Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ok, let's talk film. Man of Steel leaps tall, best when grounded By Jeff Cooper Early in the new superman movie when young Clark Kent begins to feel his heightened super senses; he tells his mother that he perceives the world as too big. His mother, delicately played with by Diane Lane, tells the young superhero to simply make the world small. As Zack Snyder’s new take on the superman approaches its final act, relying on big sets and cartoonish action, it becomes obvious that the movie works best on a smaller scale. The film opens on Krypton where like the previous films have shown is about to be destroyed by an exploding core and the only hope for the race to survive is to send Jor-El’s newborn son to earth. British actor Henry Cavil takes on the cape and is very convincing and likable as the new Superman. Like the great Christopher Reeve, he brings much humanity to the role and sells the duality of superhero and small town boy. Its part of the core cannon that remains unchanged, writers David Goyer and Christopher Nolan of the new Dark Knight series have taken liberties with the material like they did with Batman have instilled more thinking man intricate details to the core story, but left many common denominators, like Clarks upbringing and his relationship with Lois Lane intact. Man of Steel works best as a smaller film. The Kansas backdrop and small, intricate scenes with down to earth parents in the form of Kevin Costner and Lane give the film its heartfelt foundation. In fact all the dialogue scenes in the film make the 2 and a half hour experience watchable. But, like any big blockbuster summer film, small doesn’t fill theater seats. That’s when the high-flying action breaks the mood of the film and leaves most interesting scenes on the ground. Most good hero films, super or normal Joe, gains their strength from a worth adversary. Here, its hard to argue against Michael Shannon as General Zod, a surviving krypotinan, who along with a small gang of red sun dwellers are hell-bent on finding the son of Jor-el. Its safe to say as soon as the confrontations begin, the movie has only one place to go- mass destruction and chaos. Director Zack Snyder is a hit or miss director who last efforts were the very good Dawn of the Dead remake to the serviceable 300 and Watchmen and include the lackluster Sucker Punch. There is no doubt from his filmography that he, like Bryan Singer, is best with smaller, focused material. Here, Man of Steel has both, though less would be more here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ok, let's talk film. The marketing buzz for M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth have inundated social networks and media, although for fans who keep up with movie news, it’s not hard to notice that something has been missing. Shyamalan’s name is not mentioned in any trailers. To movie buffs that’s not surprising since the films that Shyamalan have made in the past, (other than the Sixth Sense) have been viewed with the after taste of bitter disappointment. Shyamalan dreams big ideas; however, the execution of those grand ideas, such as his idea of a superhero with unbreakable limbs or a ghost story with a lady in a swimming pool, lack compelling storytelling. His films play out as feature length trailers. Hope for a better movie lingers within the runtime, but sadly the credits roll with little desire to watch again. So apparently Sony and Columbia pictures have caught onto this fact and removed Shyamalan’s name completely from marketing, avoiding the inevitable, groans and curses which would mumble through cheeked popcorn in the theater. Apparently, Columbia Pictures excitedly supported their choice of director from the beginning. Doug Belgrad, president of the studio, said "Night is an outstanding filmmaker who has a tremendous vision for this science-fiction adventure story (originally titled 1000 After Earth) and we couldn't be more excited.” So, if Belgrad is proud of his choice, why hide his involvement on the marketing level after the fact? Is Columbia Pictures doing the walk of shame? The answer in the fan boy universe is obvious, even though, no one on the Columbia lot may be outright telling. The reason is two-fold. One, they are embarrassed and don’t want to drive away their core sci-fi audience, and two, they simply don’t need to bring him up at all. Will Smith is the box office draw. His name is more than enough to sell the film in order to get a high return on opening weekend. Peter Jackson could be directing and Will Smith would still be enough. Not to mention the first reason, Columbia Pictures is onto the fact that Shyamalan’s name can “cancel out” some positive reaction to the trailer. In support of M. Night, his films make money. Both The Happening and The Last Airbender both made back its money within the first couple weeks. In fact, Airbender grossed back half of its 150 million budget over its first full week in theaters. That’s based on U.S. receipts. That reason alone may have prompted his hire as director of After Earth. Heck, some studios still hire John Singleton. IMDB states on its website that,” Sony (who owns Columbia) is choosing not to remind audiences of Shyamalan's involvement in the movie”. So, the question remains still, why bother in the first place? Andrew Niccol or even Alfonso Cauron would have been better choices if the other edge of this business deal is embarrassment. It is rumored also that Smith has always wanted to work with Shyamalan. Will can work with whomever he wants. Exibitor Relations’ tweet states: “I'm pretty sure Sony wants you to believe it's an Alan Smithee film”. It’s still not too late.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Opinion-State of Play

McAdams trying to keep her performance alive...

Ok, let's talk film. As I always say, when a genre is done to perfection, then there is no reason to continue making movies in tha genre. That doesn't stop Hollywood at all in sucking the well dry with once perfected genres as Mob films, police corruption films, or lone cop stories. The Godfather, LA Confidential, and Die Hard make up the highlights of well done film of these genres, yet I am sure you will see many more failed attempts at rehashing. Well I have never seen a journalistic thriller done to perfection. Sure, you have Absence Of Malice and Ron Howard's The Paper to contend with, but neither of those are masterpieces. So it is safe to conclude that the Journalistic Thriller is a genre yet to be made perfect.
First off, State of Play, Directed by Kevin Mcdonald who did a mesmerizing job directing, "The Last King of Scotland", does a great job with his actors, even Ben Affleck. Actually this is the best I have ever seen Affleck since "Good Will Hunting". He has managed to remember that he has acting skills instead of his usual mumble and scoff performances that have made him unpopular. Russell Crowe is always good and likeable here, yet the problem with his performance is not him, but his character. His character of Cal, calls for more of a "slimeball reporter" performance and Crowe injects his usual heroic, likability into it. You really want to hate the guy and should except that Crowe's personality prevents us from fully realizing the way the character was truly written. I would have chose another actor to play the role. I would have chosen more of an actor who could give a Jack Black in "King Kong" sleazy role, but why would you when you can have Russel Crowe.
This is actually a perfect example of "Hollywoodizing" a real person. Sure, this is a fictional story. Still, the character on the screenplay page I guarantee you was written as a sleaze and not as Russell Crowe.
Rachel McAdams and her doe eyes force her to bring a strong performance to the screen, yet she does not rise to the challenge as another experienced actor would. I don't think she is the proper choice for the role here. Her ability is not strong enough to carry the emotionally thick role. Her slight performance stands out when compared to the ferocity of Crowe and Helen Mirren. McAdams is out of place in that heavy company.
The film moves slow at times. It is based on a British TV show and at times it feels that way. Yet it is a welcome to go to the movies and see a film that is intelligent and thought out. I actually am very grateful that Universal is making pictures that an adult can go to see an intelligent, thriller without sex and violence. In that in itself is a reason to jump around for this film.
I found myself happy that this choice was there to see. Most of the films out there are made for fan boys these days it seems. Adults that go to the theater really don't want to see "Wolverine" or" Watchmen" with a young audience.
Although this film does not perfect the journalistic thriller, its nice to see a major studio make such an effort.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reinventing the Masters

"Looking to the past...

Ok, let's talk film. Well I am reading in, the following:

Stone has just closed a deal with Fox to direct the follow-up to "Wall Street," now tentatively called "Wall Street 2," with Douglas starring. This would provide an unusual amount of continuity since Stone directed and co-wrote, with Stanley Weiser, the original 1987 exploration of the inner workings of the finance sector and its complicated relationship with greed.

The plot line for the new "Wall Street" iteration has not been divulged, but it will pick up with corporate raider Gordon Gekko, the character for which Douglas won a best actor Oscar more than 20 years ago. Gekko's larger-than-life presence will once again loom over a younger upstart looking to navigate the shark-tank world of today's Wall Street.

Shia LaBeouf is in talks with the studio to take on the younger role. Stone and Co. hope to begin production over the summer.

The question I ask (and will aptly answer) is what happened to Oliver Stone anyway? Why does he feel the need to look into the rear view mirror of his past film and recreate a film that wasn't a franchise to begin with? The answer is obvious. He hasn't had a hit in a while. I am a huge fan of Oliver Stone and I will defend him to my dying day. His guerrilla approach to filmmaking is nothing less than inspiring. He takes risks and chances that Tarantino only dreams of. He started out as a screen writer, penning the scripts for Midnight Express and Scarface. Ha! Bet you didn't know that. Well, that's why I am here, to remind you of the lost talents of directors who are performing less than par today.

Stone's first film, "Platoon" won best picture of the year and rightly so. It was a incredibly realistic piece that showed war as a horrible place. You have to remember that Clint Eastwood and the string of Dirty Dozen like films back the 70's and even 1950's with "From Here To Eternity" and such were glorifying war. WW II made everyone a hero and films until the 70's were made to make war seem majestic and heroic. When the Vietnam war hit, the world knew that was was something different than the hero stories that our grandfather's told us...It was real, gritty and not triumphant as we we seeing on the screen.

Gritty, all too real...Fantastic...

Platoon was the first of it's kind in the realistic war scenario. Even Spielberg had to go back and set the WW II record straight with "Saving Private Ryan". Spielberg was not the first filmmaker to show was as the monster it is. So, here comes Oliver Stone fresh off writing really straight forward, political stuff with Midnight Express and Salvador. His newest script is a gritty look at the Vietnam war and it works. It changes the way all future war movies will be made.

A performance that gives me chills...

After that he does "Wall Street" which is a break from his political stories and it is so well made it is nominated for Best Pic and gets Douglas an Oscar, in a role so well played and written. Then Stone does his polical fare with "Born on the Forth of July", "JFK" and "Heaven and Earth". They all do very well and earn Oscars for every one.

" "
Enter Shia Labeouf...

Yet, he steps into what I will now call the Tarantino trap, retro here. As we all know Tarantino will lose his mojo with his new film. Stone does not reinvent his vision. He keeps hacking away at material that is too violent and unnecessary. In fact he teams with Tarantino for "Natural Born Killers" and for many an audience is it way over the top with violence. The mayhem that was once OK in war movies and "Scarface" is unnecessary for this new film. You see Stone toning down a bit and refocusing with "Nixon" and "Any Given Sunday", yet he now lacks the ability to cover new ground no matter what ground he tries to expose. As an audience, we have grown tired of his maverick liberal style thrown in our face. What worked in "JFK" is no longer a hot item.

Even with his recent stuff, "Alexander" was a mess, yet if you watch the "Final Cut", it is actually quite good. Though that version clocks in at four hours. The three hour version is not very good. His latest, "W." is good, but gets ignored by critics and the audience.

Well to make a long story short. Stone is realizing that he needs to reinvent himself or he will sink. He knows he needs to stop making liberal political pics and start making film that will appeal to a broad audience. It is the "17 Again" factor. The Zac Efron film was a shallow as a puddle of water, yet it was basic and appealed to a broad audience. And that's what it is all about. "Platoon" and "Wall Street" appealed to a broad audience and they worked. A film about George Bush does not appeal to a large audience, especially when no one liked him in office to begin with.

Does this mean that he should do an "Obama" film? Well I am sure one with Denzel Washington is in the works as we speak. But, in the mean time Stone is doing what Tarantino will have to do soon. They will have will have to reinvent themselves. Spielberg did it. He stopped doing the "Wonderment" kids films of the 80's after "Hook" bombed. Now he does real gritty film and he is the master. Stone will go back to the basics of attracting a wide audience. Shia's casting is not a bad idea actually. I hope Stone's best work is yet to come.

Will other directors like Tarantino reinvent themselves to stay fresh and successful or will they fail over and over. I am sure we will see a Pulp Fiction 2 in order to save Tarantio's career in five years. Bank on that! Until tomorrow, let's talk film!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rehash Again...Go Ahead...Was it Cute?

Ok, let's talk film. I may not blog tomorrow due to work, so let me say on this Sunday, that if you paid ten dollars to see Zac Efron, aside from being dragged by your tween daughter, you must have gotten "17 Again" confused with "State of Play". State of play was the good movie that played this weekend. It's hard to get them straight, I know. So in light of "17 Again".. and Agains Disney makeup, here are other rips offs of the same idea. And again...this films whole propose was to be CUTE. It was written CUTE, had a CUTE star. CUTE directing. CUTE funny lines. And a CUTE ending. If you thought this film was CUTE, well then, that's what it was. It's supposed to be CUTE. That's it's whole reason for it existing. Here are your predecessors..You want your money back yet?

WOW that's not a rip off

Oh yeah what's that storyline?

Dad is unhappy
Wants to be younger
Witty crazy friend played by Seth Rogen or Paul Rudd or that cop from Garden State
Gets younger
Funny lines about his sons or daughters
Teaches kids some lessons
Does too well in school (this is fictional, I don't think anyone of us could back to HS with confidence)
Someone's son goes there who is still a jerk when he went there
Helps kids
Sees wife differently
Has to get older again
Helps someone who is a geek
Gets older scene, everyone surprized
Someone storms out, he goes to chase her
The "But I finally realized" scene

A four year old could write it

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why Tarantino is NOT a Great Director

Metaphorically, one day Quentin, you may have to do this to your violent side...

Ok, let's talk film. I don't think I have said this on this blog before, but I am going to put it out there and probably catch a lot of flack from it from my one reader. Here it is...Quentin Tarantino is not a great director. He is at best an ok storyteller. But he is NOT this great icon that most people think he is. Upon his release of Inglorious Basterd in August, I am here to tell you his luck is growing slim. Even as such, he is not great as some people swear by. The reasons why are very clear to me and I will share them with you.

Number one: He uses too many words in his script. Most writers will write a lot of dialogue and yet narrow it down to a few choice lines to tell the story. Not Tarantino. He will leave in every last line that he writes to tell a story that can have been told in three lines. He may think it's real and interesting. I think it's annoying. Kill Bill series and especially the film Death Proof are testament to heavy, unnecessary dialogue that wastes the audience's time.
I have read in some blogs that Tarantino is recognizable by his heavy dialogue and I have to say that is true. How ever it is too much. In Death Proof, half the film is heavy dialogue among two groups of women. They talk a great deal about everything and nothing. That would not be so bad had the film not be showcased with a "grindhouse" horror umbrella title. The "grindhouse" title promised gore and violence. Planet Terror did well on its promise. Death Proof did not.

Number two: Tarantino glorifies violence and passes it off as art. Xavier Morales said it very eloquently in his review of Kill Bill Vol. 1
Morales argues that "...Tarantino manages to do precisely what Alex de Large was trying to do in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange: he presents violence as a form of expressive art...[in which the]...violence is so physically graceful, visually dazzling and meticulously executed that our instinctual, emotional responses undermine any rational objections we may have. Tarantino is able to transform an object of moral outrage into one of aesthetic beauty...[, in which,] all art forms, the violence serves a communicative purpose apart from its aesthetic value." When the female sword-wielding protagonist "...skillfully slices and dices her way through...[the opposing fighters]...we get a sense that she is using them as a kind of canvas for her expression of revenge...[,] an artist who expresses herself through brush and paint,...[she]...expresses herself through sword and blood."[5]

Looking at all of Tarantino's films you will see that every single one of his films glorify violence or treat violence as a commonplace entity in everyday life. No where is this more apparent than in "Pulp Fiction" where the characters Jules and Vincent talk in relaxed conversation about an Amsterdam vacation and a violent act regarding their boss. While they discuss this in an everyday manner then commit three acts of Murder. This scene proved highly interesting at first and something we haven't seen before in film, leading to cult status. Yet Tarantino continued his love for heavy violence mixed in with everyday situations in Jackie Brown and Kill Bill. As an audience, we hoped to relive the "Pulp Fiction" experience and many of us just shrugged. As of then, we have seen this before.
As Morales says above, violence is his "canvas". Therefore we can easily say, that violence and heavy dialogue while groundbreaking in "Pulp Fiction" lacks novelty in his latter work.

Tarantino shows us that this is another day at the office...

Number three: He is a direct ripoff of Martin Scorsese. You have to admit that he is a ripoff of Scorsese. He keeps the camera moving as Scorsese does and tells a broad story in non-linear time. This is Martin Scorsese' signature. In "Goodfellas" he starts us off in the middle of the film, then tells the story from the beginning. Scorsese also uses violence as art, though not as stylized. The brutal mob violence in "Goodfellas" is shown as a warning to mob involvement, rather than Tarantino's use as a showpiece.

Violence used brilliantly as graphic storytelling...

So in these three ideas as why Tarantino is not as great as most people think, I am here to predict that his luck will run out. I am pretty sure and convinced that his new film, "Inglorious Basterds" will fail critically. I would think that he will need to reinvent himself in order to be good again, to be real. Academy Award winner of last year, Danny Boyle has not made the same film twice. From "Trainspotting" to "The Beach" to "Slumdog Millionaire" his work is diverse. As that as an example, I foresee Tarantio losing his novelty and interest with the audience with his next film. He will need to re evaluate his direction to make a great film again. Otherwise he will be alone in his violence and gore. As for us the audience, we need a more meaningful, less violent time, for entertainment. Until tomorrow, let's talk film!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Potential Magic of Release Dates

In 99, "The Matrix" made a gazillion dollars in March, since then, the summer season kickoff month has fluctuated from March to May.

Ok, let's talk film. The Hannah Montana movie drew in some pretty good crowds this weekend. 34 million for Miley Cyrus. However, that's not what I want to blog about. Hooray for the fans of Hannah Montana. I am glad they packed in the theaters. The thing to look at here is how hot April has been for the box office.
Look for studios vying up for this April time slot next year. You had Fast and Furious take in the biggest April opening ever with 71 mil. A week later you have Hannah Montana taking in 34 million. Execs are finding a new landing pad for Summer Tentpoles.
April is the new May. Last year, Iron man took in 103 million first week of May. Execs ran wild to fill that spot this year. The new Star Trek film changed it's release date from Christmas 09 to spring 09 in order to take that May time slot this year. So, Hollywood is continuing its mindset that specific dates are auspicious, lucky days and maybe not the films themselves. Sounds like Hollywood, of course it does.
This is one of the foremost reason why "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" was postponed from Christmas 08 to Spring 09 this year. up setting fans from here to Britain. Yet, execs want to give HP the The Dark Knight's release date, end of July. They think it will perform better in the supposed "charmed" release date.
So with the performance of Fast and Furious and the lukewarm showing of Hannah Montana, combined with the box office results of Iron Man last year, first week of May, you'll start to see the summer season starting earlier and earlier. Usually, the summer season doesn't start until Memorial Day weekend.
However, these sleeper tentpoles of the last two years, have begun to change that. Sleeper tentpoles are surprise money makers that produce more revenue than expected, acting as a projected major tentpole, yet made with a smaller budget.
So, as such, the summer season start will earlier next year than it did this year. It will most likely start the first week of April.
Studios still look at the first week of March as a lucky release date even today. "The Matrix" in 99 made a gazillion dollars and since then we have seen "300", "V for Vendetta", "Passion of the Christ" all making excellent money during March. So that date has proved hot and because of which, "Watchmen" was released this year and "10,000 BC" last year in hopes of making big numbers. While March does not start the beginning of summer, it is proof that execs think the dates are charmed and not the quality of the films themselves.
You have to remember that Hollywood execs expect certain films to do Gazillions of dollars and other films to make just millions. Last year, they expected "Incredible Hulk" and "Prince Caspian" to make gazillions cause they cost gazillions to make. Both films underperformed. While Iron Man and The Dark Knight did much better than expected. So Hollywood can project all they want, yet they will NEVER get it exactly right. Yet, everyone in Hollywood wants to stay working in Hollywood, so projections and a "musical chairs" of release dates are the future. So look for summer to begin earlier than usual next year. Maybe the groundhog of summer films is not seeing its shadow earlier and earlier each year.
Until tomorrow, let's talk film!