Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Adam McKay, 2013) Review

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Plot: Ron Burgundy moves from San Diego to New York to headline the worlds first 24 hour news station.

Review: Proving the rule is true “You can’t make a good comedy sequel”. From The Hangover 2 (& 3) back to Caddyshack 2 and Ghostbusters 2 you just can’t repeat the same jokes and make an enjoyable film. As much as I loved the original upon a recent screening I realized that it wasn’t that great either. Will Ferrell has been great in Zoolander and even Step Brothers however his character Ron Burgandy is rather flat and one-dimensional. He’s a womanizer, a drinker and a sexist – the quintessential man of the 60s and 70s. This shtick gets old pretty quick. His sidekicks Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Champ Kind (David Koechner) and Brick Tamland (Steve Carrell) fair better with their material and add a lot of laughs to proceedings. Anchorman 2 brings everyone back but can’t spark the same magic as the first as the characters plod along in an overlong plot about Ron moving on to working at Global News. Nothing is memorable and you will forget everything you saw by the time you walk back to your car from the cinema or hit stop on your remote. Not recommended.

Rating: 1 Star

Noah (Darren Aronofsky, 2014) Review

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Plot: Based on the bible story; Noah’s Ark. Noah is chosen by the Creator to build an ark and save two of each animal before an apocalyptic flood wipes out humanity. Noah struggles to get his family, including wife, Naameh, three sons, Seth, Japeth and Ham and an adopted daughter, Ila, safely onboard. While outsiders led by Tubal-Cain try and infiltrate the ark and save themselves.

Review: Aronofsky has crafted a visually stunning portrait of Noah and the story of his ark. Although Aronofsky took many liberties with the short tale of Noah’s ark they pay off in a well-plotted and emotionally compelling story. Matching the visual beauty Russell Crowe shines as the conflicted hero. His quiet determination recalls his earlier roles in Gladiator and The Insider, which remind us how amazing he was and still can be. Also Emma Watson is beginning to shake off her Hermione days as Noah’s adopted daughter Ila, who brings the light and soul to this ultimately dark tale of loss and redemption. Overall a satisfying film, with beautiful imagery, strong plot and acting, Aronofsky has created another great film. Not his best however a strong film to start off 2014’s blockbuster season.

Rating: 3 Stars

Google Alerts: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Trailer Review

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Google alerts is a free and easy way of keeping track of topics without having to search your favourite sites every hour for the latest news. I set up my Google Alerts to notify of news regarding three things of interest to me. They are:

  •          Marvel films 2014
  •          Ninja turtles film 2014
  •          Christopher Nolan

My first alert regarding ‘Marvel films 2014’ will warn me about films based on Marvel comics which are coming out this year. Google alerts sends a notification to my gmail alerting me of the latest news regarding Marvel’s four big blockbusters including Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy. As excited as I am to see these four films it was actually the topic of my second alert which caught my attention this morning.

Since I was a child I have loved the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. I watched the late 80s – early 90s cartoon religiously.

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I also saw all three live action films at the movies and still find myself watching them for a laugh nearly every year.

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I listed this topic as my second alert because news regarding the new film had been minimal. However this morning my Google alert for ‘Ninja Turtles film 2014’ gave me an email directing me to the latest trailer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZZ0PnDZdZk 

I have to say I am pretty excited for the film after seeing this footage. Although the reaction online has been quite polarising, I am happy with what I saw. I believe the studios have gone in the right direction with Michael Bay as producer. He brought another 80s classic cartoon, Transformers back into today’s pop culture and for all those films flaws, they have made a ton of money and are enjoyable popcorn films. The trailer for the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, introduces a new origin story for the turtles. As William Fichtner’s narration suggests that he and April O’Niel’s father were responsible in creating the mutants. The trailers aesthetic is similar to Bay’s Transformers films, with lots of quick cuts of action unfolding and rare glimpses of the turtles. It shows a city under attack and a new larger scale unseen in previous Turtle films. The trailer ends with a reveal of Leonardo and Michaelangelo as he tells April that “It’s just a mask, see?” as he takes off his orange head band naïve to what she’s really afraid of. This shows that they are keeping Michaelangelo’s trademark humour and innocence.

Overall I think a new look and new direction for the Turtles is what’s needed to bring them back into today’s pop culture. The last time we saw the turtles in cinemas in TMNT (2007), the studio decided to disregard the live action element of the earlier films and have them in an animated film. Although the animation allowed the characters to have a more fluid sense of action the film flopped. The only way to bring them back was through mixing CGI with live action. A concept that was too advanced for the early 90s puppet/animatronic featured films. I think that this new film will reintroduce the turtles to today’s audiences who love Transformers and Marvel’s superhero blockbusters. The time is right for the turtles to return to the big screen with Nickelodeon having a hit animated TV show on at the moment. I think this film could be a hit and hopefully we can see the Turtles back in action for years to come.

Media Objects – Single Shot Video Critical Reflection

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For the assessment task – Single Shot Video, the students of Media Objects were to get into a group and develop an idea for a one-minute single take video incorporating the theme of “success”. On the first day of our intensive I met Brenda, Bo and Mari. We got together and worked on a practise task, which enabled us to work together and get to know each others strengths and weaknesses regarding the production of a short single take film. Our practise task was successful and with our newfound confidence in filmmaking, we began developing our single shot assessment task.

Success as a theme can be represented in many ways. The night before I had watched The Wolf of Wall Street directed by Martin Scorsese. That film explored the idea of success by tracing the rise and fall of a Stock Broker who cheated his way to the top. The character of Jordan Belfort played brilliantly by Leonardo DiCaprio believed success was directly tied to being rich. Money was his main motivation throughout the film, and he would stop at nothing to ensure he had as much as possible. After hearing that our theme was success I automatically thought of that film and of doing something similar. However every good idea that I had would require a multiple cuts. The single take was limiting to my vision and I had to rely on other ideas in order to be successful in this task. We eventually decided on the idea of someone being robbed and chased and then being rescued and that would be the “success.” It would be shot with an in your face, action aesthetic similar to director Paul Greengrass of The Bourne Identity films. These films incorporate a lot of handheld action, which give you the experience of actually being there. It is thrilling and leaves the audience with a dizzying effect. We knew because of the constraints of having one shot, we had to make it as thrilling as possible so the audience would be able to experience something new in this format. We decided on including a chase scene, which would give the viewer a sense of the real time action. As we developed the story further we agreed on a location and who would act and film.

The story would be as follows;

Brenda would walk down the stairs of a train station, walk down an empty alleyway where she would get a phone call. As she answered the phone, unbeknown to her, Bo would snatch her bag and run down the alleyway. I would play a local merchant who just happened to be there. I would intervene, get the bag off her and return it to Brenda. The success would be her getting her bag back.

We filmed the scene in a few takes and were happy with the results. As we returned to class our tutor Jeremy took a look. He gave us feedback and said that perhaps we could include a bit more to the story, perhaps some form of a narrative twist. We all agreed and decided to meet up the weekend after and re-film our scene. During the week we kept in touch via email and discussed how we could improve our one shot film and add a twist. We decided to have Brenda have an envelope with something important inside and put it in her bag. As she is robbed by Bo, I would again intervene and rescue her bag. However the twist is that Bo and I are in it together and I get the envelope from her bag while I return it to her. As Brenda leaves happy her bag is returned. I meet Bo and tell her I got the envelope and that’s our “success”.

Our second round of filming took longer than our initial film, however due to the advanced storyline, many takes were required. We had up to 19 different takes and the last one was the best. As we filmed that day problems with the film included the actors not being able to keep a straight face and shaky handheld filming. We didn’t use the Sony Video Camera we used the week before, we used a Canon DSLR, which unfortunately wasn’t as stable as the Sony Camera from the University. The smooth filming from the first day was lost in the process. Our final cut is shakier however it does incorporate the handheld action aesthetic that we originally wanted. Our video now looks more in the style of the action films of Paul Greengrass and Michael Bay.

Our final cut will be uploaded to youtube for public viewing. I will advertise it through my blog as well as social media such as Twitter and Instagram. I am happy with our final cut and hope to make a film with my group again.

Title: The Envelope

Credits:

Written & Directed by Bo Dechphant, Mari Guren, Daniel Hennequin & Brenda Au-Yeung

Starring:

Brenda Au-Yeung as Lady with envelope

Bo Dechphant as Thief

Daniel Hennequin as Stranger/Helper

Director of Photography: Mari Guren

 

Basic Audio Editing

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As a High School Media Teacher I have become familiar with the basic audio editing program, Adobe Audition.

As I began teaching Media in 2008 I had access to the Adobe Creative Suite CS3, which included editing programs such as Photoshop, Premiere and Flash. At the time the audio editing program was Soundbooth however in 2011 my school upgraded to Adobe Creative Suite CS5 and Audition replaced Soundbooth. I had to develop skills in a new program. The two programs are similar as they allow the user to create sounds and develop music in a professional manner.

Students were able to create a recording session with their band and edit the raw audio into a professional piece of work. Students could also create soundscapes if they were interested in becoming DJ’s or they could create podcasts and radio interviews with Audition.

Like most of Adobe’s programs, which allow crossover editing, Audition worked with Premiere to help control sound in film editing and allowed the students to adjust the soundtrack of their films. If a scene included too much wind or outdoor noise, students could edit the track to lower outside noise and raise the dialogue for a more professional looking and sounding scene.

In 2011 the CS5 version included two sections. Multitrack View supported up to 128 digital audio mono or stereo tracks at up to 32-bit resolution. In the Track Controls section one could select the input and output for each track (the program supported multiple multi-channel sound cards), select Record, Solo and Mute, and access the effects rack. New features included ASIO support, VST support, new mastering tools and a redesigned User Interface.

Last year my school upgraded to CS6 and the students were able to work with virtual instrument support, enhanced spectral editing, a redesigned multi-track interface, new effects, and a collection of royalty-free loops, which helped mostly with their short narrative film projects.

Tutorials on Adobe Audition

http://wwwlyndacom.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/Audition-tutorials/Audition-CS6-New-Features-Workshop/123539-2.html

Digital Drawing Issues

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In today’s modern design industry artists are able to create a work of art without the use of a pencil or paintbrush. An artist can simply use computer programs such as Sketch Up or Adobe Illustrator to create digital paintings. An artist can use it to create a piece of art for themselves or a client. However is waving an empty pen around a tablet like a Wacom Intuos Pro really drawing? Or are computers making it easy for anyone to create designs without the unique skill of drawing with a pen. I believe “real” artists are still those that grab a pen and paper and sketch up ideas on their own without the aid of a computer program. I recently saw the film ‘Her’ directed by Spike Jones about a near future where everyone has close interpersonal relationships with their OS devices. In this setting the main character is a love card writer who talks to his computer as it types what he is saying. I noticed that the world really is changing. Writers don’t need to put pen to paper anymore, they don’t even need to tap a button on a computer. It shows how artists whether they be painters or writers are now dependent upon technology to help them create their piece of work. It is rare in 2014 to work without the aid of a computer. Not many artists use the old way of putting paintbrush to paper, using a darkroom for photography or even using film to make a movie. The future in ‘Her’ is actually not the future at all it is today.

Artists today are losing that skillset of putting pen to paper. As a High School teacher we are now teaching design and art students how to use Wacoms and Illustrator to prepare them for the future of their industry. However along the way they are losing that fundamental skill of playing with an idea on a piece of paper and using their fine motor skills to connect patterns and objects with their hands and fingers. Using a tablet and an empty pen and watching their designs come on screen is just not the same as using pen and paper, I feel the true creativity of using your body and mind is being lost somewhere along the line. It is simply easier to get a computer to create a pattern or object than it is to draw it with your hands. Even Jenny Weight comments ‘Personally, I find drawing with a mouse or a trackpad rather difficult. I need the sensual contact of pressure and motor control.’ from her digital drawing lecture. I agree with Jenny, I also find it difficult to control what I really want to put on the screen with a tablet at times. When working on an animation assessment in my Digital Media class I often encourage my students to hand draw their characters, scan it on the computer and then alter it with Illustrator so they can get the best of both worlds. It also teaches them that the skill of drawing is not yet dead. We still need those fundamentals to create interesting ideas, stories and patterns. An artist needs to feel the pen or paintbrush as an extension of themselves. The tablets help synthesise this feeling however it isn’t real. I personally can tell whether something is hand drawn or created digitally and hand drawn always wins.

I encourage you to put a pen to paper and draw something. Then go on your computer download a program like Illustrator or Sketch Up and see if you get the same sensation of creativity.

Links to Illustrator;

http://www.adobe.com/au/products/illustrator.html

Tutorials;

http://wwwlyndacom.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/Illustrator-tutorials/Up-Running-Illustrator-CC/108139-2.html

Links to Sketch Up;

http://www.sketchup.com

Tutorials;

http://wwwlyndacom.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/SketchUp-tutorials/Navigating-SketchUp/145213/157875-4.html

Note: You must be a member of Lynda.com to view these tutorials.

Digital Image Editing Issues

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As a High School Media Teacher I have become familiar with the digital image editing software known as Photoshop.

Photoshop has many unique traits, which can improve a simple photo vastly. Tools that allow the user to change a photos background or even hide a pimple can be useful in todays digital photo sharing age. However as a 13 – 16 year old becomes more skilled in the program they can develop skills in hiding facial blemishes, hair colour and even their weight if need be. Teenagers who can develop this skill can perhaps do more harm than good when they are able to develop a false image of themselves to their friends and strangers via social media. Although this program was intended for photography enthusiasts it has now become a mainstream program used by many schools for students to show their design and editing skills. In my classes I have my students use the program to explore the unlimiting possibilities of editing such as replacing backgrounds of cityscapes with beaches and melding works of art with a students ‘selfie’. Although these exercises are used to demonstrate my student’s capabilities with the program it can lead them down another path where they use the program to edit their own images and even bully other students with their skills.

I had a situation where a student took a photo of another student and altered his appearance to look ugly and also added text to say something rude and offensive about the student in the picture. He then went and printed the image and posted it around the school. This new form of bullying was alarming, not only for the students self esteem but also in showing the negative possibilities of digital editing programs.

I believe in today’s age of digital manipulation one needs to be careful with these programs. Professional magazine editors use the program to tweak their cover girls every week by removing blemishes and excess fat. Teenagers who have the skills in the program can use it in the same way and misrepresent themselves when they put a photo on facebook or instagram that hides their true selves. Although a professional photographer can tweak an image of a horizon to be darker or lighter a confused teenager who thinks they’re physically unappealing can also use it for misrepresenting themselves and others. Only time will tell how far digital editing will go, not only professionally but also for that teenager at home playing on their laptop.