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bob the moo

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1.110: Sonnet #77: Solid but unremarkable delivery, 6 November 2015

An extension of the idea that someone can live forever in children or written word, here the sonnet talks about looking at the effects of aging in a mirror and taking action to get things down on paper and capture moments forever. This short film takes that as meaning a sketch, and as such we see an artist observing a woman and sketching it, then observing herself and capturing a sketch quickly, seemingly being aware of this aging. That is essentially the whole short there, and in some ways it is a fairly solid piece because it does help put pictures to words and make the sonnet a bit more accessible – which ultimately is the aim of the series.

However, as with some of the series, it is hard not to feel a bit letdown by how direct it was. The ending was a nice touch, but otherwise there wasn't a lot of expansion or playing with the text; it was pretty close to a filmed delivery in some ways, albeit delivered in narration. Adding the sonnet delivery in post is not uncommon in this series, as it makes it a lot easier on the day of the shoot not to have to worry about the sound; however as with others it does mean that sense of performance is gone, so the sonnet sits separate from the people, which is a very strong feeling here. The location is nice enough but easily could be any outdoor area. Really the only thing that wasn't okay about the short was the music, which I took against early on and it continued to be a bit grating and annoying throughout.

Otherwise though, it is a solid but unremarkable entry in the series. Been quite a few of late that have been only so-so, hopefully it is just a bit of a rut that they can break out of – in such a mammoth undertaking it was never going to be perfect from start to finish, but I do hope that the stronger ones can be more frequent than they are at the moment.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
At best it is functional, wasting its cast and characters as it delivers a poor structure and conclusion, 5 November 2015

With such a glut of superhero movies, and so many of them being returned with big profits (and justification for more) by an audience who at the minute can't seem to get enough, it is always good to have a reminder that actually, the mass audience does have some standards. In previous years you may have been reminded of that by Green Lantern for instance, but this summer it was Fantastic Four that serves to remind the studios that this genre is not a license to print money (well, not every time). To be fair to Fantastic Four, it is not as awful as many would have you believe – there is just too much money and too many genuinely talented people working on it for it to be a massive failure. However, it is also true to say that while not awful, it is consistently not any good.

The narrative is familiar as we have the origin story told again. While it is good to have an introduction to any character (superhero or not), even if you have not heard of Fantastic Four, you almost certainly can see what will happen. Just like many other films in the genre, probably these smart people will get powers by virtue of some accident, and probably that really surely kid will become a villain of some sort; it is rarely complex, so what matters less is the specifics but more using that time to get to know the characters, and then doing something with that investment from the audience. In regard to these two things though, this film does neither.

In terms of the characters, although the cast has talent, there is really no spark, no chemistry, no real sense of character. Some of the cast lift it a bit, but these could be cardboard cutouts to all intents and purposes. Perhaps it is just as well the film fails to make us like or even care about these characters, because the second thing (paying off that investment) never happens either. As the origin story section comes to an end, there is a very brief scuffle with Doom in an big video game cut-scene moment, and then the film ends. The final line (the moment of coining the team name) must have seemed like a cool way for the film to end; you can imagine that execs would hope that the 'start of a big adventure' feel to the ending would have the crowd cheering and buying advance tickets for the sequel, but of course nothing ahead of that moment makes that likely at all. This feeling of lack of spark and excitement is felt across all aspects of the film, and unsurprisingly it is passed directly to the viewer. The cast have it too. I do not think anyone here is being cynical, but for sure they must have thought this was an open goal franchise. Teller is dull as anything; Mara doesn't connect to anyone (viewer included); Bell appears to have been told his character will be deep, complex, and tragic – so he goes for that but is let down by the film. Jordan is the one everyone knows due to lots of idiots wringing their hands over his color, or lots of other idiots failing to see why anyone would be upset by a character being a different race; all of that is nonsense and to be fair Jordan yet again shows he is a good presence in a film – shame his flame effect is just one of many so-so effects. The supporting cast is nicely deep, although nobody has much to do, so at least it is fun to see how many people you recognize and remember from where (its him from House of Cards / Oz / The Wire, or him from Simpsons, or him from Oh Brother.

In the end, Fantastic Four is not awful – it is too bland to be awful. It feels like a simple financial decision – superhero properties are making billions, they had this property doing nothing, so let's get it out there and make that money. The result is a film that is forgettable and empty, with hardly a park or bit of fun to be had.

S13: Planet of Evil: Standard structure but atmospheric and well paced serial, 5 November 2015

Across the 13 seasons thus far of Doctor Who there have been different creative forces, different Doctors, and different styles and lengths of serials, however generally speaking there is a certain structure to the majority of them. This is Doctor and his +1 arrive into a dangerous situation, get drawn in somehow (mistaken for the problem, find themselves trapped with the oppressed etc), some drama, a few cliffhangers, they get it sorted then leave. Essentially this is what Planet of Evil does as the Doctor and Sarah-Jane find themselves on a planet where a scientific mission appears to have disturbed some sort of force, and the military who are responding think that the Doctor is the force killing their men, even though he is not. Although the serial plays along familiar lines, it is a solidly good example of the show doing what it does.

Coming in a 4 episodes (as most of them seem to be doing now), there is not too much slack time to fill, so mostly it has a good pace which it can speed up a little at key moments, but never dips too slow or feels like it is killing time as it goes. The monsters of the piece are more of a force rather than a talking villain; this gives a nice change as we don't have 'monsters' per se, and all the talking is done within the humans, offering some nice plots and characters there. The design department have put in some work on the planet too. The jungle is colorful and with lots of nice touches and aspects, so although not a location shoot, it doesn't feel like a Blue Peter job. Shame the same cannot be said of the anti-matter portal thingy – Theo Robertson said it best, it looks like something in a department store display, and it certainly doesn't have the presence that you would want from the link to another universe.

The cast are solid across the board. Baker and Sladen are both on good form. Not sure if this serial was a test to see if anyone missed Marter's Harry, but for sure it was better with him still on the train back to London. Generally the production is good on this one, with good supporting cast, effective use of limited effects, and a strong sense of tension and danger throughout. Generally speaking the continuation of a good start to the season.

S5: Polished and funny, even if the big name guests and novelty episodes do make the nature of the show apparent, 5 November 2015

I pretty much say the same thing every season about this show – that I'm no fan of very polished network sitcoms – although I do keep coming back to this one. The reason is that, as well as being slick and polished a product, it is also consistently funny. This season continued that trend, although it also continued the trend of being more and more 'corporate' as it continues to be successful and have ratings to hit. This season has a loose structure around the theme of Mitchell and Cameron's wedding, allowing enough of a narrative to hold it together but not enough so that it gets in the way of generally being looser weekly episodes.

As before the writing has lots of good lines, and the plots are mostly good. I do have to give credit to the show for things like, for instance, adding a baby to the show but never needing to really use that baby as a plot device (indeed at times I wonder why they added the child as it doesn't seem to add a great deal to the show). This is the same here, so the wedding is a solid plot, and although topical it doesn't seem forced to make things happen. If anything I thought what was less successful was the expansion of several things that remind me this is a network sitcom. The novelty episode is the most obvious one – not the standard 'weekly' free-standing episode, but the one that has a novelty hook to be trailed the week before and make it stick in viewers' minds. The best example is the Australian episode, which comes out of nowhere, but gets the show away from the usual setting which cannot help buy freshen it up. Of course, this is balanced by the episode being very funny, but it does come with that feeling. Similar to this is the sheer volume of famous faces in cameo roles; some work, some don't but generally it does start to feel like a show trying to keep relevant and fresh and get those ratings up.

That said, such things are minor complaints because generally the writing is funny, and the main cast are very talented with their delivery; O'Neill is reliable of course, Burrell has great physical comedy, and even Anderson-Emmons has good timing even if she continues to walk a very fine line between cute and annoyingly precocious. With such an ensemble cast though individual weaknesses do not come through so much (for instance, too much of Manny is never a good thing, so we never get too much!). The scale and age of the show may mean it is not as fresh and new as it once was, but the weaknesses that comes with this generally do not cancel out the show being funny and well performed.

Interesting but overlong character profile, but needed a tighter edit – or to use the time to go deeper and wider, 5 November 2015

This documentary is a look behind the Tumblr famous blog and personae, to meet the man who is a school janitor by day. As such the film is pretty interesting on that level, if you are familiar with his internet fame and the oddity of his Tumblr and other output. Beyond the name I confess I am not familiar with him – or at least not to the point where I would seek out material about him or desire to know more. My interest in this film then was perhaps not totally in line with what the film itself was trying to do, because for me I was more interested in the broader themes that went beyond just this one specific person – although of course using him as the way to explore those.

So for me, seeing him collect his material for images, and answering questions on his blog was of less interest than hearing how he handles the duality of his life, how his ex-partner processed it, and what lessons he learnt and what he loves about it. It was interesting at least because many topics were touched on, but it was the lack of real exploration that left me wanting me – which was a shame because at 20 minutes, the film is a longer short and doesn't really have the material to shore that up unless you already arrive with an interest in the specific person/blog of the title. If so, then this is certainly worth a look, but for a wider audience I doubt it brings enough to the table to fill the time.

To Us (2014)
Does that tension very well, but pacing of film and information is a bit jarring (SUGGESTIVE SPOILERS), 5 November 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A couple on their wedding night find they have issues that have not been dealt with, and airing them on their first night together as man/wife reveals some hurts which will last longer than this one night.

There is much to like about this short film, as it plays very nicely as a two-hander with the two lead actors really doing well with their performances. The film has a slow pace, which allows them the room to do this, but at the same time it seems to contrast with that slow pace by having some fairly large issues jumping out. And they do jump out; perhaps this is honest about how it would come up – but it did feel like a sudden leap for the viewer to go from the perception of a certain lack of cohesion there, to immediately having the whole thing on the table. It does still work but in a film where so much takes its time, and allows the smaller detail to add a lot, it does seem like a lot in the context of everything else.

The performances still make it work though. It is rare that "lack of spark" between cast members is a good thing, but here it is part of the performance and it is done really well. Whether it be in the more obvious moments, or on the edges of other scenes, there is a really satisfying "tension" between the two – the type of thing you can usually see between couple who had a fight on their way to something, or the day before. This delicate edge to their interaction plays pretty well, which is why the bigger material jarred me as much as it did. In the end the film returns to this tension, and they exit the hotel without dialogue, this time giving the viewer space to wonder what the future holds, and how this will be pushed under the surface of their day-to-day lives, but still be a root of so many things in the future. The film does this very well, but as a whole it does have an odd mix of slow pace, but yet also big leaps, which disrupts the flow and involvement somewhat.

Good idea for the basic frame but it never convinces the viewer (or performers) as real, 5 November 2015

A love a good two-hander, whether it is on the stage, a short film, or a scene in a bigger film; put two good performers in a small space with some well written dialogue and characters and I'll watch that all day. As a result this film did hold out some interest to me when I read the plot summary on IMDb, because it did seem to be one just like this. And indeed the key scenes in the short are between the rich man and poor man (broadly speaking) and they are mostly dialogue driven. The film proposes to cover very topical subjects and, from the start, it has an sense of impatient anger to it – not only one direction but coming from all places and characters.

This is to its credit but unfortunately it doesn't come together to do much outside of this blunt rage. The scenes shared between the two men didn't convince me that they were really happening, and to be fair the actors don't seem sure of who their characters are, or why this exchange is happening. It is nice in the broad sense, with good markers through the film but it is the writing and the performances that don't make the most of the basic frame of the idea. As a result a lot of it is too blunt and lacking in subtext, and generally viewer and actors alike will probably not believe the scenes or dialogue – even if it is full of energy and grit which I liked, but it just never came off as a thing.

Good energy and movement, but not really sure how much there actually is below that, 5 November 2015

I do watch a lot of short films as way of entertainment, and the majority of them probably wash out as being around the 12 minute mark give or take. In the case of Ropes of Silicon it runs more like an episode of a TV show, since it is pretty much 30 minutes long. Within that longer running time (for a short film), we meet a lot of characters who are in and around the world of an aspiring agent in Los Angeles. The agent (Raffaello) is trying to get up with his few existing clients, keep his driver happy and most importantly, keep his impatient and demanding wife satisfied. There is a lot of energy in this 30 minutes and a lot going on.

As a tone it does have a slightly cynical edge, with the type of Hollywood clichés spoofed as we are used to seeing in everything from The Player through to Entourage. On this level it is perhaps broad enough to distract, and for sure the film does make good efforts to cover up its low budget, with pretty good use of locations and careful shooting to make spaces feel busier or more expensive. The comedic value of the characters and scenarios is pretty limited; again the energy and the broadness will get a few chuckles, but generally it is not as smart or as cynical as it would like to think – it feels like it has been made by people who are aping the writing of others with bitter experience, rather than writing from their own experiences.

The real issue with the film is that there is very little below this broad energy. The characters are very general and broad, which works on some levels, but doesn't do anything to make you interested in them. Towards the end there is maybe some element of connection and character with the lead two, but it is too little too late since most of the film to that point had been her barraging him, while he mugged and pulled faces. Maybe fans of Entourage will get something from this, but for me although I did like elements of the sheer force of personality it had, I must admit I found little to laugh at, or really care about.

Doesn't really have much to say, 5 November 2015

A series of short scenes play out over decades of time. We start with a young couple waiting for a picture taking 5 minutes to open on their computer, skip through a Steve Jobs-esque character launching a new phone, through to biocomputers and the full integration of human and machine.

In doing these small scenes there is the brave attempt for this short to be Black Mirror but at a faster speed. The series does cautionary tales about technology very well, and I guess in some way that is what the film is trying to do. Shame then that there is not really enough here to do that, and that it takes too long to do it. The opening few scenes will probably lose most viewers as they offer very little; the first one is a reminder of the slowness of the internet when it was dialup, then we get a phone announcement – neither scene offering a great deal in commentary or insight. In the future there is perhaps a bit more of interest, and indeed these scenes play out a bit better, but still without too much to actually say or draw the viewer in.

It looks pretty good (particularly one decent effects sequence near the end) but mostly it is the lack of things to really say that limit the film and ultimately end up making it a not particularly amusing series of sketches

Nice animation, but humor is too broad and not funny enough consistently enough, 5 November 2015

This short mockumentary looks at the career of Mr. Director – a man who has had his highs and lows within the industry, most of which he is happy to talk about in this film (well, apart from his short film phase – give a man his dignity). We hear from the man himself, while also seeing clips from his vast body of work.

I do like a good stop-motion film; and probably due to growing up around the time Wallace & Gromit were getting going, I do tend to like ones using plasticine materials since it reminds me of them. It is not the only thing that reminds me of those Aardman animations here, because the style of humor, with the accents and the very British way, also reminds me of it. Technically the animation is really well done, very smooth, very good attention to detail, and well coordinated with camera movements to give the film a visual energy that is not easy to create when moving one frame at a time. All of this side I really liked.

In terms of the material though, the film always felt too broad for me. The jokes being affectionate I didn't mind, it was just that they were mostly fairly simple and didn't get me laughing – okay I snorted air down my nose a couple of times, but otherwise it didn't really make a mark. This isn't helped by the arc of the short having no build to speak of, which is highlighted by the rather weak ending it has. It is a shame because the animation is so good that it looks like it should be funnier than it is, but it didn't fly with me, although the broadness of the material does mean it is still generally amusing.

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