Friday, December 30, 2011

My 2011 Wrap Up

As we wrap up 2011 I have decided to look back and consider the whole of filmdom... at least as much as 365 days can offer. What follows is a list that perhaps says more about my tastes and expectations than it does about the state of Hollywood, but what can I say? I am an opinionated cinephile and wish to have my opinion considered when you check out that next movie. As per usual, there are far more films in the middling categories than the top or the bottom. But then, the race simply wouldn't be as exciting if everything was excellent all the time. I have yet to see War Horse, J. Edgar, Carnage, and Pariah to name a few. But it is near impossible to catch everything. Anyway, this is how I feel about every film I have seen this year:

My Bottom 10 Of 2011:
Battle: Los Angeles
Conan The Barbarian
Cowboys & Aliens
Hall Pass
Real Steel
The Three Musketeers
Transformers: Dark of The Moon
Your Highness

Movies I Hated:
The Adjustment Bureau
Bad Teacher
The Devil's Double
Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark
The Hangover Part 2
Like Crazy
Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Movies I Thought Could Have Been Better:
Another Earth
Cars 2
Crazy, Stupid, Love
The Debt
The Descendants
Green Lantern
The Rum Diary
Spy Kids 4: All The Time In The World
Super 8
The Thing
Water For Elephants
X-Men: First Class

Movies I Liked:
30 Minutes Or Less
The Artist
Captain America: The First Avenger
Cedar Rapids
A Dangerous Method
Friends With Benefits
The Green Hornet
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2
Horrible Bosses
The Ides Of March
The Iron Lady
Jane Eyre
The Lincoln Lawyer
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
My Week With Marilyn
Our Idiot Brother
Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows
Source Code
Sucker Punch
A Very Harold And Kumar Christmas

Movies I Loved:
The Adventures Of Tin Tin
African Cats
The Cave Of Forgotten Dreams
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The Help
The Muppets
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
Sarah's Key
Scream 4
The Tree Of Life
Winnie The Pooh
Young Adult

My Top 10 Of 2011:
Attack The Block
Kung Fu Panda 2
Midnight In Paris
The Skin I Live In
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Win Win

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cinema: In The Wake Of A Broken Week

What makes a good film? It's the cast, the writing, the directing, the cinematography, the music, the crew. So many elements come together to craft a motion picture truly worthy of an audience. The surprising and sad fact is, the movies that most deserve respect and recognition often fall flat come release. It's happened with many of my favorites (GATTACA, The Big Lebowski, 12 Monkeys... all gaining their audience after several years collecting dust). But people usually still show up to the movies... often not the right movies, but still you, the consumers, have planted your butts in the seats and will be staring off in one direction for about two hours, conveniently able to watch something new on a Friday or Saturday night when you finally have that free time.

This last weekend, theaters across the nation saw the release of several movies hopeful to make a killing in the box office... and it just didn't happen. In fact, what looks to be one of the worst movies of the year (New Years Eve) has become the highest grossing picture of the week. It didn't have big numbers, but there are seriously better options out there. Look, this weeks numbers have been lower than the slump seen after the attacks of 9/11. That's a scary prospect.

If Hollywood can't find a way to put together a season worth seeing, then there's a problem. But it's not just the movies. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a very good movie just sitting on a limited release. Shame will not get play in most theaters because people are too afraid to give NC-17 another chance. But times change and people do too. I think people are more willing than ever to give NC-17 a try. And I personally am excited to see Young Adult, but the critical response to Diablo Cody of late has been both harsh and completely uncalled for. She is an Oscar caliber writer. Anyway, these are minor issues.

First and foremost, it costs too much to go to the movies. It's true. How can the public be asked to visit a theater, spend $10-$15 (in some cases $18) on a ticket, then spend another $6 on a tub of popcorn that should be $2-$3 tops even in a thriving market, and spend another $2-$5 on a beverage that they could get for less than a dollar at the grocery... much less bring another person with them (cause no one wants to come alone) and spend the same sums on them?

Look, date night is taking a hit. People want to be able to talk with each other. Yes, films are a happy distraction for the new couple (or the very old), but it's not enough to assume people will just chuck up the change for any random picture. Sure some marketing could improve... there are very creative ways of getting the word out on new film that people just aren't taking advantage of. I'm not really a fan of the Paranormal Activity franchise, but they have consistently marketed these smaller budget flicks well somehow getting the audience to "request" these films come to theaters. That's unprecedented to say the least. But marketing aside, the main word on my mind is: GREED. Studios, if consumers are not buying your product you need to find a way to fix your business so they will.

It's that simple. The movie theaters are not solely responsible for the mark up in ticket prices since the '90s... it's the studios. And they need to find another way.

Then again, perhaps we are entering a new age. With new content constantly at our fingertips at home and on the internet, perhaps we will see a complete overhaul of the system. But in the wake of the death of big studios, what will take its place? I for one am not interested in just watching viral material for the rest of my life. So what's next?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wet Floor: Considering The Holidays

A Very Harold And Kumar Christmas
It's silly and childish at best... but I always have fun watching a Harold and Kumar flick. It's the only franchise of this kind that still makes me laugh at all. And that earns it a special place in my heart. Sure, American Reunion may actually not suck, but that's a BIG if. In all respects, this new H+R picked up in a very surprising situation and I enjoyed watching everything unfold in its own ridiculous way. And NPH certainly helps keep the movie going in the third act.

Genre: Stoner, Holiday Comedy

Tarsem is a hard man to understand. It seems he will always put artistry before literary content. The Cell is a very questionable movie at best and The Fall is like a labour of love somehow overcoming all cinematic obstacles to make something I've never seen before. And then there comes Immortals. It was entertaining enough and I'm not gonna tell you not to see it, but something is off about the movie. The thing I can most easily pinpoint is the portrayal of the gods. They aren't interesting. They can't make decisions that should be common sense. They peeve me really and I can't say I enjoy the majority of actors playing these roles. Then the titans are a total mess. They all look the same and have no character what-so-ever, really more like the Puddy Patrol

than terrible masters of creation. But you know, the movie is still alright. And surprisingly, I will recommend the 3D iteration of this one. If you see it at all, see it in style.

Genre: Artsy, False, Greek Action

Like Crazy
I hated how this movie made me feel. It dredged up memories I never want to think of again. If you are a masochist I will recommend you see this. Otherwise, you may wanna keep away. Still, fair is fair, and I suppose Like Crazy did what it set out to do. So props to Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones. Still, I don't know why anyone would ever want to make another person feel that way. FYI Felicity Jones is wonderful.

Genre: Masochistic, Near-Chick-Flick Love Story

The Descendants
Alexander is a great filmmaker. It's that simple. In my opinion, The Descendants does not live up to the hype, but that is only because the hype was set too high. In the end it comes down to this, the movie is interesting, the performances are solid, the direction is good... I guess what's questionable is, this doesn't quite feel like an Oscar movie (whatever that means) and I'm pretty sure we will see it at the awards. It just has too much buzz to not come up in a good portion of Academy ballots. But if I compare it to a film like Win Win (which I would place in a similar category of motion picture), it really stands no shot at "Best in show."

Genre: Find-Your-Family, Dry Comedy

A Dangerous Method
David Cronenberg's latest outing is one of intrigue. There are excellent performances here, great direction, interesting script... but something about the flick doesn't quite reach the level of his last few features. I enjoyed A History Of Violence and when Eastern Promises came out I just fell in love with the way Cronenber had grown as a filmmaker (I like his old horror flicks, but he keeps switching it up these days). Well he's still growing. He proved that he can take on a completely different kind of movie. He proved that he could make it something worth talking about, and I would very much like to see it again... but it's not quite finished in my mind. The last line of the film is good, but it just feels like there should be a little bit more there. A small note but it makes a big difference in how an audience leaves the movie.

Genre: Psychological Drama

The Muppets
Now we're talking. The Muppets appeared on my Most Anticipated Films of 2011 List. And it delivers. Jason Segel keeps moving up in the world. After his success with Forgetting Sarah Marshall he has managed to write another great script (there was one small section I did not care for, but lets ignore that for now since the movie as a whole was still quite good). The Muppets turned me into a child leaving me with that giddy feeling of the old movies. The new muppet, Walter, works very well as a driving force of the plot and the songs made me happy on so many levels. Plus, I got to see some of my favorite characters in a very interesting stage of their lives. Knocked it out of the park with this one guys.

Genre: Muppets (duh)

My Week With Marilyn
Here's where I really think we're looking at an Oscar candidate: Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe. She does her job and then some capturing all of the lady's nuances in a believable way while carrying a weak-at-times film on her shoulders. Sure, there was a lot of good, but there was also a great deal of bad. Simply, I cared nothing for the characters or the situation, though on occasion something good would catch my eye. And I'm still not sure how I feel about Kenneth Branagh... surely his career is quite similar to Laurence Olivier's, but did he play the role well? I'm probably being too hard on the production, but I'm still wondering if we're going to get that perfect Oscar flick this year (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy please?).

Genre: Historical Fanfare

Scorsese thinks he's made a masterpiece here. Well it's a love-letter to masterpieces anyway. But I could never put it in that category. The pacing of this film is just off in every way I can imagine. Sacha Baron Cohen is quite good and deserves an Oscar nod though I sort of doubt we'll see that (he is mostly the comic relief of the film and boy did we need comic relief). I love Chloe Grace Moretz. Everything she's done in the last three years has just been excellent... her performances anyway. Now I'm a cinephile and a huge fan of classic cinema. So I totally get where Scorsese's coming from here. And at times I wanted to cheer the film on, but the majority of Hugo was a cookie-cut and spelled out, directionless (or too many directioned), overly sentimental, solitaire pissing contest. Worth a view, but every once and a while Martin Scorsese decides he's a "Genre" filmmaker and sadly he's usually not.

Genre: Mishmash, Adult Fairy Tale for Kids or something... I don't really know.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus

It seems a faux pas at times, but I am always interested in new (and interesting) interpretations of Shakespeare's works.
Having been a massive fan of Julie Taymor's Titus, I quickly assumed her own version of The Tempest would be that next great adaptation. But alas, near a year has gone by and the more I think on that film the more I despise every inch of it. True, it costars a number of excellent actors (Alan Cumming, David Straitharn, Chris Cooper), but none of these people had very much to do. And somehow Julie Taymor only managed to focus on the most mundane of things. It's a strange play, no doubt... but somehow I had anticipated a far more interesting film from such a creative piece.

Near a full year later, enter Coriolanus. Not just Coriolanus... but Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus.
And somehow that makes sense. Fiennes is one of those excellent actors who always seems to get snubbed come around Oscar season. See The Constant Gardener. And I believe it will happen again. However, Ralph has an Ace in the Hole this time. This time he is the director.
Ralph Fiennes surprised me. He made me happy to say I believed in his movie, that I was actively excited to see it going in with the mindset that it would indeed be great. Frequently this makes it harder for a movie to live up to the "hype", but Coriolanus did. It lived up to the hype and made me crave another Ralph Fiennes film. If he could perform the way he performed whilst being in charge of the crew and the cast around him, I have so much more than faith in his future abilities as a film maker.

On another note, Brian Cox blew this thing out of the water.
He had such an excellent role and really made use of the words that Shakespeare gave him. If he does not get any kind of critical acclaim for this performance, then shame on the institution of film criticism.

But what is Coriolanus? I admit, entering the theatre I had only a limited knowledge of this lesser known work by the bard. I'll tell you now, it's not a member of the Apocrypha. This goes so far as to say, it is considered just another example of Shakespeare's masterdom over language and storytelling. I can now say I prefer this work to the likes of Julius Caesar, Macbeth, or Othello (Iago exempt). And that's a pretty buff group of plays right there. But somehow Caius Martius Coriolanus is such an interesting character to me. He seems so real, so steadfast and honorable (in his own way), and so stubborn. He's the kind of character that makes you wonder if good men can be bad and bad men can in fact be good.  To me he is a symbol of man attempting to preside over the faculties of their own will. Trying too hard to be in control can lead to terrible struggle. In this case, Coriolanus' struggles take him to the opposite ends of his being. How does a man become his own enemy? And how do a people watch that man and not call him evil?

Coriolanus. It's worth your time in a darkened theatre.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wet Floor: Pain Is Motivation

The Skin I Live In
Pedro Almodovar has made something impressive. All at once it seems filthy and distasteful and wonderfully shocking brain candy. I don't really know how to describe it. All I can say is, there's a moment in the third act when me and three of my friends (mind you none of us are squeamish or afraid to stare down a shocking moment) looked at each other with mouths agape. Something had wracked our brains and I'm almost positive we had all been raped. That's the only explanation I can think of. And yet, somehow, I need to see this again a maybe probably even need to own this and it's certainly making a run for my top ten films of 2011.

Genre: Softcore, Sci-Fi, Mindmashing Tragicomedy.

The Three Musketeers (in 3D)
Well goshdarn if I wasn't forced to see this movie for a friends birthday. All I can say about this film? Similar notes as the above... I feel as though Paul W.S. Anderson has raped me. But this time there is no joy in the experience. Just utter pain. Thoughts of suicide. If you go to see this movie, just go in aware that you will lose a full two hours of your life that you can never ever ever get back again.

Genre: Blunt ripoff of an adaptation that hadn't read the source material in the first place.

Martha Marcy May Marlene
Oh man. This movie was something else. As if getting another great performance from John Hawkes wasn't treat enough, I'm all at once introduced to Elizabeth Olsen. And you know what? I want to get to know her better. This girl is the younger sister to the Olsen twins and wow can she act circles around the both of them. Good, crazy movie worthy of at least a single visit.

Genre: Cult Thriller.

The Rum Diary
This prequel to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is not bad. I like Depp as Hunter. I like Richard Jenkins in everything. And Aaron Eckhart is a fine actor. Still, it never really touches on that insanity we see in Fear and Loathing. Perhaps it's the absolute lack of Gilliam, or maybe it's just that the original story is just and earlier work and thus Hunter himself had not been quite so corrupted by sin. Whatever it is, it's alright. We get more plot sans insanity and I honestly like "more plot" (I know I'm one of the few in Hollywood). Not a half bad, no exactly perfection.

Genre: Sin Dramedy worthy of a few shots of Rum beforehand.

If you have any memory of loving the original, this is a very worthy remake. The dancing is far superior and almost everything works. I have only two minor complaints here: Dennis Quaid isn't bad, but he just can't deliver like John Lithgow can. They are just a different caliber of actor. So sadly ( and I like Quaid) this casting becomes a downgrade. The other thing is, the plot of this movie just doesn't work in a modern world. In the 80s it was fine. I could easily believe that a town would be so capable of shutting its self off from the rest of the world. But not today when phones have internet and internet is everywhere. This is something that is completely ignored. And perhaps that's for the best. Though I wish they had just accepted that it HAD to be a period piece like Donnie Darko is a period piece. Still, this is a good movie and worth your time and money.

Genre: Dance Flick with a Heart.

I just got back from this one and am pleasantly surprised. The first act is far more comical than I expected. The actors make good use of interesting dialogue and little quirks I am certain were written into the script from the get go. It's just a well thought out film and that is something I am always happy to see. The ending is pretty solid and worth two plus hours wait it takes to reach it. And the acting, even by Kirsten Dunst, is quite good. Perhaps this is not an Oscar contender, but that would simply be due to politics. Quality entertainment here.

Genre: Epic, Sci-Fi, Tragedy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Surprising Dead

I've been less and less interested in The Walking Dead since last season's "awkward" finale. It was an interesting choice to go to the CDC... but it would have been a far more interesting one to stay there (at least for a little while). It's odd because this is AMC's highest viewed show and yet it doesn't even remotely compare to Mad Men or Breaking Bad (in my opinion the top two dramas on TV). There's just something missing in these latest episodes. It may be compelling characters. It may be lack of drive (ie. no direction or end game in sight). Sure they want the show to last a while, but why should anybody care if the story's no good? Television has been plagued with this mistake for decades. Just because a show has viewers doesn't mean it should be forced to stretch its story beyond a recognizably proper climax.

This is how I've been feeling since last year. And the first two episodes didn't help. In fact, I was just about to give up on the series all together when something interesting happened. This most recent episode... it wasn't "perfect", I'm not gonna say "perfect". It had almost as many flaws as the last two. But somehow, someway, they saved it. There was a key decision that one character made at the end of this episode that shifted my view of the show just enough to keep me watching (for the next three weeks anyway).

Now I'm not a fan of the missing girl. She should already be dead and they honestly should have given up the search by now. And the little boy, he should be dead as well. The fact that they happened to run into a vet at the perfect moment of need... well I guess I shouldn't be arguing against coincidence, but it feels cheap. And then this magical moment of desperation. An attempt to find drugs that may save someone else's life gone horribly wrong. A new character (that we don't really care about),Otis, proving to be a genuinely nice fellow running with Shane, a character that we're supposed to care about (and for what it's worth I kind of like him more than most of the other leads). They get overrun and somehow, desperation actually takes effect. One character makes a massive and dark decision.

Like I said, the show has flip-flopped around looking for direction and losing it. But there was a small spark of magic that makes me think The Walking Dead could make me feel this way again. We'll see. Only time will tell.
But the loss of Frank Darabont as show runner still leaves me wisely cautious.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Ben Affleck's been given the reigns to one of Stephen King's coolest novels, The Stand. And I'm surprised to say I'm very much okay with this. Every couple years we get a little news about this book or The Dark Tower getting the theatrical treatment, but somehow (despite the massive fan base) these rumors never seem to pan out. Well, if it happens this time Ben sounds like a good choice to me. True, his films regularly leave me feeling... I dunno... incomplete. Like the elements were all good on their own, but somehow the writing didn't pan out, or maybe the film approached something a little too coldly. I felt this in Gone Baby Gone, I felt this in The Town... Though somehow that makes sense for The Stand.
The second act finale alone leaves you in a state of shock and that ending is just blood cold.
Ben's ability to work with actors adds an exciting element to this piece. His flicks always look really good from a cinematography standpoint. And the scope is already almost there. I think The Stand would be a positive step for Affleck, and Affleck may be a good influence on The Stand. Especially after that massacre of a miniseries.
Somebody mentioned Jon Hamm for The Walking Dude. That would be awesome! What do you all think?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Thing, The Prequel To The Thing, The Remake Of The Thing

This weekend I made it a point to go out and catch the first midnight of The Thing, the new prequel to one of my all time favorite films: The Thing... I'm cool with using the same title personally. It does have a number of cross-over moments with the original which is what makes the idea so much fun. Anyway, the major complaints from reviewers are as follows:

1. The movie is a carbon copy of the original.

Response: It's really really not. I promise you at the very least it is not the same movie. Some elements are the same because the variables of the creature its self must remain in order to stay true to form. But the greater majority of the film is its own thing. It even paces its self differently which may hurt it, but at least it is its own movie.

2. The ending is weak.

Response: Yes the initial ending may be a little weak, but it ask a number of interesting questions... like what world would spawn a creature like this? How intelligent is the creature really? Besides, if you wait just a few moments after the credits begin rolling, you are treated to an excellent little bit of cinema that legitimately made me gitty. I'm a fanboy for John Carpenter's flick so nothing makes me happier than properly being set up for that superior film.

3. The main character seems to have already seen the original film given her knowledge of the creature.

Response: That is a joke. When you see the original film, that test scene is genius and you know what(?) a little too smart for Kurt Russell's character. All-be-it cool. I love that sequence. So when we get to a similar sequence in this prequel I was actually really happy with the choice Mary Elizabeth Winstead made. It was an excellent example of taking two different characters in similar situations with different backgrounds and giving them different logical realizations. Surprisingly, Mary's actually makes more sense. This may be the element that most kept me in the movie, enjoying the movie.

In Short: The Thing (2011) is an alright flick. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a good actress and while Joel Edgerton seems like a would-be Kurt Russell he's still quite good. The CG doesn't look as good as the practical effects of the original, but it's not bad. Honestly, if a few more things had happened in that finale I think I would have loved it. So if you like the original at all, this is worth a view. It's more interesting, in my opinion, to go out and see a connected story than a full on remake. That's what Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes did. Though Rise stood well on its own merits (that franchise always called for a more realistic Ape). The Thing is more like another chance to see what this creature does. I think it's unlikely this will lead to any further sequels/prequels. But it was nice to get just a semi-interesting one off like an additional episode.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wet Floor: Moments That Breathe


I just saw it for the second time and somehow... it got better! I don't know how much work Sorkin did on this screenplay, though I'm assuming quite a bit. But I'm left with just a truly wonderful moment stuck in my head... there's the recognition the Pitt is cursed, truly jinxed, and Pratt steps up to bat and then there's this perfect directorial explosion of brilliance. Sound, Cinematography, Performance... it's all just pitch perfect here. These are always brief comments on films (and I'd like to keep it that way), but man that was such a brilliant scene. This film truly makes me wonder about the potential of baseball if certain peoples (who shall remain nameless) would get their heads out of their asses and recognize that the game could use a couple steps into modernity. That is the fight, no? Anyway, I recommend this one. Even if the very end doesn't hit as hard as I'd like, the scene before sure sticks and that's good enough for me.

Genre: Walk and Talk with less walk and a little more Baseball.

The Ides Of March
While not quite as strong as I would have hoped from Clooney's Junior attempt at directing (Good Night and Good Luck was amazing!!), I still felt like a great deal of the film worked. Firstly it looked beautiful. Then, the performances were pretty top notch. So the real problems I had were the cliches in the writing. Mostly the whole intern subplot (though that is really the movie). It's cool to watch good performers make something like this though. However, if you want a real political thriller that bites, I suggest you just wait for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Genre: Political Intrigue meets Easy Puzzle Film

Ryan Gosling twice in one month?? Oh how lucky we are. But he's only part of what makes this flick so superb. Excellent directing and writing intermingle in a stylistic reality... and honestly I can't get that song out of my head! But my favorite part of the whole thing is just that very beginning chase sequence. I submit that it be considered amongst the Greatest Car Chases Of All Time list. Yes, it's that good, cause I've never seen one so smartly executed before. Bryan Cranston makes his mark as well and there's a whole cast of quality characters. Somehow I can't fully express what this movie makes me feel. I simply suggest you see it.

Genre: A Hero's Journey

I dunno. See it if you must, but it's really not all that.

Genre: Meaningless Sickness Film that ignores any and all interesting plot developments in lieu of whiney annoying characters

That wraps me up for right now. It's actually been a pretty great month in filmdom. What with three of the above as well as Warrior! Man I can't say how good that film was enough.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Teasing The Dragon

I was a big fan of the initial teaser for David Fincher's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

It was concise and seemed to give us just a brief idea of what his vision of the story felt like. Yes, I've seen the original Millennium Trilogy. I've never read the books, but I'm assuming the two were pretty similar. So it's not without meaning that Fincher would release this new trailer,

a blunt spectacle that nearly gives away every facet of the story. It's impeccable that Fincher would be wise enough to let the many many existing fans of the original trilogy know just how true he would be staying to the story.
True, it may alienate anyone who hasn't seen the originals. But it seems like a risk worth taking when you know you'll garner the respect of those first fans (of whom there are quite a few). I personally think it's a smart business decision. I think it gives the project some much needed integrity. I guess what I'm trying to say is: I like the trailer, all three minutes and fourty-two seconds of it.

What do y'all think?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Favorite Films: The Lion King

In 1994 something wonderful happened. Walt Disney Pictures released a film unlike anything they had ever done before. The scope of The Lion King is surprisingly large, it encompasses many years and manages to tug on more than a few heart strings. The characters are incredibly well thought out and add to an already entertaining story of intrigue, familial bond, and greater purpose. True, it is Hamlet... sort of. And yes it's made with a family mentality, but it still manages to get dark and violent at times: Scar is just a sick character and Jeremy Irons plays him to perfection.
I grew up on this movie. It was probably the most watched thing at my house during my Elementary years. Timon and Pumbaa, Zazu, Rafiki these are all the fun characters I used to wish were my friends. Mufasa is such a great father figure to the Simba we cannot help but identify with. Nala is amazing with a personality to match. And the Hyenas are just such fun, evil guys/girls.
But I can't just focus on the characters. Elton John, Tim Rice, and Hans Zimmer did an impressive job of soundscaping the feature. Somehow every musical number just feels perfect. I rewatched the 3D edition in theatres last week and couldn't stop singing along (So glad The Morning Report wasn't in this cut).

In that most recent viewing I discovered that Rowan Atkinson voiced Zazu... something I had never realized before. I had always been aware of the rest of the cast (it is star studded): Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Nathan Lane, Jeremy Irons, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas. But somehow I had missed Rowan Atkinson. Oh and Robert Guillaume... but I think he's more of a personal celebrity... like I love him from Sports Night, but here he just kills as Rafiki.

There's not much I can say that hasn't already been said. The Lion King is one of those perfect films. I could watch it today and get just as much out of it as I did as a child. If you get a chance to see it in theatres right now, I'm telling you it's worth a revisit. You've only got a week. Then the Blu-Ray comes out and believe me, I am excited for that.

The List So Far:
1927 - Metropolis - Fritz Lang
1928 - Steamboat Willie - Ub Iwerks
1931 - M - Fritz Lang
1932 - Tarzan, The Ape Man - W. S. Van Dyke
1933 - King Kong - Merian C. Cooper +
1934 - It Happened One Night - Frank Capra
1936 - Modern Times - Charles Chaplin
1957 - Funny Face - Stanley Donen
1966 - Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? - Mike Nichols
1982 - The Thing - John Carpenter
1984 - Brazil - Terry Gilliam
1986 - Labyrinth - Jim Henson
1994 - The Lion King - Roger Allers/Rob Minkoff

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Vampire In Atlanta

UPDATE: Vampire Vampire Vampire Vampire - 2011 Best Comedy Short (Atlanta Horror Film Festival)!!

We spent this last weekend in Atlanta promoting our short film Vampire Vampire Vampire Vampire at the Atlanta Horror Film Festival. It was a great experience and I'm thankful everything worked out and we were able to show our faces. If I say the event was a success I'd probably be underselling it. Our film which was originally scheduled to screen once on the evening of the 17th actually showed a total of three times to rather sizable audiences and always to much positivity. This is new to me, the Film Fest circuit. Four of us went with the movie and of those four only one had ever actually been to something like this before. Granted we played LA Shorts pretty recently, but that was local and we only made it out for the one day. In Atlanta we watched a pretty sizable amount of the festival spending three days in attendance and I can attest to being surprised and excited by the quality of some of the work that was shown. I'd like to sight one very cool film that I think more people should see: Der Sandmann which played to a much smaller house (about 8 people). I think this'll win Best Foreign Feature once the awards come out and I am hopeful for our film's success in its own categories.

More impressive than the festival (which was pretty impressive) was the venue its self.
If you ever come to Atlanta for a long weekend and you've got some extra time, check out The Goat Farm. It's sort of a haven for artists of all walks. Truly, creatively stimulating in its own right, the old buildings lend housing to at least 70 artists at any given time (usually more). Our producer/co-writer made a point of saying "I'd definitely go back to live and write for a month, away from the pressures LA." And I agree. It's just a cool place filled with cool people doing what they love most. And doing it well.
I'd also like to comment on our hotel. We stayed at the Inn At The Peachtrees. It's a small Best Western that's recently gone through some very cool renovations. The rooms were very nice and once again the employees were just incredibly helpful and friendly. If I ever return to Atlanta, I'll definitely try to book a room with them. I've never felt so welcome in a strange place as I did on this trip. It makes me excited about my own journey, what I'm working on right now, and all the things that come next. But for now I guess I'm headed back to real life. Somehow even that seems brighter.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I just saw Warrior for the first time. I say "for the first time" because I sincerely intend to go see it again. Yes, it's that good. I was surprised by the affect such a simple story could have over me. Warrior is one of those rare films that manages to reflect something of a viewer back at them (By that I mean it is surprising in its ability to evoke empathy). This is a movie with heart. What was that tag line again? "Family is worth fighting for." I like it.

In the theatre, I found myself feeling genuine emotions; truly hoping for the two brothers to find their way. I later had a conversation with a co-worker who had an incredibly similar experience. You should go see this movie. Everyone should. Give it a shot. It's not The Fighter. I don't know why people even began comparing the two (Yeah, they're both about professional fighters... and there are two brothers in each of them, but the resemblances end there). I like The Fighter a lot, but this is something else entirely.

The acting is excellent. Joel Edgerton just killed it. And I couldn't even recognize Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy
in Tommy.

Hell even Nick Nolte turned out a great performance, something I have found to be rather rare in the past. Jennifer Morrison was delightful. There's a moment in the third act when all she has to do is smile and I just fall to pieces.

The direction is interesting and consistently eye catching. And there was a very strange quality to the writing, something I like but can't quite place my finger on. Perhaps I'll have more to report after seeing it again.

I love filmmaking like this. You hear that, Gavin O'Connor? I want more!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Miracle Gardens

Sometimes I think about the way the world changes, the glass bulb that flinches like society. Is it really true that we don't know where we stand in the grand scheme of the universe? Or what is the universe, for that matter? When I come around from the daze of contemplation I often recognize that I myself have gone through a quick change of my own. Every day I see the world, and every day I find something new in that something. If you can bare to be in your mind and thinking; if you don't mind hearing your own voice in your head jumping from one concept to another, allowing you to understand how those two things make sense together, or why that was made in the same universe as this. You should try to. I bleed to find those answers. Every day I search and search, and I am only unhappy when I come in contact with something that I haven't solved yet. Because each person, each moment is a puzzle with something hidden just under the surface that can unlock a door.

I often wonder about the rest of the world; what I know of it which is very little (I've never been off the continent), and how we work with it: exist with it. Why are we fighting? I don't mean we shouldn't protect ourselves, that'd be stupid. I just mean, there's no reason to if we can find peace in a world that is only sometimes spiteful. Eventually countries change their minds and see peace as a better option. Be the bigger man. Let the words fall on the table and see who picks them up. It may be that we've been disagreeing without explaining our aspirations for the future to one another... if we're keeping open and continuous contact with others and we can find ways to bond everything seems more plentiful. We create miracle gardens.
1. High Speed - Coldplay
2. 1979 - Smashing Pumpkins
3. Fear Of Sleep - The Strokes
4. Soft Shock - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
5. Be Good To Them Always - The Books
6. Hurricane Drink - Florence + The Machine
7. Go It Alone - Beck
8. Rods And Cones - Blue Man Group
9. Cupid De Locke - Smashing Pumpkins
10. Let You Down - Dave Matthews Band
11. Rental Car - Beck
12. Long Division - Deathcab for Cutie
13. Circle Of Life - Mark Rapp
14. '81 - Joanna Newsom
15. Give Up The Ghost - Radiohead
16. The Midnight Special - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Sunday, September 4, 2011

3D: On Epic Blunders

In the last five years we've seen a major resurgence of Films shot in 3D. One of my friends had this to say, "3D should be restricted solely to 'event films'." After this claim he went on to recognize that the greatest Event Films were the ones that came out of left field. So this leads to a dilemma in conscience. Can Hollywood plan an actual legit Event Film? And if so, how will they know to make that particular piece with 3D technology? I sigh.

I am amongst the vast majority of moviegoers who find 3D to be a total crapshoot money-grab. Now it's not that 3D can't work... it's more like, it doesn't in most situations. Here's what's odd about it all, I've only seen three movies that have taken advantage of the technology of 3D and given me a reason to care...

1. Avatar
A film I find rather pointless aside from the scope of new technology used.

2. Jackass 3D
When you have a stunt based series, why not try to shoot the stunts in a way so the audience sees the full stunt in action. Depth plays such an important role in understanding just how stupid what these guys are doing really is.

3. Cave Of Forgotten Dreams
Here's a rare example, and it may never happen again. Herzog found a real thing that most people will never be able to see in their lifetimes. And the art being shown here is honestly in need of a third dimension. The action of the animals, etc. I really like this film.

Look, even Cameron (who is very much responsible for the trend) says the technology is not being used to its potential. That being said, the main complaint I hear about 3D technology to date is the glasses. Those clunky, dark, awful glasses. For me, it's the sore spot they always tend to leave on my nose. And most films shot in 3D are pretty dark, which is a continuous problem no matter how high we turn the projector bulbs up.

The technology does exist without glasses,
just you'd have to sit in a muuuch smaller room in very specific seats to get the effect.

So I guess we have to wait. But Hollywood doesn't want to. And it doesn't help that every piece of crap with some form of action in it gets a greenlight for 3D these days. Here's a recent list of the films that attempted to release in 3D that probably should have stuck to the realms of regular filmdom:

Conan The Barbarian
The Smurfs
Transformers: Dark Of The Moon
Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil
Mars Needs Moms
Drive Angry
Gnomeo & Juliet
Gulliver's Travels
Yogi Bear

I have to stop. Man, that is not a list I'd want to be a part of. I cannot think of a single movie in there that I actually give a damn about.

Maybe it's a question of good versus bad production teams. Maybe the good teams see when 3D is called for and the bad teams just don't care. But the audience is showing more and more that they don't care either. If a movie bombs it's usually a testament to the quality of that movie. In the case of Mars Needs Moms and Conan The Barbarian, I look to 3D as being a direct cause, though Conan may be the worst movie I've seen all year (and that's saying a lot).

Quick History Lesson: the first film to use 3D is a giant piece of crap. Don't believe me? It's called Bwana Devil. Watch it at your own risk.

So what are audiences supposed to do while Hollywood masturbates? Watch Netflix? Maybe.

We could always try this.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Favorite Films: The Thing

This is probably the greatest remake I've ever seen. When you consider the original film The Thing From Another World, it's barely even comparable to John Carpenter's masterpiece. After all, a space potato just isn't nearly as interesting as the horrifying crab-like anamorphic creature John gave us.
I was referred recently to a piece trying to rationalize everyone's positions in the film... who turned and when, etc. And though I did not find myself particularly blown away by the attempt made, it did cause me to look at the film in a very different way. I just re-watched it and found myself, more than ever before, enamored with the specificity of each character (something I rarely ever paid attention to before). Once I took the time to actually understand each character's reason for being out there in the first place it revolutionized my viewing experience. Not that The Thing could ever tire me, but it sure was nice to find something new in it after so many viewings. I've probably seen it more than ten times by now, so the fact that it can still surprise me is incredibly noteworthy. This is the kind of horror I'm referring to whenever I rant about what "good horror" should be.
It's rare, but the few that do exist leave an invaluable impression on my moviegoing experience.

(SLIGHT SPOILERS) So let me get down to the dirt, once Blair reads the numbers, he loses his grip.
He goes out and destroys everything. Because he knows this is the only way to SAVE THE WORLD. His descent later on is only due to his comrades' fears of the truth. While he could have done well to explain his findings, to him it was more rational to just "fix" the situation himself. The fact that he eventually becomes what he fears is honestly just a beautiful bit of story telling.

Childs is probably the most entertaining character in the whole piece.
He's ire-filled and too quick to act. But somehow these traits serve him well as he manages to get some of those final, excellent moments of the film... He's the wild card.

Mac is the badass who somehow, even though he's just the pilot, figures everything out. He's a man of action. He makes mistakes (frequently) but manages to fix them.
His ability to improvise and command respect deserves attention. (END SPOILERS) After all, he's Kurt Russell. How badass??
And he wears a very fashionable hat.
There's a great deal more, but I'm just giving a few quick examples of the three most recognizable characters in the film. If you ever get an extra chance to see the flick again, you should really do so. if you haven't seen it... I hope you didn't read the above... go see it.

The Thing is one of those few, perfect horror films. They only come along once in a blue moon. But there was a period of time when John Carpenter held the genre in the palm of his hand and made films work that probably wouldn't have if helmed by anyone else. Look at the original. That being said, I have to comment on the upcoming prequel.
I don't think I've ever been this excited and nervous about somebody new touching an established property. I have hope. I think there is potential in going back to that first camp... but only if the filmmakers are very very careful. I hope and assume they are just as in love with Carpenter's film as I am and know how to pay it respect. After all, it is brilliant... and you don't fix brilliance.

Anyway, thank you John Carpenter for being partially responsible for making me such a film snob.

The List So Far:
1927 - Metropolis - Fritz Lang
1928 - Steamboat Willie - Ub Iwerks
1931 - M - Fritz Lang
1932 - Tarzan, The Ape Man - W. S. Van Dyke
1933 - King Kong - Merian C. Cooper +
1934 - It Happened One Night - Frank Capra
1936 - Modern Times - Charles Chaplin
1957 - Funny Face - Stanley Donen
1966 - Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? - Mike Nichols
1982 - The Thing - John Carpenter
1984 - Brazil - Terry Gilliam
1986 - Labyrinth - Jim Henson