Monday, 17 April 2017

TRAILER REVIEW: STAR WARS THE LAST JEDI

Finally, after what feels like decades of waiting, it is finally here...

After the epicness of The Force Awakens, and then the Episode 4 prequel Rogue One, who knew that it was possible to get even more excited about Star Wars?

Following on from Episode 7, The Last Jedi promises more adventure, more action, and could possibly (just like The Empire Strikes Back) be overshadowed by the dark side of the force - hence the red typeface perhaps?

There were so many unanswered questions left after the last film: Who are Rey's parents? Who is Snoke? Has Luke already turned to the dark side? Will Finn survive? What is Snoke planning next? Will Kylo Ren eventually turn to the light, and be reunited with his mother? Will Leia be reunited with Luke?

Who knows? But the teaser trailer does offer enough sneak peeks to let the entire Star Wars fandom start speculating and anticipating the movie's plot. Besides, we've all watched it a million times now, right?


WARNING: TEASER TRAILER SPOILERS AHEAD

(Plus some spoilers from the other films...)

Slowly fading from a black starlit sky to something which resembles a smooth, rocky surface, the score mysteriously builds until a hand is suddenly thrust onto the screen. Once again we are introduced to Rey, gasping in shock. Already we know she is on the island where we last left the young scavenger and Luke Skywalker, standing with her arm outstretched, lightsaber in hand.

"Breathe"


Mark Hamill's narration guides the audience through this trailer, somehow haunting and yet masterly, both sombre and reflective. The force and Rey's theme mix gorgeously in the first few minutes, foreshadowing her Jedi training to come. Going back to the title: The Last Jedi - this would at first give the impression of a singular Jedi, but what if  the word Jedi was actually plural? The fact that Luke is potentially training Rey would give significant weight to this theory, and the first three words: 'Breathe. Just breathe' suggests that Luke is indeed guiding and instructing Rey in the ways of the Force.

"Just breathe. Reach out"


As the music again builds, we see Rey standing on a precipice overlooking a vast stormy sea, and then a glorious slow motion shot of what is presumably Rey's powers being tested.

"What do you see?"


Rey answers: 'Light'. And what does one think of when thinking of light in Star Wars? The light side of the Force, hope, the rebellion, and of course Princess, or more recently General, Leia: the embodiment of hope and all that is good in the Star Wars universe.


Here fans are treated to a single shot of the back of their favourite space Princess overlooking a console and a holographic map on what looks like a spaceship. But is this the same map as the one that led to Luke or is there something more out there in this plot to discover? Luke went in search of the last Jedi temple, right? But who's to say he actually found it?

Whilst there is some speculation that this figure above is not General Leia, if you take a look at some of the behind the scenes photographs, it most probably is.  Also (Easter Egg!) if you listen super closely, you can hear her whispering: 'Help mObi-Wan'

"Darkness"


And here lies a desolate image of the crushed remains of Kylo Ren's mask, his menacing theme seeping into the score. We last left the Knight of Ren on Starkiller base having been defeated in a battle with Rey, and after attempting, and failing, to seduce her to the darkside, the shattered shards of his mask could mean several things. His demise which isn't likely considering he is seen later on in the trailer or that he has broken free of his restraints (his family, particularly Han Solo) and now no longer has any need for a mask to hide behind.

A mother representing the light; her son representing the dark. Again, if you listen very closely, you can hear Obi-wan's voice echoing another sound bite from Episode 4: A New Hope: "Seduced by the dark side of the Force"


"A balance"


Now this is where it gets really interesting. A line of books sit quietly arranged under a seemingly significant beam of sunlight, and then a gloved hand tentatively touches a worn illustration of the symbol of the Jedi Order. Are these the books Luke had been using in his previous trainings, or are there more secrets to unlock between these faded pages? 'A balance' could refer to the balance between the light and the dark, between the Jedi and the Sith. The Star Wars geeks out there will know who keeps the balance between the two, but we'll touch more on this later.


This time it is Yoda's voice faintly whispering: 'it surrounds us... and binds us', referring to the Force in Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back. The similarities between the two episodes would appear to be growing. Rey learning with her mentor Luke, who has hidden himself away from the world after witnessing the brutal fall of Ben Solo to the dark side and the consequent massacre of his Jedi in training, and Luke with his mentor Yoda, an experienced Jedi Master who lived in seclusion on the swamp planet Dagobah.

And so as the musical score crescendos into the dramatically epic Star Wars theme tune that we all love so dearly, the audience is presented with a feast for the eyes: strange ships discharging red mist as they hurtle across an icy surface towards AT-AT's (bearing similar resemblance to the battle on Hoth?), and then we are finally given a glimpse of Finn - though he may be asleep in some sort of life support container.


Poe and BB-8 run frantically down a corridor and shield themselves as his X-wing fighter is blown up as well as the surrounding hangar - which looks like it could be on a ship rather than a base? Is this part of the retaliation against the Resistance from the First Order? It'll be interesting to see how Poe's character develops in Episode 8 considering he was initially meant to be killed off in the crash on Jakku. Looks like there's no defeating the best pilot in the Resistance.


The Millennium Falcon swoops effortlessly through the sky mid-battle (flown by who we wonder?) and Kylo Ren sports an Anakin Skywalker-style scar over his right eye courtesy of Rey's lightsaber. Like grandfather, like grandson.

And then this shocking reveal of what looks like a temple burning in the distance as a hooded figure falls to their knees next to an R2 unit. Remember that shot from The Force Awakens trailer? Where a robotic hand reaches out to R2D2 as if both seeking and giving comfort? Well, these two shots look rather similar don't you think?

Is this, fans wonder, Luke Skywalker and R2D2? Unless the parallels between The Empire Strikes Back and The Last Jedi run deeper than we think and, like Luke, Rey also loses her hand. Too far-fetched? Probably.

But taking a look back at The Force Awakens trailer 2, the overvoice is almost certainly that of Luke Skywalker as he says: "The Force is strong in my family. My father had it. I have it. My sister has it. You have that power, too."

So, could this be part of the infamous events that took place prior to Luke going into hiding? Is this his temple, the place he was training the next generation of Jedi, burning to the ground after Kylo Ren's betrayal that Rey saw in her vision? Or is this a scene waiting to take its future course?


But juswait a minute.

Is that Captain Phasma? Does that mean she wasn't put in the trash compactor like Finn and Han threatened to do on Starkiller base? And if she was, how in the galaxy far, far away did she escape? Because unless she happened to have two droids on hand to hack into the main computer, we know from Episode 4 that this is no easy feat.

"I know only one truth. It's time for the Jedi to end"

Wait. WHAT???

This has got to be the most shocking and unexpected moment in the entire trailer. What exactly does Luke mean? Is he bringing the whole existence of the Jedi into question? Or that the Jedi should end it, end the War, diminish the battle between the light and the dark? As he stands somewhat forlornly at the entrance to a dimly lit cave, it would seem Luke Skywalker has a much darker, sombre role to play in this movie. Considering he witnessed the massacre of his Jedi-in-Training at the hands of his nephew, and travelled to a distant, isolated island in some hidden part of the galaxy it's not too much of a surprise he'd consider this. Though it may be a little extreme.



Now, going back to the idea of 'balance'...

The term: 'Gray Jedi' has cropped up a few times in the latest theories. Gray Jedi is a name given to a force-user who can harness both the light and dark sides of the Force, without surrendering or being corrupted by the dark side. We know that without the Jedi there can be no balance in the force - as mentioned by Lor San Tekka in The Force Awakens. The question remains is: is there going to be a Gray Jedi in this story, or more than one?

Theory 1) It could be Luke.

Remember how Yoda and Obi-wan warned young Skywalker before he went to Cloud City to save Han and Leia from the hands of Darth Vadar in The Empire Strikes Back? They said he would be tempted by the dark side, that: 'If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path, you will become an agent of evil'

Obviously Luke didn't become evil. Right? After facing Darth Vadar (his father) at Cloud City maybe he was tempted to give into his hatred but managed to resist it, and therefore became a Gray Jedi?

But was Luke only meant to defeat Vader and the Emperor or was he meant to bring balance to the galaxy, to the Force? Was he meant to become a Gray Jedi and is this the bigger picture Luke mentions in the trailer?


Theory 2) It's Rey.


Initially we all assumed that the 'last hope' would, and still could be Leia, but with Rey now in the picture could she be the new hope? Looking at the poster for The Last Jedi, Rey's importance in the Star Wars universe appears more significant than ever. She has no parents or siblings (that we know of) to live up to, only the guidance of the beloved original trio and the friendships of some great new characters. With the rise and continued growing power of the First Order, Rey's role in helping save the galaxy, and perhaps the whole existence of the Jedi, should soon come to fruition.

The Last Jedi poster presents the Star Wars fandom with many questions. Rey's lightsaber looks rather coincidentally like the Jedi Order symbol, fading from light blue to red, moving from the light side to the dark side of the Force as it divides the faces of Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren. Is this colour change a representation of Rey's journey to or fight against the darkness? Is she the divide between the light and the darkness? Or between the Jedi and the Sith? OR... is Rey the one to bring balance and reconciliation between the two?

Theory 3) Could Kylo Ren be a Gray Jedi?


It may not seem likely that this emotionally-charged dark side force-user could potentially be a Gray Jedi. We already know that Snoke took on Ben Solo as a sort of apprentice, having manipulated and seduced him over to the dark side under the nose of his Jedi uncle. Ren thought that killing his father (Han Solo) would rid him of the torment of being torn between the light and the darkness. And yet despite everything, after all he has done he still feels the pull to the light - and Leia believes there's still good in him, just like Luke believed there was still good in Vader.

Theory 4) It's all of them. Because why not?

"First comes the day
Then comes the night.
After the darkness
Shines through the light.
The difference, they say,
Is only made right
By the resolving of gray
Through refined Jedi sight."
- Journal of the Whills

Looks like we'll just have to wait for the film, or more trailers to find out.
Watch the teaser trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zB4I68XVPzQ



Image sources: Google, Tumblr

Saturday, 1 April 2017

DRAMA REVIEW: APPLE TREE YARD

Desirably jam-packed with delightful intrigue and unnerving suspense, Apple Tree Yard combines the best of a psychological thriller, a heartfelt romance and the worst of human nature.

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!


Although many viewers may find steamy encounters in secret closets a little much for their Sunday night viewing, Apple Tree Yard does deliver much more of a plot-line than a couple of raunchy scenes that one would generally expect to hold little narrative. However, this is not the case. Thankfully the series, based on the novel of the same name by Louise Doughty, provides its viewers with a multi-layered plot which digs deeper and deeper until it seems practically impossible to uncover any more dark and troubling secrets. This is no ordinary love affair; bit by bit the plot twists and turns as a one-off encounter in the heat of the moment evolves into a nerve-wrecking scramble to hide the truth, therefore unraveling consequences of a horrifying nature.

Image result for apple tree yardYvonne Carmichael is introduced to us as an intelligent and respected scientist, a married middle-aged woman who is confident in her own high-heeled shoes. Within the first few minutes of Episode 1 Yvonne commits a reckless and risky act with a handsome, alluring stranger in a closet, and in the Houses of Parliament no less. This self-controlled, self-respecting woman we have shortly been introduced to has suddenly stepped off the expectation mark and done something so entirely uncharacteristic it surprises both herself and the audience. This one encounter soon develops into a heated and passionate affair spun with mystery and secrets, and, as real life demands, nothing ever goes to plan.

Emily Watson is always a joy to watch. The subtlety in which she delivers a character's emotions and the extremes that she plays in Yvonne's character is both captivating and distressing. A strong on-screen presence right from the start, the soft lull of her whispering voice as she writes to her mysterious lover is intertwined throughout each episode as she comes to terms with the events that spiral out of control with almost alarming speed. 

Yvonne's sexuality and femininity is a breath of fresh air amidst today's' general speculations of what an older woman should be and how she should act. Although the presence of strong on-screen female characters has risen over the last couple of years, it seems once an actress hits the grand age of 50 she is written-off and left with fewer and fewer opportunities. It could be said that TV dramas most loyal followers are women, and providing them with a story such as Apple Tree Yard is a reminder that older women are and can be attractive, and strong-willed, and that they have not at all been forgotten.

In an interview, Watson stated that she was left feeling a bit traumatised after filming one particular scene which was enforced with real-life testimonies from rape-victims in order to deliver a believable and real performance. In knowing this, Watson's acting is all the more admirable and harrowing as her character develops.

Image result for apple tree yard markOpposite Watson's character is Mark Costley, played by Ben Chaplin: tall, handsome and becomingly flirtatious. The boyish grin and sincerity Chaplin displays leaves the viewers free to like him immediately, captivated by the mystery that shrouds him - or perhaps the mystery he has shrouded himself in? As the plot develops the viewer is tricked, like Yvonne, that we know all about him, when in fact they are only given snippets of information that create a willfully good picture of his secretive, roguish life.

Chaplin performs Mark's character with both tenderness and a sinister undertone, something which comes into play in later episodes as the viewer is left questioning everything they have seen.

In reality Chaplin and Watson are good friends, and revealed that their friendship may have overshadowed the passionate romance that continually broiled just under the surface. Knowing this beforehand may have made viewing a little awkward for some viewers - some have also conceded that their affair was verging on chilled rather than the heated scandal it was made out to be.

Whilst the affair develops into something more dangerous, Yvonne must also deal with her home life: her pregnant daughter, her troubled son and her husband Gary who has (in the apparent past) had an affair of his own with a student. Gary is played by Mark Bonnar - who many might recognise as Duncan Hunter from Shetland, Adam Collingborne in ITV's Home Fires, and Chris in Catastrophe. The relationship between the the Carmichael's is standoffishly tense, the truth verging on a knife's edge as it brings into question the reason for each character's motive for cheating on their other half. Despite his apparent disloyalty, Gary gallantly stays by Yvonne's side and seeks to help her in later episodes.

Whilst riveted to our seats, perhaps with curiosity, perhaps with horror, the audience is innocently thrust into a world of almost unbelievable personally catastrophic events. One thing Apple Tree Yard does deal with exceedingly well is human nature; carnal lust, the instinct to survive no matter the cost, the need to be loved, and our ultimate short-coming in our endeavours to self-destruct.

Betrayal, paranoia, passion, regret, fear and denial are rampant in this beguiling story. In confronting several disturbing and difficult subjects, the series provides an unassailably realistic account of what can happen due to one irrational act.  Truth and lies seem almost limitless in the scandals that unfold, and by the end of the series, with one final gobsmackingly haunting plot twist, the viewer is left with an unsettling and tantalising realisation. But to uncover this truth, you must find it out for yourself.

Apple Tree Yard is available to buy as both a book and DVD online.
View the trailer here

(Photo credits: Google, the Metro, the Guardian)

Monday, 27 March 2017

STORYBOARDING: The Chess Player

A few months ago I was presented with the opportunity to create the storyboards for a student project at the University I had graduated from. Having always storyboarded my own projects, and used to drawing what I could see inside my own mind, I jumped at the chance to help visualise someone else's film.

Everybody sees things differently.


We imagine, we visualise in different ways. Maybe because our brains are wired differently, maybe because we all rely on different experiences or the things we've read. A wide shot to one person might be a close to another; or someone might prefer a high-angled birds eye view, whilst another a fish-eye lens effect. There are endless ways to visualise a story and we are all unique when it comes to this.

So being tasked with aiding in the visualisation of someone else's film is by no means an easy feat. One must be able to see inside the director's mind, understand their vision and translate that into something that will reach and interact with their audience. From my little experience there will be times when the director may have difficulty in conveying their thoughts and will seek suggestions and alternatives to the shots they have planned. Or they may know exactly what he/she wants and will be able to describe it to you shot for shot.

Working on 'The Chess Player' I was given the privilege of working with a director who knew exactly what she wanted, and was able to communicate her ideas for the film. It was on an extremely wet and windy day that we decided to meet up to go over the script and visualise the storyboards together. Packing my pens and pencils in my bag I set out on the train into the bustling city of Birmingham, amidst the stalls and lights being put up for the forthcoming infamous German Christmas Market, and headed straight for the library.


Nicoleta (the director) then presented me with a sketchbook with all her storyboard sketches in, explaining how she wanted each shot and what she was trying to portray in each scene. This was like a breath of fresh for me, and I was soon able to set to work on drawing up her ideas.

For the storyboards I used pencil, 0.1 and 0.3 fine line pens and a grey felt-tip pen (having not yet purchased any digital drawing software). Usually I would have drawn up four boards to an A4 page, but decided to draw six for this project. Occasionally, when I was unsure about a certain shot, I would message Nicoleta to confirm how she wanted it framed or what movement the camera was taking, to make sure her idea was being fully communicated. There were about 15 pages with a total of 83 individual boards. Once completed I met up with Nicoleta and handed them over. Job done; all I had to do then was wait to see the finished film.

I very much enjoyed working in this way - being able to draw up a frame from a rough sketch and converse with the Director. With an understanding of what she could see I was able to draw out her idea, not my own, and it was interesting to gain insight into her visualisation process.

You can view the finished film here: The Chess Player

Thursday, 16 March 2017

REVIEW: Doctor Who Series 10 trailer

Andddd the Doctor is back! New places, new companions, new time zones, new characters... what could possibly happen? Quick-cut clips with a good mix of comedic and dramatic glimpses has set the world's Whovian hearts beating once again in anticipation for Series 10, and sadly the last series with Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor.

The new trailer bounded onto our TV screens on Monday night, jam-packed with crazy special effects and a preview of the many adventures that the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his two companions, Nardole (Matt Lucas) and newbie Bill (Pearl Mackie), will encounter in the new series.

So, what have the BBC and Stephen Moffat got up their sleeves for us this time? Let's take a look:

1. There will be pyramids.
Could these large triangular landmarks be the infamous classic Egyptian Pyramids? Perhaps. But with a luscious green forest on its doorstep, chances are this adventure will take place sometime in the future or even on a different planet. Pyramids have popped up in the Doctor's timeline before, notably in The Dalek's Master Plan, and more recently The Rings of Akhaten. Whether it's Pharaohs, Osirians or planet-eating entities it seems that danger will inevitably be lurking nearby. Looking back at Series 4 with Tom Baker, the Doctor also encountered pyramids in Pyramids of Mars. Speaking of which...



2. The Doctor will definitely be going to Mars!
Yes, that's right. We're going to Mars again - only this time lets hope we don't encounter any water... Plus the monster we're going to meet looks suspiciously like an Ice Warrior, except perhaps with a bit of a twist this time. Maybe a female Ice Warrior?  *coughcough* Mark Gatiss. It's time to bring back some old friends.



3. Evil Emojibots?
They look a bit like the Handbots from The Girl Who Waited, except smaller and with cute little faces. But these are no ordinary faces. No, these are emoji-faces, and whilst these little robots look adorable with their little thumbs-up happy faces, it soon becomes apparent that they also have murderous-skull angry faces too. Too many faces...


4. A big spiky door.
A door that leads where, we wonder? If you look closely enough there's some familiar patterns - Gallifreyan text perhaps? Could the Doctor be revisiting the home of the Time Lords once again, or are there even darker forces at play here?



5. Old Sonic?
This sonic Nardole has caught looks rather familiar? Could it be the same model used by Tom Baker in series four? This sonic was actually used throughout the 70s and 80s by Pertwee, Baker and Davidson. It looks like series 10 will be taking a few trips down memory lane. Which leads us to...


6. Mondasian Cybermen!
The Cybermen are back again! We may have encountered them last in Series 8's Death in Heaven, but these aren't the modern reboot. These original, creepy Cybermen with cloth faces were last seen in the 1960s alongside William Hartnell in The Tenth Planet, and have since produced many bizarre and sinister variations. The Cybermen will appear in episodes 11 and 12 of Series 10 directed by Rachel Talalay. As these monsters are his favourite, it would seem the series finale will be a fitting farewell for Peter Capaldi.

7. We've landed in 1814? Get in!
Though we originally thought we might get a bit of Victorian action, it appears the Doctor and Bill have landed in the Georgian era. And there's snow too. Could this be one of the River Thames Frost Fairs? The Frost Fairs were held in London when the river froze over between the 17th and early 19th century, and in 1814 it was said that an elephant traveled across the ice under Blackfriars Bridge! Whatever this episode holds in store we can be certain that the Doctor is going to punch someone. And hasn't the Doctor taken someone else to 1814 before? *coughcough* A Good Man Goes to War...

8. Freaky, wet-Dalek woman?
There seems to be something a bit slippery about this girl? Could be the fact she seems to have materialised completely out of water. But what is most shocking is the one word she speaks, the one word that fills the Whovian soul with excitement and dread: EXTERMINATE! So, are we looking at a race in league with the Daleks, or is she more of a Dalek-hybrid?



9. Bill is awesome.
Pearl Mackie is vibrant and fresh in the two trailers we've seen so far. Her name is Bill Potts, she serves chips, and she thinks the Tardis interior looks like a kitchen. She'll definitely keep us and the Doctor entertained. Bill seems quite a bubbly character who's full of curiosity. Here's hoping she doesn't talk the Doctor to death.


10. Missy is back!
Thank goodness. This eccentric timelady has been missing from our TV screens for far too long. Having last appeared in 'The Witch's Familiar' she's left an awful lot of questions behind that need answering. Like how on earth she managed to escape from Skaro surrounded by Daleks? We'll just have to wait and see.



One thing is for sure, Series 10 will be full of action, a good dose of Earth's history, aliens, monsters, heroes and villains. We're all in for a bit of a bumpy ride...


Doctor Who returns to BBC One on Saturday 15th April 2017.
Photo Credits: Google, BBC One, The Guardian

Sunday, 12 March 2017

DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Mutiny

'When ships were made of wood, men were made of steel'


In 1789, Captain William Bligh was cast adrift with 18 crew members on the Pacific Sea, having lost his ship to his mutinous crew. What happened afterwards is a legendary maritime feat of endurance and adventure. Now, 228 years later, Channel 4 has helped recreate that voyage with a crew of 9 men who intend to retrace and recreate the epic tale of the Mutiny on the Bounty.

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD

What is not mentioned, at least in the first episode, is why Bligh and his loyal crew were cast adrift in the first place. Captain Bligh was notorious for being a hard man, often too demanding and abusive towards his crew, and dealing out harsh punishments. It was this that led Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian and other crew members to act and take control of the ship. This documentary however, provides a more sympathetic view of Bligh's character and the hardships he faced after being forced off his ship and left for dead.

Made up of experienced seamen and complete novices, the modern-day crew faces the unpredictable wide oceans of the South Pacific in a replica 23-ft boat with Captain Bligh's diary as a guide to their journey. The Captain's words are wonderfully illustrated through 3D black and white images, establishing key words in calligraphy text to re-enforce the historical account, and blue lens flares that carry through the theme of the sea.

The documentary is narrated by Philip Glenister, whose firm yet sincere tone brings back memories of a conscientiously responsible captain who faced a mutiny himself - Captain Smollett of the Hispaniola in the Sky mini-series: Treasure Island.

The audience is given insight into each crew member's personal background, their qualifications and the role each will play on board. Following the ghostly footsteps of the men whose swell they are sailing in, the crew experience and show how Bligh and his men would have suffered at the mercy of the tides and yet pulled together for survival.

In charge is Ant Middleton, former Special Boat Service sniper, who many might recognise as being the hard, no-nonsense instructor in SAS: Who Dares Wins. His leadership and determination provide him with the best foundation and expertise as a sea captain, knowing how to keep the men working and willing to follow commands.

At sea however, and not under a military operation, Ant's comfort zone may be stretched into unknown waters with the responsibility of leading a non-military team - especially as some of the men are not at all used to taking orders.

Another interesting character study is Chris, who, having spent time in prison, had an epiphany that it was his destiny to sail the sea and bought a boat to live on after his release. But Chris' metal is tested when the voyage truly gets underway, revealing his unwillingness to participate as a team player as well as his difficulty in obeying orders. Having succeeded in isolating himself from the rest of the crew, Chris shows himself to be irresponsible and undisciplined with a complete lack of care for his own safety - or perhaps simply ignorant of the dangers that surround him. Yet despite his attitude, and knowing some of his background, it is difficult not to root for this man and hope that he will somehow turn his outlook around and learn a few lessons throughout the voyage to better his character. It will be interesting to see if and how he changes, and how his tenuous relationship with the rest of the crew develops.

During the voyage the men filmed themselves - sometimes talking about their personal experiences, sometimes logging their thoughts, or just having a laugh. These go-pro like  shots are an unsettling ghostly reminder of In the Heart of the Sea in which Captain Pollard and his crew are left adrift after their ship is destroyed by a giant whale. Of course, there are no whales in this tale (so far), but the striking resemblance of a crew sailing the wide open ocean in a tiny vessel trying to survive against the odds is there all the same.

The crew were also accompanied by two cameramen, Dan and Sam. Occasionally the camera takes the audience out of the boat and above into the skies to reveal the wider picture, and we are presented with beautiful birds-eye shots of calm waters, hovering above the small rocking boat on its brave adventure. And yet all the while my technical mind was wondering - how on earth were these men achieving these shots? Were the cameramen sitting there in that tiny vessel flying a drone? Surely not? And how were their camera batteries going to last the entire voyage? Were they using solar power? Not likely.

Turns out there was a support ship sailing just behind them. Although a reality experiment, the producers couldn't possibly have allowed the voyage to take place without some sort of supervision lest they should encounter a real disaster. The risk assessment involved in setting 9 men on a 4,000 mile voyage across the South Pacific would already be imaginably lengthy.


'I need everyone to stay vigilant. If we say all hands on deck, everyone's up, okay? Cause when we go through it there's gonna be serious times ahead' - Ant Middleton, Captain


Provided with enough rations to last them 60 days, the men must resolves themselves to make the most of what they have. With only hard biscuits made of flour, water and salt, and a bit of dried beef to survive on it is no wonder some of the men lost up to 4st! Finding extra food would be a vital challenge.

But this documentary is not all doom and gloom. Amidst the crashing and swell of the South Pacific waves and the relentless rain, the men attempt to make light of the situation. Rishi in particular, the Quartermaster, proves himself to be quite the comedian upon referring to a sunrise as the 'teletubbie' sun! Of course there's also the classic manly banter, discussing the inability to pee and being sick. You may need a strong constitution if you wish to ensure the swear words that frequent these vast waters - before the episode has barely begun the air is as blue as the sea!

After a few stormy nights the men are left a little shaken, but their respect for each other has grown considerably. The heights of the waves, even on camera, are daunting, and on day 7 the crew are faced with even more problems: trench hand - for those faint of heart feel free to look away now. Personally this brings back memories of soaking wet walking boots and the harsh wind and rain of the Brecon Beacons on my Gold Duke of Edinburgh - I fully sympathise with these men who must endure for worse circumstances.

As the crew finally reach Bligh Water, a stretch of sea filled with high and low rocky islands, the men are filled with joy. There's hope again, and the uplifting orchestral score crescendos as dolphins are spotted off the port side; the crew's cheers and shouts of delight paint a heartening picture of the freedom that comes from sailing the seas.

We've seen mere glimpses of the trials that lie ahead for these men, and it's hard to imagine what it will be like. But the real bond between the crew and the audience is struck in one lasing image of two men clinging together in the black of the storm, hands clasped tightly around the other, eyes shut tight as they hope to make it through. Putting aside the banter, the childish attitudes and a bit of fooling around, Mutiny is not only a story of adventure packed full of hidden treasures and dangers, but a tale of 9 men who must pull and work together in the hopes of making it to the end of their voyage. It tells the story of humanity as its best and its worst, revealing the truths of our natural instinct to survive no matter the cost.

Commissioning Editor Rob Coldstream said: 'Mutiny is a hugely bold and ambitious challenge in its own right, with jaw-drop locations and stunning visuals - it's also an exciting new way of getting under the skin one of history's great adventure stories in a way that feels genuinely distinctive.'

Mutiny continues on Tuesday 14th March.
Watch the trailer here.

Photo credits: Google, The Guardian, Channel 4

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Kids & UFOs: Conclusion

To conclude:

The style of stop-motion animation is extremely flexible. If the objects are being moved instead of being animated or manipulated it means that they can go anywhere within 2D space. The simple 2D drawings themselves are childlike in appearance but also in essence as they represent the most basic form of animation.


Because of the physical involvement of having to use ones hands and fingertips to move every item bit by bit, frame by frame, it is like child's play. The animators hands set the tone of the film.

Everything was done in a way that let the children steer the direction of the film by giving them open questions they were free to interpret as well as letting them express their ideas about the subject through art. The film depended entirely on their responses and the activities were carried out in a way that ensured they were comfortable and happy during the process.


The initial audience for this film was children and the different animations, style and colours should reflect that. The simplicity of the design, though technically complex, should appeal to children and adults alike - or might at least awaken the childlike imagination inside all of us.



You can view the finished film here: https://vimeo.com/163612962

Kid's & UFO's: Digital Drawing Process

For the main body of animation, extra drawings were created using both pen and paper and then digitally drawn in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet. After the drawings were made, the images were scanned into a computer and drawn over and coloured.

The fill tool was used for the main bulk of colour, and then shading added. The drawings on the left were for the 'What Do Aliens Eat?" part of the film.

The original idea was that the food drawings would appear as a tally chart every time the item was mentioned in the interviews. A 'ping' sound would then accompany it.


However after second thoughts, another idea was had:


'A trolley in a supermarket moving along and the items falling off the shelf into the basket - perhaps with an alien pushing it down the aisle?'



So, a supermarket aisle was drawn on half an A3 piece of paper. A single food item was drawn on each shelf. 

Once the image was scanned in and opened in Photoshop, each item was coloured in and then replicated on multiple layers. Spaces were left on the shelves so that the individual items could be animated. The trolley was drawn and scanned separately.

The images were then sent to the animator.

Kid's & UFO's: Title Sequence

Testing and creating the title sequence:


To achieve a childlike style many different drawing styles were looked at to see which would appeal most to children and young adults. The detailed ones were fascinating to look at, however placing too much detail into a stop motion animation would clutter the screen. Simpler drawings with black outlines - similar to the style of Rachel Ryle - were more suited.

Sketches were made and the colouring was tested. Felt-tip pens created too harsh a tone, whilst colouring crayons provided a softer layout that was pleasing to the eye.


The title sequence for 'Kids and UFO's was made up of 147 different photographs. The basic idea was this:

A girl in a rocket is launched into space from her back garden, flying past stars, planets, aliens and ufo's. The rocket then flies away to reveal the title of the film: 'Kids and UFOs'.


Drawings were created on paper, coloured in using crayons and cut out. These were then placed on a coloured background (light/dark blue and black towels) and moved frame by frame. This took about 9 hours in total.

After this, the photos were colour graded and then placed into Premiere Pro. Each photo was 00.04 seconds long. A free 'match strike' sound was then downloaded and music (Pacific Sun by Nicolai Heidlas) placed over the top as the rocket sets off.


Please see here to view the title sequence: https://vimeo.com/163138180
And here for the Behind the Scenes: https://vimeo.com/163684881

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

What are UFO's: Title Animation Influences

The title sequence for the film 'What Kid's Think about UFO's' will consist of paper stop-motion animation, in which objects will be drawn onto paper, cut out and photographed frame by frame.

Here are a few of the influences that inspired this:

1. Paper cut-outs - The drawings in this video are childlike and drawn with pencil. This is the effect the film title sequence should achieve but by adding a little extra colour and vibrancy, it should appeal more to children as well as make it more fun and engaging to watch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbSbZDnsA-8

2. This film uses coloured paper cut-outs in the form of animated origami. The paper unfolds and refolds to create different shapes and sequences. Added fast paced music also helps to engage the audience and moves with the piece.



3. This animation uses tiny objects to create a short narrative such as pennys, pins and different fabrics. The use of small things adds a theme of innocence to the film as well as emphasising the 'childlike' theme.



4. This animation is far more complex. The filmmakers worked to create three-dimensional sets and props made completely out of paper and then animated them frame by frame. The use of human hands in the animation again adds to the 'small objects' theme.



5.  This film also uses human hands as the main source of moving the paper. Each time the hands touch the paper it spurs on an action - whether it be that the paper changes shape or colour. The film is also extremely colourful and vibrant, which draws in the audience further.