The first day of the rest of your life…

So I’ve had my first week in the land of 21 and already things seem very grown up from the outside looking in.

I’ve been spending my days at Nintendo Wii magazine NGamer, and compared to the week before it’s got a very different atmosphere, more casual and communal.

Here in Bath there’s a whole different feel to things, with upwards of 40 magazines (or so, I haven’t exactly counted) in the building there’s plenty of people around all the time.

Guitar Hero controllers litter the floor all around, interspersed with giant flat-screen televisions and ancient issues of Future (Publishing) mags like Powerstation and Official Playstation 2 Magazine.

There’s been plenty to do and get involved in, and I even managed to get my hands on the brand new issue before subscribers and anyone else will see it! The most reassuring moment was when I thought up an idea for a feature, and then was told it was in the new issue, least it means I’m on track.

Come January it’s time to head back to London for DVD and Blu-Ray Review, here’s hoping it brings another different experience again.

Oh and, Merry Christmas all.

Premiere of Jim Carrey’s "Yes Man"

There’s plenty of things worth getting excited about, but as it goes a World Premiere of a film is pretty high up the list.
Standing on the red carpet outside Vue’s West End einema the excitement all around was palpable, there were screams of “I love you Jim” as Mr Carrey talked cheerily with photographers about his latest film “Yes Man“.
On the chilly London evening, minor celebrities trickled in, the women posing on the red carpet pointedly…even if mose people didn’t know who they were.
The biggest names amounted to a couple of people from last year’s X-Factor, as well as Anthony Head, of Buffy and Little Britain fame, and BBC 5-Live presenter Richard Bacon.
The night was suitably clown-like, with Carrey putting on a show for his public and personally introducing the film in typical OTT style, complete with massive gestures and strange voices.
The film itself was distinctly average. There were some worryingly cringe-worthy moments, and an entertaining turn from New Zealander Rhys Darby as the ever-optimistic Norman (or Norm, to his friends).
The concept is a simple one: say yes to everything, no matter how bad it might be or rediculous it might seem, and you will be able to live life to the full.
Carrey’s character, Carl, finds himself being dragged to a conference for the pioneer of this way of thinking, Terrence Bundley, played enthusiastically by Terence Stamp, where he is mandandled into taking it up, with typically hilarious consequences.
The problem is, as always, is that if you don’t like Jim Carrey, you won’t like this film.
Carrey has tried to break out of his stereotype with films like Enternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Number 23, which had varying success, but he just doesn’t have the conviction to make a character more than an updated version of Ace Ventura 90% of the time.
For Carrey films this is another addition to fun flicks like the questionable ‘Fun With Dick and Jane’ or the more impressive ‘Bruce Almighty’ but when you make a film based on such a simple idea and don’t expand on it, a simple film is what you get.

Batman storms onto DVD, but what of Blu-ray?

It feels like a long time since Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece hit cinemas in July this year, but yesterday The Dark Knight hit supermarket shelves nationwide, creating a frenzied hoarde of Bat-fans.

HMV coaxed potential shoppers into pre-ordering the epic for £11.99, and throwing in a graphic novel into the bargain, but then subsequently dropped the in-store price for £9.99 in the first week.

The reason? Other than almost betraying the hard-core fans who pre-ordered back in September, the emphasis has shifted from DVD to Blu-ray.

The ultra-cool format boasts increased capacity, allowing shed-loads of special features and numerous times better picture quality, but we’ve heard this before now, why is it that the shift in marketing has happened now?

Blu-rays war with HDDVD ended earlier this year, with the major film companies who had backed the losing format sheepishly creeping over to Blu-ray, and with Toshiba now having developing new players, the great war is over.

Retailers have waited to strike until Christmas because plenty of people will be forking out on Blu-ray players this year, now that the latest players have the option to connect to the internet to update themselves, and are finally trickling down in price to something affordable.

The Dark Knight was just the vehicle the shops needed to force Blu-ray to the front of people’s minds and is currently the highest selling Blu-ray in the USA and UK. Plus it’s not just an empty vessel, there’s oceans of hot action content and special features to get people’s tongues wagging, particularly the Joker’s altercation with an articulated lorry and the Batmobile’s destruction.

But will it last? DVD is only 10 years old this year and there’s little inducation of it going the way of the dodo already. The trouble is that you have to fork out on expensive full HD TVs and 7.1 sound to make it worthwhile and at £25 or so for the titles themselves, the price will have to drop a fair way before the mass market gets on board.

Public perceptions of the format are still positive, but only in another year or so will it be clear how well the retailers Christmas marketing paid off for them in the long run.

For the time being, I’ll be looking forward to seeing the film on ‘traditional’ DVD.

A day at EMPIRE: The World’s Biggest Movie Magazine

Well I’ve made it, the clock has struck 6pm and my first day of work placement at EMPIRE is over.

There’s no question it’s been overwealming, and perhaps I feel as though I could have accomplished more, but I’m happy with the day, and most importantly, I’ve enjoyed myself.

My first taste of the industry has been as entertaining as I expected, with stories and comments flying around the office and big Hollywood names being name-checked here and there throughout.

I didn’t get off to the best start, having been told to go to the FIRTH floor instead of the FORTH, but there’s still time to turn around those first impressions, and everyone I’ve met is very nice.

I won’t (t)witter on about it too much, but there’s no signs of the credit crunch dampening people’s spirits in this festive Christmas season.

The office, littered with EMPIRE issues as you’d expect, is also complete with a pool table to unwind with, as well as a couple of shiny big screen TVs for those all-important DVD views.

Most impressively though, is the A1 cardboard representations of some of the magazine’s most iconic covers, which brought a warm smile to my face as soon as I arrived.

As well as that there seems to be a large amount of Star Wars related things lying around, fingers crossed that my new T-shirt in the same vein will make a good impression later in the week.

Stay tuned for more.

Looking past Christmas madness to 2009

Why is it that whenever Christmas time comes around people all go a little bit strange. Is it the mass consumption of alcoholic beverages? Or being forced to listen to your eccentric Uncle tell one more embarrassing story about your dad?

Whatever it is, it’s premature. Screaming pop rockers Slade always insist their classic Merry Xmas Everybody! is played earlier and earlier every year, when really it’s a song meant to be played as you unwrap your presents (or in this year’s case, credit crunch friendly lumps of coal) on that blissful morning.

No doubt I am as guilty as the masses for writing this now, not even a week into December, but I think people can get too carried away, especially when there’s work still to be done.

The sick days pile higher and you suddenly remember you’ve inexplicably forgotten presents for a cherished love one, quickly logging onto HMV and hoping they deliver before the big day.

Nowhere is the Christmas season more exaggerated than on the high street. Shops begin pushing their seasonal deals as early as the end of October, especially this year when the financial troubles are expected to take their toll, though it’s not as bad as you might think.

The trouble with it is that it’s so fleeting, with New Years signs going up on Christmas Eve, and Easter treats already out in shops, we never stand still to appreciate those precious, argument-filled days.

In many ways, why would we want to, there are an incredible number of things to look forward to in 2009, here’s my top 10:

1) Graduating from University – as much fun as I’ve had, it’s time to move on
2) X-men Origins: WolverineHugh Jackman returns as Woverine in a film that explains how he became the animal we met in the first X-men
3) Terminator SalvationChristian Bale re-energises the Terminator franchise with support from newcomer Sam Worthington, who’s also set to star in sci-fi flick Avatar.
4) Bad Religion‘s new album – The vintage punk rockers return for more operatic choruses and political lyrics, American punk at its best.
5) Resident Evil 5 (Xbox) – After the colossal success of 4 and the ultimately enjoyable Umbrella Chronicles the action moves to Africa where we begin to learn where the T-virus came from
6) ValkyrieTom Cruise stars in a based-on-truth thriller detailing the plot to assassinate Hitler during World War Two directed by Usual Suspects supremo Bryan Singer.
7) Muse‘s new album – The best British rock band around, both live and on record, will return for an epic new album, hopefully with piano solos.
8) Public EnemiesHeat and Collateral director Michael Mann returns with a 1930s gangster piece starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.
9) Mass Effect 2 (Xbox) – The sage of Shepard continues with the sequel to one of my favourite RPGs of all time.
10) Green Day‘s new album – The California trio have a lot to prove after the colossal American Idiot, will they come back to their old sound to please fans, or sell out in a pit of pop/punk horror?

So there’s mine, what about yours?

Holidays are coming…but first

With a huge sigh of relief I finally completed and handed in all my work for this term earlier on today (I might share some of it on here so watch this space). There’s nothing like feeling you’re actually accomplishing something in your life, don’t you think?

There’s not much new about this holiday season for most people, but for me it’s an important and exciting one. First of all I get to turn 21 (14th of December, be sure to look out for a birthday post then!), which has been long awaited and confirms my ascent from the last remnants of childhood into an age where people accept you aren’t a child, but look at you with a disapproving gaze followed by a shrewd smile whenever you try do or say something naive.

I accept this is part of the ‘right’ of passage into the world of working to get paid as opposed to the world of paying to study, but I wonder what age most ‘real’ adults think us borderliners become part of their club?

More importantly, and excitingly, than that though, is the other big event that is happening is my work placement, which begins on Monday at none other than EMPIRE magazine, a magazine which I have almost infinite respect for and a great appreciation of.

I’ll be there all week, so hopefully I’ll find a moment to report back about the interesting goings on, but rest assured my eyes will be peeled for tantalising glimpses of the next years hottest films.

This placement is the best 21st birthday present I could have hoped for in truth, because EMPIRE is the place I’d like to end up once I’ve flexed my creative muscles throughout the industry in a few years time.

Let us hope this opportunity will be everything I’m convinced it will be, because there’s always a chance this time in the industry will make me realise I don’t want to be a journalist anymore.

I do, I undo, I redo

You may have noticed a change around here. On the other hand I suppose you may have never been here before, in which case welcome along, but the big change to the blog today is the name.

Yes, that’s right, I’ve finally realised that no one except me and old people in Vatican City with big beards understands Latin anymore, so it was out with “Ex virborum auditorum” and in with “This is Entertainment”. I thought I’d opt for a name which reflected a little more the content of the page, something which I hope to build up on in future.

Also there’s a snazzy banner at the top (comments?), which I knocked up on trusty Photoshop Elements (6.0, none of this archaic 4.0 University nonsense) so hopefully it gives things a little more cohesion, I suppose only time will tell.

The name of the post, for those who are interested, is from an artistic work I saw (above) in the Tate Modern in London a few years ago by Louise Bourgeois, which consisted of three large metal towers called “I Do”, “I Undo” and “I Redo”.

I just the symbolism reflected here quite nicely, I hope you’ll read on…

The great film ticket price problem

Do you ever find yourself visiting your local cinema and thinking: “Blimey, those nachos are a bit expensive!” The truth is, the price gap between the real world and movie-land is vast, a bag of Minstrels in a high street shop or local convenience store might set you back £1.50-£2.00, whereas in cinemas this price jumps up to £2.75 or even £3.00.

Of course, this is nothing new, there are endless ways to cheekily nab money off us these days, but what’s the real reason? Shameless money grabbing, or something more?

Cinemas generally don’t get all the money from the tickets they sell, as you might assume, in fact the figure is closer to 20%, with most of the money going to film distribution companies, not even to the actors and actresses themselves.

When you hear news of Quantum of Solace raking in the most money at the box office in history on opening day then you have to take that into account, since it’s likely Daniel Craig won’t be seeing any of that money, he’s on a fixed contract from Sony for £5million, which goes up to £8million for Bond 23.

Spiralling film budgets from the last few years have only fuelled the fire, with the cost of a typical Hollywood film breaking the $100million mark in 1997, which jumped to over $200million by 2004, but suffered in 2006, when the average Hollywood budget dropped by $2.5million.

The biggest budget film in recent years was Bryan Singer‘s shaky hit Superman Returns which set Warner Brothers back a whopping $268million (£170million), not including the marketing and promotion, meaning the film had to collect over $600million worldwide just to break even.

Interestingly, low budget films continue to be the only area of film making which is consistently profitable, with Saw II taking $4million and turning it into $144million.

The ever-increasing cost of film-making is causing audiences pockets to be left bare, tickets are far more expensive these days compared to the 1970s, when an average adult film ticket was around 61p (£2.20 in 2008 money).

Of course, things are a lot different here up North compared to if you venture into the nation’s bustling capital, where West End cinemas can see tickets rise as high as £12.50 for adults, making it all the more un-appealing to fork out for a tub of popcorn rather than sneaking in some Jaffa Cakes.

In Stockport earlier this year, Adam Glennon was physically thrown out of the Cineworld cinema for taking in his own sweets.

He said he’d bought about £5 worth of sweets, crisps and bottled drink to take in, which would have cost well over £10 if bought inside the cinema, but Cineworld operates a strict ‘no food’ policy.

He told the Stockport Express:

“It costs a small fortune to buy sweets from the cinema and they don’t take this into account when people with little money just want to watch a film.”

Vue specifies in its legal terms and conditions that

“Hot food brought from outside of the cinema may not be consumed on the premises”

but doesn’t saying anything about cold food, such as chocolate, or drinks.

Odeon have no problem with customers taking in their own food, providing it’s not a take-away and there’s no alcohol involved. The cinema giants are more worried about film piracy and people bringing in recording equipment, the results of which are difficult to appreciate when faced with the ever-increasing amount of films available on the internet.

Another pillar of cinema money-making is advertising, which is estimated to create £214million this year, and cinemas will take a fair chunk of that, but its not an astronomical figure when you consider generally 3.5million people visit the cinema each week.

Pearl and Dean, which represents a third of the cinema advertising market, reports that £26.4million so far this year has been spent on car advertising, meaning it isn’t just our collective imagination that car adverts are never-ending, but it comes as no surprise that the oft comical Orange mobile phone adverts are the biggest single earners, handing over £10.9million.

With all this money flying around the industry, it’s easy to feel put out by the ‘evil’ corporations, but in reality a student cinema ticket (fellow students, don’t forget that NUS extra card!) will only set you back around £5, which is about the same as you pay for a couple of pints of beer and a bag of crisps on a typical night, so compared to those West End film lovers; we’ve got it good.