Saturday, August 30, 2014

Wolf Creek 2: Australia's second attempt at freaking out the Mother Country

I'm not a particularly squeamish person. Growing up on a pig farm, I've seen my fair share of dead animals, maggots, gruesome injuries, etc. Most of the time, what really scares the crap out of me is the unexplained, those gaps in knowledge that allow the imagination to run wild (and your dreams to become nightmares). So it was going to be a hard sell for any horror film to convince me that not only was it scary/horrible/visceral but also realistic. Wolf Creek (2005), did just that for me and I swore never to watch another "true story" based on our Australian outback (a little too close to home). I changed my mind after 6 years when my boyfriend convinced me to hold his hand whilst watching Wolf Creek 2, the sequel to the original box office smash. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you see it, I was very little disturbed by the new Greg McClean feature.

Wolf Creek 2 introduces yet again to that amazing spectacle of a character - Mick Taylor. Mick's been doing just fine for himself after walking away scott-free in last film and has taken up his usual hobbies of hunting pigs, trapping prey, and shooting whatever crosses his pristine Australian land (none of these are animals mind you). Yes, his fastidious attitude towards "Australian pride" is still rampant and its clear from the beginning of the film, after Mick knocks off two German backpackers, that he is not happy with the latest influx of tourists and immigrants. The second and third act follows Ryan, a young British surfer who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when he attempts to rescue one of the luckless Germans escape Mick. Ryan inadvertently finds himself caught up in Mick's sick fun with the rest of the film following the two in an extravagant game of "cat and mouse" ending with Mick carefully extracting himself yet again from his wrongdoings, leaving Ryan in the lurch.

The film wouldn't be complete without tons of fake blood; hacksaws and pliers, or big brutish vehicles (this time in the form of a semi-trailer); and for this it delivers well yet too predictably for this cynical viewer. I, like many of my audience constituents, have seen enough gore and violence on YouTube and the news to be truly shocked anymore by just blood and guts. We need real horror - in-your-face, nightmarishly disturbing horror - which just wasn't there in WC2. It may have been the delay between the original and the sequel, the disturbances during production, or the addition of a new writing partner in the form of Aaron Sterns that broke the successful equation the team had so carefully developed in 2005. Either way, I wouldn't recommend this film to those who were die-hard fans of the original lusting for another round of Mick's classic lines and laughter, nor those with a faint stomach. The scene between Mick and the two Germans even managed to make this pig farmer's daughter squeal, just a little.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Why the Australian government won't win the war on online piracy and copyright infringement.

Recent reports came out today speculating on the impact that Attorney General George Brandis' latest anti-piracy proposal will have on the Australian public who were recently deemed by Mumbrella to be "at the top of the world piracy ladder." Online articles today claim the proposal will "force ISPs to take steps to prevent Australians from infringing copyright", "allowing rights holders to pursue legal action to force ISPs to censor websites", and directly from the report itself, "provide an incentive for market participants to work together to address online copyright infringement."

Effectively, the Australian Governments' only resolution to the major issue of Australia's online piracy obsession, is to place a great, big, fat bandage over the whole thing. Here are my reasons why the proposal, and subsequent proposals to fight those who elicit online piracy, will fail.

1.) Its too easy to pirate.
We may not be up there as the most tech-driven countries in the world, but we sure know how to get around ISP blocks, slow download speeds, and blocked access to content. VPN'ing, using proxies, fake accounts, false IP's, are just some of the ways Australians are getting around that whole risk of being caught downloading illegally. Its "virtually" (pun intended) impossible to track a user's identity online these days if they don't want to be found, hence why our Attorney General has not attempted to prosecute the individuals who are responsible for online piracy and instead, go after the ISPs.

2.) There is no alternative and therefore, no incentive for individuals to stop pirating.
The biggest flaw in the proposal from Brandis is the line "provide an incentive for market participants to work together to address online copyright infringement." This should have been the only focus of the proposal and is clearly something the Australian Government has not even considered at this point, despite all the committee meetings and tax-payer funded Premium Skype calls with Hollywood. The following infographic highlights the exact reasons why individuals download illegally and should have been what the proposal responded to:
As you can see, cost and adequate access to content are the main reasons behind why people download illegally.

Here is how we square up currently against these statements:
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The following infographics should also be considered in this regard as evidence of the fact that Australians are not abject to paying for their content. Rather, they just want it to be a fair playing ground and not be forced to accept the lacklustre standards the Australian media and government enforce.

Image courtesy of:
There is clearly a disconnect between what the Australian Government has proposed and what the actual purpose of an online piracy overhaul should be. Rather than trying to reserve a few million each year for the major studios, the government should be focusing on major initiatives that fulfill long term revenue raising for these companies, not short term gain. To be honest, these are the only two points that need to be considered right now. The Australian government Hollywood studios cannot expect that Australia is suddenly going to find its moral compass and magically stop downloading illegally. Nor should they expect that targeting their ISPs or those who facilitate online piracy will work either. There will always be a work around. There will always be a reason to download illegally unless, we find an alternative. I call upon Attorney General George Brandis to consider this statement and really think about what could be done to resolve this issue in the long run, not just for the term of his position in Parliament.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How To Train Your Dragon 2

I may or may not have admitted this before but I am a huge fan of kids' films. Mainly because in this day and age, kids' films are no longer just for little kids. They're for big kids as well or adults as they are more commonly known, who enjoy the wonder and grandeur that only animated or CGI-heavy films seem to be able to replicate these days.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is no exception. The sequel to the epic 2010 feature starring Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, and Craig Ferguson directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, has all the action, adventure, and slimy dragon spit one can imagine with many brilliant sub plots intertwined to keep both young and old interested throughout the relatively reasonable 102 minute feature.

In HTTYD2 (as Twitter likes to call it), Hiccup has developed into a more mature, knowledgeable and wise man (with the same boyish frame and broken voice). Him and his best friend Toothless, the unbelievably cute Night-Fury dragon, prefer scouring the extended lands around their hometown Berk to entering Dragon races, or fulfilling his destiny as Chief of Berk (great title). When Hiccup accidentally stumbles upon a new land complete with dragon trappers and foreign trades, he learns of a fate far worse than dragons - Drago Bludvist. A crazy and deranged individual who has learnt "how to train his dragons" to attack on command - cute! Its at this point the film takes us to a whole new level and as I say with all sequels - if you're gonna make it better, you've gotta make it bigger. In this case, Dreamworks did just that - in the form of their insanely, awesome, humongous Bewilderbeasts (aka. biggest motherf***ers known to dragon kind) and in the form of a much bigger surprise - the reveal of the Dragon Master. The Dragon Master is a character to precious to unveil to you now if you haven't yet seen the film but I will say this - you'll be so happy to finally see Hiccup fit in for a change rather than being on the outside. The film's conclusion comes in the form of a mighty battle between Drago and his army of dragons and Hiccup and his tribe, the only weak point to the film which ironically relies just as much on the dragons to further the plot as the characters in the story rely on them. Without the dragons' characterization, we suddenly lose that element of connectivity that the filmmakers have maintained throughout the whole film and its a little unnerving. Regardless, you'll still be on the edge of your seat right till the very end.

I can't get over how many boxes this film ticks for me. Drama= tick. Action = tick. Tear-jerking scenes = tick tick. Comedy = tick tick tick!! You'll love to you cry and cry till you laugh - that is the beauty of DeBlois' writing. Not only that but the film encourages us to become a part of this world without the need for ridiculously clunky 3D glasses. The scenery, lighting, and attention to detail are so intricate you would think you were looking into this world through a window, not a crappy projector screen. To top it off, I really appreciate a kids' film that has an awesome moral story behind it without being sappy. In HTTYD2's case, we must learn that no matter how small we may be, we are mightier in spirit and with our courage, and our dragons, we can conquer anything.

Its going to be great to see how HTTYD3 turns out.