Saturday, 18 February 2017

Boy You Turnin' Me [Review: Upside Down]

Adam and Eden, the hero and heroine of French film “Upside Down” are star-crossed lovers, the poor boy and the rich girl. Just like Romeo and Juliet, Laura and Alec or Megashark and Giant Octopus, they live in different worlds – no, they literally live in different worlds, one suspended above the other and each with its’ own gravity. 

When Adam (Jim Sturgess) last saw Eden (Kirsten Dunst) she was falling upwards towards her own world and to her death.  Years later, when Adam discovers that Eden is still alive and working for Transcorp, a mysterious company whose offices link the two worlds, he comes up with a crazy plan to win her back.

Adam and Eden strive to escape the limitations of their societies and geometries, so Upside Down is Science Fiction.

“Upside Down” tells a simple and rather traditional story of love across the class divide, with a crude and obvious use of metaphor. Good performances from Sturgess and Dunst can’t cover over the lack of depth in the writing. I don’t care. Like Tron: Legacy, Mad Max: Fury Road and Daybreakers, this film is an example of near-perfect worldbuilding. It would work with or without the humans, although arguably any film where Kirsten Dunst kisses someone upside down is by definition a good film. The genius of “Upside Down” is the extraordinary environment of the twin worlds. It's thought out, designed and filmed in a way that every scene is visually striking, and every detail of every scene tells a chapter of the story, the history of the characters and their societies - a story far more rich and nuanced than the melodramatic script.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Countdown [Review: Hidden Figures]

“Hidden Figures” tells the story of three mathematicians who became crucial to the US space programme, and who faced down sexists and racists in the segregated America of the 1960s along the way. The three lead characters, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan, all strived to escape the limitations of what to all intents and purposes was a dystopian society, so “Hidden Figures” is Science Fiction – it just happens to be true as well.

This film could have been as bleak or serious as its’ subject matter. However the obstacles faced by Katherine Johnson (Taraji Henson, superb in “Person of Interest”) and her fellow “computers” would not be out of place in a Kafka play or a Douglas Adams novel. Appropriately the film is light and humorous in places, although there’s plenty of black humour too. It works - it's easy to ridicule and show up the behaviour of the bigots, played by Jim Parsons and Kirsten Dunst, while the lighter moments show Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson as human. They were never woad-painted freedom fighters, rather they fought and won their battles with their brains, sticking it to the Man from the inside, and by using humour the film does the same.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

A Mars A Day [work in progress]

Working on a Martian landscape, with some help from the Guru:

Someone should sweep up all these rocks...

Produced in Blender 2.76
Based on a Blender Guru tutorial

Tuesday, 22 November 2016


Newt Scamander’s never quite tough enough
To catch his pet niffler who snaffles stuff.
Well-meaning, sincere,
And not quite all here:
In other words – typical Hufflepuff...

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

I'm a sucker for a French movie [Review: Evolution]

Nicholas is a young boy, probably eight or nine. He lives with his mother, and other young boys and their curiously pale-skinned mothers, in a town of concrete cube houses on an isolated island. Nicholas' very presence is an enigma - like the other boys, he bears no physical similarity to his mother, and also he likes to draw places and people that he cannot have experienced on the island. He starts to look for answers, but is whisked away to a sinister hospital where he makes an unlikely friend and discovers something truly horrific about the island.

This film has restored my faith in French horror cinema, and I can finally forgive our international neighbours for Eden Log. It's short, at about une heure et quart, and it's beautifully shot in stark colours, interspersed with awesome nature photography. The motif of the starfish recurs throughout the film and adds mystery and menace to the atmosphere - in one scene where the symbol appears in the operating theatre lights, I was dumbstruck.

Evolution is nightmare fuel of a subtle, quiet type. It's not a gore-fest, although some of the scenes in the hospital are bloody enough. It's more of an atmospheric chiller, with a surprisingly tender story at its heart about the unexpected friendship Nicholas finds at the hospital. Meanwhile the precision with which the plot unwinds, and the equally precise cinematography, gives the impression that everything in this enigmatic film is there for a reason, and I suspect I will be returning to it over and again trying to solve the puzzles.

I should point out as a public service that this is a French movie, directed in 2015 by Lucile Hadžihalilović. If at any point a youthful David Duchovny appears on your screen, you are watching the wrong film.