Monday, 26 March 2012

Has IMAX changed blockbuster film releases?

I went to see The Hunger Games last weekend and I thought it was an excellent film, well made, full of emotion and considering it is a 12A, managed to create an air of violence without actually showing any major violence.  I see now that the film has grossed an estimated $155 million in North America, which is quite a feat for a first time movie (not a sequel). 

The one thing that struck me was wouldn’t this normally be a summer blockbuster or Christmas film release?  Of course it is a new franchise not as popular as some others in recent times, I had never heard of the books but unlike the horrible Twilight series (Twilight and its many TV series copies have ruined Vampires, once terrible bloodsucking fiends, now they are an allegory for teenage angst, it’s a disgrace) which does not interest me in the slightest and so I would never contemplate watching, the concept of The Hunger Games intrigued me enough to want to see it. 

Whilst at the cinema I was watching it on IMAX, I wondered if the insertion of IMAX screens had now added a large headache on when big films would be released.  There are not many IMAX screens around the world; there is only one where I live and if a big film is going to want to sell their wares on the best screen possible surely IMAX screen time is limited.

I think it’s good if things change from the norm of summer blockbusters, Christmas hits, autumn for the likely Oscar winners, great films if they are good enough should be able to come out any time and make money.

So what made me want to see the Hunger Games?  Well it seemed similar to Battle Royal and to be honest it is very like Battle Royal meets The Running Man meets The Lord of the Flies, with a bit of 1984 thrown in for good measure.  But the film overall though seemingly for young adults has many important themes about how humanity can be cruel and malevolent, yet heroic and courageous.  And the narrow-minded people saying don’t see it because its kids killing kids are missing the point of the films and I presume the books.  Knowing the excellent Jennifer Lawrence was playing the main part helped, she was great in Winters Bone as well as the supporting cast; Stanley Tucci was brilliant as the gregarious, narcissistic, saccharin sweet, exaggerated TV host.  So even though I had never heard of the books or read anything about the film apart from it was similar to Battle Royal, it seemed worth watching at the cinema in a big IMAX screen.

IMAX makes a massive difference in the viewing experience, it is so much better than even a normal large screen and amazingly it is even better when the film is 2D as opposed to 3D.  I watched Inception on normal 2D and IMAX 2D and the difference was significant.  Let’s see more IMAX screens and the really big ones not the half sized ones, the bigger the screen the more engrossed you become in the film.
Overall I would recommend The Hunger Games to anyone, it is not a Tweeny film, everyone should enjoy it and if my cinema was anything to go by the demographic is wide and varied, at least in the UK.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Now Time

Just watched the second of Brain Green’s docs, this time he is talking about time.  I always find time a strange concept and some of the things he mentions make a lot of sense.  Yet some things just don’t seem correct and I feel scientists are missing something important.  Time to me is a human creation that has no real bearing on reality or the Universe, apart from the perceived perspective of a human being living on Planet Earth.  The idea of individual moments makes more sense, but I feel and it may just be a case of not knowing the full picture I know, but I feel scientists only see time in a linear way.

The example they give in the show about how time can be past present and future is simple enough. Imagine an alien on a distant world is on the same now moment as a person on Earth, but if the alien starts to move away from the person on Earth in this case on a bike, then the now time changes and because the alien is moving away then the now time of the person on Earth move backwards and is in the past.  And of course if the alien cyclist started to cycle towards the man on Earth the now time would shift into the future.

This to me seems as though they are missing the point of now time, the now moment, surely whether they are moving forwards or backwards in relation to another object far away should not change the now time, but instead the perceived time.  As I mentioned before if you are on a space ship travelling at a 1000 light years an hour towards Andromeda, then the Milky Way will get younger and Andromeda will get older in your perceived time.  But as we should know Andromeda and the Milky Way are exactly the same in now time. 

I don’t know if that makes sense but it seems pretty obvious to me that there is massive difference between the two types of time. I suppose it depends on the scales at which now time is perceived.  If you perceive it from the perspective of a human living on Earth, on a 1000 light year an hour spaceship, then the galaxies grow older or younger depending on your place in the observation net, so to speak.   Another way to perceive it is to say that from the scale of a galaxy now time stipulates that Andromeda and the Milky Way are on the same now time.  Yet from Earth, Andromeda has a now time of minus two million years, and if we were to travel on the 1000 light years per hour space ship, now time relative to Earth would change accordingly so that every hour that passed would move us nearer to Andromeda now time and further away from Milky Way now time from the perspective of the human on the space ship.  At least that is how it seems to me. 

More importantly, although we would perceive a feeling of time travel into the future as we move towards Andromeda, in fact it isn’t actually changing at all.  Only the perception of time changes, not the actuality.  At least that is how I see it.

Another thing they mention is why time always travels forwards when physics says it can travel backwards as well, they mention entropy, I think I may have discussed this before, the theory of stability turning into chaos; they use an arrow firing into a target or a glass of wine smashing on the floor.  Surely they are governed by the laws of motion and force exerted.  And also the ideas that the Universe is constantly going from stability to chaos makes no sense when you think of a gas changing to a liquid and then to a solid, or say sand changing to glass.  Surely both those examples break the laws of entropy.

Obviously these are all my conclusions to what I perceive and I know that it is just thought, a brain dump, and it has no scientific basis but I always find it good to ponder things and question everything even if it is establish theory.  Everything is right until it is proved wrong by a newer and better idea, and most ideas start as crazy notions, I am sure Einstein said as much though probably more eloquently than I have.  I am sure I have missed things out when writing this down but after watching the second programme, like so many other programmes that discuss time I always feel no, no, something is not right about time, it just doesn’t add up.

Thick Fog

Wow the fog is thick today, I haven’t seen it this thick, well I don’t think I have ever seen it this thick before.  I live in a flat on the side of a hill and can normally see over the valley below and the hills on the other side.  At this moment I can see nothing it is totally white outside, no ground, no sky, just white. It is quite eerie, it’s like I am inside a bottle of Milk of Magnesia or inside a crystal ball.  Fog always leaves a strange sensation on your face; you can feel the cold air touching your skin, enveloping you, especially when it is this thick.

I wonder how long it will last, it started getting foggy yesterday evening and it seems to be getting thicker.  Ah just checked the weather report and it should start dissipating very soon. Still it looked quite magical in an eerie way, the way it illuminates the light like a cloudy light bulb, its unusual.

Dumbed Down Science Docs - Very Annoying

I’d like to think that if I was wrong about something I would have the decency to admit to it, sometimes you don’t think you are wrong or don’t even realise it, but this time I think I may have made a stupid mistake.  This morning I watched the first episode of Brian Green’s excellent documentary series based on his book the Fabric of the Cosmos.  In this series there is less dumbing down than in other science docs, well the first episode didn’t seem as dumbed down as others.

I found the documentary extremely interesting especially when it described   Higgs Boson and the Higgs field, the way it was described by Brian Green made a lot more sense than the concept of a god particle that is responsible for mass.  Why is it common practice to deliberately mislead the public with silly names for scientific process, and why do science docs then tend to dumb these processes down?

I know the idea behind simple, easy to understand, science docs is to try and interest ‘Joe Public’ in science matters, but it spoils it for people like myself who want to understand it more, but are past the age of going to University or college, to learn about it in greater detail.  There should be some kind of idiot level; this documentary is for people who know nothing about science. This documentary is for people with some knowledge of science or astronomy or physics or whatever.

I wrote a post saying they will never find a god particle and I feel foolish because I based it on the dumbed down nonsense most documentaries spew out.  I suppose it is my own fault and I shouldn’t be so brazen in my opinions, but if something is explained in many programmes in a certain way and it makes no sense, then I feel the urge to comment on it.  Similarly when they are explained better like the concept of a Higgs field and the way sub-atomic particles move through space and how they create mass makes more sense when it’s explained in greater detail. 

So my post about why there is no god particle is likely rubbish and nonsense, based on the information I was aware of at the time, which of course was a limited dumbed down amount of information is incorrect.

I wish there were more complex science docs made. I understand why there isn’t, unfortunately in this day and age science is thought of as a pariah by many people.  Still I find it hard to believe there are not more people like myself who enjoy science but are never going to do a science degree.

On final note, the concept of the holographic Universe, I think I have mentioned before, is incredibly fascinating, wow; imagine what that will do to our understanding of life, the Universe and everything, if it is proved correct.  I look forward to watching the rest of Brian Green’s series, and you never know if I ever feel well enough, I may get around to reading his books. 

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Darkest Recesses of a Disturbed Mind

Whilst practicing painting I decided to give a self portrait another go.  I am not very good at realistic painting and realising this early on I decided to change into an abstract example of the hellish world I sometimes see around me, as shown in a loose depiction of my face.  If it actually looked like me then I probably wouldn’t have added it.  Saying that I like the use of black, red and yellow, it’s an interesting combination of colours and creates devilish images, hence why the painting is called, ‘The Darkest Recesses of a Disturbed Mind’.

I may add to it over time, we’ll see how it looks once it has dried a bit.

Federer closing in on Number 2

I know its early days and I don’t want to put a dampener on John Isner’s amazing win over Djokovic, but if Federer can win Indian Wells and Miami, and Nadal doesn’t make the Miami final, then Roger Federer will move ahead of Rafa in the ATP rankings.  Mind after seeing how well Isner served against the Serb it is not going to be easy for Fed to win, especially since he lost his last match to Isner in the Davis Cup. 

I never watched the Nadal Federer semi because of the rain delay, but I was very surprised Federer was able to finally beat the Spaniard outdoors.  This has only happened once I think since 2007, and that one win was after the 4 hour epic between Djokovic and Nadal in Madrid.  Maybe we shouldn’t read too much into Rafa’s display, as it was his first tournament back for over a month and I bet he will play better next week in Miami.  Still it all seems rosy in the Federer camp with 38 wins out of his last 40 matches his confidence must be sky high, and I would imagine as I have said before if Federer can get his confidence back then he is nearly unbeatable.

It is good to see someone other than the big four in a final, after last year’s dominance, Isner will definitely pose a big threat to the great Swiss, but the odds are stacked against him.  If you look at the top 14 tournaments in the ATP calendar which include the four Slams, nine Master 1000’s and end of year final, out of the last 98 events Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray have won an incredible 82 of them, with Federer himself winning an amazing 40.

It’s going to be tough for the giant American but with the crowd behind him we may see and upset, but I would still veer towards Federer.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Read the book or watch the film, but which do you do first?

If you want to enjoy a film that has been adapted from a book, most of the time it is advisable to not read the book beforehand.  Obviously this is not easy in a lot of cases, but if you haven’t read the book, and a film you fancy seeing is coming out, I think it is wise to wait until after the film to read it.  Films are generally, though not always a disappointment after a great book.  Unfortunately a film can only ever take small amounts of the books creativity, and so has to promote its own special nuances and the director’s vision; this sometimes leads to being sorely disappointed.

You can add so much more in a book, which is nearly impossible in film.  You can go off tangent, create unimaginable scenarios, have a plethora of characters and circumstances.  As well as being able to actually see into the mind of those characters.  An example I always remember is Silence of the Lambs.  In the book by Thomas Harris, he goes into great detail about Jack Crawford and the fact his wife is terminally ill and this gives the character for more depth than in the film.  In the film which is excellent you have a cold hearted Jack Crawford but you never know why he is like that.  He is not the main character and so his story is not important to the flow of the film.

When Peter Jackson discusses his amazing adaptation of Lord of the Rings (the greatest film ever, when you realise he did all three as one film), he is asked why he left out Tom Bombadil.  The answer was simple although it is an integral part of the book, as far as the film goes it would have slowed the flow of the movie.  Probably making it seem disjointed and not work as well.

Obviously there are times when films totally miss the point of adaptation and fail miserably in putting a successful book onto the big screen, and there are too many of this type of film to mention.  Probably the biggest disappointment was the fourth Harry Potter book, one of the best in the series; it was decimated by the time it reached the box office.  It was by far the worst adaptation of JK Rowling’s unique vision, in my opinion too much was cut and it just did not work. 

There are also films like the Time Traveler’s Wife, which is an incredibly moving book, yet almost impossible to make into a great film.  The film wasn’t bad but it could never capture what the book created in my mind, which is why I probably would have enjoyed the film more if I had never read the book, or read the book afterwards.  Then this draws a conundrum because if I had seen the film first I may not have enjoyed the book as much.

Sometimes it is a disadvantage to watch the film first, I doubt I would have enjoyed the Da Vinci Code as much if I knew about the plot from watching the film.  At the time of reading I knew nothing about the idea of the Last Supper and all its connotations whether true or false.  At the time they seemed true in the context of what I was reading, which added to the excitement of reading.  The film could never recreate that, which in a way causes a dilemma.

It’s always a tough decision whether to read a book you haven’t read before a film is released, personally I wouldn’t.  Wait until afterwards unless you have had an interest in buying the book in the first place, and it is always likely that if the book is successful enough to become a film then you may have read it already.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Online Democracy

I read another article this morning slamming the incompetent Herr Cameron as an out of touch public school boy who thinks of his class and ilk, and sod everyone else. I won’t argue with that, he has been a massive disappoint as a leader, Brown was clueless, Cameron is just heartless.

Anyway this is not what I wanted to discuss, at the bottom of the article which was in the Telegraph, normally a right wing paper, one of the comments suggested we need to change to an online democracy. Allow the people to vote via the internet on issues, I think I may have discussed this before sometime but cannot be certain. I personally think this is a great idea, but how it would be implemented at present is debatable.

Let’s be honest in saying at present the current type of democracy seen in Britain, the US and the rest of the western world doesn’t work and hasn’t worked for years. By now with the advancements in technology and other innovations we shouldn’t have poverty, we shouldn’t have lowering standards of education and healthcare. The system is corrupt and needs to be changed, as one person commenting said, it’s just three fat cats, basically clones in a massive rigged election. I have said as much myself, there is no real difference between the right and the left in Britain, they are essentially the same side of the same coin nowadays, only one is on the right of the coin, the other on the left, they aren’t even on different sides anymore.

I would vote yes to changing over a staggered period of time, from the present system to an online government and online democracy, a democracy the people actually have a say in. The problem is how to do it and how to get past the massive roadblocks undoubtedly placed in front of such a huge change in how our country is run.

The biggest roadblock will come from the greedy fat cats presently in power; it’s a win, win, for them in the present system so they are unlikely to want to see a change. It is unlikely the powerful corporations behind the greedy fat cats will want change either, unless they start to see a steady decrease in profits.

The next roadblock for the online democracy to work is everyone over the age of 18 will need access to an online computer. This is no small task, even though the internet is growing and more and more people have PC’s, there are still millions who do not. On top of this the logistics and security needed to make sure this type of government was not hacked or corrupted, would be very costly initially. In fact it would be costly continuously as updates and changes to make sure it was ahead of the technological war.

The next issue is who runs the departments? We will say for starters that the civil servants administer the system, but who runs it? This will most likely be the most powerful position in the country. There will still be a need for departments to activate the policies and laws created by this new system. There still needs to be a chain of command, but instead of thinking of the policies, the people will offer policy changes, and then the people will vote for each change. The civil servants will then administer the changes, no need to greedy fat cat MP’s to influence a policy for theirs or their friends benefit, or whatever corporation is giving them a nice backhander. I would think the only way an online democracy could work is if it started small and grew slowly. Take little steps before you try to walk, then run.

How do we deal with foreign policy and essential departments? Unfortunately many people do not care about anything other than their small part of the world. It is an unfortunate part of the human psyche that we are quite happy to see millions starve and live miserable lives in abject poverty, as long as we get our bins emptied once a week. How do we make sure we stay a leader in helping less fortunate parts of the world? Also what about our partners in Europe, lots of the British pubic are xenophobic beyond incredulity; how do we make sure this does not infect our foreign policy?

Another issue is who builds the infrastructure, will it be centrally controlled or private, a bit like Camelot running the lottery. The company given this contract will be a very powerful and profitable company in a short space of time. How will this be regulated? As the old adage goes, who watches the watcher?

Who designs the software to run the online democracy? This is a crucial part of the whole system because it has to be indestructible, incorruptible, and unhackable, it can never break down. It has to be able to allow millions of people to vote in their own time without any downtime or at least very little downtime.

What happens to national security issues? How do we protect our country from nefarious, fundamentalist regimes, or groups? All these issues would or could arise if the online democracy was not treated seriously by the people running it, and the people accessing it. Would we have criminal offences for abusers? How do we stop people selling their vote?

Now these are a few issues I have just thought of now in the time it has taken to write this. The idea of an online democracy is so appealing but it is also very difficult to administer, set up and keep secure at our present level of technology. Maybe this will change in the next few years, let’s hope it does. Still it is an interesting thought, and thoughts like this need to be taken seriously if we are to survive the greed of the few.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Digi the Radio Alarm Clock – RIP

Yesterday was a sad day; it saw the demise of my very old radio alarm clock. It was 33 years of age; it had been through many battles and scrapes. It had been dropped many times; it had lots of different drinks spilt on to it, from tea to coffee to alcohol. It had been with me most of my life. It had been my friend for many years, showing me the time, and waking me up when I was younger and unable to wake up naturally. It had started my day to many ‘Radio One’ DJ’s, going back as far as Mike Reid and Simon Mayo; if not further I cannot remember now.

My Radio Alarm Clock was a basic ‘Sony Digicube’ Digi for short, which I received on my 8th birthday, I was less than pleased with this gift at the time, I really wanted a bike, but then sometimes the thing you expect the least from, you end up getting the most out of. I thought it was indestructible as it was dropped many times and everything from toast to books were kept on top of it.

How many times did I stare at Digi hoping the time would stand still so I could get another 30 minutes before rising, to go to school, then college, then work? In its later years it was needed less and less, and the alarm side and the radio have not been used in over five years now. Maybe Digi knew deep down inside it was time to go.

Last night as the bright blue illuminated digital readout of the time, flared bright then started to flicker; the light then slowly dimmed and flickered once more. This continuous bright flickering then dim flickering went on for about half an hour, then it was incredibly bright before fading slowly and then going out altogether. Digi was gone.

I watched in stunned silence for a good while hoping like in the past Digi would come back from the dead, but this did not happen, the light had gone, Digi’s time was done.

Eventually after staring at the now blank space in the darkness of night, where for most of my life a little blue light of time had always been there, I slowly drifted off to sleep. In the morning I awoke and realised Digi was definitely not coming back, the small, dirty, white, plastic box was sitting there with no blue time, just an empty box of memories.

As they would say on Red Dwarf, I hope the Digi has gone up to silicone heaven, he definitely deserves to be there, he was a good servant, and the only thing that has ever stuck with me for so long. I will miss my little box of time, I doubt I will ever find something so robust and long lasting ever again.