Film-making, the Times They are A-Changing. Monsters 2010

Monsters (2010 film)
Monsters (2010 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just finished reading an interesting blog post from Africa is a Country  http://africasacountry.com/2012/07/16/five-alternative-filmmaking-collectives/. Although the post dealt with a specific set of films, it made me think of how film-making has changed over-all.

Everything is digital – with the advancements made on the digital front a lot of ‘new’ films are being shot entirely on a digital format. The superior 2010 film Monsters was made with a two person crew  they used “off the shelf” $8,400 cameras, editors, digital effects programs and other “common” software programs. Monsters, besides being an entirely ‘digital’ film also  could be labelled the zenith of “guerilla” film-making.

The film-makers travelled to each location and filmed quite a lot of the time without any local authority’s permission. The ‘extras’ were not ‘actors’ but real people who happened to be in the area where they were filming. The two film crew members, would then edit the day’s footage in their hotel room at night.

Written and directed by Gareth Edwards, who up to this point was better known as a documentary film-maker, Monsters is his first venture into the  feature-length arena. The script he wrote had little to no dialogue in it. The scenes in the film with the two protagonists are mostly improvised rather than scripted. Amazingly this seems to work in making the film seem more believable.

The film is about two Americans who are trapped in Mexico by a quarantine. The Americans, Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) and Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able) spend the entire film trying to get back to US soil and dodging  alien monsters, opportunistic people and the elements.

Kaulder is actually in Mexico on an assignment. Wynden’s father has hired him to find her and bring her home. Wynden is a sort of ‘Greenpeace’ “Save the world” type and she is initially reluctant to leave the alien infested Mexican/American border.

The film-makers help sell their film and their aliens by deciding to make them huge. Shots in the film ‘featuring’ the aliens show us enormous legs or trunks and refrain from showing us the actual bodies of the aliens till the end of the film.

The sets and the actors look gritty and real. That director Edwards has a background in documentaries this is evident from the very first frame of the film. Monsters looks and feels like a documentary. We feel like a fly on the wall watching these two protagonists interact with their surroundings and each other.

McNairy and Able were dating during the making of this film and are now married, an interesting fact that helps to explain their characters interaction with each other in the film.

Digital only films are increasingly becoming the medium of choice by new film-makers. These digital films look good and apparently the ‘run of the mill’ editing programs on the market are very good, because the editing in most cases is almost flawless. Asian cinema has been making ‘mainstream’ films digitally for some time now.

English: Gary Oldman at the 2011 Venice Film F...
English: Gary Oldman at the 2011 Venice Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not too long ago actor Gary Oldman made a music video filmed entirely on a mobile (cell) phone. In 2009 Juliet Landau filmed the entire process for a short documentary entitled Take Flight: Gary Oldman Directs Chutzpah. Intended as a no frills look at the filming process it looks instead at the creativity and thought process of Oldman himself. It also shows how the film medium can be captured with a device as simple as a mobile phone and still look impressive.

English: A photograph of Juliet Landau

A lot of the filming community are mourning the new trend of digital film making. They have gone on record as saying that digital films are more transient than traditionally made films. That may well be true, but without the option of digitally made films, little gems like Monsters would never be made. And what a shame that would be.

Max Payne 3 – Conclusions

Max Payne 3

Okay, so I finished Max Payne 3 last night, well early this morning, and I had a little think about the game. I was perhaps a bit harsh on the game, in my ‘first thoughts‘ on it. Because all said, it was a fun play through.

Now admittedly I’m not a Max Payne fan. I had played a very little bit of Max Payne 2 and my initial thoughts on that game, was that it seemed a lot like Condemned. As I said in my first post about Max Payne, I felt that I had been there before.

I guess to an extent it felt like that because Rockstar had set the whole game up as a ‘Game Noir’ and that’s okay, but did they really have to have that ‘grind house’ look to it?

I am still trying to figure out why they did the scratchy and shaky appearance to the whole thing. It did look like a addicts vision of life around him, but the bleeding and blurry colours didn’t really make a lot of sense for a ‘third-person-shooter.’

If it had been a ‘first-person-shooter’ it would have fit a bit better, but I still maintain that it was an un-necessary distraction.

The story was okay. The bit about powerful, rich, corrupt families has been done before. I suppose that with the drug cartel problem in Mexico these days grabbing headlines, it seemed the topical thing to do. But again, it still felt a little like a ‘re-run’ that I had seen before.

My other main complaint? The game was short. Damn short. I guess they felt like the inclusion of a Max Payne multi-player would make up for that. I did play the multi-player for a bit after I had finished the game. Sorry Rockstar, it didn’t add anything to the game. For a start, my character wasn’t even Max, for crying out loud. That bit was locked.

English: The Rockstar New England logo, a divi...

I guess I do have to admit that I liked the almost easy task of blowing bad guys away in their dozens. I do like shooting things whether said things are aliens, bad guys or enemy soldiers I am a sucker for a gun fight.

The ‘bullet time‘ feature is still fun, although it took me ages to really master it and the R1 feature took me forever to remember I had it as an option. But when I did remember all I could think of was John Woo’s Stranglehold game.

To be completely fair I have to say that it was a good play, but, it did not have that wow factor. So in my thinking it is more of a rental versus a ‘gotta have’ game.

I will say that I did like the fact that Max was in his mid-forties. As an old fart myself, it was nice to see a protagonist who was not young, bronzed and muscle bound. Someone instead with a bit of character on his face. Grizzled and wrinkled and still able to get the job done.