Tag Archives: Steven Spielberg

Big Media gets smart?

"The River" - this year's "Lost" or the new "Flash Forward".

In a development which probably isn’t a harbinger of things to come,  ABC Studios have partnered with iTunes in the UK to bring new mystery series, “The River”, to UK viewers a day after it debuts in the US.

This is partly down to the awkward but undeniable fact that no UK broadcaster has picked up the show yet, despite reviews of the pilot like this one from io9.

Something which makes me slightly nervous about this show is the involvement of “Paranormal Activity” creator Oren Peli and Steven Spielberg as producers.  Spielberg’s record on TV isn’t the best – for every “Band of Brothers” or “The Pacific”, there’s a “Falling Skies” or “Terra Nova”.  Neither of those shows is an out and out stinker, but they’ve always seemed to me to be feature projects which couldn’t quite hack it and ended up on telly.

I have to say that I wonder if this is going to be the shape of television to come – buying a single show season pass on a platform like iTunes rather than shelling out for a pricey tv package which has only a few series that you actually want to watch.   The pricing probably has to catch up to make this model of viewing attractive – I’m not sure that I want to commit to a show from the outset which might never get beyond twelve episodes – but as I find myself watching fewer and fewer hours of TV each year (a number which will decrease  yet further when “30 Rock” ends its run), perhaps taking a punt on the new JJ Abrams or Ron D Moore show will seem like the way to go.

 

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“Terra Nova”? No thanks.

What if you had a great idea for a tv series and did nothing with it?

For me, the Steven Spielberg-produced “Terra Nova” is one of the most disappointing tv series of the last few years – it’s a prime example of having a great, compelling sci-fi idea and then irrationally deciding that the best thing to do with it is to ignore all of that complicated sci-fi guff and just tell uninteresting stories about the world’s dullest family and their inane soap opera relationships.

Over at Hijinks Ensue, Joel Watson has been thinking about the same series and has a few ideas on how to fix things…

 

 

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Tomorrow’s cyberpunk today: augmented advertising on your eyeballs.

In the future, even your eyeballs won't be safe...

I’m all for futurism.  Wi-Fi toasters?  Bluetooth underpants?  Hi-Def backpacks? Totally down with all of the above.

Sometimes, though, I begin to think that the interface of technology and humanity is going to places that I’m not comfortable with – witness Bitter Wallet’s story on Augmented Technology contact lenses.

Hence the use of the screen-grab from “Minority Report” above.  There was a film which seemed to get the future’s interface between humanity and technology bang-on.  Your eyes get a retinal scan whenever you walk into a shop and the contextual adverts update in real-time with recommendations based on your purchasing history.

I'm assuming that digital readers of augmented reality contacts won't be quite so terrifying...

It’s like a really terrifying, faux-omniscient Amazon Recommends reading your recent life every time you go to the Mall.  In related news, I don’t go to Malls unless I absolutely have to and can’t get out of going (A trait which I picked up from the wise and lovely Mrs Rolling Eyeballs whose blog title directly references “Minority Report”, fact fans).

Though the technology in the Bitter Wallet story has only so far been tested in lab conditions on Rabbit subjects as a proof of concept (because Bunnies are all about wearing contacts, yo….), one can only imagine that this stuff is going to have a subsequent application which directly impacts on a more human client base and which will inevitably be used to sell us stuff.

The history of technological innovation seems inexorably married to subsequent commercial usage – an inevitable by-product, I suppose, of the funding rounds required to develop anything worthwhile in our era.  You can’t develop something cool because you need money, which is available from private sector investors, who want results which can be effectively monetized to make a return, which arguably compromises innovation in turn because something esoteric but fantastic won’t reach a big enough market to be worthwhile.

Teetotal blogger posts augmented tech, faux-Guinness advert from nearly ten-year old film. Universe implodes at the Meta-ness...

The lovely thing about “Minority Report”, of course, is that we’re supposed to be slightly disapproving of the technological society in the movie – it’s invasive, barely regulated and runs on gadgets which erode personal liberty which we allow because it gives us greater daily convenience (insert obligatory, anti-Mark Zuckerberg joke here).  Director Steven Spielberg meanwhile manages to get lots of brands and marques to liaise with his crew of futurologists to be featured in the film (a risky gambit, as any contemporary viewer of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” will attest – it’s like a graveyard of once-prominent brands), which seems at least tacitly critical of the future it’s asking these corporate partners to sign up to.

Sweet ride, bro.

So, corporate branding is bad – but here’s a nifty futuristic Lexus for you to covet…no mixed messaging there, then.

I think that we can all agree that companies having less direct contact with us is a good thing – and that the degree to which advertising can be used to influence our behaviour is something which shouldn’t be jacked directly into our cerebral cortex (well, eyes, but you get the point).  This may be a generational thing with me – I grew up reading Gibson, Sterling, Pat Cadigan and the wave of eighties ‘cyberpunk’ authors, so the idea of corporate interests feuding over who gets to control the future is one which resonates with me.

It seems that kids don’t necessarily have the same concerns – I think to many young adults, the labyrinthine agreements which we agree to when we set up accounts on internet sites so often implicitly guarantee invasion of privacy that its seen as the norm and nothing to be bothered about unduly.  Yes, you’re being tracked, tagged and scanned as you check in on smartphone apps or buy a song on iTunes, but that free stuff you got when you signed up more than makes up for companies data-mining the hell out of you.

Still, check out these cool adverts on my eyes, man – feels good

 

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“The Adventures of Tintin – the Secret of the Unicorn” – a highly enthusiastic quick review

It's an awesome film. And a harbinger of the future?

Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish.  And that’s the talent behind the camera.

To say that this latest adaptation of Herge’s “Tintin” adventures arrives with a burden of expectation is to understate things.  There’s every chance, if you’re a nerd, that this is your most eagerly awaited film of the year, mixing as it does the talents of the film-makers above, the likes of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in performance capture form and James Cameron’s revolutionary ‘Volume’ tech to knit things together.

First things first – watching this film makes you think that you’re watching a game changer.  The fluidity of the performances, animation, cinematography and editing combine and make “Tintin” something of a revolution. It’s hard to see why you wouldn’t want to work with this technology if you’re making a large-scale action adventure film, if the action sequences in this film are any indicator.

Go and see “Tintin” and then imagine what merry hell James Cameron’s going to come up with if he gets to make “Battle Angel Alita”.  During the extended action sequence set in Morocco, my jaw hit the floor not once but twice – I couldn’t believe the visceral and exhilarating nature of the adventure Spielberg was delivering.  It’s hard to put into words as you’re aware that stunt people didn’t have to get into vehicles, camera cars didn’t have to follow a route and nobody was in any danger of being injured by the nature of the activity that eventually ended up on screen but nonetheless you’re watching Spielberg stage, realise and deliver some of the most astonishing on-screen mayhem that he’s ever come up with.

And that’s one sequence – there are around five huge set-pieces which boggle the mind equally, whether it’s the staging, the astonishing attention-to-detail in the animation, the quality of the performance capture, John Williams’ best scoring work in an age or the cumulative effect of Spielberg, Peter Jackson and co. dreaming up this adaptation and keeping everything cohesive up until its final realisation on-screen.

It’s a mind-boggling piece of work – and it feels like the future of this kind of blockbuster cinema.  It flows so well, with match-cuts becoming utterly poetic given the ability of the computer to blend seamlessly between the present, the past, the imagined and almost inventing a whole new vocabulary for directors to play with.

Blimey, imagine if Spielberg made the next “Indiana Jones” movie with this kind of tech…

That’s not to say that the hardware and software are the only thing to be interested in with this movie.  It’s a great adventure, full of daring escapes, mystery, puzzles, traps, pirates, pitched sea battles, desert wandering, a singularly plucky terrier, opera singers and a million and one other cool things.

The performances are wonderful, alchemic marriages between the raw theatrical performances of actors on set and what the animators deliver with that data and with the crucial idea that these characters have had a long life in comics which are beloved by an entire continent – you’re watching Tintin, played by Jamie Bell, animated by stupendously talented people and the end result is just dizzying.  It’s real, but comic book and utterly contemporary but somehow warm and old-fashioned.

Watching the end film, you can’t help but be won over by the sheer talent at play here, by the craft and wit and skill which went into this utterly distinctive and exciting film – it’s a popcorn blockbuster to treasure, an adaptation to appreciate and a film to utterly enchant you if you give yourself over to it.

 

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