Sunday, 22 February 2015

En-Turing Love [Review: The Imitation Game]

The Imitation Game is a great example of cinematic Augmented Reality. I loved this film and, straight after watching it I was inspired to find out more about this interesting period in history. As I quickly found, there are several ways in which this movie improves on history, and several online articles fact-checking it. I'll point you to this one by an authority on Turing, it's very readable and the author agrees with me that the inaccuracies don't kill the movie. Incidentally this movie stars some guy or other as Turing, can't really remember who. He's quite good. I shouldn't wonder if he'll probably be appearing in some more films soon.

Augmented reality should be used for a reason. Adding a Communist spy to Turing's team adds some great dramatic moments in itself, but also dramatises the difficult relationship between the West and Russia during the war. Similarly, making Turing misanthropic rather than just shy, and making him fight with commander and co-workers (in fact he got along just fine with all of them) symbolises the conceptual battle to solve Enigma, which would otherwise have occurred in his head only.

On the other hand Turing's treatment at the hands of the authorities, including his criminalization and chemical "treatment" for homosexuality, is of course true, as is the depiction of his early life, school experiences and crush on his schoolfriend Christopher. Which brings me to a really interesting element of the film - the computer Christopher, built by Turing.

In real life Turing's work on the development of programmable computers was hugely important. He also designed a non-programmable machine called a Bombe, to automate the Enigma code-breaking process. So Christopher is a fictional character, a combination of two separate Turing projects - and fictional Turing's love for fictional Christopher outshines his love for human Christopher, human Joan Clarke or humanity in general. In a way, Turing's fictional mission is to persuade his fellow codebreakers that a computer can fight alongside them and contribute to the war effort. Equal rights for computers!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

"Steampunk Girl" Screening: St. Albans Film Festival

I am absolutely thrilled to report that "Steampunk Girl," my lyric video for the song by John Anealio, is on the official selection at St. Albans Film Festival 2015. I loved being part of this festival in 2013 and am looking forward to this year's event. I'll post details of the screening as soon as they are available.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Take Me Out [Review: The Interview]

I had fairly negative expectations of The Interview having read some not-so-great reviews. It also appears Kim Jong-Un himself isn't a fan, so maybe we aren't so different after all. I haven't spoken to him recently but I would guess that he took issue with the contrived plot most of all. Celebrity interviewer Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) discover Jong-Un is a fan of their show, so use this as leverage to arrange a once-in-a-lifetime interview, then the CIA crashes their party and asks them to kill him.

I can't deny this film is contrived, or that it relies heavily on lowbrow laughs, or for that matter that in a few places it could be seen as racist and misogynistic, although I've seen far more offensive comedies. It's also utterly without  redeeming social importance, lacking the self-critical irony of the far superior Team America: World Police. However I also can't deny that it's extremely funny, and in some places surprisingly clever. Which, along with the two main characters who are weirdly likeable even when they're being absolute cads, and the supporting character Sook-Young Park (Diana Bang) who's personal story arc takes her from innocent propagandist to bad-ass freedom fighter via some hilarious scenes, means it's more enjoyable than I expected, even if I was occasionally left feeling awkward for doing so.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

New Brains For Old [Review: The Machine]

Military scientist McCarthy's (Toby Stephens) research into artificial brain implants is not going entirely to plan - recovered bionic soldiers become inexplicably mute a few weeks after surgery, and one experiment goes on a killing spree. To save his scientific bacon, McCarthy recruits quantum computer expert Ava (Caity Lotz) and together they work towards the creation of an android which, for dramatic or possibly budgetary reasons, bears a striking resemblance to Caity Lotz.

The Machine attempts to tell a complex and dark story - plot strands include McCarthy's motivation for his research, his relationship with the android as she awakens and discovers the world, as well as what appears to be a power struggle amongst the sinister bionics.

This film bears a superficial resemblance to Alex Garland's film
Ex Machina which will be released later this month, if the Ex Machina trailer is anything to go by. It also reminded me of Splice, as both deal with the twisted relationship between creator and created, as well as other recent films touching on the love between man and computer - Her, for example, or The Imitation Game.

I enjoyed this film, particularly Lotz' performance as both Ava and the android - a perfect Uncanny-Valley performance, neither clearly human nor inhuman.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Let Slip The Bats Of War [Review: The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies]

Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy concludes as Douglas the wisecracking dragon pilot from Cabin Pressure meets his fate at human hands, and a massive capture-the-flag grudge match begins between an odd number of Middle Earth factions trying to gain control of the dwarven mountain and a large stash of chocolate money. The trilogy ends on a high note - easily the most entertaining of the three, even when seen through 2D specs and at a mere 24 frames per second.

An issue I may possibly have mentioned in my reviews of Hobbit 1 and 2 here and here, was the fact that almost all lead characters were guaranteed a place in the final episode - so they were never really in danger. Once you reach the final battle, though, all bets are off. I'm not saying I want to see gory deaths for their own sake, I have a Game Of Thrones boxset for that! but finally, there is some actual peril, the stakes are raised and the drama is much better as a result. Now please can we have a Radagast The Brown spin-off?