Posts Tagged ‘James Cameron’

Little Guy Brings Big Tech

December 14, 2012

 

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♪ “Heigh ho, heigh ho / It’s off to do battle with a bunch of CGI creatures we go…” ♫

An Active 3-D review
Movie: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 3-D
Rating: *** (out of 5)

This adventure film, apart from being the apparently “highly anticipated” prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, will probably be remembered for ushering in a new era of cinemagoing in South Africa. 

It’s the first movie to be shown, in selected theatres, in HFR (i.e high frame rate), the 48 frames-per-second format (i.e. double the frame-rate of standard cinema fare).

It’s also the first film exhibited in South Africa (or indeed, anywhere in the southern hemisphere) in Dolby’s new theatrical technology, Dolby Atmos.

More about these movie sciences in another entry; suffice it to say that the HFR, Digital 3-D, Dolby Atmos industry launch at Umhlanga’s Gateway cine 1 in Durban on Tuesday, December 11th, represented a milestone for those of us lucky enough to attend it.

Let us return, however, to our friend the Hobbit in the shire. The tale’s filmic interpreter, Peter Jackson – like his counterpart in the epics league, James Cameron – is quick to fall for a story’s roadshow potential, as opposed to its more human dimensions. Peter Jackson just can’t say no to an action/conflict scene; an indulgence that drives me to distraction. After about two hours, I was thinking, “Yeah; nice noisy action climax – are we done, and may I go for a wee now?” But no; there’s another where that came from. And another…

All of this spectacle deviates, I believe, from the quiet charm of the book. But what Jackson knows about subtle, Tyler Perry knows about funny. The special effects are indeed breathtaking, but they’re so densely laid on, and so protracted, that their splendor soon wears off. And they detract from the performances that members of the cast may be attempting to offer us. Although I remember The Hobbit to be only one book, largish tome as it was, I’m not sure that it contains enough narrative meat to be stretched out over three films, as the filmmakers are planning to do.

An impressive scene in the latter part of this first installment, between Gollum and Bilbo Baggins, supplies the dramatic stuff that I expect of such a saga – which goes to show that Mr Jackson is still capable of being a good director of drama… when he isn’t being distracted by his special effects toybox.

NO!!! Say it ISN’T TRUE!!!

March 12, 2010

It can’t be true… it shouldn’t be true... but it is: James Cameron and 20th Century Fox are talking about re-releasing ‘Avatar’ later this year.

As if the whole tiresome affair wasn’t too bum-numbingly long to start with, they’re tipping in another 40 minutes of Cameron’s self-importance. That’s THREE HOURS AND TWENTY MINUTES of clichéd American Baddies Vs The Cool Spiritual Blue Dudes!

There is only one thing scarier than James Cameron’s ego, and that is the fact that there are lots of people out there who are happy to feed it!

AVATAR : “How do you feel about betraying your own people?”

December 17, 2009

The civilised West, according to James Cameron, is all guns and no roses...

There’s a point in ‘Avatar’ when the Bad Grizzly American Military Dude hisses at the Ex-Marine-Now-Newly-Spiritual-Avatar-Dude, “How do you feel about betraying your own people?” (Or words to that effect.) This is the very question I’d like to direct at the film’s creator, James Cameron. But before we get there, let me rewind a little…

Had I ever suspected Cameron to be a filmmaker of any gravity (and I hadn’t), I would certainly have been disabused of this notion upon witnessing that over-hyped yet empty vessel, ‘Titanic’. This high-budget melodrama may well have risen at the box office, but it sank in my estimation. The whole, effects-laden mish-mash served merely to support Cameron’s political agenda. If the actual ship itself had listed so far to the left, it would never have left harbour!

Think about it: Kate Winslett plays Rose, who betrays the “evil people” (i.e. the wealthy and educated classes) by getting involved in a forbidden romance with Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is one of the “noble, decent folk” (i.e. the poor). The gun-slinging villain (played by Billy Zane) is one of the wealthy folk, of course, reinforcing the film’s message: i.e. Tuxedo = Bad Guys, Tattered Rags = Good Guys.

Mr Cameron is, in my eyes, a great technician, which is why, when he dredges up this barnacled epic for a 3-D release in the near future, I’ll be there – just for the thrill of stepping aboard that fated ocean liner in living 3-D. I’m quite aware of the lengths the man went to in the interests of historical authenticity. (By “historical accuracy”, I refer to the attention paid to details of the ship’s interiors and such, and not to the alleged mistreatment of the “lower classes” on board.)

We also know that Cameron spent years developing 3-D systems that would help him put the ‘Avatar’ that he has visualised on the screen. Which is why was I excitedly waiting for the lights to dim at last week’s press preview of ‘Avatar’. As a lover of the 3-D format, I came to the conclusion that this film would be the technical yardstick against which all 3-D films would be measured for some years to come.

I didn’t, however, walk away from the film on a high. Why? Because we can’t watch films in a philosophical vacuum, and the political philosophy behind ‘Avatar’ didn’t sit well with me, just as it hadn’t done in ‘Titanic’. I’m afraid, therefore, that I shall be drifting somewhat off-topic for this particular film review, and ask that you kindly indulge me – or else switch to my equally engaging articles below, which adhere to the 3-D agenda of this blog! 😉

James Cameron: a great technician, but when will they find him a decent scriptwriter?

James Cameron - a great technician, but won't somebody please connect him to a decent scriptwriter?

It’s the clichéd drone of the Hollywood scriptwriter, and it generally goes like this: Educated and/or wealthy people are evil and ‘exploitative’, whilst unsophisticated and/or poor people are virtuous. The annals of movie Bad Guy history are littered with Evil Businessmen and Exploitative Developers, and if you should happen upon a bum or tramp in a Hollywood movie, it’s a safe bet that he’ll be the very font of kindness and old-world sagacity. The extension of this philosophy (which is plainly evident in ‘Avatar’) is that all of civilised western society is evil, exploitative and violent, and that all primitive societies are ones in which the people live in peaceful coexistence with one another and nature.

‘Avatar’ presents us with avaricious and exploitative Americans who are after a ridiculously-named metal which exists on a planet populated by peace-loving blue people who live in harmony with one another and the animal kingdom – but just happen to have treacherously poisonous arrows handy for the day that they decide to get nasty… In order to extract the metal, the Americans have to uproot a holy tree belonging to said tribe. I told you to stand by for clichés, didn’t I? The Evil Materialist Exploiters vs The Peace-Loving Spiritual Earth People.

Cameron, in his typically unsubtle fashion, is presenting us with An Analogy! Is he talking about how early American settlers fought Native Americans, or is he alluding to the war in Iraq? Going by the adornments worn by the tribal folk, I’m guessing that Cameron is alluding to the Native American issue – with potential Iraq points as a spin-off.

Let’s just get a few things straight, however. A culture of war and violent conflict had existed amongst Native American tribes before the arrival of the settlers – just as it appears to have done in every known human culture. Territorial battles seem, regrettably, to be hard-wired into our DNA. The only “crime” of the North American settlers lay in their weapons being more powerful. I’m not suggesting for a second that there aren’t noble and beautiful elements to Native American, or other, tribally-oriented cultures. But then, those uplifting elements also exist in western culture, and I’m weary of Hollywood magnifying only the brutality of the west, and only the nobility of older cultures – especially when their brutality was merely limited by their technology, and not by their inclinations.

What we have here, folks, is a cheesy sci-fi rehash of Pocahontas, with all those cold-hearted western villains who haven’t learnt how to “paint with all the colours of the wind”.

Primitive, less westernised cultures, are, according to Mr Cameron, a peace-loving, tree-hugging lot. Baloney, I say!

This is a construct of such fairytale simplicity that it’s risible. Learned anthropologists will tell you that primitive tribes would migrate from one area to another once they had stripped the earth of its nutrients and killed all the edible animals. And, if two tribes coveted the same fertile stretch of land, the weapons would be out for the bloodiest conflict.

In Native American culture, some tribes burned down entire forests in their quest to make hunting easier. Entire herds of buffalo were stampeded over cliffs, with most of the buffalo being left there to rot. Tribal cultures have hunted species to extinction without any western help. So, these earlier human settlements weren’t quite as touchy-feely or “green” as popular culture would suggest!

Civilisations in the western world have extended the boundaries of science, however, and this has allowed us to live longer, more comfortable lives, and gain a greater understanding of the world around us. And the civilised west has provided great humanitarian aid to the developing or underdeveloped world, both in terms of funding (which is invariably rerouted by corrupt Third World leaders) and material assistance. Yet the civilised west continues to be characterised in Hollywood scripts as a shameless and violent exploiter of weaker cultures.

This “spiritualism” of the blue tribe that the film glorifies is nothing more than the superstition of primitive tribes. Of course, western societies also have their superstitions. They’re simply called “religion”, but religion has, for the large part, taken a back seat to rationalism in western society, so, when the sun appears in the morning, most of us understand this to be a result of the alignment of planets and stars, rather than some mighty sun-god bestowing favor upon his minions by shifting the ‘sun piece’ on his enormous chess board.

Contemporary Hollywood scriptwriters extract a terrible revenge on those who achieve. Scientists, successful businessmen – in short, anyone who’s made something of his or her life – is reviled. The bums, the dropouts, and the underachievers of the world, are funny and endearing “noble savages” in the world of the average Hollywood scriptwriter.

Most contemporary Hollywood scriptwriters scorn the very qualities that made America great.

All the qualities that made America great are now being positioned as vices...

And all those qualities that made the US great – such as an enterprising spirit, and the will to educate oneself – are now being positioned as vices by the vendors of popular culture.

So, yes, Mr Cameron, you are indeed betraying your people with your politically correct stereotyping. You betray the pioneering spirit that made your country great and you betray the institutions in the west which have not only taken education, technology and health services to inconceivable heights, but have used this knowledge to assist and uplift needy communities around the world. Your spectacular, visually rich movie, with all its breathtaking stereoscopic effects, is unable to conceal its cheesy, lefty roots…

Titanic Goes Deeper

October 18, 2009
Kate and Leo launch themsleves into three-dimensional theatre-space

Kate and Leo launch themsleves into three-dimensional theatre-space

There’s no stopping Hollywood movie director James Cameron – and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way… The Hollywood Reporter informs us that he’s now tinkering with the idea of retooling his hit flick Titanic in order to have it re-released in 3-D.

The only aspect of that overlong, overindulgent film that ever appealed to me was its painstaking attention to historical detail. From the wall coverings to the furnishings to the crockery, Cameron saw to it that every detail of the film set was to be a faithful reproduction of the sumptuous, awe-inspiring real thing.

I didn’t care much for Cameron’s trumped-up, cross-class love affair between the working-class Leo DiCaprio and upper-class Kate Winslet, and I certainly could’ve done without Celine Dion’s heart (and high-pitched wailing) going on and on and on…

Cameron is a far better technician than he is a director. And if you don’t believe me, watch that superb 1958 British movie about the Titanic, A Night to Remember, and work out for yourself how many shots Cameron felt he needed to steal from it in order to enhance his product.

Would I visit my nearest 3-D cinema to see this dimensionally-enhanced Titanic? I would indeed. In his pursuit of technical and historical perfection, Cameron turned the backdrop of his movie into a living museum. And, if you’re in the business of duplicating reality, then stereoscopic 3-D is but a natural progression.

So, yes, I will endure this overblown epic again, because I believe that stepping on board the Titanic in stereoscopic, big-screen realism will be a thrill in much the same way as my childhood visits to the museum were. My little heart would tremble with excitement, as I knew that would be entering into other realities, far distant in time and geography from my orderly suburban existence. So bring it then, Mr Cameron, and I promise to sit through all 194 minutes of it. Although I can’t promise not to squirm during Celine Dion’s caterwauling…

The ‘Avatar’ teaser, revealed

August 21, 2009
Eyeing December's box office...

Eyeing December’s box office…

Finally, James Cameron’s much-vaunted teaser for his upcoming sci-fi spectacular, Avatar, has been unleashed! I can’t say that I’ve ever been a huge fan of this director’s work, but – quite obviously – I am a 3-D fan.  I’m also aware of the time, money, effort, and cutting-edge 3-D technology that’s been poured into this epic affair. The movie’s being shrewdly marketed – as witness the Mxit cellphone campaign that has attracted hordes of young ‘uns to the teaser screenings held throughout the country this evening.

The show begins with a mercifully brief intro by Cameron, who introduces himself as “Jim Cameron” (so we’re on casual terms, now!). Wisely, he allows the snippets that follow to do most of the ‘talking’.

What’s the movie about, you ask? Who cares? We caught snippets of the storyline, though I suspect that this film will offer little to engage our minds. You can be sure, however, that every technical detail will be beautifully seen to. Cameron, we must not forget, is a kindred spirit (i.e. 3-D geek of note), so there’ll be much on the screen (and off it and behind it!) to keep us enthralled.

Think Jurassic Park and Journey to the Centre of the Earth (the recent 3-D version), and you’ll have a fair idea of what to expect; just that there are heaps more dinosaurs and other prehistoric gnashers stomping about these steamy jungles in full stereoscopic glory. Throw in some cliffhangers (quite literally) and the scene is set for a grand-scale sci-fi romp that I’m almost certain I’ll enjoy – even if I pay no attention to the storyline whatsoever. And if you think that you’ll ever be able to replicate this mammoth adventure in your home theatre, I have bad news indeed for you.