Monday, 31 August 2015

A Star Wars: The Old Republic Comedy Video

I'm always keen to experiment with videos that are a bit unlike any I've ever made before, and this one certainly applies. It's all modern, hip and trendy because I play a game in it and you see me on webcam and stuff, but it's also a completely fake spoof.

Also it features Star Wars: The Old Republic which is actually for real one of my favourite games. Not necessarily because it's good, but it's an MMO and it's Star Wars and that's my perfect equation.

Have a watch:

Remember that you can subscribe to my YouTube channel if you want to encourage me to go further into weird video madness. Anything could happen.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Utopia S02E02 Shovels Ready (Recap)

This weeks recap is going to be quick and basic. Just reliving a few of the best moments from Utopia's latest episode!

Like the time Tony became an expert on interior air-current measuring.

Or when the HR lady couldn't have been more condescending.

The gloriously inconsequential waiting room mix up.

The ironic iconography of our "Nation Builders" dressing up like umm... "real" builders.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Utopia S02E01 A Fresh Start (Recap)

The second series of Utopia (Australia's, not America's or Britain's) premiered on ABC last night in the best way it could: a head-tiltingly understated web of 2015-relevant pessimistic satire. Everything you need to know is in that sentence, but I'll write some more about this enjoyable episode of Working Dog Productions' latest comedy anyway.

Like any tightly written half hour comedy, Utopia's second premiere is a cascading tumble of ironic chaos. And to make this fall even more spectacular, our dysfunctional team of characters have changed while they've been off air. Actually... really just Tony has changed. Actually, scratch that... Tony hasn't changed, he's just accidentally become an optimist and he requires this episode to get beaten back into place. So uh... no, no one has changed. Sorry. But really, how could these people every change? They're stuck in an infinite loop of faux-work, a perpetual cycle of institutional meaninglessness which reinforces their current state.

Over the break Tony has treated himself to a Fitbit (official sponsor?) and is taking good care of himself; eating well, riding in to work. Well, that lasts about 10 on-screen minutes, before the inescapably petty stresses of office life gives him muffins (the cake, not the disease). Poor Tony finds himself more out of the loop than ever. From his out-of-date ID card to the fact he's on an email server no one else is connected to, does he even work at the NBA anymore? Did he ever? Technically, does anyone? It's getting existential in here.

I do have to point out that Scott seemed to be trying to help Tony come up with a unique string for a password, which in my experience has never been necessary in real life. You're allowed to have the same password as other people. But that's okay, I can accept that either (1) Scott was messing with Tony, (2) Scott did not know what he was doing, or (3) the show takes place in a different reality that contains establishments which are even more pedantic and infuriating than those in our own.

Nat was certainly and accidentally graced with the temporary illusion of actually getting stuff done when repairing one pool made its way into Jim's mind where it translates into a multi-billion dollar government initiative. Who knows what that means, but Jim likes it, the PM likes it, and its going ahead. Looks like this little plot might continue in the next episode(s).

Finally I'll call out the OH&S subplot, which was predictably delightful just by being so true.

There's more Frontline lodged in my heart than any other Working Dog Productions umm, production, but Utopia is certainly burrowing its own little home (in the pulmonary artery if you must know). The first series was consistently good, if a little bit unexciting. The same can be said of the second series so far, but I'm hoping the show will take some creative risks in the future. I'm looking forward to seeing what the Nation Building Authority get done (or not) over the next 7 episodes!

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Review)

A fun film which is stuffed full of indie tropes, including the makes-fun-of-indie-film-tropes trope. I had a great time until the third act in which the film ditches its humour (its most unique feature) in favour of an emotional ending which was good but felt fairy stereotypical and unoriginal. The first two thirds of the narrative had a quirky and unpredictable edge, whereas the resolution looked eerily like something I've seen in a lot of other movies. Big ups to the proficient-beyond-their-years cast and the determined-to-entertain cinematography. This is a film that benefits (and in my case, benefited) from a loud, emotionally invested live audience.

Him, Earl and yes, the Dying Girl too, were a charming trio to spend several hours with, but - although they certainly tried - they didn't quite change my life. The film is however finding great success around the world thus far, so I look forward to seeing some of these actors and filmmakers around the cinema more often in the near future.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Review)

One could say that Guy Ritchie's The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is all style, no substance. It's a statement I've heard several times already from critics and audiences, and though personally I enjoyed the film enormously, it's a sentiment I don't disagree with.

Henry Cavill appears to be totally relaxed in his debonair role of American spy Solo, alongside the also cool (unless insulted) Russian spy Illya played by Armie Hammer. Alicia Vikander completes the leading trio as a German spy called Gaby. There isn't a lot for Elizabeth Debicki to do as the villain of the film, but she seems to have fun as the elegant antagonist. Pretty much everyone is putting on an accent in this film, which I think just adds to the whole crazy, brazen production.

Standin' round.
The film features some rollicking fun set pieces, often making use of (surprisingly) dark humour. Ritchie makes great perspective choices, several times having violence or action sequences take place at a distance or in the background, juxtaposed with the cool, carefree confidence that is the default mindset of the leads.The film overall is very funny, and the audience in my theatre were won over by the charming characters by around halfway through the first scene. It helps that the leading men and their heated relationship is quickly communicated and easy for the viewer to understand; their dynamic something that the audience can latch on to from the beginning of the film.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s period setting is a slightly heightened reality. Actions and events that are just a little bit impossible take place throughout the film, and it can be a challenge to keep the audience suspending their disbelief. Ritchie never lets the film get too grounded, however. Almost constantly there are subtle reminders of the film's supernormal tilt, the best example being a scene in which a character spins a lightbulb hanging from the ceiling, and it continues to spin at the same momentum for the rest of the scene.

Surfin' round.
Style oozes out into every area of this production. Scenes are edited together in a non-linear fashion, whereby we see the barebones of a conversation then flashback (often multiple times) to fill in the details that were originally withheld. This makes the twisting narrative both easier to follow than it would otherwise be, and keeps the audience engaged and on their toes.

Daniel Pemberton's score is the perfect combination of cool and quirky. It's rare to see a film score blended so effectively with the visuals, but The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s split-frame, picture-in-picture action montages are a consistent treat across all the senses. It's also enhanced by fantastic song choices, which are often diegetic. For example "Cry to Me" by Solomon Burke, which is played during a intoxicatingly cute dance scene.

Loungin' round.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s run time flew by. It's two hours well spent with likable characters being perfectly charming. I personally wanted to see our heroes start to get along a bit more at some point in the film, and work together as an efficient team, but alas they remained an (albeit entertaining) dysfunctional trio of bickering. Hopefully in the (likely) sequel we'll see some new dynamics from team U.N.C.L.E.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

New Podcast: Stories from the Future

Trials of the Trimillenium is my new fictional podcast, featuring sci-fi stories told in the style of This American Life. I just finished the first episode, about a robot with a bad sense of humour. I do pretty much all the voices in this one, but just like with my other fictional podcast, I plan to do that less in future.

Have a listen here:

The date is November 3, 3024. Dr Deckar has created a robot. Her life will never be the same again.

This episode comes with special thanks to Saurav Kundu and Jarrah Fowler.

The music in this podcast is licensed under Creative Commons. Find Lee Rosevere at and Kevin MacLeod at

Far from the Madding Crowd (Review)

Drawn in by the familiar names (Thomas Vinterberg, Carey Mulligan, Craig Armstrong, Michael Sheen) I approached this 2015 adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd with a degree of enthusiasm. This was my first encounter with the text, which started as a novel by Thomas Hardy and has been adapted for the cinema several times in the past.

Unfortunately the film certainly felt to me like an adaptation. Characters made decisions that had me shaking my head, which would have been perfectly fine if I had been privy to more of their motivations and thought processes. The narrative, as I understand it, is largely about choice, and it seemed strange to me that the viewer is kept at a distance during these turning points. Often this distancing effect comes because of a montage, of great deals of time passing in the story. Perhaps a necessary evil of the novel-to-screen translation? I find the result to be a film which depicts a great story, but does not successfully plant the viewer within it.

What are you guys thinkin' about, hmm?
The cast are brilliant. Carey Mulligan is a brilliant lead, Matthias Schoenaerts gives a very subtle performance, Michael Sheen is the perfect tragic man, and Tom Sturridge plays his part well - assuming his part is to be despised.

The most confidently successful aspect of this film is its cinematography. Cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen shoots the country like a fantastical place, delivering constantly stunning images of hills and sunsets and magical woods. The soldier's red uniform as set against earthy green landscapes is particularly striking throughout the film, no doubt an intended thematic contrast.

The most beautiful woods.
Mostly gentle but soaring in all the right places, Crag Armstrong's score plays an enormous role in building this world. It features a throat-tightening string melody reminiscent of James Newton Howard's The Village, two parts beauty one part tragedy. Armstrong also uses flutes and harps for soft beats and piano ostinatos to underline the bolder sections. Music plays an important role in heightening the narrative, best demonstrated in the beautiful scene when Mulligan and Sheen sing "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" - my favourite part of the film.

Sheen gets to wear this beard while being depressed and singing songs.
The result is a beautiful film with characters I didn't connect to intimately. And since the narrative hangs on these characters, their choices and their relationships, feeling somewhat distant from them is unfortunate. It may not be a masterpiece like Vinterberg's previous film, The Hunt, but Far from the Madding Crowd is nonetheless a very enjoyable period drama.

Friday, 7 August 2015

The Insanity Project Trailer

A week ago I shared the poster, and now here's the trailer for the long short film I'm making.

It was shot in Darwin over several weeks. Of course its all thanks to many busy people who went through all kinds of discomfort for no reward apart from the possibility it may turn out alright. Cheers, people.

Here's the trailer.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (Review)

The facet of the Mission Impossible franchise that keeps me fascinated with each installment is its crystal clear contract with audiences. When you sit down in front of any Mission Impossible film, you know almost precisely what kind of experience you are about to have. Which is not to say that you know what you are going to see, or that the direction of the plot will be predictable. On the contrary, Mission Impossible's suspenseful, set-piece-focused, constantly twisting formula is as riveting as it is consistent. It feels like a TV series on the big screen, with all the production values of the latter but what keeps bringing you back is the characters and themes that feel like a show. (Of course, this makes sense, because the film franchise spawned from a TV series.)

When you open a film with Tom Cruise literally hanging on to a plane as it takes off, maintaining interest for another two hours sounds like a tall order. Luckily, Christopher McQuarrie - the latest in the exciting lineup of Mission Impossible directors - is canny enough to know he doesn't have to go bigger. The set pieces that follow are engaging in their intensity, their complexity and their breathlessness, and thankfully never try to do something "larger" than the opening sequence - which would surely have made this blockbuster crumble.

Overall, Rogue Nation feels like a smaller film than MI:4 Ghost Protocol. But this shrinking of scale is well managed, and MI:5 feels just as thrilling in its stakes. In place of scaling skyscrapers (for example), Rogue Nation has stronger emotional threads, mostly thanks to the subplot led by Rebecca Ferguson (the first Mission Impossible heroin I thought really worked), and a couple of charged interactions between Cruise and Simon Pegg. It's all very Bond-y, as well, obviously because of the London setting but also because Sean Harris' rather classical spy villain, Solomon Lane, is a great and mysterious opponent for Ethan Hunt.

Mission Impossible works because it is, figuratively and otherwise, grounded. Grounded perhaps not in reality but in a reality. Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt may perform the impossible, but it's always a challenge for him. He's no fearless superhero, which would make the whole thing rather bland.

Michael Giacchino, who scored the last two installments of the series brilliantly, is not present for Rogue Nation. But whatever tears I may have been crying over his departure are long forgotten under the flood of joyful tears when I heard Joe Kraemer's effort. It's an extremely classy soundtrack, which plays with opera, always drives a rhythm, and knows the power it has in the Mission Impossible theme - without overusing it. It's definitely going to be in my top scores of 2015. Kraemer, you have my attention. And good luck topping this spy action in Spectre, Thomas Newman!

Rogue Nation is another fantastic installment in one the best action franchises around.