Wednesday 30 November 2011

Mars Attacks! - Review

Mars Attacks! - 1996
Director - Tim Burton

1) Mars Attacks! - Poster

Plot Summary / review:
Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! is a mix of genres combining action / adventure with sci-fi and fantasy with comic references to classic alien B-movies. In order to fully understand what genre the film belongs to, it is necessary to look at the differences between pastiche, parody and spoof.

Pastiche - used when the work or piece imitates that of another, paying homage to the material it is referencing in a respectful manner.
Parody - also imitates the work or piece of other material but in a satiric or ironic manner to mock, comment on or trivialise the material it is referencing.
Spoof - again is used when the work or piece is imitating that of another but with exaggerated characteristics for comedic effect.

So where does Mars Attacks! sit? It is a funny film, with extremely well designed, exaggerated aliens based on old trading cards from which the film gets it's name. This would suggest that it is a spoof. However, it can also be argued that it is a pastiche of classic 1950's alien invasion B-movies. An example of Burton paying homage to these films is evident from the start of the film when the UFO's descend to earth from their home planet. The design of these flying saucers are strikingly similar to Klaatu's saucer from 1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still. Roger Ebert comments "The art direction is first-rate in creating the kinds of saucers and aliens that graced the covers of my precious old issues of Imagination Science Fiction magazine". (Ebert. 1996).

2) Aliens mobilise

The aliens arrive on earth and are greeted by a crowd of people and the US army. In a scene again reminiscent of The Day Earth Stood Still, the crowd await to see if the visitors are hostile or friendly. Unfortunately it is the former and the alien attacks with iconic ray guns and blasters which vaporize humans and tanks alike. Further evidence of Burton paying homage to the 1950's can be seen here. Although set in a contemporary world, the army vehicles and clothes are all from the 1950's.

3)1950's attire
Mars Attacks! clearly had a big budget and attracted a host of stars, both established and up-coming. Jack Nicholson stars as the President, Glen Close the First Lady and a young Natalie Portman as their daughter. Pierce Brosnan shows acting range from his established Bond playing a scientific advisor to the President. His strange love triangle with TV personalities Michael J. Fox and Sarah-Jessica Parker add good comic timing to the films bizarre nature. It's the Hollywood A listers that let it down as Tom Coates from the BBC explains 'Nicholson, (Annette) Benning, and Close - camp up their screen time until they are neither funny nor interesting.' (Coates. 2001). The stars of the show are undoubtedly the aliens. Originally intended to be physical puppets, Burton was convinced by ILM (Idustrial Light Magic) when they showed him early test footage of them in CGI. Although they have not aged well, they were cutting edge at the time.

4) CG Aliens

Mars Attacks! is artistically inventive, goofy and fun in some places, however it does suffer from some pacing issues. It often feels disjointed, over-long and in some cases boring and is let down by some established Hollywood actors. Burton is clearly knowledgeable and affectionate about the material he is referencing. However,Todd McCarthy of Variety explains it "will appeal to specialized student-age audiences and older sci-fi fans but will fly over, under and around the general public". (McCarthy. 1996). The movie makes up for this with fantastic artistic direction and zany alien designs. The funniest parts of the movie come when the aliens are attacking and take great sport in doing so.


Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sunt-times review. 13th December 1996.

Coates, Tom. BBC review. 21st June 2001

McCarthy, Todd. Variety review. 1st December 1996


1) Mars Attacks Poster Accessed 10/11/11

2) Aliens mobilise

3) 1950's attire

4)  CG Aliens

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Post Modern Essay Introduction@PHIL

Hi Phil. 

Below is a rough draft of my introduction for my essay. I have also sent you an email with a basic structure and what I have so far. Can you have cast an eye over it and tell me if I'm heading in the right direction? 


This essay will briefly examine the movement of modernism, or modern thought and the resulting emergence of postmodernism theory. It will critically study the postmodern concept of hyperreality and determine if its ideology is evident in modern day cinema. Specifically, it will investigate director Christopher Nolan’s 2010 release Inception as an example of hyperreality in contemporary film. To support this evidence, this essay will discuss the works of; Jean Baudrillard and his essays Simulacra and Simulation and The Ecstasy of Communication. Followed by, Jurgen Habermas and his essay An Incomplete Project found in Robert C. Holub’s book Critic in the public sphere ; Hal Foster and his book Postmodern Culture and Anne Friedberg’s Window Shopping; Cinema and the Postmodern.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Character Design Presentation Final

Character Design Final Presentation

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Character Design -Week 9

This week we talked about environments. I was given words at random and told t do some sketches based on these words. They were a civilised arena.

Monday 14 November 2011

Character Design Presentation Progress

Maybe jumping the gun a bit, but I've started to put together my presentation for Thursday week. The blank pages are reminders of what is left to do. Watch this space!

University Yr 2 Project Character Design Presentation

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Albert Snare - Villain development

Character Design -Week 8

For this lesson we were split into teams and given a synopsis for a show called Jetpack Jones. We were then told to design the characters.

I got Jetpack Jones, the hero archetype and his sidekick / love interest Tessa Brainstorm. I also had to design logo's for their division the "Galactic Aviator Force: Rocketeer Division.

Monday 7 November 2011

Character Design Problem @Justin

Hi Justin, hope you are well? Can you have a look at the image below. I'm having a problem drawing my hero character (Dylan) in the front profile. My problem is in the face. I can picture him in 3D but can't seem to to join up his snout with his jaw line and then the jaw line with his neck. I just can't make it work! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Mustang Modelling progress - Window details and Bumpers

The Day The Earth Stood Still - Review

The Day The Earth Stood Still - 1951
Director - Robert Wise

1) The Day The Earth Stood Still - Poster

Plot Summary / Review:
Robert Wise's classic sci-fi drama tell's the story of alien Klaatu (Michael Rennie) and his menacing robot Gort and their visit to post World War 2 Earth. Wise's intelligent, culturally significant film would subsequently become the blueprint for all sc-fi drama's that followed. Everything from it's opening titles to it's flying saucer designs and it's subtle score have been endlessly parodied and referenced.

2) Classic Sc-fi titles

Landing on the outskirts of Washington, Klaatu emerges from his spacecraft and is immediately surrounded by a nervous US army. Followed by his 8ft robot protector Gort, Klaatu is shot by a frightened soldier before he can deliver his message. Responding to the act of violence, Gort comes to Klaatu's defence, vaporizing tanks and soldiers weapons.  Modern audiences' will smile mockingly at the outdated effects, however this view was surprisingly shared with critics at the time of release. For example, Bosley Crowther's examines Klaatu's robotic companion, stating "His giant mechanical assistant, which someone named Lock Martin animates, is also oddly unmenacing, for all his grossness and his death-ray eye. We've seen better monsters in theatre audiences on Forty-second Street." (Crowther. 1951). Crowther's review suggests the frightening aspect of the film does not come from the visual aspects of the film.

3) Klaatu and Gort

The wounded Klaatu  is taken to hospital after shutting down Gort. Miraculously recovering from his injury, he is interrogated by Government officials. Frustratingly still not able to deliver his message to the representatives of all nations, he escapes from the hospital. Hiding in a boarding house with some natives, Klaatu seeks an alternative approach to deliver his message. Eventually gathering a group of scientists and respected figures of society he completes his mission. It's here that this "superbly crafted, landmark film which invested a much-derided - and frequently ludicrous - genre with a welcome degree of dignity and respectability" (Errigo. 2006) delivers it's biggest scare. Warning the world that nuclear war would not be tolerated, Klaatu explains that Gort is a race of robot enforcers; invented to keep the peace but holds the power to destroy if peace is threatened.

Wise opted for a strong script and storyline over big budget monster thrills to deliver a truly terrifying film. 1951 Post World War 2 America was in the midst of the Cold War. Nuclear fallout was a very real threat following the invention of the atom bomb. Anyone watching the film at this time must have found it's underlying message a sombre thought. This combined with "Bernard Herrmann's effectively alien-sounding score reinforces the atmosphere of strangeness and potential menace." (Timeout. 2006). With multiple viewings "The Day the Earth Stood Still" subtlety reveals religious undertones, comparing Klaatu and his god like powers to Christ. At the command of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), Edmund North's screenplay was famously adapted. After being revived by Gort from another gunshot wound, Klaatu explains that his resurrection is only temporary. Ultimately the power over life and death "is reserved to the Almighty Spirit".

4) Religious undertones - Klaatu's resurrection


Crowther, Bosley. New York Times Review 19th September 1951 Accessed 07/11/11

Errigo, Angie. Empire Magazine Review 4th March 2006 Accessed 07/11/11

Timeout review. 26th January 2006 Accessed 07/11/11


1) Day the Earth Stood Still - Poster Accessed 07/11/11

2) Classic Sc-fi titles Accessed 07/11/11

3) Klatuu and Gort Accessed 07/11/11

4) Religous undertone - Klaatu's Resurrection Accessed 07/11/11

Saturday 5 November 2011

Character Design -Week 7

For this lesson we talked about environments and how they can shape the look and feel of characters populating them. Using elements of existing creatures I was assigned the environment space and told to design a character that would live there. I brainstormed ideas, referencing deep sea creatures. I liked the idea of a creature using solar rays to travel, like sails capturing the wind, so I also looked at butterflies. I then moved onto a whale inspired creature and a creature with multiple limbs, floating around space able to grasp asteroids and meteors to travel.

Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story - Review

Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story - 2007
Director - Jeffrey Schwarz

1) Spine Tingler! - Poster

Plot Summary / review:
Spine Tingler is a fast paced documentary charting the life and work of William Castle, a legendary Hollywood B-movie director and producer. Filled with clips and trailers of his most infamous films and a host of interviews from fellow film makers / fans and family, you get a real sense of the man behind the movies. Considered a cheap alternative to Alfred Hitchcock, Castle followed Hitchcocks lead by making himself as famous as his films. His trademark, cigar smoking profile was just as recognizable as Hitchcocks fat silhouette.

2) William Castle

Castle built a good reputation amongst Hollywood producers, his d├ębut film as a director was made on time and more importantly on budget. In stark contrast to Hitchcock's big budget, flamboyant productions, Castle was very cautious with his money. An astute businessman, he understood the importance of a good box office return. However, his films didn't always go down well with critics. Reviewing Castle's "The Tingler" at the time of it's release, Howard Thompson of the New York Times writes; "For some time producer William Castle has been serving some of the worst, dullest little horror entries ever to snake into movie houses. This one, which he also directed, is about a rubbery-looking lobster." (Thompson. 1960).

3) The Tingler

Despite critics panning his films, Castle still managed to draw crowds and huge box office returns. It's here that the documentary explores the brilliance of the man. Castle was one of Hollywood's great showmen, devising fantastic, often bizarre gimmicks that ran along side his films. Starting with 1958's "Macabre", Castle offered each member of the audience a $1000 insurance policy from being scared to death. From here they get more elaborate. 1959's "House on Haunted Hill" spliced a scene from the film with a plastic skeleton flying through the theatre. Popular with the public, but still not with the critics. Thompson writes; "This bore also introduces "the amazing new wonder, Emergo." What is it? Not much of anything." (Thompson. 1960). Despite the lack of support from critics, Castle still pushed the envelope, using early forms of 3D and "Illusion-O", a hand held ghost viewer / remover. Perhaps his most successful and best remembered gimmick was used in "The Tingler". For this he employed a team to wire a number of seats in theatre's with electric buzzers to shock certain members of the audience.

4) Interactive cinema

"Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story" sufficiently captures the buzz and excitement Castle brought to his audience in a fun, fast paced documentary. However it also captures his struggles with studio exec's and his efforts to work on more respectable projects. Most notably "Rosemary's Baby", originally intending to direct, he gave way to "Roman Polanski", controlling the maverick directors spending. Although "Rosemary's Baby" was his most commercial success, he will be remembered for his innovative idea's and contagious personality. "Castle's homegrown genius lay in knowing that the movies weren't enough, but had to have something extra to lure crowds." (Koehler. 2007).


Koehler, Robert. Variety review 20th November 2007

Thompson, Howard. New York Times Review of the "The Tingler" 10th March 1960

Thompson, Howard. New York Times Review of "House on Haunted Hill" 12th March 1960


1) Spine Tingler - Poster Accessed 04/11/11

2) William Castle

3) The Tingler

4) Interactive cinema

Tuesday 1 November 2011