Saturday, May 22, 2010

Video: One Life Remaining S2: Episode 1

Hey,

Well, it's finally up: the premiere of One Life Remaining's second season can be viewed here.

This one was a bit experimental and it's a bit thick with melodrama.  Don't think I haven't picked up on it, the original script actually used to be a lot worse (enough that I cringed, after watching it play out with audio/video as opposed to merely on paper) but I cut out and replaced a bunch of dialogue near the end during post.  Also, reserve your overall judgement until at least the episode after this one where there's a noticeable jump in plot (as well as tolerability to watch).  High school drama in Halo, I know, I know.  Gay.  But... it's one of the worlds I know best.

Only this one episode takes place during that time anyway.  The second episode jumps six months into the future, a short time after the events of season one, and starts right in Anthony and Chad's (and Peter's) apartment.

Thanks,
Jon

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Music: The End of the Line

Hey,

I made another tune that I plan to use for One Life Remaining eventually, you can check it here!

Thanks,
Jon

Music: Reaching the Cookie Jar

Hey,

I just finished up a simple little tune for that secret project I mentioned, if some of you would like to have a listen.  You can hear it here.

Hear it here.  lol gettit?

Thanks,
Jon

Monday, May 17, 2010

News: One Life Remaining season two and CanWest 2010 details

Yo,

The premiere of the second One Life Remaining season was supposed to air on Saturday, but it did not.  As I've stated, programming is another department, this kind of thing is out of my hands, but I've told them what's up and it should be straightened out soon.  So in the meantime, I'll go over what you can expect from the season.

The first episode acts as a prologue to the season, taking place four years before the events of season one.  The second episode then begins a short time after season one's finale, the real beginning in a sense, and from there each episode takes place right after the last (except for the fourth episode which will be a flashback episode entirely dedicated to Kathryn's history).

The first season was very experimental and very much just a platform for a joke or two, there were a lot of filler episodes (until the last three).  Not so in the new season, in which every episode is very story driven, each scene serving the purpose of pushing the story forward.  No filler.  I've also really tried to punch up the writing this time around, and structurally, I'm trying to make the story solid enough that if all the episodes in the season were played at once, it would be like watching a feature film, with appropriately placed major plot points.  It's a lot of work -- I'm really throwing myself into this now.  Nearly all of my free time, never mind my actual work time, is being put into this (and my secret project).  During the time I'm not working, I'll either be playing Demon's Souls on PS3 for a couple hours, or I'm self-educating myself on story structure and professional screenplay writing, buying/reading a lot of books.

For any other aspiring screenplay writers, I highly recommend reading the books on the subject by Syd Field, including "Screenplay", "The Screenwriter's Workbook" and "The Screenwriter's Problem Solver".  Those are a great place to start.

As I've been working on the new season, I've fallen into a number of depression pits in which I think to myself over and over, "Who the hell's gonna enjoy this and take it seriously?  Halo characters?  Give me a break, Halo machinima is so lame, nerdy, overused and boring to watch now.  Who am I kidding, I can't write worth shit".  But it's all part of the writing process.  It sucks, and if you want to pursue writing as a career, you gotta be prepared to deal with the symptoms.

I hope people that watch will try and ignore the fact that it's done in Halo and focus on the dialogue and the music and everything else I try and exceed at to make watching lifeless Master Chief models moving around and bobbing heads tolerable.  Trust me, I think it's just as lame as everyone else, but fuck it.  Machinima's a great way to get film out there on a $0 budget, and working with the Theatre mode camera can really build your skill at capturing action within the frame in a compelling way which can easily carry over to live action when your career eventually calls for it.  That's my plan.

Anyway, onto CanWest 2010.  If you're unfamiliar with it and you happen to live in or near Vancouver, the website is here: http://www.rvbcanwest.com/.

I will be attending and showing the first two episodes back-to-back of my secret project (I'd just go ahead and tell everybody but I think Machinima.com might want to do some kind of promotion for it, in which case I don't think I'm at liberty to give details right now).  The screening is on May 30th, and I'll be there to show the two episodes and then answer some questions afterwards from the audience.  After that, I believe everyone has the opportunity to meet for drinks, which I will also be attending.  The details are all on the website.

What I WILL say about what I'm showing at the event right now is this: chances are it's exactly what you think it might be.

Thanks for keeping up with my blog!

- Jon

P.S. Yes, my photo on the website is very, very gay.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Iron Man 2

SPOILER ALERT, KIND OF.

A cool fan of mine asked if I was gonna do an Iron Man 2 review, and I thought that was a neat idea.  For anyone that cares what I think, that is.

It's very much become a cliche to say "the original is better" when it comes to just about anything, and there's a reason for that; it's usually true, and it applies here.  However, Jon Favreau and the energetic cast, especially Robert Downey Jr., give Iron Man 2 just enough sparkle to make it a very worthy addition to the superhero movie library (where The Dark Knight still reigns supreme, but anyway...).

As soon as you see Robert's face in his first sequence when his suit is being disassembled on the stage of the Stark Expo, he gives a charming little look to the audience that gets you invested into his character immediately, and he keeps that level of energy throughout the entire film which really holds it together (I really consider him one of the greatest actors alive).  In fact, the entire cast is fantastic, and you can tell that they're having a lot of fun together both in front of and behind the camera which bleeds into the film.

Mickey Rourke is captivating as always (if you haven't already, watch The Wrestler -- it kicks ass), but I felt his talents were somewhat wasted here -- I would've liked to see a lot more of Whiplash.  In fact in some ways, Whiplash felt a bit tacked on to the story, though the montage of him building his suit with the whips with the powerful orchestral backing was an awesome opener.  I was pretty disappointed that his final battle with Iron Man and War Machine was very short and predictable.

Scarlett Johansson, cute as a button, plays the Black Widow, the first on-screen female superhero I actually respected.  Without any idiocy or unwarranted sass, she gets her jobs done and kicks a lot of ass while doing it.

Another thing that really helped hold the movie together was the chemistry between Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Tony Stark.  I was worried that this time around that the crew weren't going to give their relationship the attention that they gave it in the first film, but they did, and even surpassed it in some ways (except for the annoying lack of Pepper Pots around the middle of the film when she's pissed at Tony).

I'm a fan of Sam Rockwell, but for some reason I found Justin Hammer's character quite annoying and forgettable.

I didn't mind the sub-plot of Tony Stark's technology killing him at the same time it was keeping him alive, but I felt it wasn't executed as well as it could have been.  We didn't really get to see Tony too torn up about it, not only for himself but the fact that the entire Stark legacy would abruptly end.  It wouldn't have taken much either, and it wouldn't even need to have much dialogue, if any; just a simple tiny scene where we can see the pain behind the strong, confident exterior would have been enough.  It would have made Tony's path of self-destruction and following recklessness and drunkenness at his disaster of a house party much more interesting and painful to watch.

Don Cheadle did a better job taking Terrence Howard's place than I originally expected.  His back-and-forth with Tony definitely worked.

One of the huge draws of the film is the fact that all the dialogue feels very natural.  Jon Favreau is very generous with the ad-libbing and the cast, Robert especially, are happy to oblige.  You don't ever get the feeling that dialogue is being read from a page.

Jon Favreau flaunts himself a bit in front of the camera this time around as Happy Hogan, Tony Stark's assistant and limousine driver, but it's okay.  As the movie buff from Family Guy playing Yoda in the show's parody of The Empire Strikes Back hilariously put it, Jon Favreau seems like the type of guy that would do your laundry if you asked him, so his appearance is more than welcome.  And given that Jon's the director, I personally love seeing him having so much fun making his own movie.  It gives me the feeling that there's a very good, playful, and passionate energy that underlies the film.

The middle of the film felt a bit messy to me, I can't quite put my finger on it.  The fact that Nick Fury kind of came out of nowhere bugged me a bit.  I didn't feel any immersion into the world of S.H.I.E.L.D., the members of it were just kinda... there.  However, the first act and the third act parenthesizing the film were very well done.

I also wish they fleshed out the story of Tony and Ivan's fathers a bit more rather than just being referenced occasionally, as it's Tony's father's past research that leads to Tony's significant discovery around the third act that allows Tony to save his own life.

Jon Favreau is a genius behind the camera, and a particular sequence comes to mind near the end of the film with Iron Man and War Machine in a botanical garden.  Before the drones come and attack, there's a brief period where they're alone and talking back-and-forth trying to strategize for their retaliation and take proper positions.  It's a big-budget shot as both characters are in their full armor walking around, but the camera very generously stays on them with nothing happening around them for a few minutes and they banter very genuinely; it's as if Jon Favreau is subtly telling the audience that he hasn't forgotten that these two armor-plated fighting machines are dynamic human beings, and their banter plays very nicely against the visual effects involved in the suits that they're wearing.

It's not quite the film the original was (the first Iron Man had flawless pacing), but as sequels go, Iron Man 2 is a great effort from Jon Favreau and crew that's definitely worth seeing and I eagerly anticipate the third installment, with fingers crossed that they never sacrifice character for plot.  I'm pretty sure Jon knows what he's doing though.  He's a smart guy, and currently one of my favorite directors.

Well, that was my impression of the film.

Yeah, I'm not good at conclusions.

Thanks,
Jon

P.S.  If you're stoked for The Avengers, stay for the end of the credits.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

News: Halo: Reach beta impressions

A lot of people have been e-mailing me inquiring about my thoughts on the beta, so I guess I'd better get on this finally.

In my opinion (let's just establish that obvious fact to limit possible hate mail), the Halo: Reach beta is a prime example of the whole being more than the sum of it's parts.  Don't get me wrong, they put some pretty cool stuff in the game this time around, but some pretty lame stuff too (Armor Lock, anybody?).  However, the end result is simply a fun game.  A lot more fun than Halo 3 was.

I'll start with the weapons.  The DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle) is pimp.  Not quite as lethal as Halo 3's Battle Rifle, but it really feels right using it, especially with the expanding reticules if you try and spam the fire button and the reduced auto aim.  The DMR is deadly in the right hands and very satisfying when a kill is had with it.  Same goes for the single-shot Needler (I don't know the names very well).  I'm also very glad that the pistol is back, not too over-powered but strong enough to support yourself if your primary runs out and accurate enough to land a few headshots now and then.  On the downside, I can't believe the fucking Energy Sword is still in (pissing everyone off with it's generous lunge distance since Halo 2 and it's still around), being spammed in the face with the Focus Rifle is pretty annoying (a combination of the old Covenant Sniper and the Sentinel Beam, as if anyone ever used the Sentinel Beam), and the one that shoots four homing explosive charges of plasma is cheap as shit.

The cheapness doesn't end there however, with the introduction of the Armor Lock armor ability, the new thing to spam if you're a total pussy.  Too many times I get into gunfights with a player, who knows he's gonna lose, then pusses out with Armor Lock and holds it as long as he can until his teammates can bail him out of his predicament.  I called one guy out on it and he told me "it was strategy".  Fuck that shit.  I mean, if there's no one else around, it's easy enough to wait for his Armor Lock to expire and then promptly ruin his shit, but it's very annoying to run into that on a constant basis.  I can see how it would be cool to ward off Energy Swords, Rocket Launchers, and vehicles hurtling towards you, but still.

The rest of the Armor Abilites I don't really have a problem with -- in fact, I love the sprint ability.  Straight out of Modern Warfare 2 obviously, but it works here and it's very nice to have to get into the action quickly from your spawn point, not to mention getting through a sketchy, dangerous area.  The Gravity Hammer/Energy Sword and sprint combo pisses me off though.  The jetpack's pretty cool but I don't use it personally, you're eased up and down very lightly by its thrust and it's not too hard for people to pick you off in mid-air.  It's also nice to have the cloaking to switch to if you feel like playing slower and stealthier, but combined with the Energy Sword or the Shotgun it can be infuriating to deal with from other players.  I hate campers, as you have no doubt noticed.

I've also noticed a big jump in the quality of music just listening to the score of the Bungie intro and the main menu theme, really nice stuff.  And Bungie has some genius user interface designers, all the menus are sleek and very functional.

I like the credit system they've incorporated, and I feel they're earned at a pace that's just right.  I just hope that there will be plenty of stuff to spend those credits on and we don't all end up buying everything and having a massive stockpile of unused credits.

Grenade spam has always been a present and annoying phenomenon in the Halo games, and it's still very much here.  Way too many players treat their left triggers as their primary fire.  Learn to aim your gun, you fucks.  I thought Bungie might have done something to limit it this time around, but alas... it's just one of those things we've all gotta put up with I guess.  I can understand how limiting players to one grenade per spawn would suck.

The controls are great this time around, with all the player's offensive actions mapped to the triggers and the bumpers.  It's a bit hard to get used to at first, but it quickly becomes second nature.

I'm getting tired now, so I'll stop there.  Like I said, the game has some pretty extreme annoyances, but enough cool stuff for the skilled players to keep it attractive.  I like it, and I'm gonna buy it when it comes out.

On a side note, I'm still working on that secret project I mentioned earlier (very much a gift for the fans) and it will be unveiled pretty soon.  Stay tuned!

Thanks,
Jon

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Video: One Life Remaining S2: Teaser

Hey all,

A teaser for the new season of One Life Remaining has been released and it can be viewed here.  On second glance, it doesn't really do the season much justice, but it was a total rush job -- I had originally intended to spend a bit of time on it and make it epic, but I was asked yesterday to whip it up and turn it in that afternoon ASAP so it could be aired today.

And it was not my idea for the Alan Wake stuff mixed in, sorry about that.  I didn't even know that was going to happen.  Especially that "HE KNOWS" thing that covers over 9000 percent of the screen... *headdesk*

And yeah, I finally got voice actors for this new season.  I realize some people are raging because I used to refuse help (due to the hassles of co-ordinating people), but things are a bit different at the Machinima.com offices now.  I have co-workers in the Los Angeles building, most with plenty of voice-over experience, perfectly willing to lend their talents and they also have a sound booth which means I don't have to worry about the quality being shit, and voices are recorded and delivered promptly so I can pop them right into the timeline.  Please don't take it personally if I turned you down for a voice-over position in the past.

Anyway, I know the trailer makes the season look boring and melodramatic, but I ask you to please reserve judgement until you see the first episode when it airs, or better yet, the second (they're both already completed), and I'm personally looking forward to doing a sequence in the third one that I think is really cool.

As for the series as a whole, it starts out a bit ordinary and calm but things pick up relatively quickly, and by the time the finale comes along it will be insane.

Thanks,
Jon