Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Overwatch Cinematics



There's this game called Overwatch.


You might remember it. I've mentioned it before.

I haven't played it, and honestly, I probably won't, but from what I can gather, the gist of the game is that you, and a bunch of other players, all run around an area and shoot at each other a whole bunch. Depending on which character you choose to play as, you fight in slightly differently stylized, powered, and paced ways.

It looks like this...


Bright, colorful, loud, confusing, and really pretty run-of-the-mill...

Some people will disagree with this. They'll talk about frame-rates maybe, whatever that means. They might mention the game's A.I. or how smooth the controls are, or who knows. It doesn't really matter to me, because I just see a differently painted version of Halo.

Whatever. Maybe I'll try it someday. Maybe not.

Honestly, probably not. I'm way behind on my video game playing, not to mention my other interests like writing and reading and rambling on about random short films, movies, and sometimes comic books on this blog, but like I said: whatever... that's not why we're here today. We're here today, because during the lead-up to the game's release, Blizzard Entertainment, the people behind Overwatch, released a handful of animated trailers to hype the game. I've posted about things like this before now, and aside from the obvious differences in animation, the Overwatch trailers are a lot like the ones Star Wars and DC comics released awhile back. I'm a big fan of things like this. No big reason why, I just like them. When they're done well, they're pretty fun, and these are pretty well done, so I've gathered them all here for our shared enjoyment.

Let's watch.


This was a lot of fun.

One of the links above will lead you to where I posted this trailer before, and that's where I talk about what I liked about this trailer. In a nutshell, though: It was fun. This was the first of the Cinematic Trailers released, and it's easy to see why. Not only is it quick and cool, and introduces the basic idea of the game, but the four characters it features are also kind of their main ones.

Reaper
     Tracer                                        Widowmaker
Winston

I have a theory that these were chosen as the game's main characters because they best represent/speak to the four most prevalent personality types of your average Gamers... But it's not really a completely considered theory, so I won't bother going into it. Anyway, after the initial cinematic was released, a series of character vignettes soon followed. Some of the shorts revisit the main characters from the first cinematic, which isn't that surprising, really, they're invested in those designs. The last two shorts feature some of the more reliably popular archetypes. In short, while the character choices aren't THAT interesting, what does interest me, is the possibility a larger story running through all of these vignettes. I like that kind of stuff.

First up, we have Winston, in a short called RECALL.

Here's the synopsis: "Recall" tells the story of Winston—a genetically engineered gorilla and brilliant scientist who longs for the days of heroism to return. In this episode, we explore Winston's thoughts and memories as he wrestles with the decision to recall the agents of Overwatch, all while the forces of Talon stage an attack on his laboratory in the abandoned Watchpoint: Gibraltar.


Winston is pretty much just a knock-off of the X-Men character Beast--you see a lot of Anime and X-Men nods in this game--he's your basic genius and savage mash-up. Reaper, meanwhile, is pretty much the pure essence of the on-line person of every sweaty and powerless teenage boy, muttering angrily to himself because the pretty girl at school likes the popular guy.

But it's a video game, what're you gonna do?

Other than that, this short did a good job of finishing off the world-building stuff from the first Cinematic. It's like this... Overwatch is a disparate team of heavily anime/X-men influenced archetypes who once saved the world from some kind of war. It's hard to tell if this was due to a ruthless terrorist organization along the lines of Cobra, or if it was a coalition of rogue nations, or maybe alien invaders. Who knows. Doesn't matter. The long and the short of it is: Once upon a time, big trouble was beaten back by Overwatch. Then, in the aftermath, an ungrateful world turned on their heroes, outlawing their activities, and disbanding the team, forcing them all into an early retirement. Surprise, surprise, this was premature, short-sighted, and stupid, because Bad Shit is on its way back. The world needs Overwatch again!

So, Winston makes the call.


Next up is an interesting one. It's called ALIVE.

Zenyatta

Not only does this next short give us our first glimpse of a new character--the Robot Lama Zenyatta--but this is also the video that basically launched a thousand fanfic ships by maybe insinuating that Tracer and Widowmaker have some sort of history, a history that could maybe be inferred to possibly have been romantic in nature, maybe, a history that then somehow went bad. Exciting, right? Tumblr certainly thinks so. See...



There's seems to be a theme here, but I can't seem to put my finger on it...

Anyway, here's the synopsis: "Alive" weaves a tale of Widowmaker, the peerless Talon assassin who stalks her prey with deadly efficiency. In this episode, we spend a fateful night in London’s King’s Row—where you’ll discover how one death can change everything.

Let's watch...


This is maybe the best one, I think.

This short is fast and simple and the action is great, and both Widowmaker and Tracer are pretty great in conflict. They have distinct personalities, their abilities are cool, and their designs look good together. I don't know how much you would say there was an implied history--let alone a romantic one--if you weren't told to look for it beforehand, but (heh... butt) it's cool either way. Zenyatta doesn't do much, however, and since he's a playable character, I can only assume he's not dead.

However, while the immediate story-line of an assassin trying to take out her target, and a hero trying to stop the assassin, really works, the biggest failing of this short is that the larger story gets a little murky. Yes, it kind of showcases the idea that evil is making a push back into the war, and that maybe the heroes can't face it all alone, but there other questions. Is this before or after Winston recalls Overwatch? What was the point with assassinating Zenyatta, other than just general bad guy reasons? Personally, I would've liked a clearer "larger narrative" arc here, something to tie it more to the previous shorts.

Either way, it's still a pretty good Short Film.


The third Cinematic breaks the mold. It's called DRAGONS.

This is the first one to avoid using any of the big four. This one is a more personal story, one in which we meet Hanzo and Genji, your basic samurai guy and techno-ninja type, as they appear in a classic tale of broken family honor. You basically know what to expect here, right? I mean, shit, if you're going to go for Asian archetypes, why not go full out, right?

Hanzo                                                 Genji

Here's the synopsis: "Dragons" explores the history of conflict between the scions of the Shimada clan: Hanzo and Genji. In this episode, we follow Hanzo as he returns to the siblings' family home in Hanamura once again to seek redemption... only this time, he finds himself confronted by the ghosts of the past.

Are you interested? Do you feel like you've seen it before?

Only one way to find out...


Interesting. Sure. Good action. Looked great. This was pretty all right. It definitely looked good. I liked those dragon attacks, they had a really great, bright color, and the various arrows were pretty cool. The story itself was maybe a little too "cherry blossoms on the wind" for me, but that's what happens when you brush so hard up against anime influences, I guess. As for the larger story, this one seems to take place before Winston recalls Overwatch... maybe. It was hard to tell. Besides the thematic idea that you can't run from the mistakes of your past forever, it really doesn't seem to connect up to the larger story at all, at least not as far as I can tell.

Still, it was fast and fun, so no big deal.


Finally, we have the fourth and finally Cinematic, called HERO.

This short features a character known as Soldier 76, who is basically a mix of "mysterious masked anime guy, and a whole heaping handful of the Marvel character Cable. Look at him... so mysterious, right? Not to mention bad ass too, huh? Hopefully, because that's certainly what they're going for, like the character was designed by an Internet Bad Ass Generator.

Soldier76

And here's the synopsis: "Hero" follows the masked vigilante Soldier: 76 on a personal mission to Dorado where he's set to investigate the illegal activities of the Los Muertos gang—but an unexpected complication threatens to compromise his objective.



Man, there was a lot of irresponsible shooting going on there...

That was all right. I think I had the least connection to this one over all. Good action. I liked the design of the gang when they were in low light. That was cool. Other than that, it was pretty generic. This was your basic "why the heroes are needed" story, but the amount of street destruction kind of undermines that whole thing, so... meh. I think this cinematic, more than anything else, illustrates the what is most likely the over-riding reality of this game: It's kind of generic.

But still, I enjoy these types of things, so... still fun, too.


And that was it.

The game came out, and the shorts dried up. Will there be more? Does the story go on? Who knows. So, what was the larger story? Was there one at all? At first there seemed to be a thread, but that quickly fell by the way side. Were there Cinematics trying to say anything at all? There's a whole theme of being true to yourself, and accepting your Destiny, but it was pretty fast and loose. That disappoints me a little. However, the execution was so well done, so fun, that it's hard to be too upset. I hope the people behind these Cinematics are trying to do something on their own...

Because these are all pretty good.

Game on,
Jon

Thursday, August 4, 2016

I'm You Dickhead






I'M YOU, DICKHEAD is the title of today's short film. It was directed by Lucas Testro, written by Larry Boxshall, and stars Anthony Gooley. They are complete unknowns to me. They could also be Australian. Or maybe they're from New Zealand. Or maybe not.

I just don't know.

From what I can tell, the film is a wacky, sci-fi comedy of the classic "what if a run-of-the-mill idiot had access to something fantastic" variety. And in this case, the fantastic thing appears to be some sort of time travel. This could be fun. It will probably involve some rules, which they will then immediately violate, hopefully to hilarious results. There will probably be more than a little "alternate self" shenanigans going on.

Warning, I suspect there's a good chance this might get a little slap-sticky, so... just fyi.

Here's the Synopsis: "In a world where time travel is a simple hospital procedure, a man jumps back in time to force his 10 year old self to learn guitar, so that he can get more action with the ladies in the present day."

Sounds reasonable. Let's check it out...



Well, now... that was pretty good. That was pretty funny. I liked that.

Good times.

This was recommended to me by my friend, Mike, and I'm glad he did, because I really enjoyed it. It's light and cheeky, self-aware, kind of dirty, and most of all, lots of fun, and not to mention, well-made too. I suppose you could pull apart the Time Travel rules if you wanted to, but that's not really the point. The cast was great, as was the comedic timing. Honestly, there's not much else I can say, really. I'll let the film speak for itself. It's definitely worth watching.

This was good.

Dickhead,
Jon


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

RISE






Today I have another example of the dreaded "Proof of Concept" short film.

I'm not sure whether RISE was intended to be a TV show, or a movie, but this Proof of Concept short film was Directed by David Karlak, and it was written by him, Patrick Melton, and Marcus Dunstan. And while I'm not specifically familiar with David Karlak's work, he was a Digital Artist on the movie Feast, which was the third or so Project Greenlight movie, which is why Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan looked kind of familiar to me. Melton and Dunstan were the guys that wrote Feast, so they were on the show occasionally, dealing with the random nonsense the Director would throw at them out of the blue. That's why I didn't recognize them right away, their pictures didn't show them sighing heavily, and then running their hands through their hair in exasperation. 

Just as an aside, if you're ever interested in some insight into how Hollywood really works, and exactly what the priorities are when they're making a movie, then you should watch the third season of Project Greenlight. After that, watch the trailer for Feast that I linked to above, and then sit down and watch the movie itself. If you do this, you'll get a glimpse into just how much a screenplay is chopped up. sewn back together, and then chopped up again during the process of making a movie.

Anyway, you can find all they want you to know about the short film RISE by clicking here.

And for the click-lazy, here's the synopsis: In the near future, sentient robots are targeted for elimination after they develop emotional symmetry to humans and a revolutionary war for their survival begins.

Honestly, that is a horribly written synopsis. That's a bad sign. I can tell what they're trying to say, but shit... come on, man, put some effort into that stuff. It's your introduction to the world.

...All right, whatever, let's do this.


Hey, that was kind of good.

I mean, it definitely wasn't a complete story or anything, which I'm usually against, but that wasn't what this film was going for. In fact, to me, this is a really good example of a Proof of Concept film done right. They have a big idea, with big concepts, in a big world, but a short amount of time, so they made it more like a movie trailer.

This was a smart move.

Doing it this way showed off their cool designs, and their cool CGI, and all while explaining what their show was about. Plus, unlike yesterday's short, RISE managed to find a possibly interesting angle to what is otherwise a pretty familiar idea, so that's definitely a point in their favor too. And for a little bit of extra oomph, they even had some recognizable star power on hand, between Rufus Sewell and the late Anton Yelchin. Sure, sure, maybe the imagery and the analogy was a little heavy-handed, but hey... it's a trailer, it needs to be sharp and clear and convey the intent. They did that.

In short, they sold me. I'm interested.

Of course, this was posted five months ago, and sadly, Anton Yelchin died somewhat recently in a pretty tragic accident, so maybe they didn't really get the chance to sell the idea to anyone else but me, but hey... it was a good effort.

Well done,
Jon


Monday, August 1, 2016

ANA




I'm sure you noticed, but things have gone unwatched and unorganized around here of late, which has put the blog a little behind schedule. In an effort to rectify this, I spent Sunday watching and organizing stuff, so that I could get things back on track. Fingers crossed. As a result, while taking a look at this film, I noticed the dreaded phrase "Proof of Concept" in the description. 

That's a Red Flag. 

Big time.

So, like I said, ANA is a "Proof of Concept" by a studio that calls itself Factory Fifteen. I'm not familiar with any of their stuff (Shocking, I know...), but they had this to say about the project: 

"We collaborated with Raw TV on the development of our original take on the singularity, the point where artificial intelligence becomes self aware and more intelligent than the human race. We created a seven minute proof of concept, teasing at a larger project currently in development. Our role developed along the course of the project from consultation and script development, to directing an ambitious live action shoot and finally delivering TV standard visual effects, all in house in the Factory Fifteen Studio."

That just sounds like a bunch of Producer goobledygook to me.

Here's the Synopsis:

The film shows one vignette within a bigger picture, highlighting an AI called ANA who deceives Jim, a redundant car factory worker, in giving her full control over the facility. ANA is imbedded into every major manufacturing industry in the world, including medical and food resources. Her seeming betrayal to mankind could be devastating. Only she knows her true intentions.

That doesn't sound very hopeful either. As a synopsis, it's unfocused and a little rambling. And for only being a half dozen or so sentences long, there turns out to be an awful lot of unnecessary information in there. Plus, "imbedded" is spelled wrong.

Red flags, people...


I mean, it just seems like it would be a bit of an unnecessary security risk to include such an easily accessed button, one that when pressed switches your A.I. from building cars to building giant killer Death-Robots, doesn't it?

That's just a design flaw.

Anyway, here's yet another "Proof of Concept" that might prove that the Effects are good (is that really something we question still?), but it certainly doesn't prove that the story has any value. "Original take"? I don't want to seem like I'm shitting on this unduly, I'm sure this was made by nice, sincere people, but from what little there is to see here... What can I say? It basically looks like the beginning of Skynet. And honestly, does the continued viability of that particular story idea need to proven anymore either? Especially after Terminator Genisys? This short looks good, but otherwise there just isn't much going on, and what there is, seems awfully familiar. In the end, besides the usual question we're left with after watching one of these "Proof of Concept" videos (why not make a more complete story), this particular film--while it does look really good--also begs the question: What concept are they attempting to prove here?

Never trust a robot,
Jon

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Battery Life



Today's film is called BATTERY LIFE, and it looks like it might be about Stop-Motion robots, which is always pretty cool. I grew up on the many, many films that Ray Harryhausen helped bring to life, from Jason and The Argonauts, to Clash of the Titans, to the old Sinbad films, and on and on, so I'm always down for a little stop-motion. Plus, who doesn't love robots? Not me. The writer/director of this particular film is named Justin Nixon, and this looks like it might be his only credit, so that's about all I can say about him and his film.

Here's what he has to say about his film though: "Battery Life is our introduction. A film to say, “Here we are.” We are a team of people willing and able to work hard for something we believe in, something we think is really cool. And we did just that. On a budget of only $5000 (crowdfunded and out of pocket), we created this ten minute, thirty-five second stop motion film."

Sounds eager and inspiring.

Here's the synopsis: Set in a dystopian desert landscape, a robot family, through the test of tragedy, discovers a dark secret hidden behind the doctrine of a preacher.

Well, all right then, let's get to it...



Nice.

That was good. There were well-defined characters with strong motivations, and a story that brought some real emotion too, which is extra impressive once you consider the fact that the story revolves around little light-up robot dolls. It's even more impressive when you consider that it was made for only $5000. On top of all that, this is also a good example of the type of tightly-focused storytelling that is necessary when making a short film. Get in, tell your tale, get out. You just don't have much room to spread your narrative around, so I appreciate them keeping it close, and then bringing it all back around to the start at the end.

Although, there was one little thing that nagged at me...

I can't help but wonder: What caused the accident? Was it the Dad? Was it just me, or did the story seem to insinuate that the Dad was responsible? And if he wasn't, what happened? I mean, I obviously saw the end result, but upon seeing the rest of their immediate world... what the hell happened to the kid? It doesn't really matter, I guess, because that's not the point of the story, merely the inciting incident, but I just kind of wondered.

A story for another day, maybe.

Until nest time,
Jon

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Let's Not Panic






LET'S NOT PANIC is a short film written and directed by Heather Jack.

Heather Jack has worked on a couple different feature film projects back in the aughts (including G-Force, which... I mean, how the fuck did that film happen?), mostly in Assistant roles. For the past few years though, she has been really busy producing a ton of short films, with other people writing and directing. This one here, however, is the first one she is credited as writing and/or directing herself, and according to her personal page, she's been hitting the festival circuit pretty hard with it.

Here's the synopsis: An apocalyptic short comedy about love and neuroses.

Well... that didn't really tell us shit, did it?


That was entertaining.

A little broad, sure, and more than a little commercial, but that's not a bad thing. It was definitely cute. Did it lack any kind of edge? Yes, but I wasn't really expecting this thing to lean too heavy into the whole "apocalypse" end of things, not after reading the synopsis.

All in all, I'd say this short film is a very marketable piece of work. In fact, judging by this piece, I'd say Heather Jack is perfectly capable of working in sit coms, rom-coms, all the coms. This was smart, quick, and funny. It told its story with clarity and economy. It was fun. She is obviously capable of speaking to the masses in a language they both like and understand, and that's nothing to sneeze at.

This was a good job, and I bet she finds work off it. Of course, what work she does find probably won't be the kind of project I'd personally rush out to see, but hey, work is work.

Until next time,
Jon


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

ECHOS


Naleb, the French animation student, from yesterday's post is back again!

Today's film is called ECHOS. According to Naleb's Tumblr, it is intended to be "a reflection about addictive behaviors," and it was done during a workshop in collaboration with the Hospital Camille Claudel. This is an interesting angle, given what the film is about, so I will be watching for it.

Here's the synopsis: A girl struggles with the attraction generated by portals to other worlds.

Let's check it out.



Hmmm... 

While this one is definitely a little more fast and loose when it comes to delivering on the theme it promised than VESTIGES was, it's still an interesting piece. A lot more impressionistic than narrative, I like the designs and the music. The execution is good, but if I hadn't known that it was supposed to be a kind of statement on addiction, I wouldn't have guessed that it was. However, knowing that, I guess I can see it a little. Maybe not enough for me to applaud the end result. If it were up to me, I definitely wouldn't use that as my main selling point, but then, what do you want, it is only a minute and twenty seconds long.

Not bad, not great. All right.
Jon