REVIEW – ‘True West’ by Sam Shepard – 4.5 Stars!

TW_1.jpgI had every intention of getting back to my movie reviews in the near future, and I will, but for today I  thought I’d bring you something a little different. A play. I was lucky enough to score myself an invite to the premiere of Matchstick Theater’s production of Sam Shepard’s True West.

Now, before I continue, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should inform you that I am personally acquainted with the two lead roles of the show I saw last night. It’s not like we hang out on weekends or anything, but still thought it best to let you all know, in case I need my credibility intact at some point in the future – Like when I run for President of Mars or something. Also, my Fiancee is an Assoc. Producer on the show too. But I shall endeavor to be as unbiased as possible.

True West is the story of two bothers,  Austin and Lee, who are house sitting for their mother who is on holiday in Alaska. Within the first few minutes it’s clearly set up that there is a lot of history between the siblings and that they rarely speak as gown ups.

Austin, the younger of the two is a successful ‘normal’ guy with a wife and kids who is on the brink of breaking into the movie business as a screenwriter. Lee, the older, is a dysfunctional alcoholic who robs houses and often lives alone in the desert for months at a time.

The dynamic in the beginning is somewhat obvious, with the older Lee often bullying the younger Austin and relying on previously established dominance to get his way. Austin makes it clear their mother asked him to house sit and that Lee is just visiting. Lee clearly feels hurt that he was not asked to help and takes out his frustration on his younger brother by getting drunk, distracting him from writing his script and even comes close to physically hurting him when things get heated. This, of course hints at a previous abusive relationship between the two.

The dynamic starts to shift when Lee comes home (stolen TV under arm) and interrupts a meeting between Austin and Saul, a big-time Hollywood Movie producer. What follows is a roller-coaster ride of awkward twists and turns as we think Lee will obviously embarrass Austin and ruin his movie deal. But then there are times Lee seems to be trying to help, but ultimately he’s not cut out for Hollywood  and his antics start to affect Austin and his pending Movie deal.

As the brothers spend more time together, you get the distinct feeling that although Lee seems to be the odd one out, with his drinking and criminal ways and sometimes quite loopy personality, its possible the crazy behavior might just run in the family. Seeing the way Austin changes, you would be forgiven for not being able to figure out if he too is not all there, or if it’s just a mid-life crises. Meeting their Mother at the end tells me all I need to know to form an opinion of what I think Shepard was going for. But I’ll let you decide for yourself

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Director: Alice Darling

Director, Alice Darling has managed to craft a somewhat unique script into a thoroughly enjoyable and relatable slice of american suburban life. She has kept it set in the late 70’s, which although the time period isn’t necessarily important to the plot, it goes a long way to giving it a fair bit of charm. I think a lesser director might have been tempted to modernize it in order to put their stamp on it. But I think Darling made the right call and in doing so has mad her mark.

The small yet talented cast also helps you feel more connected to the main characters. It doesn’t feel like any effort at all to remember who said what or who is who. You just watch and absorb. It’s a very easy play to watch. Being set in one location also gives the show a somewhat voyeuristic feel. As if we are neighbors sneaking a peek through the window.

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Lee, played by Michael Argus

Lee is played by Michael Argus (or Spank to his friends – Ask him about it, it’s a great story). Argus slots into this role like glove. He switches from charmingly ignorant to scarily threatening in an instant. He also manages to make you forgive him for some pretty intense moments. One scene in particular actually had me feeling sorry for him and made me feel this once threatening bully was actually victim in the story despite all the horrible behavior. The one criticism I have is that the quirkiness of this role meant that it wasn’t really a stretch for him when it came to the comedy. As a seasoned comedy pro from his time with The Lioness it was easy to see him in this role. His comedy style has always been about playing a very dry and slightly left of centre character. Still, you can’t blame an actor for choosing a role that suits them.

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Austin, Played by Charlie Mycroft

Charlie Mycroft plays Austin. I dont know Mycroft that well on a personal level. I really only know him from an Audition tape I saw more than a year ago and a few friendly “hello’s” while passing in a corridor. But watching Mycroft in the role of Austin was like seeing your Ex happy with a really good looking rich guy. I’m quite jealous that I didn’t get to work with him before seeing this… So I could claim sort of connection to his talent. Right off the bat, you feel something for Mycroft’s character. At first you relate, at times you fear for him, then you pity him. He does it all. Now I know, yes, all that was in the script, but Mycroft manages to take these mere words and deliver them to the audience on a silver tray. He then fluffs out a satin napkin and feeds you this great script with a golden spoon. It really is a pleasure to watch (or eat… I may have gotten a little lost with my analogy there).

So, time for my Summary….

I’m going to give this a whopping 4.5 stars. Although, I think by the time this show finishes it’s run it may well have earned a full 5 by other reviewers. If you live in Melbourne, do yourself a favor and check this show out. It really is very good. It runs until the 22nd of October at the Mechanics Institute in Brunswick

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“Get rid of the shitty sound. Life’s too short.” – Hans Zimmer

2 Steps forward and one step back. Such is the life of a filmmaker.sound

So I started my first session on laying down sound for Tilt. Now, I’m not an Idiot (or though some might argue otherwise), so I know that Audio engineering is an entire career in of itself. It’s something that people work on for years to become masters of. Hell even just to get moderately good at. And I never expected to do an amazing job on my own…. But now that I have started I can say one thing with complete and total confidence…. Sound is hard!  Like…. Really hard!

As usual with all my endeavors, I’ve done a bunch of work in teaching myself as much as possible before I start… but I didn’t get a degree in sound engineering… so you know… I still suck….

If I had the time, I would probably follow a colleagues suggestion that I apply for a finishing grant so I can pay for someone with a lot more talent than me. And I may still do that… But that could take 3 to 4 months, so for now I will do the best I can and then get it off to the festivals – Then if it does well, maybe I’ll have some leverage to polish it off.

Anyway, looking to spend about 30 hours in the sound room this weekend, while my Fiance is visiting family – Hope to have a positive progress report in a couple of days.

For now I will leave you an appropriate quote from Paulo Coelho, the writer of the Alchemist. He once said, “Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.”

For the ones who do,
Tonko

To write a diary every day is like returning to one’s own vomit. – Enoch Powell

Hello again! I’m back!

As you may (or may not) have noticed, I have been on a rather long hiatus. But I wasn’t totally inactive, in fact I was rather busy… Making a Movie.

Yes, that’s right – After graduating with an Advanced Diploma in Screen and Media from The Academy of Interactive Entertainment, I went off and made a movie. And not just a short film. No, I had to go and make a feature. But as I’m sure you can imagine, it wasn’t that simple, nor was it a quick process. And another thing that might seem strange is that it’s not a VFX heavy film (although it does have some effects). Actually, it’s a Drama, albeit a light-hearted one (It could be a comedy with dramatic elements…. I’m really not sure)

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Anyway, I am just at the end of a rather stressful week of work on the film, but now that I have some free brain space I figured I’d start blogging again and layout my journey thus far and also document the coming months as I move into the final stages post-production and then on to the festival circuit.

So to all those who occasionally read a blog post or two, strap up, strap in, and get ready as I take you through the Journey that is Tilt

See you on the Flip side!

“We do not stop going to school when we graduate” – Carol Burnett

Well it’s been a long road – but as of today, I have officially handed in and passed all assignments and in 2 weeks will be the proud owner of an Advanced Dip. in Screen and Media. What does this mean? Firstly it means that I technically don’t have to maintain a blog any more. But other then that? Well, that is yet to be seen. I have a meeting with a potential employer nest week and I have very mixed feelings about it.

One on hand – It’s a Job and it’s Industry related, if not exactly working on a feature film – but I still believe that I am simply not good enough yet for that anyway – so that doesn’t really bother me – Of course the job is not guaranteed either. I have it on good authority that if a particular government funding program doesn’t come through then there will be no job for me next year. Which means in 2 weeks, after graduation, I’ll be on a plane heading to NZ where I will reside until I can sort out the rest of my life.

Anyway, after all is said and done, just as this post’s quote implies, the work never stops. So I’m working on a new piece that will hopefully entail a live action compositing and some nice renders and models – gotta keep on keeping on. Here is a Work in progress render of the subject of my upcoming piece entitled “Huntsman”
Huntsman-WIP
Got some cool things on the go: some nice IK on all 8 legs, an Iris rig for some openings that will house the spiders “arms” and I’m thinking of texturing with D-Do, but still pondering that one….

Anyway, my next post will either be very good news about me staying in Melbourne for another year or so, or it will be a farewell post as I head off to live with family so that they can support me as I digress in to a starving artist…. But then again, not really sure what I have in Melbourne to stay for anyway… so time will tell what the better option is.

Peace out,
Tonko

Movie Review: Thor – The Dark World – 4 Stars

Thor, the Dark World is set what seems to be a couple of months after the events of the first Avengers Film and in typical Marvel fashion, it brings Action, drama and humor together in a huge orgasmic explosion of Visual Effects… and yes… I loved every minute of thor_the_dark_world_ver2-315x467it. The basic flow of the film is that a dark force, called the Aether, from before the universe existed was once hidden away because it could not be destroyed. The Dark Elves – the masters of this dark force – have been dormant waiting for a time when all 9 realms would align so they can find the Aether and use it to destroy the universe and bring about a new era of evil darknessy darkenss. Without giving away any spoilers, through pure chance, Thor’s Girlfriend (Portman) gets involved, and so of course, Thor gets involved, and much chaos and hilarity ensues.

The cool thing about this Thor movie over the last, is that only about 1 3rd of the film is set on Earth (2 fifths at most) – The rest is either on Thors Homeworld, Asgard or The Dark world of the elves, or even a few scenes in some of the other 9 realms…  But of course it wouldn’t be a Marvel movie if the penultimate fight didn’t happen at a Major Earth land mark – its OK New Yorkers, you are spared another multi-billion dollar damage bill this time 🙂

Cast breakdown

chris-hemsworth-cabin-in-the-woodsChris Hemsworth – This guy…what to say… I think there is no doubt in any ones mind that he was born to play this role – now, whether that just means that this is the only role he is suited to play, or if ts the only role he can play or if it’s that he is so good he made the role his own and now we can’t imagine anyone else playing it… that’s up to you to decide. I can’t decide, because, admittedly I have never seen him in anything other then Cabin in the woods (which I enjoyed). But playing a horny heroic twenty-something in a horror movie and a horny heroic twenty-Something in a superhero movie isn’t exactly a wide range from which to judge his talents…. but for now, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt – because if I don’t, then I know a few women who would lynch me for saying otherwise.

Natalie Portman… Natalie, Natalie, Natalie…. Well, it’s certainly a step up from Starmovies-thor-the-dark-world-natalie-portman Wars… which sucked – and as you should all know they didn’t just suck in the “fanboy” sense… those movies sucked on so many levels, that film making as an art form was set back 100 years… and considering its only about 120 years old… well lets just say, the Star Wars prequels sucked…. Was Natalie the reason for that? No, of course not. It might not have been her greatest work, but she did her best – So what about her role in the Marvel universe ? Hard to say. She didn’t really do anything in this movie… other then almost bring about the Apocalypse. Which only happened because she was in the wrong place and the wrong time… and although she was holding the duva-lackey that controlled the science-spike thingy’s, it wasn’t even her who built them… so one could argue she didn’t really do anything to save the world either.  But she’s attractive and didn’t totally suck… so I guess she did OK.

thor-2-53Kat Dennings: Now I like this girl – I hate her show Two Broke Girls, but I like her. As a supporting role (if you could call it that) she did well – but I would like to see her with Joss Whedon Dialogue and Direction. I think Whedon’s humor and Directing style would bring out the best in this girl. Unfortunately I don’t think Don Payne’s style of comedy is as suited to the Marvel world as Whedon’s – and as for the the co-writer Robert Rodat, well lets just say that Saving private Ryan, while being a great film, isn’t exactly a comedy.

Tom Hiddleston – Loki – Awesome – Nuff said.thor-the-dark-world-loki-poster-feature-new

So finally, its time to talk about the whole reason, I started this blog – the Visual Effects! They were pretty damn good. All companies involved in this film can hold their heads high. I thought Thor’s Flying scenes have improved 10-fold, to the point where I didn’t even think about it and, am only now mentioning it because some the Flying Thor shots in past films stood out to me as being a little off. But I think that had a lot do with shot choice and not shooting those shots in such a wide angle. On a VFX side note, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Luma pictures Halloween party on the weekend and was able to chat with some of the staff there about their work on Thor DW1350184536_LUMA. From memory, Luma had second billing in the VFX credits, just below Double Negative – so that should tell you how much work they would have done on this film. The little chats I had with the staff weren’t as in-depth as I would have liked, but it was a party after all – and since this was their first party after wrapping on Thor, you can imagine the staff at Luma were ready to let their “Maya Hair System” down and have a good time. I would like to mention the alarmingly high number of staff at Luma who were dressed in drag… Not that there’s anything wrong with that… just you know… wasn’t expecting it – but hey, if Thor can have long hair and a skirt – why cant they?

Anyway, so Thor, The Dark World was good… I’d go so far as to say, it might even be better then the first – and so if this is the trend for Marvel films, Winter Solder and the 2nd Avengers movie should just about make people forget about Avatar and remember that you can have an Epic VFX movie that doesn’t sacrifice plot, drama, comedy just to remake Pocahontas with blue people.

Thor: The Dark World

  • Script: 3.5 Stars
  • VFX:  5 Stars
  • Comedy: 3.5 Stars
  • Cast: 4 Stars
  • Overall: 4 Stars

IK, FK? OK!

Wow, what a week!
I haven’t slept much in the last 7 days…but I have achieved a fair amount.

What have a I done in the last 7 days? Well I’m glad you asked!

I sketched all day last Tuesday to complete the animatic for my most recent group assignment:

shot1_robots(Tony Nguyen: Backgrounds and landscapes, Raff Gandrabur: Robot Concepts: David Tonkin: Animation)

http://youtu.be/6NNJYU2NLII

The short 1 minute animation is entitled “Tempus Aenterni” which roughly translates to “Time Eternal”.  It’s about 2 tiny junky robots in a junk yard. One wakes up, with no memory of what just happened. He discovers that unlike him, his friend has no battery. When he can’t find a spare battery he is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice and give up his own to bring his friend to life… of course his friend wakes up, with no memory of what just happened and so the cycle repeats, time eternal… if you missed the metaphor… they have Watches for heads!!!! Anyway, hopefully the animatic shows the story and style that we plan to get across in the final 3D Animation… Also, since I’m pretty sure none of my class mates read my blog – LAZY SLACKERS!!!
I am far from the best 2D artist in the class but our groups animatic was clearly one of the betters ones. I was quite disappointed actually. Especially considering some of the talent in that room. I really did expect more. (Or maybe I’m just bitter because I worked so hard on it that I forgot I was parked in a Clear Way and my car got towed… :/ )What else did you do Tonko?

Oh really, you’re still here? OK, well…
tempusRig_snapshotI just put the final touches on the 3D Model of the Robot (his name is Tempus) I have also fully Rigged it, and boy-oh-boy what a pain the arse! (excuse the language). Not only have I only ever rigged one other character before, but this thing is Asymmetrical, Mechanical, and has springs for a waist!! It uses a parent/bones hierarchy on some sections, Smooth Binding on other parts, IK/FK switching and dial on his watch head even operates the hands on his face like a real clock!!! 360 deg turn of the minute hand and the hour hand moves 1 hour!!! YEAH, I’M BATMAN! ahem.. yes well, I’m very happy with it and it was quite tricky.
And lastly, if you hung around this long, the big news is…. My agent called today, and I have been cast (if that’s the right word) as the Stand-in for Ewan McGregor on a film shoot later this (and next) week. What does a stand in do, I hear you ask. I basically stand around in the place that the “real” actor will eventually stand in while they set up the lighting, focal depth on the lens, and all the boring technical stuff. Then when they are ready, they will call the actor out from their trailer and film the shot.
My guess is that I am the rough height and build of Ewan (I call him Ewan now, cause ya’ know, we go waaay back). I might bear a slight resemblance, but I’ll let you decide in my little poll below (yes I have discovered Polls, be afraid, be very afraid!)
meAndEwan

Movie Review: Warm Bodies – 4 Stars

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Warm Bodies is set in a future where the dead outnumber the living and humans live in walled off cities for protection.When a young Zombie, who cant cant quite remember his name, but its starts with “R” (Nicholas Hoult) is on the hunt for Brains he comes across a beautiful girl named Julie (Teresa Palmer).

Julie sparks something in R and after killing her boyfriend he decides to rescue her instead of eat her. In the days that follow, hiding in an abandoned aeroplane, they form an usual bond and slowly R starts changing. This change could have major repercussions for Zombies and Humans alike and its not long before the “Boneys” (a dangerous type of Zombie that is so far gone, they have mutated into monsters) decide to make a final assault on the human settlement before the cure shifts the balance of power back towards the living.

Now R and Julie must risk everything by trying to convince Julies Father, The leader of the human settlement, played by John Malkovich, that the Zombies are changing and in the coming attack they can be allies. Will he trust a Zombie, or will he shoot R on site?

WarmBodiesBANNER

Well, this movie is hard to categorize. All though it’s not, Laugh-out-loud-for-2-hours comedy it is still pretty funny. It’s also not as heart wrenching as the Note Book, but it has a love story. And finally its not the Evil Dead, but it does have Zombies…. So what is it? A Zom-Com? A Rom-Zom-Com? A Romantic Zomedy? Well that debate still rages amongst my girlfriend and I, so perhaps we could take a vote?

It’s not the first movie to turn the Zombie genre into a comedy. It’s has been done with great success in such films as Shaun of the Dead and ZombieLand and the 2004 remake of Romero’s 1978 Classic Dawn of the Dead was so bad it was unintentionally funny, but never before has anyone tried to get you to fall in love with a Zombie.
My theory with this film is that with the amount of money made off teenage girls from the likes of Un-dead heart-throbs like Edward the Vamp and Jacob the Werewolf it was only a matter of time before some Film executive said to his team, “What else is dead that we can sell to these girls?”. Now, I know its based on a book, but all that means is that Isaac Marion, the author, probably asked himself the same question!

All in all, I liked this movie, It has some very nice moments between the two main characters and this new take on the Zombie virus was refreshing if a little far fetched… I know, I know, the whole Idea of Zombies is far fetched, but my point is that it does drift a little from traditional Zombie lore. But hey, if Stephenie Meyer can make Vampires sparkle and glitter then why cant Zombies be cured with Love?

There are obvious references to Romeo and Juliet… The names being the most unsubtle one. “R” and “Julie”… yeah, that one kind of smacks you in the face. The other obvious, but sweet reference is the balcony scene, but Juliet never gave Romeo’s corpse a makeover, so you can see how they tweaked the story… just a little.

One of the things that was off to me was the Boney’s. The design was great, the models themselves were fine, but it was the Animation that missed the mark. Now it might have been because I read an article on the effects before seeing the movie, or maybe its because Animation is the subject I’m studying this very moment, but still it just seemed a little off.

The Run cycle for the Boneys wasn’t quite right – I read that they used Motion capture to begin with but went back to traditional key frame animation, and I’m left wondering if the animators have forgotten some of the 12 principals while they were busy playing with motion capture. But I don’t want to seem too harsh, the animation wasn’t terrible just a little… off.

The compositing was fantastic. The Set extension was flawless and when not running, the boneys were spot on. When they were running… again, a little off. I thought the Wall coming down in the end was good but could have used a little more work on the scale and the amount of dust.

All in all, not a bad little movie.

  • Script: 3 stars
  • Comedy: 3 stars
  • VFX: 3 stars
  • Extra star for being about Zombies!

 

Overall 4 Stars