Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Film Review : Killing Season (2013) *SPOILER ALERT* & Travolta in Conversation

Figure 01. Film Poster

Director : Mark Steven Johnson
Writer : Evan Daugherty
Stars : Robert De Niro, John Travolta, Milo Ventimiglia, Elisabeth Olin.

Film Synopsis : (IMDb) 
Two veterans of the Bosnian War - one American, one Serbian - find their unlikely friendship turn tense with one of them reveals their true intentions. 

Killing Season - Trailer

I saw this film on it's UK Premier at the BFI Southbank in London on the 25th June 2013. Followed by the presence of John Travolta himself in conversation with Johnathan Ross.

There were of course posters, trailers and reviews about this film available but, I like to go into a film with no previous information, so everything I see is fresh, ready to form my own opinions. I'm going to write this film review in a monologue style.

The films starts with a battle scene. Shaky cam, guns, explosions - the usual you'd see in a film to try and set the story of war. Within the first few seconds it was looking like an amateur film production, or a film where all the funds had been spent on the cast list rather than the film itself. I was hoping it would just be a bad start and the film would have spectacular story and acting to rescue itself. 

Within this opening scene the American soldiers capture the Serbian soldiers and identify them with scorpion tattoos on their forearms. OK, so that's fine, they're identifiable by a large tattoo on their arm, that's easy to understand..... so why did they think it was necessary to hold the guy's arm to the camera for far too long? - I get it.. move on with the story! 

Figure 02. John Travolta as Emil Kovac

And in comes Travolta, with his spray on hair. This seems to be a trend with him in films now, but it is terribly distracting. Especially when the story is so bad, the hair takes pride of place for the attention span. A few minutes of walking around some streets, entering a bar, drinking some shots and looking mean, we get to hear his impression of a Serbian speaking in English. This 'accent' is now in a competition with the hair for being the most distracting.

Figure 03. Robert De Niro as Benjamin Ford

Cut to Robert De Niro. This section of this film establishes his character as a recluse who lives in a cabin in the woods. He sets up his little hut made of branches to hide from the animals so he can get a good shot of them - with his camera, but OH! His leg, he has a bad leg and stumbles scaring the animal he was taking photos of. So It's been established he has a bad leg. Next shot - he gets out of the shower to reveal the scar which is the markings of his injury causing the bad leg. Two reminders, that's more than we need but ok, so we know he has a bad leg. Next shot- painkillers. He needs his painkillers for his BAD LEG... but there are none, so he makes his way to the car to look for some. None there either, a drive to the shop is needed. So the American ex-soldier drives off to get some painkillers, but oh dear his car breaks down right where the Serbian ex-soldier happens to be camouflaged into the woods.
Serbian "Can I help you with your car? I'm good at fixing English vehicles"
American "NO!"
Serbian "Oh ok"
American "I'm sorry, I have a bad leg which makes me grouchy"

Figure 04. Travolta & De Niro in Killing Season

A BAD LEG?? When did that happen????
They end up going back to De Nero's house out of the rain and talk about his bad leg all night. 

Milo Ventimiglia enters the story with his crooked mouth and a phone call to see if his father (De Nero) will be attending the baptism of his new baby son, whom De Nero has not yet met. So that gives away the ending.... He can't die in the film because he hasn't yet met his new born grandson. Que Hollywood ending.

Then the rest of the film they play cat and mouse coming after each other with some really boring walking or hobbling around looking mean. They become freinds and he visits his grandson. The End.

Overall, I'd love to give this film some praise as there are a couple of great actors starring in here, but it's hard to think of anything. It lacks emotion, there are continuity errors, there's really distracting spray on hair and some kind of accent. The quality of the filming is far too digital in areas and filmic in others making it inconsistent which takes you right out of the film. 

Last words - Coming soon to a DVD near you.

Figure 05. De Niro & Travolta in Killing Season

John Travolta 
In Conversation with Jonathan Ross

After the screening of Killing Season, Jonathan Ross (who was a surprise presenter) welcomed John Travolta to the stage. A 12 minute clip of his work in film was screened followed by a series of questions and answers. I'm glad to say, this mega star actor came across as a genuinely nice guy. 

Figure 06. John Travolta & Jonathan Ross - BFI Stage

Several questions later with many humorous points, Ross handed the questioning over to the audience. Travolta introduced his 13 year old daughter sat in the middle of the audience, who looked a little embarrassed to be announced in front of everybody. And from his own lips, he introduced his Number 1 fan, who actually changed her surname to Travolta many years ago and on her birthday (every birthday) celebrates by watching movies he stars in from 8 am to 12 midnight. The word stalker did come out of Jonathan Ross' mouth.

Figure 07. John Travolta & Jonathan Ross - BFI Stage

We even got to see Travolta bust out some dancing moves from his earlier roles in his film career.

Figure 08. John Travolta & Jonathan Ross - BFI Stage

Figure 09. John Travolta & Jonathan Ross - BFI Stage

There was video footage recorded during this event which will be on the BFI website and archives at some point if you'd like to watch all the details.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Nexus Diaries : Day 10

Day 10, Today was MORE character animation with the exception of a little celebratory champagne at the end of the day with the hand in of a project. I shall see if I'm allowed to eventually show an excerpt with the ducks I animated.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Nexus Diaries : Day 09

Day 09 was more character animation. It's taking so much refinement to try and get this walk symmetrical. 
It's all part of it though. So there's not much to write about.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Nexus Diaries : Day 08

Day 08, more character animation, then I took a break from that to model some cartoony clouds for a different project. Then back to my animating. It's a lot of animation focus on one character's walk cycle but I've clearly been improving on my skills so it's all worth it.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Nexus Diaries : Day 07

Day 07, I continued my progress on character animation. I also helped a project by watching the playblast of what they'd done so far, making a list of any errors or 'funny things' (not funny ha ha) that I could see and joining in with a spontaneous meeting with the director and team to talk through my list so they could be placed on the sheet of refinements for the project. - That was fun.

Then I continued Character Animation.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Nexus Diaries : Day 06

Day six included more intense work on animating this secret character. I spend they day doing that so not much more to write about....

Friday, 7 June 2013

Nexus Diaries : Day 05

So today was the end of week 01, a very interesting week. 

I was left to my own devices to practice my animation on a character from a current project. I would upload a playblast of my progress - but I doubt I'm allowed to, so I won't. 

It has been a fun day though, and I'm getting more and more fluent in 3ds Max and using the graph editor whilst animating. 

Since I've been home this evening I decided to fit in some Winnie Refinements.... I want to make her 3D animation sections smoother and with the noted adjustments.... after a week of using 3ds Max solidly.... going back to Maya feels like :


My finger rhythms have become accustomed to the new software and the confusion in movements on the keyboard could make some people GO CRAZY!

That said.... it's great to get to know more about both.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Nexus Diaries : Day 04

Day 4 was interesting. After a day and a half of working on bouncing balls they were finished! Then I got to move onto practicing my animation on a character. A character chosen at random from one of the current projects which is fun. And on a geek note..... The rig is delicious! Sooo many options in there. 

Anyway... Here are some play blasts of the bouncing balls, one with the trajectory and one without. The graph work on them is very clean.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Nexus Diaries : Day 03

Day three was spent working on primary animation skills.... The Bouncing Balls.
I was given the task to perfect a series of bouncing balls in 3ds Max paying great attention to the animation graphs making sure they're perfectly clean and tidy and the balls are animated as realistically as possible. 

Can never get enough practice :)
....and I feel my animation skills have improved already....

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Nexus Diaries : Day 02

Well Day 02 was great, I finished the first batch of animated ducks.... and the directer wanted MORE!
So I put animated ducks in another scene.... and the director wanted MORE!....
....In EVERY SCENE .... like Where's Wally... but I think he was just getting carried away :)

The first two days were successful, I've had two pieces of animation approved to go into the project AND learnt how to do it in 3ds Max.... Quite successful I'd say :)

I also sat in on a meeting between the director and the rest of the team, watching through the progress of the project and seeing the detailed amendment suggestions... was very interesting to see.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Nexus Diaries : Day 01

So today was my BIG FIRST DAY at NEXUS!


The day started off by catching the train, and the trip from the tube station to Nexus headquarters involved me looking like the biggest tourist ever - google maps walking sat-nav, watching to see if the blue dot representing me was going in the right direction. I still arrived early.

I had a grand tour of the building and met everyone inside thanks to the lovely Nat B.

Followed by an induction into the Nexus system and how to access the projects I need to.

Then THE Cool as a Cucumber Mark Davies gave me a quick tour of the 3ds Max program with the very clever systems Nexus have for themselves for a brilliant pipeline.

Then TO ANIMATING! I spent my day animating a few cute little ducks. I can't say who they are for, but I had fun getting in the 'Duck Zone' as it was referred to.

Overall, day 1 was fabulous, the people are lovely, the building is great - creaky floorboards and homely, and I'm looking forward to getting there bright and early for day 2!