Missing on the list

missingA belated delivery from Amazon (stock issues or something), Indicator’s Blu-ray disc of  Costa-Gavras’ 1982 drama Missing finally escaped the curse of its title and landed on my doorstep. Graced with a typically fine central performance by Jack Lemmon and a subtle (and typically unreleased) soundtrack by Vangelis at the height of his powers, this is an intelligent film and one I’m keen to re-watch having not seen it in many years.  Time is tight of late though, so I contented myself with a glimpse of the extras and a short listen to a pseudo-commentary track that is an archival audio recording of a ‘Guardian Interview with Jack Lemmon’ from 1986, which runs 116 minutes that plays under the film. Five minutes I thought… then fifteeen, only when I reached thirty minutes did I finally give in and regretfully press the ‘stop’ button. Lemmon is a brilliant conversationalist with great stories to tell and the interview was pretty engrossing. I think a similar interview, dating to 1973,  accompanies Indicator’s The China Syndrome disc which sits on a shelf. Am I wrong for looking forward to listening to those audio tracks as much as actually seeing the films?


Rachael 2049

Since I was posting those paintings earlier, lets complete this mini-topic with images of the CGI Rachael created for BR2049. I’m sure this creation was no small part of the film being awarded its Oscar for visual effects. While not completely flawless, its success seems largely subjective- individual suspension of disbelief is largely dependent on personal taste, and I admit being utterly entranced when I first saw BR2049 last October. I believe I groaned and my jaw dropped, as I was totally ‘into’ the film at that point. I still buy into it whenever I watch the film, even in less-forgiving 4K, which tells me that its not just what you do effects-wise, but how its applied and how it is supported by the rest of the film.  If you are ‘into’ a film, you’ll forgive and accept anything, really, whether it be dodgy matte-lines/bluescreen or wholly cgi characters.  Film is all make believe, ultimately.


Rachael art too

rach2Here’s another painting,  most likely from the same photographic source that the painting I posted yesterday was based upon (which for reference, I include below). This artwork has a more traditional approach but is none the worse for that- superb likeness again. There’s some really lovely Blade Runner-inspired artwork online. I used to draw and paint Blade Runner stuff years ago in my youth, but it was never as good as much of this stuff, although in my defense, back in 1982/1983, good reference material was exceedingly hard to come by.


Rachael art

rachInteresting image this, of Sean Young’s Rachael from Blade Runner.  Beautifully drawn, I like the fragmentation which  the artist has given it- adds a nice touch and gives it a feeling seperate from the usual Noir feel that such ‘art inspired by Blade Runner’ usually seems to have. In any case, its another reminder just how iconic the ‘look’ of this character remains so many years later.

This is not a dream…

prince1This is not a dream… not a dream. We are using your brain’s electrical system as a receiver. We are unable to transmit through conscious neural interference. You are receiving this broadcast as a dream. We are transmitting from the year one, nine, nine, nine. You are receiving this broadcast in order to alter the events you are seeing…

So you wait for what seems like years but might be even longer for a UK Blu-ray release of Prince of Darkness... and then out of the blue it transpires that such a release is indeed coming but also on 4K UHD, which is even better news for someone who’s stepped up to the format.

Suppose what your faith has said is essentially correct. Suppose there is a universal mind controlling everything, a god willing the behavior of every subatomic particle. Well, every particle has an anti-particle, its mirror image, its negative side. Maybe this universal mind resides in the mirror image instead of in our universe as we wanted to believe. Maybe he’s anti-god, bringing darkness instead of light.

But possibly because of interference from the Prince of Darkness Himself, while three Carpenter films are released as boxsets and widely available for preorder, this particular film, by virtue, it seems, of rights issues with the soundtrack album, is released seperate from the others as a steelbook, and it then transpires that said steelbook, by the intervention of the Prince of Darkness’ Arch-Demon, Zavvi, is quite likely not only a limited edition but also a retailer exclusive.

The outside world doesn’t want to hear this kind of bullshit. Just keep it locked away. You’ve already managed that for two thousand years.

Its really not fair.

Hello… Hello… I’ve got a message for you… and you’re not going to like it.

I mean really, its like some John Carpenter Meta-Reality is going on or something.

The hardest thing to hear… for any of us… is something we don’t agree with.

Blade Runner 4K UHD

br4kAutumn. Its the perfect time of year to watch Blade Runner. Summer? Horrible. All that sun and heat, its just the wrong time to sink into the rain-soaked neon of LA2019.

Which is my way of excusing the long delay from buying my 4K set-up (and my Blade Runner 4K edition) and actually sitting down to watch it. Anyway, I’m right of course- if only the studio execs who mistakenly thought Blade Runner was a summer blockbuster back in 1982 had thought to actually watch the film and realise it was not a summer movie, the film might have gotten a bigger audience with a release put back to the Fall of 1982. Might have given Ridley a bit more time to get the edit right too, and saved us decades of tinkering (even though the tech of 2007 ensured we got a better film in the long run).

So anyway. I watched the disc last night with the lights down and the cool damp Autumn night gathering outside the window. How was it? Well, rest assured, Blade Runner has never looked better.

The subtlety is the thing that struck me. Sure, the film is sharper, details more pronounced, and most of the visual effects actually more convincing than ever.  I wouldn’t have thought that last bit was even possible, but it is, which only increases my admiration for the effects guys behind the film and their achievement. The shot of the blimp hovering over the Bradbury roof as Deckard looks up, the lights piercing through the metal frames of the skylights, is really suddenly quite extraordinary and an utterly perfect effects shot. This is partly enabled by the HDR, which adds depth to the visual field, making lights and the neon signage really  ‘pop’ (the opening with Deckard sitting reading his paper with the screens behind him really does startle).

br4kcBut the real improvement, as I’ve noted, is the subtlety. Thanks partly to that HDR but more due to the WCG, the film has an added beauty from the play of light, the added colour range and gradient of tone. Every shot of Blade Runner looked like a painting on DVD and Blu-ray, but now we just see more of that painting. And, naturally, yes, we do see more details, in clothing fabrics and props and decor. The craft this film demonstrates is just breathtaking, even for a seasoned fan like myself. At one point I just had to stop looking and just enjoy the movie for what it is, and leave some of that detail-noting and visual exploration for subsequent viewing.

Some of the visuals won’t please everybody. There is a lot of grain, which is mostly down to the nature of the photography, but also the film-stock used too. Some shots are indeed problematic. Deckard’s reverie of the unicorn in the woods is pretty ugly, some of the grain buzzing like static, and his examination on the Esper machine has a few moments with issues. But any fan of the film from the VHS days will be used to stuff like that and on the whole it is what the film is. Any noise from grain is countered by the terrific gains in detail and depth from the wide colour field.

br4krachSo away from the 4K bells and whistles, a note about the film itself. This is, afterall, the first time i have watched the whole film since the release of BR2049 and I have to say its an interesting experience. Knowing what lay ahead for Rachel and Deckard can’t help but inform the experience of the film, and really does make Rachel a more tragic character. Knowing that Tyrell has tinkered with her to perfect the final Frankenstein-like goal of authentic biological reproduction makes him all the more of a monster (who ironically never learns of his final success).  And of course, Batty’s death and his very human act of saving Deckard mirrors the actions of Officer K in the sequel. Deckard is saved in both films and both experiences seem to transform him.

How exciting, then, that after all these many years, Blade Runner both looks better than ever and benefits by being informed by its miraculously faithful sequel. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought any of this would be possible, but here it is, and so close to the ‘real’ 2019 too.

I can only add that I really cannot wait to rewatch this film again- nothing new there really, as I’ve always loved it, but still, its pretty exciting.

And yes, it is definitely an Autumn film. No way is this a film  for the summer.

Superman: Der Film!

supsderForgive me one of my ‘moments’, but I thought this was really funny: ‘Superman: Der Film!‘ I hadn’t noticed the German version of the Superman: The Movie title before, but when I saw news had leaked of a UHD release this coming November via a German website, I thought it was funny when I saw the German artwork with its title.

Don’t know why I’m laughing, its another UHD catalogue title that I’m going to find awfully hard to resist. I don’t know how well the soft-focus ‘glow’ of the film will translate to UHD (it will hardly ‘pop’ like new titles do) but how can one resist a possibly definitive edition of this classic movie? answer: you can’t. Take my money.

Here’s a curious fact: the cinematographer for Superman: Der Film was Geoffrey Unsworth, who also shot 2001: A Space Odyssey for Stanley Kubrick which is itself getting a UHD release the month before. Imagine, both of these movies in UHD this Autumn. This may be my last new format but its going to be fun while it lasts, I think.

Second curious fact: I still haven’t watched my UHD of Blade Runner. Something is very wrong with the world, I think, and Trump isn’t the half of it.

BR2049 Recording Sessions artwork

BR2049 rec sessionsSo they save the best BR2049 poster for an amateur-sourced work for the cover of a soundtrack bootleg? Go figure.

I suppose BR2049, like the original Blade Runner, is a tough nut to crack regards poster artwork. Back when BR2049 came out on DVD in January, a friend of mine passed it by in the shop, not realising the DVD was indeed BR2049 as he initially mistook it for a Marvel movie. It does indeed look like a Marvel movie, which, sure, might help sell the film to some but hardly declares what kind of film it really is. Alienates the arthouse crowd who might give it a try and pisses off the superhero junkie who buys the film and ends up with a long, slow, thought-provoking work of art. But clearly the marketing boys for BR2049 suffered in just the same way as they did with the 1982 original. Just how do you sell a film like Blade Runner or its sequel?

Anyway, I quite like this image used for this boot.  Isn’t perfect but I quite like the black surround that lends it a darker mood and recalls the original Blade Runner painting by John Alvin. The poster is probably a final, and while it does look like a tonal study in preparation for a final render, its not a bad effort.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is all the amateur poster artwork designs for Blade Runner, some of them bad, some of them frankly amazing, that surfaced. The film is clearly a visionary inspiration for many artists. I like the ones that reflect the mood of the film; a difficult thing to capture. Since last Autumn, those Blade Runner designs have been joined by lots and lots of designs for BR2049. Its been fun looking at them. There’s a great artbook that will never happen, containing the best paintings inspired by the two films.



The Beyond (2017)

bey1A poor-mans’s Arrival and Interstellar knock-off, unfortunately, this low-budget UK sci-fi has a few moments of impressive visuals but that’s about it, betraying the fact that it was written and directed by a guy who has worked as a visual effects supervisor. For the most part it is ruined by both its blatant  ‘inspirations’ (which no doubt got the project green-lit) and its ill-conceived and ineptly executed script.

A wormhole (hello Interstellar) appears above the Earth and is somehow kept secret by the Space Agency that runs the ISS etc from the UK (!) until lots of giant alien spheres suddenly appear above cities etc down on Earth (hello Arrival). While the world appears to be on the brink of war, with the military heads world over itching to attack the spheres (hello again, Arrival)  the Space Agency plans a secret (!) mission to enter the wormhole (hello again, Interstellar) and contact the aliens  presumably responsible for populating the Earth with floating Death Stars. For some reason deciding that humans aren’t up to the ordeal, it is reasoned that cyborgs, robots with human brains placed into their metal craniums, will make the trip instead. Just as well we have all this handy tech in the year 2019.

I can only imagine that it was at the behest of the budget, but the choice of shooting the film as a fly-on-the-wall docudrama is a big mistake, reducing much of it to a literal talking-heads piece. I mean, really, it seems to go on forever listening to ‘scientists’ chatting to the camera-crew about what they think is going on. How in the world  this camera-crew happens to be filming this ultra-top secret event (allowed to film the preparations for First Contact even when, outside the Space Agency,  no-one on the planet knows the wormhole is even up there, amateur astronomers the world over presumably looking the other way) is beyond me. And its rather hysterical seeing the POV camera prowling the garden of the Space Agency chief and sneaking shots through the marigolds as she talks to a candidate for the First Contact mission over tea on her patio. Please, please, don’t get me started about the space-physics implications of a second Earth appearing right by us and being told that Venus and Mars etc have suddenly ‘disappeared’. Who writes this silly stuff and thinks they can get away with it?

So anyway, it looks good -even great in places- and therefore looks the part of a Hollywood blockbuster but it really needs a script, and a director who can direct actors. This film has neither. Its truly woeful in places and its simply betraying the fact that it was dreamed-up after watching Arrival and Interstellar and that its essentially just a tech demo for some CGI effects rigs. Which is infuriating, because if you’re given the money to make a movie like this, you should make the most of that money by doing a character-driven piece, an intelligent, low-budget drama. Don’t pretend you can be as flashy as the big boys and expect that to be enough.

But its free on Netflix so if you want to blow your mind at how bad-but-pretty modern sci-fi can be, go knock yourself out. But you’ve been warned!