Friday, 12 March 2010

Shutter Island

Undeniably captivating ...

Taking on the case of a mysterious disappearance of a patient in a hospital for those who are criminally insane, US Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) attempt to investigate a rather absurd escape. With the help of the head psychiatrist Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), Teddy and Chuck attempt to unravel how a patient, named Rachael Solando (Emily Mortimer), was able to completely vanish from the confines of her locked room.

Shutter Island begins with a brooding image of a ferry making its way through some heavy fog, and it is the very enigmatic nature of the scene which claws its way throughout the narrative till the thought provoking conclusion. This becomes far more evident when many scenes and symbolic gestures in the film are soaked in a hint of polysemy. Of course this would not work without a very engaging storyline and Shutter Island makes for an exciting, and never dull, thriller. This is mostly achieved through the narratives pacing being quite consistent throughout for the film never felt like it was dragging. That said, it can be a little disorientating when the narrative decides its time to bombard information upon Teddy, and the viewer, in an attempt to guide the film to the mystery of Rachael Solando's escape. The film is by no means overly complicated but if you lose track of the information which these certain scenes attempt to convey, the films real twist can appear somewhat disjointed even if it is to an extent predictable.

The narrative is only heightened by a group of actors who do a convincing job of representing their respective characters. The character of Teddy is easily the most important and DiCaprio does a great job of conveying the character's need to find the truth while battling the guilt over the horrors of his own past life. Kingsley provides a wonderful performance as the head psychiatrist on the island who wishes to rehabilitate the mentally ill instead of resorting to measures such as lobotomy. He has a restrained and calm manner which exudes his character's intellectual capability. Ruffalo provides good support to DiCaprio, as he assumes the role of the concerned and eager to help partner. The entire supporting cast, involving the likes of Ted Levine and Elias Koteas, to name a few, all perform at their best to assure that Shutter Island feels highly believable, though it is just a pity that some of them only appear for a few minutes. This does result in Teddy being the only character with any real emotional appeal outside the intellectual nature of the film.

The filming style by Martin Scorsese is an absolute wonder, especially the final scene, as he utilises varying techniques in order to construct the web of events into something meaningful but abstract. Some techniques could appear unusable in modern films but they nevertheless work to enhance the film. Another good addition to the cinematography is how a few stylised camera sequences are used on single occasions allowing the film to constantly remain fresh. The computer imagery which accompanies the work is of a generally high standard with some beautifully rendered scenes enhanced by the Gothic atmosphere. Still, the computer imagery is not entirely top tier material with some scenes lacking the polish of others.

There is no sex in the film though nudity does make an appearance in one scene of a couple of seconds showing some male genitalia. Violence is largely in the form of Teddy's memories which involve soldiers being gunned down and blood appearing in large pools, both for realistic deaths and for artistic reasons. Dead bodies are shown throughout, some with bloody results, and involve adults and children. Language is contained mostly to F-words and blasphemy. Neither overpower the film and are sporadically placed through the plus 2 hour run time, yet the blasphemy can come across as slightly more excessive then required.

Shutter Island culminates into a fascinating outlook on how truth can be both liberating and destructive. This is achieved through a combination of a tight and absorbing narrative; superb acting performances; and a film style that enhances the Gothic atmosphere required for the thematic depth to be appreciated. The film does lose some footing with the odd narrative hiccup; some slight graphical issues; and a lack of emotional pull from the general characters for some part of the film. Nevertheless, Shutter Island is an intelligently taut thriller which allows its viewers to ultimately invest in its characters and story while providing ample entertainment.


Screen date: 12 March 2010
Release date: 12 March 2010

Thursday, 11 March 2010

GDC 2010: Sony Conference Overview

Playstation 3

Playstation Move
- motion controller.
- bundles include standalone controller, with the playstation eye and a whole PS3 bundle.

Playstation Move sub controller
- 2nd controller to assist the Move for use in traditional games.

- trailer shows off the PS Move adding new motion control actions to the game beyond the existing PS Eye movements.

- demo showcasing the PS Move.
- one person controls the Sackboy while the other player uses the Move to manipulate the environment.

Gran Turismo 5:
- will ship in 2010.

Motion Fighters:
- black and white 3rd person fighting game where 2 PS Move controllers are used for each arm of the character.

Move Party:
- family title which uses the Move, PS Eye and mic.
- similar in design to the original Eyetoy games by including a bunch of mini games like hitting objects, painting and cutting hair.

Socom 4:
- includes support for the motion controls with use of the Move and sub controller.

Sports Champion:
- includes a variety of games including Gladiator Fight, table tennis.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Alice in Wonderland

Late for tea ...

While attending a party on a Victorian estate, Alice Kingsley (Mia Wasikowska) becomes interested in an apparent white rabbit she sees. Upon following the rabbit, Alice finds herself caught up in a magical world unlike reality known as Underland. Alice believes she is dreaming, but with the help of the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) she learns that she is needed to help stop the Red Queen's (Helena Bonham Carter) reign of terror.

Alice in Wonderland can, on first appearance, seem like a remake of the original story on which it is based. But as the story develops it becomes clear that it is a sequel of sorts following the life of Alice now that she is older. The narrative is divided into two parts, namely the Victorian setting which opens and closes the film and that of Underland of which the film is mostly comprised. There is a very interesting point of departure in how both worlds become important for Alice's development as a woman in Victorian London but the relation is just poorly implemented on Tim Burton's part. Though, it must be said that Alice in Wonderland is merely Lewis Carroll's original story just with a Goth coating and with less thematic depth: in fact it is perhaps one of Burton's least original and weakest in terms of narrative fecundity but the feminist undertones are noticeable. It should be noted that character development is perhaps the weakest point of the film with no character really showing off any tangible development whatsoever. It could be argued that Alice does grow as a character and this is what allows her to make the decisions she does in the end, but these actions only portray her original feminist ideas, rather than any self-reflection on her part of the society in which she lives. In a rather bizarre twist, the seriousness of the final act of Underland is finished by a rather unappealing, albeit slightly funny, act which hurts the more film then it helps. Humour becomes a largely hit-and-miss affair with some being plainly unfunny, though the Red Queen allows for some good laughs.

That said, the acting is a mixed bag with some actors getting their respective character spot on and others seemingly unable to do so. Alice and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) are sadly examples of the latter which is disappointing since it is with these two that the film carries itself. Wasikowska may be able to look the part but she is far too subdued in her emotion and tone range for the feminist Alice, while Hathaway gets herself wrapped up in poor overacting. On the reverse there are some great performances to be seen with the Red Queen and the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry). Both are wonderful performances and easily help elevate the film's overall quality as Carter shouts out the most hilarious line of the film over and over without any dulling effect as Fry oozes a charisma that is sure to put a smile on your face. Lastly, there is Depp as the Mad Hatter: Depp comes across as playing his usual eccentric character which feels a little tiresome at times these days. On top of this his character's vocal change shows hint of his Jack Sparrow character which breaks the illusion of the film. Nevertheless, Depp does showcase why he is a talented actor but he never really does anything exciting to make the Mad Hatter that much different to previous roles.

On the opposite side of the spectrum the physical nature of the film looks and sounds delightful with some good use of computer animation and music. It is never on par with the likes of Avatar in terms of lushness, but there is a distinct cartoon feel which resonates well for the film: just as great as Fry is as the Cheshire Cat, so is the physical manifestation of the character an appealing sight. There are however some shortcomings such as wonky movement animation on the rare character and some major texturing issues resulting in some average looking character models. The added 3D elements in the 3D version of the film lack life and are unimaginatively used for the sole purpose of having the film released at 3D cinemas.

The film contains no sex, nudity or language. Violence is in small dose with some sword fighting which results in a creature having its eye taken out and another losing its head but it is far from being termed 'violent'.

'Wonderful' would be far too much praise for Burton's adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic story. Like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory before, Alice in Wonderland shows why Burton's version of an existing story is not always a good one. The narrative lacks depth with feminist dealings being the only core concern; character development is unheard of; and the overall acting ensemble do not do the overall cast justice. That said the computer animation serves the film's source material adequately enough; the musical score is worth noting and the film offers a potentially fun experience: it just lacks the wonder it so desperately needs.


Screen date: 06 March 2010
Release date: 06 March 2010