Friday, 25 May 2012

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Tryfe, Tryfe Again [Review: There Goes The Galaxy]

Bertram Ludlow is kidnapped from his home on Tryfe (a quaint, backwater planet known to its inhabitants as Earth) and catapulted across the Galaxy on a quest to save his homeworld from... well, from something. He’s not quite sure exactly who, or what, constitutes this existential threat. In any case his brain is in denial, preferring to believe he is the victim of international terrorists looking for his PhD thesis on procrastination. But the Greater Communicating Universe is not a friendly place. The meat-eating daisies wait in the shadows, and it’ll take more than some special chewing gum and a mysterious yellow thing on a rope to put Tryfe on the galactic map – Bertram may also need to rely on his wits. It’s going to be a long day.

There Goes The Galaxy, by Jenn Thorson, is a comedy space opera which is very inventive, and which also owes a small debt to the novels of Douglas Adams. In particular Bertram Ludlow, the middle child in a family of two, is a non-hero of the Arthur Dent school – a coward but with that same obstinate streak that leads him to misguided bravery. His captor Rolliam Smorlood is an intergalactic rogue-about-town not completely dissimilar to Zaphod Beeblebrox. Like the Hitch-Hiker novels, There Goes The Galaxy is interspersed with funny extracts from galactic publications, and the novel takes a scattergun approach to satire, taking on estate agents, televised book clubs, organized crime (incidentally, when will people give those guys a break? They’re just trying to earn a living!) and everything in between.

This book would appeal to a Tryfling who likes their science fiction colourful, fast, satirical, utterly demented, and with an inexplicably British feel to it, or perhaps someone desperate for their next Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy hit, but not quite desperate enough to read Eoin Colfer’s And Another Thing. The similarities I’ve highlighted are a positive, not a negative aspect to this novel, and it’s fair to add that Douglas Adams didn’t invent any of the space-opera tropes – he just made them fun, a tradition that I’m happy to see is alive and well today.

There Goes The Galaxy can be found on Amazon - Kindle edition here. Of Cabbages And Kings, Jenn Thorson's blog, is here.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

No-Legged Freaks [Preview: Worm]

Last year’s international pet craze was owls, fuelled by the Harry Potter phenomenon – young fans all over the world have been disappointed to learn that in real life owls do not collect the mail. So what might they turn to next? Here’s the trailer for Worm, an eccentric-looking indie sci-fi film directed by Doug Mallette and currently in post-production.

Worm is due for completion in September 2012 and while I only have the evidence of the trailer to go on, I think this has the potential to be a stand-out movie. While there are many films that play with ideas of reality, perception and dreams, this can of worms is a different kettle of fish. The plot of Inception, for example, didn’t require Leo or Ellen to travel between realities by aural insertion of earthworms. I’m just waiting to see what Untrademarked Productions has in mind for merchandising.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

"We Can Get You Some Really Cheap Gear" Screening: MovieBar

"We Can Get You Some Really Cheap Gear" will be screened at MovieBar short film night on 4th June, at the Caroline of Brunswick, Brighton. There will also be time for some Q&A with some of the filmmakers.

Here's the full line-up for this event.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Why Andrew Stanton Is Wrong Part I: Three Elephants Will Suffice

This is not a review of John Carter of Mars – that’s still to come. It's also not intended as criticism of Andrew Stanton, director of modern classics Wall-E and Toy Story, and incredibly, one of the scriptwriters on Mighty Mouse, a cartoon series that in no small way shaped my childhood.

However while I don't wish to criticise Stanton exactly, I do wish to take issue with him. About this. In an interview with Mark Lawson on BBC Radio 4, Stanton claims that he has "always ignored what the budget is."
This attitude doesn't belong in the modern filmmaking world, where hundreds of billions of dollars can't guarantee success and where Paranormal Activity (budget $15,000) is still the most profitable movie of all time. This attitude belongs to the Golden Age, when directors would demand six elephants in their film, while their producers insisted that the same effect could be achieved with one.

Let's say you are privileged enough to command a budget of $200 million. Indeed you are James Cameron, the director of Titanic. You have a responsibility to make that money count, to make the film that could not otherwise be made. You have the knowledge of your craft, which should tell you, in artistic terms, where that money will have the most impact. And you cannot afford to forget that the money has not appeared by magic – somebody is going to want some kind of return on investment.

What did the Titanic budget buy? A series of dives to the Titanic wreck to shoot authentic footage, a six-month campaign of historical research, extensive full-scale reconstructions of the Titanic and several interior locations. Cameron and also Chris Nolan have stressed the value of decent set construction: while you can create a virtual set more cheaply and without the technical difficulties, you get more authentic performances from actors on a physical set. Cameron also supported the research and development of several cinema technologies – one example is the pioneering use of virtual actors in crowd scenes.

To be continued...