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Movie Review: Cirque du Soleil – Worlds Away 3D

Cirque du Soleil - Worlds Away 3D Movie Review

I’ve always wanted to go to Cirque du Soleil but when I was living tantalisingly close to an Australian production the budget just didn’t allow for a heartfelt indulgence. Roll-up, roll-up to the movie edition and I’m there with ticket and popcorn in hand to enjoy the spectacular. My 13yo son and I went to see this movie with the same level of expectation as mesmerised gnats drawn to a flame.

The world-famous Cirque du Soleil team have been reinventing what we traditionally know as a Circus since the late 80s. Sure there continues to be daredevil acrobatics with all sorts of characters that embody the curious expression of a Clown but the animal menagerie is no longer a part of the visiting pantomime except for Chinese Dragon like puppets that can be a part of a production. The Canadian entertainment company have a number of unique shows currently operating around the globe and are constantly reinventing their ideas so that each is a spectacle that engages the senses, challenges perception and pulls an audience to the brink of concern.

Director Andrew Adamson of Shrek and Narnia fame wanted to bring us that childhood fantasy experience in a movie compendium of the Cirque du Soleil experience. Teaming up with James Cameron as a producer and they had the connections and technical wizardry to bring about the onscreen impact that would amaze and tantalise. The Kiwi was able to bring some of the production down under but the majority of the movie is an amalgam of the seven shows currently showing in Las Vegas. By weaving a story of Mia a young girl who falls in love with a circus aerialist the script is able to give the cinema goer a taste of the productions of ‘O’, Mystère, Kà, Love, Zumanity, Viva Elvis and Criss Angel Believe from some of the largest hotels in Las Vegas. As a 3D production it is engaging to the point of immersing you in what would typically be the circus round. The lighting and colour across the different productions and locations is compiled in consistent manner that sings from the darkness of the set.

Worlds Away can’t be taken too seriously as a story and should always be seen as a celebration of the physical acrobatic performances etched on dramatic sets that heave and wain with incredible colour and movement. At times you will be taken across and under the surface of large pools of water while next been sucked into a vortex of sand that must have had at least four truck loads sliding down the sink-hole. Some of the sets look the size of a tennis court that are tipped in numerous directions to facilitate a stage for the performers who are often vertical on ropes. One of the most impacting acts seemed to be a mix of rope work from The Matrix and then the performers are balancing on rods that have emitted from the floor of the stage while almost in a vertical position to dual in a battle of clowns vs. warriors.

The one thing Worlds Away can’t do though is put you on the edge of your seat at the same level as a live performance. While some of the aerial acts without safety nets will amaze you, your mind will still be compensating telling you it all ended well because you’re seeing the movie. When you sit in the audience of a live performance somehow part of the journey is the anticipation of danger and death that creates excitement and nervous applause. Throughout the movie my son kept asking “What’s going on?” and then saying “WOW!” followed by “That’s trippy”. All up those three phrases sum up the Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away experience so buy a ticket to your cinema’s “Big Top”.

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Movie Review: Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians

The Rise of the Guardians movie brings together the fantastical skills of five of our imagination’s heart loved characters to fight fear on behalf of the children they love and protect. Initially Team Fantasy is headed up by Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and the Sandman. Eons have passed with the children of the world enjoying peaceful sleep and celebrations through the year but this year someone is again fighting back and the surface of dreamland could be cracked open.

Everyone knows that to have the best kind of villain you need an English accent but this was still a surprise for me when this animated feature had their choice of Jude Law as Pitch Black. This personification of fear has some issues and he sadly wants to shares his nightmares with the world. Law is superb in the role with just enough dastardly to bring the character to life. However his character’s onscreen performance is outdone by the black night’mares’. These horses of death are built on the corrupted sands of our Sandman and are probably a good enough reason for this to be a cautionary film for any parent taking children under 12. Once they start to fill the screen it could be overwhelming for a young viewer.

As our team mount a rescue response to save the children they quickly recognise they can’t do it alone. The ‘Man in the Moon’ who has appointed each of them as guardians now chooses a new Guardian in the form of Jack Frost. This is where the story brilliantly talks through our search for significance through the eyes of Jack Frost. The misunderstood character enjoys life’s play time and taking risks and is seen by the other characters as dangerous and flighty. Chris Pine of the Star Trek reboot fame voices the character and through Jack’s journey we see a young man with great courage learning who he really is.

The storyline revolves around Jack’s connection with a ‘real life boy’ called Jamie Bennett played by Dakota Goyo. This seemingly incidental character quickly becomes a focal point as it’s through Jamie that our story will find a solution and Jack step up to be a part of the team. There must be a real connection for Dakota with Australia as this is his second outing with Hugh Jackman as they worked together when Goyo played the young Max Kenton in Real Steel. He also starred with Australian Chris Hemsworth as the young Thor in the first Marvel Thor episode. Next he connects to be on screen with another Aussie leading man when he is alongside Russell Crowe as the young Noah in the upcoming 2014 release.

While the Isla Fisher sweeter than treacle voiced character of the Tooth Fairy gives Jack his first touch of courage it’s the Easter Bunny who really has to transform his relationship with Jack. Hugh Jackman plays an Aussie bunny who could be forgiven for being a Kangaroo stretched into Thumper’s skin. It’s the Easter Bunny who is most vocal about his mistrust for Frost but through the movies journey it is the bunny who eats a healthy slice of Bacon and Easter Egg humble pie before drawing Jack into the team.

Visually one of the great characters on screen was Santa Clause otherwise nicknamed as ‘North’ and played by Alec Baldwin with a slight Muscovite accent. Santa is seen as tough on the outside and soft on the inside. A brilliant allegory played out later in the picture through Matryoshka dolls. I loved the forearm tattoos of ‘Naughty’ and ‘Nice’. While each of our characters has their mode of transport you still can’t beat Santa’s sleigh. I love the fact that despite many onscreen versions of the big man’s red runner the retro version is always best.

This Dreamworks movie was directed by Peter Ramsey who has 26 titles to his record in art department work as wide as Godzilla and Men in Black through to Fight Club. This is his second directing outing since the made for TV movie Monsters vs Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space. It is however his time on work like Shrek the Halls, Shrek the Third that have brought his skills brilliantly to the fore in this production.

A great movie which was thoroughly enjoyed by myself, a fourteen year-old girl and two twelve year-old boys for a fun movie outing. I’m giving Rise of the Guardians a 4 out of 5 popcorns.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd71LWhCO4s?rel=0&w=560]

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10 Fantasy 2013 Movies to see (Trailer Collection)

While many Tolkien fans will be waiting patiently for the end of 2013 to resume their Hobbit quest there are more high calibre fantasy based 2013 movies in this year’s journey if these are any example. Take a step into your dreams and enjoy the work of some master story tellers.

Fantasy 2013 Movies

Jack the Giant Slayer

Plot: A modern day fairy tale in which the long-standing peace between men and giants is threatened, as a young farmer leads an expedition into the giants’ kingdom in hopes of rescuing a kidnapped princess.
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor, Ian McShane, Warwick Davis, Bill Nighy, Stanley Tucci and Raine McCormack

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg0ibhX_84U?rel=0&w=560]

 

OZ: The Great and Powerful

Plot: A stage magician is hurled into a fantasy world, and must use his wits to stay ahead of three enchantresses who have plans for him.
Cast: Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, James Franco, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff and Abigail Spencer

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DylgNj4YQVc?rel=0&w=560]

 

Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters

Plot: In this dark spin on the fairy tale, siblings Hansel and Gretel are a formidable team of bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world.
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Zoe Bell and Peter Stormare

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9246msCh7x4?rel=0&w=560]

 

Dorothy of Oz

Plot: Back in Kansas, Dorothy Gale decides to return to Oz in order to help her friends.
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Lea Michele, Martin Short, Dan Aykroyd, James Belushi, Kelsey Grammer, Oliver Platt, Bernadette Peters and Brian Blessed

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8l8q3M9q9E?rel=0&w=560]

 

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Plot: In order to restore their dying safe haven, the son of Poseidon and his friends head into the Sea of Monsters to find the mythical Golden Fleece.
Cast: Logan Lerman, Sean Bean, Nathan Fillion, Alexandra Daddario, Daniel Cudmore and Stanley Tucci

[CHECK BACK: Once a Trailer is released we will post it here]

percyjackson

 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Plot: The continuing adventures of Katniss Everdeen, which take place in a futuristic dystopian world, as she prepares for the Quarter Quell.
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Jena Malone, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz and Jeffrey Wright

[CHECK BACK: Once a Trailer is released we will post it here]

hungergames

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Plot: The Dwarfs, Bilbo and Gandalf have successfully escaped the misty mountains, but BIlbo has gained the one ring. They all continue their journey to get their gold back off the Dragon, Smaug.
Cast: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood and Christopher Lee

[CHECK BACK: Once a Trailer is released we will post it here]

desolationofsmaug

 

I, Frankenstein

Plot: Frankenstein’s creature finds himself caught in an all-out, centuries old war between two immortal clans.
Cast: Yvonne Strahovski, Bill Nighy, Aaron Eckhart, Jai Courtney, Miranda Otto and Caitlin Stasey

[CHECK BACK: Once a Trailer is released we will post it here]

ifrankstein

 

Nephilim

Plot: An animated feature. Nephilim begins with the first signs of warfare evolving between good and evil. Set in modern times, two archangels, an atypical priest, an ex-homicide detective and a resurrected spirit form an unlikely alliance to unite against an insurgence of fallen angels and the termination of free will.
Cast:  Victor Alfieri, John Savage, Gulshan Grover, Yuval David and Ina-Alice Kopp

nephilim

 

 

More of our 2013 Movie Trailer Collections

[button link=”https://andrewpitchford.me/2012/12/10-scifi-2013-movies-to-see-trailer-collection/” type=”icon” icon=”rss”] SciFi[/button] [button link=”https://andrewpitchford.me/2012/12/10-action-hero-2013-movies-to-see-trailer-collection/” type=”icon” icon=”stats”] Action Hero[/button] [button link=”https://andrewpitchford.me/2012/12/10-comedy-2013-movies-to-see-trailer-collection/” type=”icon” icon=”question”] Comedy[/button] [button link=”https://andrewpitchford.me/2012/12/10-action-2013-movies-to-see-trailer-collection/” type=”icon” icon=”warning”] Action[/button] [button link=”https://andrewpitchford.me/2012/12/10-thriller-2013-movies-to-see-trailer-collection/” type=”icon” icon=”paper”] Thriller[/button] [button link=”https://andrewpitchford.me/2012/12/10-kids-2013-movies-to-see-trailer-collection/” type=”icon” icon=”people”] Kids[/button]  [button link=”https://andrewpitchford.me/2012/12/10-drama-2013-movies-to-see-trailer-collection/” type=”icon” icon=”notice”] Drama[/button]
[button link=”https://andrewpitchford.me/2012/12/10-romantic-comedy-2013-movies-to-see-trailer-collection/” type=”icon” icon=”heart”] Romantic Comedy[/button]

 

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Media

Mate! That’s a Great Story

Great Story

When it comes to any form of Media the core component, the Holy Grail or quest of the writer is simply a Good Story. It's the missing ingredient to many films that dazzle with special effects but leave you empty when it comes to thirsting for a victory or having empathy with the characters who you felt had no demon to conquer or soul to save. In the music industry they're fighting to find new melodies but  even the lyrics are in need of a good story that says more than "Baby, Baby, Baby!"

If you're looking to write a movie script, novel or make your song lyrics more than a syrupy sick commercial jingle then you need to find the essence of story. A really good yarn making consists of four core tenets – the “4 Es”: We can talk about the character backgrounds, the story arc and the pacing but underneath all of that you need to EEEEs into the minds of the people who just sat down around the campfire to hear a good tale.

[quote type=center] Capture me as a slave for your camel train[/quote]

 

Entertainment 

Am I transported? When I read your story will I leave my world or just look out the window of mine? Entertainment brings in the shutters of our everyday experience in order that the theatre lights can dim the periphery  world and focus us on what the storyteller wishes to reveal. The voice, the set, the emotional journey are all meant to amuse and divert. We may feel emotions that toss and heave but the experience should be like that of a roller coaster. I was scared, I was exhilarated but in the end I want to do it all over again. Take me away from the monotony of my everyday ride to work and capture me as a slave for your camel train or let me discover treasure in the wilderness that only a hot air balloon could see. Touch my heart strings and not just to tune them but to pluck and strum at a pace that is in line with the heart beat of your story.

[quote type=center] The quintessential magnet for every 10 year-old boy is they want to ‘be’ the hero.[/quote]

 

Engagement 

How does the story foster participation with the reader? Have you asked yourself whether your story is simply enticing window shopping or has the reader stepped into your world with their heart open like a shopper's wallet. One of the greatest critiques of modern literature is that it talks at the reader rather than inviting them to become part of the story. Think about the renaissance of the Super Hero movies. The quintessential magnet for every 10 year-old boy is they want to 'be' the hero.  As you write ask yourself 'who would I want to be' in this plot? And don't leave that thought. Ask who you would not like to be for life or money. Take a moment and see if there is room in your writing for a reader to answer your questions, delivery your solutions and save the day. Or at least a chapter. The crime novel of the whodunit genre has been where the audience has enjoyed the deepest engagement. Better than a crossword puzzle there are not one by five solutions. The part I play is not one of a simple minded spectator but the personal assistant to the great Hercule Poirot.

[quote type=center]So walk a mile in the moccasins of your characters[/quote]

Enlightenment

Light has an amazing characteristic. It reveals perspective. In writing our story we should ask what light it casts for the reader. What nuances and attributes of life will the reader absorb giving them an opportunity for change of thought. Will I be confronted by the reflection of my life to the extent I am willing to ask myself hard questions, uncomfortable questions. Do I see you, my life or the world beyond the sea any differently than when the story began? This is the juncture at which we as writers ask "Whats the point?" Remember the reader will not be willing to ask themselves before they hear the voices of your characters face their own epiphany. So walk a mile in the moccasins of your characters and see how they face the conflict and triumph of your plot. What do the participants of your stories learn and perhaps teach others in the process of their journey? How does the story make you feel about yourself, your culture or your environment? If you aren't changed in some capacity by the writing experience then will the reader be?

Experience

Some may feel that including 'Experience' in this set of essential story elements is a duplication of the 'Experience' factor. The key difference here is that Engagement takes place as we live through the story where as Experience lives outside of the walls of the story's tale. Some of the most popular stories evoke an experience beyond the pages of a book or the walls of the cinema. Some bring together socially conscious tribes where others participate in character centric revelry. Trekkies, LoTR aficionados and Harry Potter fanatics have one thing in common. They experience the story.  It began with engagement and then through the embedded storyline of the imagination a tribal mentality lived on. To a certain extent this final element is a by-product of the success of the other three but it takes an imagining to ask whether someone would be willing to live out our story to know it has that potential. Sure it was helped in the experience by costume and fan fiction but the experience mulitplies the impact of story.

As you write your next story, take the time to ask whether you have covered these four elements. As you dreamed about this story you will have already thought through the characters. The theme is in place with a setting that now needs your words to paint its backdrop. Remember that no plot is complete without a sense of struggle or conflict. Triumph comes when victors overcome.

Leave a comment after this post on how important you feel these points are. Do they only apply to the saga of a fiction novel or does the story in the paper or on  the evening news need the same ingredients for a quality story sized meal.

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Movie Review: The Grey

Movie Review - The Grey

So how does a survival movie fare with a pack of hungry wolves hunting their human prey? How do the audience feel when the humans are low on respect for life, their fellow man and themselves? Despite the feel that this movie had only one way to turn we still went along for the ride. Similar to the Titanic you feel you know what’s going to happen but you simply can’t look away and want to see it through to the end.
Looking at reviews prior to attending a movie review is considered wrong by most reviewers. I agree, the whole idea of attending the review is to judge the unobstructed impact on yourself and the audience. So what drew me to investigate “The Grey” prior to attending this review I don’t know. Possibly the topic matter of humans on the run from wolves meant I wanted to check the ‘scare’ factor to see who I would invite along for the ride. This presented me with a conundrum as the movie was rating over average but the general public who had seen it were split at the extremes. Some saw it as an existential masterpiece and scored it 9 or 10 out of 10 while others couldn’t believe the stupidity and scores ranking in the 1s and 2s followed.
The storyline takes us along with some of the roughest scum on the planet as they leave their work in the Alaskan oil fields to fly out for a break back in civilisation. After a plane crash puts them down in an artic wilderness its survival time with a the local wolf pack guarding their territory against the quibbling intruders. Liam Neeson plays Ottway, a hunter who’s been hiding from life in a job where his role has been to protect the pipeline workers from the hungry wildlife who stalk the workers. He’s a mixed up bag as he saves others but seems bent on his own destruction. After the plane crash he starts to try and bring direction and unity to the surviving band of misfits with no purpose. They are less than impressed with being told what to do and like any organisation, their disunity brings decay and decay brings death.
I’m not going to tell you the outcomes blow by blow, that’s the nature of this style of movie as one event leads to another as the ‘red-shirt’ members of the party fight to live. So why did the audiences love or hate this release. Was it the expected ending, the cast or worse the soundtrack. Director Joe Carnahan has proven himself a great director and for those who have enjoyed The A-Team and Smokin’ Aces its easy to see he’s putting out some good content as both writer and director.
[quote type=”center”] I’m concerned audiences are starting to see him as gravy beef [/quote]
If you’ve seen both of these previous productions you’d also be aware that their story-lines have their fair share of humour. That I think is where Joe went wrong even if it was without intention. The movie is visually impressive. The tension builds well as the cast look to avoid becoming top of the wolf menu and there is a reasonable amount of both humanity and distain built around the cast to make you want to see them survive or die. Where the movie fell on its face is a couple of times where the physical or visual result on screen was so outside realism that the tense audience burst out laughing. The story then lost momentum and I don’t think it recovered. It didn’t matter then how much strong language, gutsy characters or grotesque scenes you threw in, it still was off pace with the rest of the movie. All up a great movie spoilt by two episodes that probably take up one minute of the whole film.
Joe Carnahan has lots more to offer so I hope he learns from this outing. Another person I hope learns a lesson is Liam Neeson. He must be considered the ‘rabbits foot’ of the movie industry at the moment. The number of movies that require the ‘Neeson’ attachement is astounding. Since 2008 he has been in at least 18 movies and three TV productions of which three were voice roles. You can’t get away from the fact he is a talent but I’m concerned audiences are starting to see him as gravy beef because of the volume of appearances when he should be the scotch fillet. Lets get back to the quality we know and expect when we remember Schindler’s List.
All up a good experience if you like your movie on the edge.
3 out of 5 popcorns

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Observations

Chuck Starfish to Make a Difference

It matters to this starfish

This morning my daughter came home buzzing about the story of the young man who chucked a star in the ocean. Chances are you have heard the story before by some teacher, motivator or friend trying to lift you from the clutches of apathy? There are a few versions around but they all stem from the work of Loren Eiseley who wrote "The Star Thrower" in 1978. When short-story Science Fiction writer Ray Bradbury read it he commented; [quote type=”center”] The book will be read and cherished in the year 2001. It will go to the Moon and Mars with future generations. Loren Eiseley’s work changed my life. [/quote]

The 16 page essay that brought us this inspiring story has been adapted and developed to suit various themes but the core emphasis is the same. We can make a difference. Let me give you the Pitchford Paraphrase and see how it resonates with the part of you that wants to give and make that difference. The story goes like this;

[box type=shadow]One bright morning a wise man walked through the sand dunes from his home to the beach for a refreshing wander in the ripples of a receding tide. In the distance he spots the glowing silhouette of dancer coming towards him basking in the sunrise rays. As he approaches he realises it is a young boy crouching and springing up, crouching and spinning. The closer the man comes to the young boy he notices the beach is glittering with a plethora of glittering starfish.

Suddenly it dawns on the morning walker that the boy is throwing the starfish one by one back into the breaking waves. "Excuse me young man" said the walker; "what are you doing?" "I'm saving the starfish and if I don't hurry the tide will go out and they will die" he replied. "But don't you realise there are thousands of starfish and hundreds of metres of beach. You can't make a difference."

The boy bent down, picked up another starfish. He spun around with the wound up recoil of an Olympic discus thrower and flung the starfish back into the ocean. "It made a difference to that one!" he said. He then returned to his spring and fling routine that was making a difference one starfish at a time. The man with no answer turned on his heel and walked back to his home pondering the truth that he had heard and seen. To that man the boy had just made a difference.[/box]
 

[quote]For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2 v 10[/quote]

 

Recently I heard Mark Driscoll recommend a message he heard last November by Andy Stanley on making a difference. He explained the subtle line between making a point and a difference. As you walk along the starfish ridden beach of your life today take the time to consider what it would take to make a difference. Below you can watch the video of Andy Stanley's message. How could you make a difference to "this one".

Andy Stanley – Make a Point or Make a Difference