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Wed, 8 Jan 2014

The Hobbit, pt 2

for the film,
for the technology,
for the use of technology

So I went to see The Hobbit, part 2, at the Imax. In 3D, despite my misgivings from last time. It is again a jolly fun romp, and worth seeing.

The technology still has problems. Scenes with lots of movement are blurry and juddery. If I didn't know better I'd swear that they'd run out of time on the rendering farm to render all the frames, and so just doubled frames up to drop the effective frame rate from 24 fps to 12 or 18 fps. Apart from this, however, the use of 3D was a lot more effective. It seemed in the previous film that there were only a small number of layers at different distances from the viewer. This time, it looked far more like true 3D. In some sequences it was very effective indeed.

However, there are still problems. People often look like 2D cutouts in a 3D scene. I can only assume that this is because Peter Jackson had an attack of the OMGWTF3DBBQLOLLERSKATE and so made all the CGI components (and they're present in most shots to some degree) have more depth than they should. In some cases he went way too far, and while the 3D was very effective it made me a bit dizzy. Yes, spinning and falling down a shaft would do that to a soul, and he recreates the feeling faithfully. However, it needs to be remembered that his film is a work of entertainment, not a training simulator for astronauts, and so he needs to tone it the fuck down.

Last time, I was decidedly "meh" about the whole 3D thing, giving the technology just two stars. This time, I can say that it definitely helped in some places. Perhaps the technology has moved on, or perhaps the director and his post-production crew, with a bit more 3D experience under their belts, are simply better at their craft. Whatever the reason, I'm reasonably positive about it, and I now think that 3D can add to a film. This one, however, I think I'd still prefer to watch in 2D.

Posted at 01:20 by David Cantrell
keywords: film | geeky
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Tue, 1 Jan 2013

The Hobbit, in 3d

for the film, for the technology

I've now seen The Hobbit (part 1) in both 2d at the Hastings Fleapit and 3d at the BFI Imax. In 2d the only real complaints I had were that the font used for the film titles and credits hadn't been rendered well - it was all pixelly - and that the font used for subtitles when characters were muttering in Tolkienish was crap.

Both of those are fixed in the 3d version.

Unfortunately, some other stuff got broken. In those long sweeping shots with lots of movement that Peter Jackson loves so much, everything is just a little bit blurry. Even when there's not much movement, such as in close-ups, it's not quite as crisp as it should be. I believe that this is down to how the 3d system works: the images for the left and right eye are projected slightly offset from each other, and polarised 90° apart. The cheap n nasty plastic glasses you get to wear are polarised so each eye sees the right image. Trouble is, everyone's eyes are slightly different distances apart, and so it's only a very lucky few whose eyes are exactly the right distance apart who will see clearly.

A handful of scenes and shots definitely benefitted from 3d, but only a handful. I'll not go out of my way to see a film in 3d again, and nor should you. You should see The Hobbit, but seeing it in 2d is fine.

Posted at 19:00 by David Cantrell
keywords: film | geeky
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Tue, 20 Apr 2010

Film review: Assembly

Assembly, dir Feng Xiaogang

Set during and in the decade after the Chinese civil war, the film is based on the true story of a war hero fighting for the honour of his company, who despite fighting to the last man to cover the retreat of their regiment, were listed as Missing In Action instead of killed by the enemy. It is well-written (and well-translated and subtitled too - including, amusingly, a few lines in English spoken by a Yankee tank commander during a scene set in the Korean War), well shot, has an especially good musical score, but is perhaps a little let down by the acting - although I'm sure it doesn't help that I was having to read subtitles instead of just watching. The lead character Gu Zidi is particularly sympathetic, as is his company's political officer, but the rest are somewhat one-dimensional. Overall, the story is touching, and that it provokes an emotional response shows that it's Good Stuff. Recommended.

Posted at 22:48 by David Cantrell
keywords: film
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Sun, 18 Apr 2010

Film review: Seven Swords

Seven Swords, dir Tsui Hark

Another "homage" (mis-pronounced, no doubt, "omarj" in an attempt to sound all French and edumacated) to Seven Samurai, this is just as bad as the original. It was originally supposed to be 240 minutes long, but was cut to just 150, which may go part way to explain some of the jarring jumps and gaping plot-holes. These would make it an even worse film than Seven Samurai, if it wasn't for the fact that at least it's fairly well shot. There's also some ridiculous martial arts action, which always helps. The dude with the killer umbrella raises this up to getting three stars, just about.

Posted at 00:28 by David Cantrell
keywords: film
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Thu, 15 Apr 2010

Film reviews: The Magnificent Seven and Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai, dir Akira Kurosawa

This is, apparently, a great masterpice, and "unanimously hailed" as such according to one reviewer. Nonsense. While it does have its good points and has been undeniably influential, it's not actually a very good film by modern standards. It's not helped by being too long to support its story, and by too many cuts between pointless short shots when nothing is happening. I really wanted to like this, but I couldn't.

The Magnificent Seven, dir John Sturges

The story, modulo a few details and one extra sub-plot in this remake, is pretty much identical to that of Seven Samurai, even down to some of the dialogue being almost the same. Unlike the original, however, The Magnificent Seven is a film that everyone should watch, and which you will enjoy. It is much shorter, with many of the pointless slow bits left out, is better lit and shot, and is by far the better film. Highly recommended.

Posted at 22:05 by David Cantrell
keywords: film
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Thu, 3 Dec 2009

Film review: Shark In Venice

The lovely Mr. Juan Lemmon reminded me that I need to review Shark In Venice.

This is Not A Good Film. It's vaguely enjoyable, once, while drunk, but it lacks quality, in pretty much all departments. This can sometimes be forgiven - I forgive the makers of Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, because their film is so delightfully over-the-top, cheesy and stupid. Trouble is, Shark In Venice doesn't hit any of those. It's not particularly OTT, at least no more so than an Indiana Jones film; it's not cheesy, taking itself quite seriously and it's obvious that quite a lot of money was spent on it; and it's not even stupid - it's ostensibly no more brainless than a thousand other, better films.

If only the film-makers hadn't taken their job so seriously they might have produced something that's actually fun. But no, by being so earnest, they merely emphasised their own incompetence.

Posted at 20:44 by David Cantrell
keywords: film
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Sun, 29 Nov 2009

Micro film reviews

2012: don't bother

Brighton Wok: not very good, but great fun and recommended if you appreciate amateur film-making.

The Warlords: great - Chinese cinema is really very good these days, even if it is still somewhat one-dimensional, with most of their films (at least of those that ever make it to the West) still being some species of martial arts or war movie.

House of Flying Daggers: good, but not great. The second half drags a bit and the plot goes through some rather silly contortions. Worth watching all the way through though.

Posted at 20:29 by David Cantrell
keywords: film
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Tue, 1 Sep 2009

Film review: Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus

Turn your brain off, because there's no art here, precious little story, some really bad effects (and some really good ones, which make the bad ones even worse), so-so acting. That sounds exactly like a review of Starship Troopers doesn't it. I loved starship Troopers. And I loved Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus too. In amongst all the cinematic gourmet meals on my DVD shelves, this is a gigantic burger with loads of gherkins, and both ketchup and mustard. And I don't care that it's bad for me.

Update: 2 Sep 2009: it has been brought to my attention that I may have to add a disclaimer that my review of this film was influenced by drugs. Namely two bottles of wine.

Posted at 23:34 by David Cantrell
keywords: film
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