Category Archives: 3D

Film | Review: Prometheus | This Is Entertainment

In director Ridley Scott’s mind, there are two kinds of people – those who have seen 1979
sci-fi thriller Alien, and those who haven’t. Prometheus tries very hard to cater to both
groups, and largely does a fantastic job.

The film begins with a beautiful sweeping landscape, immediately hitting you with the
beauty and vastness of the spectacle you are faced with, before contrasting it with the
appearance of a huge, flying saucer style spacecraft.

At once the strong sense of style which flows from the film’s director is apparent. The sets
ooze sci-fi stereotypes, but all taken from a style which Scott himself (with his team) set
up with Alien and BladeRunner. The ship, the space suits, the corridors all look just the
way you expect them too, and go a long way to convincing you that you are in the same
universe as the creepy face-hugging aliens from yesteryear.

The strongest link for Alien fans comes in the form of the world-building terraforming
company the Weyland Corporation, ‘the company’ who will send out Ellen Ripley and
the crew of the Nostromo some 30 years later. It’s founder, Peter Weyland, finances the
Prometheus mission to discover the origins of humanity after a string of archaeological
finds which point to a specific star cluster in deep space.

The discovery is made by protagonist Doctor Elizabeth Shaw (the original Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, Noomi Rapace), who is brought along with partner Charlie Holloway to conduct a scientific study of a moon which
contains an atmosphere capable of supporting life.

The ship’s crew is made up of a band of clashing personalities, frequently not given enough
time or material to develop into more than stereotypical supporting characters, who help or
hinder Shaw in finding the truth.

Shaw is gifted with more development, the daughter of a Christian father who finds
reassurance in her faith, literally wearing it around her neck with a sign of the cross, and is
challenged by the revelations she experiences throughout the film, taking her on a spiritual
journey as much as a dramatic one.

Rapace does Shaw justice as a doctor caught between science and religion, and convinces
the audience to follow her down the rabbit hole, though things don’t hold together quite as
smoothly as the action ramps up in the closing act.

The development of the story is interspersed with foreboding, and for many fans the
expectation for creatures to leap on faces or out of people’s chests at any moment, but
flows along at an even pace, with the intrigue of what exactly the team are looking for
growing with each new plot point. This leads to a sense that there are more questions asked
than answered, but for the majority of viewers the pay-off of the final climax is adequate, if
not definitive.

The star of the show is Michael Fassbender, as inquisitive android David, who’s motives
are vague, but the character is constantly irresistible – with a combination of childlike-
curiosity and a callous attitude to humanity. Fassbender delivers his lines with the
calculating precision of a machine, while giving the constant impression of emotion, which
remains unflinching throughout.

Charlize Theron’s evil overseer role as Meredith Vickers gives a first impression of being
one-note, but she allows the characters emotions to gradually bleed through a hard exterior
shell, creating a well-rounded, if not quite likeable representative of the company.

While not the ground-breaking slice of sci-fi Alien was, it would be hard for Scott to out-
do himself in the genre, but after so many years away, the film is fun, entertaining and
dramatic, something which has the inspired touch of a visionary but also the measured
approach of a master in his field. A few light years from perfection, but when you are
thousands from Earth, it’s quite difficult to notice.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry

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Gaming: E3 Special – Nintendo’s Press Conference explained

A company which began its life making dominoes has come a long way to giving the most user-friendly games consoles ever, but Reggie Fils-Aime, President of Nintendo of America, is keen to stress that “technology is only a tool, what matters is the experience.”

After a disappointingly samey E3 last year, Nintendo had a lot to do prove they haven’t run out of ideas, and sure enough they don’t disappoint. The biggest announcement is new hardware the 3DS (which looks very shiny, look up), boasting 3D gaming without the need for pesky 3D glasses.

Before that though, we are graced with the return of one of Nintendo’s best-loved characters – the first of many as it turns out – as Shigeru Miyamoto introduces us to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, with enhanced Wii Motion Plus controls.

At first he tries to explain things from a video screen, but soon this becomes too complicated so he slashes his way through the back wall to enter the stage, to an uproar from the crowd. Skyward Sword boasts new weapons, with a lot of the mechanics from the ever-popular Wii Sports such as rolling Link’s bombs out like a bowling ball.

Despite some technical mishaps on stage when trying to demonstrate the title, which Miyamoto clearly has a lot of love for, it receives a warm reception from the crowd, particularly for the new control style which sees the Wiimote become Link’s sword and the Nunchuck his shield.

After Reggie tells us that some of us like realistic games and some of us like cartoony ones (duh…) he goes on to show Mario Sports Mix. In the mix are volleyball, basketball, hockey and ice hockey for now, but since the game won’t ship until Christmas they’ll probably throw in tiddlywinks or something too.

Next Reggie dispels some myths about Wii gamers, assuring us they aren’t people who just play Wii Sports and Wii Fit occasionally and then get bored *shifts eyes uneasily*, in fact, according to Mr Nintendo, many so-called ‘casual’ gamers are “channelled along their gaming journey” by games such as Mario Kart Wii and New Super Mario Bros.

In order to continue these gamers development, Nintendo have handily come up with Wii Party, Mario Party 10,000 in disguise with a couple of other game modes attached. The game is centred around the 177,000,000 ‘Miis’ that have been created around the world and encourages social development, despite the console not having online capabilities strong enough to support interfacing with people worldwide easily.

The first third party title to be announced this year is Harmonix’s Just Dance 2. The sequel to the first game (obviously) it adds more tracks, more players and dance-offs to make making a fool of yourself more fun than it ever has been before (until Kinect comes out of course).

The announcement of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn has been a long time coming and offered little surprise but it was Goldeneye returning to Nintendo that had everyone in the room salivating. A remake? A re-imagining? Does it matter? The game features Daniel Craig as the man in tux this time and appears to have retained many locations from Rare’s classic.

Unfortunately the graphics don’t look much more advanced than it’s N64 (grand)father and despite a few small but brutal touches there is nothing here that will ever live up to people’s understandably unreasonable expectations, since the original meant so much to so many people and it will always have that magic because it’s in the past.

An unusual entry from Disney next as they present Disney Epic Mickey, an adventure through 80 years of the company’s history with familiar characters and locations along the way, as well as things which have sunk into the vaults at Disney. It features three play modes, simple free roam exploration, traditional quests, and travel. The latter looks the most interesting as the game transforms into a sides-crolling actioner akin to Mario’s early days with an impressive visual style as the game takes you within a cartoon, very Viewtiful.

The first of two unexpected returning protagonists for Nintendo is Kirby, who stars in his own game for the first time in seven years – Kirby’s Epic Yarn. The visual style is stylised so everything is made of wool and Kirby himself is simply an outline. This leads to an easily manipulatable game environment, pulling land closer so you can reach it etc. and the presentation is stunning.

Dragon Quest 9‘s porting to US shores fails to spark much interest despite its incredible popularity in the East, but what does get people shouting is the latest footage of Metroid: Other M, which looks impressive without revealing very much at all.

If there’s one underrated Nintendo character, it would have to be Donkey Kong – if not least for his spelling-mistake name – since DK never seems to get the limelight to himself…still this won’t be changing, but Donkey and Diddy will be back with Donkey Kong Country Returns. Environments are a lot more interactive since the original, and the relics of his Super Smash Brothers outings are on show, along with all the staples like bananas, lots and lots of bananas.

For their grand finale Nintendo saved the best till last, with the unveiling of super-cool handheld the 3DS, which boasts not only increased graphics capability, a widescreen top screen and  funky 3D technology which allows you to see games in immersive 3D without the need for polarising glasses, but two cameras on the back which allow you to take digital 3D pictures.

Developers seem very excited, a video shows many big names singing the 3DS’ praises for its potential, and the platform has attracted more third party launch support than any console Nintendo has launched before, promising – on release – titles like Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Kingdom Hearts and Assassins Creed.

The 3DS also gives an old Nintendo IP to have a new adventure, namely Pitt (the annoying one in Smash Brothers Wii with that endless sword spinning attack) and Kid Icarus Uprising. The graphics for the game look particularly impressive for handheld, edging ever closer to the Wii’s capabilities.

As Reggie welcomes out a horde of attractive women to demonstrate the 3DS for the audience, you get the feeling that Nintendo have had fun at this event, their presentation has a sense of humour, they don’t take themselves too seriously and they produce some fantastically entertaining games, as well as pushing the boundaries wherever they can. They might not be as ‘hardcore’ as they used to be, but if you were having a gaming marathon at your place tomorrow night, they’re the company you’d like to invite.

James Michael Parry

Film: AVATAR – 3D’s shining light?

Director James Cameron gives lead guy Sam Rockwell a few pointers…literally

Seeing things in 3D is quite ordinary. Think about it, you see in 3D (and super-duper HD come to think of it) all the time. In cinema though there’s always been a certain fascination with the third dimension, to give films depth you can’t get on a run-of-the-mill screen.

Since I’ve already delved into the history and technicalities before (take a look at my previous post if ye dare), I’ll move on to the case in point: James Cameron’s much anticipated epic, Avatar.

After fourteen years waiting for technology to catch up with his imagination, or so he would have us believe, Cameron invites you to the far flung world of Pandora to learn about the dangers of damaging the environment – in a nutshell, it may fight back.

The film itself, ignoring any 3D aspect whatsoever, was good. The story and characters were on the cliché side, but the style of the picture saves it, plus a top-form performance from not-so-newcomer Sam Worthington as Jake Sully.

Comparisons to the story of kids’ 80s TV show The Smurfs aren’t totally unreasonable, in fact the South Park episode on the subject is well worth a watch, but it all comes down to a simple message about not destroying our beloved planet.

Never fear though, remember this is the James Cameron who brought us Aliens, so there’s action and excitement a-plenty – there’s even a giant tree!

But what about the gimmick/innovation that is 3D? As the screen instructs you to ‘Put on your 3D glasses now’ there’s a well of anticipation and as the spectacle begins there’s a satisfying feeling of ‘oooo ahhh’. Soon though the initial shock of seeing things with a little more depth wears off and you let yourself get engrossed in the story, and apart from the occasional flurry of leaves towards your face or burning shrapnel flying perilously close towards you, all the hype of 3D sinks into the background, adding to the film surprisingly subtly.

So Cameron delivers his master-stroke with ease, and an awful lot of patience, but it’s film-goers who benefit, since Avatar hammers home the fact that 3D films are no longer restricted to cheesy animated shorts or tedious specials about underwater life at the IMAX. Whether 3D will prove to be more than a fad this time around remains to be seen, particularly with home 3D technology just around the corner, but for now it’s here to stay, complete with its fairly ridiculous prices – unfortunately.

And happy new year everyone! Thank you for reading This Is Entertainment this past year and I hope I will continue to amuse and inform you in the coming months as well.

3D or not 3D? The future of cinema is…the past?! This Is Entertainment looks at Ice Age 3 through 3D specs

I saw my very first ‘Real 3D’ film yesterday. I felt as though it should have been a massively significant moment, as if it would change the way I looked at films forever and warp my mind in ways never before experienced.

So, I got to the cinema, fashion-disaster 3D glasses in hand, went into the screen, sat down to enjoy the Odeon Digital 3D experience and…

…got a headache.

The film itself, Ice Age 3(D), was reasonable. Your classic kids’ film mix of cliché, parody and talking animals sees Manni, Sid and Diago return in another slapstick adventure with added family, another inevitability in kids’ film sequels.

While the endless toils of the acorn seeking Scrat raised a smile or two, if hand-in-hand with some eye-rolling moments, the deminishing return of the jokes from the first film was now began to show.

That said, Simon Pegg quickly turned a limited stereotypical role into a filled out comic relief machine. As the other characters collected and toyed with their collective baggage, Pegg’s ‘Buck’ (“short for Buckington”) riled off one-liners and delightfully mad mannerisms to keep adults, as well as kids, entertained.

The 3D effect though is an interesting beast. At times the effect was sublime, drawing you into the picture with perfection to make the events on screen grab your attention and ‘come to life’ all the more. One particular highlight was when the camera flew right through a torrent of molten lava, peppering the screen (your eyes) with intense colour and forcing you try to move your head to dodge it.

Often though, particularly when changing scenes, the action moved too fast for your eyes to keep up with, making the 3D animations blurry and difficult to concentrate on. Too often I found myself longing for characters to stop moving to save my retinas.

The glasses are reasonably comfortable, compared to the red/green specs of old, but if you didn’t have to wear them things would have been far more comfortable, particularly since the 3D magic stopped at the edge of the film screen and not the glasses.

The only comparison to make is with IMAX, the only significant 3D experience I’d had before, and it was so much more immersive. Part of that is the far-bigger-than-a-standard-screen aspect, but in Odeon’s favour their film was far more entertaining than watching underwater creatures.

Since 3D has been around for so long, Hitchcock famously imagining Psycho and Vertigo in 3D back in the mid 20th century, it’s staggering it’s taken so long to get from the early stages of the technology to where we are today, and the fact that it still underwhelms is disappointing.

For glasses wearers the toil and trouble is even worse, since you’re forced to balance them precariously on the end of your nose to fit your own glasses on in between. Price is another factor, with even a student 3D ticket costing a meaty £8.50.

All in all there is definite glimmers of potential in the technology, but we’re not quite to virtual reality film-watching, and with the escapism of film being one of its strongest points, do we really want to be?