Friday, December 29, 2017

The Martian (2015) directed by Ridley Scott

The biggest surprise in this film is that Ridley Scott can actually still make a good movie. His last two Alien franchise films are visually stunning but in all other aspects, especially intellectually - terrible. His Film Exodus: Gods and Kings was just straight out offensive. All that makes The Martian seem like a miracle as it's not only visually amazing but has great performances, is intellectually gripping and throws away Scott's recent ridiculous religious themes in lieu of a film that - to quote Matt Damon's character - Sciences the shit out of making a movie.

Based very closely on Andy Weir's novel, the film doesn't shy away from the science of a mission to Mars. In fact, science is the star of this film, outshining even Damon who must be given kudos for giving us a realistic and honest feeling scientist/astronaut main character. The tech stuff is presented in ways that expose how complicated it all is but also explains it so anyone can understand what is going on. Like every film every made, there are some things that are simply not possible in it, but -especially in this script- those things are easily forgiven and overlooked because of the excellent way they are shown and the drama they bring more than makes up for any inaccuracies they might add to the project.

Released after the movies Gravity and Interstellar, this almost makes a nice trilogy of cinema based more or less on hard(er) science  and proving that the public does in fact like to see smart films. It did very well a the box office and we can only hope that the future brings us not only to colonize the planet mars, but movies that show how the real science of the exploration of space is dramatic enough to hold a film and an audience's attention.

Friday, December 22, 2017


A different sort of post this time out. A short film, very well made, very thoughtful and beautiful. It's a bittersweet look at one man's life from start to finish and everything in between.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Shape of Water (2017) directed by Guillermo del Toro

This film has had a lot of lead up to its release. Limited releases had critics swooning and the internet, being the internet had all sorts of opinions about it ahead of its release. Is it a remake of Creature from the Black Lagoon? Is the monster a retread of Abe Sapien from Hellboy, a previous del Toro film?

Firstly, the film is excellent. It is filled with tropes we are all familiar with but they are presented in new ways and the performances have been lauded for good reason. Sally Hawkins is, as usual, amazing but she is given addition support by everyone else in the cast. Not one bad performance in the entire picture. Doug Jones, who is making a career by playing creatures it seems, is the man in the monster suit but - again as usual - he elevates it to something so much more.

The story is simple enough. An amphibious creature is kept in a secret U.S. government facility in the 60s and is experimented on for possible use winning the space race. The Russian have spies in place who want to take it or kill it, doesn't matter as long as the Americans don't learn anything from it. A young mute cleaning woman befriends (and more) it and learns to communicate with it and eventually helps it escape while the government forces lead by Michael Shannon try to recover the creature.

Its not the story but how it and the characters in it are handled that sets this apart from a B movie horror film. Michael Shannon is less evil and more just a total douche bag, having bought into every single character trait that was wrong but encouraged by much of society at the time. He is sexist, racist to be sure but it's how those traits are portrayed that make it work. Del Toro does a great job showing less over the top bigotry and goes instead for that kind of bigotry that masquerades almost as politeness. He repeatedly asks the black cleaning woman (Octavia Spencer - again so good in this) if she understands a word he just used when it's plain who the ignorant one the conversation really is. Richard Jenkins plays Hawkins older neighbour who is surely gay, but who, like many gay men at that time, doesn't seem to really understand his sexuality and pushes it to the back and instead prefers to live in the world of old movie musicals ( in a way that somehow comes of as not stereotypical). A minor character, the soda jerk is revealed to be a real jerk over time. At first he seems like a sympathetic ear to Jenkins' character but he personifies the underlying bigotry of that era pretty well when he refuses to serve black customers and rejects Jenkins the instant he innocently touches him on the shoulder and then bans him from the soda shop because it's a "family place".

The look of the film is everything you'd expect from a del Toro film, lush, detailed and a little surreal. The effects are seamless. In fact, as I read the end credits it was amazing to see how many post production people there were. Its proves you CAN have CGI in a film that actually works invisibly to enhance a film instead of taking you out of it. The music is not intrusive either but like the effects enhances the experience. Production wise there is nothing to complain about in tis movie.

Things I did not like as much in this movie are things I don't like as much in many other movies though you can find good reasons for them to be included in this film. If you don't like nudity in movies, this has a bit of it and like many de Toro films there is some graphic violence (especially involving cheeks - what's up with that in his films?).  As I said earlier there are many tropes in the scripts, it really does not go too far from convention plot devises and ends exactly how you would expect it would. I wish he had dropped in a few surprises in that regard.

Worth seeing? Absolutely! As good as his earlier film Pan's Labyrinth? Don't be crazy, that is a bar far too high to jump over more than once in a career. He may yet do it again, but the Shape of Water is not that movie.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Dramatic Readings: Swim! Eddie, Swim!

This time famous actor at large, Charles Webster Billingsworth the third takes on a dramatic scene from the film classic, Jaws 2.

Voice work once again by Mike Luce.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Dramatic readings: To Be or Not to Be, a short animated film

I have finished a new animation project with the always helpful voice work of Mike Luce. Basically, it's a filmed theatre piece of a great (platypus) thespian (over)acting Hamlet's most famous speech in front of an adoring audience.

The purpose of doing this (other than getting it out of my head like all my other projects) was to expand my possibilities with cartoon-like characters. Making them and rigging them has always been difficult for me but I seem to have broken through a wall and made it to another place this time out.

I normally rig my characters using Cactus Dan's tools for C4D, but sadly, he has passed and I realized if I ever upgraded C4D above version 16, I will lose access to those tools and needed to try the character object autorig. Very luckily, Everfresh (from the C4D cafe) has made a cartoon rig template for the character object and provided it for free and it is a glorious thing. His tutorials on how to use it also clearly explained some things about the auto rigging that had prevented me form using it before so I expect for now on, I'll be going that route.

Mike Luce was an amazing help getting this done and always encouraging. In fact he has already voiced a second one of these to be done... soon-ish.

I hope people like this, it takes a lot out me mentally and even physically to incarnate this sort of character and bring it to life. To Be or Not to Be in sort of proof of concept project - meaning I made it more difficult than it needed to be to see if I could pull it off.