18 May, 2013

Oh Star Trek... I am Converted.

I've always been a sci-fi and fantasy geek, clearly, but Star Trek was always just a little too far into the sci-fi path for me. I never geeked out about it. I enjoyed Next Generation growing up, but that was mostly because of my crush on Wesley Crusher, and because watching it was bonding time with my mom. 

But then J. J. Abrams showed up.... and then: hot damn.

I loved the reboot. Loved it. And I'm happy talking about Star Trek here because I do think of it as an adaptation. It may not be based on an original source novel like the other things I've looked at here,  but it is derived from a previous existing piece of media. People have an idea of what things should look like before going into the cinema based on the multiple TV shows and films that have come before. Therefore it's the same principles I work with on adaptations.

So anyway, Star Trek: Into Darkness was amazing. I loved the first one of the new reboot, and have watched it many, many times, and therefore I am so glad to see that the second installment not only meets the expectations from the first one, but builds the plot, characters, and relationships; not to mention the technological and special effect advances.  

I've seen it twice already and really think I need at least one more viewing. I've always been a Benedict Cumberbatch fan (made intensely strong by my love of Sherlock), as well as Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto.  The latter two had such a wonderful chemistry, banter, and timing with each other in this film. The former was so deliciously, wonderfully bad but also understandably so, that he was a joy to watch. It often takes quite a bit for me to get caught up in the story of a film; I'm usually too busy analyzing it-- actor performance, how they got that shot, scenery, or costume design that the story is just one more thing I'm examining. That didn't happen this time. I was EXHAUSTED at the end of the film. I felt like I'd just done battle alongside my friends to save my ship from the big bad guy. 











Things I loved:

Relationships: This was the biggest positive for me. There was so much development and complexity, but also humor, kindness, and authenticity.  The story was great, the effects great, the pacing and suspense great, but I think all of that hung on the growth of these characters, and the relate-able relationships they've developed in this film.
     Spock and Jim- teaching Spock what it means to have a friend, and to have someone care about you... I enjoyed when Jim asked him, "You know why I went back, right?" but Jim never really answers it. He wants Spock to figure it out, that it's because Jim likes Spock, and cares about him; they're friends.  

I liked that Jim showed some vulnerability before he jettisoned himself across space to the Big Bad Starship, and told Spock that he didn't know what he should do, he only knew what he could do. Jim was so much more human in this film with his uncertainty about himself, his loss of Pike, the father-like figure, his allegiance and devotion to his crew, and even the beginning sparks of a relationship, not just a fling, with Carol.  And who didn't get at least a smidge choked up at the  scene pictured on the right. I'm still reeling from the structure of this scene. The emotion of friendship, the acknowledgement of fear, the desire to comfort but the inability to contact, and personally witnessing the passing of your best friend, and being powerless to stop it. And Spock crying. Brilliantly done scene in terms of dialogue, pacing, and actor performance. I loved it.


      Spock and Uhura-How fun was that? I mostly enjoyed them fighting, and Jim's line of "oh my gosh, are you fighting? What is that even like?" But Spock and Uhura came to a neat understanding in their relationship, I think.  She is so capable (languages, facing the Klingons, backing him up in the final fight with Khan, etc.), and calls him on his crap; I think she can tap into the human side of him faster than anyone, and encourages him to question his decision to not feel emotions. They're a strong, and functioning couple. It's not all Hollywood romance, or even the cheesy romance of past Star Trek couples. They work hard at their relationship, it shows, and I think strengthens them as characters. I certainly enjoyed watching them. 


       Khan and Everyone: Oh Khan was fabulous. The body language, the vocal tone... it wasn't too far off from his portrayal of Sherlock, really. He's overly gifted, knows he is and is therefore quite cocky but in an endearing way, but Khan has that extra evil streak where he'll happily hurt whoever to get what he needs. And that duplicity was so intriguing. You knew it was coming, particularly as soon as you found out he was Khan and not 'Harrison' (in this scene), but the suspense of when, and how drove the conflict throughout the film.  I loved watching him (or his stunt double, whatever...); he moved like a dancer: tall, graceful, sharp, controlled, and watching him fight was beautiful. Even when Jim was punching the heck out of him and he just had a look of curiosity on his face. His beautiful, beautiful face:

  I also have such great fun watching Abram's filming style. He goes to great lengths to give shots a retro feel (so. many. lens flares. But I love them), and utilized 'old school' and unique techniques to get the shots he wants. If you've never watched the special features on the first film, I highly recommend it. The real-life shots and the CG shots are so in tune with each other, that it's difficult to tell where special effects end and the actual thing begins, which I think helps the audience member stay in the story. If something was blatantly CG-ed, then we'd notice it, and it'd take us out of the story. But each shot is stylistically like the next from the super-alien world in the opening scene to the normal conversations between characters. All have a great feel of authenticity to them.
All in all, this was a tight, well-written story that moved all individual story lines along in this new, re-written Star Trek world of Abram's creaction (Scotty, Bones, Sulu, and Chekov included) forward, and gave brilliant conflicts to structure the story around.  A cocky captain brought down to a normal man, earning the chair, coming into his own, and embracing a brilliant constructed conflict in Khan.  A crew supporting their captain, coming together as a strong, cohesive unit, and all of the humor, action, effects, drama, music, and design we've come to expect from this Star Trek reboot. 

Boot away! I can't wait for the next instalment! It's still 'in development (2016)' on ProIMDB, so we'll see what comes of it... but this new Trekkie is already geeking out about it.

03 February, 2013

PhD Madness

The Beast. And many, many notes.
Do you see the date on that last post?! It's almost A YEAR AGO!! 

Crazy, I know. But work and the picture to the left is pretty much all I've been up to for the last few months!

From April 2012-June 2012 I traveled to 9 states to lecture, promote Wales, talk about film adaptation, and a slew of other fun facts, crazy work appointments and whatnot.

From June to September I was a total recluse writing the above. Literally. Did. Nothing. Else. Nothing.

September - January = 14 states, holiday in Spain, lectures, work, and beginning to study my thesis to prepare for my viva (the oral defense of the Beast... aka, PhD thesis).

And that basically brings us to here!

Things on my mind film wise: Les Miserables, The Hobbit, Jane Austen Celebrations (!!), Leaky Con 2013, and all sorts of new forays into film work, script editing, and writing a bit more for hypeable.com and pagetopremiere.com. It'll be a big year!

I'm revamping my website, studying The Beast and hanging my head in shame at the dumb mistakes (oh redonkulousness), working hard at my new job and loving it, and still fitting in as much film work as I can. For example, last week I was on a panel with executives from BBC, S4C, Film Agency Wales, and a producer from Apollo Productions. We listened to 8 professional writers pitch passion projects, examine their pitch documents, and provide feedback for them.

Anywho, more to come soon as I come back to life and re-immerse myself in all of this!

31 March, 2012

Another Hunger Games Thought

So I saw it again last night with my flatmate (I'm back in Wales now), and I'm having further issues with the Katniss/Peeta relationship. Overall, I'm still a big fan of the film; successful adaptation, well done, blah blah blah... but....

...I think it should be made more clear that Peeta is head over heels for Katniss, that Katniss is confused, and that she was 'playing a game.' The only real moment that stands out to me as honest emotion of care from Katniss is when she hears the canon, thinks Peeta has died, knocks the nightlock out of his hand and yells at him for scaring her; that was great. Really.....really great.  And maybe that moment when she decides to leave him in the cave to get the medicine. That was up there too.

But overall, we're left without clarity of the situation between them.  It would have just taken one line before Katniss went on stage; the line, "Have you told Peeta this?" Haymitch: "He's already there." That would have brought it to our minds; and again, on the train when she says they "try to forget"... they could have adapted that scene so it was a bit more clear that Katniss was playing a game, and Peeta never was. At this point it just seems Katniss is unsure; Peeta doesn't doubt her for playing a game with Haymitch without him knowing the rules. 

Prior to this, in the cave (yes, I'm still harping on about the cave), we could have used the multiple kisses; seeing Katniss work out the game with Haymitch (one kiss = one parachute), and use it to her advantage to assist Peeta... then, when the 'big kiss' came (I say it in quotations because I didn't get to oooooo moment I should have from that kiss), it would make more of an impact; we would get that this kiss was different...that Katniss felt something different then....

I found this on Pinterest; I'm sorry I don't know the original poster (The Trilogy? Written in the corner?) but thank you for creating it!

....also, I missed the line from Peeta "you can kiss me anytime you want;" he recognizes that the cameras are on them and it'll make the audience happy, but he genuinely wants her there, with him. His attraction/love are never in question, and I did question it in the film. A few more lines, a few more interactions, and it would have set the stage for Peeta's heartache and Katniss's indecision; as it is, he's a bit disappointed and she's kinda confused... but I don't get the depth of emotion that was in the book, nor what I think ought to exist at this point before heading into Catching Fire.

I realize these sound like teenage girl desires, but I honestly do think it's that proximity to each other, growing from assistance to need to desire that makes the audience believe in the relationship, and perhaps also allows Katniss to believe in the possibility of attraction to Peeta. It's that believable bonding in the cave that sets the tone of all of the attraction, protection, and partnership events that happen in the following two books (I think it was Mockingjay where Katniss says, "That's what we do... we protect each other" after Peeta asks, "You're still protecting me, real or not real?").

That's all for now. I'll weigh in on the questions I've been asked in a bit, but I had to get that one off my chest :)

28 March, 2012

The Hunger Games

So I was in Denver for work when this was released, and the friend I went to see it with said, "Isn't it cool that we're in The Capitol going to see The Capitol?" It took me a minute, but then in made perfect sense... The Capitol is described as being through the Rockies, and in a setting similar to Denver; plus there were a few restaurants and whatnot called The Capitol, spelled that way... it was convincing! How appropriate!

Also, Seneca Crane and Ceasar Flickerman were in the audience of my screening.... they were die-hard fans with really authentic costumes. Seneca even shaved his beard appropriately. I salute that sort of effort.

So here I will give a quick overview of my thoughts on The Hunger Games, directed by Gary Ross based on Suzanne Collins's novel (but if you don't know that already, where have you been? Painted into a rock lying in a riverbed?), and then I'll provide a bit of analysis and discussion on elements of the adaptation, the adaptation process, and personal thoughts on what I loved, what I didn't love, and what was missed in the film.




Review
The Hunger Games-- I was quite nervous about this adaptation. I spoke to some of the development team ages ago when it was just going into the script, and I was frustrated that I didn't get to work with them for long. However, I don't think I had to worry as I did... I was very sceptical, I was nervous, I didn't trust them, I didn't think they understood the span of their fandom and the power that they could wield over the financial returns of the film...

.... but I really shouldn't have worried so much because I think this was a well done adaptation, and a good film in its own right.  It's faithful enough to not upset the fans, it has necessary additional scenes to expand the narrative from the text to the screen without alienating the existing story and to provide enough information for those encountering the story for the first time, the elements of the book that were removed are regrettable (Madge, lamb stew), but I wouldn't have changed much in the film in order to get more of those elements, and at nearly two and a half hours, there wasn't a lot that could be added; the stuff that was there worked; the performances brilliant for the most part; costume, set, and makeup phenomenal, the camera worked as its own narrative tool, the CG while cheesy at times (the flames in the chariot springs to mind) was pretty effective overall (particularly with the tracker jackers and the fire), and I loved the music. I would have added a few things (time with Peeta mostly to develop that emotional relationship), however, but overall I was greatly pleased!

While I liked it at first, after my first viewing, I found myself wanting. I was at a bit of a loss, and slightly perturbed and unsatisfied by the film. However, I'm learning to accept that this is my go-to state after a first viewing. This is the viewing where I'm sitting with a note pad in my lap, marking moments that I have a thought I want to explore later, which may relate to my thesis, which may relate to a script I read last week or a book I'm considering optioning, which repeatedly takes me out of the narrative and into an analytical mindset instead of just watching and experiencing the film, and it's this viewing where the film is complementing or replacing the images in my head from the reading. This is why I wait for after multiple viewing to delve into analysis (I'm on 3; 4 will happen on Thursday when I'm back in Wales).

I left that first viewing feeling a bit angry that I didn't have more Katniss and Peeta affection time, and their relationship I still think is the one that could have used more attention.  I was also quite bothered that in the end of the games they weren't more torn up than they were.  In the book they're on the edge of death, and it was that tear-down to the will to survive, the bringing of the characters to base zero where their continued existence is in question, that really brings home the brutality of the Hunger Games for me. When they are lifted out of the arena in the novel, we don't even know if Peeta is going to live he's lost so much blood.  In this one they've got a few scratches, they're never bordering on dying of thirst or hunger, Katniss seems to still have a functioning ear, they're pretty much always pretty, and Peeta has both legs.

I don't mind detail changes, and encourage them when they don't fit into the film's narrative (like I missed the reference to the mutts' eyes, but it didn't need to be there; the focus of that scene was on running away and surviving; it's a regrettable loss, but not a pivotal one); changes must happen with a media shift like a book to film adaptation, but the emotional change for me was in seeing them brought to near death, The Capitol bringing them back within days and then parading them around for show. It shows the brutality of The Capitol-- their power to save, and yet their refusal to save; only to allow children to kill, and it bonded Katniss and Peeta in a way that no one else would understand; not even past victors because they could never share the experience. Like a war buddy and a lover in one, Katniss and Peeta are bonded by their near-death experiences in the arena, and I missed that in the film.

My favorite moments of Katniss and Peeta, where I think you can see the most natural chemistry and affection is 1) When she thinks that Peeta has died after eating nightlock, and she finds him, hits him, yells at him, swears at him, and then hugs him with relief. It was a genuine reaction of affection, and 2) Right before they're about to eat the nightlock at the end when Peeta touches her braid. It's so sweet and sincere; I really do think that's their most intimate moment because it's not a game, it's not due to any commentary on Haymitch, and seemed a natural movement for Peeta. I wanted it to be the kiss in the cave, but it wasn't for me.

So that's my major complaint of the film; not enough of the emotional development of Peeta and Katniss. Seeds are planted, yes, but Peeta is supposed to be head over heels, crazy mad in love with her, and I could never sense his sincerity; Katniss is possibly playing the game and is uncertain of her feelings, so that's understandable, but the chemistry was still there in the novels, even if the certainty on her side wasn't; the certainty and the chemistry was always on Peeta's side, so I'm sorry that didn't showcase in the film for me.

Additions: They gave more cut back scenes to Gale, keeping him ever in our minds, particularly as these cut backs were almost always in conjunction with a kiss between Peeta and Katniss, illustrating the love triangle.

They also gave more scenes to President Snow, which I think was a very smart move. Donald Sutherland on The Today Show yesterday said that Suzanne Collins (a credited executive producer and part of the screenwriting team) supported the additions so that they gave additional weight to President Snow's threats, thus also illustrating the author's blessing upon the changes from the source text.  We have pages and pages to read about Katniss's internalizations of Snow's treachery and 'rule them all' attitude in the book, but in the film we don't get that kind of access to Katniss's head. Therefore we need more moments with Snow threatening Seneca, ripping apart roses, commenting on containing and defeating the spark of rebellion, and purposefully manipulating people's emotions by giving them hope and then killing it. He was wretched...which is just what he's supposed to be, so well done for those extra scenes. It also cut Seneca a bit of slack, in my mind. He was just a cog in the machine, and not a horrible guy, but raised by a horrible system to commit horrible crimes. Overall he too succumbed to The Capitol and to President Snow's maliciousness.

There were also a few small additions that I appreciated, one in particular was Katniss switching the window in her Capitol room into a forest-- you immediately saw her alienation in this strange, weirdly decorated Capitol filled with gadgets and weird colors. The forest put her back on familiar ground and gave us one of the first glimpses of the human, shaken, and threatened Katniss.

I'm going to depart from my normal pros/cons for this one and discuss it thematically, and a little chronologically instead, as that's how my notes, my head, and my thoughts are rolling!


Analysis

Opening music and titles- I would have chosen a different font (it was a bit too friendly; yes, a font can be friendly), but the information was concise, and projected the overlying serious tone of this film-- uprising = children fighting to the death.

Opening scene in the capitol and switching immediately to the grim District 12 gives immediate contrast to the divide between the Haves and the Have Nots; the rich and those that make them so.

Prim is a very good screamer; terrified and innocent and sincere all at the same time; we hear it again at the reaping-- it's a soul-crushing, heart wrenching scream; I too wanted to protect her.


Gale and Katniss:  I like their ease; in the books its so natural and comfortable; we also have the benefit of learning how long it took them to trust each other and the time put into the friendship to become a partnership; however it's clear that relationship is there in the film with the nicknames, the playing to Katniss's shooting strengths, the suggestion of running away together, and the sharing of the bread... all elements from the novel, but ones that illustrate the unity and partnership of Gale and Katniss. It isn't romantic, it's functional... but it's also affectionate. I always saw brother with Gale, not lover, but that's just me....

Katniss and her Mother: Wow. Way to put it to her that Katniss has been running this family, is strong, in control, the provider, protective (telling Prim what she wants to hear, singing her the lullaby, bringing in the food etc.), and the strong, directive tone to her mother "Don't tune out again... you can't." was really effective.

The Hob- smaller than I'd pictured it, and Greasy Sae was a bit more kind that imagined (I pictured her tough as nails, hard ass), but perhaps a little gentleness was needed in such a harsh atmosphere as District 12, and as we lost Madge, it was nice having the Mockingjay pin come out of a moment of kindness; a glimmer of the goodness still apparent in humanity.

The Reaping- the film at The Reaping was a good filmic device to provide information to those that were not previous fans of the books. It gives insight as to what happened in the past, and the Capitol's rationale in creating the Hunger Games. Gale's mouthing of the words and Effie's miming of them illustrates the repeated use of this film as part of the ceremony, thus giving information to the viewer, but also showing the Capitol's control and exercises of domination over the districts. This is also the first time we see Peeta...
  

Peeta:  We first see him as a scared, shorter-than expected guy, but with a baby face that fit my imaginings of him.  Peeta was a slow burn for me. I didn't like the casting decision early on as I only knew Josh from 'Little Manhattan' and 'Vampire's Assistant,' and I thought him too small... I'm still slightly miffed by a few elements of the script and performance as it felt like a lot of the time he fulfilled the 'Hermione Role' in that he fills in script information. "Katniss, Haymitch is our mentor, we should try to work with him..." he's there to provide information which can come across as 'convenient' at times. However, I'm fully crushing on Peeta. I don't mind admitting it. Josh worked his way into my psyche and has taken over the visual role of Peeta fully in my imagination now.

Color- The color throughout the film is brilliant. Very effective and telling. In District 12, everything is muted. Grays, blues, whites, faded clothes and nothing is outstanding. The red of the banners and the influx of the Capitol stands out against the faded dreariness of the district. Then when we see Effie Trinket for the first time... holy Capitol difference .... bright fuchsia and those gold lips against the stark gray and blue of 12-- it certainly separates Effie as a far, far, FAR cry from 12.

12: Grays, blues, whites, dreary, faded
Capitol: Bright, primary colors and high-intensity and high-saturation colors; also a lot of block colors. There are very few patterns.
Arena: earthy; browns, greens, hiking boots, army green trousers... it's strange that the most 'created' thing, the arena, is the most 'natural.'

Music (and sound below)- I noticed the specific use of the music first in The Reaping, and then again throughout-- first of all, the score is gorgeous. I love James Newton Howard ever since I first heard 'Flying' from 2003's Peter Pan. He weaves a story with sound so well, and I love that he's not afraid to mix medias-- strings, electronic, voices, percussion-- it all knits together very well to create a specific tone for the image it matches. In Hunger Games, I noticed the use of music as a narrative tool more frequently than I have in other films.  Often the sound stops, or the dialogue stops, and music takes over; music can project a feeling so strongly, and this score with its strong base tones (listen to 'The Cave' on the score soundtrack; there is a constant tone across the bottom register... it's almost a buzz it continues so thoroughly that you don't notice it after a few bars. This tone is apparent in a few of the songs, and ties the narrative together, whilst allowing the melodies, the tones and the beats to take on specific actions.

source
The Capitol anthem starts and we seize up for all that it embodies; the four-note tone of Rue's call appears and I get chills (you can even download the tone for free from iTunes or amazon-- message alert tone anyone? Yes.), or one of my favorites are the uses of percussion for Katniss's decision or for Snow's impact-- I'm thinking of the scene in the cave where Peeta gets worse and she decides to go to the feast for his medicine. She's serenely staring at him, worried and active, but quiet, and then the drums start (same track as above, it comes in at 2:24) and the first bow stroke and drum beat she is up and decisively moving. The music shift marks her decision and empowers her movements.

Similarly, when Seneca walks into the palace room after the games finish and that crystal bowl of Nightlock berries are there to greet him... then the drums/beats start (that bit doesn't seem to have made the cut to the soundtrack, but it's in the film right after we see the berries). It punctuates the scene and moves the story forward.

And this is just the score... then there's discussion on the lullaby (which has been stuck in my head since I saw it the first time, let alone after three viewings... it's stuck in there now for good!) and the soundtrack itself which I'm a fan of. A few songs feel superfluous (Kid Cudi), but overall the score and the soundtrack give a tonal feel to the film of folk, with acoustic, country, blues artists but also mixed in with new age/electronic/even punk feelings with mixed media instrumentation and edgy artists like Arcade Fire participating. Love, love, love the music. Sometimes I think a score can really make or break my experience with a film...


Sound- Along with the music, there's the overall sound profile of the film with interesting moments to notice.  The silence during The Reaping-- no music, no sounds, little dialogue, and the stunned silence after Katniss takes Prim's place, and District 12 gives the salute.  Again, there is no sound as Katniss and Peeta are taken to the train by Effie; she starts prattering on about washing up and the dialogue recedes, and the music swells, the emotion replacing the dialogue.  It is here that they board the train, and after seeing the disbelief of Katniss when Gale pulled out real bread, or the bath in a bucket, the worn clothes, and the twine as payment for fresh game, we then have the contrast to the sickening decadence of The Capitol. During viewing number three my mother leaned over to me in this scene and said "That's sick." And it was. It was a good shock, showing the inhumanity of The Capitol's 1%. I love that no words were needed; we had Katniss's and Peeta's faces, and the swelling, haunting, and descriptive music.

Similarly with Caesar Flickerman on stage when Katniss first comes out; she's shocked by the size and sound of the crowd, and we hear the muffled, foggy cheers that she hears, effectively putting the audience in her place. There was also silence after Katniss blew up the food and it was silent, then we all got our hearing 'back' only to hear the high pitched buzz, which may represent Katniss's destroyed ear, again putting the audience in Katniss's place. And another at Rue's death, similar to Sirius's death in Harry Potter: OOTP, Harry silently screamed as Lupin held him back; the music took the place of that emotion, and it did the same here with Rue. Katniss falls over her body and mourns her, but silently as the music swells. I also loved this moment how she had arranged the flowers around Rue, and then looked directly into the cameras, as an accusation-- "Look what you did!!" And then the brilliant salute to Rue, and the rebellion in District 11 as the music continues (about 3:00 to the end of that track) to take over; there's no dialogue in that entire section.

Camera- along with the sound, the camera greatly assisted in putting the audience member in the place of Katniss/the tributes.  There was a LOT of hand-held camera work. To the point that I got a bit dizzy at times, especially at the Cornucopia blood bath, and Katniss's fight with Clove. This put us in the games, added to the confusion of who was killed, where, and when, and often gave us Katniss's view as she ran through the woods, or even Rue's view as her vision turned to white in the woods and she passed away.

Supporting Cast: Ooo phenomenal. Particularly Elizabeth Banks who I think got some of the best lines of the film and illustrated really good comedic timing. Plus, she got the best outfits. And I will love Stanley Tucci in nearly anything he ever does. He was a perfect choice for Caesar Flickerman. The hair, the over the top smile, the supportive and encouraging interview style-- it read well on the page, and was performed well on screen. It gives him a role as an entertainment personality, but then you remember it's for a battle to the death of children; someone so kind and welcoming is still ultimately supporting a society of fascism. I even didn't mind Lenny Kravitz. He's not the best actor, and his delivery was a smidge wooden, but he fit the part, I love the retention of just his gold eyeliner as his Capitol garb, and his sincerity works, although I think that's mostly due to Jennifer Lawrence's performance.

I really enjoyed how little the trailer gave away. We had quick flashes to the characters of Cato, Rue, etc. but with none of the expansion of their role in the story. We got to get to know them organically and naturally through the film.  Rue in the nets on the ceiling of the training center, Thresh laughing with her, Cato stirring up trouble and being a bully from the very beginning, and Clove's deadly knives and deadly attitude. It was nice to have all of that revealed for the first time via the film, and not have all revealed in the trailer.


Jennifer Lawrence: How have I not mentioned her yet? She's brilliant. I think her performance was spot on; anger, confusion, frustration, quick-temper but also resourceful, loving, loyal and calculating. She added a gravitas to the film, and a sophistication to the role that is needed for the character. It's not a frivolous one; there are a lot of layers-- Katniss embodies SO much, even though she doesn't realize it, she does. She is freedom, defiance, rebellion etc. She doesn't embrace these desciptors nor does she consciously act on them-- everything she does is from her own motivations, not political ones. However she needs to be able to also become a symbol; we need to see what the other citizens of Panem see-- The Mockingjay, and the embodiment of the hope needed to overcome the regime.

Plus I want her boots, her hair, and her kick-ass nature...


The Love Story (stories): There was also very little of the love story (stories) explored in the trailer. We got to have that drama introduced during the film.

I have to say I wasn't over thrilled by the love story of Katniss and Peeta in the film as I said above. I've never been overly focused on the relationships; I'm not Team Peeta or Team Gale, I'm team Katniss. She rules, and why does a main focus of the story have to be her choice of man? However, I still have enough cheesy teenage girl in me that I loved the flutter of love, and crushed on Peeta throughout the three books.  For the film, however, I was initially somewhat disappointed by Peeta, I didn't believe his love for Katniss, there wasn't enough kissing, the sincerity of the attraction wasn't convincing, but I like the relationship so well from the book I can't help but still be crushing on Josh, purely because he embodies Peeta. It's a lot like the Twilight effect, as my friend Ashley pointed out. The script was rough, the performances a bit forced, but you want them to succeed so much because you too crushed on a sparkly vampire that you're willing to overlook the cheesy lines, the overly-delivered performances, and the crush perpetuates.

Hence why I can't stop looking at this:

Moments I loved:
"Thank you for your consideration"

"Loosen your corset, and have a drink."

"He made you look desirable, sweetheart..."

Katniss's anger at Peeta after the Caeser interview and her slamming him into the wall-- great performance, great emotion, and good apology later.

As Ashley said, "Holy tracker jacker jesus...." great scene

The cut to the Gamemakers right after Katniss and Peeta put the medicine on each other; it's a lovely moment, and they cut immediately to the Gamemakers who are in a trance; rapt attention whilst watching this moment with the rest of Panem. It's as if they've captured the Gamemakers, putting the power into Katniss and Peeta's hands.

The rebellion scene in District 11; I found it even more emotional than Rue's immediate death because you could see the effect of the games... and recognize the pain they all feel, but are generally unable to show due to The Capitol's wrath.




Things I missed:
The inner dialogue of Katniss. It wouldn't have worked on film; I acknowledge this, but it was hard to attribute just how calculating and bright Katniss is when you only have visuals to work with. They did a great job showing the extended hunting scene in the beginning; figuring out the wind was blowing her scent to the deer, her skill with a bow, her strength of character taking care of her family... that was a lot of exposition and character development accomplished visually, but I still did miss the inner dialogue and the discussion we had access to as readers.

Katniss screaming Peeta's name the second that they announce partners are allowed. I loved that moment in the book; her complete abandonment of safety, and an honest reaction that gives the reader (and would have given the viewer) a hint as to her potential affection for Peeta.


Right... surely that's enough for now... I'll keep mulling stuff over, I see a scene-analysis in my future, and I know I had some questions from my Hunger Games trailer analysis post that I'll get to answering as well, but this should be enough to be getting on with. I welcome any and all comments!

I'm lecturing at Arcadia University tomorrow, then flying back to Wales tomorrow night and will have a few days of relaxation in my cottage in the valley, with thesis-writing, script-reading, pony-patting, and Peeta-dreaming.

Happy Hunger Games!

The cast all sorts of healthy and happy... and clean, from their Vanity Fair photo shoot!


which looks suspiciously like the Twilight shoot from awhile ago...





22 February, 2012

The Doctor Who Experience: London Olympia

Originally posted on Hypable.com

 Doctor Who Experience

Since I first saw David Tennant in those Chuck Taylors jump through a mirror and mock the King of France about being the Lord of Time, (swoon), I was hooked. This clever, funny, poignant, deep, fun-loving Doctor was to be My Doctor. Of course then I had to go back to the beginning and work my way through all of the re-boot episodes starting with Christopher Eccleston and there have been many, many viewings of all of them since. Doctor Who is now a happy party of my life.

So imagine my excitement when I heard that The Doctor Who Experience was in London, and that my flat mate had given me a ticket to see it for my birthday! BLISS!

I had absolutely no preconceptions, and that was probably a good thing. Moments of the Doctor Who experience were filled with giggles, sqeals, and yes, there was skipping… but sadly there were also a few mentions of “is that it?”



Report and Rundown: As soon as the lift doors open you could hear the iconic “Ooooeeeeooooo” music of the Doctor being pumped into the lobby of the Experience. My flat mate Megan, friend Anna, and I (all Whovians) picked up our tickets—and they were boring, white, paper tickets…they do know that their fans are collector geeks, right? Why not print on a glossy blue ticket in the shape of a TARDIS? Rotating between Daleks and Cybermen? Or one of the eleven Doctors? We’re paying 18 quid, surely the ticket can be pretty, right?

Anywho, we were then led into a waiting room. There were Daleks from Victory of the Daleks, the Silurians from The Hungry Earth and one of those horrific heads from The Beast Below.  There was a big screen in there playing scenes from the Matt Smith era of Doctor who, and we had a good time reliving favorite moments on the screen (Fezzes are cool, Stetsons are cool, bowties are cool… yeah they are!).

Then the doors opened, and the experience began.

Right, so the exhibition is broken up into two halves: The Experience, and the exhibition.

Thus begins The Experience: I don’t want to give much away here, but basically, it’s like a Disney/Themed ride. There’s a loose narrative involving the main player and the audience (like the Hogwart’s Castle ride at Universal Studios—the main character guides you on a story adventure). Instead of riding, however, you walk from room to room.

It sounds a bit dull, doesn’t it? Walking from room to room? But honestly, that was my favorite part. I’m a bit of a snob with narrative, and expect all Doctor Who stories to be as complex as The Family of Blood and as suspenseful as Blink. It wasn’t, however; it was very straightforward and simple in terms of story. But walking from place to place was an adventure—what would I see next? Daleks? The Host? The Weeping Angels (shudder)? There was skipping.

During the experience you get to “fly” the TARDIS (push some buttons when the Doctor tells you to), board the Dalek spaceship, and you walk through the crack in the wall and through the doors of the TARDIS… definitely exciting. The narrative I could live without, it was rather “meh”, but discovering each spot and reveling in the memories of the episode attached to that moment was lovely.  Like in the first main room, there were Van Gogh paintings stacked against the wall, there was bunting from The Beast Below strung around the room, and the TARDIS magically appeared after The Doctor (who was stuck in Pandorica2, and therefore speaking to us onscreen from inside the Pandorica2) summoned it.

When The Experience is over, and it’s over rather quickly, you’re released into the exhibition area. Break out your cameras at this point, and practice your poses with inanimate objects prior to getting there. I wish I had rehearsed how to pose with a wall, because this is the photo I got of me: and this is the kickin’ one of my flat mate: she clearly practiced posing prior to our arrival.


and this is the kickin’ one of my flat mate: she clearly practiced posing prior to our arrival.

  
It was a neat exhibition, and a fun way for the fan to get involved in the story. Not only do you physcially walk through the crack in the wall and into the TARDIS, but you actually get a chance to FLY the Tardis, talk to the Doctor, and interact with props from the series. Then, afterwards, it's less interaction, but more stimulation. You can physically see SO many elements from the Doctor Who Universe, all within touching distance, making the fantasy seem a bit more real. 


I loved the costume display of the 11 doctors all lined up showing the Doctor through the ages, The Silence hanging from the ceiling scared the bejesus out of me, the Face of Bo made me coo, and I really enjoyed the little details: Signs informing us of the location of the toilets (“Behind the Pandorica”), and “Don’t blink! You’re on CCTV” notifications. Very clever. If you’re going to have to have health and safety signs, you might as well tie them into the glorious geekery around you! There were lots of exhibits on the history of Doctor Who, like the below photo of Daleks through the ages. They also did this with the Cyber Men and the Doctor's consoles. Very cool.



Daleks through the Ages



Positives:
1.     Definitely copious opportunities to get a new Facebook profile picture. Lots of posing, they encouraged you to take photos in the exhibition space (but they were prohibited in The Experience).
2.     The music: who doesn’t do a happy dance when the Oooooeeeooooo starts?
3.     The sets: I honestly got a bit teary when I walked into David Tennant’s TARDIS. It didn’t help that they had his final scene playing on a loop… “I don’t want to go” aaaand the tears started.
4.     The history: there were lots of displays from past Doctors, and things like costume progressions of the Cybermen, various TARDIS consoles, and K-9 was there too!

Negatives:
1.     Cost. It was £18 (about $28), took us about an hour to go through, and we were going through VERY thoroughly, and there was nothing permanent to take home from that. No program, no souvenir ticket… which leads me to the second negative—
2.     The shop! “No shop, I like the little shop…” (Doctor Who, New Earth).  It was a bit rubbish! There were 4 poster options, none of which really tapped into the geek-factors deeply enough; there were only two action figures to choose from: Idris, and the raggedy put-together dude from The Doctor’s Wife episode (you could get the 11-pack of all of the doctors, but it was £70. Yeah…not gonna happen). No sonic screwdrivers, no clever t-shits (just basic ones: I Flew The TARDIS, and The Doctor Who Experience…), no fish fingers and custard... I left there empty handed, and I was well prepared to drop some cash on a fun souvenir. Alas, I shall have to stick to Etsy.

Would I do it again? Not for a second time, but I’m glad I did it once. It’s not a “MUST SEE!” thing, but it’s certainly good to check off of my list, share pictures with fellow fans, have an hour of geek-tastic fun, and maybe gloat just a little bit that yes, I flew the TARDIS J

A mock up of the BBC Doctor Who Creative Offices

06 February, 2012

Avengers-- ASSEMBLE!

Woohoo! New Avengers trailer! Let the geek-splosion commence! (trailer below)

So the Super Bowl is a tricky thing to manage when living in the UK. It doesn't start until 11pm, you don't get the commercials, the commentary between plays is covered by Brits... it's odd.

Thank goodness for the Internet however. I didn't get The Avengers trailer in real-time on TV, but luckily, it was online within seconds.

VERY exciting. Mostly, I loved seeing the team fully assembled; also to get an idea of who the villain is, and see how these individual heroes will mesh as a unit.  I never really gave in and got obsessed with the first X-Men films because I didn't have ONE hero to get behind. I like the Batman, Spiderman, Superman type films with a clear hero (I do love me some hero worship!); even X-Men First Class-- yes it was an ensemble movie, but it was clearly Xavier and Magneto as the focal characters.  

However, with The Avengers, we've had ample time to fall for each of these heroes individually. Of course I love Captain America after working on it, but also because my heart goes giggagump and there's an audible gasp when I see him... Swoony McSwoons a lot, but I really love the rest of them too. Two Iron Mans plus my love for Robert Downey and his lovable, smarmy billionaire playboy character made it easy to have the slow burn of love grow.  Sam with The Hulk. I didn't really love the first one, but the second one...Ed Norton... I'm in!  And Thor... well, if you need my opinion on that one, just have a gander at this post. I do love me a hammer-bearing god :)

Lovely trailer. It sets up the characters, a threat, the action, the interest, but also doesn't give everything away. We can infer that Loki is up to no good, but it doesn't throw it in our face as to exactly how he will aim to attain his goals. Plus we immediately get a snarky comment from Tony Stark about having a Hulk equivalent to an army. Well played.


I look forward to the expansion of Steve Rogers's character, the introduction of Hawkeye, the adventure, the badass, "I'm So Cool 'Cause I'm a Superhero" moments, and it's all being handled by Joss Whedon-- I don't think it can get much better, can it?

:08- I'm glad they're focusing on the Captain first. We've seen him the least, really, of the big, solo films (Iron Man had two, The Hulk had two, Thor was most recent...), so it's good to see him. Also, as he is from the past and all of this is new and slightly alien to him, so it is with us also. We're not used to seeing Superheroes or alien invaders on our planet, so seeing it through slightly fresh eyes of a re-awakened hero gives us an immediate recognition with the character. We're both new to this world. It has changed (for us, it's just for two hours of a film, but for Rogers it's life).

:10- "We are hopelessly outgunned"...setting them up immediately as the Underdogs

:22- Mr. Stark/Captain-- I immediately think, wow; the last time Steve Rogers said that, it was about Tony's father. Strange collision of the worlds and timelines, and well handled!

:23-:34- it's a nice reminder of who we'll be seeing in this film, and the kick-ass action moments they'll have. Clearly the focus is on Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, but we do get quick shots of Black Widow and Hawkeye.

:42- "I still believe in heroes" followed by a group shot.... makes me want to applaud and jump up from my chair and scream, "Me too! I do believe in Faeries, I do! I do! I mean...oh...uh... heroes... right, heroes."

:47 first glimpse of Hulk... I wonder why they're keeping him more to the background. Granted we haven't bonded with him as closely as the others maybe; he was played by different actors, and it's been awhile since we've seen him, but still he's not in those opening shots.

Lovely lovely lovely. I can't wait to watch it twelve more times, and count the days 'til May 4. Where will you be?






Avengers-- ASSEMBLE!

Woohoo! New Avengers trailer! Let the geek-splosion commence! (trailer below)

So the Super Bowl is a tricky thing to manage when living in the UK. It doesn't start until 11pm, you don't get the commercials, the commentary between plays is covered by Brits... it's odd.

Thank goodness for the Internet however. I didn't get The Avengers trailer in real-time on TV, but luckily, it was online within seconds.

VERY exciting. Mostly, I loved seeing the team fully assembled; also to get an idea of who the villain is, and see how these individual heroes will mesh as a unit.  I never really gave in and got obsessed with the first X-Men films because I didn't have ONE hero to get behind. I like the Batman, Spiderman, even X-Men First Class-- yes it was an ensemble movie, but it was clearly Xavier and Magneto as the focal characters.  

However, with The Avengers, we've had ample time to fall for each of these heroes individually. Of course I love Captain America after working on it, but also because my heart goes giggagump and there's an audible gasp when I see him... Swoony McSwoons a lot, but I really love the rest of them too. Two Iron Mans plus my love for Robert Downey and his lovable, smarmy billionaire playboy character made it easy to have the slow burn of love grow.  Sam with The Hulk. I didn't really love the first one, but the second one...Ed Norton... I'm in!  And Thor... well, if you need my opinion on that one, just have a gander at this post. I do love me a hammer-bearing god :)

Lovely trailer. It sets up the characters, a threat, the action, the interest, but also doesn't give everything away. We can infer that Loki is up to no good, but it doesn't throw it in our face as to exactly how he will aim to attain his goals. Plus we immediately get a snarky comment from Tony Stark about having a Hulk equivalent to an army. Well played.


I look forward to the expansion of Steve Rogers's character, the introduction of Hawkeye, the adventure, the badass, "I'm So Cool 'Cause I'm a Superhero" moments, and it's all being handled by Joss Whedon-- I don't think it can get much better, can it?

:08- I'm glad they're focusing on the Captain first. We've seen him the least, really, of the big, solo films (Iron Man had two, The Hulk had two, Thor was most recent...), so it's good to see him. Also, as he is from the past and all of this is new and slightly alien to him, so it is with us also. We're not used to seeing Superheroes or alien invaders on our planet, so seeing it through slightly fresh eyes of a re-awakened hero gives us an immediate recognition with the character. We're both new to this world. It has changed (for us, it's just for two hours of a film, but for Rogers it's life).

:10- "We are hopelessly outgunned"...setting them up immediately as the Underdogs

:22- Mr. Stark/Captain-- I immediately think, wow; the last time Steve Rogers said that, it was about Tony's father. Strange collision of the worlds and timelines, and well handled!

:23-:34- it's a nice reminder of who we'll be seeing in this film, and the kick-ass action moments they'll have. Clearly the focus is on Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, but we do get quick shots of Black Widow and Hawkeye.

:42- "I still believe in heroes" followed by a group shot.... makes me want to applaud and jump up from my chair and scream, "Me too! I do believe in Faeries, I do! I do! I mean...oh...uh... heroes... right, heroes."

:47 first glimpse of Hulk... I wonder why they're keeping him more to the background. Granted we haven't bonded with him as closely as the others maybe; he was played by different actors, and it's been awhile since we've seen him, but still he's not in those opening shots.

Lovely lovely lovely. I can't wait to watch it twelve more times, and count the days 'til May 4. Where will you be?






25 January, 2012

War Horse-- I want those 2+ hours back.

War Horse had so much going for it. It's based on a play that I've heard only wonderful things about, it involves horses (I love horses), men in uniform (I enjoy men in uniform), it was a war movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, countryside of the UK, music by John Williams... so many good things, right?

Yeah, it was rubbish.

I realize I should qualify this: in my opinion, it was rubbish. But really, I'm surprised by how much rubbish I think it is. I'm the girl that finds positive points in anything (*cough Agent Cody Banks, Percy Jackson, Last Holiday cough*), and it was very difficult to find positives for this. Particularly because it falls on the day that the Academy Award nominations were released, because this was nominated for 'Best Picture.' Sure it was pretty, decent talent I suppose, lovely shots, so there may be something there for cinematography, and the sounds of battle were great, so sure, sound mixing...I could see that... but BEST PICTURE?! No. 

I found it so indulgent. So superfluous, over the top cheesetastic...and I love cheese! Of all sorts! And this was just wretched. If there was one more shot of pondering in the sunset, or staring deeply into eyes, or a 'change of heart' from the hard army man (seriously, how many times did that happen?), or ceremony for the relationship-- the one near the end where the whole army posse gives him thirty pounds to buy the horse... ugh... indulgent. Cheese. 

Now, I'll hold up on the rant and just focus on a couple of film/structural things that stood out.

Tone: I felt like it wasn't sure what kind of film it was trying to be. It had the tone of Babe at times, with the goofy goose and the wire cutters getting chucked over the barrack wall... but really, with the emotion and seriousness that this film was trying (trying...so hard...) to get across, I think it should have been more  towards the Saving Private Ryan tone. There were gorgeous moments in Saving Private Ryan that reflected humanity, the horrors of war, the desolation and destruction, and also some very clever, humorous moments. I think War Horse could have done that, and it was a missed opportunity. Instead it went to Cheeseville.

It was just godawful "I'm gonna try to force you to cry... watch me! Here! I'll swell some music! Here! I'll throw in another sunset! How about a 'sick' little girl falling in love with the horse (I say 'sick' because really, she coughed once in the last scene we saw of her... other than that, she ran around, trained a horse, made jam...)" Right... I'll stop there... you see my point, I hope.

Loose ends (it's entirely possible I missed their conclusion and it's my mistake; I was catatonic by the end): 
1. The guy in the beginning who had the silk lining in his hat... Is there a reason we spent so much time getting to know him? And had a parting shot of him in the back of the ambulance? 
2. His friend in the barracks? We assume he died, right? 
3. The rich ass of a landlord-- any comeuppance? 
4.  The pretty girl in the car-- I can only assume that the fact Rich Boy didn't remember her name was to add to his own character of rich, haughty, and takes things for granted. But why did the girl keep getting brought up? 
5. The sketch in his pocket- why didn't they pull that out when he was trying to prove the horse was his? And if they weren't going to use it, why show us his effort to fish it out of the bucket and put it back in his pocket? So we can see that he loves the horse? Yeah... instead of using the picture, instead we'll just wash off the socks...one by one... insanely slowly... and then pondering.... pondering ever so much.... wiping off the mud.... on the horse's face... to see... if... there... was .... a .... star... GAHH Just do it already!! Yeah... issues.

Pacing: As demonstrated in the above section. It was so slow. Really could have been tightened. Every time the horse went somewhere else I sighed; another location? How long 'til he's home? Cause I wanna go home...

Acting:
Sorry, it was rather rubbish. I'm nervous about Irvine as Pip in the upcoming Great Expectations. Although perhaps it was the wretched, schmaltzy script, as that certainly didn't do him any favors, but his performance was rather one note-- simple, good boy, a little weepy, and can't play "angry" very well.

The girl in France (?); she was beautiful, and this was her first film... but yeah, all the slack I'm gonna cut her. Her accent was wretched and performance just so melodramatic...

The horse was great.


Right, I'm a poor sport on this one. It happens so bloody rarely, normally I like films and can find shiny happy things to each production.  War Horse, however.... I felt the need to tilt my head and make a massive "barooooo" sound at my utter disbelief, and slight loss of faith, in the Academy for nominated this self-indulgent, superfluous cheese.



Also seen recently:

Iron Lady. Meryl Streep was bloody brilliant. I wasn't a huge fan of the film; the story or the camera work, but she was fab.

Ides of March: SO good. Great script, great performances, I was rather riveted.

My Week with Marilyn: Similar to Iron Lady, the story was a bit weak; it just kind of rolled, with little through-line to hang the rest of the film on, but hot damn was Michelle Williams amazing. The opening footage- I didn't know if it was her, or stock footage of Marilyn. Brilliant.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Rooney Mara was amazing. And I LOVED how much ass she kicked. Daniel Craig was quite literally playing the hot side-piece role. How many times is the girl cast as a pretty thing that they might throw one or two capabilities to her in order to make her seem 'confident' or 'strong'; but in this, Lisbeth was the kick-ass, smart, street-wise, kind, capable badass. Yes, tortured past, and could be very, very difficult to watch at times, but she was bloody brilliant. Great character, and great performance. And James Bond got to play a Bond Girl sidekick.

Sherlock 2: Meh. I'll watch Robert Downey Jr. in anything, and this was pretty, and fun, and a romping good time, but the story was silly. It just kept being 'convenient' that they got out of scrapes, and there wasn't a ton to figure out in this. Yes there was the 'face twist' at the end, but mostly it was just chasing a baddie in a foreign land. Really? That's it? Yup. That's it. 


Right, that'll do for now, yes? Sorry for the long delay-- things are going well with Elfin, the PhD is still rolling, and my international travel for my university is picking up quite a bit-- all is well in the world, but busy as anything!