Alien: Covenant – Movie Review

May 26th, 2017

movie reviewRidley Scott is one of the best filmmakers of our time. He has some modern classics under his belt and rightfully so. Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator or Kingdom Of Heaven (Yes, a completely underrated gem of a movie!). All these films deal with either historical aspects or try to explore the human condition. Always trying to find visual answers certain questions. In Alien it’s the fear of the unknown. In Blade Runner about humanity. In Gladiator it’s about corruption and how to overcome it. In Kingdom Of Heaven it’s about Religion, Faith and how to deal with it. That’s at least how I read these films. Even Prometheus, despite all its flaws, at least tries to ask interesting questions. Now we got Alien: Covenant from Ridley Scott and expect him to continue on his path of asking questions and maybe even deliver some answers. With this film being a direct sequel to Prometheus (which is a giant question without any answers) it’s the least to expect, right? This will be a long review.

We ‘board’ the Covenant. A colony ship with a little more than 2000 people on board and about 15 crewmembers. The movie throws us right into it. The crew drops out of hypersleep due to a random shockwave that hits the ship and damages it. So we’re there with these people and know nothing about them. At least if you haven’t seen any of the promo videos on Youtube. While the crew is trying to wake up and understand the situation, we see a hypersleep pod that is damaged. The Captain is in there and because the pod decides that there is no way of survival for him… it automatically cremates his body. And there goes James Franco. Not even a minute of screen time. You can see more of him in the promo video on Youtube. It’s a useless marketing stunt. There is no reason to have him in there. While you could argue that the reaction of the pod is stupid, I think it’s well thought out and a plausible mechanism to implement into these things. The next one in the chain of command is Oram (Billy Crudup). We get told (multiple times in this film) that he’s a religious guy, a man of faith. We never get to see him act out his beliefs though. The movie doesn’t even care to explore that ‘faith’ angle. And the movie starts to categorize or put its characters into boxes because it doesn’t even care about laying out a foundation for these people. Everyone is a cardboard cutout of some cliche of a character we have seen in so many other films. Especially in the horror genre. Our main woman (because it’s the vital ingredient of any Alien movie) is Daniels (Katherine Waterston). And she falls flat too. Because there is no foundation for her as well. No time to bond with her character. Although she seems to be one of the only people with something like a brain in her head. Then there is the android Walter (Michael Fassbender). Last but not least the only other character worth to mention is a pilot named Tennessee (Danny McBride). The rest of these characters is cannon fodder. Did I mention that all these crew people are either married or couples? Is that fact supposed to build some emotional connection to these cardboard characters? If so… it doesn work at all and makes the whole situation, they eventually stumble into, just even more stupid. So much for the introduction of the characters.

They suddenly pick up a message while repairing the Covenant. They find out where it comes from and that it’s not too far away. Plus the planet it comes from seems to be habitable and safe for humans. So they decide to cancel their original mission. A mission to colonize a certain planet it took them decades to investigate, prepare and map out. And their main argument is that they don’t want to go back into hypersleep. Their second argument is that it takes only a couple of weeks to get there instead of the 7-8 years to get to their original destination. We get a somewhat nice scene between Daniels and Oram. They discuss how useful it would be to cancel their original mission to investigate that signal. Daniels is against it. Rightfully so. Oram, who doesn’t have the best standing with the crew at this point, decides to go with most of the crew instead. Because… you know… hypersleep sucks. And so the Covenant changes course to that mysterious planet.

The reaction of the crew regarding this signal is weird. The movie doesn’t establish for how long mankind is doing this colony space stuff and how regularly they catch up signals sent out by ‘what could be’ an alien species. Not one of them is reacting really surprised and amazed. How can it be? How is this possible? Aliens, wtf? Are we making first contact? It becomes even weirder when they find out that it’s a signal sent out by a human! Which is even stranger than having a signal by aliens at this point. No one recognizes this as overly weird and asks how this is even possible. And, except for that short discussion between Daniels and Oram, they immediately set course to investigate. Wouldn’t it be more natural to wait 2 or 3 days to think about it first? These people act so irrational. Maybe the hypersleep did something to their brains. Maybe that technology isn’t developed enough and leaves people dumb. Maybe the technology needs a little more work until we’re in the Alien (1979) timeline (20 years after the happenings in Covenant) and they figured out how to avoid brain damage from traveling with hypersleep pods. Because in the 1979 movie everyone of these characters acts rational!

The Covenant arrives at the planet that is the source of that strange signal they catched up and except for three crewmembers all of them decide to land on the planet. While a giant storm is going on. Please don’t wait for the storm to be over. Please make this endeavour as risky as possible! They manage to pass through the storm and find a spot to land. The fact that the air is breathable on this planet is enough for them to go out (into a completely unknown ecosystem) and start their investigation. They don’t even have breathing masks on. And again they don’t care about landing on an alien planet. They walk out of their landed ship onto the planet surface as if they walk out of a subway train. The most common thing ever. No one even states how crazy weird and amazing it is to (what seems to) be the first group of humans who set foot onto that planet. Again very irrational behaviour of our characters. Yes, you could argue that, with the signal seemingly originating from a human, they are not the first to set foot onto that planet. And yes, you could argue that, if that human being in the signal can survive on this planet, we don’t need precaution when it comes to breathing masks an all that. Still, it’s uncharted territory. An ecosystem they don’t know. There have to be precautions other than “let’s take some guns with us”.

With the crew setting foot onto the planet, we leave the first act of the movie. And the part I enjoyed most. From here it’s almost constantly down hill. Characters that can barely be described as 2 dimensional are constantly doing stupid things just to move the plot forward. We discover what happened to Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and David after Prometheus. We see how the original Alien came to be. Get very unsatisfying answers to formerly interesting questions. See an ending that completely disappoints but still made (at least) me want to know where it goes from there.

Now you ask, are there at least some parts of the film that were good? Yes. The design and VFX work is outstanding and pretty much seamless. Except for a couple of times that made me raise my eye brows… silently asking “wtf was that?”. There is enough stuff in this movie that would have made a far better film than what we ultimately got. We get some interesting scenes when Walter is confronted with David and his ideas. A lot of people complained about the casting of Danny Mcbride and I wasn’t one of them. I think he did the best job of all the characters in the film. Usually you cast him as a dirty comic relief but not in this film. He’s ‘space trucker’ deluxe in this film and probably the most believable character of the whole crew. Almost to a point where he doesn’t fit in anymore. Even though we don’t get the grand imagery we know from Prometheus, I would say the photography is mostly well done. When it comes to the music I have to say that the parts where they re-used the score from Prometheus and the original Alien film work really well. It was pretty neat to hear stuff from the original Alien re-used here and there. All the musical pieces that were new… I cannot even remember.

The problem of the Alien franchise is its diversity. Diversity is a cool thing. It allows to explore a topic with a different point of view. The original Alien (1979) is a straight horror film. Aliens (1986) is a straight action film. Alien 3 (1993) goes back to horror but changes the setting. Alien 4 (1997) is action again but also just for fun ridiculous. Prometheus (2012 – Not really an Alien movie but part of the franchise) tries to be a little more heady and asks interesting questions with its more philosophical approach. So we have quite a variety here, tackling the subject from different angles. But this also splits up the fans. Some like the slow burn original Alien because of its mystery and horror elements. Others tend to enjoy the second film more because of the action. Then you have a third group of fans that really liked what Prometheus tried to do, which is almost completely going its own, more philosophical route. So you end up with three groups of fans who all want their share. Mystery, action, horror and ‘what if’ philosophical stuff. You cannot put all these things into one film. It would be a mess. And that (unfortunately) is what we got with Covenant. A try in resetting the course Prometheus did set up and going back to the stuff we already know and (seemingly?) what people want.

For me this film was a disappointment. What I hated (yes, hate is a strong word but in this case it’s the only one I can use) most in this film is what they did with the character of Elizabeth Shaw. From my understanding she and David, at the end of Prometheus, had some sort of mutual respect going on. She repaired him. Which is a sign of compassion and (again) respect. After finding out what happened to her I felt betrayed. I haven’t felt this angry since Star Trek: Into Darkness. Or maybe Interstellar? Well, with Interstellar I was more confused than angry. However, I didn’t have too high expectations going into this film. Even though you can rightfully have higher expectations. It’s the Alien franchise and Ridley Scott. There will always be certain expectations. Scott started the whole thing! Under that presumption you could say that it’s his good right to run it into the ground as well.

If you read everything up to this point… hats off to you sir or madame. =) My rating for this film is a 6.2/10

Alien: Covenant on IMDb

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Movie Review

May 22nd, 2017

movie reviewThe first movie was a surprise hit and a legit fun movie. With its far out ideas and presentation it managed to make a point in saying that it wants to distance itself a little from the rest of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). It was a neat ensamble movie that brought together characters that each are their own thing but still build a consistent and fun group. Now we meet that group of characters again for a new adventure and wonder… will it be as magical as the first time we had an adventure with them?

The strength of director James Gunn seems to be to play with expectations and trying to avoid them but still giving the audience what it wants. It’s quite the talent to be honest and it’s at display right at the beginning of the film. It starts with our group of (questionable) heroes trying to fight a monster. Now there is a fight but we don’t get to see much of it, since this opening sequence focusses on Groot, dancing around and enjoying himself along to some fun music. All that while the rest of the team is battling a giant beast with tentacles in the background. But don’t worry, we still get to see enough of the fight. Of course our heroes win and we get introduced to the Sovereign. A society striving for perfection in everything. They hired the Guardians to fight the monster. Everything goes well until Rocket manages to upset the queen or leader of the Sovereign. The Guardians flee the planet. Luckily some mystery ship appears and helps them get away just in time. Still, they end up with a highly damaged ship and crashland on another planet. With the Guardians stranded there and trying to figure out how to move on… that mentioned mysterious spacecraft shows up and lands next to their crashed ship. We meet Ego (Kurt Russell) and learn that he’s the father of Star Lord (Chris Pratt). In the meantime we have Yondu (Michael Rooker) looking for Star Lord and closing in on his location. The Guardians decide to split up with Star Lord, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) following Ego to his planet. The rest of the gang stays behind trying to repair the ship. Soon Yondu shows up and captures the gang left behind with the ship. Yondu is facing some problems as well. Mutiny. Half his crew isn’t very happy with him and manage to push him aside. Suddenly he’s in the same boat with Rocket and Groot. They now have to work together to get away, which gives us some really nice and funny moments. At the same time we have Star Lord learning more about his father and what he’s up to. Of course not everything is what it seems. Gamora and Drax kind of try to deal with their past and work out things. Especially Gamora gets to deal with her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). And there is some stuff to work out for both of them. And in the end… it’s all about family.

So much for a brief, unspoiled, summary of the first half of the film. This movie is so stuffed with characters and I only mentioned the first tier so far. There also is Mantis (Pom Klementieff) who is a companion traveling and being on with Ego for a long time. Then there is Kraglin (Sean Gunn) who is Yondu’s loyal right hand. Or Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), leader of the Sovereign. It is amazing how all of these characters get enough space to shine. There literally is no character that falls short and everyone of them gets something to do. And all of them do a great job with what they got. So it’s quite an achievement for writer/director James Gunn, making it work so well. While the characters are written very nicely, I do have some problems here and there. with other parts.

We have a good pacing in the beginning up until we crash on that planet. Then it slows down. Which is good because we need a break. Up to that point we have had almost entirely action scenes. So it’s good to get some breathing room and learn a little more about our characters. We can also see that there passed some time since the first film. Groot grew a little and can run around now. It appears that there has also been something more emotional between Star Lord and Gamora. They accepted the fact that they are a team now and they seem to like it. However. I’m not sure if splitting up the gang in the second act of the film helped. Star Lord deals with his father, Gamora with her sister and Drax with his past by befriending Mantis, with Rocket and Groot not even on the same planet. Sure, you can’t always have these characters together and expect to see individual development of each character. These individual moments still work nice but it’s also a fact that it’s most fun when the gang is together. So it’s a mild nitpick from my side.

With a fast paced actiony start of the film and a more quiet part in the second act, we close the film with a huge action sequence that closes the circle and brings all characters back together again. And having all the gang back together certainly helps the film. Nonetheless the sequence is far too long. This ‘neverending action scene overkill syndrome’ in these kind of filmes really fatigues you at some point. It’s visually amazing and well done. I won’t argue about that. But it’s always too long. Unfortunately in this film too. Even if, again, every single character gets a moment to shine and take a valuable part in the final battle. It’s just too long. There is a reason why fireworks should never be longer than 15 minutes. By making it too long it will lose its magic.

Even though the script is really well written I felt that the dialogue was a little weird here and there. I rewatched the first film and felt the same with that one. But in this second film it stood out a little more. There are a couple of scenes that spell out too much stuff we (as an attentive audience) suspect anyway. There is no need to tell us everything that might go on in this film. The actions of the characters tell us enough. It’s also more fun to suspect where the plot might go instead of having it spelled out and directly know. So yeah, there are a couple of scenes where the dialogue by certain characters hammers it down the audience’s throat. That, to me, felt very unnecessary and too much like “let me take you by the hand so you understand EVERYTHING”. Unnecessary. Trust in your audience and actors a little more.

Like I said before the visuals in this movie are fantastic. I really enjoy the colour palette they work with and (in my point of view) it elevates this movie from the more ‘earthbound’ installments in the MCU. The fact that it’s in space, which allows the material to go off into a more fantasy kind of direction, works to its benefit. Something Marvel struggled with when it comes to the two first Thor films. After seeing the trailer for the third Thor movie it seems they are embracing the more fantastical elements with a little more freedom. They ‘figured out the formula’ so to say. Taking a path away from the sort of more gritty realism we usually get from an Ironman or Cpt. America movie. It’s great and a lot fun to see how much inspiration and imagination is going on there. So a big ‘well done guys’ to the concept and vfx crews that worked on this film. The creative freedom pays off.

As a final verdict I must say that I liked the first movie a tiny bit more. But that, by no stretch, means I did not like this second movie. I enjoyed it a lot and I love the universe they created there. I rarely go back to rewatch other marvel movies but the Guardians movies… I can see myself go back to watch these a couple more times in the future. I like to revisit that world.

Visually the film is a treat so try to catch it on the big screen!

7.9/10

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on IMDb

Endeavours – A Promise In Light

May 9th, 2017



Endeavours – A Promise In Light

“Oh wow, I guess this city is a big one! And there is the gate to a new life. I have never done a trip through one of those. Even thinking about the science and xeno-technology that goes into it makes me feel dizzy. See you on the other side!”

When starting this series in 2011 I definitely wanted to show a megacity from farther away (an almost orbital level). Unfortunately my PC power wasn’t strong enough to really do it back then without having it super complicated in the post work stage. What I did instead was my ‘Leaving The Fields Of Steel‘ piece. Which comes close to the original idea I had in mind. And also worked better with the first part of the series showing the progression of the transition from surface level to space.

Now, with a little more power under the hood, I had the opportunity to move farther away and play more with the city and the scale a bit. The ship is about to enter a portal or jump gate. The technology for this isn’t necessarily ours. In this world we discovered an ancient old alien technology and decrypted/reverse engineered it enough to make use of it to a certain extent. Old idea, I know. =) I don’t want to define what year all this plays in but what I can say is that the alien technology is in our arsenal for quite a while now. But by no means do we fully understand it.

The challenge here was to find a good camera angle and some nice landscape shapes that compliment city details. I admit that the overall composition isn’t exactly amazing and the city is pretty far away. My main goal of suggesting a nice sense of scale works good enough for me though. So I am rather happy with the outcome since I did not want to repeat what I already did with ‘Leaving The Fields Of Steel’.

I started developing the scene by opening the Vue scene file of the ‘Leaving The Fields Of Steel’ piece in Vue. I made a bunch of copies of the city and refined parts of it by placing several buildings in different parts of the city. To make it look not too uniform. But before I fully tackled the city I created an infinite terrain (which I haven’t used much yet) for the landscape and looked for a sweet spot to place my city on. I definitely wanted it to sit on a coast. Found a good spot and moved around the city parts. After rendering the scene I did some extensive work on adding life to the city by adding lights. Also added the clouds, which makes the scene look much more natural. I originally tried it without clouds. Just didn’t look right. The jumpgate was done with kitbashing a number of models I already had. I’m fairly happy with how it turned out at well.

6000×2888 – Vue – C4D – Photoshop – Lightroom

Plate
Print Detail

ENDEAVOURS Part One – Six

ENDEAVOURS Part Seven

wallpapers available

The artwork on:
DeviantartArtstationDrawcrowdCGSociety

Regards

signed

Endeavours – Forget The Way We Lived

May 1st, 2017



Endeavours – Forget The Way We Lived

“It’s finally happening. Barely sleeped last night. Boarded the ship that will take me to my loved ones. My new home. Can’t wait to get there. Can’t wait to welcome that new life. The view from up here is stunning. It really gives perspective. I wonder, will I miss this place?”

In 2011 I started an open ended series of pieces, trying to tell a (even though really basic) open ended story. These were done for The Luminarium. The artgroup had picked a topic for their 15th release which was titled ‘Sequential‘. So I tried myself in creating pictures that could also be comic panels. Now we have 2017 and I finished the second part. Again I used this project to play around and try a couple of new things. Some more, some less successful.

So I took off where I left so many years ago by opening up the scene file I kept of the space station. As usual I used a Vue render as a plate and took it into Photoshop. There I added textures and played around with it quite a bit. I did not work super pixel perfect and wanted to keep it a little rough. I wasn’t happy with it for a long time. I originally approached it by going with a widescreen/cinematic format. Whatever I tried, nothing convinced me. Since the point of this whole series is to play around and try new things, I tried rotating the image. Suddenly it worked for me. I understand that it’s probably a taste thing and the overall composition is very unconventional. But rotating it 90° counter clockwise was the solution I needed. Last but not least I moved the picture into Lightroom and fiddled with the colours. Ended up with a high saturated mix that really worked for me. So in the end the piece does have a rather unusual format and I thought about cutting parts on the bottom, but ultimately decided against it.

Hope you enjoy the view too. Let’s see where it leads us!

4500×2054 – Vue – Photoshop – Lightroom

ENDEAVOURS Part One – Six

Plate 1
Plate 2

The artwork on:
DeviantartArtstationDrawcrowdCGSociety

Regards

signed

A New Threat – Making Of On Behance

April 18th, 2017

A New Threat - Project Compendium On Behance

Every once in a while I decide to sit down and write a little more about selected pieces I did. Mainly for me to keep the memory alive. Behance is a great platform for doing this. My latest addition is an article about my A New Threat picture. Normally the posts on my website are rather thorough but there is always a little more to show or talk about. So feel free to check out this post.

A New Threat – Project Compendium On Behance & My Gallery On Behance

Regards
signed

Ghost In The Shell – Movie Review

April 15th, 2017

movie reviewBefore watching the film I checked out some of the concept art various artists did for the film. It did have a very unique feel and look and so I decided to see this one on the big screen. Although I did not expect too much from the story. Some movies are just there for the eye candy. I saw the original animated film a couple of years ago and found its themes and look rather interesting. Another reason to give this live action version a shot.

The story is quickly told and unfortunately not too complex. We mainly follow Major (Scarlett Johansson) on her quest to learn more about her past. She is a cyborg with only her brain being organic. She was part of an experiment that’s supposed to bring cybernetic enhancements to a new level. The world she lives in is completely absorbed by media. You can’t look anywhere without being bombarded by ads and information. Cybernetic enhancements are a norm and nothing unusual. Major is part of a special police unit and through her and her colleagues we are introduced to how these technological enhancements work and what they can do. Throughout the film we follow Major down a rabbit hole of discoveries that clear up her past and how she became what she is. Together with her team she tries to track down a hacker who can become a real danger to the technology that almost completely consumed mankind at this point.

While asking interesting questions about where mankind might be headed, it only asks these questions on a shallow level. Instead they focus on a plot we have seen in similar shape or form many times before. Which is disappointing to a degree. While watching the film I was not really able to connect to the character of Major. Instead I connected more to her partner Batou (Pilou Asbaek). He was interesting in the fact that he looks like a bulldozer but they never used him that way. He was restrained and pretty tame compared to what other films would have done with a character like him. Beside him we have the wonderful Juliette Binoche playing Dr. Ouelet. She is sort of a mother figure for Major and oversees her medical treatment and the experiment Major was part of.

I feel all the folks we see on screen did their best to get the most out of their parts but to me it mostly felt flat. The film has a runtime of 107 minutes and in an age where most big productions go for 2 hours and more… it’s rather short. To me it felt longer than its 107 minutes. Which makes me feel weird since a film like this should be completely in my wheelhouse. Visually it certainly is. The world is fascinating and I would love to make a trip there for a week. More than a week though… no, I guess the constant bombardment with information would drive me crazy. The film’s problem is the storytelling and its characters. Like mentioned earlier, we have already seen this story so many times. In the beginning of the film is a cut that jumps 1 year ahead. Which brings me to the characters and the fact that, if I had seen what Major had to go through in that one year, I may have been able to connect better with her. The characters in general could have been deeper. They missed a big chance there. Especially with Juliette Binoche but also Takeshi Kitano. It’s so weird how they handle his character Aramaki. He just appears on screen without any big introduction or back story. Even at the end of the film we don’t know much more about him. Yet Kitano plays Aramaki as if he’s having the best story to tell from all the characters in the film. I want to know more about him and his role/part in this world. More character moments again would have extended the runtime. So who knows, maybe the film would have slipped into ‘completely boring’ territory.

Director Rupert Sanders doesn’t have too many things on his resume and maybe it wasn’t the smartest move to hand out a quite heady scifi piece to someone without proper experience. On the other hand you simply cannot expect Blade Runner like quality here. While visually it does come close to a benchmark look, much like Blade Runner in 1982. But it lacks spiritual depth and glosses over the actually interesting philosophical topics. To handle the heady stuff it would have really required a very experienced director though.

As for the whitewashing controversy… I don’t care. It would not have changed or influenced the quality of the film in any way shape or form. It’s a Hollywood production, do you really expect them to go for actors that match the ethnicity of the original characters? Not gonna happen.

So is this film worth a recommendation? It’s not the usual two hours of loud explosions and action setpieces which is definitely a positive. It is visually inspiring and very interesting. You can literally get lost in all the stuff that’s going on in that futuristic version of Hong Kong. Storywise it’s unfortunately nothing new and misses chances with its characters.

If I recommend it then solely for the visuals.

6.4/10

Ghost In The Shell on IMDb

Kong: Skull Island – Movie Review

March 30th, 2017

movie reviewI’m tempted to start this one with “this ain’t your daddy’s King Kong” but I won’t. Even though indirectly I did. Which immediately brings up the problem with this film. It just wants to do too many different things. But first things first! What is it about?

The movie is a continuation of what the 2014 Godzilla (directed by Garath Edwards) began. Skull Island (directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts) can be seen as a prequel to the 2014 movie. At least in certain parts. We learn a little bit more about the Monarch project and what it does. The movie starts with Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Corey Hawkins (Houston Brooks) meeting with a higher up politician in Washington. They want to ask for funds to finance an expedition to a newly discovered island in the Pacific. We learn that Monarch is on the verge of shutting down because the government wants to cut their funds. But they get that one last shot with the expedition. The year is 1973 and the movie uses every chance to slam it down your throat that the film plays in the 70s. We get some nice 60s and 70s music… even though you hear some of these songs in every damn 70s film. Especially war related films. Next we meet Lt. Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) who is in charge of a helicopter squadron stationed in Vietnam. The US troops are preparing to leave the country and everyone is happy to go home. Packard gets called to take this one more mission escorting scientists to an unknown island and he gladly agrees. We learn, right from the get-go, that he’s a military man. But we also learn that there is mutual respect and love between him and his soldiers. In the mean time Randa and Hawkins track down former british agent James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston). He’s an survival expert and knows his ways how to behave in a potential dangerous jungle environment. Last but not least Photojournalist (or “Anti-War Photographer” – probably the stupidest line in the film) Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) gets wind of the expedition and manages to go along with them.

All members of the crew collected, the film finally moves towards the island. Once the mission starts and they approach the island with their squad of helicopters, they have to cross or dive into a dense cloud formation that surrounds the island like a shield. A nice sequence that reminded me of the dust/sandstorm sequence in Mad Max: Fury Road. Although not nearly as competently shot and very chaotic. They pass the clouds and approach the island. The Monarch guys immediately start to map the island and use special bombs with seismic charges to measure out the consistency of the island’s surface. Kong shows up and goes “ape shit”. He picks the helicopters from the sky like flies and a battle sequence starts. Clearly our team has no chance but they still decide to go for it and open fire at Kong. While Kong does get hurt a little it definitely does not end well for our team. A lot of soldiers die and the rest is scattered in the area. Lt. Col. Packard immediately wants revenge. Of course. And I thought the film turns into Moby Dick now and it kinda does. Packard wants to bring his soldiers back together and wants to find everyone missing. Conrad wants to cross the island to reach a rendesvous point where within 3 days they’re supposed to refuel the helicopters. Their only chance to get off the island since all of their helicopters are destroyed. So Packard and Conrad split up with Packard going on with his soldiers and Conrad with the scientists and civilians.

Leaving the story description there, we are right at the point in the film where it becomes problematic. Like stated in my intro, the film doesn’t find a clear voice. From my description it sounds very action and drama loaded. The problem is that there are so many desperate attempts sprinkling in some humour into this film. A kind of humour that feels tonally completely off. It must be one of the most inconsistent films I’ve ever seen. It is very apparent that they desperately wanted to wipe out the criticisms the 2014 Godzilla got. Which means: lighter tone, more action, more monster battles. The reason why I liked the 2014 Godzilla so much is because they had a consistent ‘less is more’ thing running in it. That made the big moments work. There was a buildup to those big moments that lets you appreciate the big moments when they happen. All that is thrown out the window for Skull Island. The only buildup we have is the beginning of the film when we meet our main cast. And even then there doesn’t really is that certain kind of atmosphere and suspense Godzilla created in the opening sequence with the nuclear plant. Later we meet Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a fighter pilot from WW2 who crashed on the island and stranded there. That character is another one with unnecessary comedy elements. I admit that I had to smile at some of the movie’s comedic elements. But at the same time it’s the wrong film for stuff like that. It entirely throws off the mood.

This film also has a weird relationship with death. There are so many people dying in this film and some of the deaths are so beyond meaningless that I wonder if there’s a message. Maybe about the Vietnam war and how useless it was and had so many young men die there for nothing? If that’s what they want to say then bravo… your film has some of the most useless character deaths I’ve seen so far. Which brings me to wasted talent. Looking at who is in the cast here it must be a good film! It must have at least some deeper moments that provoke thought! Jackson, Goodman, Hiddleston, Reilly! Great actors! But no, this film manages to give none of them real weight. It’s quite an achievement to be honest.

From what I said so far you could get the impression that it’s a through and through bad film. But no, it’s not. For what it wants to be it has enough to enjoy in it. For everyone who wants big monsters fight… it delivers. The sequences are, as usual, too long for my taste but they are well done. The CG work in these battle sequences is pretty much flawless and I wouldn’t know how to improve them in terms of quality. I also enjoyed the camera work quite a bit. They had some neat creative shots and angles they worked with and it paid off. Storywise we also don’t get too much stuff we already know from previous King Kong movies. Here and there are some strains that remind you of the original but it’s not played out entirely. Skull Island wants to be its own thing and for the most part it succeeds in doing so. Something I would also count as a positive for this film.

I saw the film in 3d and have to say the 3d worked nicely and was used in a fun way. The creature design and look also worked great and I’m sure we’ll see more of that in upcoming films. Throughout the film they threw around that infamous ‘hollow earth’ idea and I’m sure that will come up in the future. And sure, I like that idea and would like to see where they go from there.

I don’t know if the problems Godzilla and this film have stem from the directors. Edwards in 2014 was pretty much a newcomer and Vogt-Roberts is new in the game too. While I do think it’s good to get fresh ideas and voices into it… it could be one reason why the films ended up a little inconsistent. Even though I think Gareth Edwards did a much better job with Godzilla. Maybe it’s not even the directors and it’s more the screenplay that is to be blamed. Imdb has 3 writers for Skull Island. That’s 2 too many.

So ultimately it’s a high budget B-Movie with tons of weak points but some well done, fun moments as well. If you are, like me, a fan of the 2014 Godzilla don’t expect the suspense and buildup we had there. We see Kong pretty much right away along with the action.

6.9/10

Kong: Skull Island on IMDb

Logan – Movie Review

March 16th, 2017

movie reviewSo, there is this X-Men franchise that started in 2000 and has like 10 movies or so now? 17 years! It took them 17 years to do a movie that makes a clear point on why mutants in the X-Men universe are so hated in all the other films. While they present enough reasons in previous films, it always felt way too over the top to be taken serious. Now this movie though, feels grounded enough to really bring that point across.

Logan (Hugh Jackman) is the third movie in the, what now can be called, ‘Wolverine Trilogy’. The movie makes quite the jump and plays out its story in a not too distant future. Logan got old, the X-Men don’t exist anymore and mutants in general are in hiding. Instead of being a new step in the evolution of mankind, mutants are pretty much extinct and outlawed. Logan trying to get by with doing a limousine service to collect some money. That money he needs to take care of Professor X (Patrick Stewart) who is in hiding with another friendly mutant. While thinking that there are no more mutants born, Professor X makes telekinetic contact with Laura (Dafne Keen). Laura is a mexican kid on the run from a mysterious company hunting her. Logan, as reluctant as ever, doesn’t have much interest in being the hero and helping Laura. Company goons discover their hideout. Logan, Professor X and Laura have to flee and try to resolve the situation. Laura has coordinates that point to a location that is supposed to be a safe haven for young mutants. While Professor X is willing to give it a shot, Logan isn’t so sure about it. So much for a rather sparse summary of the plot without giving too much away.

This movie takes some risks (as well as some social commentary here and there) and I’m so glad it did! After Deadpool’s success I guess studios woke up and decided to do comic movies for adults now. And man, it feels so good! X-Men in 2000 started the whole comic movie trend. It’s so good to see an adult, more violent and realistic approach to the material. Especially with the Wolverine character. He was always rooted in anger, violence and more an anti-hero. It’s good to see that anger really play out in Logan’s violent outbursts and the aftermath of it. It’s good to see the movie not playing it safe and instead going into its gritty feel right from the start. After the first five minutes we know that this really is a film that shows the brutality that can be ‘Wolverine’. Suddenly you understand that blood adds weight to certain decisions our characters make. All the violence helps to give everything gravity. Even though it’s rather violent it certainly is not a splatter movie. The movie uses violence in well timed doses and doesn’t overplay it. At least for my sensibilities. It’s a serious movie for grown ups! Finally!

Overall I would say it’s a quiet movie. Some parts are even pretty much a roadmovie. Most parts actually. The action scenes are well timed and well placed throughout the film. They are not mind numbingly long like in so many other movies of its kind. A pleasant and welcome surprise in that case. It’s also not a CGI overload and feels very natural and grounded. The future they envision there isn’t over the top and drawn rather realistically. No flying cars or anything. you could almost call it dystopian. It’s not really hopeful, that’s for sure. It kind of reflects our times.

Hugh Jackman started this part in 2000 and played this character since then. It’s safe to say that his interpretation of the character helped comic book movies become what they are now. We can’t thank him enough for that! Logan is probably his final role in this character and I’m so glad they gave him this fantastic material to work with. It seems like it’s the first time we really get to see the pain and struggle this character goes through. All hope gone and his worst fears have come true. Fears and doubts he has since the first movie where he has questioned everything and most importantly Professor X, his plans and his school. Logan is a broken man. He was right from the get go. And knowing that and not being able to have changed that… slowly kills him. The year just started but… Hugh Jackman should get nominated for this performance. It’s fantastic.

Having young actors in your film is always tricky. You need someone with charisma and a slight understanding what the character needs. Dafne Keen, who plays Laura, is a perfect mixture. She’s adorable and charismatic at the same time. She has a great look and you immediately know when shit is about to get real by just looking into her eyes. There is this one scene where she comes out of Professor X’s hideout, with a platoon of bad guys waiting outside… almost shaking in fear, while she calmly walks out of the building. It’s a great, tense and powerful moment. She doesn’t have a lot of text during the film and does a lot with her body language and face. Hats off, she did really well!

Is there some bad stuff in the film? Well, I’m constantly thinking “It’s a little long!” but I also immediately think that it needs that time to tell the story right and give every character the needed room. The movie is also well shot and the action parts look very competent. Even though I must say that there’s rarely a shot that made me go ‘wow’. Marco Beltrami did the music for the film but there is hardly any tune I would’ve been able to remember after making the first step out of the theater. But that goes for pretty much every movie nowadays. Almost no memorable music in these films anymore. That really frustrates me to a degree. It all sounds the same. Especially in comic movies. Then we have the theme of ‘family’ that goes sort of kind of through the franchise. It’s still there but not to the degree we have in the other films. It’s a very depressing story and hope is very sparse. It may not be the movie we would need right now (in terms of inspiration)… but it’s nonetheless a nice reflection of our times and mirrors our society really well. The audience should take a closer look and decide for itself how to make the world better instead of letting it decay to the degree we see in the film. It’s not easy, even for people with superpowers… but it’s possible.

So overall I really liked the toned down presentation of the film. When you’re a kid you want the big stuff, large action and themes. The older I become the more I want the more intimate or personal themes. The big stuff becomes more and more numbing. It’s good to see they are still able to do films that are well balanced and maybe even more character studies instead of big action spectacles. Quiet moments have weight and action sequences pay off. That combination works well for the film itself but also the box-office. It was well received and made good money, which gives me hope.

When the film ends it feels like a big and sad goodbye. That very last shot though… heartbreaking and cool at the same time.

7.9/10

Logan on IMDb

The Invitation Pt.1

January 12th, 2017



The Invitation Pt.1

The first one for 2017 is an experiment from early last year and something quite different from my usual stuff. Normally I focus on the environments and add characters to make these environments feel alive. So they are usually just an addon. With this one I wanted to focus on a character instead of the environment. Without making the environment too boring though. I must also admit that I did not sculpt the lady by hand. I used DAZStudio for it. So I definitely admire people who can do that stuff from scratch. However, I did not use a DAZ pose or character preset! There went a lot of work into posing and the proportions of that lady. Tons of testrenders for lighting setup and material checking. A lot of detail work that went into this lady. I wanted this to by sexy, treating the pic like a fine art nude photo shoot of sorts. Everything as tasteful as possible, without it to appear too ‘revealing’. Hope I got that part right.

Technically the figure and its pose was done in DAZ Studio and then exported for use in Vue. There I did some heavy material tweaking and tried to get the light right. The render happened in 9000×6000 and even if it is a quite simple scene, there went some extra time into the Photoshop process. Mainly to fix things and to overpaint small areas. I also rendered multiple passes of the scene and even worked with an HDR pass. The latter helped to get the skin tones right. In the last stage of creating this one, Lightroom helped me to get the colour I had in mind right.

This pic is the first one in a three part series. And, probably the best one. But that is a definite taste thing. :D

9000×6000 – Vue – DAZ Studio – Photoshop – Lightroom

Print Detail

wallpapers available

The artwork on:
DeviantartArtstationDrawcrowdCGSociety

Regards

signed

Architecture Feature

December 29th, 2016

Archithese Issue 4/2016 Feature

Two of my works were used to visualize articles about futuristic/scifi architecture. Issue 4/2016 of the swiss architecture magazine Archithese is all about futuristic architecture and its influences. From Here I Can Almost See The Stars is featured on a two page spread in the magazine and Gates To Elysium in an introductory article about the magazine issue. Since I’m no architect, I find it quite interesting that my stuff could possibly be an inspiration, for people working in the field of architecture. So having my work feature in a magazine like this is really special for me.

The word magazine is almost an understatement for this publication. It’s almost a book and feels really good in your hands. It has a nice weight, which gives it a nice feel of quality. As mentioned before, this issue of the magazine tackles Science Fiction and how it has influenced architecture in real life and media. Movies like Blade Runner as well as Star Wars are discussed. As a scifi fan, working in art, it is quite an interesting read.

Archithese Website & Article

Regards
signed