Short Nerd Chief

Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

Del Toro to direct The Hobbit

Posted by Fred on February 5, 2008


From The Guardian:

Guillermo del Toro has officially signed up to direct The Hobbit, according to reports leaking out from a film premiere in France. The Pan’s Labyrinth creator will oversee a double-bill of films based on JRR Tolkien’s fantasy adventure, which paved the way for The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson, director of the Oscar-winning Rings trilogy, will serve as executive producer.

Yay. Pan’s Labyrinth was great. Hellboy was adequate.  del Toro has a visual style which at first glance would seem a bit dark for The Hobbit, which is a far less dark and ominous tale than The Lord of the Rings, but the same could probably have been said of Peter Jackson before he made LOTR or Alfonso Cuarón before he made Prisoner of Azkaban.  While The Hobbit shares a setting and primary characters with the Lord of the Rings, it reads as a novel written for an entirely different audience (which is as Tolkien intended it – The Hobbit was a book for children, not adults).  I hope that Jackson and del Toro take this into account, and don’t merely film The Hobbit as a LOTR prequel (or two).

Update: Luke says that Tolkien didn’t intend The Hobbit to be a children’s book, and was intended to be a part of the larger mythology that began with the Silmarillion. The truth is more complicated than that.  The larger mythology was primarily created while Tolkien was recuperating from injuries sustained at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.  Tolkien’s early stories were eventually published as two separate volumes of The Book of Lost Tales in the 1980s.  Tolkien developed a “legendarium” surrounding these stories, which eventually evolved into The Silmarillion.  The Hobbit, however, was a book Tolkien told to his own children and by most accounts never intended to publish.  He did say that “[i]t’s not even very good for children. I wrote some of it in a style for children, but that’s what they loathe. If I hadn’t done that, though, people would have thought I was loony.”

So The Hobbit is a book not really intended for children and not very good for children, but originally told to Dr. Tolkien’s own children and written partially in a style for children.  Make of that what you will.  The larger point remains, however.  The Hobbit is not just a prequel to LOTR, and if the film comes out as if it were, the filmakers will have done the work a disservice.

[via Kottke]


Posted in Books | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Physics in cartoons (good!) and movies (bad!)

Posted by Fred on January 22, 2008

Some physics links (sort of):

1. Wikipedia’s page on Cartoon Physics, including a discussion of Anvilology and Collision Physics.  Scroll to the bottom for some laws of cartoon dynamics:

  • Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation (plus an interval for live falling bodies to express an appropriate emotion).
  • Any body in motion will tend to remain in motion until solid matter intervenes suddenly.
  • Any body passing through solid matter will leave a perforation conforming to its perimeter.
  • All principles of gravity are negated by fear, surprise and/or shock.
  • Falling bodies either collide with the earth completely elastically or inelastically. If the collision is elastic, the energy will be ultimately transferred to something else which collides absolutely inelastically (e.g., into a hanging cliffside that cracks and falls).
  • Momentum is continual until noticed.
  • Bodies can achieve energies greater than they originally started with, even if no external force is added (e.g., a rock will, when rolled against a ramp) fly higher than its original starting point.
  • The amount of work on rocks falling tends towards zero (i.e., they tend to fall to their original (!) starting point).
  • As speed increases, objects can be in several places at once, a situation similar to the ones described by quantum mechanics. Or a character running wildly will meet him- or herself face to face.
  • Everything falls faster than an anvil, except for an agent attached to an anvil by parachute strings, in which case the anvil tows the agent.
  • Arms holding large falling weights are infinitely elastic, but will eventually drag the holder along.
  • Protocol or photo opportunities will suspend the motion, not only of persons running, but also of inanimate objects.
  • Tools and machinery also behave in unusual ways. An old-fashioned bumper jack, raised or lowered with a long lever, will exceed by many times the height of its own housing (similar to hammerspace) when a character needs it to lift something to a considerable height. Also, lazy tongs can be manufactured to reach over considerable distances.

[etc.]  Study of cartoon physics has a long and glorious history, with researchers ranging from Stephen R. Gould to Roger Ebert.

2. Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics (now a book!).  Don’t miss the review of the worst movie physics of all time, in the otherwise execrable The Core:

There is little reason to panic over a magnetic field upset. The geological record indicates Earth’s magnetic field reverses itself at irregular intervals averaging about every half a million years. While the magnetic field probably doesn’t drop to zero during these times, available evidence suggests it becomes weak and erratic. Undoubtedly, some bad things happen but there’s no evidence that such fluctuations cause mass extinctions, let alone incineration by deadly microwave radiation.

The movie’s heroes set out to solve this horrifying non-problem in the only possible way: send a manned vehicle that looks like a windowless subway train into the Earth’s core and blow up five 200-megaton nuclear bombs. (We always knew nukes were good for something.) An unmanned vehicle would make a lot more sense for such a hostile environment, but then the movie’s heroes would not be able to exhibit courage, daring, and self-sacrifice….

The solid iron inner core normally has a rotational kinetic energy equivalent to about 340 200-megaton bombs. The liquid metal (primarily iron) outer core surrounding the inner core has a normal rotational kinetic energy equivalent to roughly 32,000 200-megaton bombs. Assuming only the inner core had to be restarted and that 100% of each bomb’s energy could be converted to rotational kinetic energy, the movie’s heroes are at least 335 bombs short of the required amount.

[Wikipedia link via Google Blogoscoped]

Posted in Movies, Science | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Another sign of the impending demise of HD-DVD

Posted by Fred on January 8, 2008


Maybe HD-DVD really is dead, considering what you get at the official HD-DVD site.

On a more serious note, I’ve finally (I think) worked through my buyer’s remorse associated with my purchase of the Toshiba HD-D3 last week(!). After the Warner announcement, I seriously considered taking it back to Costco, but I won’t. I won’t buy Blu-Ray either, especially now that Sony has jacked the price of their entry-level player back up by $100.  I knew the market was trending Blu, but bought HD-DVD anyway – at $149, the Toshiba was hardly more expensive than an upconverting standard-def DVD player plus an HDMI cable. That’s why I bought it in the first place. Blu-Ray is still substantially more expensive – the cheapest player at Amazon is the $349 Samsung BD-P1400.   Even at questionable resellers, you can’t go Blu for less than about $270.

That’s still way too expensive for a video player, in my opinion. I’ll keep the Toshiba, play those HD-DVDs I rent or can get on the cheap, and use it as a decent upconverting unit for standard-def DVDs.  At least until the Half-Blood Prince is out on disc. Then Blu-ray might be hard to pass up.  Given that HD-DVD should be officially dead by then, lack of competition should ensure that Blu-Ray is still in the $300 range.

Posted in Movies, Technology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Apple to Offer Movie Rentals? About Time.

Posted by Fred on December 28, 2007

Among the many things I missed yesterday while stuck on an Amtrak train to nowhere: Apple is apparently set to offer movie rentals via iTMS, starting with Fox:

In an effort to jump-start the market for online movies, News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox and Apple Inc. are preparing to announce a deal in which Fox movies would be available for rent digitally through Apple’s iTunes Store, according to people familiar with the matter.Apple has for months been trying to persuade the Hollywood studios to agree to a digital rental model, in which consumers would be able to download movies through iTunes that could be played for a limited time. Until now, no studio has agreed to such a deal with Apple, and some companies have continued to resist Apple’s pitch.

In a related move, Fox also plans to release DVDs that use Apple’s digital rights management system, a move that would allow consumers to make legal copies of the disc that could be played on an iPod or other device, such as a computer. The moves were reported by the Web site of the Financial Times.

I for one hate, hate, hate the idea of music rentals, but movies are a different matter.  How many movies does one really need to own on DVD?  Schlepping down to the Blockbuster is a pain, and both Blockbuster’s online offering and Netflix are too expensive, expecially if your movie viewing is intermittent, like mine.  Downloadable rentals seem to address all of these issues – you pay only when you rent (no monthly fee), you don’t need to drive to the store and deal with the surly teenagers behind the counter, everything is always in stock, and there’s nothing to return.  Win-win-win.

The biggest downside to the arrangement is getting the movie from iTunes to the TV.  I have little interest in watching a movie on either my PC or the tiny screen on my nano.  Perhaps this service will jump-start Apple TV, which has always been an idea without a market.  Apple will need to make the box cheaper and more Windows-friendly first.  What a movie rental service would be great for, of course, is travel.  Download a big stack of movies to a laptop and you’re set until the battery dies.

The bigger news may well turn out to be not the service itself but that Apple is finally licensing FairPlay to a third party, with Fox to release FairPlay-encoded DVDs of the same movies available for download.  It’s about time.  Scrapping the FairPlay DRM entirely would be better, but maintaining it as a wall around the iPod ecosystem garden never made much sense.  Now if Apple will only license it to Sonos, Netgear, Linksys and Belkin, we’ll have something.  Better yet, let me stream from iTunes to my existing set-top box and skip yet another piece of plastic in the entertainment center, or even download directly from Cupertino’s servers to my DVR.  So long as the movie is playable only on a computer, iPod or an Apple TV box, the market will be limited.

Just don’t turn iTunes into a music subscription service, and all will be good.

[via Apple 2.0]

Posted in Movies, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why 2008 Will Be An Awesome Year For Movies «

Posted by Fred on December 20, 2007 has an annotated list of 2008 movie releases.  Some of these look really interesting.

  • Movies I’d see based solely on the director: Australia (Baz Luhrmann),  Blindness (Fernando Meirelles), The Changeling (Clint Eastwood), Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher), The Fighter (Darren Aronofsky), The Happening (M. Night Shyamalan), Speed Racer (the Wachowskis), Star Trek XI (J.J. Abrams), Valkyrie (Bryan Singer)
  • Adaptations of books that I really liked: Choke, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Ruins, Where the Wild Things Are
  • New installments in old franchises: Harry Potter, Prince Caspian, Star Trex XI, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Dark Knight, The X-Files 2
  • Other remakes and adaptations that might be good but might be a celluloid train wreck: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Get Smart, Iron Man, Scanners
  • Other movies I’ll definitely see: Wall-E (it’s from Pixar), Pineapple Express (it’s from the Judd Apatow team)
  • Movie I definitely won’t see: Sex and the City: The Movie
  • The luckiest actor in Hollywood: Brad Pitt, who got to work with both Darren Aronofsky and David Fincher

In reality, of course, I’ll see most of these on DVD if at all, other than the ones targeted at children and/or families. But 2008 does look like a good year for Event Movies.  My prediction for 2008: Daniel Neman will hate most of these flicks.

[via Kottke]

Posted in Movies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Top 10 Unlikely Movie Scientists

Posted by Fred on October 10, 2007

Wired’s Top 10 Unlikely Movie Scientists.  Granted, they had to stretch a bit to get to 10 (Dr. Bunsen Honeydew? A literal muppet).  Plus, nobody has ever accused The Fantastic Four of adhering to the laws of physics.  The rest I’ll buy – whoever cast Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough and Elisabeth Shue in The Saint was obviously drunk. How about an honorable mention for the cast of Hackers?  They’re not scientists, but it requires an incredible ability to suspend disbelief to buy Angelina Jolie and Matthew Lillard as elite hackers.

this seems like a good time for a link to The Greatest Movie Link of All Time: Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics.

Posted in Movies, Science | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Wallace & Gromit Adventure!

Posted by Fred on October 5, 2007

Jason Kottke and I seem to have similar taste in movies, or at least animation.  First Wall-E, and now news of a new Wallace & Gromit adventure, Trouble At’ Mill.

Trouble At’ Mill, to be shown on BBC1, is in pre-production now, shooting starts in January, it will be finished for Autumn/Christmas 08. All production will take place at the Aardman studios in Bristol.

After the incredible success of Curse of The Were-Rabbit Nick is delighted to return to the 30 minute format, “I love making films for the cinema but the production of Chicken Run and Curse of the Were-Rabbit were virtually back to back and each film took 5 years to complete, Trouble At’ Mill will be so much quicker to make and I can’t wait to get back into production.” The new film will reunite Nick with writer Bob Baker who co-wrote both The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave.

Wallace and Gromit have a brand new business. The conversion of 62 West Wallaby Street is complete and impressive, the whole house is now a granary with ovens and robotic kneading arms. Huge mixing bowls are all over the place and everything is covered with a layer of flour. On the roof is a ‘Wallace patent-pending’ old-fashioned windmill. The transformation is perfect.

Although business is booming, Gromit is concerned by the news that 12 local bakers have ‘disappeared’ this year – but Wallace isn’t worried. He’s too distracted and ‘dough-eyed’ in love with local beauty and bread enthusiast, Piella Bakewell, to be of much help.

I assume we Yanks will get to see it on DVD, like the other W&G shorts.  Were-Rabbit was really good, and Chicken Run was fun, but not nearly as good.  With all respect to Nick Park and Aardman, their attempt at Americanizing their very British sensibilities with Flushed Away was not good.  The kids liked it, to be sure, but it was virtually indistinguishable from lots of other non-Pixar flurry-of-action computer animation.

Here’s some stills from the W&G site (reproduced here because you really shouldn’t have to register to see a JPG).






Posted in Movies | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »