Okay, I hate to be the douchey Apple Fanboy hatin’ on Microsoft (oh who am I kidding, I love it), but seriously this program has to be the biggest joke in the world!
Firstly if you haven’t heard of it, Songsmith is Microsoft’s answer to Garageband, though I would submit that Microsoft actually designed this one first judging by the bad 1990s MIDI playback. Apparently Microsoft realized how bad this idea was and pulled development, but not before the research team funded their own commercial which ended up on the web. Now you can buy the app online and have some fun with it yourself!
The gist of the preview for those who didn’t make it past the 10 second mark is you sing into the microphone/while the drummer plays along/and then when songsmith makes the music/you’re on your way to the song… then Songsmith comes up with the chords that match your voice!! AMAZING!
Of course, the one step they seem to over look is the fact that you kind of have to come up with your tune in the first place - meaning if your tune sucks so will your songsmith final song (though I think the suck algorithm is built in). In other words, it doesn’t make composing any easier, it just saves you the time of figuring out what chords match your beautiful tune…
…or does it?
People have gone ahead and downloaded the program and plugged in some of the great classics of our day to see how Songsmith would interpret them. This is when the suck algorithm really comes into play!
Honestly, Microsoft should release this, I mean I would much rather do Songsmith remixes at parties than karaoke!
But I hear the naysayers *cough*Reid*cough* saying “Adam, It’s just like Garageband! You just don’t like it because it’s Microsoft!”.
No, that’s not the case. See with Garageband you can either use preset loops and beats to piece together music, MIDI tracks (that were programed in the last decade) with your keyboard to play your own music, or combine the two with your actual musical skill by recording your own instruments. Other than Magic Garageband (which is more of a demo feature than anything) Garageband never purports to do the job for you. If you have no musical talent, Garageband isn’t going to help you at all.
But as the ad for Songsmith said, “Microsoft, eh? So It must be really easy to use”. They market this (the moronic research team that is) as being a wonder tool for anyone wanting to write a song, but as we proved with those classics, even if you had an awesome tune Songsmith will more or less butcher it.
Though I have to give props to Microsoft for originally pulling the plug.
Following my Novella of a review for Quantum of Solace (question of sport) I decided I should keep up this tradition and do some more reviews… though perhaps not as long.
Tonight I watched a little film called [•rec] which you might know as Quarantine. That is to say, you probably saw the (from what I’ve heard) God Awful American Remake called Quarantine. Now yes, I know, I shouldn’t judge a film without seeing it but come on… when was the last time the Americans did a remake of a foreign horror film and it was any good. But that’s neither here nor there. We’re here to talk about [•rec] (or Rec as I’ll refer to it henceforth).
Absolutely fantastic. What is it about those Spanish folks that make such amazing horror films (The Orphanage, another spanish film, being the last good horror film I saw). This is the outbreak (aka realistic Zombie) movie to end all outbreak movies. Runs circles around 28 Days/Weeks Later (which you’ll remember I loved).
What Wikipedia is quick to mention within the first few lines, and what may turn many people off is the fact that it is shot documentary style with one camera and plenty of shaking. We’ve been here many times before from Blair Witch, to Diary of the Dead, to various other bad horror movies whos names I cannot remember. While the action itself is more similar to that of Diary of the Dead (Shoot fucking everything!) the execution is far closer to that of Blair Witch. There were only a couple instances where the trick makes itself aware: the first in which the characters cannot remember specific details which were previously filmed. They very well could have just rewound the tape to find out (something they did once previously, when they were in far less danger). The other time was when they were being chased and I kept thinking “put the camera down so you can run faster” (after all this is a full on “news” camera, not a handycam). That said, it was never annoying like it was in Diary of the Dead (you’re friends about to die, but you’d rather keep filming you putz) and the film is clever enough to make use of the camera as integral to the story-line (specifically by using the lamp and night-vision modes).
However where the film stands out is in the writing/performances/execution. Much like Blair Witch the actors are entirely beleivable (and no-names), the film was shot on location, and the actors were left in the dark (no pun intended) about certain events resulting in entirely natural reactions. The whole thing feels like a real piece of documentary footage shot over the course of a night. That takes real skill. While yes, there were moments where I questioned the characters actions, never once was it to the point that I was brought out of the film (unlike Diary of the Dead which lost me about 3 minutes in… mostly because my boss played a reporter). And unlike Blair Witch (which I am a huge fan of) the scenario was entirely plausable (outbreak films… they always get me) which left me clinging to my chair, and jumping out of my seat.
While the handheld shot thing does get a bit tired, the entire film is incredibly well executed, and more importantly well acted. Sheer brilliance. If you love horror films, or even just like horror films, and have the desire to not only be creeped out, but actually jump out of your seat a few times then this is an absolute must. Don’t waste your time with the other garbage out there. This is absolutamente fantástico!
Yes, it’s in spanish but it doesn’t make the scares any less scary. See it.
When Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins was released in the summer of 2005 it was a huge relief to Batfans everywhere. The film relaunched a film series that had long since become an absolute joke. Nolan was able to take that series and reboot it, turning it from a campy super hero movie into a serious drama that just so happened to be about a man who liked to dress up in black rubber.
Similarly, when Martin Campbell rebooted the James Bond series in 2006 it was a breathe of fresh air. Following on the heels of one of the worst bond films ever made, the film brought Bond back to its roots, starting from the very beginning of his career, and giving us a glimpse at how this man became to be the spy we’ve all grown to know and love over the past 50 years.
And when the lights came up in the theatre for both of these films I remember thinking to myself, “Good lord. That was incredible. The best of the series… gonna be a tough act to follow”.
And when it came to Batman, Nolan did it. He brought us “The Dark Knight”, a cinematic masterpiece, that was not only better than the first chapter, and not only one of the best superhero films ever made, but I would argue one of the best films of all time — certainly one of the best films of 2008.
But Bond was not so lucky…
Perhaps it should come as no surprise. After all, Casino Royale was so incredibly good how could you follow it (yes, Batman Begins was good - but I remember thinking at the time it was lacking somehow, specifically there wasn’t enough of Batman kicking some serious ass). It’s not that Quantum of Solace is a bad film, it’s not even that it’s all that bad of a Bond film – remember Octopussy, or a View to a Kill (though I am a fan of the later) – it looks great and features some fantastic performances! I think at the heart the problem is that it’s no Casino Royale.
But don’t worry, I won’t let it off that easy… here we go with my thoughts on Quantum of Solace.
The good news? It’s only 106 minutes. The bad news? It’s only 106 minutes.
I have mixed feelings about this. I for one am never a fan of overly (and unnecessarily) long films, especially Bond films. I could never really understand why the Bond films tended to be so long… after all weren’t they just action movies? Most of the films clock in at about 2 hours (with ten minutes give or take), Casino Royale being the longest clocking in at 2 hours, 24 minutes - however there was something to be said about that. Casino Royale never felt long. It used that two and a half hours to tell an interesting and full bodied story, with plenty of action to tide us over. It didn’t leave stones unturned, questions unanswered, and no one left the theatre going “Wait… what? That’s it!?”. Quantum on the other hand…
At 1 hour and 46 minutes it comes in as the shortest Bond film yet, and boy does it show. As the film faded out and cut to the iconic gun barrel sequence (yes you read that right… more on that later) I couldn’t help but think, “Wait what? That’s it? No no you must be mistaken… I… uhh… okay… nope, that’s really the end”. I honestly felt like part of the movie was missing. It’s as if they took Casino Royale, removed all the talky bits (read: plot), left in all the action sequences and a few scenes to tie the action sequences together and shipped it out to theatres. It was like an episode of Family Guy - the plot was merely there to hold together the action scenes.
I found this especially strange considering the director. Firstly, why in Gods name you would hire a filmmaker known for such films as Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland and The Kite Runner to helm a Bond film is beyond me (especially after he admits he never really liked Bond films to begin with), but even then you’d at least expect him to turn out a film that was plot based - not action based. Perhaps I should blame Daniel Craig for suggesting the guy in the first place… Apparently, “The director found Casino Royale’s 144 minute running time too long, and wanted his follow-up to be ‘tight and fast […] like a bullet’”. It sure was “tight and fast”…
Not only that, Paul Haggis’ name is in the credits. He was the one who was really responsible for reinventing the Bond franchise with Casino Royale (just listen to his talk at TriBeCa to hear what I mean), so you’d at least expect some of that to hold over into this film. It’s almost as if he wrote the whole thing, was “let go” by the producers who then brought in the new guys, who erased everything but the title page, and just forgot to take Haggis’ name off the script. So do I blame the screenwriters? Or do I blame the studio who sacked Haggis in the first place, and replaced Campbell with Forster? (Strangely enough, this was not Campbell’s first foray into the world of Bond – he had previously directed GoldenEye– which pointed to the writing of Casino Royale being what set it appart from previous Bond Films.)
So what exactly is the plot? Well according to Wikipedia:
Bond battles Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a member of the Quantum organisation posing as an environmentalist, who intends to stage a coup d’état in Bolivia to take control of its water supply. Bond seeks revenge for the death of Vesper Lynd, and is assisted by Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), who has her own vengeance issues.
Huh… funny, I never caught onto that… In fact, I totally missed the whole coup bit. From what I could tell it was about… uh… to be honest I didn’t have a clue. It was all just so very perplexing, and I don’t know who to blame. Was it poor direction? Poor Writing? Do I blame the producer who came up with the “plot” (and who equates it to “Chinatown”… trust me buddy, this ain’t no Chinatown!)? Or did the studio just come in and remove everything that didn’t look like it came out of “The Bourne Ultimatum”.
Which brings me to the second biggest flaw of the film… the Bourneyness. There’s no doubt that the Bourne films have set a new standard for action films, especially espionage ones, however that doesn’t mean you should go around trying to do your best Jason Bourne impression, especially when you’re James fucking Bond. Again, I think this comes back to the studio trying to get that Bourne look (though one does wonder, if they wanted it to look like a Bourne film why not just hire Greengrass to make the bloody thing). I mean, they even used the same blue tint that the Bourne Ultimatum used… Sure, it’s nice to see them make Bond a more realistic, more human character that’s closer to the Bond of the novels, but honestly if I wanted to see a Bourne movie, I’d see a Bourne movie! I came to see a James Bond movie. I want guns, and cars, and gadgets, and girls GALORE. Even Casino Royale, while more realistic than say, Die Another Day, had plenty of action, cool cars, the occasional fun gadget, and lots of delicious Eye Candy. This time… we see Bond with his shirt off once and the closest thing to lady eye candy is a “nude” girl covered in oil - which, admittedly, was pretty cool. Of course, it caused me to think back to Goldfinger and think “God that was a good film. I’d like to watch that right now”.
And what’s with the oil? I mean firstly, we’ve been there before with “The World Is Not Enough” and even then that film was only good because it had Robbie Coltrane, and such clever lines like “Christmas Came Early this Year” (or something equally as punny). Why is it that every film to come out in the last few years has to have some bloody environmentally “green” message. Christ, even The Simpsons Movie did it, something I shall never forgive it for. I wish I could say it was a mcguffen - I certainly didn’t care about it… and apparently neither did the spies - but to be honest there was nothing else there for it to be a mcguffen. In the end there was one very important environmental message that really spoke to me: don’t run buildings on fuel cells… it only ends badly. Especially if you’ve got a pension for firing guns frequently.
So, what’s good about it? Judy Dench is funnier than ever, (she truly is the perfect M) and Daniel Craig is still brilliant as Bond (no doubt he is the best Bond yet, even better than Connery). Also, the action scenes are quite good, even if they do look like they belong in a Bourne film. The main titles are cool as per usual (I even enjoyed the song), as is all the motion graphics in the film (there’s a lot this time around) and for you type nerds out there, the typography used through-out the film is gorgeous. And the scene at the Opera was fantastic. The highlight of the film. However, when you get right down to it I think the main problem lies in what I mentioned off the top: the good news is the film only 106 minutes, and the bad news is it’s only 106 minutes. It’s not nearly enough time to truly establish what the hell is going on, but at the same time it means you won’t have to suffer for very long.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: the film ends with the iconic gun barrel sequence. An odd choice to be sure. On the one hand I felt “What the hell?” and on the other hand I thought “Oh good, now the real film is about to start, that was just the pre-title teaser sequence”. And I honestly think it’s the later. The revenge half of the story about love and loss. I think that now they’ve got this backstory out of the way, they’ve set up who Bond is, they’ve shown why he is the way he is, they can get on with it and start Bond on a real mission. I also hope that it means the next time around we can meet Moneypenny and Q because, unlike Nolan’s Batman which benefits from not having Robin, these films require those characters. They are at the heart of what makes a Bond film a Bond film and not just another average spy action-thriller.
Hopefully my gut instinct is correct and the next film will be what we’re waiting for - and we can just consider this an unneeded continuation of Casino Royale (the Bond equivalent of “The Trail of the Pink Panther” which was cobbled together from deleted scenes of previous films into one new, absolutely awful piece of shit) and that the next one will be a return to form (and hopefully see a return of Paul Haggis). After-all, From Russia with love pales in comparison to Dr. No. But Goldfinger was the best of the three.
And what the fuck is Quantum of Solace mean anyways?
Update: Just found an article dedicated to the best part of the film: typography. It’s got all the info on the type used in the film and where you can get it. Check it.