Two films

Sep. 23rd, 2016 06:33 pm
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I saw two magical films set in mythical Japan in two days.

The first I saw yesterday (on a library DVD) was The Princess Kaguya directed by Isao Takahata (Studio Ghibli) Just under two hours long, it's the tale of a beautiful girl hatched from a bamboo shoot, and what she finds as she grows up in Japan. There's a number of hijinks that take place in the film, like impossible quests, but mostly this is a film about simple truths and beauty.


I saw Kubo and the Two Strings today. There was only one session at 10am, and I thought that if i didn't catch this today I'd miss it at the cinema entirely. I'm glad I went. I think this is the BEST ANIMATED FEATURE I've seen this year. And I was the ONLY person in the cinema!


It resembles (slightly) the film above, but I can't tell you exactly how, without spoiling things for you. However, do look out for a cameo by George Takai in this, in a very identifiable way! Also, I loved this version of this song as it played over the credits.

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imageI just watched Ghost World again, after a gap of about 5 years. This time around I'd just read the complete Ghost World which collected all the strips, and also had additional stuff including the original script of the film. And I found it a very difficult film to watch.

The pacing is extremely slow and with it's like watching a train wreck in slow motion (especially the version I watched which was 137 minutes over the theatrical release of 111 minutes). Rebecca gets demoted to a supporting character (and seems very dull) and Seymour, I think perhaps Seymour (who was barely in the comic) should have been a main character, but in a different film. Of course the comic was episodic in nature rather than a continuous story, so they did well to adapt this at all. Perhaps though that's why Josh was demoted to a minor character and Seymour replaces him and Rebecca in many scenes.

I went over to the IMDB board for the film and it's evident that many misunderstood the ending, thinking that Enid died or committed suicide. But the film (much more than the comics) is about that period between being a teenager and becoming an adult.

It's funny thinking about where the two main actors after the film. Scarlett Johansson's (Rebecca) career took off after this with over 30 films to her credit (think Black Widow) but Thora Birch (Enid) has only done 12 films since. Steve Buscemi (Seymour) being a character actor has done 50+ films. Not that the number of films counts for everything, but to me it shows an interesting balance and a period of transition for them, much like the characters in the film.


Ant Man

Aug. 9th, 2015 10:40 am
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I finally saw ANT MAN yesterday. I liked how, though the AVENGERS series of films is mostly based on the ULTIMATE version of the Marvel universe, this one is more based on the original MU. It's about (mostly) the second Ant Man rather than the first. But at the same time lots of elements, like Yellow Jacket, come from that and are reused in different ways (in the comics YJ was an alternate persona of Hank Pym, who had "emotional issues". There's a number of clever references, like one to "Tales to Astonish" which was the comic Ant Man first appeared in!


Also, there's the standard Stan Lee cameo (but you have to really watch) and not one but two teasers at the end (the second not only links into the film but obviously into Avengers: Civil War).

Like a lot of others I know, I liked this film. In the comics Ant man always seemed to be a "steal" of DC's The Atom, but here he seems to be his own man. Mind you I was always a fan of The Atom - and disappointed that he first appears as an Iron Man clone in the last season of Arrow. Maybe the success of this film will mean we'll see Ray Palmer using that dwarf star remnant properly now!
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Saw the Desolation of Smaug earlier today as my "Boxing Day Film". I enjoyed it reasonably well, though a good 60% seems to be "added content". Because of public holiday timetables, I got to Glendale about 90 minutes before the start of the film (with nothing open there other than the cinema and Hungry Jacks).


Anyway the film seems competent enough, but it looks "different from the first Hobbit film. To me, the 3D elements of the previous film seemed to imbue an "inner glow" to the landscape - in this film the daytime scenes look a lot like over-exposed video. But that said, everything is seamless and - though I really wasn't looking - everything seems very real. I was surprised to see Sir Stephen Fry and Benedict Cumberbatch in the film, and that Andy Serkis was a Second Unit Director on it. I rather think that Peter Jackson do do some of the stories set in Ankh-Morpork as well because Lake-town just made me think of that all the time (especially Stephen Fry's character) - he'd do a better joke than the overdone badly timed efforts that pass as Terry Pratchett adaptations so far).

But it was certainly nice to see Bilbo and the Dwarves get into and out of trouble again. You'll need to see the next film however.
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Short version - the trailers on before it!

Why, well they were advertising THOR and GREEN LANTERN, and it looks like they got both of those right - at least they based them on the source material (Thor has Loki, Sif and Eternals; GL has Carol Ferris, Abin Sur, and Oa). Both films I will probably watch, and even if they turn into camp, might enjoy.

About the only thing I knew about Sucker Punch was the posters I'd seen at the Reading Cinema. It looked like a cross between Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Kill Bill. As it was, I was soundly disappointed with what I felt was a "dishonest" film.

Details under cut ).

Still, this is fantasy all the way through - just not good fantasy. It made me think of Heavy Metal magazine, like Fifth Element had. Only, instead of being drawn by Moebius, this film seemed like it was drawn by Pepe Moreno!

True Grit

Jan. 29th, 2011 10:33 pm
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Saw True Grit on Wednesday. I was surprised with just how good the film was.

Haven't read the book that both this film and the 1969 version were based on, but this film version seems to be a fuller, more believable account. I absolutely did not recognise Matt Damon as Texas Ranger LaBoeuf! Of course many scenes are shared with the 1969 version and the film includes the classic "Fill your hands you son of a bitch!" line from Rooster Cogburn.

I read somewhere, and I think it's true, that a big difference between this and the earlier version is that the focus on the story is firmly on Matty Ross, not Cogburn, who though a major character, is a supporting one. Some elements are entirely different. For example, in the 1969 version, after threatening everyone and sundry with her lawyer, we finally get to see him and discover him to be a short weedy man with a high pitched voice!

There's a good reason that never happens in this version, but I won't spoil this for you. Suffice it to say that scenes towards the end of the film reminded me of certain French films, and are better for that. More like Dead Man and The Grey Fox than the previous film, which is a GOOD THING.

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Woke up at 12:25am ans couldn't get back to sleep. Flipped through the chanenels on TV and though there was a Trek episode on I saw most of something called Anonymous Rex.

The premise is that dinosaurs didn't die out, they just got smaller and evolved, and have been hiding in human society for a long long time. I like the idea because the execution is very silly. Apparently "hiding"  means in disguise as in make-up and then latex outfits and finally advanced holograms, but really it's a lot like the original and remake of "V" - people pretending to be aliens / reptiles in rubber suits pretending to be human.

In a way it reminds me of the one season run of Moonlight in which Vampires hide in human society. Both have "clean-up crews" and agents strategically placed in positions where the truth can be concealed. And like that series it's a bit low budget and you only see the main character use their powers in subtle (i.e. cost effective) ways. But, I did enjoy the detective/gumshoe  elements of the story, even though the world posited is pretty superficial (we never see any dino specific culture other than in a "cult" setting). I did also like the way that Vincent - the main character - uses his heightened sense of smell in his work and how its show visually.

Apparently there are a series of books as well, but I suspect they may be less fun than the TV movie.


And an idea that occurs to me, that would make much more sense than rubber-suit disguises, would be were-dinos: shapes-hifters that shift into dinosaurs. It would make much more sense (as such things make any sense) and be easier and more convincing when dino folk mixed with humans. Might explore that in a comic sometime.


Of course secretive societies and sub-cultures like this are nothing new, and pretty popular I think since Anne Rice started her Vampire series. Earlier this year I read Dead as a Doornail which came from the book series that True Blood is based on. In that world, vampires, shape-shifters (of which werewolves are but one example) and Fairies are all over the place, hiding in society and passing as human. .That world seemed more believable (other than the fact that almost every male non-human seems to have the hots for Sookie Stackhouse) that the one of Anonymous Rex, partly because it would be easier for the others to hide, and there are developed subcultures, each with its own customs and tensions.

Coming from a personal history where "passing" has some import, I can understand this. But like the film the question is raised - would it be better to actively "come out" as who or what one is, regardless of the consequences, and live a fearless but "true" life as oneself? There's no overall answer to that, which applies to everyone, but then again the difference is that I (and a lot of people I know) don't have razor sharp claws or horns with which to defend myself.


Jul. 23rd, 2010 07:44 pm
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Having decided I needed to see a film to relax, I saw Inception today. I think it was a good choice because it totally relaxed me  as I was immersed in the story.

The shorts for this got me in, and it seemed vaguely like a "Matrix" type film (i.e. virtual reality) but also this is the second film I've seen with Leonardo DiCaprio in it. The last one, Shutter Island was a predictable but effective and moody film which I also enjoyed and appreciated. Coincidentally DiCaprio's character in each has issues with his wife and children, and in both things are not quite what they seem. Both are in their own ways very dark films.

And yes, this is a film about the nature of reality, similar to the inferior Vanilla Sky but closer to Total Recall. No doubt there are enormous plot-holes in the film (I spotted a huge one myself) but if you accept the series of premises that make the film possible, they are internally consistent.

I thought that there were several different ways that this could have ended, and even waited through the credits to see if there was an extra teaser at the end, but it's not that sort of film.

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I've been watching Hitler's Bodyguard on SBS. This is a sequel to an earlier series, Churchill's Bodyguard, which I posted about a while ago. The big difference between the two, is that Churchill had only a few bodyguards, whereas Hitler had thousands!

This series has many of the same problems that the original does - a lack of proper original footage  means that some shots appear again and again - sometimes for vastly different things. For example, when we hear the Gestapo or another security force picked up some unfortunate, we see the same (recreated) live footage of two carloads of rain coated thugs drive down an alley and turn right. The computer models however can't be faulted in their detail, though I suspect they skimped on the maps.

Whereas Churchill's misadventures, near assassinations and panics were all shown in chronological order, and much depended on his faithful protector Thompson, we're shown details of Hitler's not only chronologically but also by type. there are episodes about his travels by car, plane and train, as well as (this week) the Wolf's lair. What astounds me was the shear scale of security within Nazi Germany, and how often just how ineffective it was (e.g. one lone assassin successfully blew up the beer cellar in Munich). Thing was, that Hitler had enemies everywhere, including his own party, and especially his own military. Pure luck and his habit of travelling unpredictably seems to have saved him over 25 years. 

There's also an odd sort of humour in this series, despite the subject matter. In last weeks episode we're told of a plot to poison the water supply on Hitler's special train, and other plans by the SOE to assassinate him and make it look like someone in his own party did it. What stopped them? Well the war ended and he committed suicide.

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Saw this in another journal. Good idea. Here's mine (by definition, incomplete):

I set the whole year aside to have my surgery. I do, in Phuket. I get Xena the cat from Jamie. Dad has double stroke and goes into nursing home. Steve (boarder) and I start flock of Muscovy ducks.

I finish my Bachelor's in Fine Arts part time and do my first photo comic. Have big panic attack at QC in Newcastle. I get Gabby the cat from Robyn. Steve leaves with dog Maxine.

A year of boredom, dullness and depression.

I start my Library Science course at TAFE. I find books on web comics in the TAFE library. Start having panic attacks again. I start going to Necropolis in Newcastle (which brightens things up).

I finish my library science course. I discover live journal.

I start my Honours in Fine Arts at uni. Go to QC in Perth. Discover Venus Envy. Pegasus starts to limp. I start reading tarot professionally in 2nd Life Books. Read poetry at Gender X Gender. Start having teeth extracted. I give away my Muscovy ducks after drakes start killing ducklings.

I travel to Palenville in the USA for the Festival of the Tree and become of ordained priestess of the Maetreum. I finish my Honours in Fine Arts at uni. Go to QC in Sydney.I start a web comic. 2nd Life Books closes. Dad dies. Kevin moves in as a boarder.

Am given a mobile phone. I swap from dial-up to broadband. I get Ebony the cat from Jenny who is to ill to look after her. I try and find work. Kevin gets Hallie the dog. Sell car for $50. Turn 50.

Start a second web comic. I get Bobby the dog from Jenny, who goes into a nursing home. I give up trying to find work. Pegasus dies. Visit folks in Perth.

I start my Masters in Fine Arts at the uni. Go to Mardi Grass at Nimbin with Carol. Go to QC in Canberra. My work is exhibited three times. I see various bands live.

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I saw this as my "boxing day film" and thouroughly enjoyed it. the following video reviews the film in a witty and accurate manner:

Avatar 3D

Dec. 18th, 2009 12:05 am
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Saw this in 3D today - has my thumbs up!
The 3D works (even with my vision) and the story, although predictable (I'd figured out the ending by about 20 minutes into the film) was nonetheless very enjoyable and touched me deeply in several scenes.

Longer comments  )

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I saw this film on the way home after a trip to Sydney. I was run-down, slightly feverish and head-achy, but none of that interfered with my enjoyment of the film.

I'd actually forgotten that the film'd been released but when I saw the choices available it was the logical choice. I missed 1 minute of the opening credits but for once that wasn't a crucial thing. This being a Terry Gilliam film, you know it's going to be a) fantastic in a classic sense, b) complicated with many red herrings and original characters, and c) something you can watch more than once.

I was not disappointed. It took a while before I followed what was happening and that's part of the charm of this film. The story (really a parable or allegory) is built up in layers and seemed to me perfectly cast (even allowing for Ledger's "ring-ins" after his untimely death). I particularly like the play between Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and Mr Nick (Tom Waits). I found it interesting to see the visual influences in this film as well. The fantasy segments all have the mark of the director's animation days with Monty Python. There's also a Harry Potter influence in that Parnassus's wagon/theatre looks like something from one of those films, and Parnassus himself reminded me strongly of a drunk Dumbledore.

But this is not a film for everyone. The ending is not a Hollywood style "happy ending" by any means, but one that reflects on the nature of life. Anyone expecting this film to be a bit of "holiday entertainment" will be sorely disappointed, as the plot is not as predictable and the clichés used in the film aren't the sort you usually see.

A top film.

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Just read the Wallsend Library copy of Life Sucks, which from the cover looks to be an expose of Clerks' style ennui of the night shift. It wasn't until I turned page 51 that I realised what the "twist" was! Well written and well worth a read.

I also read the library copy of THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW MANGA #3. Just as good as the previous two (both of which were in the local libraries) and this one is in COLOUR!!! I intend to follow up some of the strips featured in this as well.

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I'm doing the obligatory thing and just mentioning that I've started an LJ community. This one's called Virtual World News and Reviews and you can find it here: [ profile] vw_news. Like to to look at different Virtual Worlds, not just second life, and got tired that there wasn't an active community where people could post news and reviews that weren't just for one system (there is one, moderated, but which has never been used). This will only succeed if people contribute to and read it, but that's the story with all LJ Communities.

Star Trek

May. 9th, 2009 01:02 pm
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Star TrekI have been anticipating this film more than any other in the last year and a half. A film about Kirk, Spock and the rest during their academy days? This was mooted ages ago but instead we got Nemesis which while very well produced, was less than satisfactory. In fact it looked like that film almost "killed the franchise". That being the case, and the fact that J.J. Abrams was producer on Lost and Cloverfield made me a little uncertain as to what I'd see.  I've been a fan of Trek ever since I watched it in the 60s, so I'm hard to please.


The short review of this film is: Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes :) from which you might deduce that I liked it. The longer review's below.


Minor Spoilers )

This is a "reboot" rather than a "reset" button, and this is quite clear in the credits with one character having "prime" appended to their name. There's already a sequel in the works, though I could even believe a new TV series could be launched by the film too - otherwise why use the original theme at the end (a very nice touch)? Wishful thinking perhaps. :)

So for me, a very long term fan, they got this film right, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if it does make my complete collection of "Star Trek fact files" obsolete.

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Every so often I have a look at Inkscape, which is an open-source Vector Graphics editor that runs on both Windows and Linux. I don't generally use vector graphics editors, except my old copy of Fireworks MX 2004 (windows only), which I use to add text, speech balloons and SFX to my web comics (it's also a good exporter of low size graphics files). Anyway, Inkscape is currently up to version 0.46. It's improved since I last looked at it about a year ago (and the samples at Deviant Art are cool, and check out the interactive examples at ASCIIsvg) , but as the number indicates (numbers less than 1 tend to be pre-general release), still has a long way to go. For example, I tried creating a drop shadow. In Fireworks this is just a general filter which you add to an object. In Inkscape there's a mini tutorial telling you how to do it!

Of course there are different paradigms at work I guess. Fireworks adds stuff to PNG files and was designed to export the results as web images or pages (complete with drop-down menus et al). Inkscape is the graphics designer using the SVG standard that was developed by the W3C. Sounds impressive but implementation of that standard on web browsers is patchy at best. When I was doing my honours back in 2005-2006 I read a fairly thick tome on SVG and was impressed by its elegance and the fact that everything is saved in XML format, meaning that it could be generated and edited as text.

Lots of options in this - it does have filters but it will take a while to get the hang of them. It can certainly handle adding text and speech balloons. Special effects will take longer to understand and perfect. Perhaps if I'll have any suggestions in its development, it would be able to add, save and import presets for filters and effects, and like the GIMP (which has so far been a big disappointment) some form of scripting language with which to automate tasks.

reviewUntil I can get decent replacements for Paint Shop Pro (which has its own vector graphics and media art tools) and Fireworks, I'll still be running Windows (and no, WINE dies horribly trying to run PSP).

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Borrowed a graphic novel from Lake Macquarie Library recently called Janes in Love, by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg. This is a sequel to an earlier story The Plain Janes (which I haven't read), and follows the exploits of four girls named Jane who are in an arts group called People Loving Art In Neighbourhoods or P.L.A.I.N.

I borrowed the book from Swansea library, and had in fact read it all before I got home that day. I couldn't put it down once a started. the main characters are all teenagers in high school, but the themes that surround their lives (friends, relationships, art and the meaning of life) seem pretty universal (and important) to me. The panels below struck me especially:

That's a question I was asking myself at the time! I like the artwork - it's practical but also perfectly suited to the story, giving the reader a sense of everyday suburbia and life. It also reminds me of Love and Rockets, which I read during the 80s. I must hunt down the first book.

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So, I wonder if the makers of this actually watched the film?


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