Posts Tagged ‘hyperstereo’

African Safari 3-D

October 5, 2014
Not a postcard, not a trunk call... nothing! Our hosts get (fortunately) overlooked in this close call in 'African Safari 3-D'.

Not a postcard, not a trunk call… nothing!
Our hosts get (fortunately) overlooked in this dramatically close encounter in ‘African Safari 3-D’.

An Active3D review
Film: African Safari 3-D
Rating: (out of 5)

Experience Africa’s wildlife up-close – really up-close – without risking life and limb, without getting sweaty, and without getting nasty bugs in your hair. That’s the appeal of this 3-D documentary, and on that level, it delivers unfailingly.

The film’s director, Ben Stassen, has involved himself largely with the production and direction of whizz-bang animated shorts for exhibition in “4-D” motion-enhanced fairground rides (such as those that South Africans have experienced at Gold Reef City’s theme park).

In later years, he and his Belgian production outfit, nWave, have expanded into animated theatrical features, but he returns here to a subject that he covered in a 2005 short film; the safari.

This feature-length trek into the wilderness kicks off in the sand dunes of Namibia, meanders through Botswana, stops off at a couple of spots in Zambia, and finally makes quite a meal of Tanzania, which seems to be a haven for wildlifers. Our hosts are the South African “Lion Whisperer” Kevin Richardson and the Kenyan-born Mara Douglas Hamilton, whose field of expertise is the African elephant. The duo also provides the film’s voice-over narration and general chit-chat, and this is the project’s weakest area. Much as I have nothing but the hugest respect for Richardson and his work, movie narration will never be his thing, and he should never have been thrust into that role.  His flattened vowels convert “wildlife” to “warldlarf”, and the accent is quite disconcerting for this South African who has always tried his level best to respect the Queen’s English and avoid the pitfalls of Sarth-Efrikan-speak. Maybe audiences in other countries will find it charming or quaint, but I found it distressing to have our boere-brogue thrust at us from the big screen. The banter that he and his co-host enjoy throughout the film is also banal, off-putting, and sometimes unintentionally comical.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I think that both of these people have taken gigantic strides in increasing our understanding of Africa’s wild animals, and directing international attempts at wildlife preservation. It’s just that the producers should’ve found stronger scriptwriters (well, someone such as yours truly, for example), and given the task of narration to someone with authority and masterful diction (Jeremy Irons, perhaps?).

That said, the film’s 3-D visuals are truly spectacular, and it’s safe to say that you’ll probably never get this close to wild animals without (a) losing life or limb, or (b) soiling your smalls.

Lions brush past the 3-D camera, so close that you’ll believe you can smell the sand on their coats, and – in one particularly showy sequence, an elephant thrusts his (or her) trunk way out of the screen frame and deep into cinema-space.

Some shots in hyperstereo (i.e. with the Left and Right-Eye cameras placed unusually far from one another) are quite distracting and unrealistic. A recurring such shot, for example, is one taken from the front of the safari vehicle, showing our two adventurers.  The 3-D here is horribly exaggerated, as is the opening shot, in which a computer graphic of the earth makes our planet bulge towards us like the long end of an egg. Finally, in the bad egg department, the film embarrasses itself with some “climate change” prattle (hopefully not lots of it) that will even look silly in the near future, which is where it casts its predictions.

That said, this is an eye-filling document of probably the only decent thing that our sorry continent has to offer; its majestic wild animals; creatures that we need to treasure and protect.  The film doesn’t linger long on any one topic or animal, and is thus short on detailed information. It is, however, a good overall picture (and a stereoscopic one at that) of the majesty that roams upon African soil. Which makes a damn pleasant change from the tyranny that rules it.

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My Kingdom For a Norse…

April 28, 2011

An Active3D Movie Review: THOR 3-D

Rating (out of 5 stars): **

Hammering the message home is Australian soapie star Chris Hemsworth.

It’s very difficult, as a grown-up, to review a movie this silly. But it’s based upon a Marvel Comics character, and I know that I’m supposed to show due respect…

I dunno; Superman and Batman I could somehow swallow, but when characters from ancient Norse religion come into contact with modern-day USA, then I’m left wondering whether the creators (and yes, I know that we’re talking here of the revered Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Leiber) weren’t chewing on the bark of a very exotic tree.

The last time (I think) that a similar cinematic event took place, was when Olivia Newton-John slipped away from the realm of the Greek gods to romance Michael Beck in Xanadu. And that movie, lovely songs and an embarrassed-looking Gene Kelly aside, was really very silly indeed!

But the producers have taken this production very seriously – to the extent that Kenneth Branagh was asked to direct (no doubt, to explore the piece’s Shakespearean dimensions, which are many). The film is also blessed with a very strong cast, from Natalie Portman to Anthony Hopkins, Colm Feore to Stellan Skarsgård – although they pretty much troll through the film in a somnambulistic haze; no doubt thinking about what they’ll do with their pay cheques.

Playing Thor is Oz actor and graduate of the Australian soapie, Neighbours, Chris Hemsworth, a blonde pin-up boy who’ll enjoy his place in the sun until something younger and prettier turns up in a few years’ time. The real revelation of the film is Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Thor’s brother, who has taken the Shakespearean nature of the tale so seriously that he lends the entire production a gravitas and dignity that one might never have expected from such fluff.

The 3-D is particularly impressive when we find ourselves in the computer-generated kingdom of the Norse gods. Many of the US location scenes are shot in hyperstereo (in order to exaggerate the 3-D effect) but this ends up making everything look dwarfy – so that a pickup truck driving through the countryside looks like a dinky car. But that’s what comes of placing your left and right lenses so far apart… The truth is that we can’t discern 3-D after about 20 metres, so landscapes and other far-off scenes don’t “read” in 3-D. My view on that is, if distant scenes don’t appear 3-D in real life, why force them to do so in 3-D movies? And just because a movie is 3-D doesn’t mean that every single moment of screen time has to ‘pop’ or recede! In Disney’s Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, the studio pulls a smart trick by running arbitrary interview and backstage footage in 2-D. That way, when we cut back to the concert, the 3-D carries more ‘wow’.

Considering that I was expecting to be bored out of my mind, the film was surprisingly entertaining, perhaps largely because I had a regular chortle at the campy costumes that looked as if they were copied from action figures – instead of the other way around. And finally, the film’s title made complete sense as, running at almost two hours, it left my backside feeling rather “thor”…