The arrival, arrived and must be seen

Arrival

It was actually Si who recommended to me Arrival. It’s very unlike him to recommend films as he’s not really into non-interactive media, so I went and watched the film and was pretty much blown away.

I promise not to spoil the film but the film reminds me of 3 other great films, and I mean great! Interstellar, which was influenced by Contact and finally Donnie Darko.

Well worth watching before they do a weird donnie darko directors cut on it.

Its a 8/10 or even 9/10, and so many other people agree.

It’s dangerous to say an alien movie achieves any level of realism. That is, we won’t know which ones are realistic until the aliens show up in real life and confirm it. With that caveat, Arrival feels like an uncommonly realistic alien invasion movie, if only because it understands a simple fact of life often misunderstood by Hollywood: few of life’s biggest mysteries can be understood through conventional thinking. Too many alien movies assume that our interplanetary visitors will look, sound, and communicate like some gnarled version of ourselves. Arrival rewrites the rule book. Instead of filtering the aliens’ intentions through our understanding of human behavior, it asks us to put our thinking caps on and luxuriate in the unknown.

Absolutely!

I also found the gender dynamics really interesting too… Amy Adams is incredible, strong and very thoughtful when most of the men around her are reaching for their guns or jumping to action. Shes confident of her own abilities and knows what needs to be done. Funny enough, another film by the same director is Sicario, with Emily Blunt who also command total respect by everyone around her.

Amy Adams is magnificent as the linguist at the centre of a world-changing event; Jeremy Renner turns in a quiet, introspective supporting performance as a mathematician brought in to help solve the visitors’ mysteries. The interplay between the two, as they seek to understand an unfathomably complex alien language, feels effortlessly natural; as well as a sci-fi movie, Arrival functions as an astutely observed relationship drama.

Go watch this film!

Sunspring: A movie written by algorithms

I don’t actually believe Adrian was the first to tell me about Sunspring, but I spent some time watching this morning.

Its certainly not the first time someone has spoke about algorithms and machine learning to create media. But its the first time I’ve actually seen something… well…ummm interesting of sorts?

I wouldn’t say it was hilarious, more weirdly uncomplete. The training material can be eviladanced in what you see but as it jumps around a lot. Its worth watching and I’d be interested in what happens when you got something more clearer and unique? However what I was really wondering is…

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Were the camera angles, shots, special effects, music, mood and colour grading also written by the algorithms? Heck was the title? It doesn’t seem like it but who knows. I guess the bigger question is does it even matter? So much of our media is middle of the road and made for the biggest audience, in my own opionion of course. Would it make much difference?

Of course the most interesting ideas are using a combination of machine learning with human direction. But thats for another post…

The press feedback is varied…  best to go check it out for yourself

Describe that movie?

I saw this retweet from Adrian and had to give it a try.

A website developed by a Finnish technology team claims to be the world’s “first ever descriptive movie search engine”, and promises to solve that problem we all face when we can’t remember the name of a film.

To be fair so far its not been great with the searches I have done. Yes its early days and yes they have a mechanism to improve it.

But for example looking for Kil Bill – Lots of blood shed involving swords

Inception works with Dream within a dream and dreams collapase but if you type dream you get inception. Addiction works actually gets Requiem for a Dream but film about addiction in all its forms fails to list it at all. Looking for Citizen four with Edward Snowdon with the search Edward Snowdon, fails to include Citizen four. Dark City search with dark film starts with scene in the bath tub doesn’t include dark city at all. Last search I did was for The Beach, with sandy beach.

Nice idea, I’ll check it out again once things get better.

What Cinema can learn from Broadcasting?

IMG_8891

Its weirdly ironic that I wrote a blog post about what cinema can learn from TV, 3 years while ago almost to the day of the this way up conference in December I’m about to talk at.

The this way up conference is a film exhibition innovation conference which launched last year. It returns with a jam-packed two-day event that promises to inspire and enlighten, provoke and challenge, connect and share.

I’ll be doing two things on behalf of BBC R&D

The first one is on Wednesday and is a lunch time workshop around a unreleased Perceptive Media project, I have been working on for most of the year.

Lunchtime Lab: BBC Perceptive Media Want to contribute to the evolution of storytelling? BBC Research and Development’s North Lab, based at MediaCityUK in Salford, showcase their latest experiment in a top secret, closed door workshop. A select group of THIS WAY UP attendees will try out a new smartphone app before being a shown a premiere of a short film that looks to change the way we engage. Further details are strictly under wraps, but the BBC are looking for volunteers to take part in this limited study and to share and discuss their experiences with other participants. Workshop led by Ian Forrester, BBC R&D North lab. Results from the workshop will be revealed at Thursday’s The Film is Not Enough session.

Its really research in the wild and we have no idea how the audience will react to this. The results will be intriguing to say the least.

On the Thursday I’ll be on a panel talking about the changes which need to happen to regain the cinema audience.

The Film is not Enough – With the rise of event cinema, alternative content, enhanced screenings, sing-a-longs and tweet-a-longs, is there a danger that the original purpose of cinemas is being lost as audiences demand novelty and gimmickry? This panel will hear from those folk changing audience perceptions and expectations of what ‘coming to the cinema’ means. Panel includes: Tony Jones (Cambridge Film Festival), Jo Wingate (Sensoria), Rhidian Davis (BFI), Gaby Jenks (Abandon Normal Devices – chair), Lisa Brook (Live Cinema), and Ian Forrester (BBC Research & Development).

I’ll talk about details of the project experienced on Wednesday and explain why this is a good and scalable way to regaining the TV and maybe the cinema audience. The panel should be good with a number of really viewpoints and Gaby Jenks from Abandon Normal Devices chairing the debate.

What cinema can learn from broadcast will be driven home by the keynote from Nick North, the director of Audiences at the BBC.

Look out for more details soon… but theres already plenty of interest….

Limitless as a TV show

Limitless TV series

Remember Limitless… It always made sense as a TV show right? I mean NZT-48 just like Lucy’s CB40, as a plot point was/is literally endless (pun in-deeded).

This idea of unleashing the brain’s potential, of course, is a popular notion in science fiction, from “Limitless” to the Scarlett Johansson vehicle “Lucy” all the way back to “Forbidden Planet.” Mostly, though, the mysterious drug, NZT, is just another way to create a super-soldier, one who in this case is drafted by the authorities to assist in thwarting crimes, with his FBI agent contact

Be interesting to see how it turns out…

More Fan Art on everything

My plans to slowly replace all the movie posters in my flat has been slow, but here is two more to the collection…

I’ve grown tired of the movie posters. There always too brash in my mind or don’t include the parts which are movie defining.

I got the idea a while ago to blow up Fan Art using Rasterbator and then replace my crappy movie posters with them. It might seem slightly cheeky but if I’m not replacing any of the attribution and I’ll happily point to where I got the art. I know Deviantart do sell poster sizes of some of the art but I quite like the rugged non-descript way Rasterbator makes Fan art.

That iconic first scene from the Dark Knight. Although I was looking at this one too for a while.

A different way of looking at Inception… Another great scene from a film I love, when Arthur leans in for a kiss on Ariadne.

Ariadne: What’s happening?
Arthur: Your subconscious is looking for the dreamer; me. Quick, give me a kiss.
Ariadne: [She kisses him and then looks around]
Ariadne: They’re still looking at us.
Arthur: Yeah, it was worth a shot.

Got to do one for Donnie Darko, Fight Club and Cloud Atlas.

Let Her… talk to you

Her.

A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.

This is a really good film. Some parts are funny and some parts are tragic. But this isn’t a review of a really good film but rather a look at the technology in the film her. There might be some mild spoilers and I would recommend not reading till you’ve seen it in full.

When I first heard about Her, I thought oh no here comes another S1mOne. Don’t get me wrong S1mOne is ok but gets a little silly in parts. Her on the other hand is smart and although it does go towards the obvious, it pulls back and finds a new more interesting path.

Adrian sent me a link to wired’s piece about the UI design in her.

A few weeks into the making of Her, Spike Jonze’s new flick about romance in the age of artificial intelligence, the director had something of a breakthrough. After poring over the work of Ray Kurzweil and other futurists trying to figure out how, exactly, his artificially intelligent female lead should operate, Jonze arrived at a critical insight: Her, he realised, isn’t a movie about technology. It’s a movie about people. With that, the film took shape. Sure, it takes place in the future, but what it’s really concerned with are human relationships, as fragile and complicated as they’ve been from the start.

The film is certainly about people and our relationships in the age of artificial intelligence. Reminds me very much of the book which imran gifted me which I’ve still not read completely, love in the age of algorithms.

But whats really interesting is the simplicity of the technology. Pretty much every interaction is with voice. There’s little interaction with screens, although there are giant screens in some of the shots. Even the camera which the main character uses looks underwhelming simple. I can only suggest in the near future we started to solve the power/battery problems of today.

We decided that the movie wasn’t about technology, or if it was, that the technology should be invisible,” he says. “And not invisible like a piece of glass.” Technology hasn’t disappeared, in other words. It’s dissolved into everyday life.

Here’s another way of putting it. It’s not just that Her, the movie, is focused on people. It also shows us a future where technology is more people-centric. The world Her shows us is one where the technology has receded, or one where we’ve let it recede. It’s a world where the pendulum has swung back the other direction, where a new generation of designers and consumers have accepted that technology isn’t an end in itself-that it’s the real world we’re supposed to be connecting to.

I think Wired is right, the movie is a total U turn on the likes of Minority Report and Blade Runner. There is a great scene where our main character is lying on the grass in a field. He’s talking to the AI like she is lying right next to him. The cinematography actually applies it from the camera angle.

The technology is there but it feels like that Internet of things dream, the technology is embedded everywhere. Not the Google Glass style future. something much closer to ubiquitous…

All of these things contribute to a compelling, cohesive vision of the future — one that’s dramatically different from what we usually see in these types of movies. You could say that Her is, in fact, a counterpoint to that prevailing vision of the future — the anti-Minority Report. Imagining its world wasn’t about heaping new technology on society as we know it today. It was looking at those places where technology could fade into the background, integrate more seamlessly.

After that Wired goes into depth about the User Interface being vocal and how its a perfect fit for the cinema. I don’t disagree but its only one of many types of User Interfaces which can be available. I do agree its a nice depart from touch interfaces which is in most films.

But the AI isn’t simply voice alone (this has been done many times in cinema too), its context sensitive, its perceptive! This is what brings the sense of magic to the exchanges. The AI seems like she is there talking and taking it all in. All those subtle gestures, human expressions, etc. They are all taken into account, making the AI seem very human.

…we’re already making progress down this path. In something as simple as a responsive web layout or iOS 7′s “Do Not Disturb” feature, we’re starting to see designs that are more perceptive about the real world context surrounding them-where or how or when they’re being used. Google Now and other types of predictive software are ushering in a new era of more personalised, more intelligent apps.

Arthur C. Clarke said…

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Her is does have a magic quality, its not the best film I’ve seen this year but its one which I do think will cause a trend showcasing different user interfaces in movies, instead of defaulting to the usual push/pull/touch interfaces.

Its well worth watching and enjoying, just don’t think about S1m0ne beforehand.

About time, chick-flick with a big message

About Time

I watched About time which is self described as being from the creator of Love Actually, Notting Hill and Four weddings and a Funeral.

The tagline is: A new funny film about love. With a bit of time travel. And you know what kind of a sucker I am for Time Travel, but I wasn’t convinced till I read a brief review.

There must be a reason for its 7.8 imdb rating. Well this sums it up

The main reason I’m writing this review is due to the fact that most of the negative reviewers on IMDb seem to have missed the point of this film entirely. I’m not going to go into much detail as I think the film speaks for itself (and I hate it when people put spoilers in their reviews).

It’s not a romantic comedy as most would have you believe. It’s a comedy/drama that revolves around the relationship between a father and son. The romantic themes are just a small part of this great film.

Once you stop thinking of it as a rom-com you will see the brilliance of it all. It’s not the greatest film of all time, it’s not the prettiest, the funniest or the best written.

What it is is a heartfelt tale of a father/son relationship. The time travel elements are just a plot device, the romance, just a plot device. It’s laugh out loud funny in spots and tear-jerking in others. It’s well written, but still light and breezy when it needs to be.

Look past the surface of this film and feel the emotion that these fine actors bring to the screen. Let go and just enjoy it for what it is.

And that person was right. The time traveling part was interesting but then a certain thing happens and your questioning what you would do. But the things which are really noteworthy for me is the message about life and the relationship with his father in the later parts of the film.

There’s a couple great quotes in the film and here’s one near the end…

Tim: We’re all traveling through time together, every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.

The Secret life of Walter Mitty

Secret life of Waler Mitty

I watched the secret life of Walter Mitty on Boxing day on the Forrester’s family day out. Mum and Dad were not impressed but me and my sister enjoyed it.

I gave it 6/10. It kept me interested and I quite enjoyed it. It also wasn’t as cheesy or pully on the emotional strings as the likes of Forest Gump. The overall message was all about pushing yourself and great things may happen. Push yourself and may learn a little more about yourself.

This is something which I’ve been talking about over and over again in blog posts like How to be interesting

Imagine Vanilla Sky on Perceptive Media

There is an example of Perceptive Media which I like to use. Its a bit of a messy example because I’m usually trying to avoid spoiling the plot of Vanilla Sky or Open your eyes. I used it at TedXBristol, to explain why perceptive media can be so incredible. Of course there is spoilers below.

I remember when I watched Vanilla Sky for the first time, there was a scene which seemed to give me chills or something like a deja vu. I felt like I knew the scene so well, like I’d been there or seen it before. How is this possible? A film I’ve never seen before and a place I’ve never been before? Well in the film you are led to believe they are using parts of Tom Cruises memory to make him feel comfortable with whats going on.

One such scene is a image from his memory. An image of the Bob Dylan album – Free wheelin.

That image comes from flicking through my fathers LP collection when young. I’m not even sure if he still has it or not but something somewhere in my brain is that image. When I saw that image again build up in a similar way, something triggered my brains pulses to say you have seen this before. I call it a deja vu but I’m not certain what it is. Something pulled that image out of my memory and front and center in my mind.

There is something about Vanilla Sky and ultimately Open your eyes which seems to trigger memories beyond just mine.

It was amazing to hear Jason Silva on London Real talking about Vanilla Sky. Although Jason is an excitable character, his observations about storytelling and the affect of the movie is spot on.

Great storyteller can do amazing things.

They craft magic, the surreal and the impossible in our minds through simply words, images or sound. They weave a world which is for a brief moment believable.

Its a little bit of cold reading, great communication skills, excellent storytelling and a number of other things. Perceptive Media enables the great storytellers to do what they do best but on a broadcast sized audience.

The Internship: Connecting people to information

The Internship Intl Poster

I watched the internship, nick named the Google movie a while back. If you haven’t seen it, I will warn you there maybe spoilers in this post.

Connecting people to information that’s what we do at Google…

Although I’m aware of some of the problems with Google, specially when it comes to Data collection (although they got nothing on the NSA) I’m somewhat sympathetic to the higher level value. And although I do have certain issues with Google, I’m generally neutral to positive about what they do. Watching the internship, I didn’t expect to be coming out the cinema thinking super positive thoughts.

Theres a number of negative ways you can look at the film…

  1. Sitcom rubbish
  2. Google propaganda
  3. American dream nonsense
  4. An advert for Google, which I paid to watch
  5. An alternative world which doesn’t exist

But while I watched, I enjoyed. Not only that, I was sitting in a cinema with a ton of older people who might actually identify themselves closer to the characters than my internet enabled self.

The internship is a simple hero’s journey film…

Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) are salesmen whose careers have been torpedoed by the digital world. Trying to prove they are not obsolete, they defy the odds by talking their way into a coveted internship at Google, along with a battalion of brilliant college students. But, gaining entrance to this utopia is only half the battle. Now they must compete with a group of the nation’s most elite, tech-savvy geniuses to prove that necessity really is the mother of re-invention.

Of course at the end, Billy and Nick gain internships after the rollercoaster journey they take, yada yada

So what surprised me is and made it interesting was…

  1. A strong rally cry for diversity
    This is very strong, and although it can be seen as the usual sitcom setup (look at the big bang theory for example) what makes it intriguing is it being at Google. A place seen as quite elite and somewhat pushy about qualifications and which university you came from? I remember in the early days talk of 7-9 interview rounds and very choosy selections. The idea of a group of quite diverse in age, gender and race in Google, still fills me with an element of oh really?
  2. A emphases on real-world experience
    Most of the film there are great views of the google campus but surprisingly there are lots of scenes outside the campus. At one point the diverse team we’re following through the film are sitting watching the sunrise above the golden gate bridge. One of the characters known for looking at his phone all the time, turns to Nick and says he would like to stay a little longer. Taking in the current/now. Also this is explicitly told when Neha turns to Billy at the strip club (whaaat theres a strip club in the google movie? yeah I know!) and says that despite her rich virtual/fantasy life, she has no real-world experience. This could almost be an advert for schemer.
  3. Ideas from elsewhere
    As said before a good section of the film exists outside the google campus, not only that. There is the notion that ideas come from it rather than just the googleplex. Lyle’s drunken antics inspire the team to create an app that guards against reckless phone usage while drunk. Theres also lots of references to the knowledge characters have from previous experiences, as you’d expect I guess.
  4. The fact there is a scene in a strip club
    This shocked me, not only was there a scene in a strip club but some of the strippers were actually topless. Although this is part and parcel of a sitcom, I didn’t imagine google would be that comfortable with this? Theres even a small joke about one of the guys who ends up in the toilet drying himself under the hand dryer for obvious reasons. Once again part of parcel of a Vince Vaughn sitcom but not what I expected Google or even most corporations to let slide.
  5. And not just one but two relationships
    So you got all this real good memes about diversity, real world experience mixed up with in a sitcom and then they throw in not just one but two love stories. Nick casing a geek sexy Dana and Lyle getting his geeky charm on with Marielena. We’re not talking an episode of Dates but the thread of love is nicely handled. Lyle’s love interest also highlights the just be yourself quality too.
    Yes could be corny and talk about the non-love relationships between characters like Headphones tutoring Billy but thats best left alone.

The internship surprises and puts a smile on your face. It certainly warms the relationship with google, which I guess is the main point. If Vince Vaughn convinced Google of that fact, then he succeeded. The film will feel dated in years to come and is never going to win any awards but with a IMDB rating of about 6.3 its certainly way above most sitcoms and even most films out there.

Oh by the way, although Tiya Sircar as Princess Leia was funny. I would rather have seen more of Geeky Dana… Oh Google if only you were using Perceptive Media eh?

You must’nt be afraid to dream a little bigger darling

Times Square, Inception style

[SPOILERS  below! You were warned!]

I am a total sucker for films which need you to think a little bigger.

You think its so big and then you square it to get an idea of how big things really are… Some would suggest these type of films are either too complex or too up themselves.

  • InceptionThe king of all… Confusion and levels of visual and mental complexity which had most people scratching their heads. Inception isn’t overly complex to those who have ever had a vivid dream. But once you get your head around the first leap that you can control dreams, your greeted with the easily digestible fact you can have dreams inside of dreams. But there serious consequences too.
  • Trance – My new love in this type of film. Having gotten hypnotherapy myself, I understand the power of suggestion, having  gone wrong or is it right? Must be watched twice at least to see all the subtle clues of whats really going on. From a robbery to a film about abuse and personal spirit. Trance makes you think outside the box.
  • RevolverMost people hated this movie because they expected something like lock stock and snatch. What it creates is a world told from our anti-hero’s point of view. You start to question whats actually going on. After much introspective it becomes clear the characters he thinks are his savour are actually his cell mates with far too much time on their hands, mater minding a plan which out smarts not only him but his nemesis. The game is discussed in detail and the chess metaphors are spot on.
  • Primer – A film so complex it comes with its own timeline. What makes Primer so special is if your not really watching, you may miss the very suttle clues to what on earth is going on. Unlike Revolver, Trance or Inception, you don’t get a sense of how epic this film is from the usual visual or audio clues were use to. Its easy to watch it and shrug your shoulders wondering what the big deal is about. Once you step outside the box and think that your actually watching one of the copies/timelines (can’t think of a better name) not the first instance your on your way questioning everything your being visually fed.

I love them and just like those famous words in Inception… You must’nt be afraid to dream a little bigger darling

Could a robot take care of us when were old?

Robot & Frank

Watched Robot & Frank… and thought about the elderly care crisis.

A delightful dramatic comedy, a buddy picture, and, for good measure, a heist film. Curmudgeonly old Frank lives by himself. His routine involves daily visits to his local library, where he has a twinkle in his eye for the librarian. His grown children are concerned about their father’s well-being and buy him a caretaker robot. Initially resistant to the idea, Frank soon appreciates the benefits of robotic support – like nutritious meals and a clean house – and eventually begins to treat his robot like a true companion. With his robot’s assistance, Frank’s passion for his old, unlawful profession is reignited, for better or worse.

Its certainly something you might prefer to watch at home than in the cinema but its a really lovely story… And reminds me of something I saw a while ago on Wired.co.uk about how the ageing population could be the key to domestic robots.

Also got me remembering the only real contact I’ve had with domestic robots. Although the Pleo autospy was slightly distressing to see.

Don’t forget to Tweet seat

cinema "Batalha" #4

Tony Tweets a piece following my blog about what cinema could learn from TV.

The theater may seem like the least appropriate place to check your Twitter feed, but that’s exactly the kind of behavior a Minnesota venue is encouraging with the launch of a designated “Tweet Seats” section. The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis opened up its Tweet Seats for the first time this week, for the first of four performances of The Servant of Two Masters. Priced at $15 a ticket (compared to the $34 a standard ticket costs), the seats are all located in a balcony-level section where, according to the theater, spectators’ Twitter habits “will not be disruptive to other patrons.”

Tony is worried this might effect the way films are actually made but as I blogged it could be interesting for cinema…

My biggest problem is the light and sound phones generate when I’m trying to watch the film. If the seats are up above or right at the back, then it could work? Although the back seats are usually for couples not really interested in the film… Won’t even tell you what I’ve found in the backseats while I’ve been working…

End of the day, its coming like it or not Tony and others…

…regardless of how theatergoers choose to allocate their tweet time, the Guthrie and other venues seem more willing to embrace the mobile habits of contemporary audiences, rather than discourage them. Theaters in Boston launched similar experiments late last year, as have the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Palm Beach Opera and New York’s Public Theater

Now is the time for the Cinemas and the movie industry to get behind this and do some interesting prototyping…

Sign me up people…!

Looper Directors Commentry

Looper poster

I heard about the director’s commentary for looper via my rss reader and though it was well worth a another watch anyway after watching it at the Salford Cinema Club first time.

The idea is quite simple… Download the extra track to your phone or mp3 player. Go to the cinema again and  watch the film again with the extra sound track.

Johnson has recorded a commentary track that is meant to be heard in-theater. (Of course, he strongly cautions against listening to it on a first viewing.) Considering that the new film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis has a much higher profile and a plot better suited to directorial untangling than Bloom, Johnson was besieged by requests from fans to repeat the experiment.

The Looper commentary is a totally different track than the version that will be included on the eventual DVD/Blu-ray release. This version is more technical and detailed, meaning don’t expect any anecdotes about how the actors got along or what the weather was like during filming. There’s an introduction up top that instructs users on how to sync up for the optimum viewing experience

The only problem I had was the introduction says to pause and unpause when the tristar logo comes up on the screen. In the UK it wasn’t Tristar, it was something else. Which caused a moment confusion and then a delay. It wasn’t too bad a delay but certainly meant seeing something then the director referring to it a second or so later.

The other thing is the volume… My headphones are a bit low and in the cinema it was sometimes hard to hear the director talking.

Overall it was a good experience and I would recommend it for films like Looper, Donnie Darko, Inception. Yes you can wait for the DVD/Bluray but its like having a friend nudging you with useful facts in the cinema.

Could this be a signal of things to come in the future? Don’t think so but if the syncing is cleared up it could open the door to much more interesting experiences and heck even personalised experiences layed on top of a mass medium. You could certainly see Perceptive Media in such a role…