Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Avatar Movie - Want to know what it's all about?

Today I was fortunate to attend the 30 minute teaser premiere of James Cameron's latest flick, AVATAR. I watched it on the world's largest 3D screen, which at the moment is here in South Africa, at the Nu Metro Montecasino cinema. It really is huge, and curved, and somewhat smaller than an IMAX screen, but probably 2-3 times the size of conventional silver screens. And of course, it provides cinema in 3D. So what is AVATAR all about?

First of all, this is the first project since Cameron made Titanic - er...the highest grossing movie ever. Some of the journalists present commented that Cameron's movies are soulless. Well...they certainly are more innovative and technically refined than a lot of films, and perhaps this distracts Cameron from a more cogent storyline and more fleshed out characters. As an engineer Cameron has brought us some useful and really creative work, from the submarine The Abyss to the groundbreaking Terminator franchise. Cameron was not involved in 2009's Terminator permutation, and you can sense the Cameron magic is somehow not there. John Connor [played by Christian Bale] somehow became a central character that was hard to care about in this year's Terminator, but let's not forget, Worthington stole the show, and he's the male lead here, in AVATAR, so Cameron must like him.

Okay, so there's the pedigree of the director, and one of the main actors. Cameron waited several years for the technology to be ready to bring his very elaborate vision on screen, and as you can guess, he wanted it rendered in 3D. This required building special cameras. And to watch it, you'll be wearing those special flat black geeky glasses.

And the film itself. Well, it features the likes of Sigourney Weaver [ALIENS], and, yes, Sam Worthington, who plays the legless Jake Sully. It's no coincidence that in AVATAR he asks a female alien why she rescued him, and she replies, "I see how have an unusually strong heart," or words to that effect [echoing stuff said about him in Terminator.]

Initially I was impressed with the opening volley of scenes. It looked fresh. But there were a bunch of scenes that reminded me of, at turns, Jurassic Park, some have suggested the aliens resemble Gollum, there's a scene stolen from Star Wars [a lush planet features during the extermination of the Jedi's], and perhaps even Planet of the Apes. It is also irritating that the lingua galactica happens to be English. And if you want to make a film about dangerous creatures, why not do a documentary about crime in Johannesburg, or some poisonous frogs in the Amazon, why fly all over the galaxy, and when you find life, why must you immediately start conquering and fighting? So I found that somewhat juvenileand not very elegantly done and possibly not very well thought out. But then this is fantasy and I suppose anything goes then - right?

So those are a few reservations, but there are also some breathtaking moments, and it's the sort of magic you can see filtering into game platforms and making hundreds of millions. There's a beautiful sequence that evokes the breaking in of flying dragons. So AVATAR is likely to be a big deal. I'm not inclined to gush over it, though, as some reviewers have. It's good, but it's not breathlessly magnificent. And as I say, the Jurassic Park scene [where Worthington's character battles a dinasaur like creature for what felt like a really long time] seemed more about showcasing 3D cinema, an advertisement therefore, than having any other point.

I also have an idea about the storyline [remember we only watched 30 minutes worth of snippets]. I'm guessing that it's a sort of Alien-based Dances with Wolves. Worthington's character falls in love with a rebellious but somewhat protective, and aggressive alien lovely, Neytiri [Zoe Saldana], and when it comes time to return to base, he decides to rather fight with them, allied to the new love of his life, and against the coming [human] invasion. That's a guess. It's obviously possible the flick will be far more elaborate than that, but the dinosaur scene tends to make me think the plot will be less fanciful and intricate than the blue-skinned aliens.

But there you have it. Some of the hype is deserved. Like District 9 it's originality and novelty factor will pull in titanic shiploads of people. Will it break box office records? Well, the 3D feature is also it's limiting factor - see there just ain't that many 3D cinemas around. I personally didn't fall out of my chair when I saw some of the 3D effects. I thought they were good, but I'm not ready to say it's the future of cinema. Dark Knight was a perfectly rendered 2 dimensional film, and it is the quality of the picture and the power of the story that are still by far the most important. That said, I'm pretty sure Cameron's work will be something of a triumph, and the breaking of new ground in cinema is always exciting. And AVATAR certainly is that.

Score: Tough one on 30 minutes. 7-8/10.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"District 9" isn't just a surprisingly thoughtful sci-fi stand-out in a season characterized by big, dumb studio tent-pole movies; it's a revelation.

Just $30 million? Really? How?
"There's a bunch of contributing factors," Blomkamp explained.

First was using the cinema verité quality that propels the movie's fake documentary framing device to his advantage. "Because of my background, I know what I can get away with. If we had done R&D [research and development], it would have been $50 million right there. But we set out to work with digital creatures, lighting and compositing environments that are conducive to something photo real. My stuff tends to be CG in very harsh light, like sunlight. Harsh shadows. It feels real. Sometimes it's easier to make stuff look photo real in that environment," he said.

SHOOT: Go Blom.
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The movie arrives as a kingmaking debut for its writer-director Neill Blomkamp, who won't turn 30 until next month and who up until its release had no feature film experience, save for a scuttled attempt to adapt the video game Halo to the screen. But "District 9's" wow factor -- quantifiable, among other ways, by its 88% "freshness" rating at -- can be attributed to something other than Blomkamp's pedigree. And it isn't the fact that the movie was executive produced by Oscar-winning writer-director Peter Jackson of the "Lord of the Rings" franchise. His oversight on the project helped ensure that the highly original "District 9" would connect with its crucial fan boy audience at a time when every other successful multiplex offering seems to be based on a toy or comic book character.
"District 9" is that it cost only $30 million to produce. That's peanuts in Hollywood, especially when compared to the price of, say, the advertising blitz for "Transformers
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Friday, August 14, 2009

New York Times reviews the South African film DISTRICT 9

Saw this at a preview screening this week and it's just great. If possible, don't read anything on it at all, though, I'm assuming my warning will be too late at this point. Just go in blind and you won't regret it!
— Amanda, Silverlake, Los Angeles

SHOOT: Getting clear information on swine flu is well nigh impossible. Is a death from swine flu when there are underlying symptoms counted? Since infections are no longer being counted the numbers are becoming virtually meaningless. So one has to look to signals from one's community to gauge a change or a trend. Vigilance is recommended.
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District 9

For decades — at least since Orson Welles scared the daylights out of radio listeners with “War of the Worlds” back in 1938 — the public has embraced the terrifying prospect of alien invasion. But what if, notwithstanding the occasional humanist fable like “E.T.,” all those movies and television programs have been inculcating a potentially toxic form of interplanetary prejudice?

“District 9,” a smart, swift new film from the South African director Neill Blomkamp (who now lives in Canada and who wrote the screenplay with Terri Tatchell), raises such a possibility in part by inverting an axiomatic question of the U.F.O. genre. In place of the usual mystery — what are they going to do to us? — this movie poses a different kind of hypothetical puzzle. What would we do to them?
The answer, derived from intimate knowledge of how we have treated one another for centuries, is not pretty.
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First 3-D footage of James Cameron’s new movie Avatar in South Africa

Nu Metro Cinemas, South Africa’s premium cinema exhibitor is proud to exclusively unveil the first 3-D footage of James Cameron’s new movie Avatar in South Africa on Friday 21 August 2009.

According to Mark Harris, Content and Marketing Head for Nu Metro Cinemas, “We are absolutely thrilled and delighted to be part of worldwide phenomena, a truly unique event which unveils the first footage of James Cameron’s new movie, AVATAR, to the general public. Free tickets to this exclusive event are only available through the mobile instant messaging platform, MXIT.”

“This exclusive footage includes a message from the highly acclaimed Director, James Cameron and approximately twenty minutes of 3-D footage from this truly amazing film, which releases worldwide in December 2009. This event will take place at Nu Metro Montecasino, Canal Walk, Pavilion and Menlyn Park on Friday 21 August 2009 at 6:00pm, 7:00pm and 8:00pm”, adds Harris.

AVATAR takes us to a spectacular new world beyond our imagination, where a reluctant hero embarks on a journey of redemption, discovery and unexpected love, as he leads a heroic battle to save a civilization. The film was first conceived by Cameron 14 years ago, when the means to realize his vision did not yet exist. Now, after four years of actual production work, AVATAR delivers a fully immersive cinematic experience of a new kind, where the revolutionary technology invented to make the film, disappears into the emotion of the characters and the sweep of the story.

To stand the chance of getting your tickets to this exclusive event on MXIT, add Nu Metro as a contact by visiting Tradepost>MXit Mix> Entertainment & get full details on the competitions section. To download MXIT to your PC or mobile, visit

Nu Metro Cinemas – giving you MORE 3-D EVENTS

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A sight for sore eyes: Rachel McAdams takes revealing turn

SHOOT: A bit of all right isn't she?
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Rachel McAdams

Look at me: Rachel McAdams wore a plunging draped white dress at the premiere of The Time Traveler's Wife in New York last night

Rachel McAdams
Rachel McAdams

Looking a million dollars: She teamed her dress with a pair of black stilettos and gave a twirl to show off her stunning figure

Actors Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams

The two of us: Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana, who play husband and wife in The Time Traveler's Wife, snuggle up at the New York premiere

Brad Pitt

Smooth talker: Brad was later seen chatting and having a drink with Rachel at the premiere after party

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Friday, August 7, 2009

A child who parents need protection from

SHOOT: Is having a child your motive to make yourself happy? A rather selfish motive perhaps.
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It’s a story about a family in an emotional crisis and as a solution they adopt a child. “This couple is trying to do things that will ultimately make the wife in the story feel happy. Adopting a kid seems like a good strategy and they convince themselves that they are doing a good thing for the child, but really they are doing it to make themselves feel better — a selfish motive that they choose to ignore .

“But there’s a psychological thing that happens when a vulnerable child enters a family. Parents assume that the child is weak and helpless and that they must protect and nurture them by being parents with open hearts for them. I guess parents feel vulnerable, because the kids are sort of little gurus when they come out of your belly, you know? They control everything that goes on around them in a lot of ways. Usually the power that a child has is innocent, but what happens when the child knows that they can manipulate the naive and insecure parents?” asks Silver.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Podium Comedy Series coming to Nu Metro Cinemas

Johannesburg, August 6th, 2009:- Nu Metro Cinemas, South Africa’s premium cinema exhibitor, today announced that Podium...The Comedy Merchants, a comedy management and events company with a proud record and strong presence in the South African comedy industry will partner to present the PODIUM COMEDY SERIES at ALL Nu Metro Cinemas nationwide from Thursday the 20th of August 2009.

The Podium Comedy Series will feature not only the best of South Africa’s local comedians but top international acts as well: Loyiso Gola, Mel Miller, Trevor Noah, Riaad Moosa, Kagiso Lediga, Cedric the Entertainer, Steve Harvey, Katt Williams, Dylan Moran and more going forward.

According to Mark Harris, Content and Marketing Head for Nu Metro Cinemas, “We are extremely excited to be able to offer our customers the very best in stand-up comedy this country has to offer as well as top class international acts.”

“These events will initially take place as a one night only show every month”, adds Harris.

The first show will feature the very successful one man show “Loyiso Gola for President”.

“We are very excited to be partnering with Nu Metro in this endeavour as this certainly signals the emergence of a new dawn for South African comedy as a whole. In taking the best in local and international stand up comedy to the cinemas, it will certainly make stand up comedy more accessible in the mainstream thus further growing and developing the industry. We applaud Nu Metro for having the vision and pioneering spirit to usher in this, an exciting chapter for South African cinema” says Takunda Bimha, Head of Podium… The Comedy Merchants. “All titles on the Podium Comedy Series will be produced by Podium...the Comedy Merchants in association with our production partners Competent Artistes under the guidance of Director Paul Tilsley”, adds Takunda.

Visit for the complete list of forthcoming shows and ticket availability.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

230 sets of twins in the Indian town of Kodinji - but what's causing it

Scientists are still trying to uncover the mystery of why there are so many twins in the village.

"Based on scientific facts, we feel something in the environment is causing this. It could be something in the water," said a local doctor, M.K. Sribiju.

"All the world over the cause of twins is mainly because of drugs. Everywhere in the Western world, people are exposed to fertility drugs, their food habits, they consume more dairy products. Everywhere the age of marriage is increasing. There are late marriages predisposed to occurrence of twins," he said.

However in Kodinji, most marriages are between people aged 18 to 20 years old.

"All the factors leading to the occurrence of twinning world wide, we cannot see it here. There is something unknown that is causing this phenomenon," he said.
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Eleven-year-old twins Rasheena and Sameena pose for a photograph in Kodinji village

KODINJI, India (Reuters Life!) –
Walk around Kodinji village and you'll think that you have double vision.

The village is home to as many as 230 sets of twins. Nobody knows why there are so many twins in the village of 15,000 people, although one local doctor suspects it might be due to the water.

In fact with about 35-45 twins per live birth, this village in North Kerala, India, has four times more twins than normal. Not surprisingly, the village has been dubbed "the twin village."

Based on births since the survey was conducted, there are probably now around 230 sets of twins in the village, locals said. That number is set to rise as there are five women pregnant with twins.

"It's an amazing phenomenon to see a medical marvel occurring in such a localized place where the people are not exposed to any kinds of harmful drugs or harmful chemicals. It's a virgin village," said Dr Sribiju, a researcher.

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