Going to the Cinema

July 23, 2017

Recently there has been quite a bit of Netflix bashing from big name directors like for example here and from the film festival going crowd such as can be seen here. My personal take is that they need to understand how cinema has changed for the general public and I will do so by drawing on the cinema going experience I went through just yesterday. 

So first thing I had to book the tickets I couldn’t just turn up, the movie I wanted to see was showing every hour however I wanted to see the movie in 2D which had very limited times. Why does the industry still insist on movies being shown in 3D which everyone I speak to detests? The prices of an adult tickets themselves are £10,£11, £12 or even more. My local cinema which is no longer that local involves at least a 30 minute commute each way. So that’s an hour of my time that I’ve lost before I’ve even started watching the movie. So now I’m sitting in the cinema and before the movie has started I have to sit through 20 minutes plus of adverts. Why do I have to do that having already paid nearly £15 for a ticket? The movie starts and my fellow audience members decide that this is when they will make the most noise. The constant noise of the rustling of food packaging, soft drinks cans being opened, and worse ( the guy next to me decided to pop open a can of tuna half way through the movie!) Then there were the group of teenagers who decided to keep switching on the torch on their phone. This seemed to annoy so many people that I saw about 3-4 people leave the Cinema to complain about it (they were asked to stop by the cinema ushers eventually). The movie had bits that were subtitled, there was a woman who was slow in reading them and kept turning to her partner to ask what they said. And then there are the people who are constantly checking their mobile phone. Then imagine after going through all of that the movie you were watching wasn’t that good? (The movie I was watching was pretty damn fine but I’ve seen plenty that haven’t been.)

This ladies and gentlemen is the common cinema going experience for the general public. Is it any wonder that audience members prefer the cheap and ease of use of Netflix and similar services? 

I love going to the cinema, I agree with Scorsese when he described going to watch a film with fellow audience members as akin to a religious experience. I like the fact that I can concentrate on something I love with no distractions. However the modern cinema audience and the business model that surrounds it has gotten disfunctional. Is it any wonder that people would prefer to sit at home in the comfort of their own house with their 54″ TV and have much more control over their viewing experience? 

Andrei Tarkovsky

February 24, 2014

I’ve been going through a little Tarkovsky run recently. The movies I saw were Zerkalo and Andrei Rublev. I was thinking as I began watching them that I wouldn’t enjoy them and they would just be a films that critics raved about yet most mainstream audiences would be put off due to their art house origins. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed them. Make no mistake they are really hard going movies. Zerkalo in particular has no narrative structure to speak of it’s very much like a stream of consciousness book. It’s also incredibly autobiographical. Yet it ebbs and flows, the images are often striking and linger in the mind.

Rublev is similarly striking, when I first started watching it, I thought hang why is this in black and white? This is meant to be about the life of one of Russia’s greatest painters, his use of colour is astonishing. However it works extremely well, I also liked it because it didn’t turn into one of those films that tries to portray the creative process of the artist which has become almost a parody now in these types of films. In actual fact there is very little of Rublev throughout. There are however lots of violence, plague and horses….lots of horses. The director uses them to represent nature, creativity and vitality. The bell sequence in the last quarter of the movie is just astonishing.

The Motherbox

February 14, 2014

So was on the train coming back from Manchester and I noticed that everyone young and old were intently focused on their smart phone. It just reminded me of The Mother Box from Kirby’s new gods work. Its amazing how far technology has gone we have now this connected super computer device with an amazing amount of information available in the palm of our hands, OK it  can’t yet teleport you places but the knowledge it has and the amount we are willing to share with it is staggering.

Wolf of Wall Street

January 31, 2014

I came out of the cinema thinking that this film was great, having really enjoyed watching it. However upon writing this post I have started to feel less excited by it. Maybe I shouldn’t over analyse it so much but anyway here are my thoughts.

First off I think this is the first Scorsese movie that I’ve enjoyed in a long time, this is him being back on form. Also this is my favorite De Caprio film and probably the best of the partnership between the actor and director.

However the film has it’s problems. Its too long, I can think of 4 scenes that could have been cut as they added nothing to the story, strangely they just popped into my head with not much thought required, a rarity for me.

However the real major problem is that at it’s core the movie had no moral center. Was it an attack on the American Dream? What about all the victims of the Wolf? They are painted as dumb schmucks who should have known better. Ultimately the wolf was breaking the law yet it’s all played as fun with zero repercussions outside his circle. Also the female characters all come off as cyphers and eye candy and not much else. Did his wife really not care about all the drugs they were taking? She must have known about all the whores yet she put up with it, why?

The film takes the Wolf’s point of view whole heartedly with no genuine criticism of it and I find that a flaw. It ends up being a film full of carnality which, don’t get me wrong, was really fun to watch but that’s all it ends up being.

Maybe Scorsese planned it like that. It was a window into just how crazy they were and we as a society let them get away with it. If this is the case then that’s what makes the ending even harder to take. The real life Wolf makes a cameo appearance suggesting an almost endorsement of the behavior in the movie.

American Hustle v 12 years a slave

January 17, 2014

There seems to be a lot of brouhaha about Hustle cleaning up at the globes, especially against a worthier film like 12 years. Having just seen both I’m going to weigh in with my thoughts. Firstly hands down I think 12 Years is a better film. I’ve never warmed to Steve McQueen’s direction but with this movie he out does himself. He knows how to compose each scene beautifully and he gets truly wonderful performances from the cast. Eljifor really deserves to win an Oscar. His quiet understated performance is masterful.

However that’s not to say that Hustle is a bad movie, it’s entertaining and the performances are great though not in a league with 12 Years. The direction though, is not up to par with O’Russell’s previous endeavours and doesn’t come close to touching McQueen. There is a bit too much hair fetish going on (see the film and you’ll understand) and ultimately the whole thing is just a puff piece.

Hustle is a cool kid’s version of what he believes cinema should be. 12 Years just tells a story beautifully and in doing so recreates and defines what film should be.

Travernier

January 17, 2014

I recently saw two excellent movies by Bertrand Travernier. Death Watch and ’round Midnight. I’ll talk more later but check them out if you get a chance
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2014 Year of the sci-fi movie?

December 30, 2013

This will no doubt be the final blog of this year and I thought I’d end with a look at some of the big sci-fi movies coming out next year. I’m really excited by these movies as they all look really good and seem to be done with some real thought behind them.

Edge of Tomorrow

OK, it’s a Tom Cruise movie but I’ve always had a soft spot for his Sci-Fi stuff. I actually liked Oblivion but then I had really low expectations for it.

Jupiter Ascending

This seems like a return to form from the Wachowski brothers. Cloud Atlas although it looked great seemed like a bit of a disappointment. On the plus side this does have Mila Kunis. I could watch her in anything.

Transcendence

Wally Pfister’s debut. This could go either way, he’s a great DP but can he direct? Also as a Software Engineer. I have yet to see a film successfully capture the computer science in all it’s glory.

Interstellar

OK, the trailer looks like an advert for a car however it’s Christopher Nolan. His moves always make for extreme opinions from my friends they either liked it or hated it. This no doubt will cause similar tensions.

Dark Knight Rises

October 27, 2013

I recently got the excellent Ultimate Dark Knight Trilogy Box set. It’s well worth the money, all the discs are presented in a really beautiful book, and I love the miniature versions of all the bat vehicles. However I’m not here to talk about the box set itself, I’d like instead to discuss the final movie from the trilogy which divided people.  Let me say up front that I loved it, I’d even go so far as to say,  controversially, that I preferred it to the second one which everyone seems to love and which I personally found to leave me cold. On a minor point the first one for me remains closest to my heart as it changed the game when it comes to superhero movies and managed to wipe away the taste of Schumacher’s debacles so completely.

So why do I think people are wrong to label The Dark Knight Rises as the weakest of the three? One of the major complaints was that it was too unrealistic, “one punch back surgery”, Gotham city under siege for 5 months, etc, etc. For me this is all just pure comic book and I really love it. Lets just take a step back and remember that the central premise of these films is of a guy so angry at his parents death that he decides to dress up as a bat to fight criminals….a bat? Let me say that again A BAT!!!

A lot of people(fanboys) hated that at the start of the movie there was no Batman and Bruce was a broken man. For me that was fine it made sense as Gotham was at peace with the criminals and itself ( however false that peace ) and thus there was no need for the Batman. Thematically I liked the way the movie ended it felt complete and I almost shed a tear at the inception-esque dreamlike quality to the end scene of Alfred sitting in that cafe and seeing Bruce and Selina.  Talking about Selina, the first time I saw Rises I was not too sure about Anne Hathaway’s performance but on a second viewing I actually thought she was brilliant, her acting is really strong here and her character arc is well done, I like the way she finds her soul beneath that hard exterior. Again a lot of fanboys were annoyed that she shoots Bane, I put it bluntly they are being sexist. It made perfect sense and she had one of the best lines following it. All the acting is brilliant and well cast.

I’m not saying that the film is a masterpiece, none of the trilogy are, they are however very well made from a sophisticated director and the films are about as intelligent as a superhero movie can get.  Even though I loved the Avengers movie just watching this Trilogy you realise that Nolan is a far better director then Joss Whedon.

And finally Bane’s voice does not get on my nerves and I can understand everything that he says.

 

 

Pacific Rim

July 14, 2013

My feelings on Pacific Rim are really mixed. The special effects were amazing, there was a lot of detail in them and you could tell that Del Toro had put a lot of his heart into them. I also really liked the fight scenes with giant robots and giant monster, Michael Bay this is how its done properly, take some notes!

However for me it had some issues which ultimately out weighed all this good stuff. These issues were mostly related to the script and casting decisions. The blonde lead whose name I forget is himself totally forgettable. I wish they’d gone for a more interesting casting choice here. I’ve read a load of stuff online about how people got confused and thought he was the actor who played the lead in Tron Legacy. He’s too off the shelf bland and I think the audience have become sophisticated enough to realise this. Also Ron Perlman who is amazing is really wasted as the crime boss. He should have been playing a grizzled ex-jaeger pilot type character. Why does every Hollywood film put a white guy in as the head of a Chinese criminal gang?

However the main issue I have with this movie is the script, it’s full of cliches ranging from the comedy scientists to the antagonism between the lead and the Australian pilot. By the way they looked very similar to one another too! There was also a lot of lazy characterisations relying on the stereotypes to flesh out the characters, the Russian and Chinese Jaeger for example.

I will admit that I did like Idris Elba and the female lead, they put some heart into the movie which was much needed.

Overall though I still would recommend that you see this in the cinema just because of the sheer spectacle of it all and for me it was miles more entertaining then the turgid Man of Steel.

 

I wonder lonely as a cloud.

June 19, 2013

You may or may not be aware that I’m a developer by trade. I recently moved to a team charged with building tools enabling our many developers to deploy to the cloud. In forth coming blogs I’m going to talk about the cloud from a purely technical perspective with maybe some cost analysis. I’m not going to go into the politics of it all this include whether it makes sense to have all your data on a US owned Server and the implications of this. I’ll leave that to the experts.  I’ll talk about some of the technical difficulties we’ve faced and some of the tools we are using, including Netflix’s wonderful Simian Army.

Stay tuned……