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134. Rush (#206)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Grace Duffy, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Ron Howard’s Rush.

In the early seventies, the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda was the stuff of legend among Formula 1 enthusiasts. Two very different men competing for every different reasons, Hunt and Lauda formed an unlikely bond that sustained and motivated both of them to push themselves further than their limits.

At time of recording, it was ranked 206th on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the best movies of all-time.

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Non-Review Review: Planes 2 – Fire and Rescue

It’s the eyes.

When computer-generated animation first emerged, the hardest part was the eyes. Figures could be rendered in a completely photo-realistic fashion, right down to individual strands of hair, but the eyes were always a problem. If the eyes weren’t right, the animated characters – no matter how thoroughly rendered – inevitably felt like they were beckoning us into the uncanny value. The opposite was also true; cartoonish figures and inanimate objects could be imbued with incredible humanity if the eyes were right.

All fired up...

All fired up…

The computer-generated animation in Planes 2: Fire and Rescue is certain competent. It is not cutting edge, but computer-generated animation has reached a point where it doesn’t have to be cutting edge to work effectively. There are action sequences, there is physical comedy, there are stylised insets. While Planes 2: Fire and Rescue doesn’t break new ground, it is relatively polished.

However, it’s the eyes. A stylised decision in keeping with the world established in Cars, the planes have eyes that look like two-dimensional drawings on the windscreen. It’s a very simple representation of the eyes. It is also a decision that undoubtedly makes them a lot more toyetic. The planes can move their wipers and control the height and width of their windscreens to generate all sorts of exaggerated expression. However, the eyes never seem more than stickers, unable to convey depth or nuance.

Flying so low...

Flying so low…

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Non-Review Review: Need for Speed

The obvious comparison for Need for Speed is to suggest that the movie feels like a video game. After all, the film is an adaptation of EA’s successful car racing video game franchise, porting the adventure to the big screen. However, that doesn’t quite cover Scott Waugh’s Need for Speed. Instead, his car racing adventure feels almost like a cartoon for most of its runtime, adopting a much lighter tone and more careful visual style than the Fast & Furious series which also invites comparisons.

This cartoonish quality is endearing at points, with certain racing sequences and chases feeling almost like a live-action version of Wacky Races, but it means that the movie struggles to shift gears. Attempts to get the audience to invest in a standard central plotline about redemption and justice are hard to balance against the decidedly over-the-top atmosphere of the rest of the film. There are points where Need for Speed needs to convince us to care about its characters, but it can’t make them seem real – no matter how hard it tries.

Stop right now, thank you very much...

Stop right now, thank you very much…

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Non-Review Review: Cars 2

Cars 2 is a Pixar film that runs on an engine, rather than on heart. Technically, it’s magnificent. It’s well put together, features a winning cast, a lot of quite wonderful jokes and absolutely stunning action movies. However, the movie fails to make even the most basic of emotional connections. We’re always watching a bunch of cool cars doing cool car stuff, but we never feel good or bad about it. Even when a handful of cars meet tragic ends over the course of the movie, we never feel bad about it – we don’t really care about them, so we’re never concerned at the dangers they face. It’s a shame, because it’s a stunningly beautiful piece of animation, it’s just missing that wonderful soul that Pixar seems to install with its movies as standard.

Lightning, cameras, action!

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June in Review

It’s been a heck of a month. It has also been while since I’ve done one of these “wrap up” posts, which are probably more for myself than for anybody else, when I pop onto the blog in my old age and want to laugh at what a foolish young man I was with all manner of crazy and poorly-thought-out ideas. So I try to post one of these at the end of point out some of the stuff that I wrote that I’m kinda happy with – the stuff that I might want to read first if I ever look back on this so I don’t despair of the man I was. Or some nonsense like that.

Anyway, just last night I was delighted to submit a last-minute article on Transformers 3 to the superb Morality Bites blogathon. It’s always great to be asked to take part, even if I’m rarely the most organised person taking part.

Anyway, this was the month when I was lucky enough to end up on the IMDb Hit List twice… in the space of a single week. I still can’t understand how that happened, but am genuinely humbled by it. As I’ve said before, it’s an honour to be noticed by the kinda people who love what you love – it’s a huge source of pride that the on-line film resource thought that my hastily-collected gibberish was worthy of attention, and I am still a little bit giddy and star-struck. There’s nothing like being acknowledged by the guys who do what you do… but 1,000,000x better. Sorry, this is a long rambling waffle.

The first post to be selected was a post on this year’s Comic Con that wondered if the move away from the event could foreshadow a fading interest in the geek audience

Then, a few days later, I happened to get up there again for a piece I am honestly glad that people noticed, something about Pixar. Because I genuinely love Pixar, and I don’t get to talk about them often enough. And because Cars 2 is getting a lot of criticism, and sometimes I worry we ignore the really good stuff in life…

… I was especially honoured when the wordpress team also freshly pressed the very same article. The guys are exceedingly wonderful to let myself and all the other bloggers a platform to share our (sometimes haphazardly formed) thoughts with the world, and it’s really great when they do notice something you’ve written. It’s good to know that maybe the people who work hard to offer you a service like this one got a little enjoyment from your effort – like you’re giving a very tiny something back. It is an absolute joy to be listed in such a way.

But that’s the end of the month. Plenty of stuff happened before hand.  I was really looking forward to Green Lantern, only to be a little let down by it. I also wrote a geeky article for another site I occasionally write for about the links between Grant Morrison and Christopher Nolan’s Batman, which I’m also a little bit geeky proud of.

Outside of nerdy stuff, I wondered about classic films I hadn’t seen (one (and a bit) to cross off: Apocalypse Now and Apocalypse Now Redux), and if even a great film can be far too long. Oh, and when we start thinking of the family of famous celebrities as their own individuals rather than extensions of their relatives.

So, it was an awesome month. I can only hopt the next is nearly half as good.

Pixar and the Weight of Expectation…

Well, it probably had to happen. I know it’s probably not statistically impossible, just highly improbable – but I guess that I always knew (deep down) that Pixar’s batting average was too good to last. I mean, I (at the very least) really like all of their films, and I genuinely love the majority of them. And that fact is borne out by the Rotten Tomatoes ratings of the various films. The vast majority rank in the 90% to 100% range, something any studio would kill for: Toy Story (100%), A Bug’s Life (91%), Toy Story 2 (100%), Monsters Inc (95%), Finding Nemo (98%), The Incredibles (97%), Ratatouille (96%), Wall-E (96%), Up (98%), Toy Story 3 (99%). Even the single film that ranks lowest, the only one not in the range, still had mostly positive reviews, Cars with 74%. However, Cars 2 looks to have bucked that winning trend, with reviews that not only fall far short of Pixar’s impressive average, but is actually pretty negative.

I can’t help but feel more than a little bit sad.

Do Pixar need to get in gear?

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Non-Review Review: Gone in Sixty Seconds

Hmm… A perfectly adequate action movie. Nothing more, nothing less. Certainly not a top-of-the-line model.

cars

Hardly an original model...

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