Unlikely Lookalikes!

Whilst watching The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965) this evening, a friend who was watching it with me made a marvellous observation which was too good to pass up. He raised the amusing similarity between Peter Van Eyck, playing the character of Hans-Dieter Mundt in the film, and Lawrence Makoare, who played Gothmog/ Witchking in LOTR: The Return of the King. It’s a genius comparison. I hope you like it.

Dear IGN: a few thoughts regarding Game Changer

Dear IGN,

I didn’t want to enter – I just wanted to express how unbelievably stingy and ungrateful the Terms and Conditions of your competition are. Not only does the Game Changer website offer no indication of what the awful prize is (except for in the ‘small print’ T&Cs), the four stage competition demands a hell of a lot of work for nigh on fuck all compensation. Sure – you claim to offer a helping hand for those struggling to worm their way in to the film and video game industry, but frankly this seems like nothing more than a jumped up PR stunt.

The prize for this painstakingly epic tournament is just three instances of exposure on your website, for which you offer no payment and in fact, declare that “entrants’ participation will be at their own cost.” You also mention that participants will take part in challenges in London! That’s really exciting news, and I can think of nowhere I’d rather spend all of my money while I make a futile grab at a future career in your company…

Let me lay this out clearly: you are hosting a competition with no financial or material prize, that will cost participants time, immense effort and money? Does this strike you as something you would enter?

As one of the biggest online video game sites, one would expect that you might offer up….oooo, I don’t know…a free game? A free console? There are competitions to which entrants must simply enter their name that offer much more satisfying rewards than yours. To be honest, your ‘prize’ appears to be little more than a massive, egotistical pat on the back for yourselves, that you are generously offering the humble layman the opportunity to appear, briefly, on your prestigious website. Great. You pompous arses.

Oh, and finally, if the presenter in your Game Changer promotional video is anything to go by, then standards are evidently not being set very high. You really are in dire need of some new talent. So get off your high horse, think up some original prizes, and pitch us something worth buying in to. Until then, kindly remove the Pop Factor X Idol banner from your homepage.

Yours sincerely,

yada yada yada…

Let’s talk 3D. Because we have to.

3D has been labelled all sorts of things in it’s relatively brief stint at the forefront of cinema. But is it groundbreaking, futuristic, or just a gimmick? Well, I couldn’t possibly answer that in such simplistic terms. But here’s the thing:

In a recent article about Clash of the Titans 2 (I didn’t dig it out, just stumbled upon it while browsing – in fact, I still haven’t seen the first one), I read that the  studios approach to the film would be to make 3D integral, “rather than just slapping it on at the end”. This set off alarm bells.

It’s one thing to offer an alternative viewing solution for audiences in the form of 3D, but there are a great many people, perhaps even a majority, who actually still prefer watching films in their original 2D aspect. Are those people to be spurned in favour of 3D exclusivity?

No doubt studios and directors will deny the suggestion, but if 3D is described as “integral” to the film, doesn’t that by definition mean that to watch it in 2D would be equivalent to somehow watching a lesser product?

There are numerous issues I have with 3D. Not least, I fail to understand why the technology is possible without glasses and yet cinemas still require them. Further, that cinemas charge more for a 3D film and in some venues additionally charge for the glasses to then view that film (Shrewsbury Cineworld for example). Finally, personally I’ve found focusing in 3D to be really difficult with blurring seemingly unavoidable. And it’s been known to give me a headache too.

Given that there has been so much emphasis on crisp, true HD recently one would think that a clear image would be a minimum requirement in a cinema. In fact, while I’m on the topic, is ordinary 2D cinema really showing as pristine an image as could be achieved? I feel sure that in a world where the illusion of another dimension can be created, at least some of the fuzziness could be cleaned up.

Plus, is 3D really 3D or are you essentially just watching layers of 2D with subtle image alterations? ie. Flat images aligned to give the impression of perspective.

Surely somebody else has noticed that while you’re focussing on the objects trying to appear nearby, objects in the distance are out of focus. When I watch a film I want to be able to observe what is going on in the background just as clearly as what is going on in the foreground – it all helps draw me in to the fictional world I’m watching. 3D denies me that option, and if films begin being created with 3D “integral” to their production and viewing, it’s not long before audiences and films will be split in to factions. Those that watch anything, and those that won’t watch 3D. Do studios really want to slim the already dwindling cinema market even more?

The Fish Child – an example of a genre

I’ve just watched The Fish Child in order to provide a review for smellofnapalm.com and I found it epitomised something I’ve encountered before in films of this type. They are atmospheric, artistic, very well directed and produced, and yet I struggle with their overarching aim. You see, when you trip to the cinema to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster, you can be sure to some degree of what you’re going to get. It may be shallow, it may be violent, it may be shocking or thrilling, or it may be none of these things, but you will know that it has one goal: to entertain.

The problem I have with films like The Fish Child, and there are many of them, is why am I watching them? What do they want from me?

It is hard to say they aim to entertain; a comedian entertains, a car chase entertains, even a feisty scene between celebs entertains, but frankly, a film in which the protagonist is a teenage lesbian in love with her maid whose father impregnated her as a child, who then gave birth as a very young teen, drowned the baby and left it in a lake, and after all that ends up in a female penitentiary, is not entertaining – it’s fucked up. And I’ve slimmed it down.

So if they’re not entertaining, and they’re not educational (other than from a film making perspective), what is it about them that makes them worth watching? I find it comparable to art. Think of looking at a warped, unpleasant painting. Something disturbing that you definitely wouldn’t want in your living room. It exists as a statement from it’s creator. ‘This is what I was thinking about, this is how I feel, this is what I want you to know I’m conflicted by…’ Art makes some sort of proclamation. You’re looking at it and you can’t find anything to like, and yet you are moved in some way. You feel affected, as if you’ve emotionally developed since experiencing it. The thing is, a painting or a poem can do that to you in a matter of seconds. Is it worth spending two hours watching a film to achieve the same sensation? I don’t know.

Perhaps you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about and you love this kind of film, or maybe you think you know the answer…either way, I’d love to hear opinions in the comments below.

Is David Fincher the main man at the movies?

Let’s hear some love for David Fincher. The man in the chair for a number of phenomenal thrillers, and no stranger to tackling some of the biggest egos in cinema – see Fight Club, Zodiac, The Game, Se7en and Panic Room. His films always draw a lot of punters, for good reason, and although Benjamin Button wasn’t such a stand out, there’s nothing wrong with the film making. Fincher’s latest title will no doubt be taking the internet by storm, at least if it has anything in common with it’s subject matter – The Social Network.

It’s a movie about the founders of Facebook, which instantly turns me off, so if it does you too, then before you slump your shoulders and sigh, read:

In addition to Fincher’s direction, the script is written by my hero Aaron Sorkin and the cast includes Andrew Garfield (the new, older face of Spider Man), Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, Adventureland, anything else with Land in the name…) – and ok, so it stars Justin Timberlake, but he’s never as bad as I think he should be, and though I despise his music, he’s earned a sort of grudging respect from me. Besides, if he’s out of place, I’ve just got to trust that Sorkin or Fincher will kick him back in line. All things considered, there are ingredients here which unless severely mishandled should make for a fantastic film.

But The Social Network isn’t the only movie Fincher’s juggling with at the minute. He’s remaking The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for heathens who refuse to watch subs, and details are emerging of his work on animated movie, The Goon.

The latter especially strikes me as interesting, watch the trailer and see if you agree.


A rant of inequality.

Here’s a comment I posted on First Showing, in response to an infuriating remark by a reader known only as…Ives. The article was about Mel Gibson’s recent departure from his agency, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, and the post that riled me declared:

I can’t believe people are defending him. He may have been a decent person in the past (i don’t know), but now he is a drunk, abusive lowlife and doesn’t deserve any respect. Just because he is (or was) talented, people should not look past who he really is. Stop giving celebrities special treatment.

I suspect this is a view shared by a number of people, so here’s my comeback. The case of Ives vs. Alien, 2010.

@Ives – it’s not giving ‘celebrities special treatment’, it’s giving artists and geniuses special treatment, and they should be, because the fact is, without those people, as despicable as they can be at times, there is no point to anything. They give us highs and they give us lows, but try and imagine a life without crazy and eccentric musicians, actors, artists etc. Hell, some of the greatest legends were absolute scum, but we need them to give this life some context. So how about instead of stopping ‘special treatment’, you stop bunging us all together in a mash up of personalities and characters that should all be treated the same, and recognise that the simple fact is, we’re not the same, we shouldn’t be treated the same, and Mel Gibson should not be dropped from his agents and colleagues like an empty bottle as soon as he’s lost his clean reputation and is a threat to theirs.

Don’t get me wrong, I despise celeb culture as much as the next respectable human being, but there’s a fine line that you’re not observing.

Piracy and Hollywood – the big picture?

So I was having a think, as is my penchant, and I realised: Hollywood are all “piracy supports terrorism/ piracy is theft”, and they’ve made a film about pretty much everything else so where are all the anti-piracy films? (They could run a clever PR stunt and leak it so it’s put online early and proves their point). It would be great…


Or Daniel Day-Lewis stars: “If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. And my straw reaches acroooooooss the room, and starts to drink your film revenue…”

But joking apart – there’s a film for every criminal, why aren’t pirates gracing our big screens? I’d love to know the inside scoop on aXXo or FXG…

So ‘piracy and hollywood – the big picture’ seems yet to be made!

The Bounty Hunter

Hopefully at least a few of you have been keeping an eye on reviews over at The Smell Of Napalm, but if not here’s an extract from my latest of The Bounty Hunter:

The funniest thing about The Bounty Hunter is that two actors as prestigious as Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston even accepted roles in it, and even that is more funny peculiar than funny haha. Maybe they didn’t bother reading the script. There are a number of reasons The Bounty Hunter fails; it could be the total lack of chemistry between the main players, it could be the shoddy script or the haphazard plot direction, it could even be the fact that director Andy Tennant has apparently no imagination and no idea what type of movie he’s attempting to make.

Action sequences are as unrefined as to look almost B-movie, shot with no grace or style, the villains are all stereotyped and everyone overacts to the point you feel like shouting “cut!” yourself. Heaps of tepid slapstick and humourless situations are bundled together in a futile effort to derive comedy, but it all falls flat. Romantically the film doesn’t fare any better. It seems the duo argue, fuss and fight scene after scene until even the viewer feels like reaching for a pillow to block it all out. Both the couple are unlikeable and no matter how many times they cuff each other to the bed, intimacy always seems a hundred miles away.

Facts, Figures and Film

What is the true significance and relevance of declarations by the gross-obsessed consumer press on the release of a new film?

I’m talking about numbers. Facts and figures. Every time a film is released we are swamped with it’s successes in terms of money. Take two recent acclaimed films: Avatar and The Hurt Locker.

  • Avatar has grossed a worldwide total of over $2.723 billion
  • The Hurt Locker has achieved $40 million

I ask why the average consumer needs this knowledge? Sure, from an industry perspective the figures are all that matter – it’s imperative to see successes or otherwise, but do we want the press to dictate to the average consumer Tom, Dick and Harry – do we want them to dictate the films that are worth seeing or not? Isn’t it better that films start out with some degree of equality, the only influence on the public being the marketing and pr of the distributors? Whether we like it or not, the facts and figures will massively affect public response to new films and wouldn’t it be great for film makers worldwide if that was taken out of the equation? Consumers would go and see films based on their critical reception, not on their financial successes and how much of a storm they can create on their opening day/ weekend.

I shouldn’t think anyone would doubt that The Hurt Locker is as worthy a film to be seen as Avatar (or more so) and yet anyone looking at the above figures would be inclined to believe Avatar was in a completely different league. It’s misleading.

I think it’s important that film starts to take itself seriously as an art form, and as a platform for serious and meaningful expression, and to be respected as such by the public. That will never happen while we continue to influence public interest with financial figures and other ‘only-industry-relevant’ information.

Too many remakes spoil the…

Mike Goodridge discusses the value of film remakes in his latest editorial for Screen International. The point he argues is a good one – remakes broaden the audience for any given film, particularly if the original film is foreign language. The problem I have with that is that I don’t really believe that the studios offer up remakes in some philanthropic desire to please people worldwide, instead I draw more attention to one line in his article where he writes:

“There is a proven audience for the concept and therefore it is less of a risk than shooting an untried original story or script.”

This is what worries me. In a world where there are literally hundreds of thousands of budding screenwriters churning out fresh ideas in potentially brilliant and classic screenplays, shouldn’t the studios be investing more in originality and accepting the risk that comes with that? The danger is that the heart of film is lost because the businessmen take prominence over the artists. Delivering remakes in English usually always offends a core of film fans who don’t want the industry ‘dumbing down’ to pander to film goers who won’t watch a film if its subtitled. Instead, those same fans would have a lot more respect for the big names in the industry if they shot more original films, taking risks that might well pay off (just as they did with Oscar Winner ‘The Hurt Locker’). Fresh film ideas are definitely out there, it’s just going to take a studio with balls to start utilising them.