The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1: Review

Starting not too long after the events of Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 sees Katniss in a hidden complex in District 13, having fled District 12 after it is destroyed. She is suffering the emotional toll of the games and the consequences of the decisions made there, Peeta has been captured and taken to the Capitol, and she is doubting her role as The Mockingjay, the symbol of the resistance.

This third instalment of the series, and first half of what will lead up to the destiny of Katniss, the mood and feel of the story has certainly changed. The story focus is more on the future, the longer term goals, as opposed to the immediacy of combat in the arena. We see a lot more of her vulnerabilities revealed.

Together with President Coin, and Plutarch Heavensbee, Katniss begins her plan to take on the Capitol.

The pace of this current instalment is certainly a change from the previous two, where everything was bound to the arena. Life outside the arena has moved on, and not for the better. The slower pace of action, and deeper exploration of character demons might leave a some viewers feeling let down. This is however, a must see, as the climactic resolution of all the entire story will be upon us in Mockingjay Part 2, out in 2015. So while the story feels a little more basic, and uneventful, the big reward awaits.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 will be a must-see for fans, and anyone who has seen any of the series. The long wait for the resolution of Part 2 is sure to be well worth it. The film opens 21 November 2014, in South Africa.

Writing A Screenplay That Works

Aspirant screenwriters will receive hands-on experience in writing the first 10 pages of their screenplay in The Writing Studio’s The Write Journey workshop that takes place on Saturday November 29 and December 6 from 10am until 5pm.

The workshop is presented by Daniel Dercksen, a published playwright and screenwriter, who has been teaching workshops throughout South Africa the past 15 years, with filmmakers like Henk Pretorius (Leading Lady, Fanie Fourie se Labola) John Barker (Spud 3: Learning to Fly, How to Steal a Million) and Sallas de Jager (Roepman, Verraaiers, Stuur Groete aan Mannetjies Roux) as proud graduates of previous workshops.

The outcome-based The Write Journey workshop looks at how to conceptualise and explore ideas, amplifying thematic purpose, defining and developing characters, and plotting and structuring the story to make the most of its comedic of dramatic potential.

At the end of the 2-Saturday workshop the writers will write the first 10 pages, and then work individually with trainer Dercksen on on-on-one sessions to develop and complete a draft that will be evaluated by The Write Agency, and then forwarded to potential producers locally and internationally.

This unique workshop explores the fine art of writing visual narrative, mastering the skill of plotting and structure, and developing and exploring ideas and characters.

This inspirational and motivational life-affirming workshop is ideal for ANYONE with an idea for a story. If there is something or someone you want to write about this is your opportunity to turn thoughts into words.

The Writing Studio is an independent training initiative that celebrates the art of storytelling and the craft of writing, fostering the talent of proudly South African storytellers and storymakers.

Daniel Dercksen, the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative has been a published film and theatre journalist for 30 years and has been teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa the past 19 years.

During this time, Dercksen presented a Master Class for Screenwriters at the Talent Campus at the Sithengi Film and TV Market in Cape Town, facilitated   a ‘Directing Actors’ workshop with acclaimed actor Eriq Ebouaney, launched an evening course in scriptwriting at the City Varsity Film TV and Multimedia School in Cape Town, presented annual community workshops the Ekhaya Multi Arts Centre in Kwa Mashu as part of the Kwa Mashu Film Festival, a course for the Cape Film Commission at the Ikapa Youth Film Festival, a Masterclass at the 2012 Kunjanimation Animation Festival, served as guest speaker and Judge at the 2013 48 Hours Film Project and presented a workshop for animators at Blackginger TV (2013).

As a qualified ETD Practitioner (Education, Training and Development) – accredited by SAQA (The South African Qualifications Authority) and working in accordance with the principles of the Department of Education – Dercksen’s workshops focus on outcomes-based education, training and development.

For registration or more information send an email to daniel@writingstudio.co.za or call Daniel on 072 474 1079.

Visit the website www.writingstudio.co.za for more information.

The Drop: Review

Finding himself at the centre of a robbery plot gone awry, Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) become embroiled in a criminal plot and police investigation.

The Drop presents you with a basic plot, yet, we are slowly endeared to Bob. He is a simple, gentle, kind soul, and steals everyone’s heart when he helps a puppy. Said puppy goes on to steal many scenes from the main characters, as this little creature becomes part of the story, along with new found friend to Bob, Nadia (Noomi Rapace).

Although not one to tax anyone’s thinking cap, the story is well written, and told. Hardy once again shows he is one of today’s greatest actors.

The Drop is a great story, bound to entertain everyone, and leave viewers with a smile as the credits role.

The Drop opens in South African cinemas 14 November 2014

Transcendence (Blu-Ray): Review

The Film

The story of Dr. Will Caster, and his drive to further the realm of artificial intelligence. That is, until a terror group targets him, and his consciousness is uploaded into one such program.

Transcendence is likely to require repeat viewing by many, should they wish to grasp the many scientific concepts used in the film. These concepts, although in a fictional story, are said to become a reality around the year 2045.

Read the full SAMDB review of Transcendence.

Disc And Bonus Features

As is the norm with this new medium, the disc is encoded at a high bitrate, keeping the high definition visuals looking great on larger screens. This comes into it’s own further into the film, when the visuals switch from a contemporary look to the imagined world, touching on science fiction, keeping the colours vibrant, and the minute details of the on-screen objects sharp and in focus.

There are a handful on bonus features on the disc, with four short featurettes, and three teaser trailers for the film. This is slightly disappointing, as one would have hoped there would have been more use of the vast storage space of the disc, that would include more in-depth features and more material. There is also no audio commentary included. This is sure to be missed by budding filmmakers, but for those just looking to escape and watch a film, the few features are a bonus.

The disc carries a surround soundtrack, further enhancing the on-screen visuals, and helping to make the viewer a part of the story.

Transcendence is available now, in South Africa, to purchase on DVD and Blu-Ray.

10 Animated Shorts Advance in 2014 Oscar Race

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that 10 animated short films will advance in the voting process for the 87th Academy Awards®. Fifty-eight pictures had originally qualified in the category.

The 10 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production companies:

  • “The Bigger Picture,” Daisy Jacobs, director, and Christopher Hees, producer (National Film and Television School)
  • “Coda,” Alan Holly, director (And Maps And Plans)
  • “The Dam Keeper,” Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, directors (Tonko House)
  • “Duet,” Glen Keane, director (Glen Keane Productions & ATAP)
  • “Feast,” Patrick Osborne, director, and Kristina Reed, producer (Walt Disney Animation Studios)
  • “Footprints,” Bill Plympton, director (Bill Plympton Studio)
  • “Me and My Moulton,” Torill Kove, director (Mikrofilm in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada)
  • “The Numberlys,” William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, directors (Moonbot Studios)
  • “A Single Life,” Joris Oprins, director (Job, Joris & Marieke)
  • “Symphony No. 42,” Réka Bucsi, director (Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest)

The Academy’s Short Films and Feature Animation Branch Reviewing Committee viewed all the eligible entries for the preliminary round of voting at screenings held in New York and Los Angeles.

Short Films and Feature Animation Branch members will now select three to five nominees from among the 10 titles on the shortlist. Branch screenings will be held in Los Angeles, London, New York and San Francisco in December.

The 87th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 15, 2015, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

The Oscars® will be held on Sunday, February 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

Maleficent (Blu-Ray): Review

The Film

The age-old story, told from another perspective. This is sure to enthrall the little ones time and again throughout the holiday season.

Maleficent holds up to repeat viewings, with stunning visuals that come alive thanks to the HD benefit of Blu-Ray. The visuals and creatures are sure to astound children of all ages. A good, wholesome story, although the PG rating is one parents should take heed of, as some scenes with Maleficent showing rage might not be suitable for a small percentage of younger children. This is, however a Disney family film, so parents can rest assured that good values triumph in the end, and they are getting a film that will be enjoyed by the whole family.

Read the full SAMDB review of Maleficent.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is encoded at a high bitrate, as is to be expected of a large release such as this, and with the vast storage of the Blu-Ray disc. Sound is is an all engulfing 7.1 soundtrack, which totally immerses you in the on-screen action, expanding the world so that the viewer is engulfed, making great use of the surround channels.

The Maleficent Blu-Ray has a bunch of extra features, aimed more at the younger viewer than the older generation, or those looking to pick up tips and tricks from the filmmakers.

From Fairy Tale To Feature Film – a featurette talking about how the age old story was reimagined and brought to life on screen for yet another generation. The images here are likely to prompt nostolgia, and perhaps it’s time to dig out that old copy of Sleeping Beauty.

Building An Epic Battle – The big battle between the King and Maleficent on the borders of their two kingdoms.

Classic Couture – One that is bound to excite the young girls, talking about Maleficent’s head piece and costumes.

Maleficent Revealed – One for the boys, and that would interest filmmakers. Althought not too technical, this is a look at the various special effects, green screen and virtual worlds created for the film.

Aurora: Becoming A Beauty – A chat with the ever talented Elle Fanning, about her love for the original Sleeping Beauty, and her character in Maleficent. This is definitely a young actress to watch, as she goes from strength to strength in her various roles, garnering fame, yet presenting herself as a wholesome role model, true to the vision of Disney.

Deleted Scenes – These include a handful of scenes that did not make the final cut of the film. Although these are great scenes, it is understandable for story and pacing reasons, why they were not included in the final product.

Unfortunately, there are no audio commentaries on the disc, which are sure not to be missed by the younger audiences, but filmmakers, and aficionados of film will likely be disappointed in this omission.

Maleficent is available now in South Africa to purchase on DVD and Blu-Ray.