This month has been a vintage month for cinema in London. The Villainess is a Korean film built around actress Kim Ok-bin. It is a vengeance film and there will be comparisons to the likes of Oldboy. There are also hints of Nikita and Kill Bill (which in turn raided Asian cinema mercilessly).
It is the most ‘kinetic’ film that I have seen in a long time with visceral action scenes, fast editing and amazing steadicam work. The plot has a number of twists and turns in it.
Get out, watch it (it has been running at the Prince Charles cinema).
*** No plot spoilers*** Where do you start when talking about the most hyped film of the year?
Blade Runner 2049 starts up some 20 years after the original film. It captures the visuals of the original film, moving it onwards. The plot has a series of recursive sweeps that tightly knit both films together which at times feels a little forced, a bit like the devices used to join Jeremy Renner’s Bourne Legacy to the Matt Damon canon.
The 1982 film took the neon, rain and high density living of Hong Kong in the late summer and packaged it up for a western audience. Ever since I first saw it represented a darker, but more colourful future. I felt inspired, ready to embrace the future warts and all after seeing it for the first time.
The new film is a darker greyer vision largely devoid of hope. You still see the Pan Am and Atari buildings of the first film, now joined with brands like Diageo. The police cars are now made by Peugeot. It also captures the visual language of the book, something that Scott hadn’t done in the original to the same extent. In the book, Dick (and the Dekkard character) obsess on how the depopulated world’s crumbling ephemera is rapidly becoming dust.
Visually the film dials down its influences from Hong Kong, Tokyo or Singapore and instead borrows from the crumbling industrial relics of the west and third world scrap driven scavenging from e-waste in China and Ghana to the ship breaking yards of Bangladesh. The filthy smog and snow is like a lurid tabloid exposé of northern China’s choking pollution during the winter. It paints a vision more in tune with today. Automation and technology have disrupted society, but orphans are still exploited for unskilled labour and vice is rampant.
Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford do very capable performances. And they are supported by a great ensemble of cast members of great character actors at the top of their game. Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Barkhad Abdi (Eye in The Sky) and David Dastmalchian (MacGyver, Antman, and The Dark Knight). The one let down is Jared Leto – who now seems to play the same character in every film since his career high point of Dallas Buyer’s Club – I suspect that this is as much a problem with casting as performance. I think he needs to be cast against type more.
For a three-hour film it still manages to hold your attention and draw you in to its universe without feeling tired. It’s also a film that forces you to think, so if you are looking for visual wallpaper for the mind a la Marvel’s Avengers series of films it won’t be for you.
A decade ago I worked on AMD Live. A hodgepodge of hardware and software that provided media access where ever and whenever you wanted it. Here is a short video that we made at the time to bring it to life. The idea was that AMD would be able to sell higher specifications of PC components into the home to act as digital hub. They wanted to push their Opteron server processors into the home.
An engineer came in and spent the best part of a day setting everything up throughout the house prior to shooting the film. At the time much of the streaming boxes didn’t work as promised so some of the screen images were put in post-production. There was a mix of cloud services and home hosted content. At the centre was a PC running Windows Multimedia Centre. There was a raft of third-party apps needed as well
Network management apps
Video and image compression apps
Instant messaging (that wasn’t MSN or Skype – no idea why it was in the bundle)
TV tuner software
A music jukebox application
An AMD GUI which provided a 3D carousel effect and integrated web browser
It was all a bit of kludge.
Digital content was well on its way. Streaming technology was well known but unstructured. RealNetworks had been going commercially since 1997, but the playback quality was dependent on Internet network connectivity, We only started to see widespread DSL adoption from 2003 onwards in the UK. By the first quarter of 2003, DSL was enabled at 1200 of the 5600 telephone exchanges across the UK.
Apple’s QuickTime streaming server was open sourced back in 1999; so if anyone wanted to set up a streaming network they had the technology to do so.
Digital audio content prior to 2003 had largely been ripped from optical media or downloaded online via FTP, Usenet or P2P networks. iTunes launched its music store in 2003.
From a standing start in 2002; by 2004, 5 million devices with a HDMI connection had been sold. The built in copy protection had been developed by an Intel subsidiary and was adopted by all the big Japanese consumer electronics manufacturers.
By 2005, Apple had started selling iTunes movies and TV programmes alongside its music offering that allowed sharing of an account on up to 5 concurrent devices.
Apple launched its MFi programme in January 2005, which begat a raft of speakers and stereos with iPod connectivity in the home and the car.
Sonos released its speaker system including a wi-fi mesh network and AES network encryption. Flickr had a well documented API that allowed for a fully functioning photo album and picture streaming which was used in early web 2.0 mashups.
AMD Live was on the back-foot from day one. From a high end perspective of audio streaming Sonos had it locked down. For everyone else moving an iPod from room to room had the same effect. Mini-video servers could be configured from mini-PC boxes, but they were only for the technically skilled. Even the Mac Mini launched in 2005 didn’t make the process much easier. The key advantage is that it could use iTunes as a video source and a playing software.
Back then because it was US centric in its view AMD Live completely ignored the rise of the smartphone as a music playback device. By 2007, Nokia launched ‘Comes With Music’ which put mobile streaming in play. Apple Music and Spotify have now made streaming effortless. Video playback now comes from devices the size of a thumb drive. New intermediate screens from tablets to smartphones changed viewing habits and the PC has become redundant as the home hub for all but the most enthusiastic AV aficionados.