Monthly Archives: January 2011

Scott Pilgrim Vs 60 Seconds

***THIS JUST IN***  Kial’s team won the top prize of the contest.

This is my buddy Kial’s entry into Virgin Radio’s 60 second film contest. The point is to take a popular movie and make a one-minute version of it. In this case he chose to re-make Scott Pilgrim Vs the World. Kial, his cast, and crew did a flawless job of emulating the original. They did such a good job that the team received props from Edgar Wright, the director of the actual Scott Pilgrim Vs The World movie:

http://www.edgarwrighthere.com/2011/01/23/scott-pilgrim-vs-60-seconds/

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Kial Natale and his Vancouver-based video team – a few months ago they released a fake live-action Pokemon movie trailer that initially had the internet up in arms because Pokemon fans believed that the trailer was for an actual studio-backed movie as opposed to a microbudget fan trailer. It seems the team’s high standards for cinema and contemporary internet generation sensibilities have created a force that blurs the line between professional independent movie making and YouTube-era geeky fandom perhaps heralding a “Movie Brats” generation for a online digital age.

Virgin Radios Fake Film Festival site:
http://vancouver.virginradio.ca/VideoChannel/FakeFilmFestival/View.aspx?PostID=35807

Also be sure to check out the Lord of the Rings and Saving Private Ryan entries, each notable for their own reasons.

Also search around through Kial (Megasteakman)’s YouTube profile for a behind-the-scenes looks at how his video was all done:

NINJA!!!!

self defense

(CLICK ON THE ABOVE LINK FOR A BETTER VIEW)

A week ago we talked a bit about martial arts mysticism and weird self-defense claims. I used to read tons of martial arts magazines and was, over the years, exposed to all sorts of over-the-top beliefs and techniques. I’d like to think that UFC would have educated people about the reality of hand to hand combat – that a lot of it involves hugging on the ground and that you won’t be able to reliably kill someone with a single punch after a six month training course – but martial arts magazines continue to roll out ads about secret Russian streetfighting or Navy Seals ultimate killing techniques that just seem to gloss over the fact that unarmed fighting is a messy process that takes years to master. Whereas Russians, UFC and military combatives are the contemporary magic styles that will let you pave the streets in the blood of your enemies, this reverence for mystic and unbeatable fighting styles goes back for as long as there has been a publishing market for martial arts magazines. In the 80’s it was all about NINJAS. People believed in ninjas for real. They may not have bought all the ninja stories like how ninjas can change into bears or statues, but people were willing to believe that ninjas had powers unknown to science and were masters of a hidden fighting art that could kill anyone instantly. Whereas nowadays there is a ninjas vs. pirates debate, back in the 80’s there was no debate – there was only ninjas.

I have attached an image I scanned out of an 80’s era martial arts magazine. It sort of highlights how people used to play off of the buzz and mystique of a popular style. Also note how spelling and grammar are not necessary for learning how to end someone’s life with fatal streetfighting moves.

Nature Holds ‘Open Innovation Pavillion’

Nature.com is opening its door to readers who can participate in Open Innovation Pavillion, a set of research challenges set by InnoCentive.

InnoCentive is premised on one of my favorite subjects of discussion: open science. As in, why have all of this publicly-funded research suddenly fall into private hands, locked behind steel doors and overcomplicated copyright legislation?

InnoCentive is currently seeking problem solvers who can assist in projects regularly posted under “Solving Problems That Matter.” Currently, there is a $25,000 award for research into Statistical Analysis of Genomic Variants: “searching for the best method of associating genetic variants and clinical variables with clinical outcomes.” Data provided, of course.

In the “Solvers” corner, an “Ascorbate Scavenger” is the task at hand, looking for a potential method that could isolate or react with ascorbate “without affecting other endogenous and exogenous components in a mixture of human blood.”

So if you’re looking for a project, now’s your chance.

Flesh is cool

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PKjF7OumYo

In Production: John Carter of Mars

Edgar Rice Burroughs’  Basoom series is surprisingly making its appearance on the silver screen, as John Carter of Mars is at this point in post-production.

Originally, the story entails the adventures of an Earthling, Virginia-born John Carter, who after serving in the American Civil War, believes to be dying trapped in a cave only to be transported to the surface of Mars.

Carter is not an average man though. Like other Burroughs’ well-known characters, he is a super-human protagonist, one who happens to be largely immortal, super-strong due to his advantage of being from Earth, has no memory of where he happens to be from, and most importantly, is immortal, with an ability to project himself physically jumping between the two planets.

The beauty of this work that belongs to a particularly entertaining, colonial phases of literature, dancing between themes of decadence, orientalism, colonialism, otherness, is the fact that Burroughs is known for his ability to entertain.

Enchanting princesses, lush plains of Martian landscape, giants and monsters, Barsoom series has something unique to offer to contemporary audiences, even if that something will probably fail to resonate with limitations of CG technology.

But the film production boasts exceptional casting, with Taylor Kitsch in title role, joined by Mark Strong, Thomas Haden Church, Willem Dafoe, Dominic West and James Purefoy.

This cream crop of actors is directed by none other than Andrew Stanton, who recently nabbed two Oscars for Finding Nemo and Walle.

This would be Stanton’s first live action film, but if the casting and the money are indicative of anything, it is that John Carter of Mars will be getting the Philip K. Dick treatment.

Review: Skyline (2010)

Warning: Spoilers included

Skyline, produced and directed independently by the Strause brothers, has been largely lambasted by critics and fans alike. Most contend that it has low production values and that it would have been better suitable for a straight-to-DVD release, or a television special instead of a full-blown theatrical release, an unwarranted waste of time and money on the part of an audience that felt cheated by the experience. The production though, is not the issue with this film, but rather what it has been presented as, in contrast to what it actually is.

Skyline entails the travails of Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson), a couple entangled in a first long-term relationship, on the very verge of parenthood, who come to visit their friends in LA.

After a ‘livin’ la vida loca’ evening, a booze-filled party awakes to a full-blown alien invasion. Perching from a window in a new high-rise building set at the centre of a suburban landscape gives us a birds eye-view of shiny lights and tentacled creatures skimming the ground and the skies like hungry yet enchanting lampreys, intent on literally devouring all of humanity.

Jarrod is immediately affected by the “light” in the very beginning, and while he is not plucked to an alien platform, he shows signs of a physical metamorphosis while fighting for the survival of his now pregnant girlfriend.

Skyline is not really a thriller, or an action film. Instead, it takes the cue from mocumentary-style filmmaking such as J.J. Abrams’ similarly-themed Cloverfield. It too relies on younger characters that would appeal to ticket-purchasing audiences, shaky camera angles, and what the filmmakers deem, I suppose, “realistic settings” for the events taking place.

While the love of CG and special effects is evident in Skyline, it being the forte of the Strause brothers, the character development (and that includes the character of the aliens themselves) significantly falls short. This especially considering that the story itself is rooted in soft romance. Skyline you see, is not so much about friends surviving an alien invasion, but about a couple whose love can transcend all obstacles, a surprisingly romantic and sappy twist displayed by characters who are essentially stripped of any depth to begin with.

The alien creatures are really the heart of it all. Tentacled, shiny, floating and complex, the creatures take variety of sizes, shapes on ground and in the sky. Most are homing back to a large ship, a massive devourer showcased in the trailer as a vacuum intent on sucking in every human body available. The creatures seek out their prey based on sound, and similar to lampreys, they use shiny, mesmerizing lights to attract it. They regenerate even in the face of a nuclear explosion, cut or a bullet, and their seemingly immortal bodies seek out not so much the human flesh, but the brain and the spinal cord of an average human.

There is no offered explanation for this neural-tissue diet. The creatures are predatory, defensive and hungry. And they dispense the light onto ripped out brains with still attached spinal cords, stuffing them expertly into vaginal-like openings for reasons unknown.

At the very end, our protagonists perish by being sucked onto the mothership and his too may be one of the reasons why the film remained so unpopular with American audiences. Upon reaching the killing floors, Elaine watches Jerrod’s dispatching while we gaze in awe at an alien interpretation of Fordism. Jerrod’s brain isn’t just consumed, we learn, but coopted into a body of an alien berserker-like creature. In a twist of events opening its doors to an animated, CG sequel, Jerrod’s mind, now in control of the berserker body, defends Elaine and their unborn child. Love conquers all, we learn.

And that’s nipping at the problem that is Skyline: cardboard characters to which we have little or no sympathy for and too much flailing by aliens who appear with little or no context. Skyline leaves too many unanswered questions but it also presents us with an unfinished narrative suffering from an identity crisis: is it an action film or a romantic survival story? It fails to perform as either position, resulting in something akin to mediocrity, or even less than that.