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The Tunnel (2011/I)
14 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
It's a good student film..., 19 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

... but sadly, one has to rate it as if it was a commercial release, because on IMDb there's no distinction.

In the old days (of not-too-long ago) this probably could have picked up a distributor as a weekday matinée or a drive-in B-movie. Now, it's the latest example of 'donation-ware' filmmaking, distributed through torrents managed by 'free-media' outfit VODO.

Now, as a VODO-released production, it's pretty good. The bar is not high. The storyline is stupid. The actors behave in tired, predictable horror-movie cliché's. The cinematography is okay, until the fourth wall is broken by bright, shiny plastic buttons and power-points, and the realisation that the 'night vision' footage is just used to make the runs down the hallways seem longer. But, from what I've seen in VODO-released stuff, it's probably the cream of a very limited crop. (I know, it's very difficult to make long-form visual media, ie. TV or feature-length movies, and I respect that, but once again, this is IMDb, not some feel-good community media forum.)

The frustrating thing is that technically, this is a very good film. If only the other aspects involved in movie production had reached that level, well, I don't think it would have been distributed by VODO. (I mean, it might have been picked up.) Let me explain.

First, you can only recycle the (I'm guessing an abandoned factory or warehouse of some kind) limited available space so many times before suspension of belief becomes a major problem. 25 minutes? Sure! Outer Limits and its ilk did it a million times. 44 minutes? Maybe. I think X- Files got away with it once or twice. 90 minutes...? Good luck with that!

The editors decide the solution is to pad the run-time out with faux-documentary footage, but (secondly) the major problem with that, especially from the point of view of a horror movie (and this is _not_ a spoiler because it's just painfully obvious) is unless it's a post- mortem voice-over or some-such, the people being interviewed DIDN'T DIE. As such, having long, drawn-out scenes involving how frightened these characters are have almost zero impact, since we know they're going to live! Especially (third) when one of those scenes is some bizarre homage to the "I'm so scared" scene from The Blair Witch Project.

(Fourth) the script itself feels like a first draft that someone thought was so cool it didn't need any revision, because it was PERFECT! Real productions throw scripts through a meat- grinder of a million 'script supervisors' for a reason -- even if it was written by Lucas (and especially if it was written by Lucas!) Even if a director is billed as a writer-director, their script still goes through that mill. Typically, there's an editor that supervises a number of editors. So it goes -- the reasoning is that, although you want continuity, you don't want your production to get 'same-y'.

Same-y makes people post reviews where the summary says something like, "It's a good student film..."

Which is a shame, because (fifth) I know personally and for a fact that there is a veritable legion of talent here in Australia that would love to work for free, especially for a Denton gig. But productions here tend to be closed -- 'tight-knit' small production groups are supposed to somehow 'be better'. If that's true, then someone really should set the international distributors straight, because they've got it all wrong!

They don't have it all wrong. If you can't take criticism of your script, you don't belong in the film business. If you can't share editing, sound, or whatever it is you do, you don't belong in the film business.

The film business is about involving as much talent in your production as you can afford, not about founding a little club that just happens to make 'movies'. Come on, Australia; get with the program.

Good luck next time.

20 out of 56 people found the following review useful:
Information must be free -- but at what cost?, 16 June 2013

Firstly, Julian Assange is not the 'second coming' -- not even in his own circles. His 'hacker' background is by no means unique, and was almost a common experience amongst 'geeks' who grew up during the late 80's and early 90's. Being investigated for, or even charged with, hacking / phreaking / fraud offences was as common amongst his peers as trailer trash being arrested for shoplifting, or simple assault. (Heck, if you were trailer trash with a modem you might have been charged with all of them!)

The information required to exploit various devices, systems and networks was freely available, if you knew where to look (or what number to dial), and the mechanics of doing so were often trivial (Captain Crunch whistle, anyone?) Anyhow, let's just get all of that out of the way, and accept that for the purposes of this review, Assange was, prior to Wikileaks, nothing particularly extraordinary, just someone in possession of some useful but dangerous knowledge.

However, having the chutzpah to publish classified information when 'everyone knows' what would happen to you for doing so is really what differentiated Assange from the rest of the crowd -- no one can or should dispute that. It's surprising he hasn't already had an 'accident', and he should be applauded for his evident vigilance in keeping himself alive. But, there are other documentaries that do that. What this particular documentary seemingly wants to explore is not whether what Assange did was exceptional (we already agree that it was), but whether how he elected to bring his 'secrets' to the world was done in the most appropriate, compassionate way.

'We Steak Secrets' recognises that, to some, this is important -- even if many of Assange's supporters think that it isn't.

Bradley Manning is a tragic individual. Those who find themselves questioning their gender identity (often before pursuing gender reassignment) do not typically make the best choices. (This is why to proceed on such a path one usually needs to see a psychiatrist.) It is an incredibly confusing, frightening and yet euphoric time and I don't generally advise people in such circumstances to make any decisions that could change their lives in any real degree while they mull over their future, since they're not likely to be their best choices in retrospect.

Being transgendered may not itself be a 'mental illness', but the anxiety, depression and mania associated with coming to terms with being so certainly is, and one can't be considered of 'sound mind' in such a state -- this is an important point to make, and one the documentary attempts to impart through Manning's IRC chats with the sad little man who would eventually turn him in.

Obviously, deciding to copy a large amount of classified data and deliver it to Wikileaks would qualify as a 'poor decision', especially when you're in the US military, and have practically zero likelihood of defending your actions to your superiors. This is what the documentary suggests, and to do so is not slander -- it merely tries to explain to the layperson why such a bright young man would choose to martyr himself in such a dramatic way when very few others (if anyone) would ever consider embarking on such an ambitious but dangerous course of action.

The documentary assumes that a completely rational individual in a similar scenario would never jeopardise his personal security in such a rash fashion irrespective of a perceived collective humanitarian benefit -- which is not an unfair assumption to make -- and asks what made Manning different; what could lead him to behave so contrary to that norm.

In doing so, 'We Steal Secrets' makes a decent hypothesis.

Moving on from Manning to Assange, the documentary then raises the question, "If Assange was aware of Manning's personal difficulties, was he irresponsible in choosing to receive the classified information, and go ahead with publishing it, knowing what would result?" This is an ethical conundrum that is open for debate, but open for debate it most certainly is -- regardless of whether Assange's supporters like it or not.

Although Assange evidently concluded that releasing the information was of greater value to humanity than preserving the remainder of Bradley Manning's productive life, others may not have felt similar. But go ahead Assange did, at full steam.

He made his choice, fair enough -- but could Assange have redacted details that weren't all that important to the context of the information, such as the names of informants? Could he have released statistics, or related overall 'stories' told by the data, rather than the data itself, to mitigate some of the consequence to Manning? Would Manning's looming punishment have been reduced had the information been handled differently?

We can only speculate -- but we are entitled to, make no mistake.

It's not 'unfair' for the documentary to ask these questions, either. It's also not 'unfair' to continue on and examine Assange's exploitation of his subsequent 'rock-star' status -- after all, it speaks to his motivations, and casts a shadow on his supposed altruism. However, although to me the documentary tells the unfortunate tale of a fame-seeker who took advantage of someone in the grip of reconciling a very difficult truth in order to further his own agenda, others could interpret it differently.

I'm not sure how, but I'm sure they could. Can you?

21 out of 41 people found the following review useful:
Worst Western Ever, 7 March 2012

I can't help but compare every Western I watch to Unforgiven, partially because I've broken that film down in every context imaginable. By that measure, Wyatt Earp's Revenge is the worst western I've ever seen, and I've seen hundreds of them.

In terms of character development and portrayal, there are no opportunities to warm to any of the characters, nor nothing that makes them inherently likable. The act for which Wyatt Earp supposedly wishes to avenge solicits no emotion from the actor who plays him, and the victim of said act is not a priest or a child nor anyone else for whom the audience would care about without extensive back-story. Nor is any back-story offered after the event that might trigger any remorse for the victim in retrospect.

The acting is wooden and horrible. Where actors are meant to look introspective and brooding, they just look bored, or as if they forgot their lines. Dialogue is forced and clichéd, and there is no relevant emotion portrayed in tone. The actors appearance is largely anachronistic, and their behavior nonsensical.

The script is vacuous and terrible. You could cut half the scenes and the outcome would not change. You could tighten up the pacing by cutting half of the remaining scenes, and it would take nothing away from the final product, except that you would see the sum of it in 22 minutes instead of an hour and a half. The cinematography is boring and uninspired -- almost as if it was shot 'by the numbers', and the unending use of 'dramatic' music serves to do nothing but point out how terrible the film is, as if a sit-com with a laugh-track that activates every five seconds.

I must assume that this is a 'first movie' by a fledgling production company following the advice of 'just get that first film in the can'. It's good advice, but it doesn't necessarily mean people should spend their time watching it just for the sake of it. Leave this film as a demonstration of basic competency by a fledgling production company in search of investors, and instead go watch _any_ of the internet archive's public domain westerns instead.

It will be a much better use of your time.


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