crazies’ escape. Off we go on another road trip from hell, although obvious though it is, it pulls off the scenario rather well.
Some inspired set pieces, including a stop by a car wash and a scene where several hapless beings strapped to beds are chopped up by a mad farmer, keep things interesting. They are heavily needed though – the ‘crazies’ are basically zombies without being zombies, and after the first five ‘jumps’, as with The Wolfman you will become immune to the only scares this film has to offer. Even without scares and gore, the acting and script are well done. There is very little characterisation, so lack of empathy will also kill the mood towards the end. It’s just over 80 minutes long, but doesn’t appear to be any longer. A comfortable B-movie, that avoids the mistakes The Wolfman made, then goes and makes whole new ones.

7/10

Missing The Bleeding Obvious – Media Convergence In Games

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , , , , , on March 2, 2010 by Adam Broome

Just today I picked up a game as an early birthday present from my uncle. I’ve been playing computer games since I was little (let’s hear it for the SNES!), but now it is a rarity I buy games fresh off the production line. However, when I game like Aliens Vs Predator comes out, for a movie buff like myself it is almost against religion not to purchase it.

Then I realise something – I have difficulty realising convergence in media outside the realms of the internet. Of course, gaming has gone online as well, with things such as Xbox Live now revolutionizing the way people play games. But what of the media convergence occurring within the games themselves? The first thing that came to mind was a game a while back called Need For Speed: Most Wanted. That game integrated songs from actual artists, who used the game as a means of advertising their tracks and albums. However, I don’t own that game anymore (caused the Xbox to overheat). I figured it much better to review my recently-purchased blockbuster game.

Did you know we can’t really call these ‘video games’ anymore? Yeah, it’s apparently an archaic term now, because of the word ‘video’. It’s ‘computer games’ or bust now.

Not that that’s all that relevant, just thought I’d squeeze it in there. So yes, Aliens Vs Predator. Based on two very popular movie franchises… or one, depending on which way you look at it. Here is a game featuring dynamic sounds from the films, as well as three different campaigns mimicking the mise-en-scene of the movie blockbusters themselves. But that’s too easy – what about the music? What about the graphics? These have all been enhanced since the days of the previously-mentioned SNES. And of course, as with the internet, advances in technology is what it’s all about.

But modern games also borrow off other, older games as well. Previously released games, such as Turok, offer different gameplay styles to copy / improve. Modern gaming follows the rather cliched thought that the rest of the media world does right now – TRUE originality is a hard thing to come by nowadays (hence so many re-makes). It’s all about doing what has already been done before and improving on it. Whilst I may call an offensive word and state true originality will always out (The X-Files wasn’t THAT long ago), it certainly seems to be the case in modern day media. Lots of superhero films, lots of remakes. Bands are often citing the bands that influenced them, and the bands that they imitated off before putting their own ‘spin’ on things. Alien Vs Predator is actually a remake itself, from a ‘video game’ that came out in the mid nineties.

So after all this, what is it exactly that I’m trying to say? Well, convergence is everywhere. Yeah yeah, yadder yadder. But convergence has been happening for some time. Perhaps, longer than a lot of us may think. I believe it started at the arrival of the internet (early nineties). I may be wrong. Convergence is itself in some ways fundamentally all about building on the previous, taking what is already there and merging it together to create a hybrid form. Aliens Vs Predator (the remake) has taken what was already there in the original game, and merged it with new things. I can personally vouch that it takes ideas from the 2005 game Doom 3, but it also incorporates things such as online play, sounds and visuals, because technology has opened it up to a greater array of convergence than it could have in the mid nineties.

The intriguing part is – what if convergence, directly or indirectly, is responsible for all the remakes these days? Are people just remaking the old because technology allows them to merge the original concept with other ‘stuff’ and create a new piece of hybrid media? This would be especially true for games, as that market changes every year at least – the way we network, they way the games are presented, even the very way we play them. Supposing this hypothesis is true – we can expect remakes of Lemmings, Crash Bandicoot and Rayman sometime in the future. And as for the remakes of today, such as AVP here… what, we just remake it ten years on, when technology gets EVEN better? Ho hum.