Author Archives: Luke Sneyd

Biff Bam Pop’s Alien Invasion – District 9

Why do so many aliens want to kill us? Okay, maybe humanity leaves a lot to be desired. There’s war, murder, avarice aplenty, and people that want to elect Donald Trump. If we haven’t broken the planet we live on, we’ve sure as hell damaged the packaging. Our celebrated social networks leave us staring at our phones, hardly noticing the actual world in front of us.

But we don’t completely suck. There’s art and inventions and love… still, fucking Donald Trump?  Maybe the aliens have a point. Don’t get me wrong. I love me a Starship Troopers or a Predator or an Alien, when that unknowable other is just a vicious killing machine here to reduce us to emphatic survival. But it’s not often that we see aliens as screwed up as we are. Which is one of the many things that makes Neil Blomkamp’s District 9 so great. The aliens and their massive ship hovering over a metropolis aren’t here to destroy us with monument-shattering death rays. Their spacecraft broke down, they’re sick and dying, and whatever their interstellar traveling, they’re completely S-O-L. The film’s a brilliant exploration of a refugee civilization landing on our doorstep, and the amazing awfulness humans bring to bear in dealing with the problem.

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Lost Generations: The Films of Wim Wenders

German director Wim Wenders captures the miasma of a lost generation in Kings of the Road

Quick. Name Kurt Cobain’s favourite movie. Fight Club? BZZT! He was long gone by the time Fincher’s slacker opus came out. QuadropheniaThe Elephant Man? No doubt they’d have been right up his alley. But actually, Cobain’s on record that his favourite film is a little art-house flick called Paris, Texas, from the German director Wim Wenders. An intriguing film about an amnesiac Harry Dean Stanton slowly reconnecting with his family, Biff Bam Pop’s Daniel Reed will be looking at that one in an upcoming piece, and Andy Burns will be writing about Wenders’s sci-fi opus Until the End of the World. We’re taking a good look at the acclaimed German director, as TIFF mounts its retrospective On the Road: The Films of Wenders.

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Beautifully Drawn Boy: The Thrilling, Wrenching Journey of Boy and the World

When you’re young, very young, the world is bright and bold, a riot of colour and creatures and moments tumbling one to the next. Boy and the World, a newly released animated feature from Brazilian director Alê Abreu, captures that vibrant fleeting spirit magnificently. From its opening moments, the film is a superb experiment in marrying image and soundtrack, a lovely kaleidoscopic zooming outward as a jaunty flute melody builds. We’re plunged into the world of Boy, our nameless protagonist playing in the pastoral rainbow-scape of rural Brazil. His journey from there to the big city brims with revelatory moments, dragging in its wake a stinging indictment of global capitalism.

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Harrison Ford Made 50 Times the Salary His Star Wars: The Force Awakens Costars Got—It Should Have Been More

A few weeks back, a story was doing the rounds about Harrison Ford’s mammoth payout for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The UK’s Daily Mail posted that Ford had been paid $23 million pounds for his appearance in the juggernaut sequel. That works out to about $33 million US. Variety walked that number back a little two days later, to somewhere between $10 and $20 million. At the other end of the spectrum, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley were paid in the range of $100,000 to $300,000 for their roles in the film. Ouch. Before young thesps the world over cry out in outrage, is the discrepancy totally unfair? Hell no. Time for some fun with numbers, the Millennium Falcon edition.

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The 17th Annual Animation Show of Shows

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos is one of the standouts of the Animation Show of Shows

Wannabe astronauts simulating free-fall bouncing on the beds in their dorm like trampolines. A free-thinker on an assembly line who dares to scrawl squiggles in a world of striped boxes. A clone from the future visits her originator’s child self, because time loops but really loneliness. Animation opens so many windows on the world, expressive, vivid and unique. It’s a demanding, labour-intensive, expensive medium, keeping animated features down to four or five a year. There’s a burgeoning world of animated shorts out there, though, artists who take a sliver of time and conjure up something wonderful. For seventeen years, veteran animation producer and founder of ACME Filmworks Ron Diamond has put together a program called the Animation Show of Shows. Each year he scours the globe for animation talent to work in his studio. In his travels, he’s constantly discovering vibrant new work, which he curates for his annual series. The past sixteen years Diamond has taken his Show of Shows to major animation houses like Pixar, Dreamworks and Disney, and also to animation schools, showing established and up-and-coming animators rare and hard-to-find films to challenge and inspire them. This year is different though. While Diamond’s pulled together another stellar slate of shorts, this time around the Animation Show of Shows has gone public, and is touring theatres in the U.S., Canada and even further abroad. With three films short-listed for the Oscars in the program, it’s a bite-sized treat.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Bloodborne

Playing Bloodborne is like smashing your head against a wall, a very gory, slimy wall, again and again and again and again. It’s hard. You cry out like a Canadian curler on the ice screaming to the heavens, “HARRRRRRRRRRD.” Fighting a Bloodborne boss is your own private Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise learning by dying over and over, you as Tom in a blood-slicked waistcoat, axe in hand, repeatedly crushed and beaten and mauled. But sooner or later, mostly later, the patterns click, strategies emerge, and at last you vanquish the horrific beast before you, gouts of blood splaying through the air. When it happens, the feeling is pure ELATION. The sheer dopamine rush of joy when you pound that fucker out of existence is immense, a wave of happiness bigger than Kanye’s ego suffusing your entire being. And then it’s onto the next and the gruelling hunt begins anew. Exclusive to the PS4, Bloodborne is one of the best games of the year. But for the horror-loving gamer on your Christmas list, is it all masochism?

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Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Dragon Age: Inquisition—Game of the Year Edition

Yeah, I know. It’s last year’s game. The raves, the kudos, they fell on the 2014 side of the calendar. But Dragon Age: Inquisition is big enough to sprawl across more than a single year. Just this October, Bioware released the Game of the Year Edition, with all the downloadable content of the previous twelve months included alongside the original award-winning game. If you’re an RPG fan, or you know somebody who puts on the elf-ears before they sit down to play, this is a huge classic title well worth the time. More than the dungeons and yes, of course, the dragons, Dragon Age: Inquisition is about relationships. Friends, lovers and allies, the game’s at its best when you’re playing these roles. Funny how that works, with surprising charm and depth.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Destiny: The Taken King vs. Halo 5: Guardians

It’s almost a myth. Two brothers, separated and raised in different nations. Similar, and yet different. And only one can be king. Okay okay, pretty melodramatic. But that’s the story of two monster games clamouring for Santa’s favour this holiday season. The Xbox One-exclusive Halo 5: Guardians from 343 Industries carries the torch for the legendary Halo franchise, while Bungie’s brought its heavy-weight space-faring shooter Destiny: The Taken King to both the Xbox and PlayStation sides of the fence. Which of these triple A franchises comes out on top? Pull the trigger and we’ll take a look.

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Biff Bam Pop’s Holiday Gift Guide 2015: ‘Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection’

Sony announced a few days ago that they’ve sold over 30 million PS4 consoles. Not too shabby. What blows my mind is the Sony wags think that at least half of those gamers have never played Uncharted. That’s so crazy town banana pants. Uncharted is one of the most influential franchises of the last generation; it’s like saying you never played Halo. Well, practically. But maybe you didn’t. Life, the movies, or that persistent need to come up with a better Facebook status got in the way. Maybe you’re just, god, young, and you never had a PS3. But it’s okay. You can make it right with the world, because Naughty Dog’s put out Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection. With Christmas coming, this could be a great chance for you or that curious gamer in your life, the one with their arms all withered and bent like a T-rex from clutching a controller to their chest, that somehow didn’t get around to hanging with Nathan Drake and the Uncharted crew. Featuring all three Uncharted titles formerly exclusive to the PS3, these titles have been polished and buffed for the next console generation. But if you never played them, why would you bother with a revamped reissue? If you ever wanted to be Indiana Jones, hunting for antiquities across the globe, fighting the bad guys, wise-cracking with a whiff of the supernatural breathing down your neck, then this is the franchise for you.

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Luke Sneyd On… Battlestar Galactica

It begins with an act of war. Years ago, humanity and the Cylons fought a destructive war to a draw, so the Cylons withdrew. For forty years, nobody heard a peep from them, this rebellious robot race that humans had created. Each year, the armistice dictated they would meet at a distant outpost, a lonely space station hanging in the void. Each year, humans sent a representative, and the Cylons never showed. As the pilot to the brilliant reboot of Battlestar Galactica begins, a military attaché finds himself nodding off, probably for the tenth year running, sitting at a desk contemplating the empty hallway where the Cylons have again failed to appear. He glances at a folder of specs, centurion designs, the robot soldiers familiar to viewers of the original 1978 series. With a pneumatic whoosh and a clang, the far door opens. The startled attaché stares agog as two strange new centurions march into view, forbidding machine-guns protruding from their fists. They come to attention and the guns transform into only slightly less disturbing long fingered hands. But they’re not the strangest sight. For what comes through the door next is a beautiful human woman, in a captivating red dress suit. She draws uncomfortably close, studying him intently, and asks “are you alive?” “Yes,” he says breathlessly. “Prove it,” she demands, coming in close and they kiss. Outside, the station is engulfed in the titanic shadow of a Cylon base star, a missile arcing toward it and exploding. As she kisses the now terrified man, she says “it has begun.” The deadly hook is baited, and we’re plunged into the genocidal hell of Battlestar, in my book right up there with The Wire for one of the best series of the 2000s.

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