Minggu, 28 April 2013

Matt Stover's ACTS OF CAINE series comes to the UK

The first four volumes in Matt Woodring Stover's critically-acclaimed Acts of Caine series are being published for the first time in the UK on 27 May.

The books are only being published as ebooks, though hopefully a UK publisher will follow up with paper copies at some point.

The series is set on a futuristic Earthwhich has discovered the existence of Overworld, a parallel world with a culture and tech level more like traditional epic fantasy worlds. The central character is Hari Michaelson, an actor on Earth who travels to Overworld to play the role of the deadly assassin Caine. His adventures are recorded to be shown as entertainment on Earth. Needless to say, complications and mayhem ensue.

To date, four books have been published: Heroes Die (1997), Blade of Tyshalle (2001), Caine Black Knife (2008) and Caine's Law (2012). Stover has projected up to three more volumes to follow. I will be reviewing the series in the coming months.

 Update: From Scott Lynch, via the comments:
"Oh, you fortunate people. HEROES DIE and BLADE OF TYSHALLE directly informed the writing of THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA... I'd dare say they were what taught me how to craft a novel. Matt is criminally underrated, and these books are bog standard for him, which is to say 'brilliant.' They're bold, startling, multi-layered, humane, and laugh-out-loud wonderful at frequent intervals. I'm not really anything resembling objective on Matt any more, and he's a friend, but I appreciated his work before I ever got to really know him."
Update 2: The UK ebooks have their own cover art, which is, erm, disappointingly generic:

The Tyrant's Law by Daniel Abraham

The armies of Antea have conquered Asterilhold, but Geder Palliako, the Regent, allows his troops no time for rest. His plans, and those of the cult of the spider goddess, have taken on a note of urgency as they try to unearth the conspiracy that resulted in the death of the last King of Antea. In Camnipol, the disgraced wife of the traitor Dawson is working to both reestablish herself and her household and to bring about Geder's downfall. In the wilderness of the southern jungles, Marcus Wester and the renegade spider priest Kit are searching for a powerful weapon to use against the cult. And in the city of Suddapal Cithrin is apprenticed to an experienced banker to complete her training. But as the armies of Antea advance, Cithrin discovers that making money may be less important than finding a good cause on which to spend it.

The Tyrant's Law is the third volume in the five-volume The Dagger and the Coin, bringing this series past its halfway point. Those who've read The Dragon's Path and The King's Blood will know what to expect: well-crafted characters in an interesting (if not overtly original) world taking part in a plot inspired by a mixture of Babylon 5, Firefly and the real-life history of the Medicis. Like many such epic fantasy series with a number of entwining plots and character arcs, the series risks getting more diffuse the further it goes on, but Abraham prevents sprawl by maintaining a tight grip on a small number of POV characters: the entire plot unfolds from the POVs of Cithrin, Marcus, Clara (Dawson's widow) and Geder alone. This keeps the pace brisk and the word-count low, though not the page-count; due to a questionable decision to print the book in a font so large I briefly thought it was the edition for the hard of seeing, the book is exactly 500 pages in length, which seems rather unnecessary.

Still, The Tyrant's Law is a very good fantasy novel. Abraham has always been more interested in the nuances of characters than in massive battles and magical fireworks, and his most enviable skill is developing characters concisely and establishing convincing depths within them. So whilst we have no new POV characters, all of the returning faces get new dimensions added to them and more development into fully-rounded individuals. Geder becomes more accomplished in the arts of political intrigue, Clara becomes a convincing intriguer and Cithrin, already a skilled financier, learns some things about family and responsibility. Though not POV characters, both Yardem and Kit also develop in intriguing ways. Abraham undercuts some traditional epic fantasy tropes as well, such as turning a Conan-esque raid on a temple into a moment of profound character and spiritual revelation.

In some areas The Tyrant's Law is a bit of a let-down on The King's Blood. There's a lot of wandering around the countryside and at two separate times the same characters head into the wilderness to find a secret magical MacGuffin, giving rise to a feeling of repetition (though again Abraham subverts expectations with a surprisingly epic flashback ending). Cithrin being reluctantly apprenticed to yet another Medean bank executive (albeit a rather different character) and learning valuable life lessons also feels a bit over-familiar. The Tyrant's Law is a middle volume and showing some of the weaknesses of that position, but overcomes most of them through some solid plotting and decent characterisation.

If there is one major criticism that can be made of the series, it's that Abraham has deliberately set out to write something more traditional after the relative commercial disappointment of his debut sequence, the lyrical and imaginative Long Price Quartet. As a result, whilst Long Price felt like it was written from the heart, Dagger and the Coin sometimes feels a little too artificially-constructed and a little too knowing in its references. This isn't a major problem, but it does make one feel that this series is going to end up in the 'enjoyably good series' pile rather than the 'modern fantasy classics', where Long Price firmly resides. Still, with two more books to go, Abraham still has time to elevate the series to a new level.

The Tyrant's Law (****½) will be published in the UK and USA on 14 May.

Sabtu, 27 April 2013

UK cover art: Tad Williams and Guy Gavriel Kay

Some new cover art for the UK market. First up is Happy Hour in Hell, the second volume in Tad Williams's Bobby Dollar series and the follow-up to last year's enjoyable Dirty Streets of Heaven. The UK edition is released on 26 September.

More imminent is Guy Gavriel Kay's River of Stars, which is already out in the USA (and e-book worldwide) and picking up good reviews. The UK print edition is out on 3 July.

Thanks to Jussi on the Westeros forum for spotting these.

Jumat, 26 April 2013

2013 German Film Award Winners

Posting winners as they are announced via Twitter and facebook.  When info becomes available at official site, will confirm winners.  All winners are confirmed in official site that you can check here.

Honorary Lola goes to Werner Herzog; Audience Award Lola to Schlussmacher by Matthias Schweighöfer and Torsten Künstler.

Seems that Oh Boy will win most major awards... only one to go... and went to Oh Boy, which becomes the big winner tonight.

Winners are in BLUE.

A few hours ago the Deutsche Filmakademie (German Film Academy) announced the nominees for the Deutscher Filmpreis (German Film Awards) -better known as Lolas- and Cloud Atlas leads the pack with 9 nods including top award and Best Director closely followed by Jan Ole Gester's debut film Oh Boy with eight nods.

These are the nominees for all the 16 categories.

Best Film
Cloud Atlas, Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer
*Hannah Arendt, Margarethe von Trotta BEST FILM IN SILVER
*Lore, Cate Shortland BEST FILM IN BRONZE
*Oh Boy, Jan Ole Gerster  BEST FILM IN GOLD
Quellen des Lebens, Oskar Roehler
Die Wand (The Wall), Julian Roman Pölsler

Best Director
*Jan Ole Gester for Oh Boy
Margarethe von Trotta for Hannah Arendt
Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer for Cloud Atlas

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Martina Gedeck in Die Wand (The Wall)
Birgit Minichmayr in Gnade (Mercy)
*Barbara Sukowa in Hannah Arendt

Best Supporting Actress
Margarita Broich in Quellen des Lebens
Friederike Kempter in Oh Boy
*Christine Schorn in Das Leben ist nichts für Feiglinge

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Edin Hasanovic in Schuld sind immer die Anderen
*Tom Schilling in Oh Boy
Sabin Tambrea in Ludwig II

Best Supporting Actor
*Michael Gwisdek in Oh Boy
Robert Gwisdek in Das Wochenende (The Weekend)
Ernst Stötzner in Was Bleibt (Home for the Weekend)

Best Screenplay
Pam Katz and Margarethe von Trotta for Hannah Arendt
*Jan Ole Gerster for Oh Boy
Anna Maria Praßler for Schuld sind immer die Anderen

Best Cinematography
Adam Arkapaw for Lore
Jakub Bejnarowicz for Gnade (Mercy)
*John Troll and Frank Briebe for Cloud Atlas

Best Art Direction
Susann Bieling for Die Abenteuer des Huck Finn
*Uli Hanisch and Hugo Bateup for Cloud Atlas
Udo Kramer for Die Vermessung der Welt (Measuring the World)

Best Editing
*Alexander Berner for Cloud Atlas
Anne Fabini for More Than Honey
Anja Siemens for Oh Boy

Best Sound Design
*Christian Bischoff, Uve Haussig and Johannes Konecny for Die Wand (The Wall)
Benjamin Krbetschek and Holger Lehmann for Du hast es Versprochen (Forgotten)
Stefan Soltau, Björn Wiese and Dominik Rätz for Gnade (Mercy)
Markus Stemler, Ivan Sharrock, Frank Kruse, Matthias Lempert, Roland Winke and Lars Ginzel for Cloud Atlas

Best Film Score
*The Major Minors and Cherilyn MacNeil for Oh Boy
Max Richter for Lore
Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil for Cloud Atlas

Best Costume Design
*Kym Barrett and Pierre-Yves Gayraud for Cloud Atlas
Stefanie Bieker for Lore
Frauke Firl for Hannah Arendt
Thomas Oláh for Die Vermessung der welt (Measuring the World)

Best Make Up
Jeannette Latzelsberger, Gregor Eckstein, Elke Lebender, Stephanie Däbritz and Julia Rinkl for Quellen des lebens
*Daniel Parker and Jeremy Woodhead for Cloud Atlas
Astrid Weber for Hannah Arendt

Best Documentary
*More Than Honey, Markus Imhoof
Vergis Mein Nicht, David Sieveking
Die Wohnung (The Flat), Arnon Goldfinger

Best Children's Film
Das Haus der Krokodile (Victor and the Secret of Crocodile Mansion), Cyrill Boss and Philipp Stennert
*Kaddisch für einen Freund, Leo Khasin

To check the official list go here.  Awards ceremony will take place on April 26 in Berlin's Friedrichstadt-Palast, will be broadcast live by ZDF and will be hosted by Mirjam Weichselbraun.

There are many interesting films among the nominees, specially the family/personal dramas that seem to have interesting stories but there are a few period films and/or historical real life people  that also could be interesting. Among the documentaries The Flat has become must be seen for me. Great.

66th Festival de Cannes Official Selection Lineup - Update 1

Today organizers announced five (5) more films in the Official Selection, with Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive (with Tilda Swinton) going into the Competition, Claude Lanzmann's Le Dernier des Injustes out of competition and three (3) films in Un Certain Regard: Lucia Puenzo's Wakolda, Hiner Saleem's My Sweet Pepperland and Katrin Gebbe's Tore Tanzt.

A few minutes ago the Official Selection lineup was unveiled and yes, there are some very positive surprises for me even when most films in the main competition are the ones everyone was buzzing and speculating will make the selection. The surprises: the latest film by master filmmaker Jia Zhangke, one of my favorite Sixth Generation Chinese directors, and none other than Amat Escalante that even when his films are quite violent, truly mesmerizes me with his particular and peculiar style. Fantastic!

My biggest non-positive surprise is to find Steven Soderbergh latest film in the Official Selection (?!) not only is a TV movie (is HBO) but the film stills and promotion material seems truly awful representation of Liberace. Obviously now I know will expect more from this movie that will premier Sunday, May 26 at 9pm on HBO.

As have been doing in previous years in one post will list ALL films that made this year selection and will update as soon as they announce new films in any section.


Behind the Candelabra, Steven Soderbergh, USA
Borgman, Alex van Warmerdam, Netherlands
Grisgris, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, France and Chad
Heli, Amat Esclante, Mexico
Inside Llewyn Davis, Ethan and Joel Coen, USA
Jeune et Jolie, François Ozon, France
Jimmy P. (aka Jimmy Picard) (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian), Aranud Desplechin, USA
La Vie d'A Adèle (aka Le Bleu est une coleur chaude), Abdellatif Kechiche, France
La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty), Paolo Sorrentino, Italy and France
La Vénus à la fourrure (Venus in Fur), Roman Polansky, France
Le passé (The Past), Asghar Farhadi, France
Michael Kohlhaas, Arnaud des Pallières, France and Germany
The Immigrant (aka Lowlife), James Gray, USA
Nebraska, Alexander Payne, USA
Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch, USA
Only God Forgives, Nicolas Winding Refn, France and Denmark
そして父になる Soshite chichi ni naru (Like Father, Like Son), Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan
天注定 Tian Zhu Ding (A Touch of Sin), Jia Zhangke, China
Un château en Italie, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, France
藁の楯 わらのたて Wara No Tate (Shield of Straw), Takashi Miike, Japan

Out of Competition
Opening Film: The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann, Australia and USA
Closing Film: Zulu, Jérôme Salle, France
All is Lost, J.C. Chandor, USA
Blood Ties, Guillaume Canet, France and USA
Le dernier des injustes, Claude Lanzmann, France and Austria

The Jury
President: Steven Spielberg, director, USA
Naomi Kawase, director, Japan
Cristian Mungiu, director, scriptwriter and producer, Romania
Lynne Ramsay, director, scriptwriter and producer, UK
Ang Lee, director, scriptwriter and producer, Taiwan
Daniel Auteuil, actor and director, France
Christoph Waltz, actor, Austria
Nicole Kidman, actress and  producer, Australia
Vidya Balan, actress, India

Un Certain Regard

Opening Film: The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola, USA
Anonymous, Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran
As I Lay Dying, James Franco, USA
(*) Bends, Flora Lau, Hong Kong and China
Death March, Adolfo Alix Jr., Philippines
(*) Fruitvale Station, Ryan Coogler, USA
Grand Central, Rebecca Zlotowski, France
(*) La Jaula de Oro, Diego Quemada-Diez, Mexico
Les Salauds, Claire Denis, France
L'Image Manquante, Rithy Panh, Cambodia
L'Inconnu du lac, Alain Guiraudie, France
(*) Miele, Valeria Golino, France and Italy
My Sweet Pepperland, Hiner Saleem, Turkey, Iran, Irak
Norte, Hanggan ng kasaysayan (Norte, The End of History), Lav Diaz, Philippines
Omar, Hany Abu-Assad, Palestine and USA
(*) Sarah préfère la course, Chloé Robichaud, Canada
(*) Tore Tanzt, Katrin Gebbe, Germany
Wakolda, Lucía Puenzo, Argentina, Spain, France, Germany and Norway

Un Certain Regard Jury
President: Thomas Vinterberg, director, scriptwriter and producer, Denmark

Special Screenings
Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight, Stephen Frears, USA (TV movie)
Seduced and Abandoned, James Toback, USA (Documentary)
Stop the Pounding Heart, Roberto Minervini, Italy, Belgium and USA
Week End of A Champion, Roman Polanski, UK, 1972 (Documentary)

Midnight Screenings
盲探 Man Tam (Blind Detective) , Johnnie To, Hong Kong
(*) Moonsoon Shootout, Amit Kumar, India and UK

Cannes Classics
Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1958

Jerry Lewis' Tribute
Max Rose, Daniel Noah, USA

Gala Screening, Tribute to India
Bombay Talkies, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee, Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee, India

Short Films Competition
37°4 S, Adriano Valerio, France, 11'
Bishtar az do saat (More Than Two Hours), Ali Asgari, Iran, 15'
Condom Lead, Mohammed Abou Nasser and Ahmad Abou Nasser, Palestine and Jordan, 14'
Hvalfjörður (Whale Valley, Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson, Iceland and Denmark, 15'
Inseki to Impotence (The Meteorite and Impotence), Omoi Sasaki, Japan, 10'
Mont Blanc, Gilles Coulier, Belgium, 14'
Olena, Elżbieta Benkowska, Poland, 14'
Ophelia, Annarita Zambrano, Poland, 14'
Safe, Moon Byoung-gon, South Korea, 13'

Cinéfondation Selection
Asunción, Camila Luna Toledo, Chile, 21', (Pontificia Universidad Catolica)
Au-delà de l'Hiver (After the Winter), Zhi Wei Jow, France, 19' (Le Fresnoy)
Babaga, Gan de Lange, Israel, 26' (The Sam Spiegel Film & TV School)
Contrafábula de una Niña Disecada (Fable of a Blood-Drained Girl), Alejandro Iglesias Mendizábal, Mexico, 25' (CCC)
Danse Macabre, Małgorzata Rżanek, Poland, 5' (Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw)
Duet, Navid Danesh, Iran, 24', (Karnameh Film School)
En Attendant le dégel (Waiting for the Thaw), Sarah Hirtt, Belgium, 20' (INSAS)
Exil (Exile), Vladilen Vierny, France, 16' (La fémis)
Going South, Jefferson Moneo, USA, 15' (Columbia University)
În acvariu (In the Fishtank), Tudor Cristian Jurgiu, Romania, 20' (UNATC)
Mañana Todas Las Cosas (Tomorrow All The Things), Sebastián Schjaer, Argentina, 17' (UCINE)
Needle, Anahita Ghazvinizadeh, USA, 21' (The School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
O Šunce, Eliška Chytková, Czech Republic, 6' (Tomas Bata University in Zlίn)
Pandy (Pandas), Matúš Vizár, Czech Republic, 12' (FAMU)
The Magnificent Lion Boy, Ana Caro, UK, 10' (NFTS)
The Norm of Life, Evgeny Byalo, Russia, 23' (High Courses for Scriptwriters and Film Directors)
Seon (The Line), Kim Soo-Jin, South Korea, 27' (Chung-Ang University)
Stepsister, Joey Izzo, USA, 18' (San Francisco State University)

Special Screening
(*) Otdat Konci (Bite The Dust), Taisia Igumentseva, Russia

Short Films and Cinéfondation Jury
President: Jane Campion, director, New Zealand
Majida Abdi, actress, director and producer, Ethiopia
Nicoletta Braschi, actress and producer, Italy
Nandita Das, actress, India
Semih Kaplanoğlu, director, writer and producer, Turkey

(*) First film competes for the Camera d'Or

Main Competition, Out of Competition, Special Screenings and Tributes info, film stills or trailers @MOC
Un Certain Regard info, film stills or trailers @MOC
Check trailers for some Cinéfondation shorts at MOC.

Read basic info for all films but will continue finding more information, film stills and/or trailers and will upload them at MOC. So will update links to each section asap.

New XCOM game out in August

Or, more accurately, the old XCOM first-person shooter has been rejigged as a third-person action game and will be out in August.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (and sadly not Mad Men vs. Aliens) is the new name for what was previously called just XCOM. The game has had a highly troubled history, with development extending back a good four years. The success of last year's XCOM: Enemy Unknown seems to have caused a bit of a rethink and the game has moved away from a first-person viewpoint to a third-person one, with a cover system apparently inspired by the turn-based game. The setting - 1962 America - remains intact but there is now a traditional XCOM base hub from where players will choose missions (which will include both story-based essential assignments and optional side-objectives) and learn important information.

On the negative side, the FPS version's more intriguing elements, like a focus on investigation and clue-gathering with combat being a secondary concern, sound like they've been watered down, with combat now the square focus of the game. Some of the more intriguing alien designs have been retained, however.

Finally, it remains unclear if The Bureau is a prequel to Enemy Unknown or is still set in a parallel universe, as the FPS version was. We'll find out on 20 August.

Kamis, 25 April 2013

Does DOCTOR WHO need more people in charge?

Occasionally I am asked why I don't review Doctor Who on the blog. The answer is pretty simple: I do not regard Doctor Who as a serious SF drama. I enjoy watching the show, especially with my girlfriend's son, but usually as a way of switching my brain off and just having fun without having to worry about analysis. If I did try to analyse the new show and review it with its myriad plot holes (which at this point are so numerous as to make the show resemble Swiss cheese) and often very ropey writing, I would probably go mad.

"Splendid fellows, all of you."

It was not always so. I grew up with Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor, although I didn't count myself a fan until Remembrance of the Daleks and the final two seasons of the original show. I spent most of the first half of the 1990s collecting large numbers of Doctor Who stories on VHS. A few years back I revisited some of the more classic stories, like The Caves of Androzani and The Ark in Space, and found (dodgy effects and being filmed on video aside) that they still stood up quite well. The new series has had some very good moments, such as The Doctor's Wife, Blink, The Girl in the Fireplace and, most recently, Cold War, but generally speaking it has been mostly incoherent and confused.

There has been much discussion in fan circles of why this is so, with some going as far as saying they are going to 'break up' with the show. Some have cited the decision to move the show to mostly self-contained 45-minute episodes (rather than the 25-minute, three-to-seven part serials of the old series), which severely curtails the time available for plot setup, resolution and characterisation. There may be something to this, as Doctor Who does not have a regular cast outside of the two or three central figures and each story needs to establish its own cast, location and threats, which is a tall order in just a few minutes. This is the inverse of most shows, where the cast and location are fixed and a small number of guest cast come in every week who can be set up quite quickly. However, I don't think it's the whole story, especially as most of the two-parters (which are roughly the length of the old four-parters) suffer from the same issues.

More convincing is the argument that the show has become way too dependent on season-spanning story arcs: Bad Wolf, Torchwood, Mr. Saxon, the disappearing planets, the crack in time/exploding TARDIS, the 'death' of the Doctor and now the mystery of Clara Oswald. In contrast, the old show had exactly two season-spanning story arcs in twenty-six years (three, if you count the much looser 'E-space' trilogy in Tom Baker's final season). Doing a season-spanning epic story arc is great if you have a really compelling storyline for it. At the moment it feels like the story arcs are there simply because it's 2013, and almost every series has a big story arc of some kind, so Doctor Who needs to do one as well. Doctor Who has never been a trend-follower, so it's not entirely clear why it has to be one now.

However, I have also been pondering if one of the problems with the new series has been that it puts way too much work on the shoulders of a single person: the showrunner/head writer. Since 2005, Doctor Who has been run by just two people: Russell T. Davies (2005-10) and Steven Moffat (2010-present). Davies and Moffat have both been in charge of the show and have also been the head writers, each penning several episodes per season in addition to handling rewrites on other writers' scripts as well. There have been other producers (a veritable revolving door of them, in fact) but their roles on the show seem to have been more like facilitators and enablers rather than having a strong say in the creative process.

Going back to the original series, there is a stark difference in how the creative workload was handled. Going right back to 1963, the first showrunner, Verity Lambert, was not a writer. She made business decisions and had a strong say in the creative process, but the creative direction was handled by her script editor, David Whitaker, and the individual writers. An associate producer, Mervyn Pinfield, was also present to help with production issues, although in reality Pinfield was actually only present due to BBC concerns that Lambert, who was only 28, might be too inexperienced to handle the whole show; this criticism was withdrawn after Lambert overruled the BBC executives who didn't want to include the Daleks in the series and was shown to be right, with a massive boom to the show's profile and popularity following their introduction.

Throughout most of the show's history this pattern was repeated: a strong producer focusing on the big picture but rarely actually writing episodes, with a script editor who handled the creative direction of the show. The show's most creative and interesting periods were usually the result of an excellent producer and a good script editor working in concert: Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks during most of the Jon Pertwee era and Philip Hinchliffe and Robert Holmes during the early Tom Barker period are the most notable examples of this. Later partnerships were more troubled but also successful on occasions: the pairing of Graham Williams as producer and Douglas Adams (yes, that Douglas Adams) as script editor resulted in one of the very best Doctor Who stories of all time (City of Death) but also several of the very worst. John Nathan-Turner's controversial, long period in charge of the show in the 1980s was marked by bursts of creativity led by strong script editors, most notably Eric Saward in the late Davison and Colin Baker years, and Andrew Cartmel at the end of the original run.

Did these guys blow up the TARDIS? Maybe. Yes. No? Who cares?

This set-up may also be more familiar from American television, which is often handled by two or more executive producers with a number of other writers working for them. Game of Thrones is handled by two showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Lost was handled by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. Battlestar Galactica was handled by Ronald D. Moore, who focused on the show's writing, and David 'not that one' Eick, who focused more on production. Babylon 5 divided its executive producer credits between head (and often the only) writer J. Michael Straczynski, business facilitator Doug Netter and on-set producer John Copeland. The Star Trek shows of the 1980s and 1990s may have been overseen by Rick Berman, but he devolved a lot of authority to individual showrunners, such as Michael Pillar, Ira Steven Behr, Brannon Braga, Jeri Taylor and Manny Coto, each of whom in turn was supported by other writers and producers. And so on. Running a TV show is a big job, and arguably requires more than one person in charge.

Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat are interesting in that both are quite capable writers (the latter rather moreso than the former, to be frank) but in both cases their writing seems to have suffered when they had to handle production duties as well. Moffat wrote several of the very best episodes of the new run when he was working as just a jobbing writer under Davies, but since he became showrunner the quality of his scripts has nosedived. Even great concepts he created under Davies, such as River Song and the Weeping Angels, seem to have gone off the boil under his stewardship of the whole series. Arguably the role of the showrunner-producer should be more focused in one direction or the other. If Moffat wants to keep writing, he needs a strong production partner who can keep an eye on the show as a whole (and who perhaps can advise Moffat when, for example, he has incomprehensible and overly-confusing story arcs for two seasons in a row). If he wants to run the show in an oversight capacity, he needs a strong writing partner who can focus on the show's creative direction.

As it stands, the constant comings and goings of the sub-producers and the seeming lack of anyone equal in rank to Moffat as producer means that the show is way too dependent on just one person, which is definitely a recipe for disaster.

Rabu, 24 April 2013

Trailer for Joss Whedon's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

So, how do you follow up one of the most expensive - and most successful movies of all time? That's right, you hire a bunch of mates you've made over seventeen years of making TV shows and films and stage your own version of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing in your house and back garden and film the results.

The film stars Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker as Benedick and Beatrice, reprising the thwarted lovers relationship they honed to perfection over five seasons of Angel. Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Castle) plays incompetent policeman Dogberry, with Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson in the Marvel Universe movies and the upcoming Agents of SHIELD TV series) as Leonato and Sean Maher (Firefly) as Don John. The UK release date has been set for 14 June.

This wasn't very much on my radar until I saw the reviews, which have been largely positive (The Guardian review above even suggests it's the best modern Shakespeare movie since Luhrmann's Rome + Juliet). Assuming my local cinema shows it, I'll try to check it out.

21st L'ACID Selection

Reliable news have already the ACID selection even when it is not posted at the official site of L'Association du Cinéma Indépendant pour sa Diffusion, so I'm doing post and will confirm as soon as they publish at official site plus will add the special screenings and any other event they program for this year.

The announcement is up at official site thus films are confirmed.

These are the nine (9) feature films in the 2013 selection

Au Bord du Monde, Claus Drexel, France
Braddock America, Jean-Loic Porton and Gabriella Kessler, France (documentary)
C’est eux les chiens, Hicham Lasri, Morocco
Deux automnes, trois hivers, (Two Autumns, Three Winters), Sébastien Betbeder, France

La Bataille de Solferino, Justine Triet, France
Ô Heureux Jours!, Dominique Cabrera, France (documentary)
Swandown, Andrew Kötting, UK
The Strange Little Cat, Ramon Zürcher, Germany
Wajma, Barmak Akram, France and Afghanistan

For me it is a big surprise to find in L'ACID selection Barmak Akram's film Wajma, which won an award at 2013 Sundance as its presence in this section means that has no distribution.

Around minute 2 the list of movies begin with images in the below video, but if you wish to see the photos pleas go here.

Selasa, 23 April 2013

WORLD'S END release date brought forwards

The movie The World's End has had its release date brought forwards by a full month. The film will now be released on 19 July in the UK this year (the US release date of 23 August remains - so far- unchanged).

The World's End is the third and concluding film in Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's thematic Three Flavours of Cornetto trilogy, following on from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (Paul, though also starring Pegg and Nick Frost, was created by a different team), as well as their TV show Spaced. As well as starring Pegg and Frost and being directed by Wright, some other actors from the earlier projects are reappearing: Paddy Considine (one of the Andys from Hot Fuzz), David Bradley (the incomprehensible farmer from Hot Fuzz) and Mark Heap (tortured artist Brian from Spaced) will also have roles in the new film. Apart from Pegg and Frost, the only actors to appear in all three films are Martin Freeman, though he will have a larger role than his two brief appearances in the prior movies, and Rafe Spall (who also appeared in Spaced).

The film's premise is that a bunch of friends go out on the town in London to recreate an epic pub crawl from their youth, only to get caught up in the disaster to end all disasters.

The World's End has done a straight swap with Kick-Ass 2, which is now being released on 23 August in the UK (and 16 August in the USA).

HOMEWORLD IP bought by Gearbox

Redoubtable shooter developers Gearbox have, for reasons still not yet adequately explained, bought the rights to the Homeworld series of space-based strategy games for a cool $1.35 million. They outbid strategy specialists Stardock and Paradox to get the rights. Given Gearbox's recent mishandling of the Alien licence and their release of the terrible Duke Nuke'Em Forever, the news generated the following reaction amongst the Homeworld fanbase:

Once the initial shock wore off, it appeared that Gearbox are primarily interested in updating the existing games for re-release on modern PCs (and possibly other formats). Whilst the money spent indicates they will be pursuing a fourth game in the series, they have also indicated a willingness to talk to other companies about it. There is some hope that they might talk to Blackbird Interactive, where quite a few of the original Homeworld developers ended up to work on a new strategy game called Hardware. Another company, Team Pixel, had also put a lot of work into a possible iOS-based version of the game, which I imagine Gearbox would be very interested in.

Confusingly, the purchase only includes the rights to Homeworld and Homeworld 2. The fate of the rights to Homeworld: Cataclysm (the best of the three games in the series) seems to be unknown at present.

Update: The original Homeworld creators at Blackbird have congratulated Gearbox and released some unseen concept art about the game. Blackbird also indicated they would be open to talking to Gearbox about any future project. Gearbox outsourcing a Homeworld 3 to Blackbird (the same way that Bethesda outsourced Fallout: New Vegas to Obsidian, where most of the original Fallout creators had ended up) would be a very smart move indeed.

45th Quinzaine des Réalisateurs Lineup

Today Edouard Waintrop, Artistic Director, announced the Directors' Fortnight selection that includes comedies, thrillers, 2 horror films, and 3 documentaries. A total of 21 features will screen with 17 world premieres selected after checking 3,311 titles.

There are some surprises as Yolande Moreau's first solo film, Sebastian Silva's film, the only Romanian film in all Cannes (a short) plus the most surprising duo of Jodorowsky films (!) one by him and another about him.  But most impressive is the fact that I have seen one of the films in the selection, fabulous short film Swimmer by Lynne Shelton!

Feature Films
Opening Film: The Congress, Ari Folman, Israel, Germany, Poland, France and Belgium
Closing Film: Henri, Yolande Moreau, France and Belgium

A Strange Course of Events, Raphaël Nadjari, Israel and France
(*) Les Apaches, Thierry de Peretti, France
(*) Ate ver a luz (After The Night), Basil Da Cunha, Switzerland
Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier, USA
La Danza de la Realidad, Alejandro Jodorowsky, France, Chile and Mexico
(*) L'Escale, Kveh Bakhtiari, France and Switzerland (documentary)
(*) La Fille du 14 Juillet, Antonin Peretjatko, France
(*) Ilo Ilo, Anthony Chen, Singapore
(*) Jodorowsky's Dune, Frank Pavich, USA (Documentary)
(*) Last Days on Mars, Ruairi Robinson, UK and Ireland
(*) Les Garçons et Guillaume, à table!, Guillaume Gallienne, France
Magic Magic, Sebastián Silva, USA and Chile
On The Job, Erik Matti, Philippines
The Selfish Giant, Clio Barnard, UK
Tip Top, Serge Bozon, France
Ugly, Anurag Kashyap, India
Un Voyageur, Marcel Ophuls, France
El Verano de los Peces Voladores, Marcela Said, France and Chile
We Are What We Are, Jim Mickle, USA

(*) Competing for the Camera d'Or

Short Films
Gambozinos, João Nicolau, France and Portugal
Lágy Eső, Dénes Nagy, Belgium and Hungary
Le quepa sur la vilni, Yann Le Quellec, France
Man kann nicht alles auf einmal tun, aber man kann alles auf einmal lassen, Marie-Elsa Sgualdo, Switzerland
O umbra de nor, Radu Jude, Romania
Pouco mais de um mês, André Novais Oliveira, Brazil
Que je tombe tout le temps?, Eduardo Williams, France
Solecito, Oscar Ruiz Navia, Colombia, Denmark and France
Swimmer, Lynne Ramsay, UK

Beyond the selection, Directors’ Fortnight will host a range of peripheral events this year. These include the Taipei Factory, a joint initiative between Directors Fortnight and the Taiwan Film Commission to team four Taiwanese directors with four other filmmakers from around the world. The resulting shorts will be screened at Directors’ Fortnight.

Taipei Factory

The Pig, Singing Chen (Taiwan) and Jero Yun (Korea)
Silent Asylum, Midi Z (Taiwan) and Joana Preiss (France)
A Nice Factory, Shen Ko-Shang (Taiwan) and Luis Cifuentes (Chile)
Mr. Chang’s New Address, Chang Jung-Chi (Taiwan) and Alireza Khatami (Iran)

Other events includes a Tribute to Jane Campion, who this year will receive the Carrosse d'Or and the Directors' Assembly consisting of two panels to discuss key issues impacting the film industry today.

Directors' Assembly Program

Session 1 - Saturday May the 18th
Independent directors’ experiences worldwide

From their experiences, directors will talk about film production conditions and financial support schemes for cinema worldwide. It can be about the independent cinema in the United States, financing schemes in India, China, Brazil, and about everything directors wish to point out as well… They will talk about new creative and economic momentum that they conjure up to make their films. Daring productions sometimes turn away from cinema support schemes, as their heaviness and slowness weigh on creative energy. It will be about putting those systems and those different context to the test of the filmmaking reality and the work methods of each.

A new global and multipolar cinema leads to rapid mutations of our professional practices…

Session 2 - Tuesday May 21st
The European crisis and its consequences on its Member States’ cultural policies

Often in Europe, institutional stakeholders, producers and distributors script debates about cinema economics in which directors have a hard time finding their rightful place. Re-assessment of national cinema support schemes, coproductions difficulties, European funds shrinking… what role can they play in discussions about cultural policies ?

Cinema is not just an industry, neither is it an industry like any other : between cultural ambition and economic power, how to solve the visible contradiction between regulation, competition and cultural exception ?

Will check all films for info, original names, etc. and will update post accordingly ASAP.

Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall

Daud is a killer, the greatest assassin in the city of Dunwall. His most recent mission was to kill the Empress Kaldwin, but what should have been his greatest success has also caused him to doubt the path he is on. An overheard remark about someone called 'Delilah' intrigues him and leads him onto a new mission, to find out who this person is and what she wants.

The Knife of Dunwall is the first bit of DLC (downloadable content) expanding on the storyline of Dishonored, one of the best games of last year. Players of that game will recall that Daud was the sworn enemy of the game's protagonist, Corvo, and their paths intersected several times through the game. The Knife of Dunwall and a forthcoming second DLC both focus on Daud and reveal what he was up to whilst Corvo was in prison and during the events of the first game.

Players of Dishonored should be instantly at home. Daud has many of the same powers, abilities and items as Corvo, or near-equivalents (instead of a magical heart he was a special vision power which shows him where secret items are located). He can blink around maps, scale buildings and carry out lethal assassinations or silent takedowns with just as much ease. One difference is that Daud, having a voice actor, is not a silent protagonist and speaks during the game (though not often, as he's fairly taciturn, as befitting the morally ambiguous-but-badass assassin trope; see also Fett, Boba), and thus has a bit more of a personality.

The game takes place over three maps. The first two are huge and sprawling districts of the city, with Daud given objectives he can complete through stealth, trickery or all-out assault. As with the main game, you can complete missions through 'ghosting' (going through the level so no-one knows you were ever there) or through non-lethal routes (knocking enemies out rather than killing them), though with The Knife of Dunwall this is a lot harder. Enemies tend to patrol in groups, making it trickier to take them down silently, and they tend to congregate in small areas, making stealthing or ghosting past them much more difficult, especially if there are tasks to be undertaken in the area. You have some new equipment to help out though, with the stun mines being particularly useful to those who prefer a non-lethal approach to things.

Unfortunately, the DLC will not take you long to finish. The first two maps are extensive. Exploring every nook and cranny and taking a stealth approach resulted in them lasting about two hours each, which compared favourably to the original game. The last map is much smaller, revisiting the Flooded District of the original game, and even for a stealth player will likely take less than an hour to finish. In total, the DLC lasted me a bit under five hours, not unreasonable for £8 but likely to leave a lot of players asking for more. The writing is fairly solid, with an interesting character arc revolving around one of Daud's fellow assassins which ends rather unexpectedly. A sequel DLC, which picks up after The Knife of Dunwall's somewhat cliffhangery ending, will follow later this year.

The Knife of Dunwall (****) is a worthwhile - if brief - companion title to Dishonored. Revisiting Dunwall in Daud's shoes is fun, and if you really enjoyed Dishonored you'll likely really enjoy this. Those looking for a longer experience may be advised to wait until the next expansion is released to play both together.

Traitors' Gate by Kate Elliott

An invading army is laying waste to the lands of the Hundred. The reeves, the giant eagle-riding police force of the land, are unable to hold them back. In desperation they have struck up an alliance with an exiled outlander prince and his militia, but the enemy are led by corrupted Guardians, resurrected beings with the power to look into souls and strike people dead with a glance. The only hope of victory may lie with the uncorrupted 'pure' Guardians. But to achieve this, they may have to give up a terrible secret...

Traitors' Gate concludes the Crossroads trilogy by Kate Elliott, or rather it concludes the opening three-book arc of the series. Future books are planned picking up the story some generations further down the line. For now, however, it is a self-contained trilogy with no major cliffhangers or unresolved plot elements.

It's been five years since I read the first two volumes in the series, so I was initially a bit swamped as I caught up with what was going on. The core storyline is fairly straightforward, but the secret to the success of the trilogy is how Elliott layers in thematic elements to apparently trivial characterisation and how she addresses a wide range of different topics - from sexuality and female empowerment to commerce and religious freedom - within the confines of a more straightforward story. In fact, my biggest complaint about the trilogy as a whole is that it like it could have done with an additional book to help flesh out the world and cultures (a far cry from her prior Crown of Stars series which, whilst very good, could have probably done with at least a volume being shaved off its length).

The book and the trilogy as a whole also explores the concept of corruption and the ethics of the use of power. Elliott has little truck with evil magic or other examples of simplistic morality, instead citing that every person has within them the capacity for good or ill, the Guardians included, and she contrasts well the rigid thinking of the Qin (who prefer to see the world in absolutes rather than shades of grey) against those who are more open to a more complex view of the world. There's a good culture clash element which is not over-egged. There's also a feeling of melancholy to the story: the Hundred is an open-minded, tolerant land which has to become harder and more regimented to fight the invaders and in the process loses something of itself.

The worldbuilding is excellent - the Hundred is not another European medieval fantasyscape but an original creation drawing on many sources - and the characterisation is fairly strong. The pacing is a little off: for almost three-quarters of the length of the novel it honestly feels like there is no way of defeating the enemy and most of the time is spent on less-important character arcs, and suddenly everything spins on a dime. It is done reasonably convincingly, but certainly the ending feels a little abrupt. However, the ending is also deliciously messy. Allies suddenly find themselves at odds and what seems like deliverance could be (and we don't find out for certain) enslavement under a different name.

Traitors' Gate (****) concludes an accomplished fantasy trilogy with intelligence and complexity. Elliott has crafted an interesting world here and it'll be interesting to see what happens there next. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.

Senin, 22 April 2013

52nd Semaine de la Critique Lineup

A few minutes organizers released a video with Charles Tesson, Semaine Artistic Director, announcing this year selection with films that seem will be the usual "strange" films, which is absolutely Great!

As always there are seven (7) films in the Selection of 1st or 2nd films.

For Those in Peril, Paul Wright, UK
Dabba (The Lunchbox), Ritesh Batra, India, France and Germany
Le Démantèlement (The Dismantlement), Sébastien Pilote, Canada
Los Dueños, Agustin Toscano and Ezequiel Radusky, Argentina
Nos héros sont morts ce soir, David Perrault, France
Salvo, Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza, Italy and France
МАЙОР The Major, Yury Bykov, Russia

Special Screenings
Opening Night: Suzanne, Katell Quillévéré, France
Closing Night: TBA
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, David Lowery, USA
Les Rencontres d’après minuit, Yann Gonzalez, France

Short Films
Agit Pop, Nicolas Pariser, France
Breathe Me, Han Eun-young, South Korea
Komm und Spiel (Come and Play), Daria Belova, Germany
La lampe au beurre de Yak, Hu Wei, France and China
Océan, Emmanuel Laborie, France
Pátio, Ali Muritiba, Brazil
Pleasure, Ninja Thyberg, Sweden
Tau Seru, Rodd Rathjen, India and Australia
The Opportunist, David Lassiter, USA
Vikingar, Magali Magistry, France and Iceland

Check info, stills and/or trailer @MOC

Film info is not yet at site, but will check the net to find what is available for each film. In the meantime see the video with the announcement (has English subtitles) to check photos from some of the films.

Minggu, 21 April 2013

Tropico 4

A Caribbean politician becomes the ruler - 'El Presidente' - of the small country of Tropico, scattered across several islands. He must guide his nation to peace and prosperity, evading rebel coups and placating the feuding superpowers along the way.

Tropico 4 is a city-building simulator, belonging to the same genre as the SimCity series. The twist of this game is that the setting is the Caribbean and the emphasis is on building relatively small cities based around industry and tourism, with the player also having to balance the needs of both the people, foreign powers and a number of internal factions to achieve success.

Whilst there are various scenario and sandbox modes, the core of the game is the campaign. This is a story-driven narrative that unfolds across 20 scenarios (although, rather lazily, there are only 10 maps: each map is used twice, but in most cases is supposed to be a different island) and acts as an extended tutorial: the very brief actual tutorial isn't much help, but the missions expand on the concepts from the tutorials quite nicely. In most cases, the game unfolds the same way: you start off with a palace and several other buildings and have to build up both your population (by allowing large-scale immigration and building homes for the newcomers) and your sources of revenue (by building mines, plantations, farms and tourist facilities). However, you also have to keep the population happy by building healthcare, religious, entertainment and education facilities, and you also have to keep the various factions happy. The capitalists will be satisfied if you build mines across the entire island, but the resulting pollution will annoy the environmentalists. Immigration will anger the nationalists, but the lack of free healthcare and housing will irritate the communists. Unhappy citizens will become rebels, requiring you to build up a military force to deal with them, which means diverting funds away from the economy. And so on.

As a city-builder, Tropico 4 is very entertaining. Building networks of roads and slamming down buildings like an overgrown Lego set is satisfying, and the game's impressive 3D engine allows you to zoom down to street corners and see what individual citizens are up to. A comprehensive almanac reports back on how happy the citizens, factions and foreign powers are and offers suggestions on how to improve weaker areas. Most of the scenarios will be completed before your cities get too large, but on a few occasions I ended up with substantial metropolises incorporating huge residential areas, large industrial zones, a thriving tourist sector and entertainment-focused downtown areas. When everything goes to plan, it's a very satisfying experience.

The game does have its issues. As with all of these sort of games, it won't be long before you work out an optimum early-game build-order which gets you a lot of cash in short order, which makes the rest of the mission trivially easy. The campaign, complete with scripted and often-unpredictable events, is good at throwing you curveballs you have to deal with on the fly, ranging from out-of-control UN inspectors imposing arbitrary restrictions on your economy and industry to rogue Russian nuclear missiles threatening to hit the island. Another problem is that there is often a substantial lag - sometimes 3-5 years of in-game time, maybe half an hour of real playing - between you doing something and the results starting to trickle in (most notable when it comes to building new agricultural projects). Most annoying is that the game is centred around the road network and particularly whether there's enough garages for everyone to park their cars (without garages your population will be reduced to walking everywhere, which is hideously inefficient). You'll end up with garages on every corner and at every single out-of-town facility on the island, and a road network covering almost every open surface area to reduce the hideous traffic bottlenecks that slow down your economic development.

Once you get used to the game's eccentricities, it doesn't take long to realise there isn't a massive amount of depth here. There's dozens of buildings, numerous factions and foreign powers to appease, but it's all on a fairly broad base lacking more interesting subtleties or complexities. Once you understand the game's systems, it's fairly easy to get every faction behind you, avoid rebellions and make absolute bucketloads of money. The sheer depth and replayability of something like SimCity 4 is missing. Tropico 4 is certainly much more approachable and easy to play than some of the more hardcore city builders, and may make a viable step-up for someone used to playing CityVille who wants to tackle something more interesting, but ultimately the game runs out of steam before the campaign itself is completed, although the last couple of missions do reignite some interest with more original plot twists.

It's also worth noting that Tropico 4 is a refinement and expansion of Tropico 3 rather than a radically different game. Newcomers to the series are certainly advised to start with Tropico 4, which has a more refined interface, a more compelling (and useful) campaign and (slightly) better graphics, but those who have already played the third game may not find a lot more here than in the existing title.

Tropico 4 (***½) is a fun city simulator. It's enjoyable, has an amusing (if occasionally close-to-the-knuckle stereotyping) sense of humour and is far less obtuse than some similar games. However, it also lacks a huge amount of depth and is unlikely to have people continuously returning to it for years to come. Recommended, especially on budget. The game is available now (bundled with the Modern Times expansion, which is pretty much more of the same) in the UK (X-Box 360, PC) and USA (X-Box 360, PC).

Sunday inspirational message

WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE cover art and release info

Bantam have released some more info about The World of Ice and Fire, including the cover art and a confirmed release date of 5 November 2013.

Sabtu, 20 April 2013

2013 Cannes Film Festival News

In last Thursday press conference besides announcing the lineup a few more things happened that are worth sharing. First was the release of "A Word From The President" were Gilles Jacob tells us about his vision for current edition and second, a hosting fund raising auction with Plantu & Friends in an event called Cartooning For Peace.

A Word From The President

Everyone knows the Cannes event that changes every year: poster, films, juries, prizes; behind its walls, there’s also an attitude which, decade in decade out, guarantees the continuing existence of this institution. The idea is one I particularly like, and it sees the festival as a shelter for endangered artists. Our influence has a long history: in the 1970s, already, Robert Favre le Bret and Maurice Bessy fou ght over Andrei Tarkovski; next, with Pierre Viot, we invited film makers harassed in their own countries, but who would be protected by the aura of the festival. Such watchfulness set precedents. I’m not going to list the names of those who benefitted, from Eastern Europe, Asia or the Middle East, but when we come across them, even years later, the warmth of their friendship is proof of their gratitude. And our doors remain open, both to them and to others... To all the others ...

Cannes, land of welcome. The 2013 edition illustrates – quite literally – this trait of ours. Indeed, we’ve invited press cartoonists to attend, they who have their own unique way to fight for liberty. On the press floor, under the eye of Plantu, there’ll be an exhibition of satirical, sharp and talented drawings on the theme of cinema. You’ll find a note about it in your press books.

And, so it is, that cartoonists from countries where freedom of expression is not a given will be rubbing up against each other. It’s like a signal: in the freest of countries, isn’t the ultimate dream of those in power for critics of their actions to be completely ignored? We must do all we can to ensure that the light of cartoonists, their art which consists in withholding nothing while summarizing fully in a single image, that that light never goes out: it’s the very last bastion against the despotism and dictatorship of the strong over the weak. By programming an event within which lies inherent a call to insurrection, the festival should perhaps fear that one day it might fall victim itself!

There is another philosophy that leaders should never forget, and that’s the hard work over many years that has enabled the identifying, help with developing, the encouraging, confidence-building and the time-saving given to successive generations of young film makers. We’ve been at this task of sifting and educating, or monitoring, rather, for a long time via a consistent process which became the Caméra d’or, the Cinéfondation and it’s Résidence, and the Atelier... I never miss a chance to say: sow and you shall reap the Fellinis of tomorrow. And the Bergmans and Buñuels. And the Jane Campions.

We thank the great artists who give of their time, expertise and enthusiasm to our young green shoots by heading up the Cinéfondation and short film jury. Helping burgeoning film makers dodge difficulties, get their projects known , and find the money to make them: that’s vocational for a few generous artists who find helping the newcomers to be vocational.

Thus, our good fairy this year is Jane Campion, who loved the idea of presiding over this jury, in the wake of Scorsese, Kusturica, the Dardenne brothers, Hou Hsiao Hsien, and all the others... Lady Jane, as I’ve been calling her since we met, is power, unity, harsh poetry and violence. She knows what she’s talking about. The three shorts of hers that we screened as a group when she first came in ’86 encapsulated everything about her world. They were great for all of the qualities mentioned, but they were also great because they were not copies of things that already existed. And then, 7 years after
Peel, The Piano won the Palme d’Or. What a beautiful example, what an inspiration for our filmmakers of tomorrow... At her side will be Maji-daAbdi, the Ethiopian director and producer, Nicoletta Braschi, the Italian actress, Nandita Das, the Indian actress and Semih Kaplanoglu, the Turkish director.

And now, it’s time to switch on the projectors, the official selection is about to be revealed...

Gilles Jacob

So, besides giving us his vision about this years' festival, praising Jane Campion and presenting us the complete Short Films and Cinéfondation jury, he announced an event that hopefully we will be able to see the works online, as yes I am curious to see the cartoons, especially those of many of my favorite directors.

The Event: Les dessins de la Liberté

The Festival de Cannes is hosting a fund raising auction sale on Monday, 20th of May at the Festival Agora to support Cartooning for Peace. This event, co-organized by Piasa, will present cartoonists Willis from Tunis (Tunisia), Dilem (Algeria), Kichka (Israel) and Plantu (Le Monde and L’Express) and will be conducted by the auctioneer James Fattori. For this unprecedented meeting between editorial cartoons and films, original collector artwork will be put on sale. The funds raised will benefit Cartooning for Peace to support their action.

Created in 2008 by Kofi Annan and Plantu, Cartooning for Peace aims to promote a better understanding and mutual respect between people of different cultures and beliefs using editorial cartoons as a universal language, by subtly shaking politically correct mindsets.

The exhibition linked to the benefit event, will be presented at the Palais des Festivals, during the whole festival.

A selection of eighty cartoons portrays legendary films, the film industry and famous film directors such as Fellini, Bergman, Spielberg or Haneke, in a light and satirical tone. Some cartoons also remind us that cinema creativity is still threatened in countries such as Iran or Algeria. If a film director has a problem with authorities, cartoonists from all over the world will take his defense and report freedom of expression violations.

Freedom of expression is under the spotlight to defend artistic freedom!

Nice work Cannes.


George R.R. Martin buys a movie theatre

In one of the more random news bits from this week, it has been revealed that George R.R. Martin has bought the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The theatre was closed in 2006. Martin, a regular attendee of the theatre after he moved to Santa Fe in 1979, has not yet confirmed his plans for the property. In a statement he did clarify that this project does not mean he'll be making popcorn for attendees rather than getting on with his books.

Rumours that GRRM is going to hang the above on the wall have not yet been substantiated.

"I will not be doing it myself, of course. So please, readers, fans, don't get nuts. I am a novelist and a screenwriter, not a theatre manager, it won't be me standing at the concession stand asking if you want butter on your popcorn. My job remains the same as before: editing anthologies, creating and producing television and writing the occasional script, and... first, foremost, always... completing A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. This does not change that." 

Martin bought the property under the company name 'Faceless Man', hinting that he may also be planning to use the cinema as the headquarters for an international guild of shapechanging assassins.

All men must die. Actually, only those who ask, "Is it in 3D?"

Kamis, 18 April 2013

Microsoft and NBC may resurrect HEROES

There are many TV shows that have ended before their time and fans want to see them back. Squarely not amongst that number is NBC's Heroes. Airing for four seasons in 2006-10, Heroes was infamous for having an excellent first season and then suffering a catastrophic collapse in quality. When the show finally slinked off the air, few people cared.

However, Microsoft and NBC are in discussions to resurrect the show. The thinking is to bring it back as a Netflix-style on-demand series, a bit like House of Cards, but which will air exclusively on Microsoft's download service. This service will launch with the next X-Box (but will probably also be available via the existing X-Box 360) and form part of Microsoft's multimedia-device strategy for their new machine.

Whilst a nice idea, I don't think a new Heroes - even one with a mostly new cast and possibly new producers - is the show to do it with. The show's reputation is in shambles and its return would not really excite that many people. Microsoft would be better off partnering with, say, SyFy and maybe trying to bring a different type of superhero show to the screen...

Now that might work.

Superb UK vampire series ULTRAVIOLET to be re-released on DVD

Ultraviolet, probably the finest vampire-based TV series of all time, is to be re-released on DVD next Monday.

The six-part series originally aired in 1998. It stars Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Carribean, This Life, Coupling) and Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther), with a very young Stephen Moyer (True Blood) providing able support. Susannah Harker and Philip Quast round off the recurring cast. The premise is that vampires (never called that in the series, only 'leeches' or 'Code 5s') are real and a secret government organisation - part-funded by the Vatican - is fighting them. The tone is serious and grim, with an emphasis on the scientific ramifications of the existence of vampires. It's also extremely well-written (by BAFTA-nominated UK writer-director Joe Ahearne, who later worked on Doctor Who) and superbly acted, with a nice twist in the final episode.

This edition features a new documentary about the series. However, disappointingly, it is only being released on DVD, as the series has not yet been remastered for Blu-Ray. At the moment it appears to be a UK-only release, although the previous edition is still available in the USA.

Disney to release five new STAR WARS movies in five years

Disney have announced that they will be releasing a new Star Wars movie every year from 2015 to 2019. Episode VII will be released in summer 2015, to be followed by Episode VIII and Episode IX in 2017 and 2019 respectively. Stand-alone films focusing on side-storylines or certain characters will be released in 2016 and 2018. There will also be additional side-films, but their release dates are uncertain at the moment.

Whilst Disney's plans for Star Wars were known to be ambitious, the scale of the plans is somewhat surprising, not far off the aggressive release schedule for their Marvel universe movies. The announcement also seems to deny J.J. Abrams's suggestion that the first film could be delayed from 2015, since the pre-production window for the movie would be uncomfortably small (Abrams has only just started work on the project, and will likely not hit it full-time until Star Trek: Into Darkness is released in a few weeks, leaving only two and a bit years before release).

On the one hand, it'll be good to see new Star Wars material not written or directed by George Lucas on the screen. On the other, they risk oversaturating the audience with too many Star Wars movies. The Marvel universe films work with frequent releases because they mostly focus on completely different casts and the setting is - superheroes aside - contemporary. Unless they come up with something special here, Disney could be about to shoot the golden goose before it even lays the first egg.

Selasa, 16 April 2013

66th Festival de Cannes Short Films and Cinéfondation Lineup

While the Official Selection of feature films for the 66th Festival de Cannes will be revealed on Thursday 18th April, the list of Short Films is unveiled today.

As we already know the Cinéfondation and Short Films Jury, presided by Jane Campion, will announce the award winners for the Short Film Competition and the Cinéfondation Selection.

Short Films Competition

This year, the Selection Committee received 3,500 short films, representing productions from no fewer than 132 countries.

Nine films will compete in 2013 for the Short Film Palme d’Or, to be awarded by Jane Campion, President of the Jury, at the Closing Ceremony of the 66th Festival de Cannes on 26th May. For the first time, a Palestinian film will take part in the Short Films Competition.

37°4 S, Adriano Valerio, France, 11'
Bishtar az do saat (More Than Two Hours), Ali Asgari, Iran, 15'
Condom Lead, Mohammed Abou Nasser and Ahmad Abou Nasser, Palestine and Jordan, 14'
Hvalfjörður (Whale Valley, Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson, Iceland and Denmark, 15'
Inseki to Impotence (The Meteorite and Impotence), Omoi Sasaki, Japan, 10'
Mont Blanc, Gilles Coulier, Belgium, 14'
Olena, Elżbieta Benkowska, Poland, 14'
Ophelia, Annarita Zambrano, Poland, 14'
Safe, Moon Byoung-gon, South Korea, 13'

Cinéfondation Selection

The Cinéfondation Selection selected 18 films (14 fiction films and 4 animated films) among the 1,550 submitted this year from 277 schools from all around the world

By focusing on the quality of work submitted by lesser-known institutions, the Selection is a true reflection of the diversity of film schools. This year sees a particularly significant broadening of scope, with a third of the schools being selected for the first time and one country – Chile – which has never previously been selected.

The following are the short films in competition; the schools are in parenthesis.

Asunción, Camila Luna Toledo, Chile, 21', (Pontificia Universidad Catolica)
Au-delà de l'Hiver (After the Winter), Zhi Wei Jow, France, 19' (Le Fresnoy)
Babaga, Gan de Lange, Israel, 26' (The Sam Spiegel Film & TV School)
Contrafábula de una Niña Disecada (Fable of a Blood-Drained Girl), Alejandro Iglesias Mendizábal, Mexico, 25' (CCC)
Danse Macabre, Małgorzata Rżanek, Poland, 5' (Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw)
Duet, Navid Danesh, Iran, 24', (Karnameh Film School)
En Attendant le dégel (Waiting for the Thaw), Sarah Hirtt, Belgium, 20' (INSAS)
Exil (Exile), Vladilen Vierny, France, 16' (La fémis)
Going South, Jefferson Moneo, USA, 15' (Columbia University)
În acvariu (In the Fishtank), Tudor Cristian Jurgiu, Romania, 20' (UNATC)
Mañana Todas Las Cosas (Tomorrow All The Things), Sebastián Schjaer, Argentina, 17' (UCINE)
Needle, Anahita Ghazvinizadeh, USA, 21' (The School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
O Šunce, Eliška Chytková, Czech Republic, 6' (Tomas Bata University in Zlίn)
Pandy (Pandas), Matúš Vizár, Czech Republic, 12' (FAMU)
The Magnificent Lion Boy, Ana Caro, UK, 10' (NFTS)
The Norm of Life, Evgeny Byalo, Russia, 23' (High Courses for Scriptwriters and Film Directors)
Seon (The Line), Kim Soo-Jin, South Korea, 27' (Chung-Ang University)
Stepsister, Joey Izzo, USA, 18' (San Francisco State University)

The three Cinéfondation Prizes will be awarded at a ceremony prior to the screening of the winning films on Friday 24th May in the Buñuel Theatre.

Check trailers for some Cinéfondation shorts at MOC.

After reading, see film stills and/or trailer for all short films, can say that some seem very interesting; unfortunatelly not all have trailers and/or film stills but will be frequently checking to post at MOC trailers when they are released.

Cheers!!! Cannes has started.