Category Archives: Film & TV

Reviews and thoughts on Films and TV Programmes.

I made a t-shirt design

I loved that Muppets film with Ricky Gervais. It was silly, funny and very quotable. I loved it so much I really wanted to buy a t-shirt with a quote from one of the characters from the film. I searched and searched, but I couldn’t find it. The sad reality was that the t-shirt simply did not exist.

So I made one.

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I used Adobe Illustrator and it was simple to do. The hardest probably was coming up with a background colour that looked good against the all green.

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Here’s a preview of the site I used (Redbubble). Click here to go there, you can even buy a mug or an iPhone cover!

 

 

 

 

Synopsis – The Host (Gwoemul)

Warning: This synopsis reveals the plot in full, including the ending.

The Host (Gwoenmul) directed by Bong Joon-ho
The Host

Korea, the year 2000. An american scientist works in a laboratory with his Korean assistant. They dispose of dangerous chemical waste into the Han River. An amphibious creature is sighted in the river years later.

Korea, 2006. Gang-du, a fast food shack owner is delivering food with his daughter Hyun-seo, when a gigantic amphibious creature emerges from the river attacking and eating people. When trying to escape, the monster grabs his daughter and disappears in the water. The gobernment issues a communicate explaining that the monster is also carrying a deadly unknown virus and that came in contact everyone must be tested. While quarantined at the hospital, Gang-du  receives a call from his daughter. She is alive somewhere in the sewers where the creature built a nest. Against all odds, he is able to track down the location of the call and rescue his daughter, who has also helped See-joo, a small boy escape. In the process of escaping, Gang-du’s daughter dies trying to save the boy.

After the creature has been killed, Gang-du adopts See-joo.

Synopsis: High-Rise

High-Rise, directed by Ben Wheatley
High-Rise

Warning: This synopsis reveals the plot in full, including the ending.

Dr Robert Laing moves into a luxurious tower block. The building’s structure reflects social status, as the residents in the lower floors are middle-class and the residents in the higher floors are high-class. The very top floor is owned by Anthony Royal, the owner and architect of the building. The residents of the tower socialise with others from their own floors, reinforcing the concept of class division, but after a complete power failure chaos ensues. The residents adopt tribe-like behaviour and parties are held in the hallways of the high-rise. The tension between classes escalates, people are beat-up, killed or forced into becoming maids.

Laing makes it to the top floor and has dinner with Royal, where the architect argues that the events that are currently taking place in the high-rise will ultimately lead to improvements at the newer buildings still under construction. Royal is shot and more people are killed.

Life in the high-rise has now become normal. Anarchy and chaos reign supreme.

Synopsis: Kill List

Warning: This synopsis reveals the plot in full, including the ending.

Kill List Ben Wheatley
Kill List

Jay, who lives with his wife Shel and young son, has not worked since a traumatic mission as a hitman in Kiev. Attempting to escape a stale relationship with her husband, Shel invites Gal, Jay’s partner from his hitman days and his new girlfriend Fiona to a dinner party. Gal convinces him to work  on a new mission to kill three targets. Fiona goes to the toilet and carves a cultist symbol behind their mirror.

The first and second targets seem to recognise Jay and are grateful to be killed by him. The third target is an MP who is tracked down at his mansion. There, they witness a human sacrifice ceremony in which Jay opens fire. The cultists kill Gal and capture Jay, forcing him to fight a hunchback. Once he kills him, he removes the disguise and discovers that it was in fact his wife and son tied to her back. The cultists crown Jay as he loses his sanity.

Kill List – Directed by Ben Wheatley.

Truth through film

One of the first things you are going to find out about me is that I am Chilean. I tell everyone, all the time. I have almost become more Chilean now that I no longer live there, but it is probably because the distance allows me to analyse Chile in a more objective way.
It was living here in the UK when I first heard about Patricio Guzmán, a Chilean

patricio-guzman
Patricio Guzmán (Radio U de Chile)

documentary filmmaker. A Chilean friend who also lives in the UK mentioned him in passing and told me all about his work. It was interesting to me, as he appeared to deal with the two biggest issues in Chile, the second one being the Coup d’état.

Shortly after being exposed to Guzmán’s work, I was asked by my tutors at the Manchester School of Art to introduce Nostalgia for the Light to the rest of the filmmaking students. Life is full of coincidences like that. I was happy to do it, but as I was speaking about it in front of everyone I realised how textbook -like my knowledge was. And I grew up there!

 

 

I was born in ’89, the beginning of a new era in Chile. My working class family struggled as most working class families did, but they were very fortunate to never have experienced the horrors of the Pinochet‘s military government directly. The ’88 plebiscite changed Chile forever. Pinochet was no longer in power, but the damage was already done as Chile continued to be divided, politically and culturally, going beyond social status. This is Chile’s number one problem.

Patricio Guzmán’s approach to these issues is perhaps the best way to approach them. His documentaries are tackled in a rather poetic way, making them very effective as it proves the problems trascend politics. It should not be a case of whether you are conservative or liberal, rich or poor, educated or ignorant or whether your family was affected directly by the derranged military government or not. It is an issue that concerns everyone and should be accessible to everyone. This is why Patricio’s work is important. The human approach to these horrors trascend everything else. His works are a testament to the power of film.

Nobody talked about politics in my family and we only needed to know the basics: democracy is good, tyranny is bad and money is a necessity. These are the ingredients for conformity, forcing yourself to play the game even if you don’t like the rules. Patricio Guzmán has taught me more than just facts and has revealed more than buried secrets, he has made me care about the division that tears our country apart everyday, politically and socially.

Recently, Home organised a preview screening for The Pearl Button, followed by a Q&A with the man himself. This is where I was able to ask him if we could ever fix this problem of estrangement in Chile and his answer put my worries to rest. We must work hard to dig up the truth. The memories that had been hidden from us, away from reality. Only memory can unite a country. The goal is to move forward by remembering the past.

You can catch the Q&A from Home below. My question is towards the end:

CineSpace
NASA – CineSpace

As an external project, we will be submitting a short film for CineSpace. I am using Guzmán’s approach to documentary to explore the spiritual drive behind space exploration and how it it uses science as a tool for emotional discovery. We are hoping to use resources such as poetic imagery, thought-provoking voice-overs and minimalistic soundtrack.

I will be blogging about that project soon.

 

 

 

 

Greg Daniels: Defining TV comedy one word at a time

The other day I met Greg Daniels. Not casually though, it was part of the Salford Comedy Festival, organised by the BBC. In partnership with the University of Salford, they set up what they call Comedy Masterclasses, in an effort to promote comedy writing and the function of the BBC Writersroom as a facilitator of opportunities.

salford comedy festival

One of these sessions was In Conversation with Greg Daniels. Now, you may not know who he is by name, but I am willing to bet actual money* on the fact that you have indeed seen his work. Saturday Night Live? Seinfeld? The Simpsons? King of the Hill? The American version of The Office? You can tick all those boxes.

I have not encountered a lot of people who are into Seinfeld here in the UK. We, on the contrary, love the show in South America. Something to do with being America’s backyard, I think. I don’t know for how long Seinfeld was aired in the UK or if it was aired at all, but not only is it a funny show, it’s a smart one too. I will use some resources to elaborate on this, first the video below and Greg Daniel’s anecdote.

Seen the video? Great! This episode was written by Greg Daniels and it was based on something that happened to his father, who used to live in New York City and spent hours just to find a parking space. Now, we all have funny anecdotes, but stuff that’s happened to us, family members or friends may not translate well onto the screen and resonate with audiences around the world. “It’s all about the characters” Says Mr Daniels. In the scene shown above, it is funny because of who George Costanza is, and how he reacts to everyday situations. This seems like a rather simple thing to learn when writing comedy, but it is vital. This is why good character-based comedies don’t do well in the beginning. According to Greg Daniels, this is because you need to develop and build these characters first in order to understand why the funny bits should be funny. The audience needs to know who these people are in order to laugh, if you want to have a solid comedy programme.

“Good character comedy takes a while to get going, because you have to get to know the characters”

He moves on to speak about the differences in the original The Office and the American adaptation and how the audiences want different things from the characters. In the UK, people are into the fact that everyone is very incompetent at what they do and at being social. The sarcastic, pessimistic, dark, British comedy had to be cheered-up for the American audience, as they prefer something more optimistic. He goes on to say that the Michael Scott character gets into problems and uncomfortable situations, but because he means well. He gives the example that Michael Scott promised to pay for the University tuitions of several under-privileged children, but is unable to keep his promise as he hasn’t become as successful as he thought he would. He meant well…

“US audiences struggle with the lead character being incompetent at what they do, but British audiences like this”

Greg Daniels also wrote for The Simpsons in a period I like to call the Golden Age of Simpsons. He wrote classics like the one where Bart sells his soul or when Apu moves in with the Simpsons. Just straight up classics!

To wrap things up, here’s some of the jargon he has come up with to assist his team of writers:

  • Walnut: A joke that required a lot of work to get and the reward isn’t that great.
  • Goldilocks: A principle used as a resource to pitch your story in a simple manner.
  • Fat Draft: A script that has multiple possible jokes that could potentially be used.
  • Candy Bag: Excellent jokes or lines that are not used go into the Candy Bag for later use.

Yet again, nothing but high praise for the BBC for organising an event like this. Did I mention it was free? It was an amazing experience overall, being able to learn from one of my heroes. Just wish it had been longer. There is so much more to learn from a giant like Greg Daniels.

*Not actually willing to bet any money at all, you can stop sending emails now. Thank you.

The dire situation of Jonathan Creek’s inevitable future

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while. BBC’s Jonathan Creek was a little gem for us South Americans. A novelty. Not to say that Britain always took it for granted, quite the contrary, I am just elevating its achievements. So great were these that they translate well even outside Britain, considering differences in culture and language. But upon watching the latest iteration of this series and its blurry intentions, only one thing is clear: its demise.

jonathan creek
Title Screen – BBC

Jonathan Creek used to be charming, cheesy (in the best way possible) and above all, intelligent. Not only were the stories well written, but the characters where interesting and strangely believable. I would not employ any of these sentences to describe the latest series, which at the moment has delivered two episodes that leave me wondering what went wrong. More importantly, why did they decide to name this Jonathan Creek as it has nothing to do with the previous series?

We see it all the time in video games. Nintendo comes up with an interesting new idea, a fresh mechanic that provides unique gameplay, but the idea is hard to market. This is why we have so many Mario spin-offs. Mario Kart, Tennis, Strikers and even the Super Smash Bros franchise were ideas so bold that had to be re-skinned to something the audience was familiar with. The big difference here is that the people at Nintendo knows what they are doing.

jonathan creek
The good ol’ days. (BBC)

This new Jonathan Creek feels like a different series that just uses the name to draw in viewers. The charm is gone, the characters do not have chemistry and the mysteries are simple and uninteresting. Even Alan Davies seems to be playing a different character, one that just happens to be named Jonathan Creek. He is no longer the awkward but witty magician’s assistant that lived in a windmill, he is now a humourless man who works for an ad agency. Everything that made Jonathan Creek what it was is gone. Even if they are not just using the name to draw in viewers, this is exactly how it feels. It would not be as bad if the “mysteries” and storylines were interesting and smart , but they are mundane and uninspired. They have to be interesting enough for the audience to care and the reveal must satisfy the expectations. The quality of the writing has gone down and it seems the writers are trying to compensate with more instead of better, as both the new episodes had at least three mysteries each, as opposed to older episodes that had just the one, cohesive mystery.

In my opinion, Jonathan Creek did not need reinventing. Both the format of the programme and the character himself would have been fine if no changes were made. It would have made perfect sense if an older Creek was still single, still had a partner he had chemistry with, was still a magician’s assistant and still solving crimes the way he used to. It would have made sense because it would have stayed true to the outlook he had of people and the world. If you wanted to introduce a more mature version of him, maybe make him a magician running his own show. Delivering illusions and tricks with awkward humour would have made his show unique.

This is why I keep wondering what happened. Maybe the people writing it have conflicting interests, or do not have a clear vision of what they want the programme to be. Maybe the people writing it are unfamiliar with what made Jonathan Creek work.

Tomorrow night BBC will be airing the third and final episode for this series. I don’t have high expectations, but I would really love to be surprised.

At least the technical aspects are top notch and it is beautifully shot.