The masterful short films of Neill Blomkamp and Oats Studios!

Okay so it is Sunday 30 July 2017, and it has been a minute since I posted.

One of the things that has been occupying me (besides today’s POWER and ELEMENTARY marathons):

OATS STUDIOS

I do not like You Tube if I have to go to its web page, for the simple fact I hate its un-moderated comments and ignored idiocy and stupidity. But the YouTube channel on Amazon Fire or Roku is something else. I find it actually useful, and nice to view on my big screen TV. And no un-moderated comments to deal with.

The main thing I go to YouTube for is short films, followed closely by movie trailers.

But for short films YouTube’s Roku or Fire Channel, is a great boon. Giving a stage and platform for filmmakers who would otherwise go undiscovered to develop an audience and a name, through short films that wow you and stay with you far more viscerally than most feature length films can.

That brings us to OATS STUDIOS, a production company created by Neill Blomkamp of DISTRICT 9 and ELYSIUM fame.

I am not a fan of the feature films of Neill Blomkamp, they have wonderful core ideas, but tend to get lost under poor Hollywood casting or unnecessary backstory. However in the short film is where Blomkamp’s OATS STUDIOS shine.

Sporting cutting edge world class visual effects, great actors and performances, and big screen direction the films of OATS STUDIOS are, 30 minute or less, masterpieces of creativity and speculative fiction, of science fiction mixed with war, mixed with horror, mixed with a cautionary mirror tainted with pressing concerns, both moral and material.

 

FIREBASE

RAKKA

ZYGOTE

Those Oat Studio short films form a loose trilogy, united by a common theme of mankind pushed to the brink by powers unearthly. And the films are also united by being superlative and imaginative, and gems of 21st century short films.

FIREBASE (which I have also titled DREAMS OF THE RIVER GOD), the 2nd film released, is a little over 26 minutes, and set in Vietnam War era Vietnam… combines so many mind-blowing concepts, and creates one of the screens memorable creations, in the character of… The River God. I can see this spawning a lot of spin-off short films, set in this universe.

RAKKA, the first film released, moves several decades ahead to a world on the brink of extermination by a threat otherworldly.

and ZYGOTE, the last film released as of this writing, further still in the future, sports one of the most imaginative and horrific monsters since Carpenter’s THING. I like RAKKA but I love FIREBASE and ZYGOTE.

All this to say if you are looking for something to watch, then make it to the Oats Studios site and find the aforementioned films by Neill Blomkamp.

As of this writing they do not yet have a BLURAY up for these films, but I urge them to release one. Quality productions such as this deserve a quality Blu-Ray production with special features and director’s commentary, and not simply the ephemeral availability of websites and streaming.

Today’s Recommended short films!

 

Now Playing: Recommended NetFlix Streaming Movie of the Day… DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY

Now Playing: Recommended NetFlix Streaming Movie of the Day… DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY!!

Directed by John Hough this 70s road thriller and petrol fueled powerhouse is a sleek, adrenaline inducing, justifiably acclaimed masterpiece of the genre. It is to car and road movies, what JAWS is to shark movies; the standard by which all others will be judged.

dirty_mary_crazy_larry_xlg

Wonderfully performed by Peter Fonda, Vic Morrow, Susan George, but particularly Adam Roarke as the taciturn mechanic, this film in a word is… Awesome! Great direction and editing, phenomenal stunts that even in the age of CGI or especially because of the age of CGI remain… jaw dropping; and a wonderful script that is an evocation of the times, and a loving homage to the road movies that came before.

Highly Recommended!!

You can currently watch it for free on streaming, but once seen you are going to want to own this movie. It is too good to leave it up to the vagaries of streaming licensing deals, your ability to see this baby whenever you want.

Get it on Blu-Ray here, while you can: Dirty Mary Crazy Larry / Race With The Devil (Double Feature) Blu-Ray

Art Book of the Day: GRAPHISTES WORLD ARTBOOK 01! CONTEST– Win this Book!

This is a review of the GRAPHISTES WORLD ARTBOOK 01, subtitled BOOK OF CREATION, it is published by Oracom Editions and compiles selected artwork from a French on-line artists collective.

First impressions, presentation. It’s a sizable SC book at 11″ x 9″, and feels substantial at 220+ pages. Nice striking cover image, on a nice pull out gate-fold cover. It’s a matte type paper stock on both the cover and the interior pages, and utilizes a sewn binding (initially had thought it was glued, but is a sewn binding. Pretty spiffy for a soft-cover.).

The Matte paper stock, I can appreciate its use on the darkly illustrated cover to help minimize finger-prints, however on the interior pages I’m not a fan of it, as I think a gloss paper stock would have better worked to showcase the images on the interior. I’ll go into that in more detail in a bit,

Now getting into the content, the actual images themselves, there’s more than a bit of crossover in terms of style and theme and subject. The images are mostly computer generated imagery, a lot of video game like landscapes. Much of it is a bit dark for me, in terms of actual brightness not content. I think this is the printing job, rather than the images. Because the images viewed on-line look great (as in the ones I post with this blog), but in the actual book the images appear muddy and un-dynamic.

It may be what the artists are going for, but I’m inclined to think it’s printed a bit dark. So that is where a glossier, brighter, higher contrast interior paper stock could have helped the images come alive, and not fade into the background as much.

It’s definitely a preference argument, but generally I feel glossy paper works much better for art books, and that this particular art-book, because the images are so dark, would have benefited from a higher-contrast glossy paper stock.

Mainly because the dark muted images, lots of purples on blacks, one after another tends to reinforce the need for a more varied palette. The detail in the images just get lost. There are a lot of images I think I would like, if I could see the detail in the images.

But just when you think the similarity is getting to you, you turn the page and there is a burst of artistry and an unexpected, thematically intriguing image to bring you back into the book.

Among such standouts are [the creator or studios nickname is listed with the image, but the table of contents gives their full name] :

28162 has a lush and beautiful and vibrant image with PINK DREAM and SANS UN DEFAUT

Kiko has a wonderful, futuristic landscape scene with IN THE MORNING, but I do think it looks a bit dark, muddy

Mr. Xerty has a nice collage like work with JING

Pim does the lovely LIGHT PULSE

3mmi Design has several intriguing images with DELIVRANCE and TONIGHT IN HELL

Maliciarosenoire offers us the nicely composed INCERTAIN

Graphic Traveling bring us the imaginative NYX

Grivetart’s NEW YORK 2030 and EXPLORERS are both quite excellent

Graphaddict’s offers us the well composed and lit SPACE MOUNTAINS

Pezcado’s MAINS DANS LA MAIN is quite ingenious

BeautifulReal brings us the sumptuous and strange LAST TRAVEL

KarimDesign’s offers us the attention getting LAST BREATH

Aiven’s 5 PAR is likewise imaginative and compelling

Todavia’s DEATH OF A SIREN

Lord K’s POLAR SUMMER

So these are some of the ones that stand out, and make the book well worth a viewing, despite my issues with the printing. Beyond the brief French introduction, the book consists of all images, so it can be enjoyed by all. Final Grade: B-.

******

CONTEST! WIN THIS BOOK!

This book isn’t currently available on Amazon US, but is available from Amazon UK and Amazon FR. It’s like $50.

But wait a minute! For being a Heroic times follower, I’ll tell you how you can win it for free.

It’s really, really easy to win this review copy they sent me.

Be the 15th person (follower, you have to be a follower of this blog)to comment on this post, you win the book.

Put contest in the comment, include your email address so I can get in touch with you. Comments do not get posted if you put contest in it, and they come right to me.

The 15th person, maximum of 3 attempts per person and consecutive attempts not counted. 15th person (follower) to leave a comment saying “you want this book and love Heroic Times”… wins the book.

Pretty simple.

Okay, that’s all folks. Go hug somebody.

Movie Review: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON in IMAX 3D

Movie Review: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON in IMAX 3D

I just got to see the long awaited TRANSFORMERS DARK OF THE MOON in IMAX 3D, and the verdict?

It’s big, it’s noisy, it’s formulaic, it’s often hard for me to decipher one giant robot from another, particularly in battle scenes (whose big idea was it to make the two Primes, the same color scheme?) and, all those failings accepted…

I loved it.

Michael Bay I think gets a lot of undeserved stones cast his way, but he makes exactly the types of films he wants, and they put people in seats.

I think they are always visually dazzling. Now you can argue about depth and reliance on the formulaic, but the formula is the genre in such films, that are part of a long tradition of rousing action yarns, and more of… ballads to sacrifice. DARK OF THE MOON is the 21st century epitome of such ballads, the tale of Grendel, a myth of the hero mated with the monster movie, writ large. Writer Ehren Kruger becoming quickly a name to watch.

Brought to life with Bay’s extraordinary Visual Stylistics, and a level of mating special/practical effects and CGI that can only be called… successful. With no less then 4 visual effects companies, ILM, Digital Domain, Prime focus and Prana Studios, helping to weave their creations into the in camera/live special effects, stunts, and pyrotechnics; it is a massive undertaking.

If there is one thing I would fault the CGI for is perhaps making the Transformers physically too busy and too complex. Even when standing still they are a patchwork mess of colors, and shapes, and dood-dads, it’s hard beyond the generalities of this is a head a torso , two legs, etc… to really know what you’re looking at.

And once they get into fight scenes, forget about it, it is largely just a chaos of moving parts.

Realizing that, Michael bay does kick in the slow motion during crucial scenes.

So, yes, I know the visual effects guys were going for some sort of ‘realism’ in the convoluted design of the Transformers, but I think a bit more simplicity would have made them easier to differentiate, particularly in the battle scenes.

Thankfully the movie moves quick enough that you are not pondering the confusion too much, and the confusion becomes part of the story-telling, but ideally I would have liked less convoluted Transformers.

However, despite that, at no point do you fail to accept the humans and the Transformers inhabiting the same space, instead it is a seamless integration that the audience from first frame to last can just be swept up in.

And was.

The crowd I saw the film with… laughed, applauded, oohed, awed, and in places got teary eyed (I know I did) in what should be no more than an 80’s nostalgia, kid’s toy-line cash-grab. But it is a lot more than that.

Michael Bay creates Blockbuster entertainment, and DARK OF THE MOON is his largest, and surprisingly, his best film to date, edging out his debut film BAD BOYS; which I would have previously given that appellation to.

The shear scale of this monster movie (and ultimately that is what DARK OF THE MOON feels like… a huge monster movie) is awe-inspiring, and IMAX 3D shows you clearly why you should accept no substitutes in terms of 3D.

Bay set out to make the most amazing and immersive 3D film since AVATAR, and he’s done that. It’s a technical marvel, but like AVATAR the 3D never feels like a gimmick or afterthought or superfluous it’s part and parcel of the film he’s crafting for you. That said I’m still no fan of the exorbitant prices that movie chains like AMC are charging for IMAX. I paid $13.50 for a matinee ticket for this showing, a $5.50 surcharge over regular 2D ticket prices!!

Needless to say that’s not an expense I support or am prepared to pay, for the most part. I think 3D movies should be the same price as 2D movies. Particularly when most Hollywood films screened in IMAX 3D, have not lived up to the potential. Being technically and cinematically not effective uses of 3D.

However the IMAX 3D (and notice I specify a difference, I don’t like the REALD 3D Sony backed 3D process, and definitely would not pay more for that) in DARK OF THE MOON is (and yes I’m going to say it)… awesome. The scene when they go out the helicopter… wow. If the movie wasn’t nearly $15 I could (and would) go see it again, for wonderful scenes like that.

But great 3D in service of a mediocre film, would still be a mediocre film. DARK OF THE MOON is first and foremost a great film, as Michael Bay grounds this tale of titanic battles of building sized transforming machine behemoths, with the vagaries, and courage of the human heart.

As far as the casting, I have to admit to missing Megan Fox a bit. Newcomer Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is okay, but she’s no Megan Fox. As far as the rest of the cast, I’m no Shia LeBeouf fan, but thought his part was well written here and he did a very good job with it. And everybody else, Duhamel, Turturro, Gibson, McDormand, Dempsey, Malkovich, Tudyk, etc. were all great as well.

Alternately funny, touching, frenetic, sexy, action-packed, dire, epic and courageous, DARK OF THE MOON hits all the requisites of a blockbuster, and more then that all the requisites of a great film. You care.

I wasn’t expecting that, but care I did. There’s a deep vein of sacrifice in this movie, of heroism in the face of crushing odds.

And how that affects you, or if that affects you at all, says a lot about who you are, how you were raised, and what you value.

In a world where heroism, and caring and sacrifice and true liberty… are increasingly endangered concepts, and very few people speak truth to power… I get very sentimental about seeing that hope played out, that dream of dragons… resisted.

You take everything else away from me and what remains is this odd, insane, and totally irrational belief in… heroes.

And DARK OF THE MOON, embraces that ethos of epic and heroism and sacrifice, and is made surprisingly gripping because of it.

Michael Bay has crafted a film of incongruities: a film about machines that talks reverently of humanity, a sequel that improves upon the original, and a summer action flick, that is also just a great and emotional story.

All in all TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON is a film worth seeing in IMAX 3D and in the theaters, rather than waiting for DVD. Highly Recommended. GRADE: A-.