Don’t die of shock…I’m about to say something good about 3D….

Posted on September 3, 2011. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , |

Recovered yet? OK I’ll carry on.  Technically it’s not 3D I’m saying good things about, it’s 4D.

We all know that I’m not a fan of 3D.  Of the few films I’ve seen that used the tech, only one (Avatar) managed to have a couple of  moments where it added rather than detracted, and I still think that they are just as good if not better in good old-fashioned 2D.  I get it though, they’re trying to make the cinema experience something you can’t recreate at home, and the better home cinema systems get, the harder that becomes.

So why my slight change of heart?  Well, it’s a bit of a random one, but last night some lovely friends took me to the Marvel 4D experience at Madame Tussaud’s.  Stay with me.  I’ve always said that 3D works better with animation because the bubble-like appearance of the characters doesn’t seem so weird when they’re already animated, and in this case the use of 3D was actually kind of cool.  Added to that the 4D effects (air jets, water, I won’t ruin it for you) and it became a really fun (short) film experience that made you feel like you really were part of the action.

So this is the conclusion I’ve come to; the problem with 3D movies is that they’re trying too hard not to do the gimmicky things waving out of the screen at you bit and be taken seriously as a special effect. But 3D is a gimmick. It’s always going to be about making you want to duck when things come flying towards you, so if you’re going to make a movie in 3D, embrace that. Don’t pretend you’ve not added on extra frills to try to make people come to the cinema, just go with it!  And if you can throw in some other fancy (and relatively cheap) effects to make the audience jump then why  not?  I’m not saying that mainstream movies should all start embracing 4D (God can you imagine?) but as the death of 3D appears nigh, I think it should be put back in its rightful place.

And for those who were wondering what the actual film was like…it depends on your view of recent Marvel offerings but I reckon it could give Fantastic Four a run for its money 😉

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I’m ranting again…

Posted on September 23, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , |

We all know I’m not exactly a Harry Potter fan. My issues with the books aside, the first couple of movies were OK and as long running kids film franchises go it’s not a bad one.
I do have two problems with the upcoming release of Deathly Hallows though:

  1. It’s been split into two movies.  The official party line is that there’s too much going on in the book (which I haven’t read so I can’t really judge) to fit into one movie.  Cutting it in half was out of respect to the plot and in no way had anything to do with the fact that this will obviously top the box office instantly and having two movies means double the profits. Never.  The Potter fans amongst you will have to let me know if this annoys you, but I know that a while back when a gaggle of movies started being released in two halves (Matrix Reloaded/Revs, Pirates 2 and 3) it was a complete pain.
  2. It’s being released in 3D. Puh-lease!  We’ve managed to get through six movies so far without wands poking out of the screen at us and I’m pretty sure no one has cared.  Talk about jumping on the band wagon.  Making the final installment in 3D (although I doubt it’s being filmed in 3D, it’ll be a hasty Clash of the Titans-style tack on) just cheapens the whole series.  I swear if they made LOTR now some idiot would try to release it in 3D.

You’re probably thinking I should get with the times. 3D is apparently here to stay and I should embrace it.  I’m the digital age equivalent of those old guys in high-waisted trousers who still listen to the wireless because that was quality entertainment.  I know this.  But I still can’t see any benefits of 3D other than the gimmick.  And the fact that you can now get 3D TV and 3D channels just worries me.

I suppose it makes sense that the kids who’ve grown up with the Harry Potter movies should see the technology evolve as the movies go on.  But that final hack-sawed in half 3D double feature just smacks of an industry which knows it’s about to lose one of its biggest money makers of the last decade and is determined to squeeze every last penny out of it while it can.

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Avatar is coming out in the cinema….again….

Posted on August 23, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , |

Less than a year after Avatar hit the big screens and tried to prove that 3D wasn’t all naff gimmicks and balloon like people, it’s coming back with a “Special Edition.”  And, of course, it’s returning in 3D.

“The biggest adventure of all time.” Well, I’m taking issue with that for starters.  But, is it just me or does this smack of “let’s squeeze as much money as we can out of this one  before something bigger and better comes along?” Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the few bloggers who didn’t trash Avatar, but having recently decided that I actually prefer it in 2D, the part of me that wont stop ranting about why 3D technology is ruining cinema is getting all agitated again.

If Avatar wasn’t a 3D movie there is no way it would be getting a second cinema release.  It just wouldn’t happen.  I’ve got nothing against Special Editions, Director’s Cuts or whatever you want to call them, in fact I have a few of them on my DVD shelf, but that’s where the re-jigged versions belong.  They’re made for the uber-fans who will actually notice that a particular character stayed on screen for 3 seconds longer than before and raised his eyebrow in a slightly different way to how he did in the original cut.  These people tend to remain indoors, where they have the safety of other important geek tools: slo-mo, pause and zoom.

Which brings me back to my point.  Avatar isn’t getting a second coming because this new version is so spectacular it needs to be seen on the big screen.  For starters it doesn’t have that kind of fanbase.  It’s going back on the big screen because they can charge twice as much to sit you there in a pair of those Carl Fredrickson glasses, and if they whip the hype up again like they did before then some people just might do it. (Incidently, if you take the glasses of during the showing, the screen looks very similar to how it would look if I take my own glasses off during any 2D movie).

Call me cynical, but this isn’t about bringing a new interpretation to a movie which would benefit from a few extra scenes.  It’s about greedily squeezing even more money out of the highest grossing film in cinema history.

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Avatar (2D)

Posted on June 27, 2010. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , |

When I first saw Avatar, like pretty much everyone else on the planet, I saw it in 3D.  Like I said in my review, Avatar is at the moment the only film I’ve seen in 3D where I thought it added rather than detracted from the film, but I was still anxious to see it in 2D and play spot the difference.

So, did losing a dimension make the film less enjoyable? In a word: No.

Before we’d even made it through the first bit of dialogue I’d completely forgotten the film had ever been made in 3D.  The wide-angle shots still had the same depth and I actually preferred the look in the “human” scenes because it seemed more real.  There weren’t any points where I thought a section had looked better in 3D, not even the flying scenes.

It’s the incredible CGI effects that make Avatar an amazing feat of movie making, not the 3D technology.  While in the cinema it did add to the experience and was a fairly cool added extra, it really had no effect on the overall enjoyment of the film.

I’ve said many times on here, and on other people’s blogs, that I’m not a fan of the 3D revolution.  I truly believe that it is just a cheap studio tack, trying to make more people go out to the cinema in a time when home cinema systems can equal the theatrical experience.  Avatar is so far the only film I’ve seen where the 3D didn’t get in the way, but nothing is lost when you watch it in 2D.  As far as I can tell it’s just a gimmick.

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Despicable Me

Posted on April 12, 2010. Filed under: Trailers | Tags: , |

I’ve been following the trailers for this movie for the last few months but this new one is so good I wanted to share it.  Who says kids films are just for kids?  The only downside is the compulsion for them to release it in 3D

I want minions.

We’ve got a long wait for this one, not out in the UK until October 15th.

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Avatar (3D)

Posted on January 24, 2010. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , |

The last two films I’ve seen in the cinema have been in 3D. (That’s right folks, I’ve finally made it back!)  Last time I wrote about how I wasn’t entirely convinced by the 3D revolution and I’m still not completely there.  There’s a worrying trend for films being made solely because they’ll look good in 3D; and the fact that this showing was prefixed by a trailer for “Streetdance 3D” only served to confirm that fear.  With the coming of HD DVD and the impressive quality of home cinema systems nowadays, the theatres need something that will pull the people in and at the moment 3D is that key selling point.  I definitely think too many films are being made in 3D just for the sake of it, Alice In Wonderland for instance, doesn’t need to be in 3D, and I fear it will detract from the classic Burton look (Go ahead RossvRoss, take your shots)

However…

Avatar is the film that might just change my mind on the whole subject.  Unlike with Up, I didn’t find the 3D distracting (except for a few times), instead it added a lot to the already stunning visuals.  And with that, I’ll get on with the review.

**Beware spoilers**

I went in to Avatar with lowered expectations, having heard from many friends and bloggers that while it looked amazing, the plot wasn’t up to much.  I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that I really loved it!  Yes, it is basically Pocahontas with blue people, but just because a story has been told before doesn’t mean it’s not worth telling. How many classic battles of good versus evil are there out there, or  tales of unrequited love? Yet we’ll still go and watch them if they are told well enough.  The idea of technology and man made products destroying what is good and natural and then being overcome by a so-called primitive race has been done time and again ( The Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, The Ents in Two Towers, even the infamous Gunguns in Phantom Menace) so in a way it is getting tired, but the fact that they get made shows that people will still lap it up, especially in a time when we’re worrying about the effect we have on out planet..  Movies of this genre always have an underlying political statement and apart from the obvious, Avatar has the added a comment on current affairs summed up neatly in the line: “This is how it works, when people are sitting on something you want, you make them the enemy.”

The beginning is slow.  It takes a while for everything to really get going, which is strange since not a lot of time is given over to explaining what is actually going on.  We know that our leads brother is dead, and that for some reason we all live in space and are after a ridiculously named rock called “Unobtanium” (ouch) which can only be found on the planet of Pandora.  That’s about it for back story, and while that can rankle some, for someone like me who wants the action to get going as soon as possible, I don’t mind having to figure some of it out for myself.  Having said that, not very much happens early on, and for a film with a running time of 2 hours and 42 minutes you do start to drift off, but once it gets going, it keeps your attention till the end.

It's pretty, but what does it do?

The plot can be predictable, but it’s still engaging, owed in no small part to the world that Cameron has created for the indigenous Na’vi.  It simply is beautiful.  The film would look just as awe-inspiring in 2D, but the scenes in the forest really do come alive with the help of the extra dimension.  I particularly liked the UV glow that both the Na’vi and all  other Pandoran  life took on at night, giving an amazing backdrop of colour to the action. (You can tell just how much I liked the look of it by the amount of pictures on this post!)

Of course, everyone talks about the visual effects in this film, and for good reason. It’s flawless. MoCap has come a long way since Gollum, and with Richard Taylor’s Weta Workshop on board it was always going to be brilliant, but it surpassed  my expectations in the reality they managed to create. There was no point where I thought, “this bits real, she’s been put in later,” even in the interactions between humans and Na’vi, where there is no hint of the huge amounts of post production behind every frame.

I’d argue that a lot of the tech in this movie has been borrowed from The Matrix.  The way that the humans link up with their Avatars is kind of familiar (although in this version, if you die in the Matrix, you can still come back) and the Iron Man style robot suits were very familiar for any one who’s seen the final battle in Revolutions.  There were some new ideas too though. I really liked the look of the helicopter/planes that the army guys fly, and the psychic style link the Na’vi have with the creatures via their hair sounds completely ridiculous on paper but works surprisingly well on screen.

As for the characters, there’s isn’t a particularly deep characterisation but you do care, and when things start to go bad for the Na’vi I did find myself getting involved.  Probably my only criticism of the film is that is doesn’t quite have the heart of some of it’s predecessors; a bit too much time spent on the visuals and maybe not enough on the story arc, but it doesn’t fall into the trap as far as Reign of Fire did, and our two lead characters are sympathetic enough to keeps us locked in.

I am a fantasy junkie, and I can see how this film might not appeal to a wider market, but even with it’s flaws I think Avatar really is a film that has to be seen.  A colleague at work said that it reminded her of when she first saw Jurassic Park, which I think is a fair comment. A decade ago we wouldn’t have been able to make a film like this, but special effects are now moving at such a pace that nothing is impossible anymore.  It might not go down in history as one of the best stories ever told, but it will be remembered for being told in a way that was unlike anything we’d seen before.

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Up (3D)

Posted on October 31, 2009. Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

So, I finally made it back to the cinema! This time it was to see the long-awaited Up, the first film I’ve ever seen in 3D.

I have to admit I was sceptical at first, I grew up in the age of those horrible green and red cardboard things and was a bit worried that seeing a film in 3D might be more annoying than exciting.  Turns out 3D glasses have come a long way, still not the most attractive thing in the world, but in the case of Up you end up looking quite a lot like our lead character which made me laugh every time I looked around the room.  As for the effects themselves, I think the jury is still out.  At times, the 3D was really cool, particularly in the wide angle shots of landscapes, and it did bring the action to life, but at other times I found it a bit distracting, and I couldn’t help continually taking off my glasses to see what the screen looked like without them. (Blurry, if you’re wondering).  I think with an animation like Pixar, 3D is a good thing, as it carries on what the computer has begun, but I’m not sure I’d like to see it spill into mainstream cinema too much.  There is a definitely increase in the number of films being released in 3D, so I guess it’s something I’ll be getting used to.  The trailer for the new Christmas Carol which came before was a clear example of 3D being just right, as the falling snowflakes really did look amazing in 3D.

Onto the film itself.  My first impression of Up is how shockingly sad it is!  We’re talking Bambi’s Mum here.  I’d seen a news report earlier about Up being one of the few films that has made men cry but kind of shrugged it off…turns out they were right.  It’s the opening montage that does it, where we find out how Carl Fredricksen goes from a cute little kid to a grumpy old man.  Up is an unusual film for Pixar, because it tackles some pretty adult content about loneliness and loss, and is one of the only films I can think of that centres almost entirely around a grumpy old man.  It might not quite stand up to some of its predecessors, but it is a good film, and I guess we should hand it to them for taking on a storyline you wouldnt expect in a kids’ film.

Once you get over the sad opening, there are some brilliant funny moments in the film, provided mainly by the counterpoint between Carl and cute boy scout Russell.  There were at least 3 things that had me laughing out loud, and the way that both characters are drawn adds to the contrast, with Russell pretty much ball-shaped, while Carl has an almost perfect square for a head.

The plot of the film is good too, there were a couple of times when I thought an obvious ending was approaching and was surprised to find the story heading in a different direction.  At 96 minutes it never drags, and is basically a fun ride from beginning to end.  One thing I did like was the new way Pixar has found for its animals to talk, stepping away from the Disney norm of all creatures great and small speaking perfect English-well, sort of.  There are actually very few characters in the film.  Apart from Carl and Russell, there’s comic relief dog Dug, quintessential bad guy Charles Muntz, and that’s about it.  Because of this, the film feels quite small despite the grandeur of its setting, with the floating house actually not having an awful lot to do with it in the grand scheme of things.  I think this works with a film like this which is really about the development of one character-Carl.  As I’ve said before, it’s unusual for any film, especially a kids film, to invest so much in a crotchety old man, but Pixar somehow manages to make him just loveable enough for it to work.  I’m betting that opening montage has a lot to do with it.

Also a departure for Pixar is the lack of all-star voice talent.  Apart from Christopher Plummer inhabiting our villain, the rest of the voices come from relative unknowns or one of the films directors (Bob Peterson).  At times, it can be distracting having a really recognisable voice in a film so it was nice to be able to only have one character with whom I associate the voice.

Altogether I think Up is a worthwhile family film with enough in it to keep the big kids (i.e. me) happy and lots of bright colours and flying about for the little ones.  I did kind of get the impression that this was a film for boys, (there’s really only one female character in the whole film, and she’s called Kevin!) and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that quite a lot of Pixar films are leaning more towards the male than female market.   In  Toy Story we have Andy with typical boy toys: cowboys and space men;  Finding Nemo is all about a boy and his father, Cars is just obvious…the only one I could think of with a more feminine air was Monsters Inc, and that’s just for Boo, because otherwise that’s quite a boyish film too.  It’s not necessarily a criticism, but I wonder if Pixar have noticed how many of their films centre around a young male character with, more often than not, and older male representing some kind of lost father figure.  I’ve mentioned before the Hollywood obsession with “Daddy issues” and it seems that Pixar, and all of Disney in fact, might be some of the biggest culprits. ‘Course if you’re like me and tend to prefer the boy films then it’s not really an issue.

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