Tuesday, June 30, 2009

El Orfanato (The Orphanage) 2007

Whilst I did see this film in cinemas for some reason it never got a review, which is a shame as I would like to have re-read my opinion before sitting down to watch the Blu-ray.

I do remember that I liked it very much. That opinion hasn't changed.

The Orphanage is a visually and aurally arresting film, from the producer of Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone (both superb films incidentally) we are treated to a wonderful ghost story that is as terrifying as it is devastating.

Laura brings her husband and adopted son to the orphanage where she grew up in the hopes of starting up a home for special needs children. During their first nights at the orphanage Laura's son Simon meets some new imaginary friends who like playing games. During a party for the opening of the new home Simon disappears and his imaginary friends may not be as imaginary as first thought as the secrets from the orphanage's past are revealed.

As I said earlier, I saw the film is cinemas and I must say this Blu-ray is a stunning presentation, however some scenes seemed to be a lot darker than I remember with limited shadow detail for a high definition presentation.

The audio on the other hand is flawless. A completely expansive yet immersive experience. The score is beautiful and subtle when it needs to be. The sound design is creepy without being silly or over the top.

There are quite a few extras on this British release including deleted scenes, making of and a few other short bits of behind the scenes information.

The Orphanage is a brilliant film that leaves you with very mixed feelings. It is a ghost story that might not even have ghosts (an argument I have noted elsewhere on the net), but it is certainly not for those looking for a light hearted evenings viewing.

**Note** I have opted not to include the trailer as it shows a number of spoilers that would be best not seen before viewing the film.**

Monday, June 29, 2009

Yella (2007)

I have just finished watching the Australian film The Square and I must ask, how is it people always make such stupid mistakes? Do things like that really happen in real life? Can somebody be that unlucky and have things go the complete opposite to how they plan every time? I always read the Weird But True column on the news pages, and I do see some pretty strange stuff, but sometimes I just can't get past the stupidity of some characters portrayed in film. This of course leads me to Yella. A German film from director Christian Petzold, whom I have never heard of.

Our protagonist, Yella, has split up from her abusive husband after the business they co-owned has gone down the toilet. She has just got herself a job in West Germany and is on her way to a new life. When she gets there, she finds out the new job is a sham, but a chance meeting puts her into the world of big business and private equity. However her past is catching up with her and is her new partner all he is cracked up to be?

The sad thing about this film is that it really could have worked, and if it weren't for the completely stupid actions of the main characters I would be praising it to high heaven. Alas, it is not to be. A somewhat predictable ending (that will no doubt come as a suprise to some viewers) is faultered by the idiotic choices that get our characters to these crossroads in the first place. And everytime they take the wrong turn as if GPS or roadmaps don't exist in their world!!

These kind of mistakes take me completely out of the film. They totally ruin my experience and lead me to question if I really want to keep watching. It is sad that 2 films in the last week have done this to me, but I will talk about The Square when I review it later in the week.

Now I don't want this to be a completely negative review. The acting is great and the film looks and sounds good. The fault lies with the script. If you can't think of a believable way in which to get your story where it needs to go then you don't have a story. My suspension of disbelief in a film attempting to be anything other than a mindless popcorn blockbuster can only be stretched so far and not only did I see where Yella was going in the first 10 minutes, but it had no surprises along the way. I should also note that the film bares a striking similarity to another far superior and much earlier film, but sadly if I were to inform you of the title the main premise of this film would be ruined for you.

Regrettably I was unable to locate a trailer with English subtitles. (The original German trailer is below.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Eat My Shorts: Sour Death Balls (1993)

Sour Death Balls. (1993)
A film by Jessica Yu
Running Time: 5 Minutes
Country: USA

When I was younger my family traveled from Australia to the UK for a few months in order for us youngsters to meet our extended family who still lived in the Motherland. Whilst there I met quite a number of my cousins, the majority of whom live in Scotland. When I met them, they played a practical joke on me, by asking if I would like a sweetie and proceeding to feed me one of the most foul tasting and sour "sweeties" I had ever eaten. As a going away present they provided me with a whole box of these delectable goodies so that I might do the same to my friends back home. (I took them to school and gave them to my entire class) If I had been a tad older and as clever as Jessica Yu, I may have thought of making this film.

Sour Death Balls is an original short documenting the reactions of people given a sour death ball to eat. It is mostly children who partake, but the reactions are so funny and honest that I was in stitches for most of its duration.

You can find it on the IMDB here.

and you can watch the film below:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Weekly TV Round-up

Well, with being sick and very little else to do, I watched quite a bit of TV, or I should say, I watched quite a number of TV shows on DVD.

I do enjoy Eureka, but I must say that the whole imminent destruction of town/main character etc is starting to wear me down. If you can't come up with story ideas that don't rely on last second bouts of genius then what is the point...every episode a main character is going to die from the latest whatever, or the whole town is going to explode because of that underground thing that nobody knew about in a town that supposedly has the smartest minds??? I mean honestly. Anyways, I have finished Season 3 and I am still looking forward to the new episodes next month so....what can you do...

Okay, honestly. I didn't really know where this was going and now I sure as hell can't figure it out and it only has 2 episodes left to explain it all...I'm holding my breath, but something tells me it probably won't be worth it....

This was a rather interesting Canadian series. I note that it has a 2nd season listed, but I am not sure if I liked it enough to seek it out. The pacing was really odd, slow and melodic, but not boring. I couldn't relate to any of the characters so maybe that distanced me. The idea is certainly interesting, but I don't think it pulls off what it is attempting to do as well as it could have. We basically follow a homicide detective with a colourful past that he has kept hidden from his wife and family. They move to a new house that sees the past stirred up, throw into the mix that his neighbor; an old school friend, is a serial killer and as I said, it makes for an interesting idea.

Finally....after a 6 month wait! Top Gear is back and in good form too. Loved the race from London to Scotland, Michael Schumacher is The Stig (or is he) and we still get the same camaraderie from the boys! Great fun all round. Can't wait till tonights episode!

I also finally managed to finish The Adventures of Brisco County Jnr. I never really knew what to make of this show. It is obviously camp and a tad corny, but I must admit I found it addictively entertaining, despite many cringing moments. Bruce Campbell was awesome as always and the rest of the cast suited their roles well. Some of the plots left a little to be desired, but this show is a great example of how the TV scene has changed....this first season has 26 episodes!!!! Nowadays shows are lucky to even get 12 for their first season....sad really.

well, as you can tell I am back writing again. I did watch quite a lot of movies during my week long illness and I will be reviewing some of them in the next few days. I hope you will bear with me as I am still not 100%, but I am doing my best to get back on the band wagon!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Trailer Alert - The Box

When I first heard about this film, I wasn't really sure how it could play. Having watched the trailer I now think it looks very interesting and has moved up the list of my must see movies.

Check it out for yourself:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Futurama Returns to TV

I know I am a little late with this news, but I decided to post it anyway!

Futurama is coming back to episodic form in 2010!!

I Can't wait.... and you can read more here

Monday, June 22, 2009

and again...

I am sitting in bed typing this on my girlfriend's laptop, I have been here since last Wednesday with my first (and hopefully last) ever run in with tonsillitis. To add to that, the entire left side of my mouth has turned into one giant ulcer and gum laceration and I have been pumped to high heaven with every known pain killer to man (and to little effect) Currently the elixir or Codeine, Brufen (Ibuprofens bigger brother) and Penicillin (for the infection), along with a mouth wash every 3 hours seems to be helping.

Anyways, I thought I would just update to say why there have been no updates, and that I have not abandoned or forgotten my blog.

I have been trying to watch a few series or movies between my passing out and high as a kite moments....I am up-to-date with Harper's Island, just finished watching the first episode of Top Gear season 13 and 8 Episodes of Brisco County Jnr. On the movie front, watched The Onion Movie, Don't Mess With the Zohan (cause I figured it would be better if I were under some sort of influence.....I was wrong) and the Korean version of Hansel and Gretel.

Anyways, not sure how long I am going to be out, but I hope to start writing again soon.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Trailer Alert - The Time Traveler's Wife

Well, this film has been a long time coming and finally a trailer has been released.

I read the book a few months back so hopefully it won't be too fresh in my mind when I see the film. I really can't bear to watch films adapted from books too soon after reading them as it alters my view of the film a little too much. I am a big believer that films should be judged on their own merit, not how well they were adapted from their source material.

Anyhow, check out the trailer below:

Eden Log (2007)

I quite enjoyed Eden Log, however I am starting to grow tired of the apparent unwritten law of science fiction stating that they must contain a political or environmental statement. Even the apocalyptic horror films of late have been in on this law. Why can't we just have a good old fashioned science fiction story that is not the by product of humans interaction with the environment.

That said, Eden Log starts its journey with a 3 minute strobe effect (warning to viewers who suffer from epilepsy), where we meet our main lead. He has no name, he can't remember anything and he has just woken up in a pool of water next to a dead man in what appears to be the bottom of a mine shaft. He makes his way through a number of turnstiles (with technology that suggests the setting is in the not to distant future) in an attempt to get out. He quickly learns that he is not alone in the dark.

Whilst this set up is by no means original, the set pieces, lighting and camera work made my viewing experience all the more immersive. The soundtrack is expansive with some subtle and effective use of surrounds. The score is never overbearing and in some instances completely indiscernible from the films actual sound scape. There is relatively little dialogue, which makes a change, though sadly what dialog there is basically explains away everything anyhow.

The cast is fairly limited, and aside from the two main characters, most are hidden under makeup or costumes which require very little "acting"

Overall I quite enjoyed the journey of Eden Log, but the reflection is not as satisfying and I am not sure that the ending was well thought out, but it is certainly marred by poor CGI.

I am sure most sci fi fans will find something to like in Eden Log, but it doesn't offer anything that hasn't been done in the past.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Trailer Alert - The Descent 2

Way back in 2005 a little known horror film rocked my world. Hot off the hit that was Dog Soldiers, Neil Marshall's next film made it into my top 5 of that year! I introduced it to every person that ever spoke to me about movies. If you could wear a DVD out, my 2 disc edition would have needed replacing long ago. (along with The 5th Element, but that's a different post)

The Descent.

The plot was simple and the movie scared the absolute pants off me. Of course it helped that I knew nothing about it!! Once you know any bit of information about this film it kind of spoils it.

Anyhow, I watched Eden Lake a month or so ago, and learnt that its director James Watkins next project was a sequel to the Descent.

I have no idea how they plan on pulling it off, but watching this trailer leads me to believe they are using the U.S ending as a starting point. (Yes, the film had multiple endings depending on which country you saw it in)

Anyways....see for yourself:

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rant Alert: Physical Media Vs Downloable Content

In the last few days I have started to get very angry with the number of people who have asked for my opinion regarding the future of home entertainment only to lambaste me with information about how digital downloads are going to be the future and you won't be able to buy discs anymore etc etc.

I say what a load of crap.

Whilst the music industry may have suffered a loss and a kick in the teeth with the invention of the mp3, people still buy CD's. Not as many people, but they still do.... in fact I would say most people who do not purchase their music on a physical disc fall into 3 camps. The first are pirates who don't pay for anything anyways so really they don't count. The second are those who use ipods, or other personal audio devices that link to a PC or MAC. The third are the ones who can't find that elusive album anywhere in the physical world and as an absolute last resort (or because its easier) they pay to download it.

MP3 is not as good as a CD. PERIOD. If you are listening to your music on an ipod or headphone based system you do not get to argue with me about this. If you are listening to your music on an all-in-one sound system or Bose lifestyle system you also don't get to argue with me. Sure 80% of people claim they can't hear the difference, but there are so many factors as to why this may be the case that I am not going to argue. MP3 cannot be as good as CD and that is a technical FACT. (look up Lossy compression to find out why)

I had the pleasure for 5 years of my life, working in a HIFI store, and not somewhere like JBHIFI or Harvey Norman, but a specialist HIFI store. We dealt with products designed to do only one thing. Recreate music the way it was meant to be heard. When you listen to an MP3 on a $10,000 sound system (and $10,000 is not expensive by the way) it sounds like the music was recorded underwater and then the recording was dragged by 8 horses across the country on a gravel road. Now don't get me wrong, CD is still nowhere near the best format for listening to music, but it is by far the best quality you can get main stream. Now I am not expecting everyone to rush out and spend $10,000 on a sound system; and I appreciate that the reason MP3's have become so popular is its ease of use and lack of physical space requirement, but to this day people still buy CD's. Why? and does sound quality play a part? well, actually, I don't think it does. I think people like to get something for their money. If I am going to spend $30 on something, I want to be able to hold it in my hand, read the back cover for track listings or band biographies in the booklet. I want to have something physical. Not to mention that if I have an ipod or some such, I can just rip the disc to mp3 anyways, but I will always have the original. (don't even think about telling me I can burn mp3's to CD so my argument is mute. See my rant above about sound quality of Mp3)

wow, this post is already quite long and I haven't even got to movies.

Blu-ray disc will be here to stay for quite some time. So will DVD. Movie downloads may come into play, but they will never fully succed or replace a physical media device. Escpecially not anytime soon.

Last week DVD sales accounted for 87% of the home movie market. Blu-ray accounted for 12% and digital downloads..... 1% thats right.....1 %

Blu-ray sales were up 81.72% compared with this time last year, whilst DVD sales were down 17.58% Digital Delivery, whilst up was only 32%

One of the biggest issues is with delivery. Most people do not have a lot of bandwidth available to them. To download a movie in Blu-ray disc quality is going to cost you upwards of 25GIG, that is going to take a few hours even at some of the fastest internet speeds currently available!

What do they do to fix this.....compress the title. What does that mean? Well, it means a reduction in quality....can you see the difference? Well, a blind test conducted by the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (or CEDIA) says you can. They got participants to look at 2 systems setup and configured identically except for source material. The first source was a Blu-ray, the second was a high definition MP4 file downloaded using Apple TV - both of the same feature film. The results: 92% said the Blu-ray looked better!!

You can read more about this test here

If you want to watch your movie on an ipod or PSP, fine download a crappy compressed copy from itunes (although a number of companies are now providing digital versions with the physical copy!), but for actual Flat Panel and Home Theater Style movie watching you cannot get anything in a download that remotely comes close to the picture quality of a Blu-ray, add to that the joy of actually being able to physically hold the product in your hand.

DVD won't be gone anytime soon either....with so many discs available at such greatly reduced prices, those that can't see the difference or those that don't feel paying the extra for Blu-ray is worth it, will still lap up DVD products for years to come.

There is so much going on in the world today that none of these types of arguments seem really worth spending the time on.

Like so many other arguments I will end this one with...."why can't we all just get along"

Each format has its own reason for existence. If having all 3 remains profitable, then why can't we just keep them, why does a specific format or delivery service have to win?!?!

What are your thoughts or comments?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

TV...TV & TV on DVD

This week I have spent much of my time watching Eureka on DVD, I stopped watching midway through season 2 and then forgot about the show altogether, but now I am re-watching them all in anticipation of not only the season 3 DVD release on the 30th, but new Season 4 (although really the 2nd half of Season 3) episodes starting on July 10th!! The show is quite entertaining and does have quite a number well thought out episodes. Not being a scientist I am unsure of how accurate all of the "science speak" is, but I find it easy enough to follow for the most part.

I have also checked out Richard Hammond's short but sweet series for the National Geographic channel entitled Engineering Connections. In it, Hammond takes us through the design and implementation stages of 4 major engineering feats and explains where the technology originated from.

The first episode focuses on the Airbus A380 and how the technology to keep this thing in the air relates to an eagle in flight, a Mongolian bow (as in bow & arrow) and a 19th century rocket.

Next up is Taipei 101, one of the world's tallest and most sophisticated buildings. Hammond shares how the building and construction share commonality with bird cages, bamboo, car brakes and yachts.

Hammond then travels to Hawaii to visit the Keck Observatory, home to the world's largest telescope and an amazing mirrored lens array that shares technology derived from a sand blaster, a spy plane and a theramin.

Last and by no means least we have the Troll A Gas Platform, the largest structure ever moved by man. It has a connection to a 19th century French gardener, a 16th century German mayor, an American motoring engineer.

Overall I felt that the series did feel a little high school oriented and I found Hammond's constant repition of the places or objects name to be very annoying, but the series did still have quite a bit to offer and was certainly as entertaining as it was educational.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Terminator Salvation (2009)

I have never really been a die hard Terminator fan. If I had to pick a favorite, I would say the first is probably going to be it. Having watched the extras on the DVD though, I think I would have liked it more if Lance Henriksen had been the Terminator, but that's probably just me.

Anyway, almost 25 years after the first appearance of Terminator on our screens comes the fourth installment. I didn't dislike it, but it was not a great film. I do not understand this penchant for destruction. A movie should have a purpose and the action should compliment the story, well this story doesn't make any sense and thus the action and violence is just as senseless.

The film has a fairly strong cast which is such a shame as not one of them has anything decent to do in their role; with the possible exception of Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright, but even the possibilities of his character are largely left unexplored. Christian Bale does what he can as John Connor, Bryce Dallas Howard is wasted picking up the role from Claire Danes character in the third installment.

The film doesn't actually add anything new to the time line as far as I can tell, it basically just explains a bit in the middle and then does its own thing for another 90 minutes, which quite frankly means lots of things blow up and there are a lot of loud noises. Once again....so much potential wasted on pointless action sequences. It is not quite as bad as a Michael Bay(splosions) movie, but it is not much better either.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Children (2008)

When you make a horror movie, the thing that usually helps make it so scary is having characters that you can relate to or sympathize with. The Children apparently didn't get the memo.

A family Christmas holiday gone wrong as a series of unfortunate incidents lead to an escalating series of tragic events that may or may not have been perpetrated by the young children.

The premise is interesting, but not entirely original. What would happen if your children suddenly took ill and decided that your time on Earth was at their discretion? The film reminded me a little of Zombies (a.k.a Wicked Little Things) albeit a daylight version. There are certainly some disturbing and genuinely creepy moments, but on the whole the parents reactions to the occurring events got more and more annoying to the point where I just wished they would hurry up and be killed. There is also something to be said about making children appear creepy, this film uses make-up and the obvious director's cue of "Make a scary face".

All is not entirely lost, the film has some great cinematography and the eerie music helps the little hair stand on end as required. The film is quite graphically violent too so if you are a bit squeamish you may find yourself covering your eyes at times.

It is a shame that the film makes no attempt to explain the continuing decline in mental state of its lead characters, or the useless actions and reactions of the adults, even the teenage daughter was a little more intelligent than them and that really is saying something! All I can hope is that if this series of events occurs to me, that I act far more mature and intelligently than the adults in this film.

Trailer Alert - Final Destination 4


Anyway, here is the trailer for The Final Destination; lamest franchise name ever....still going to see it though :P~

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Easy Virtue (2008)

Nearly 10 years after his last film director Stephan Elliot brings us Easy Virtue. I enjoyed both Eye of the Beholder and Priscilla Queen of the Desert and having seen a documentary on the making of the former I was surprised to see a new film from him at all! Killing Priscilla is a documentary filmed during the making of Eye of the Beholder. If you want to be a director I strongly suggest you seek it out and watch it as it is one of the most candid and incredible accounts of film-making I have ever seen, but anyhow on to Easy Virtue.

Based on the Noel Coward play, Easy Virtue is certainly an easy to watch and entertaining film. A young Englishman meets and falls in love with an American gal and brings her home to meet the parents. In fact, this film has quite a bit in common with Meet the Parents only in a period setting. We get wonderful performances by all involved, I particularly liked Colin Firth's disheveled portrayal of the Colonel, and Kristen Scott Thomas captures the cold and manipulating Mother perfectly too.

The film is beautifully shot in cinema scope with great use of the English manors and countryside. The music selection is interesting, with use of a brass swing band to play songs such as Car Wash and Sex Bomb as only a 1920's swing band could, as well as providing an upbeat score.

On the whole I enjoyed watching Easy Virtue. The dialogue was witty and edgy as Noel Coward often is, the performances were excellent and the experience was altogether refreshing in this time of action blockbusters who substitute effects for plot.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)

Sadly, Lesbian Vampire Killers is not as much fun as its title would have us believe. A small English town has a curse placed on it by a vampire queen. The curse ensures that all of the towns womenfolk after turning the ripe old age of 18 become enslaved by lesbians that also happen to be vampires. The townsfolk keep the lesbians at bay by sending tourists and presumably people they don't like to a cabin in the middle of the forest as what I can only guess is a sacrifice. Fast forward to present day and 2 friends head off for a hike in the countryside and happen upon the aforementioned cursed town. After watching a VW van full of hotties depart the local drinking establishment the boys think they have hit pay dirt, but of course we know better.

Lesbian Vampire Killers tries very hard to establish a style of its own, but we are not presented with anything that hasn't been attempted more successfully by other films, even the main characters are very reminiscent of other more superior character roles!. The 2 male leads for example are just a poor mans photocopy of Simon Pegg & Nick Frost's characters from Shaun of the Dead. Paul McGann plays a priest trying to protect his daughter who is about to turn 18, he is also the films main source of exposition and yet appears in a series of plot extensions that seem to serve very little purpose as well as being the stereotypical priest with the know-how. I appreciate the air of B-grade tongue in cheek humor that is present, but it just doesn't live up to even B-grade standards. I should also point out that the vampire queen is supposed to be Camilla, a vampire that out dates even Dracula and has also appeared in countless movie outings.

Well, maybe my expectations were a bit high, but I was quite disappointed with Lesbian Vampire Killers. It is not the worst film of the year, but I wouldn't rush out to see it in cinemas.