A while ago when I compiled a list of films you may not be planning to see (but, for reference, probably should), I wasn’t entirely sure about including An Education, but a combination of the quality of the trailer, the writer and the calibre of the supporting cast convinced me to highlight it with a poster too. Fortunately it seems I have been vindicated with the film receiving not just rave reviews but its lead actress Carey Mulligan being tipped for an Oscar. Doctor Who fans may recognise her as Sally Sparrow from Blink, one of my favourite episodes (not least because it was written by Stephen Moffat). So consider this a reminder to go see it when it’s released at the end of the month.
I am not buying Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on release. To gamers, that will sound like a pretty bold statement. An outright refusal to buy what is widely expected to be the best game released this year? Surely I jest. But no, Activision has asked me to pass it by. At least I assume that’s what they meant when they increased the RRP to £55. In practice that means it will be available for no less than £45 and their argument, insofar as they have deigned to proffer one, is either “it cost us quite a lot to make” or “well, people will pay it anyway”. Unfortunately both are true. High end videogame development is expensive but when your game is guaranteed to sell in the millions, recouping costs is of limited concern. And people want this game so they will pay for it. That’s how free markets work. My not buying it (until the price drops) won’t change anything because others will. The bottom line is this: one day my children will ask why their videogames cost so much and I will have to explain it’s because people’s convictions don’t run quite as deep as their wallets; but at least I can tell them I tried.
Following on from the last post, I’ve been checking out a few other short films. SIGNS is beautiful in its musical simplicity and the everyday familiarity of its isolation. It perfectly captures the human desire — the need — for connection, again something that can be done in 12 minutes better than in 120. As a gamer, particularly intriguing was the Half-Life-inspired What’s in the Box?, shot entirely in first-person. Its Half-Life influences are clear, right down to its mute protagonist, but for all its visual flair (its augmented reality HUD in particular) it raises they key problem with an extended first-person excursion in film. By losing your visual connection to the character whose viewpoint you are experiencing, one actually becomes detatched rather than more immersed. Character development is virtually impossible in this disembodied form, and even interaction is problematic. It serves well only as a way to explore an environment (and so work reasonably well here) but this is a perspective that is always better suited to a videogame where the player controls the exploration. When that control is taken away, it feels confined and almost paralysing as we are guided around against our will. By comparison, the visually impressive Half-Life 2 fan-film Escape From City 17 (be sure to check out the HD version) is arguably more immersive from its standard 3rd person viewpoint.
It will come as little surprise that the vast majority of my film collection is rate 15 or 18. While not exactly unexpected — adult-orientated films are wont to include analogous adult content — I am still often perplexed by its apparent family unfriendliness. In fact I own exactly 4 Universal-rated films: Wall-E, Monsters, Inc., Labyrinth and (for personal childhood meaning) Flight of the Navigator. Admittedly there are several child-friendly PG films (as someone who strongly believes in scaring children and allowing them to enjoy the experience, I think many of these could be watched by a child of any age) but the real limiting factor has been the extortionate cost of Disney films. Their cunning DVD (sorry, Disney DVD) ploy was to release each major film for a very limited run so the price never had a chance to drop. Now this has waned but they are still hardly cheap. As such I jumped at Amazon’s BOGOF Disney deal to make things a little kid-friendlier. That’s my excuse anyway.
Forever’s Not So Long is a fantastic short film that I’d prefer not to spoil by summarising. It is, after all, only 13 minutes long. I would humbly suggest you can find a (baker’s) dozen minutes in your day to do yourself the favour of watching it. It has the effect I often find with short stories, making me wonder whether many good “full length” products are actually still overlong for their content. One could easily see this being extended into a considerably longer film, and yet when the credits role we have seen absolutely everything that was necessary. It is no less thought provoking for its brevity and anything more would risk detracting from its simple poignancy.
It also makes me very curious to see the 2005 short film that spawned this year’s longer cinematic version of 9, a post-apocalyptic animated film directed by ex-WETA animator Shane Acker and produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov. I have heard a few people suggest the less fleshed out original is actually the stronger of the two.
Not much in the way of news. While my flatmate Anna is away I’ve found myself generally exhausted rather than making particularly good use of the extra space. I’m finding that having someone around in the evenings probably adds some much-needed post-work energy. I’ve spent a few nights playing Uncharted on the PS3 and swiftly found myself agreeing with the excellent reviews it received. It is easily one of the best exclusive game on the system to date with its cinematic flair, colourful art (a welcome change from the traditional grey and brown palette of most early games in the current generation), likeable scoundral protagonist and a fun if unoriginal storyline that runs somewhere between Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. With its sequel just weeks away, my hopes are certainly high.
Last night I went with Rav, Angie and Andy to see comedian Ed Byrne performing at the Vaudeville Theatre. Even if you don’t recognise the name, you’ll probably know him as the likeable long-haired Irish guy from Mock the Week. In terms of fame he’s a decidedly mid-level comedian and he knows it, so he plays off it. His observational humour runs the gammut but, having married just over a year ago, wedding commentary was rife. Which, with Andy’s wedding preparations just taking off, was hilarious. Much as this may sound like a veiled insult, Ed’s set was both better and more consistent than I had expected.
Finally an interesting piece on how the security in Snow Leopard, Apple’s latest version of its OSX operating system, is still playing catch-up with Windows Vista.