Thursday, July 10, 2014

Before the Dawn


Hey, good news, people... Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens this weekend, and as most you can probably guess from my previous entries about this film (here, here, and here), I am super-excited. Super excited. I won't bother re-hashing exactly why again, because if you're both unaware at this point and/or just can't be bothered to click through on those links, then let's be honest... you don't give a shit.

But that's cool. 

Just rest assured, I am super excited. So, in preparation for heading out to catch the flick this weekend, I recommend you do two things. 1. Watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes if you haven't seen it yet. Or again, if it's been awhile. It was one of my favorite films of 2011. I found it to be surprisingly good, it worked as an homage, a reboot, and it's own stand-alone film. And 2. You should check out these three videos below. They're not mandatory or anything, but since Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up 10 years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes, these videos can provide you with a nice little glimpse into just what transpired over the course of that decade as the world tried to deal with the fall-out from the last film.

First up is Quarantine.

This film takes place about 1 year after the outbreak of the Simian Flu. It's about how the first cracks in society to show appeared within families and how, once those started to break apart, order and rules followed soon after. This one seems very mumblecore in tone and presentation, but don't let that hold you back. It's not bad.


Next is All Fall Down (Even through the video is titled: Struggling to Survive... which is weird.)

This one takes place 5 years after the outbreak of the Simian Flu and here's where you really start to see the tattered remnants of the old world finally begin to crash down into a new one. Very atmospheric. I love the decay. Plus, while all of these short films focus on the human side of the intervening 10 years between the feature films and there isn't any ape-action or anything, this one comes the closest and does a good job of hinting at the conflicts that lie ahead.


Finally, we have the Story of the Gun.

This one really spans the whole of the 10 years after the outbreak of the Simian Flu and it's one of those types of things where the story follows a specific item's journey as it passes through various hands. The especially quick-witted out there can probably guess that the item in question is a gun. This is probably the most effective piece of the three (and the longest), and it also hints at the main themes of the upcoming film.


All in all, I really enjoyed all of these. They're really well done. They're focused and they don't try to bound past the limits of their budget or ability. All in all, they're all much, much better than the last couple of short films I've featured here, so... hooray, redemption! Anyway, if you're a fan, be sure to check these out and then head out to the theatres this weekend and see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It's supposed to be great. Fingers crossed.

Can't wait,
Jon

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Mis-drop



And finally, my friends, here is the third short film I have on deck for you. I promise, it'll be the last one for awhile, probably, at least for a few days... maybe... anyway, the film is called Mis-drop and it's by Ferand Peek. The synopsis:

300 years in the future, a forensic accountant reviews the video stream from one mercenary's drop-pod which has been damaged during the initial stages of a colonial invasion.

Well, that doesn't really tell you much. And of course, if tradition holds, what little it does tell us will probably have very little to do with the actual film. We shall see, won't we?

Let's watch...



Hmm... not bad. An interesting approach to the familiar sci-fi trope of the Orbital Drop Trooper. All in all, it was a simple idea that could have gone really badly, and for the most part they pulled it off, I think. It was generally pretty well written and acted and featured an economic use of special effects, which as a result avoided having them end up just highlighting the limitations of the project, as they so often do. The film's one real drawback wasn't really the filmmaker's fault, not really, it was due to an unavoidable flaw in the storytelling style they chose. The POV style of film-making is where you have the character either in control of the camera and/or directly interacting with the camera. It's Blair Witch style basically. It is inherently limiting narrative-wise. The filmmaker is definitely able to be more intimate with its subject, but that very same intimacy ensures you can't go anywhere outside of the subject, like when our young soldier goes running off to do whatever the hell he is going off to do. I mean, I think a tank was chasing him, but whose tank? Who knows...? And there's no way to get answers because your camera is fixed. It's a pretty common problem with these types of films.

I've talked about the film Willow Creek before.

Well, I watched it last night and it was hindered by the exact same issues. Great moments of tension buried by the style's complete inability to allow the story to finish up cleanly, everything is locked down too tight. Once your protagonist moves away from the camera, you've lost the story, as evidenced here. This is almost always going to happen in every POV film, unless your story is specifically tailored to work within those limits.

Through that link above--the one where I was talking about Willow Creek--I wrote down three rules for what a POV film needs to do in order to be a satisfying cinema experience. Just for fun, here they are again...

1. It must make sense as to why the film even exists at all.
Why are the characters there? Even more importantly, why are they filming? Okay, fine, a bunch of local boobs are going to explore the old abandoned asylum, I've been there, I've done that, fine. But you know what I've never done? Film it. And here's a better question: Why does one of the characters even own an expensive camera in the first place? Sure, in this day and age everyone has a camera on them, pretty much all the time... but it's a Smartphone camera, not an expensive HD rig. So why? Are they a reporter? Is it for a TV show? Do they have a personal history with the site/story? Answer those questions before you start, or you suck. At least make the attempt. Note: "Look at the new camera I bought just because," does not count as an answer.

2. It must make sense as to why the characters keep filming.
There comes a point in every one of these films where the shit has well and truly hit the fan. It all goes bad, big time. Chairs flying about. Monsters screaming. Buildings shaking. Ah! Ahh! Aaaaah! Run, dummies! Run for your lives! It is at this point that anyone truly concerned with their life would run, run like their ass was on fire. If nothing else, they would definitely stop trying to film, regardless of the camera's "low-light" capabilities. And if they dropped the camera? They would not go back for it. I mean, come on! If there's giant spider monsters and zombie children chasing us and I drop your camera? We will get the fuck out of there, drive to Target, and I will buy you a new one, all right? Good. As long as we agree on that. See, it's here that most of these films fail. Do you know why Cloverfield sucked? It's because it was a terrible movie. No, really. It was. It also sucked because a bunch of hipster wadjob douchebags would not keep filming while running from a giant monster. Do you know who might? A news reporter. This is the most important thing to think about when making your POV film. The characters have to have a real reason to stay in the situation. Find it, or you suck.

3. Acknowledge the limitations of the genre
The camera is a character. Everything that happens has to acknowledge that. You can't ignore that. The characters and the environment can't ignore that. If there's a zombie coming up behind them and the camera guy is the one in the back of the pack, he needs to be attacked first. I realize it's scarier to watch the zombie creep up on an unsuspecting character, but too bad, so sad. It also means you don't get have character interactions, or have a character be all alone and contemplative, in the same way that you can in regular movies. I'm sorry. Those are the rules. You have to adapt. If the camera is a person in the story, then they always have to be a person in the story. And most of all, understand your camera. You just can't drop them over and over again or they will break. Also, digital recordings aren't the same as taped ones, so old footage can't bleed over. It just doesn't work that way. You have to acknowledge that. Bottom line, it's very easy to cheat, but you can't... or you suck.

So, did this film do this? Was Mis-drop a successful POV short film? Not really, but it came close, which isn't too bad for a quick little independent project. Well done, Mr. Peek.

What do you think?
Jon

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

NOVR


So yeah, I've got a few short films to share with all y'all and here's the latest one. It's called NOVR and it's directed by Geoff O'Rourke and written by Geoff and (presumably) his friend Shane Ronan.

From the synopsis...

The film follows two soldiers who have destiny thrown upon them when they discover what might be humanities only hope - in a war they have already lost. A NOVR.

Whatever the hell a "NOVR" is...


What an awful presentation, right? And I don't just meant the ridiculously terrible and completely unnecessary color palette either... well, kind of... Mostly I'm talking about the shitty Vimeo Player. It's like two inches tall! What a shit player.

So, the film? First off, I love the gun toss in the cabin. What the fuck? How ridiculous was that? Why would you do that from two feet away? I can just hear the embarrassingly unaware blocking conversation that took place before filming too. "They're so ready! They're so prepared!" It's so dumb... You know they practiced that throw like a dozen times too. It also seemed like there was a lot of nonsense dialogue going on too, like characters are often talking just to fill a scene... or to distract from the bombastic score... Lines like: "If we're gonna get out of here, we're gonna need some cover," says unnamed soldier number one as he runs into a ton of gunfire that is coming from the very soldiers he was just talking to on the radio, otherwise known as... covering fire... Hmmm. There's also a lot of character interaction that doesn't really jive with the supposed desperate importance of the situation, most of that seemingly filled with cheap tough-guy talk, conversations by the bastard children of all those arty cops and robbers films of the 90s, probably something crappy like Boondocks Saints. Oh, and the action movie cliches... the film is stuffed to bulging, people. Stuffed to bulging. It was like they were following a check list. Ridiculous.

AND... here's another short film where its synopsis seems barely connected to the actual film. At least... I think its barely connected, I couldn't really understand anything the creepy baby voice said. I hope it wasn't important... probably not. I mean... What "destiny was thrown upon them"?

In the end, this film seems to me like a really good example of where the democratization of film and the availability of decent-ish looking special effects have led to some small-time filmmakers over-reaching a bit. Or maybe a lot. It's not that it's that bad or anything, there's some talent on display here, sure... but what is this film exactly? I mean, this isn't a story at all. It's a 15 minute long tease for a larger story that will never be told. What is that? What's the point? I appreciate the effort and the creativity, but maybe it's better to pull the focus back a little when it comes to your first couple times at bat. Especially when you can't afford shit, and when telling the story means you need a long lead-in explanation to start off and a trilogy of feature length films in order to finish.

Plus, I missed just whatever the fuck a "NOVR" was... a star-child, I guess? Whatever.

What do you think?
Jon

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mech: Human Trials


Here's a couple of short films for you to watch... well, they're actually connected, so it's really more like one short film in two different places, especially because one is less than a minute long. Whatever... Here's some short films! And they're supposed to be good ones too. In fact, based off the strength of this particular venture Writer, Director, and Producer Patrick Kalyn has apparently landed a deal to turn the whole kit and caboodle into a feature length film, but who knows what that means, maybe something, maybe nothing. So first up--from Kalyn's site Don'tDoMech.com--is a mock PSA that teases the short film...


Huh. It's a little on-the-nose, sure. And it's more of a teaser obviously then an actual take-off on a real PSA, but it looks good. Kind of a cliche tease end-beat there, but whatever. Anyway... next up is the short film itself. Here's the official synopsis:

After a serious accident, a man is introduced to a designer street drug promising to restore his ravaged body. Desperate to mend himself, he becomes consumed by the drug - only to discover it is threatening his humanity.

Hmmm... Sounds interesting. Let's take a look.



Not bad. Interesting ideas. Looks good, kind of TV-ish, quality-wise, but not bad. The dialogue leaves a bit to be desired, but then subtlety wasn't a real strong point of the PSA either, so no real surprise there. Plus, after watching it, I suspect it might not be fair to try to hold it to any kind of real story standards. I mean, is it a short film or is it more of a show reel? Like I said above, Patrick Kalyn did get a feature deal off of this supposedly, so maybe he got what he needed from it. Plus, y'know... it doesn't really tell a story at all.

You know the weirdest thing I've noticed about a lot of these short films? Their synopsis usually turns out to be completely full of shit. Almost as if they're from a different movie. Or at least, a longer one. I mean: Accident? What accident? He's desperate to mend himself? Maybe I missed a brief mention at the beginning, because the majority of the film didn't seem concerned with anything like that at all.

What do you think?

Jon

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Legend of Korra: Book 3


I love Avatar.

No, not the super boring and really stupid--but very pretty--James Cameron movie featuring a space rehash of Dances With Wolves where Mighty Whitey McBland-o saves the big stupid blue Cat People of Pandora from being idiot savages in the face of corporate space-progress. No. No. God, no. Come on, man... I'm talking about Avatar, the Last Airbender, or more specifically in this particular instance, its fantastic spin-off: The Legend of Korra.


Yes, I've talked about this show before. Right here, in fact.

If you don't know it, you should click through that link and read up. You will find that I go on at great length about the whole set-up and what not, as I am wont to do on occasion... okay, maybe not great length, but I do go on. I only do so because I'm a fan, so I can be forgiven for gushing a bit, right? The upside of all that for you, my Dear Reader, is that it's pretty informative, if I do say so myself... and I do... Anyway, tldr, as the kids say: It's a good show and you should check it out. It's funny and smart, the world building is fantastic, and I really love the fact that the people behind it have very obviously given a lot of thought to the little details, like the various inventive ways Bending would be used, and the big things too, like how the show's set-up would affect the growth of the world it's set in, and it's not always positive either. I love that it's not afraid to be a little complex and sophisticated, storytelling-wise. This is especially impressive for an American cartoon. And perhaps just as impressive, the show also features a ton of strong female characters who only get better as the show goes on. This is a really good thing. Seriously, genre fans, you should be watching this show.


Here's the trailer for the coming latest season.


How fantastic does that look, huh?

I know, I know, pretty good god damn fantastic, right? You're interested, right? Of course you are, you have good taste. So why do I bring this up now, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. As you can see from the trailer the 3rd season is just starting, just last week in fact. I haven't seen it yet, because Itunes is being stupid and haven't posted the episode yet, but I will. Oh yes, I will.

This is just your notice from me that you should be watching it too.
Jon

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Films I'm looking forward to - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Final Trailer

Oh man... This looks really good.

I know I've mentioned before how excited I am about these films, multiple times even, but I just want to reiterate: This looks so good and I am super excited to see it. One month left, folks. I can't wait.


I mean, come on. How fantastic is that poster? Super fantastic, right? I love how it continues the theme of the poster of the last film. That's a little thing, and honestly, it really should be a given thing when it comes to sequels, but it's just not, so seeing that happen here is a really good sign, I think. Plus... it's a chimp on horseback, that shit never gets old.

But now let's take a moment to watch the trailer, shall we?

Yes. Yes, we shall...


How about that, huh?

It probably comes as no surprise to all y'all out there, but I love that they're just jumping straight into the crazy Post-Apocalyptic goodness foretold in the credits of the last one. I'm always up for a good Apocalypse. And I really love all the homages to the original franchise of Planet of the Apes on display too. They really did a good job of integrating those nods into the last film, because they did it without making the film into a limp bunch of "Hey, remember this?" type of moments, like the shitty new version of Robocop, for instance... which also features Gary Oldman... that's kind of weird... Anyway, the dedication to world-building is fantastic. The sets look great. I love the whole "Life without People" aesthetic going on. I mean, sure, okay, you got me... the lack of wrist crossbows and football pads is like a whole in my heart. I can admit it. I am just a man, aren't I? I am not made of stone. But the way they pick up the strings from the last film is so good, I find I just don't mind.


The consistency of Caesar's character, his continued arc of leadership, not to mention the call back to Franco's character, is great. It's exactly what I want from the film. I love that Koba--only an implied adversary in the last film, one curiously set-up but then left open-ended--is really digging into his role as rival. I love that. I love laying seeds for future work, especially when it doesn't detrimentally impact the current work. Glad to see Maurice back too. Everybody loves Orangutans, right? I know I do. Most of all, I just love the absolute nutty embrace of the crazy-ass story. It's so good to see. No self-conscious winking at the camera. They're treating their world as credible, but still trying to be fun. That's such an important balance. Yes, it's crazy, but that's the setting and we're running with it. Plus, you just don't get stuff like this anymore, or at least, you didn't. The 70s are a bygone era for sci-fi. For the past few decades, as the big studios pour more and more money into these big summer films, they drift towards the center of the road more and more. They're familiar. Reliable. Really, it's understandable why they would get timid and lean more towards safe bets... It's understandable. And it's boring. But now...? I don't know, between films like this, or Snowpiercer, even Edge of Tomorrow, maybe there's a new day... wait for it... dawning... Seriously, folks, there's a chimp riding on horseback, through walls of fire, while shooting two machine guns! That's some crazy sci-fi goodness right there! Revel in it.

One month left.


I can't wait,
Jon

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Scribblerati


Hello all,

Recently I had to take a little break from my writing. This wasn't my choice, but what can you do? These things happen. However, now that I can get back to it, the question becomes: How does one go about that? Click here and see just what exactly I intend to do.

Your friend,
Jon