What does a ‘Scanner’ see?

A Scanner Darkly‘ is a complex and fascinating story based on a novel by Phillip K. Dick (the author of Blade Runner). The movie uses the latest techniques in rotoscoping to produce a beautiful animated look. The story is set in a near-future, when the United States is obsessed with the war on drugs, particularly a substance known as ‘D’ (Death).

The use of rotoscoping has been put into use before by the director, Richard Linklater, in his philosophically complex film ‘Waking Life‘. In this ‘A Scanner Darkly‘ Linklater uses the same technique to put into a narrative that, compared to Waking Life, is non-linear to the point that it is very faithful to the original author’s novel. But there’s more than meets the eye, literally, to what Linklater is doing with this picture. It really does fit the mood of the movie, but the control over thought and the similarly powerful self-destruction comes at a high price…

To talk about the story, we have to involve the characters affected by the drug. Keanu Reeves plays Bob Arctor, a narc on the verge of a breakdown. For public appearances, he acts as a cop and he has to wear a special hi-tech disguise to protect his identity. This ‘suit’ changes his voice and image as a shifting kaleidoscope of features.

Arctor’s impending mental breakdown is accelerated by the burden of spying on a group of drug addicts, and he is under such deep cover that these losers are now his only friends: the hyperactive Barris (Robert Downey Jr), dopey slacker Ernie (Woody Harrelson), unhappy Freck (Rory Cochrane) and the beautiful coke-addict Donna (Winona Ryder), with whom Arctor is in love.

This movie may be seen as ‘quirky’ due to the visual representation and the subject on hand. But looking at the bigger picture, it does an amazing job of capturing the feel and tone of the book as well as the paranoia, perceptual distortions, and chaos of hallucinogenic overindulgence.

It can be seen as a sense of losing all forms of reality and the struggle for identity and meaning.

24 star and show win best awards in Emmy

Kiefer Sutherland and the hit US ‘real-time’ thriller 24 has won best drama and actor awards at the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles last night.

Collecting the two awards, star Kiefer Sutherland (playing CTU Agent Jack Bauer) said his experience on the show had been “nothing but remarkable”.

Sutherland’s best actor triumph follows four unsuccessful nominations for 24 in consecutive years.

“Every once in a while you’ll have an evening that just reminds you that you’re given too much,” he said. “This is that evening.”

So congratulations to Kiefer and the show’s success. I’m so happy to see the Canadian actor winning the award for Best Actor in a Drama, after missing out four times… Kiefer’s portray of the troubled government agent is compelling and his performance in the previous season (Day 5) is considered the best of the series so far.

As for the show, I’m proud to see this top qualify drama has been awarded as Outstanding Drama Series. Fantastic!

The real-time element, split-screen political thriller series has been a great success over the past five years and I believe the main story and characters are the strongest part to keep the viewers entertained on Jack Bauer’s nightmare day.

Looking forward to the next series of my favourite show (Day 6) as we will find out what happened to Jack Bauer.

Source: Emmy Awards

Massa victorious as the champions duel continues

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa became Formula One’s second newest winner (after Jenson Button) with a superb lights-to-flag drive in the Turkish Grand Prix. The Brazilian didn’t make any mistakes throughout the weekend after his fantastic pole position in qualifying. His race pace was consistent and fast compared to his team-mate Michael Schumacher, who finished a very close third behind his main title challenger Fernando Alonso.

In fact, in the last few laps, everyone’s attention was focused on the duel between Schumacher and Alonso. The Renault was suffering a tyre wear issue but Alonso was in complete control of the situation despite the pressure of Michael in the faster Ferrari directly behind…

This duel reminded me of the closing stages of the 2005 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola. At that time, Alonso was in the lead and Michael was close behind and was seeking a way through in order to win the race in front of the Tifosi. In both cases, the German was desperate to get past but Alonso absorbed the pressure exceedingly well.

Indeed, Alonso was well comfortable in the tricky situation that he was adjusting the revs of his Renault RS26 engine according to how close Schumacher was… It got a little precarious at times, but Alonso knew Schumacher couldn’t afford to take them both off, since it was he who had a ten point deficit to worry about.

Despite that, going into the tight last corner on the final lap, Fernando protected the inside line just in case. But the Spaniard compromise the exit… And Michael had the momentum… In the end, Alonso just finished ahead of his championship rival by half a car’s length to create a dead heat finish. The time gap splitting the two contenders was less than one-tenth of a second!

By finishing second, this was a crucial boost to Alonso’s title defence, extending his lead from 10 to 12 points with just 40 available over the remaining four Grands Prix.

But the true significance of Alonso’s runner-up finish was to bring about a six point swing in his favour since, had Schumacher been ahead of the Spaniard, he would almost certainly be given the race win and the maximum ten points for victory.

In hindsight, Schumacher’s race was comprised by his errors during qualifying. He should have qualified the Ferrari 248 on pole position as he had the fastest package – chassis and Bridgestone tyres – to win the race. But Massa did a better job and it was a rich reward for the Brazilian after 67 Grands Prix. If Michael did get ahead of Alonso, then Massa would pull aside to let his team leader through to take the win, thereby closing the championship gap significantly… But it all went wrong during the Safety Car period.

Vitantonio Liuzzi spun his Toro Rosso at the first corner and stalled it. Forcing the race director to bring out the Safety Car so that the track marshals can remove Liuzzi’s car. This prompt the Ferrari team to conduct the first round of pitstops for both cars during this period. But Massa was ahead of Michael at that point and it was the Brazilian who was served with fresh fuel and new Bridgestone tyres. Michael was forced to wait behind and this delay cost him the track position and more importantly the race win…

With two Ferraris in the pits, Renault decided to call Alonso in for his first stop at the same time. And with Michael stacked behind Felipe, the Spaniard made the most of the opportunity to get ahead of his title rival.

So a ‘dream result’ for Felipe Massa winning his first Grand Prix for Ferrari. With Alonso in second after admitting he was lucky to finished in the runner-up spot thanks to the Safety Car. Without that, I would reckon he would have finished a distant third… As for Michael, he was frustrated to come away with only third after showing he was the fastest driver thoughout the weekend. But the German is determined to win the next race, the Italian Grand Prix so that he can close the 12 point gap…

As for the others, Jenson Button drove another impeccable race, but in dry conditions his Honda RA106 was no match for the Ferraris and Renaults and he had to make do with fourth. McLaren’s Perdo de la Rosa drove a solid race to fifth despite stopping once for fuel. While Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella recovered well from his first lap spin at Turn 1 to take sixth.

Toyota’s Ralf Schumacher also recovered well after being involved in the first corner incident. While the last point finisher was Rubens Barrichello in the Honda.

As for the start, there was mayhem at Turn 1. Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella spun after team-mate Alonso had to brake hard to avoid contact with the two Ferraris. The Spanaird had slipped ahead of his title rival, but was forced to brake as Massa moved across in front to take the lead.

Nick Heidfeld’s BMW Sauber lost its nosecone on the stricken Renault, and behind them there was carnage as Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren) was hit from behind by Ralf Schumacher (Toyota). Then Scott Speed (Toro Rosso) hit the back of Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren), and a sideways Takuma Sato (Super Aguri) was hit by Tiago Monteiro (Midland), who retired on the spot.

While that was happening, Ralf Schumacher swept across the track and collided lightly with his Toyota team-mate Jarno Trulli… R. Schumacher, Fisichella, Heidfeld, Speed, Raikkonen and Sato all pitted at the end of the lap before resuming. A lap later Raikkonen crashed heavily in Turn 4 after running off the road, possibly because of associated problems…

I do feel sorry for Raikkonen as he was trying to avoid the spinning Renault at the start but was hit from behind damaging his car. I really hope he can end his time at McLaren with a high by scoring a final win before joining Ferrari next year (the rumours are that the Finn will definitely drive for them and the announcement should take place during the Italian Grand Prix weekend).

Ferrari will be looking for a strong result at their home Grand Prix in Monza in two weeks time. Michael Schumacher will probably announce his decision whether or not to continue in Formula One next year. But in terms of this year’s championship, he is now 12 points behind Alonso with the Italian team only two points beind the leading constructor, Renault. The battle for the title continues in the remaining four races.

25 years of Indiana Jones

In this month’s Empire, the film magazine celebrates 25 years of the adventures of Indiana Jones, the famous archaeologist played by Harrison Ford (who is my all-time favourite Hollywood actor).

To celebrate the three fantastic movies produced by George Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg, there are three different magazine covers. These covers are based on the posters promoting the three movies: Raiders Of The Lost Ark, The Temple Of Doom and The Last Crusade. It looks great!

I have brought both the Raiders Of The Lost Ark and The Last Crusade editions. My personal favourite is Raiders as this is the one I’ve enjoyed the most from the trilogy.

The Indiana Jones Trilogy is by far the most enjoyable, amusing and entertaining adventure films I’ve watched. I used to watch this every weekend on VHS tapes when I was younger and I can remember nearly every scene and dialogue from the three movies! Now that the films are in DVD, I can re-experience my childhood movie with superb picture and sound.

As for the magazine, it is packed full of interesting insight into the making of the three movies. Including interviews with the three key people who were involved – Harrsion Ford, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. I have read many news articles and books based on the my favourite archaeologist over the years, but this 36-page exclusive contains untold stories and never-before seen images. Perfect!

And if you wonder what’s in store for Indy VI, here’s a brief info from Empire Online

Film pitch to Hollywood stars

Normally we record the latest episode of the eMagi Podcast on a Friday night. But I’ve notice not many members of the Eternal Sunset forum was online via Skype. So Yas and I decided to record a special edition of the podcast featuring a really silly voice provided by yours truly. And the conversation involves me pitching a film idea to David Hasselhoff, Sylvester Stallone, Matt Damon and Jerry Bruckheimer!

The film is a video game adaption of ‘Chase HQ’. It features three main characters. Two bent cops who have special feelings towards one another. They drive around in Detroit looking to ram into people from behind… The villain is the driver in a getaway car waiting to be bang.

The show format involves me making fake phone calls. I pulled off my silly voice (to get into the character) and Yas couldn’t stop laughing! It was quite enjoyable as we improvised the scene and hopefully this podcast episode will be release soon.

Stylish F1 pieces for the home from Renault F1

Love Formula One? Seeking a way to spend all of your disposable cash for your cool pad based on your favourite sport? Then how about purchasing some really special items made exclusive from the championship-winning Renault R25 sound?

Yes, you can own bits and pieces of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella’s Grand Prix winning car by sampling the beautiful collection here: http://www.renaultf1teamcollection.com/collection.htm

Be warned though, some of the items are pretty expensive. The Candle Sticks for example is yours for around £1,900… The Wing Table, a very nice coffee table cost £4,000. But the pièce de résistance is the Chess Set. Made from the parts of the Renault F1’s suspension, hubs, uprights, wings and cockpit. With the materials from titanium, stainless steel, aircraft-spec aluminium, carbon fibre, sterling silver and leather. This board game is… Wait for it. £21,000!

So, if you got money to splash out and you’re looking for something unique and modern. You can’t go wrong by owning some rare and beautiful F1 pieces of equipment.

Hmm… Time to start saving I think!

Slippery reptiles and Samuel L. Jackson

Snakes On A Plane‘ – The title says everything you needed to know and even though it sounds really silly, the movie is actually quite entertaining and good fun.

I’m amazed in how much free publicity was made by fans and interest over the Internet. The studio should be pleased by the attention and despite releasing the movie without any critics reviewing it, I’m sure the fans love every minute of it. As for me, I found it very amusing when the slippery reptiles began slithering all over the place onboard the Boeing 747… Killing people by biting and attack in all sort of humorous ways (in one scene, a young couple performing the ‘Mile High Club’ was attacked by two snakes. While in the other, a man was in the toilet, when the snake bit his front ‘end’).

The main star of course, is Samuel L. Jackson and his performance in this cult movie was outstanding. I reckon he had great fun making this and to hear him say: “Enough is enough! I’ve had it with these motherf**kin’ snakes on this motherf**kin’ plane!” was the highlight.

The plot is quite thin to be honest, something generic about a young lad (Nathan Phillips) who witnessed a mob murder and has to be transported to Los Angeles to testify in court. But we all know the main story. 😉

There is a plane in the air that has both venomous snakes and Mr. Jackson on board – enough said! Samuel L. Jackson (FBI Agent Neville Flynn) defeats the snakes in a number of thoroughly cool ways, while simultaneously deals with whiny, stereotypical frightened passengers fearing for their lives.

Seeing the slippery reptiles (all computer generated) rampaging through the plane and wreaking havoc on said stereotypical passengers is great. Okay, it’s gory at times but the death scenes are really funny.

Sure, the critics will lambaste it left, right and centre as it has no plot and is utterly ridiculous. But if you are looking for a motion picture that will entertain you for around 100 minutes, then you can do no wrong when watching Snakes On A Plane. Pure, light-hearted amusement. Perhaps the most unlikely blockbuster of this summer. Can’t wait for the sequel!

Leaf on the pilot episode of the Eternal Sunset Podcast

After recording last Friday’s Eternal Sunset Podcast, it was quite a nice surprise to recieve an email from Yas featuring the pilot episode. Yas did a really good job on the editing/post production side based on the recording made through Skype. He even sampled and remixed my voice as the theme tune to welcome the podcast! 😉

Despite being around 15 minutes long (after recording one hour worth of material – the karaoke bit was cut out…), it was a pleasant experience to hear it. The topics we talked about were surreal and my sense of humour made it very memorable and amusing.

Yas mentioned that this is only a rough cut and that sound effects were needed. I wrote him an email back providing my feedback on the podcast. Hopefully other members enjoyed it as well.

Anyway, we are now working on recording a new one immediately. And I have already submitted some new topics to talk about in the next podcast. Should be fun! 🙂

Leaf’s wet weekend at Silverstone

Just returned back from a very wet weekend at Silverstone and despite being soaked, I was extremely happy to see some fantastic racing action at the track and afterwards a live music show.

I stayed at my friend’s house on Saturday night, but getting there from London was tricky. I left my house quite late in the afternoon and took the ‘tube to Victoria. Brought my rail ticket (which was quite pricey despite being a single…) and when I looked at the boards, I couldn’t see my train… I thought there was a direct route from Victoria station, but no. Every train went to a complete different direction and I had to change on route, to get to my destination… That would take too long I thought so I asked the train conductor if there was a direct train leaving from London. He pointed me to Charing Cross, so I pop back on the tube, arrived at the station and got on board the right train.

The journey took a while and I sent my mate a text message letting him know I was running late. By the time I arrived, it started to rain… He picked me up in his car and we immediate went back to his place to get away from the bad weather.

Spent the night at his house and he told me to expect a long day tomorrow. And we needed to get up quite early to get there (Around 5am)… This was tricky for me, as I usually go to bed really (and I mean REALLY) late on Saturday night – around 2am if I’m feeling tired… So getting up at the crack of dawn – on a Sunday – would be difficult for a lazy person like myself! But strangely, I did get up on time (Perhaps I was feeling exciting to going to Silverstone for the first time?) and after eating breakfast, we made our way to Northamptonshire and towards the Home of British Motor Racing.

Alas, I feel asleep in the car as my mate was driving up the motorway… It was a two and a half-hour drive, but it didn’t felt like it as I was drifting away in my sleep…

I awoke to find Silverstone lashing down with heavy rain! “Great…” I thought as we stepped out of the car heading for the entrance. Luckily I had my coat and ‘monkey’ umbrella to give me shelter from the foul weather.

As we made our way around the track, the racing cars were just out on track preparing for the race. I could see the ‘spray’ and the noise was just sensational. Not as loud as a Formula One car of course, but still ear-splitting loud…

We went across a bridge on the start/finish straight, as this allows you straight into the pits and paddock area. Usually you will find security guards patrolling here so that no one can enter the paddock without the right pass. But there wasn’t any.

We were now in the paddock at Silverstone and this is where the racing cars are prepared and if you are lucky, can spot the drivers themselves. We decided to hang around here looking for familiar motor racing faces to sign our race programme or ticket. In the space of one hour, I met several legendary racing drivers like Nigel Mansell, Emerson Fittipaldi, René Arnoux, Patrick Tambay, Stefan Johansson, Christian Danner, Andrea De Cesaris, Jan Lammers and Hans-Joachim Stuck! Impressive, non? Got my race ticket signed by these racing stars and at the end of the day, I was left with a priceless and special ticket pass (see above).

After that, we made our way to different parts of the track to get the best vantage point. Silverstone certainly looks very different when watching on TV… You can’t beat the experience of being there.

We were later joined by others and we decided to watch the main Grand Prix Masters race at Club corner (at the far end of the track). Perfect for taking photographs as the fence wasn’t that high up spoiling the view.

The race itself was entertain. Saw many overtake moves in the hour-long race, and we even saw Nigel Mansell spinning twice at Club! In fact, Nigel Mansell experienced a mechanical problem with his ‘red 5’ car meaning that he was unable to race against the others… It later transpired that the differential had broken on his way to the grid, causing an uneven distribution of power between the rear wheels and making the car impossible to drive…

Such a shame to see Mansell out before the race but at least he put on a good show by spinning three times on one lap!

The race was won by Eddie Cheever, who drove a near-flawless drive in tricky wet conditions.

The 48-year-old American took the lead on the third lap, passing Stefan Johansson the long way around at Club Corner (which was spectacular), and quickly built a sizeable lead.

But by lap eight he was fending off the advances of Eric van de Poele, who had scythed his way through the field from the back of the grid after sitting out Saturday’s qualifying session.

The pair waged an entertaining duel throughout the remainder of the race, van de Poele initially looking faster but making several mistakes in his attempts to find a way past.

On lap 12 the Belgian swept around the outside of Cheever in a bold move at Bridge, only to be repassed soon afterwards when his rear tyres started to overheat on the drying track.

Van de Poele tried to counter-attack but, after two more 360s(!) at Woodcote and Vale, had to settle for a worthy runner-up spot.

Poles Position driver, Christian Danner recovered well from a first-lap spin at Luffield to claim the final podium place.

After the Grand Prix Masters race, we made our way to a different viewing spot. We watched the F3000 race at Corpse (the first corner) and at the entry to the Becketts complex (the fast S-bend). The sight, sound and the speed of the cars were breathtaking.

At the end of all the track action, we went back to paddock to see if there were any other stars whom we can get our stuff signed. And we did with spectacular results! Murray Walker was there. Nigel Mansell again! Susie Stoddart (DTM woman driver) and Andy Rouse (legendary touring car driver).

As the day drew to an end, we were treated to a free and lively concert performed by Katie Melua. Her voice was amazing as she sang her songs from her hit album ‘Piece By Piece’.

So a wonderful day out at Silverstone. Meeting the star drivers and enjoying the live music from Katie were the highlight. Okay, the weather was horrible but it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.

Eternal Sunset Podcast

Last Friday night (August 11th), we tried to record our Skype conversation as a podcast for Eternal Sunset. But it didn’t go according to plan as Skype was experiencing lagging and we didn’t prepare enough material to talk about… so instead we just improvised some stuff, talked briefly on Chase HQ and it’s gay references and in the end, we started singing!

But in the end, it was a good way of rehearsing for the real thing as we should have planned what to talk about and have a script to follow. Only Mike and I were brave enough to talk while everyone was listened in. We should be more relaxed about this and don’t feel the pressure or become shy just because it’s recording…

In fact, once the recording session was over, everyone was more confident in themselves and the conversation was more interesting/amusing than the podcast itself! But at least, Yas recorded around 1 hour worth of (good?) material to edit on. Looking forward to hearing it later!

Anyway, we need to work on the next – proper – one with some topics to talk about and include some sound effects to make it more entertaining.