Mecha-snippet du jour

The people who made Hangar No. 5 have achieved an extraordinary feat. They successfully made a chunk of live-plus-CGI action cinema, on a shoestring budget. Their success continues even to the point of getting wrong the stuff that action movies so often get wrong - Gatling guns that go rat-a-tat-tat instead of BZZZZZ, and gold bars that appear to actually be made of cardboard. ("It's gold! It's gold!" "No it's not! It's obviously not!"*)

But I'm just carping. Sling 'em a couple of bucks if you like it. (You can download the HD version even if you don't donate.)

See also this, and this.

* The gold bars you usually seem to see in movies (in Kelly's Heroes, for instance, which is one of my favourites) seem to be roughly six inches by two inches by one inch in size. That's 12 cubic inches, which is about 197 cubic centimetres, and gold weighs 19.3 grams per cubic centimetre.

So a single bar that size would weigh 3.8 kilograms. People in a decent state of fitness who're very motivated by the desire to become wildly wealthy might be able to carry as many as eight of them at a time.

Given the spectacular piles of gold action movies like to present to the heroes, even the muscles of Clint Eastwood and the avarice of Don Rickles won't be sufficient to shift 'em all before the credits finish rolling.

(Donald Sutherland could probably scare up a trailer for his tank, though.)

I am not, of course, the only nitpicker to have noticed this. TV Tropes calls it "Hollywood Density".

If you download only one 188Mb MOV file today...

...make it World War, by Vincent Chai (via).

The high-res MOV version is right there on Chai's site, which could get just a leeetle bit overloaded in the near future. One thousand bonus points for the guy, though, for making that high-res version available.

Usually, you find some awesome short film on YouTube or Vimeo or wherever, and then you go to the creator's site, and there's nothing there but the same squished-down Flash-video version. You can format-equals-18 it on YouTube so you can download a better-than-nothing MP4 version, but that's it.

Vincent, though, has the whole HD enchilada right there for download, like the Code Guardian guys who inspired my last post like this. And like the Exploratorium guys with The Secret Life of Machines, for that matter.

Here's a direct link to the MOV file, which if you're reading this some time after I wrote it will either be nice and fast, or broken:

I hope he puts it on or makes a torrent or something. I e-mailed him about it, but have not yet received a reply, possibly because he's got better things to do than hover by the computer waiting for e-mails from me, or possibly just because it's the middle of the night where he is.

(See also.)

Yes, a battle-axe WILL do nicely!

Herewith, selected thoughts on finally getting around to watch "Doomsday". It's Neil Marshall's third big movie; he also did The Descent and Dog Soldiers.

In brief: Yes, this is indeed total nonsense, but awesome!

Some minor spoilers follow.

Righto, I'm watching a plague movie. Mmm, splatter!

Oh, no - this is Escape from New York, obviously.

I suppose if everything's going to hell, it's not a bad idea to have a genetically enhanced Prime Minister. (Could be better, could be worse.)

No, wait - now I'm watching Aliens.

No, no, hang on - it's Beyond Thunderdome. Leathers and feathers all over the shop.

I don't care what you say - I'll put Scottish post-apocalyptic lunatics up against the post-apocalyptic lunatics of any other nation you care to name.

When you see a bloke with a big dangly punk face decoration and you think, "you're not living in a society where hanging a handle off your face is a good idea, mate", and later on you're proven to be exactly right? Nice.

Honestly, I could go a bit of long pig right now. Yum.

As long as you're not trying to make Great Art, casting stunt-people in primary roles is an excellent idea.

OK, I'm officially shutting down my Nitpicking Cortex now. What I just saw were special post-apocalypse trail bikes, which are completely inaudible until they're six feet behind you. And it turns out to take about three seconds to get a steam locomotive going. And it's been a generation since anybody around here saw a dentist, but they've all got great teeth. And nobody knows how to make a crystal radio any more. And spy satellites will only spot the occasional individual wandering around, even if giant open-air cannibal raves are happening every night.

OK, really stopping with the nitpicks now.

Right, that's it, this whole movie has just been made worthwhile by its inclusion of a Flanders and Swann reference! "PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS EATEN PEOPLE"!

Craig Conway's deranged yelling skills were clearly wasted when he was a mere, short-lived, "Camper" in Dog Soldiers.

I often, while watching movies, say "there's something you don't see every day". It's great when someone on-screen says it too.

"Gift Shop" is hilarious.

Remember - when you hire Tim Curry, Brian Blessed or Malcolm McDowell, you get the beard for free!

Tough guys don't use Desert Eagles. They use Webleys.

I just saw a man get knocked out with a pheasant.

Since we all know fighter jets will still be functional after a thousand years of neglect, 25 years for a footballers' car is obviously no problem at all.

Good lord, now we're back to Mad Max again, except with a Frankie soundtrack. And there's a spiky Mark II Jag. And a black cab.

I'm surprised that this is the first time something exploded when it crashed. Oh, and there's the second time.

Ooh, that'll be the third.

Seven out of ten.

Posted in Movies. 6 Comments »

The MPAA will be very angry when they figure out what this is

DVD Jon's new application DoubleTwist looks completely awesome. I don't think it really does anything that you couldn't do before with umpteen tweaky utilities, but it aims to do it all in one simple program.

So I was all ready to download the beta and start freeing all of my DRM-ed media files from their corporate shackles... when I suddenly remembered that I don't have any DRM-ed media files.

I've got some DVDs, but they seem pretty happy where they are.

If you've got audio, video or even photos (on a stupid locked-down cameraphone, for instance) that you'd like to move somewhere else but can't, though, check DoubleTwist out.

The YouTube Of Tomorrow

DivX's new Stage6 site will host, for free, pretty much any legal DivX-encoded content you like, with much better quality than GooTube.

Stage6 video files are of course generally much bigger, and you need to install their special player extension, and the site still seems to have that occasional GooTube problem where you upload a video and then it never goes live.

But I consider this a small price to pay to be able to watch (and download!) stuff like A Gentlemen's Duel and Team Roomba's hilarious instalments one and two of their TF2 griefing, in decent resolution.

(Unlike many other video hosting services, Stage6 does not have interstitial ads, or weird code that only works right on Internet Explorer. Actually, the current FAQ notes that "The Stage6 beta website is optimized for experience in the Mozilla Firefox browser. It may kind of work in IE as well.")

As a test, I've uploaded my battling robot bugs video from the other day to Stage6; it's here. I think the stereo audio improves it considerably.

(Joey, the Amazing Fetching Cat may now also be enjoyed in higher resolution and stereo on Stage6. He's here.)

Bloodsuckin' fun

I've just finished watching the first, and only, series of the inventively-named "Blade: The Series".

The show's cancellation after 12 episodes was a lot less of a crime than the cancellation of Firefly, but I still quite enjoyed it. The feeling of foreboding you get when some rapper with a silly name gets cast in a nominally serious show is, in this case, unfounded. Blade is an absolutely relentless downer who avoids anything resembling dramatic acting at all costs, after all. He's easy enough for any schmuck to play.

Blade: The Series often doesn't quite make sense. You'd think, for instance, that the shutters on the windows of Vampire HQ would have anti-daylight interlocks that couldn't be defeated by anything short of a shaped charge, but apparently they prefer to give the good guys a sporting chance. And vampires are supposed to have superhuman senses, yet none of them ever seem to overhear anything, or even be able to smell a sweaty, bleeding human who seconds ago crossed their path, when to do so would be inconvenient for the plot.

The upper levels of the vampire hierarchy also appear to be reserved for the exceedingly pompous, but there's nothing new about soliloquising expository villains. And there's a good laugh based on this in the last episode.

The low-ish budget also shows through from time to time. When, late in the series, it becomes apparent that something important will be happening in Toronto, you can't help but laugh. The show's meant to be set in Detroit, a mere hop skip and jump from Toronto - but I live on the other side of the planet and could still see that everyone's actually been Rumbling in Vancouver all this time. So now Blade would appear to have to drive his Cool Car 2700 miles.

Oh, and in the Drinking Game for this series, "someone walks somewhere in slow motion" would only be one very small sip of your drink, and "someone who is actually still alive is confidently declared to be dead by someone who hasn't even checked" would not be very much bigger.

(I was also downright surprised when a vampire told a human employee "your well-deserved reward awaits you" and it turned out that, for once, the reward was not death.)

But the acting's pretty decent, the fight choreography is OK, and nobody decided to cut the guts out of the show by shooting for a PG-13 rating.

If you haven't seen the Blade series but you also haven't seen Ultraviolet (the British TV series, not the lousy movie), you should see Ultraviolet first.

If you've still got a hankering for vampire-based fun after that, check out Blade: The Series' movie-length pilot and see what you think.

A tale of two movies

A while ago, it came to my attention that there are people in the world who have not seen They Live.

This is understandable. They Live can sneak past you. It looks as if it ought to be a really, really terrible movie.

I mean, Roddy Piper is the 80's sci-fi leading man you hire when you can't afford Kurt Russell. And They Live shows on TV in terrible-movie timeslots. And a precis of the plot could easily leave you with the conclusion that the movie is just a Twilight Zone episode padded out to ninety minutes.

And a lot of its fans only seem to remember the big fight scene, and a quote involving bubble gum.

But They Live is actually pretty freakin' awesome. If you have not seen it, I really must insist that you do.

This subject came up on the excellent, though not terribly well confined to its stated purpose, Skeptic discussion list. Someone mentioned that if you like one sci-fi B movie with Roddy Piper in it, you'd better see another - namely, Hell Comes To Frogtown.

I have now seen that second film.

At first glance, Frogtown appears to have all of the same problems as They Live.

And at second, third and all subsequent glances... it still does. It's terrible. But quite funny.

Frogtown also continues the sterling reputation of the amazingly popular Vasquez Rocks shooting location. If you visit Vasquez Rocks and don't see a starship's away team and/or someone having an unconvincing fistfight with a man in a reptile suit, I think you may justifiably demand monetary compensation from the government.

I think I may manage to survive without seeing Frogtown's several inexplicable sequels, though. This despite the fact that, in the first sequel, the Roddy Piper role is reprised by the inimitable - and I use the word advisedly - Robert Z'Dar.

Posted in Movies. 9 Comments »

Secret Life Of Machines update update!

A new, better-than-ever opportunity to watch Tim 'n' Rex's outstanding Secret Life Of Machines (previously mentioned here and here) has arrived:

The Exploratorium science museum has made every single episode available for straightforward download from their site!

[UPDATE: Or, at least, they did. There was unexpected demand, so they took the files down again. Their Webmaster quietly reinstated them in a different location for a while, but then word got out and he took 'em away agin. Never mind, though: I got them all, and made a torrent! The Exploratorium direct-download page came back up after the initial rush was over, so you should be able to get the episodes there now - but you might as well still give their server a break and use the torrent.]

There are QuickTime streaming versions which seem to be broken at the moment, but never mind those - the ones you want are the "iPhone" versions. They're standard iPhone video format (480 by 360 pixel, MPEG4 video, 128 kilobit AAC audio, M4V container), which is playable on PCs without much messing around. If you don't happen to have the right codecs and don't want to faff about installing QuickTime or something, just play 'em with the all-in-one VLC media player.

(The iPhone format is also 30 frames per second, not the 15fps of the old iPod Video format.)

I presume these rips are from the DVD edition, because they look a lot nicer than the VHS rips that've been doing the rounds before now. And they're less than 192Mb per episode, so all 18 episodes will fit with room to spare on one DVD-R.