May 13th, 2013
Judging by comments I've read the trailer doesn't give the impression that it's a particularly faithful adaptation, which may or may not be a problem.1 If we're really lucky it'll turn out like when Ridley Scott adapted Philip K. Dick. If we're unlucky, it'll end up more like Lee Tamahori or Christian Duguay.
- I've not read that particular Lem novel, so I couldn't say. ↩
April 29th, 2013
Nitsu Abebe has written a thoughtful piece on The Amanda Palmer Problem. By which he means not so much the various issues some people have with Palmer's own actions1 but the wider problem of how artists seeking support from fans can bring down such vitriol upon themselves online:
I think there's a lesson to be learned from Palmer, and it's not the falling-into-the-crowd lesson she offers. Yes, she's correct: The web offers an opportunity to fall into the open arms of fans, in ways that weren't available before. Here's the catch: The web also makes it near-impossible to fall into the arms of just one's fans. Each time you dive into the crowd, some portion of the audience before you consists of observers with no interest in catching you. And you are still asking them to, because another thing the web has done is erode the ability to put something into the world that is directed only at interested parties.
This sort of furore is only going to get bigger and noisier as the example of the The Veronica Mars Movie Project is followed by the likes of Zach Braff and more and more recognisable names show up on the front page of Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
[Via Waxy.org links]
- i.e. using Kickstarter to raise more than US$1 million to fund an album, then inviting fans to donate their services as musicians on her tour. Then defending herself against criticism of both moves in part by emphasising that fans being given the chance to play with her were gaining non-monetary benefits from the exchange, i.e. the chance to accompany their idol. ↩
April 29th, 2013
It's going to be quite a summer for big, brash science fiction action movies. Oblivion looked good and worked hard but fell short in the originality department,1 and After Earth really doesn't look promising,2 but there's still much to look forward to. Elysium will have no shortage of social commentary amidst the gunfire. Star Trek Into Darkness will give us another romp with the modern incarnations of Kirk, Spock and Bones and the crew, with the bonus feature of weeks of fun arguments about how Benedict Cumberbatch's character fits into/breaks Trek continuity. The Wolverine will have ninjas galore lining up to take on a mutant who's the best there is at what he does. With3 a less than completely happy ending for Logan. Man of Steel will have us kneeling before Zod before Superman punches him all the way back into the Phantom Zone.
However nothing – nothing! – promises more pure, goofy fun that Guillermo del Toro spending a couple of hours having giant human-piloted robots engage in punch-ups with giant alien monsters from the deep.
April 17th, 2013
Trouble is, Zack Snyder's films often have impressive-looking trailers; it's only when you get into cinema that you find out how badly the plot falls short of the visuals. Then again, David S Goyer is pretty good at writing comic book movies, and goodness knows they've had enough examples of what not to do. Eventually they have to get Superman right on the big screen again. Why not in 2013?
[Via Mightygodking dot com]
- It makes me feel old to see Kevin Costner playing Pa Kent, but that's just something I'm going to have to live with. ↩
April 17th, 2013
Mr. Dalliard: Time travel in movies. Nice work.
I can't help but notice that the chart's title says "… in movies" but a couple of TV series are included. And yet no Doctor Who. Odd, that.1
[Via The Great Escapism]
- Probably fair enough, though, what with the show's treatment of how time travel works is so all over the map that you could probably include it under every single category on the chart. ↩
April 10th, 2013
Looks reasonably promising: you don't sign up Matt Damon and Jodie Foster if you're just looking to do a mildly futuristic shoot-em-up.
I'm not sure whether Elysium is going to end up being the best science fiction action film of the year,1 but given the talent involved it's got to be in with a shot.
- Pacific Rim looks like Transformers-versus-Godzilla but filmed so you can follow the action in th fight sequences. Star Trek Into Darkness may or may not be good but I'm willing to bet it'll be enormous fun, if only to watch everyone bringing the TOS characters to life again. Then there's Riddick, a belated third instalment in a franchise for which I have an enduring soft spot. ↩
March 21st, 2013
Thank the Academy: A visualization of how Oscar winners express gratitude.
I have to be honest: that's one of the more straightforward charts on the site. The interactive charts that really let you slice and dice the data are where the action is, but they can't be properly represented by a dinky screenshot over here.
You really should go and have a play for yourself. You can view the differences in the content of speeches and even the behaviour of the recipient, then view the differences between eras, or between different classes of award winner. It's a very well done site.
I'd love to see someone apply these same techniques and style of presentation to another corpus taken from an annual event with a bit of a history to it. Say, Budget speeches by Chancellors of the Exchequer over the last 50 years, or party leaders' speeches to their party conference. Granted, you couldn't do much with an analysis by gender of either of those data sets – what with any analysis by gender of the relevant UK data sets having Margaret Thatcher on one side of the stats and generation after generation of middle aged men on the other – but there would be all sorts of illuminating ways to break the data down.
One think I can confidently predict: those sorts of data sets would provide fewer opportunities to tally the number of speakers who burst into tears during their speech. Also, some poor devil would have to sit through recordings of each speech taking detailed notes, and I'm pretty sure that'd be a lot less entertaining – a lot less glamorous, certainly – than watching 50 years of excerpts from the Oscars.
Getting back to the more glamorous data set, the site will even tell you who has been thanked by name most frequently in acceptance speeches by directors, leading and supporting actors and actresses.1
[Via Flowing Data]
- I'll give you a clue. He's still active in the industry today. As is his brother. ↩
March 12th, 2013
I hadn't seen a huge amount of pre-release publicity for Park Chan-Wook's English language debut, Stoker, so I was mildly surprised to discover as I read the opening credits that the screenplay was written one Wentworth Miller. A quick check of the IMDB once I got home revealed that yes, that was former Prison Break star Wentworth Miller wrote the screenplay for Stoker. Presumably not in the form of torso-spanning tattoo, but still: I didn't know he had it in him.
As to the film itself, it looks magnificent, with gorgeous, lush photography and sly editing (there's a lovely, icky moment involving a pencil being sharpened that'll stick in my mind for a while) and gives Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode – now comprehensively forgiven for being so woefully miscast in Watchmen - and Mia Wasikowska plenty of opportunities to act their socks off. I liked Wasikowska in 2011's Jane Eyre, but she was a revelation here: her role is the fulcrum of the story, and she absolutely pulls it off.
It's not what you'd call a particularly naturalistic film, nor one that repays thinking too deeply about the plot mechanics, but if you'll just go with it Stoker will take you to some fairly dark places before it's done. You may well enjoy the ride.1
- I'll admit to cackling loudly in the cinema at one crucial point some ten or so minutes before the end. ↩
February 23rd, 2013
How could I not link to "The trailer for The Big Lebowski re-imagined shot-by-shot (more or less) in the world of Doctor Who."
[Via Waxy.org: Links Miniblog]
February 22nd, 2013
Hit By A Bus* – The Supercut is mesmerising.
I was surprised at how many of these I knew – and about how frequently it happened to characters in Lost.
Also, so good to see Buffy in there; helpfully warning Glory just a tad too late to actually help.
February 16th, 2013
I didn't see Marco Rubio's speech but I just got a residual check.
[Via The New Yorker]
February 15th, 2013
Listening to the latest episode of The Incomparable podcast on the work of Aaron Sorkin, I found out that his second film writing credit was as co-author both the story and screenplay of 1993's Malice.
Somehow the film's Sorkin connection had never registered with me. I wouldn't have expected to notice his name when I saw the film at the cinema, what with his only prior big screen credit at that point being as the author of A Few Good Men1 and most of the attention at the time going to Jack Nicholson's "you can't handle the truth!" speech, but I'm a bit surprised that even once Sorkin had got my attention courtesy of The American President and The West Wing and Sports Night I never picked up on his having been the author of the script that gave Alec Baldwin a chance to explain just Who was in Operating Room Number 2 on November 17th:
- A film I still haven't got round to seeing to this day, oddly enough. ↩
February 13th, 2013
Dan Hon has learned the hard way that purchases made through the iTunes Store are subject to the whims of the rights owners, with Apple acting much as Amazon did after losing the rights to publish a particular edition of 1984 three years ago:
Why you can't trust iTunes in the Cloud
At some point, it looks like Apple lost the rights to distribute Anchorman. Unfortunately, this happens all the time because the movie industry is shitty and doesn't care at all about what you, the person who wants to watch movies, does. What the movie industry cares about is maximising its profit, and that means release windows. This is why Netflix gets things for a while and then they disappear and then they (maybe) come back. And yes, I realise that sale windows are different from VOD/streaming windows. But the general idea is this:
Studio sale windows trump iTunes in the Cloud.
The business of Apple removing the sale of the item from your Purchase History if they no longer hold the rights to offer it for sale/download is a bit unfortunate. I don't doubt that it grants itself permission to do so somewhere in the dozens of pages of terms & conditions that you're required to claim you've read and understood when setting up an iTunes account on a device, but it's still not good: Apple shouldn't be making retrospective alterations to records of purchases like that.
Basically, a purchase isn't a purchase when it's made online, and we shouldn't ever forget it.
February 4th, 2013
Another year, another chance to fail to win The Web-Goddess Oscar Contest.
January 29th, 2013
On the verge of retirement from film directing once he reaches the age of 50, Steven Soderbergh talked to New York magazine about his career:
Have you noticed how loud trailers have gotten?
They're punishing! I've cut trailers that don't do that, and they test badly. I will point out to the studio that sitting some people in a room and showing them this one trailer is not how they will be seen in a theater, where you get six in a row. I don't want my trailer to feel like the other five. Their response is always, Look at the numbers. That's one good thing – well, there have been many good things about working with HBO – but there are no numbers, no focus groups.
What else has gotten worse?
The worst development in filmmaking – particularly in the last five years – is how badly directors are treated. It's become absolutely horrible the way the people with the money decide they can fart in the kitchen, to put it bluntly. It's not just studios – it's anyone who is financing a film. I guess I don't understand the assumption that the director is presumptively wrong about what the audience wants or needs when they are the first audience, in a way. And probably got into making movies because of being in that audience.
But an alarming thing I learned during Contagion is that the people who pay to make the movies and the audiences who see them are actually very much in sync. I remember during previews how upset the audience was by the Jude Law character. The fact that he created a sort of mixed reaction was viewed as a flaw in the filmmaking. Not, "Oh, that's interesting, I'm not sure if this guy is an asshole or a hero." People were really annoyed by that. And I thought, Wow, so ambiguity is not on the table anymore. They were angry.
For the record, the full interview isn't just a series of gripes about the director's lot today; it's a decent overview of what's snagged his interest and some of the creative decisions he took over the course of a pretty varied career. (Plus a gratuitous swipe at Jennifer Lopez from the interviewer that Soderbergh completely ignores.)
Interesting to note that it's specifically film directing that Soderbergh is walking away from; as well as doing some painting and looking into directing for the stage, he indicates that he'd be up for working in TV if the "something great" were to come along. I have no doubt that once Soderbergh has had a little time to refine his skills as a painter and catch up on some leisure reading1 he'll be hearing from HBO and AMC and quite a few others besides2 who'd just love to get into the Soderbergh business.
[Via feeling listless]
January 18th, 2013
Three science fiction-related items for the price of one:
I saw Safety Not Guaranteed on Tuesday. I'd seen the trailer months ago and forgotten all about it, but when I noticed it was showing at my local arthouse cinema the intriguing plot hook – a journalist investigates a somewhat eccentric man who placed a small ad in a newspaper advertising for someone to accompany him on a trip back in time – had stuck in my mind so I gave it a look.
As we get to know our would-be time traveller the story goes off on all sorts of interesting tangents, balancing the journalist's quest to find out what he's up to and why he's doing it with reflections on how the various characters' pasts have shaped where they are now and where they're going. The whole thing could have collapsed into silliness at several points, but the performances of the cast – especially Mark Duplass as the man who wants a partner to travel back in time, Aubrey Plaza as the journalist who gets drawn into his scheme, and Jake Johnson as her boss who has his own reasons for making the trip to the small town where all this takes place – give real, sympathetic performances that draw you in and make you care about how this strange story is going to end.
(And no, I'm not going to say anything about whether there's a time machine and whether anyone travels back in time. Go and see the film if you want to find out.)
Word has it that the Syfy channel have cancelled Alphas after just two seasons, having left the story on one hell of a cliffhanger. For my money, Alphas is the show that Heroes should have been. Alphas may have had fewer splashy special effects sequences than the earlier show, but it had vastly superior characterisation and plotting and the potential to build on a pretty stellar first couple of seasons.
As a viewer in the UK I'm aware that science fiction fans in the States keep slagging off Syfy for not being interested in sustaining science fiction shows and filling their schedules with wrestling, cheap monster movies and reality TV but obviously from over here I have no first hand experience of the quality of their network and no detailed knowledge of how they do ratings-wise. I'll just note that a network that has cancelled shows of the quality of Farscape1, Stargate Universe2 and Alphas3 must have either a hell of a strong lineup or a death wish.
I posted about H+ The Digital Series back when it was a quarter of the way through the first, 48 episode season. Now that we've reached the end of the first season, I'd say that it turned out to be a stronger show than I'd expected. I'm still not wild about getting the story doled out in 3 to 4 minute chunks, but over time the plot did settle down into a number of complementary strands that depicted an interesting world and left me wanting more.
If you couldn't take the prospect of jumping from story to story in 3 minute chunks at weekly intervals, the series web site does have an interactive timeline that lets you follow the different plots in order so you might find that view of the storyline more palatable. Upon reflection, my main problem was more with the length of the individual episodes rather than the fact that there were several plots taking place at different times and places over the course of the first season. Three minutes or so per chunk of story felt stingy: I'd have sooner had 24 episodes of 6 to 7 minutes each, so that the story had room to breathe. Still, there was lots to admire about the showL the ambition, the production values, the cast.
The question is whether we'll see any more of the story. There's been no announcement yet, but when you look at the way the number of viewers watching each episode has fallen away since the start (even making allowance for the fact that more recent episodes have been up for much less time) I have to wonder if Warners and the producers have made enough money to make it worthwhile to come back for another 48 episodes. I'm pessimistic on that score, which is a real shame given that the show ended up being better than I'd thought early on when they were still laying the foundations for what was to follow. A quarter of the way in, I rated it a C+: I'd say what we got was a solid B with clear signs that it would be a B+ show in season 2.
[Alphas cancellation story via The Medium is Not Enough TV blog]
December 19th, 2012
Fun as it is to play spot-the-film, I can't help but notice that over the last decade or so the standard of SFX work has become so routinely high that it's almost boring to see yet another beautifully rendered spaceship or futuristic city or giant robot.1
Even last week's first trailer for Pacific Rim didn't wow me: my main thought wasn't about the quality of the special effects work, but rather that "This is how the Transformers franchise would look if someone had taught Michael Bay that it's no crime to hold a shot for more than three seconds, to give the audience time to grasp the relative sizes and positions of the two robots punching one another out so that the fights are actually exciting rather than just dazzling and confusing."
Obviously the trailer isn't the film, and I have faith in Guillermo del Toro's ability to wow me with a good story and some fantastic monsters, but I miss the days when it seemed as if every SF blockbuster was putting things on screen that I hadn't seen before, things I had imagined as I worked my way through the written works that made up the Golden Age of SF.2
November 20th, 2012
A lot of the lines that Ryan Reynolds has were just a result of Wesley not being there. We would all just think of things for him to say and then cut to Wesley's face not doing anything because that's all we could get from him. It was kind of funny. We were like, "What are the worst jokes and puns that we can say to this guy?" And then it would just be his face going, "Mmm." "Smiles are contagious." It's so, so dumb. [Laughs.] That was an example of a very troubled shoot that we made fun. You have to find a way to make it fun.