I've just come back from seeing Prometheus and I'm afraid to say that I actually quite liked it. Sure there were the inevitable scientific errors, but what can one expect from Hollywood (a recent interview about the Minority Report think-tank pointed out how surprised that scientists found that movie makers would want to talk to them - and how surprised the movie makers were that scientist would want to talk to them), and someone obviously decided that turning the melodrama dial to "11" wasn't enough (and pencilled in a "12" so that people could start panicking before there was anything to panic about), but as an exercise in world-building (which is one of the things I liked about science-fiction) it all hung together quite nicely.
The problem is science generally makes a lousy film, so it was necessary to get people to react contrary to their natural trained inclinations in order to get some essential conflict into the storyline (so as to develop "character"), but all that did was make people accustomed to such technical roles scoff at the lack of professionalism and thereby snap their disbelief suspenders. So you basically end up not emotionally investing in the film. And if you are that theoretical everyman (or everywoman) without the sort of professional training or exposure to such people, then you don't really have enough knowledge of their normal day-to-day life to emotionally invest in the characters either.
Saw the most excellent Cabin in the Woods today at the cinema with a bunch of extremely lovely people from the Adelaide Discworld Convivium (get your tickets before Friday and the price rise). Most of whom spent much of the movie huddled underneath their coats with just their eyes showing. <evil grin>
I liked it a lot, and Joss didn't disappoint. It has all the Joss hallmarks. Definitely something to see on the big screen, from the night shots, if nothing else.
Commiserated by myself afterwards at the Sugarbowl with a rather sour Mango Black Sticky Rice. Not upt to their usual standard. Bad of me, I know. Was tempted to go riding down the Torrens since the Parklands were nicely foggy, but didn't, as I have the doctor early tomorrow. Then discovered I'm out of caffeine and am currently resisting the urge to head back out to get some.
Maybe. Mostly. Who am I kidding? <sigh>
Just saw Iron Sky, which required a pilgrimage to the far north in order to see it. An excellent fan-film, and suitably silly/driven. Although sadly one member of our group didn't like it all, although another member nearly fell of his seat laughing at the tribute to Downfall. The subtext is very Finnish; the music suitably Wagnerian; the political commentary...
Speaking of the dichotomy between those who have read the books and those who haven't, it is interesting to see the differences in opinion between those who have read the books and those who haven't (including myself), with regard to The Hunger Games.
Amongst the literati, there seems to be a focus on the fact that the social milieu was not explored in the film to any great degree, and I'm afraid I have to disagree with this. I actually think that writer/director Gary Ross did a marvellous job translating Suzanne Collin's book to the big screen.
First of all, you cannot take any reasonably-sized book and cut it down to make a two hour movie without leaving out substantial elements. Focusing on the actual Hunger Game itself allowed him to concentrate on the essential element, and the major concern of the protagonist (Katniss), which was "I'm now in the Hunger Game and am likely to die." The remainder is really peripheral for the sake of telling the story of her participation.
Secondly, the social milieu was constantly impinging on the consciousness of the movie-goer, from the ridiculous costuming (more style than substance) at the Capitol, to the extreme poverty of the outlying Districts. There were plenty of off-hand mentions, that intrigued people into wondering about this world and how this social custom had evolved. But there were no lamp-shades hung on them - no exposition. These were accepted facts known to everyone in the world, and didn't need explanation (remember we, the audience, are accompanying Katniss into the arena). So her acceptance, unhappy though it is, of the social order is taken as matter of fact. It is the stuff that is strange to her that attracts her, and the audience's, attention.
Now this is excellent story-crafting. It doesn't make any attempt to explain. Just accepts, but it raises questions and expectations. But it provides hints that there is a tipping point coming, and that Katniss might be critical to this event. The foreshadowing provided by Donald Sutherland as President Snow at the end of the movie was excellent (in conjunction with his performance throughout). Just the attentive and measuring analysis of her potential weak points in case she was ever to come to his personal attention again (as opposed to sinking into the guilty stupor of most survivors of the Game).
( possible spoiler )
All the actors were magnificent. Jennifer Lawrence did an excellent job as Katniss, but that would only be expected from her role as Ree in Winter's Bone. Donald Sutherland was marvellously inscrutable. And Woody Harrelson was suitably a haunted mess for having survived the games, and for knowing what happens when you buck the System.
Anyway I'm looking forward to the next one. Especially as it seems the critics are ensuring that there will never be another Barsoom movie to prove that their knives are sharp.
It was also interesting noting the number of people claiming that there was no way such an institution could have evolved, and that they would die to prevent their child being taken. But that's not the point. Would you be willing to die to let some other child (someone you didn't know), live? At the cost of your own child probably dying as well? Would you risk that? Especially when the alternative is the 99.997% probability that your child would make it safely through the seven years of choosing? As opposed to a 90% chance of them dying in open rebellion? Of course, if your child is chosen, you have a reason to be outraged, but by then it's too late. Everyone else will be secretly glad/relieved that it wasn't their child chosen, and that guilt is a powerful demotivator. And the human ability to rationalise away unpalatable facts is very impressive.
[The Gestapo had a wonderful technique for turning people through guilt. They set up an apparatus where a close relative was given an electric shock. But you could take the electric shock instead by pressing a (spring-loaded) button. Unfortunately there is a limit to how much you can endure, so it is inevitable that you release the button eventually. Each time you do, the charge gets ratcheted up a small amount, so it becomes harder to endure. Eventually the close relative dies, and you cannot help believing that it is your fault. If only you were a little bit stronger. If only you could have been shocked to death instead. The guilt/failure was incredibly powerful – even though there was nothing you could have done and you might as well not have pressed the button yourself and just let your mother/father/wife/husband die (and then be shot yourself) – and very effective at breaking the target. Especially if another loved one was available and held hostage as well.]
The Chronicles of Professor Elemental Crowdfunder
Thank you for stopping by, perhaps you'd like some freshly wet leaves and a slice of Battenburg whilst you're here? Excellent, the monkey will bring it round later.
Well isn't this jolly and, well to be darned honest about it, darned exciting!
We're making a Tea-V series (see what I did there) and it's all about me, Professor Elemental.
Imagine, if you can, a cross between Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Flight of The Conchords, Jay-Z and a badger in a hat. That would really be quite something, wouldn't it?
Well, you'll be overjoyed to know that with your help you won't have to spend endless seconds deliberating over what such a show would be like, you can actually make it happen!
But if you will allow me to be serious for a moment then I must express the following with my Sincerity Trousers on...
I have read many a script before and been offered many an opportunity to make funny videos and so forth but this one feels different. It's very funny, intelligently written and I genuinely believe it has some fantastic potential to turn into something incredible.
Our production team, fronted by Benjamin Field from Holomedia, houses a myriad of exceptional talent including the wonderfully gifted Director of Photography known as 'The Moog' who shot both Cup of Brown Joy & Fighting Trousers.
Unfortunately despite having put together this wonderful opportunity for me to create this series, due to lack of funds I am having to ask my dear fans to help support us to kick things off, however as a sign of the huge appreciation of your support I have prepared a plethora of exciting gifts to mark your donations! Please do have a look at the rewards section and if you do feel you can donate something towards this then know that you won't just receive the rewards offered but also a deep and heartfelt thank you.
In terms of the future for this project we have some wonderful people in Media Land who have shown interest in taking this on in the longer term, if we can prove by means of this web series that the show is funny and all can be excellent. So you see your money really can make a difference to this project, because without you it really cannot happen.
Thank you so so much for reading this.
Your loving Professor.
P.S If the monkey doesn't turn up with the tea and battenburg my apologies but he really is awful at Cyber Stalking."
Just saw John Carter in glorious 2D. [They put the 2D sessions on at the most inconvenient times (I believe that the closing credits are the only part of the film where you get any actual benefit from 3D - all the rest is CGI modified 2D).] Great film. Makes me want to ressurect my Martian D&D game (although that owes slightly more to Michael Moorcock's Mars trilogy than Edgar Rice Burroughs).
It hewed relatively closely to the spirit of the books, produced, written, and directed by someone who plainly loved them and wanted the experience to be as authentic as possible.
And the good news is that there is a new costume idea for all the Slave Leias, that being Wedding Dress Dejah.
That only leaves the Carson of Venus series untapped.
Coriolanus is one of the lesser known of Shakespeare's plays, not because of the play lacks any theatrical qualities, but rather that the proper appreciation of the play hinges on a knowledge of the Roman political system (especially of the early Republic), as well as early Roman history. It is also rather difficult to engage with the principle character, as an important them of the play that he is not given to either self reflection or undue speech and, unlike Hamlet or Macbeth, is therefore not given to soliloquise. He is the very model of a stoic Roman general.
Basically it is set in the very early Republic, when the Latin tribe of Rome's major enemy was the neighbouring Volsci tribe (in a war started by Tarquin, the last of the Roman Kings), and concerns the rise of Gaius Marcus Coriolanus, a Roman general, who defeated the Volcsi at Corioli in 493 BC. However he fell pray to the bicameral nature of the Republic when he was encouraged to seek the position of Consul, primarily due to the machinations of two tribunes, who turned the plebians against him (at the time the tribunes were the officers of the Plebian Council who maintained the interests of the common citizens in the face of the patrician-controlled Senate (whose job was essentially to ensure that no king arose again in Rome). And as such was banished for uttering words against the plebians and their tribunes (incidentally it was the corruption of these elected politicians - the tribunes - that eventually led to the fall of the Republic; Augustus later took full control of the office to prevent it from happening again).
Anyway, a banished Coriolanus finds his way to the Volsci King and offers his services against the Rome that had almost raised him to the highest rank and then torn him down so precipitously. He leads the Volsci to the very gates of Rome, only to turn aside at the last moment by the pleas of his wife and mother, and forges a lasting peace (which will eventually lead to the Volsci being one of the Italian tribes that make up the Roman Empire - and effectively indistinguishable from the proper Latins of Rome.
Anyways, Ralph Fiennes has recently written, produced, directed, and starred in a BBC production of Coriolanus that does a reasonably good job of presenting this complicated situation to a modern audience. Like the previous BBC production of Julius Caesar, it is set in modern times with modern military equipment. The character of the tribunes shines forth as they are willing to do anything to ensure that Coriolanus does not gain the Consulship (which would interfere with their political ambitions). Their joy at "winning" is shown nicely turning to ash when they receive news of the latest Volsci intrusion, led by none other than Rome's former General. They send the loyal Romans in to try and convince Coriolanus, but none can stay his hand. Interestingly, as in the play, the tribunes get away with it at the end.
Is it an indictment of the 1% (the patricians) and their troops, or is in indictment of the 99% (the plebians) and their corrupt politicians (the tribunes). Or the story of a soldier who will burn on a pyre of his own pride and honour (something I can appreciate). Watch it and see.
I like adaptations of Shakespeare. I think my favourite is Ian Richardson's Richard III with it's theme of the rise of fascism in the 1930s, although I also like Anthony Hopkin's Titus Andronicus, and it's industrial goth Goth army.My favourite version of Julius Caesar was the aforementioned BBC production. Whilst I've seen The Scottish Play performed in many genres my favourite is Akira Kurosawa's (or maybe that should be Toshiro Mifune's) Throne of Blood. More Shakespeare for me later today!
Quite liked The Artist. I suspect all the actors had lots of fun mugging for the camera. It's curious the effect that a silent film had on the audience (it was the quietest audience I've known. The musical cues were definitely more profound.
Definitely deserved its Oscar wins.
And this doesn't break my rule of "no more than one Fring show a day" (which I have already broken twice), because it wasn't a Fringe show. But I do have sore feet and a bad knee.
Quite enjoyed The Sorceror and the White Snake, although it does take some liberties with the classic folk tale. For example, the story focus (A plot) has been reversed and is now focused on the conflict between the sorceror (in this case a Buddhist demoncatcher abbot rather than the more traditional Taoist sorceror) and the White Snake spirit of the title. The forbidden romantic elements have been mostly relegated to the B plot (which enables the A plot). Meanwhile the other half of the former B-plot, being the interaction with her sister the Green Snake spirit has been relegated to a C-plot. All in all this makes the focus much more on the conflict between Abbot Fahin and White Snake (and the other demons that appear). While it does include some nice wuxia work (most prominent in the battle between the ice witch ["harpy"] and Fahin), being a conflict between mystical forces almost guarantees these days that most fight sequences will devolve into epic CGI battles, which is the case here. And they are especially epic.
Interestingly, the Mandate of Heaven and the Celestial Court are conspicuous by their absence, so there can be no appeal or resolution of the conflict (beyond the obvious), which I feel does weaken the tale somewhat. This was an important aspect of the original Shaw Brothers version of the film (which did focus on the romance). [HK film makers of the time hadn't forgotten that the English term romances used to be tales of adventure themselves, and thus romance is an important aspect of these sorts of adventure tales, as they used to be in the Arthurian mythos. Now the focus is simply on the action, and in doing so they often miss the passion and reason to fight. Hollywood forgot about this a long time ago...]
I have to admit I really liked Green Snake (Charlene Choi) in this film. Smart, funny, loyal, and very beautiful, it is little wonder the actress got top billing (at least in imdb). I really did enjoy her sub-plot with the monk. In other versions Green Snake tends to be portrayed a lot less sympathetically, even given to fits of jealous rage.
Well worth seeing.
Warning: contains Fox spirits.
And again animators give the snakes prominent fangs. The Chinese snake is a constrictor; the mythical poisonous snake is considered a viper, and like all poisonous animal spirits is considered vermin.
And Anonymous looks interesting. Elizabethan politics as relating to Shakespeare. Costumes look good.
But there was also a cat and a drunkard doctor...
Just got two packages in the mail. One was the Bone Orchard CD, A Romance of Ghosts, but the other was a DVD of live action Uchu Senkan Yamato ("Space Battleship Yamato").
Three things I really liked about the movie:
Five things I didn't like:
And I really would have liked to see more space battles. There is something uplifting about watching fleets of ships being blown apart in the silence of space. As long as they are the enemy's ships, of course.
Does anyone remember the name of a British heist movie (in this case a bank robbery), that goes wrong, trapping the culprits inside. However the police are ordered to hand over control of the operation to a private psychological warfare (psy ops) company (that may have been called "cyclops" or at least had a single eye as it's corporate logo), headed by a woman who was a former police inspector that didn't manage to "join the boys club." ( spoilers, sweetie )
Anyone have suggestions on what this movie might have been called. Or who starred in it.
Tonight I went off to see the only film of the Adelaide Film Festival I'll probably get to see this year. Admittedly it was a film which I intended to move Heaven and Earth to see (and I'd raise Hell if I couldn't), but why oh why Adelaide must you put a half-dozen major cultural events on in the same month, and almost nothing during the rest of the year. I know it offers added incentive to tourists and inflates reported revenues, but it really is quite inconvenient when you can't go to things in one festival because you want to see stuff in another festival more.
Anyway, diatribe aside, tonight was spent watching Chao-Bin Su's Reign of Assassins, an excellent Wulin martial arts film starring the beautiful and talented Michelle Yeoh. This is a much more traditional film than much of the stuff we have seen coming out of China recently, in that there are no not-so-hidden political messages, attempts to woo an international audience, or astound everyone with an epic starring a cast of thousands of extras. Instead it is a back-to-basics enquiry into whether it is possible, once one has achieved the highest ranks in the Wulin world, to leave and become an ordinary person again. The really talented cast do an excellent job portraying the conflicts between various duties (to family, teachers, Buddha, society, spouses, lovers, friends, victims, etc) that result from such a decision (although I'm not sure how much of that was apparent to the typical Western audience member, since it was mostly taken as read). Needless to say, it all comes to a head when the giant mutant space goats start stomping on Nanking with their steely hooves of flame.
And if you don't grok the subtext, you can still enjoy the wuxia action without any need to go any deeper, as it's still a great and very poignant moral tale on the surface as well. Some very nice female broadsword (aka "Scholarly Sword") work indeed.
Highly reccomended. [It's showing again on Friday as part of the AIFF. Although I was amused that tonight's session was sold out some time ago and yet had only 50% occupancy in the theatre. I wonder what the Friday session will be like. And I was only joking about the giant mutant space goats. Their hooves weren't flaming at all.]
Tomorrow may be Critical Mass if I'm upright. Thursday is definitely the Scaredies. Unsure about Saturday. Next Monday is Axis of Awesome. Next Tuesday is the Twoks. Next Wednesday might be Brillig. Next Friday and Saturday are The Idea of North. And that's my culture for another year.
Saw Tangled tonight. Another fairy tale corrupted by the Disney corporation, although it was extremely unlikely any of the original "girl in a tower" folk tales would have been made into a children's movie anyway. Besides, they are mostly forgotten, except amongst mythographers.
Although, that being said, I was really surprised at the amount of rather conservative antifeminist subtext in the presentation. Normally I can ignore it, but here it was constantly (at least for the first part of the film) beating you over the head with a frying pan. Which I did find rather amusing and ironic, particularly considering the moral imperative of many of the original girl in the tower folk tales.
Technically quite good (we saw the less eye-straining 2D version), I was impressed by the fidelity of the landscapes. Great pains were made to preserve the cartoony nature of the characters, in order to maintain the traditional portrayal of Disney cartoon characters and to purposefully avoid approaching the Uncanny Valley in any manner whatsoever. Musically (and it was a musical) there really wasn't much to write home about.
Last night I went to see the long-delayed sequel to a seminal science fiction film that revolutionised the movie industry and was inspirational in developing many of the ideas of net-running in the early cyberpunk genre. I am, of course, referring to TRON Legacy. Whilst a sequel in some ways, it has been modified to account for the presence of ubiquitous computing. Now, instead of an abstract realization and anthropomorphisation of programs and systems in a mainframe, The Grid is much more of a virtual reality inhabited by avatars, making it far less fantastical. It shared a lot in common with the original (the original games were there [except for battletanks] as was the solar sailer simulation), but reimagined and upgraded. [I think I preferred the original Space Paranoids however, and I found the introduction of an actual physics engine to lightcycle movement rather disappointing, but then I was a fan of Automan's car.] And of course, new toys that they get to play with. I wonder how antiquated people will find this TRON movie in another 28 years.
Anyway, well worth seeing. Excellent visual effects, great soundtrack by Daft Punk, and plenty of droolworthy eye candy in illuminated suits (regardless of your preferences). The 3D effects of the 3D version were mostly understated (too much so in some cases), making it a pleasure to watch in 3D (as opposed to the "2.5D" of most modern "3D" films). Definitely something I want to see again on the big screen.
And they've quite obviously left open the possibility of a sequel. Hopefully it won't take 28 years for it to appear. I don't think I can wait that long.
Traipsed northwards today to see the new Tsui Hark film, Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. Used that new-fangled* contraption, the O-Bahn, for the first time in my life. Definitely makes the journey a lot easier and quicker. Combined with catching the new tram to The Gov (how convenient that it's terminus is right outside the hotel now), means that this has indeed been a week of new transport experiences.
Anyway, it was a quite excellent film, seen in most excellent company.
There were some interesting anachronisms (such as the Father General of the Jesuit [?] order being in 7th Century China, but surprisingly, not as a bad guy**), and some mystical abilities that took it out of the real world, but it was handled with such flair and subtlety that they were readily taken in stride.
Although for once, after seeing a Wuxia film (and there were good wuxia sequences, but they blend in with the rest of the film so smoothly you don't really realise they are there), I didn't immediately want to run Weapon of the Gods, or some similar game system. Instead I wanted to run a good old game of Dungeons & Dragons, with heavy emphasis on the dungeons, entirely due to the underground ruins of the Shadow Bazaar. Well worth seeing.
[* Non-Adelaideans may be interested to know that by new-fangled I mean 24 years old.]
[** Although in an interesting subtext was given the impression of being an unwashed barbarian gazing awestruck at the magnificent marvels of Chinese ingenuity.]
I had a free ticket* to the preview of the new Australian movie Tomorrow: When The War Begins, the first movie based on the popular young adult series by John Marsden. For those unfamiliar with the series, a group of youths go on a camping trip in the middle of the Blue Mountains, only to return to discover that Australia has been invaded by a coalition of imaginary Asian countries seeking to "reequalise economic prosperity and population distribution throughout the region." With their parents interred in a concentration camp, they decide that they have to begin a guerilla campaign to drive the enemy from our sea-girt shores.
But this is not a patriotic flight of fancy like Red Dawn. It's about a group of kids suddenly dropped into a situation where they are very unsure of themselves and whether they can actually do what they intend to do. Especially since none of them have any real training to rely on (the implication is that the bulk of the enemy forces are also untrained conscripts, making it a learning process on both sides). To this end the ensemble cast do an excellent job. This is really a group of talented young actors. And all rather pretty to boot. <grin>
As for the military sequences, I had fun counting the number of mistakes they made by emulating movies and television, but then, that is rather appropriate. Although the enemy making the same sort of mistakes for the sake of the movie narrative (otherwise it would have been a very short movie) was a bit uncomfortable. Although in the original series, we are apparently saved by the New Zealand armed forces which probably does go a long way to making this a military fantasy of epic proportions.
Still, all in all, it was a quite enjoyable film, with lots of good humour. At least until the Bad Guys invade.
[* Although I am curious as to why this movie was being promoted by the National Science Week. I also felt rather uncomfortable about the Yellow peril threat portrayed by the movie. Although it is true that Australia is, given the concentration of the population in urban centres and decrease in rural population, ridiculously easy to invade (although probably an interesting exercise in logistics to hold).
Inception is an excellent example of the film-maker's art. Exciting to watch and visually fantastic. I was particularly impressed by the manner that Christopher Nolan was able to convey the necessary information to the audience without being overt about it or resorting to exposition. Well worth going to see. As most of Adelaide apparently did tonight, and the rest are probably going tomorrow.
The only thing is that, on reflection, it is also a curiously empty film, and I think that this is where it's ultimate success hinges.
In other news, my physical copies of The Dresden Files RPG arrived today. The two books look curiously suitable for the crushing of any small elephants that happen to wander past. I'll do a review once I have fully digested them.