Saturday, October 31, 2009

Anyone Still Interested in Roger Rabbit?

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is one of those hit-and-miss films for me. While certain aspects of it worked, such as the concept of the toons mingling with live-action characters; others simply left me a touch dissatisfied, such as the portrayal of the cartoons, making them these promiscuous characters (it just really shattered the illusion of cartoon characters to me).

Even still the film was ahead of its time in terms of effects work, and regardless of how I feel about the film, countless children of the '80s and the '90s love this film. Well, word has gotten out from the director Robert Zemeckis, that the screenwriters of the original, Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman, have teamed back up to pen a sequel to the '80s cult classic.

Does anyone genuinely care for a Roger Rabbit sequel? I'm not entirely sure. First off, while it's a truly fun concept, Bob Hoskins, the human star of the original, is not getting any younger, and if the screenwriters have just started on the script, it might be a few more years till the cameras get rolling. By that time, a whole new generation of kids will have come in, who will have no recollection of the original, so the only people in the theater will be a bunch of 20-somethings reliving childhood memories.

While I think a Roger Rabbit sequel twenty, even ten years ago, would have been successful, I'm not sure if the audiences of today will accept it. As well, how many sequels to old films made in recent years have actually been good? Can count 'em on only one hand.

Of course this is all still in the early stages of development, so it's not coming anytime soon, and that's assuming that everything comes together so perfectly that it gets made. Personally I hope that if it does get the greenlight, then perhaps they can take the fantastic premise of the film, and improve upon the areas in which I was dissatisfied with the original.

The Classics: Dracula

Bela Lugosi was Dracula. No matter how many other actors have stepped into the famous role over the years, none have ever truly matched up with the original.

Dracula was one of the first in the long line of Universal monster movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and it shows in some places. The film follows Dracula on his quest to England to entice a young woman to become his bride. Simple stuff, but intriguing never the less.

The film is entertaining, primarily because it is so cheesy. The actors' performances are what you expect from this film, playing it up to the point of a stage production. That is in some ways what keeps this Universal monster movie from being as compelling as some of the later ones.

It plays out as if it was a stage play, never really taking much advantage of multiple locations, as well the editing at times is a touch choppy, I often wondered what was exactly happening in certain scenes. Plus, the original version of the film doesn't have any real musical score, and at times the suspense isn't nowhere like it is in the re-released version from the late 90s.

Regardless, this is one of those classic films that is so enjoyable to watch, any small quibbles are easily overlooked. The production design is as creepy as you would expect from this film, and like I said, Bela Lugosi is so entrancing as Count Dracula, this is one of those classic monster movies that shouldn't be missed.

I give Dracula a C+!

The Sad, Happy Ending

Have you ever seen an ending for a film or long-running TV show that was so joyous that it made you a touch sad on the inside? I watch something like Star Wars: Episode 6 - Return of the Jedi, and while I am happy cause everyone survives and they're all reunited to live happily ever after, I just can't help but have this gaping hole left inside.

Is this natural? And what is necessarily missing where this hole is?

I might be a minority here, being overtly sentimental, but whenever I see an ending that I find so happy, that I in fact feel a touch sad, I can't help but think this is the natural course of life. I'll just use Return of the Jedi as the example.

For three films you've grown to love these characters, seen them tackle obstacle after obstacle, and now it all comes to an end. It's kind of like having to say goodbye to friends and family when they have to move on with their lives and leave. Yes, you can still visit them, but it still will never be the same as those times in which you shared before. I believe this to be a natural occurrence amongst all people, and especially when said in regards to a film. Of course, what is making this gaping hole inside of me?

I think the main reason I get sad when I see such happy endings is just simply because, I don't want it to end. I just think of all the adventures, all the great experiences that these characters have yet to go through, but yet you know that this is the right place to end it, so there is nothing to do. It's like high school, you know it has to end someday, and while you never really think about it, the day comes and it finally hits you, that you will never see many of these same people again in the same way that you saw them for those four years.

People change, and times change with it, all we can do is simply roll with the punches and reminisce with the memories of these sad, but happy endings.

Friday, October 30, 2009

An Homage: Yu Yu Hakusho

Middle school, probably the most torturous, while also being the most fun times I've ever experienced in my life thus far. There were so many things that symbolized those three years for me, but I think nothing represented them better than Cartoon Network's after school block Toonami.

Toonami was it for me when it came to my television programming. Gundam Wing, Dragonball Z, Rurouni Kenshin, there was nothing else like it, but of course the greatest show to come on during this time was Yu Yu Hakusho.

Back in those carefree middle school days, my life consisted of three things: comic books, video games, and anime. If I had to pick a favorite anime in that time, Yu Yu Hakusho would be it. The story of 14-year-old delinquent Yusuke Urameshi, dying and coming back to life as Spirit Detective for Spirit World, battling rogue demon criminals. That's really all you needed to know to launch headfirst into the show.

Yu Yu Hakusho was the prime example of addictive anime. The story was deep, complex, and emotional. It made you laugh, feel all warm and fuzzy inside, while also making you wanna cheer for the heroes. Kuwabara with his dumb comments, Hiei with his snarky observations, Kurama and his rose whip, and Yusuke who is just simply one of the finer mixes of a lover and a fighter into one package; they were all such wonderful characters, and their relationships amongst one another were so hilarious.

This was, I have to admit it, my big obsession for those two or three years in middle school. I owned the Yu Yu Hakusho action figures, the Game Boy Advance video game, had a Yu Yu Hakusho cut-out pinned to the inside of my closet, and recorded practically half of the episodes on video. That's about as obsessed as one could get.

While the nostalgia of the series is one of the main reasons as to why I remember this show so fondly, I mustn't forget that the show still is as remarkable to me today as it was back then. Now that I'm older and have more money, I own every episode of the show on DVD, and it doesn't disappoint. It is still a hard-hitting anime that is full of countless epic battles and some genuinely funny humor. This show definitely takes the cake for my favorite anime of all-time; one of those anime classics that should be rediscovered time-and-time again.

Forget Two Times in a Row!

Hugh Jackman has officially declined the offer to host the Oscars two times in a row, according to Variety. In a way I'm a touch relieved. While the show last year was a little invigorating simply because everything was so different you didn't know what to expect, I still missed the straight stylings of a stand-up comedian up there on the stage. With not much time left to lock down an Oscar host, who will it be?

At the moment there are no clear frontrunners. The rumors were Jackman, and that was it, and seeing as how he turned it down, there is no one else. While it is reasonable that they will try someone else like Jackman who can do the whole song-and-dance routine, I'd personally like to see them get another comedian back up there.

Ellen Degeneres, Conan O'Brien, even Steve Martin, someone who will be able to come into the Oscars and have a little fun with it. And who says that someone like Conan or Ellen can't do a little song-and-dance? Hey, it might even be funnier than having a legitimate Broadway performer leading the way. Though it is safe to say that the race for who will be this year's Oscar host has just widened a great deal.

Old School Fridays: The Wolf Man

It's the Friday before Halloween, so why not a Halloween Edition of Old School Fridays? This Friday we're highlighting the trailer for the original 1941 classic, The Wolf Man. The film starred Lon Chaney, Jr. as the werewolf himself, and was, in my opinion, the height of the Universal monster movies from that period. Check it out:

This trailer is as cheesy as you expect the trailer for this film to be. I love this movie, and the trailer represents everything I like about it. While I've always loved the Universal monster movies like Dracula and Frankenstein, The Wolf Man was the best film from that period. There is no denying the magnificent cheesiness of The Wolf Man.

That does it for this Friday. Tune in next Friday for another edition of Old School Fridays!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Trailer Rush: Avatar (Trailer 2)

James Cameron is one of those guys on the forefront of film technology. His latest film, Avatar, utilizes brand new 3-D motion capture technology that is supposedly going to change how movies are made. The film has been highly anticipated for some time, we even highlighted the first trailer for the film a few months back. A new trailer for the film has hit the net. Check it out:

Wow! That's my first reaction after seeing this one.

The first trailer really left me underwhelmed, it really kind of turned me off of this movie. I had been highly anticipating it along with the rest, and after seeing the first trailer I just couldn't get what had everyone in the industry so excited about. Now after seeing this trailer, seeing the actual avatars in full on action, seeing how the motion capture technology blends perfectly with the actor's performance, my anticipation has shot sky high once more regarding this film. I will definitely be lining up with the rest of the geeks come December 18th.

The Inception of a Crime

I'm a big fan of Chris Nolan, ever since I saw Batman Begins, he quickly became one of my favorite directors. His upcoming film, Inception, which hits theaters next summer, looks to be the kind of mindbending thriller people have come to expect from him.

The cast of Inception is one of those dream casts for a film. Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine, and Ken Watanabe just to name a few; not to mention Chris Nolan is coming off of directing the highest grossing film of the past decade. With so much talent involved, it's no wonder expectations are high, but what is it exactly?

Not much is really known about Inception at the moment. It's official description is that it's, "a contemporary sci-fi action thriller set within the architecture of the mind." The first teaser trailer gave little more information other than a short mention saying someone's mind is the scene of the crime. All of this really intrigues me, and what I've learned from Chris Nolan's previous non-Batman works, always expect the unexpected. So what do I make of all that I've heard about this film thus far?

The scuttlebutt is that DiCaprio plays a CEO-type. I'm assuming that in the near future cops utilize machines that can venture into our minds in order to find the so-called inception of a thought, such as a murder. My best guess is DiCaprio's character will be pinned with a crime that transpired in his mind, and he must venture inside his own head to prove his innocence. I'm kind of getting the vibe this will be a modern day film noir with a unique twist. Of course all of this is just my own speculation from what I know about the film, don't take any of this literally.

As a whole I'm excited for this film and can't wait for its release next summer. To tide you over, here's the trailer.

The Most Underrated Films of the Past Decade

It's hard to believe that an entire decade of film has almost come and gone. Feels just like yesterday I was settling down in a theater in 2002 to watch Spider-man. Hey, time moves on.

Every decade of film is always compared to another. Filmmaking kind of goes in cycles. With this decade of film winding down, I've been wondering about what I think the best films of this past decade were? I can't come up with a definitive list as of now, but I have found five films that I think are worthy of recognition from the past decade. These films will most likely not find their way on anyone's best films of the decade list, but I think they are worth a mention.

All of these films I believe to be underrated or undervalued. They were either critical flops, financial failures, or both, and some just simply flew under the radar. Here's the five:

* Superman Returns - Say what you want about this film being more of a sequel to the Richard Donner '78 film than rather being its own entity, Bryan Singer nailed the character of Superman in this film. He daringly made a superhero film that was in actuality a character drama and not an action film. While there is some action in the film, it's more of a character study about Superman rather than it is an action/adventure. From this past decade full of superhero movies, I think it's worth taking a look at probably the most daring comic book adaptation from this generation.

* Secondhand Lions - In actuality, one of my more favorite films from this past decade. While this film made back its budget and succeeded with critics, it was so low budget it didn't take much, thus it flew under the radar of many. Secondhand Lions is one of those rare family films that everyone, from the grandparents to the children, can watch together, laugh, and enjoy.

* The Fountain - Darren Aronofsky's symbolic masterpiece was received poorly by both critics and audiences alike. The film was a daring film about life-and-death, portraying everything through symbolism. The whole film was kind of like a 90 minute visual poem, and it means something different to everyone who watches it, but to me I find a film about optimism after loss. Not to mention this film features a performance from Hugh Jackman that should have at least garnered a Best Actor Oscar nom.

* Stranger Than Fiction - This is one of those films that many people have never even heard of, but it is in actuality a charming tale about one man learning how to live his life. Featuring wonderful performances from such likable talents as Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, as well as a fine dramatic performance from Will Ferrel.

* King Kong - One of the finer remakes of a classic film ever produced. I think Peter Jackson's three-hour epic about the giant gorilla from Skull Island is way better than the original. Jackson made us care for this giant ape in a way in which none of the previous versions of this story did. King Kong was considered a failure by many box office analysts, even though it made back its budget. It's a film that is often forgotten, but I believe it deserves to be remembered.

Hopefully more people will check these films out and they will be remembered for many years to come.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Sentimentalist

Since when did it become a bad thing for movies to be sentimental? Some of the finer pieces of cinema to ever be released were sentimental works. Look at any great Frank Capra classic and it is riddled with sentimentality, or even jump ahead a few more years and take a look at something like E.T. Sentimentality isn't a bad thing in films, so why is it always met with so much criticism?

Beginning in about the late '60s, when the New Hollywood movement began, the films being produced were all for the most part dark, moody, and cynical. There were no real heroes, an anti-hero at best; they typically had unhappy endings, and were generally pessimistic about humanity in general. This is evident in many films from this period, ranging from The Godfather, to Taxi Driver, all the way to populace entertainment like Earthquake.

Nowadays we seem to be going through a similar period. Just about every film made nowadays is either downbeat with an unhappy ending, or upbeat with a bittersweet ending, there really aren't many movies made that embrace happy endings. Why? Are the filmmakers afraid they will offend the audience if they give them a little optimism? Is optimism so awful that everything the studios shove down our throats depressing? I don't think so.

Back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, majority of the finer films from that period were sentimental. It's a Wonderful Life, Singin' in the Rain, even Citizen Kane is a touch sentimental in the end. Have we as filmgoers become so cynical that we can't even enjoy a little bit of sentimentality?

I think it's kind of funny that people will watch these old films that are completely sentimental, and find them wonderful pieces of art, but when they watch something similar released in modern times, it's considered cheesy. Just compare It's a Wonderful Life with The Pursuit of Happyness. The films are pretty much the same, so why does one's opinion differ? Cynicism.

These older films get a free pass. The common argument is that they're from a simpler time, where people were generally more optimistic, more naive. In some part, this might be true. With all that the world has been through in the past fifty years, there is often very little optimism left, and this is where I make my point. If our world is void of optimism, then isn't it our duty as filmmakers to inject optimism back into the world via cinema?

An uplifting film can influence popular culture, and ultimately influence many people and their lives. Look at Star Wars, E.T., It's a Wonderful Life, and To Kill a Mockingbird, all of these films had such a gigantic impact, that some filmgoers claim that these movies changed their lives. An uplifting film can unite us all, not physically, but emotionally. It can give us wonderment, teach us moral lessons, and even grant us hope. When you look at it this way, one can't help but wonder, perhaps what we need as filmgoers is a little bit more sentimentality and a little less cynicism. Just a thought.

The Coens Take on True Grit

It seems that it's a trend nowadays to remake classic films. While I'm usually opposed to this, when someone of the caliber of say the Coen Brothers decide to take one on, I can't help but be intrigued.

It was reported a few months back that the Coens were going to be remaking the John Wayne classic True Grit. The film will star Jeff Bridges as the John Wayne role, and the rumors are that he'll be joined with the likes of Matt Damon and Josh Brolin in supporting parts. Supposedly the Coens plan to take the original book and make this film more in keeping with the original story, as opposed to the story within the previous film adaptation.

I'm really interested in this film. The Coens kind of handled the Western genre with No Country For Old Men, but this time they will be going all out, making a legitimate period piece set in the Wild West. The Coen Brothers in the Wild West? Oh, the possibilities.

The big question with this film is whether or not anyone will wanna see such an iconic movie retooled, even if it is done by someone of the caliber of the Coens? Time will tell, but I can't wait to see Jeff Bridges flex his acting muscles once more and try to take on Duke.

Trailer Rush: Invictus

The trailer for Clint Eastwood's latest has hit online, Invictus. The film tells the story of Nelson Mandella (played here by Morgan Freeman) becoming President of South Africa and teaming up alongside the captain of South Africa's rugby team (Matt Damon) to get their country to the world cup and unify them as one nation. Take a look:

The trailer was very good, and I must say, I'm extremely excited to see this film. I'm typically a sucker for inspirational sports film in general, but when you give one an extra emotional layer like this one seems to have done, it tends to be something truly special.

The performances from Freeman and Damon seem to be terrific, potential Oscar contention in the acting categories. As always Eastwood is a threat when it comes to directing, and I think the film itself has a shot at Best Picture hopes.

But putting the Oscars aside, I think that this simply looks like a good film, and it's such a joy to see Eastwood making a film that isn't dark and moody, and is actually kind of light.

Look for this one when it hits theaters December 11th.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Abrams and Superman

It's not much of a secret that back in about 2002, before Superman Returns, another Superman film was being written by J.J. Abrams, titled Superman Flyby. The film went through two directors and ultimately fell apart, even though Abrams wanted to direct his script himself (of course this was before Abrams struck gold with MI3 and Star Trek).

Abrams has recently made comments that he would be up to revisiting his concept for Superman Flyby if it was the direction Warner Bros. chose to go with the franchise. WB has till 2012 to produce another Superman film or else the rights of the character revert back to the Siegel family (one of the creators of Superman), and they could easily take the franchise to some other studio. So what about all of this?

WB claims that at the current moment nothing is happening with Superman, even though they have spent the past year-and-a-half hearing pitches for a new Superman film, but perhaps the right idea has been sitting in front of them the entire time.

Abrams retelling of the origins of Superman was intriguing, while it deviated from the source material in many areas, it was faithful enough to be considered a Superman film. Within Abrams Flyby script, which has since leaked online, Krypton is still in existence, Superman's powers are portrayed in a kung-fu, wirework-style, and there was an overall edge to the story that was never there in any of the previous films. Many die-hard fans detested the script, thinking it destroyed everything they love about Superman. While Abrams script was not entirely true to its source material, it shows enough clear reverence for the character that I can't help but think it'd be enjoyable to see brought to life.

Many of the fans' biggest gripe with Superman Returns (even though I loved it and thought it was perfect) was that the film was unoriginal and didn't move the character forward from the original Richard Donner directed film. I think the Abrams film would feel new and original, taking the character into some daring new directions, but it still has this innate familiarity to it which helps when working with such a character. The franchise needs to move on in order to regain its lost audience.

Personally, I'd love to see Abrams script revived with Abrams brought in at the helm. If it doesn't work, move on and try to return to the core concepts of the chracter, but if it does it could be flat-out amazing and forever change the perception of the character.

The Return of the A-Team!

The first official photo from 20th Century Fox's take on the classic TV show, The A-Team hit the net this past weekend. What do you think?

The film stars Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, and Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson. If this photo is any indication, we can expect the movie to be very similar to the original TV show, which might be better than them trying to make it all serious and stuff. The film hits theaters July 30th, 2010.

The Classics: The Third Man

Who is the third man? An accident has occurred, a man was hit by a car. Three men were on the scene, but only two have been identified and everyone refuses the existence of the third man.

The Third Man
is the story of American novelist Holly Martins going to post-WWII Vienna, Austria to visit his friend Harry Lime. Upon arrival Martins learns that Lime was recently hit by a car in an accident, but Martins soon begins to uncover a conspiracy about a penicillin racket and this mysterious third man that leads him to believe that his friend might have in fact been murdered.

The Third Man is really a hit-and-miss film. The premise is ripe with potential for suspense, but there was never a moment in the film where the suspense really elevated to the level needed to really keep me on the edge of my seat. The mystery unfolds in a fashion in which is fairly predictable, the music to the film felt odd and out of place for a film noir, and the film's tone was constantly shifting. Just when the film seemed to be on the right track to hooking the viewer, it did a complete U-turn and went back the other way.

Even for all my gripes, the film has many great things about it. The performances from Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles as Martins and Lime were superb, the cinematography was simply marvelous, and for the time the direction was very unique, directed in a way that many movies weren't done till at least the 60s (the infamous sewer chase is the true stand-out moment of the film).

While the film has many things going for it, at the end of the day it doesn't stack up well against some of the finer mystery/thrillers in cinema history.

I give The Third Man a D+!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Gervais and the Golden Globes!

It was just announced today that Ricky Gervais will be hosting the Golden Globes this upcoming January. This is actually very intriguing news, primarily because the Globes haven't had a host since 1995. Why the Hollywood Foreign Press changed their mind this year? No idea, but I do think Gervais is a good choice.

Gervais is popular right now, through his work on stuff like The Office and his latest film The Invention of Lying, Gervais has developed a solid fanbase that will undoubtedly tune in next January to see him do his familiar shtick in front of the whole world.

While I was opposed to Gervais hosting the Oscars, I actually don't mind him doing the Globes, simply because the Globes are one of the precursors to the Oscars, as well they deal with television, not just film. Gervais is most well known for being a TV personality, but he has also done a fair few films, he is a good match for a show like this.

This actually gets me excited for this show, in which I typically just see the Globes as a speedbump toward getting to the Oscars. The only thing left now is for the Academy to lock down a host for this year's Oscars, and let's hope it's a good one.

Here's a look at Gervais from last year's Golden Globes (easily the best part of the evening):

Rediscovering The Third Man?

Since about the 70s, it's been a popular trend in Hollywood to remake classic films. From stuff like King Kong all the way to some of Hitchcock's finest, many classics have been retooled time and time again. Rumors have been swirling about recently that a remake to the classic Carol Reed film, The Third Man, is in the works, starring Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio, with a script by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises).

If this rumor turns out to be true, is it a good, or a bad thing?

The Third Man is often considered one of those untouchable movies, for this reason alone much controversy will be stirred about if all of this is true. Am I personally against it? Not really. While I'm typically opposed to remakes in general, Tobey and Leo could easily match Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles, and with a script from Steven Knight, it sounds like this mystery/thriller is on the right track. I think the concept of the original had a lot of potential, but never fully met it, and I believe that these guys might be able to take this story and transform it into something that is truly special and different from the original. Only question is, will this latest version be a period piece if made?

Even still, the rumor does not link the film to a director, and simply says that the script is up for bidding with Leo and Tobey already attached. I'll try to learn more whenever it comes available, but for now still keep this in the rumor category.

HIdden Gems: Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke is a rare film, one that manages to transcend its animated exterior and become simply an amazing film.

Princess Mononoke is an epic fantasy, following the battle between the ancient forest spirits in feudal Japan and the persistent humans that are pillaging their forests. It is a beautiful tale about love, humanity, and the environment.

Director Hayao Miyazaki is simply a master at his craft. Not only is the film highly imaginative, well drawn, and has a very tight story; it is also a highly emotional film that will not only make you feel, but also make you think.

Miyazaki weaves his environmental message into the story, taking center stage amongst all the epic conflict, making you grow to appreciate the great outdoors even more after viewing this film. Not only that, Miyazaki shows us how awful war truly is, he makes us realize all the sacrifice and loss involved. He does not glorify the battles within this film, he shows them in a very real, almost upsetting fashion (or as real as war can be represented in a fantasy). Though Princess Mononoke is also a story of real love.

The romance between the warrior Ashitaka and the wolf princess San is beautiful, and very real in how it unfolds. In the midst of all this conflict, these two opposites come together and form a force that is stronger than all.

Even still, Princess Mononoke is also a terrific action film. The action set pieces in this film are many, all being extremely inventive and exciting to watch. The opening battle with the possessed boar and San's attack on Iron Town are among two of the finer action sequences in the film. Of course the one that is truly the stand out battle scene is the battle between the humans and the boars. This battle is played out in a very affecting, very artistic way, and is definitely one of the more memorable sequences of the film.

This film is easily one of Miyazaki's greatest. It is far more mature than any of his other films, and that might be why it's so special to me. It's a film that is different, but relishes in it, delivering a film that is not just a good animated film, but simply a terrific film in general.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fighting the Horde!

Gears of War is one of the more awesome video game experiences of this current console generation. The fight against the Horde is epic, but yet it's also highly cinematic, so it should be no surprise that the game is being turned into a big-budget movie.

It was first announced a while back that Columbia Pictures and director Len Wiseman (Underworld) were developing the film with a script from screenwriter Chris Morgan (Wanted). Well, according to a new article from Variety, writer Billy Ray (Motorcade) has been brought in to rewrite the script.

It is good to see this project moving along. The film definitely has potential to be the ultimate guy movie, similar to something like 300. Obviously the film will be R rated, if it was anything else it wouldn't be doing the game justice.

My biggest concern is whether or not the filmmakers will be able to pull off the feel of the game without forsaking the action, or without adding a bunch of cheesy character development. The story of the game is already good enough, simply take that, excise the little details that don't add much to the story, and you have what could potentially be the first good videogame movie.

Even still, this movie is a long ways off, but it's promising.

Trailer Rush: The Wolfman

I'm always wary whenever someone decides to remake a classic film, but in this case I feel it might pay off. The Wolfman is the latest remake coming to theaters next February. The film is directed by Joe Johnston (Jumanji) and stars Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving, and Emily Blunt. It's a remake of the classic 1941 Universal monster movie starring Lon Chaney. Take a look:

This trailer was really well-done. It made me excited to see the film, which is something that many movie trailers don't manage to do. The trailer doesn't waste time in trying to set-up the story cause majority of moviegoers already know, whether they think they do or not. The cast is solid, and I have always been a fan of Joe Johnston's direction, so I believe that this could be a good, fun movie. My only fear comes in the fact that this film has been delayed twice for untold reasons, but I'm not gonna be a skeptic here cause this one looks awesome.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cyber Crimefighters!

When it comes to anime (Japanese animation) there are very few series that I feel could become good live-action films, Ghost in the Shell is one of those few.

Ghost in the Shell is a long-running anime series in Japan, spawning countless novels, manga, and animated feature length films. The story follows cyber police in the future fighting cybercrime. It's a gigantic sci-fi action/thriller, definitely a potential summer blockbuster in the making.

Back last year it was announced that Dreamworks had bought the rights to produce a live-action adaptation of the classic anime series as a potential directing vehicle for Spielberg. I found this intriguing news, but not much had been said about this film over the past year, now it's being reported that screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) has been hired to pen the script to the film.

Overall, I'm very excited for this film and hope everything comes together, because I can really see this as the next big sci-fi blockbuster. It has tons of action and is actually smart. While I would love to see Spielberg direct this film, I'm afraid that he already has too many irons in the fire to be that likely of a choice, but it is possible. Who else if Spielberg can't do it? I say Neil Blomkamp.

Blomkamp directed this past summer's District 9. Blomkamp has proven that he can not only handle science fiction and make it believable and intriguing, but he has also proven that he is a director with a unique vision. I believe Blomkamp could uphold the integrity of the original and deliver an instant science fiction classic. I know countless fanboys would shell out millions of dollars to see this one. Here's hoping.

Trailer Rush: The Men Who Stare at Goats (Trailer 2)

A new trailer for the upcoming dark comedy, The Men Who Stare at Goats, has hit the internet. The film stars George Clooney, Ewan McGreggor, Kevin Spacey, and Jeff Bridges. Take a look:

I really want to see this movie. It looks like a Coen Brothers film in terms of humor, but it's almost unfathomable that this was based upon a true story. Regardless, the film looks to pack in the laughs while also having a star-studded cast, in which all of the actors I actually like. Plus, the reviews on this film from the Toronto Film Festival were fairly positive overall. This is one to see when it hits theaters on November 6th.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Who Should Direct Bond 23?

I was one of those James Bond fans that was very disappointed with the most recent Bond film, Quantum of Solace. While I loved Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace just lacked the same punch that made Royale such a joy to watch. Of course, regardless of whether one film was a disappointment or not, the James Bond franchise is too magnificent to let it die, so it should be no surprise that a new Bond film is in development, once again starring Daniel Craig.

A recent comment from Daniel Craig reveals that cameras will begin rolling late next year for a winter 2011 release of Bond 23 (still untitled). The film will follow suit of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, being another direct sequel to those plotlines introduced within those two films, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the return of the evil organization known as Quantum. The film's script is being written by Oscar-winner Peter Morgan, alongside Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

There is already lots of speculation involving this upcoming installment. Many fans are clamoring for the origins of such classic characters like Moneypenny and Q to be revealed, but I have a different thought. Who should direct this upcoming Bond installment?

This is a question that I find to be very intriguing. If they are continuing upon the same path that they started down with the past two films, it makes the list even more slim.

Rumors are that after the last film being so dark, the producers are wanting to lighten it up a bit, let 007 have a little bit of fun. Now while I don't think that this will by any means make the film as over-the-top as some of the Pierce Brosnan films, I do expect this next Bond adventure to be the return of the trademark Bond we all know and love after finding his "Solace" in the last film. So taking this all into account, who do I think would be the perfect candidate to direct the next Bond?

Well, it would first have to be someone who knows action, and has proven that they can direct a good action sequence. Second, I want whichever director brought in to infuse his or her own style into the world and its characters, I think this is the potential key to the continued survival of this franchise.

The rumors for a while were that Danny Boyle was gonna be offered the big job, but he refuted these rumors in an interview stating that he's been down the studio route before, but didn't like it. While many want someone like David Fincher (Se7en) to take the director's chair, I find it highly unlikely. Another thought is fulfilling Steven Spielberg's life-long wish to direct a Bond film, but he has so many other projects in development it's next to impossible for him to do it. So who else is there?

I say they should hire a director who is young, but has already established themselves as a force in the film industry. A director whose name isn't instantly recognizable, but that has enough clout within the industry to garner some respect. A director who has a highly unique style, while also being able to deliver great pieces of popular entertainment. I think the directing job should be handed to Bryan Singer.

Bryan Singer has already directed many hit action films, from X-Men's 1 & 2 to Superman Returns, all of which feature terrific action sequences. He's established himself as a wonderful thriller director with works like Apt. Pupil and Valkyrie, and there is no denying the distinctive visual style of The Usual Suspects. He's the perfect candidate. He's smart, intelligent, has a great visual sense, generates good performances from his actors, and he knows how to direct a good action sequence. I think that Mr. Singer could direct an amazing Bond film, that is why I choose him.

Old School Fridays: Arsenic and Old Lace

It's that time again, time for a new edition of Old School Fridays! Halloween is just around the corner, so I thought I'd highlight a trailer that will get us in the mood.

This Friday I've decided to highlight the trailer for one of my favorite comedies of all-time, and coincidentally it works as a good Halloween film as well, since it takes place on Halloween. Check it out:

The trailer is cheesy as anything. It is interesting to see that trailers still do the same thing nowadays, playing off of the stars of the film to attract an audience, though the film also sells the film based off of Frank Capra, which most movies nowadays simply just say from the director of so-and-so and doesn't list their name.

And that does it for this Friday. Tune in next week for another special Halloween edition of Old School Fridays!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Classics: Taxi Driver

Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver is an intriguing film. The story of a New York taxi cab driver whose dislike for society drives him to madness. In a way it is the story of a psychopath, but then it turns out to be the story of a vigilante. It's safe to say Travis Bickle is one of the more complicated characters in cinema history.

Travis Bickle, the taxi driver himself, played chillingly by Robert DeNiro, is like a ticking time bomb. You're just waiting the entire film for him to snap, and when he does it is very disturbing, almost too disturbing for me. The true brilliance of the film lies within DeNiro. While I find it disturbing, you can't help but be entranced by his remarkable performance.

The film was directed by legendary director Martin Scorsese. Here, like in so many of his other works, Scorsese glorifies the violence within the film, and if I had a complaint that would be it. The violence is grotesque at times, while some of it adds to the story, I find it more artistic when the violence is merely suggested within a film rather than brutally presented. Even still, Scorsese presents the film with magnificent visuals and terrific performances from his actors.

Taxi Driver is really a unique film, it broke the mold as to what one expects out of cinema. It's still to this day a daring piece of work, one that you can't help but admire. As well, it is probably the best character study of a person driven into madness ever put to film.

I give Taxi Driver a B!

Wishing Upon A Star

Why is that we Star Wars fans are so gullible? We always want to hold out hope that George Lucas is planning something big, something that will continue the franchise in which we love so much.

Recently a big rumor appeared online that George Lucas was planning on making a new trilogy of Star Wars films, shot with the same 3-D motion capture technology utilized to make the upcoming sci-fi epic, Avatar. As well, the rumor stated that directors like Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola were already prepped and ready to direct these latest installments as opposed to Lucas. Now I'll go ahead and say that Lucasfilm has rebuked this rumor, which pretty much solidifies that it was some fan's wishful thinking.

The simple fact that the rumor stated that Lucas wouldn't be directing the latest installments, made me know from the start that this rumor was completely bogus. It was probably generated by some fan who didn't like the prequels and wants Lucas to make up for them with a new, better trilogy that he will only be involved in the same capacity that he was with the original trilogy. This is a lot of wishful thinking, it will probably never happen. As well, does anyone really think Coppola would ever direct a Star Wars film? Of course not!

I bet anything that this rumor was probably sparked by Lucas's recent comments admiring James Cameron's upcoming film, Avatar. Lucas said that he thinks it has the potential to be the next Star Wars and he gushed admiration over the technology utilized to make the film.

What this all boils down to is some fan probably taking these comments and twisting them into his own means. While I would love to see a new Star Wars trilogy, especially a Star Wars film finally made by Spielberg, it's not gonna happen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Corrupt Marketing

How often do we make up our minds on films before we even see them?

I have to admit it, I do this on occasion; I'll go as far as to say every filmgoer falls victim to this crime. We see a trailer and we automatically decide in our minds whether or not the movie will be good or bad, whether it's worth seeing, renting, or completely skipping altogether.

How can we do this? We're judging a film based off of a two-minute montage of clips from the film edited in quick succession in an attempt to sell the movie. What does this say about the film as a whole? Nothing.

Trailers are given too much precedence nowadays. Back in the day, we as moviegoers saw movies not because of an awesome trailer, but because of positive word of mouth, who directed it, or simply because the title really captured your imagination. A trailer is just a two-minute tease of the barebones of a film.

When trying to subject a two-hour story into only two-minutes, obviously much gets lost in translation. Many movies may have great heart, and at the core are terrific films, but because none of this could be conveyed in two minutes, no one went to see it; where as a trailer filled with amazing visuals and countless explosions will surely pull the audience into the theater when that film is released, and then that same audience will be disappointed because the trailer was in actuality way better than the movie itself.

I have seen my fair share of movies over the years where the marketing campaign made the movie look five times better than it actually was, case and point, Spider-man 3. Then I've also seen many marketing campaigns that were very weak and didn't even scratch the surface of what the movie was even about, and then when I finally saw the movie I was simply blown away; perfect example is a film like Hot Fuzz, saw the trailers but wasn't impressed till I heard some positive word of mouth. Then there are the other occasions where the trailer completely misrepresents the movie you're going to see, making it look like it is something other than what it actually is, even if what it is, is truly spectacular (i.e. Superman Returns). So what am I getting at here?

I believe that we as filmgoers need to be more open-minded whenever we see a new trailer. If we're going to think the entire movie is as cheesy as the trailer, then that movie will never get a chance to possibly win you over. On the other side, if you're going to equate the entire experience to that two-minute extravaganza of explosions and sound, how can the movie live up to that experience? No movie can truly be as action-packed as a two-minute trailer for an action film, where it is solely taking shots from all the major action sequences to sell the movie.

I think as time wears on we need to stop focusing on the marketing involved in movie-making, and start simply focusing on the films themselves. Isn't that what really matters?

Trailer Rush: Sherlock Holmes

A new trailer has hit online for Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey, Jr. as the famed detective. Take a look:

The more I see of this film the more I want to see it. At first I wasn't too terribly sure about the direction in which they were taking this character, but it's grown on me and now I think it might turn out to be a fun adventure film, along the lines of Indiana Jones. While I'm not the biggest fan of director Guy Ritchie, his style seems to suit this world and its characters. Here's hoping that this one manages to deliver when it's released on Christmas Day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oscar Watch: Part 4

The Oscars are drawing steadily closer, while it has still yet to be seen whether some of the years bigger films will deliver, the race for Best Animated Feature is really heating up. This edition of Oscar Watch will be devoted entirely to the field of animation.

Currently there are 15 films in contention for the animated race, which means that the Best Animated Feature category is eligible to have 5 nominees instead of 3, like in previous years. There was only one other year where this category had 5 nominees, 2003, and it was probably the most competitive year this category has ever seen since its inception, but I think this year might be able to rival it.

The obvious frontrunner in this category is Disnay-Pixar's Up. No doubt about it, Up is one of the finer films of the year thus far, and seeing as how Pixar has never lost in this category, I think it's chances are very strong. One detractor from Up's chances is whether or not Disney decides to push it for Best Picture since there are now 10 nominees, if so that could take away from the money used to campaign for the Best Animated Feature category, and Up could be upset by another film.

One film that came out of nowhere, and is now a big contender in this category, is Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. To be honest, this film wasn't even on my Oscar radar till reviews started coming out, but now it is shaping up to be a strong contender in the animated category. I believe this film has enough supporters to be a major threat.

One of my more favorite films of the year thus far was Hayao Miyazaki's latest, Ponyo. Miyazaki has already won in this category once before, and has been nominated twice, I see no reason why he shouldn't get the nomination again. My only fear is that Disney wont plunge as much money in pushing this film for contention as much as their own product. Even still, Miyazaki is considered one of the finest animators of all-time, so he is always a threat whenever in this category (and personally I hope he wins).

It was recently announced that Robert Zemeckis's A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey would compete in the animated category rather than live-action, like his previous motion capture film Beowulf. While I'm not that excited for this film, Zemeckis is popular with the Academy, so anything could happen. Another in-house Disney film is the hand-drawn musical The Princess and the Frog. Similar to the other film, this one has yet to really capture my attention, but there is no doubt that Disney will push hard for their own animators to get some recognition. (As well Disney's latest Tinkerbell movie has been submitted).

The only other three films posing a slight threat are Coraline, Monsters vs. Aliens, and 9. While I don't think the latter two really stand a chance, Coraline is definitely a critic's favorite and is artistically well-done, two things in which tend to matter greatly when competing in this field.

So that's it for the animation branch. How do I see the final list of nominations stacking up? Well, if there are 5 nominees:

The Princess and the Frog
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

If the Academy only approves 3 nominees:


That does it for this edition of Oscar Watch. Keep a look-out for the next.

An Homage: Homeward Bound

There are certain movies from your childhood that still to this day mean something to you. For me, one of those movies is the original Homeward Bound, the story of three pets who set out on a treacherous journey across the wilderness to reunite with their owners.

It was my fourth birthday, I had received many gifts. As a four year old at a birthday celebration would be, I was ecstatic. A few days later I received another gift in the mail, this one was a gift I was not expecting. It was a video cassette of a movie called Homeward Bound. I watched the movie and it quickly became one of my favorites.

I loved the character of Chance the pitbull, voiced by Michael J. Fox. Chance was hilarious, he always made me laugh how he referred to the pound as the Bad Place (still to this day that's what I call the vet whenever talking in reference to a pet). Then there was Sassy the Himalayan cat, voiced by Sally Fields (not Roseanne Bar contrary to what some might believe). I always feared for her each and every time she got caught in the river rapids and separated from the two dogs. Finally, there was the golden retriever, Shadow. There has never been a more noble and uplifting character than him in all of cinema. As a kid I always lost it whenever Shadow came over that hill at the end and said, "Peter."

As I grew older and my siblings and I got pets of our own, our liking for this film was so great that we named our dog, Shadow, and our cat, Sassy. While Sassy was never the nicest thing on Earth (we eventually had to give her away), Shadow was as loyal and noble as the Shadow from the movie. Our Shadow always had a smile on his face, at times he was more like Chance than the nobility of the old Shadow, but as he grew older be became the dog in which he was named for. I still miss that lovable dog.

I haven't seen Homeward Bound in many years; at times I have to think hard to even remember certain scenes or sequences, when as a kid I probably knew every single line of dialogue. Even still, Homeward Bound was a landmark film of my childhood, one that if I saw today I'd probably be moved in very much the same way. I hope this film never gets forgotten and future generations of children continue to discover the delight that is Homeward Bound.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What About Paul?

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, comedy gold as far as I'm concerned. They inspire true hilarity. Obviously they have great chemistry, and it's that dynamic between one another that makes them enjoyable to watch onscreen. The Dynamic Duo from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz have reteamed again for the new sci-fi/comedy, Paul, due out for release sometime next year.

Paul is the story of two comic book geeks who travel to the U.S. and run into an alien at Area 51. The alien's name is Paul, who will be voiced by comedian Seth Rogen.

While I am extremely excited to see this film, I hope that this isn't the duo's first bomb. Unlike their previous two films together, the script was written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, not by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (Wright who directed both of their previous two collaborations). This current film is being directed by Greg Mottola, who knows his comedy pretty well; while I never saw Adventureland, Superbad was actually quite funny for such a vulgar comedy. My biggest fear, or question rather, is what will this duo be like without Edgar Wright at the helm?

While I'm of the thought that the director doesn't necessarily make the actors, Wright not only directed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but he also co-wrote them with Pegg. How much of the humor in those two films was of Wright's creation? As well, how different is Nick Frost's humor and writing style from Wright's?

These are all legitimate concerns, but I actually find my own concerns to be stupid. Unlike so many comedic duos out there, both Pegg and Frost seem to be going out there and trying something a little different in tone and style, and I hope that it will pay off cause I really like these guys.

P.S. Simon Pegg's shirt in the picture is amazing.

Trailer Rush: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The trailer for Heath Ledger's last film has hit the internet. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is the latest from director Terry Gilliam, who is most well-known for his sci-fi classic Brazil. Gilliam's latest is one that the trailer can describe far better than I can. Take a look:

The film looks trippy as anything, but then again I didn't expect anything different from Gilliam. This was the movie being filmed when Heath Ledger died, he completed half of the filming for the movie and in order to finish out the movie Gilliam rewrote the script to where Ledger's character was a shapeshifter, thus allowing Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrel to all step in and finish Ledger's final performance in his honor.

I really want to see this movie, not only does it look interesting, but it is also Ledger's final screen performance. Definitely one worth a look when it hits theaters in limited release Christmas Day.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Video Games That Should Be Movies

I admit it, I'm a gamer; one of the highest rungs of nerd aside from being a Trekkie or a die-hard comic book geek (O.K., 2 out of 3 isn't that bad). While video game to film adaptations have never been, what's the right word, good, I think that's because filmmakers have never taken the right video game properties and tried to transform them into films. Today I'm going to talk about a few video game franchises that I think deserve the cinematic treatment.

First up is Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell. The game is a stealth action/thriller about a real-life secret agent. Were a Splinter Cell film made, it could be amazing, something along the lines of the Bourne films. And dare I say, George Clooney for Sam Fisher.

Another game that I think could successfully make the transition is Kingdom Hearts. This action/RPG blend of Final Fantasy with Disney actually worked quite well, and I think a stellar adventure film could be crafted from the franchise. Something like, Mickey is kidnapped by the Disney villains who wish to take over the Disney worlds via the Heartless. Sora becomes master of the keyblade and joins Donald and Goofy on a journey to save Mickey and free the various Disney worlds. If done right it could be a fantastic film. I see it being done with a mixture of live-action, motion capture, and CGI-animation. Come on Disney, your really letting a golden opportunity go to waste here.

Next is The Legend of Zelda. This is probably the least likely video game adaptation you are to ever see, but fanboys can dream. I really think that a Zelda movie is entirely possible if done as a three-hour epic like The Lord of the Rings. The story would be simple, Zelda tracks down Link, tells him he's the hero of time, and sends him six years into the future to battle Ganondorf and free Hyrule. Link might have to travel across Hyrule to reach Ganondorf's fortress, causing him to have to cross through dungeons and do battle with dangerous creatures along the way, as well as a blossoming romance with Shiek, a.k.a. Princess Zelda. Boy I got excited just spitballing ideas on this one.

Now the obvious one, Halo. Halo should be a movie because it already is a cinematic experience (in particular the first game). I mean seriously, a Halo film would be non-stop action from start to finish, and if they could tell an intriguing story in only two hours, I really think it's a possibility. They just need to let Peter Jackson and Neil Blomkamp make their Halo film that they were producing a while back.

My big out of left field choice is to make an animated Super Mario film. Now while they made the horrible live-action film in the '90s, I think it could be pulled off in a CG-animated film set in the storyline of Super Mario Galaxy. Mario jetting across planets, fighting bad guys alongside Toad and Luigi, all to save Princess Peach from Bowser. It's already got the mixings of a good adventure story, it just needs to be threaded together.

Finally, Shenmue. This game was already a movie, essentially. Light on action, heavy on story. A Shenmue film could be a fantastic martial arts film laced with intriguing mystery. Please, John Woo, do this one.

And that does it for my suggestions. Perhaps some studios will pick up on these ideas. I doubt it.

Hugh Jackman, Oscar Host, Again?

Why is it when something works in Hollywood they have to keep on running it into the ground to try and make lightning strike twice?

Last year the Oscar telecast saw a boost in ratings from previous years, and many attribute that to the wonderful hosting job that Hugh Jackman did last year. Well the latest news circulating is that the head guys over at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences want to ask Jackman to host again, two years in a row.

I think if the Academy goes through with this decision it'd be a bad idea, showing little outside the box thinking, which is the main reason why so many had given up on the Oscars in previous years because the Academy seemed to be stuck in their own little world. Last year the Academy opened the show back up a bit more, and this year by stretching the Best Picture race from 5 to 10 nominees, the Oscars are back on track, but I think they'd be taking a huge step back by asking the same host to do duties two years running.

As well the Academy has yet to lock down a producer for this year's show, yet they're already actively pursuing a host. While the rumors are that they offered Spielberg the chance to produce, he turned it down. I say first get the producers, and then lock down a host that will be able to be funny, entertaining, and wont be awkward and uncomfortable.

I still stand by my thought that Conan O'Brien would be the perfect host for the Oscars, but that's just my opinion. Come to think of it has Jay Leno ever hosted the Oscars? And what about giving Ellen DeGeneres another go at hosting? Just throwing some ideas out there.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dystopian Futures and Melancholy Anti-Heroes

Why are happy endings a rarity in science fiction? While there are some exceptions, for the most part sci-fi films like to depict the worst possible scenarios, show us the worst of humanity and its people. From films like the Alien series, to THX 1138, to the Terminator franchise, majority of sci-fi is dark, gritty, and virtually filled with unhappiness.

Perhaps this is what filmmakers think that this is what moviegoers want, I'm not sure, but is it too much to ask for to see a sci-fi film made that isn't dark, isn't depressing, and has characters in which you can care for?

I can count the number of these type of sci-fi films on one hand, and nearly half of those qualify as a blend of sci-fi and fantasy (a.k.a. Star Wars). While I am not a science fiction expert (my older brother Jonathan is), I just can't help but wonder why.

With science fiction, filmmakers have this platform to tell stories that are completely original and highly unique, why not take this platform and do it to tell stories that uplift the audience more so than depress. Look at Close Encounters of the Third Kind, pure science fiction, but told in such an uplifting manner that it feels fantastical and spiritual. Why not more films like this, or E.T. even?

I know this is simply a rant, and I do enjoy the dark and depressing sci-fi films, I just want to see more filmmakers exploring the other end of the science fiction spectrum.

Hidden Gems: Sunshine

Space, where no one can hear you scream. Wait a second, there are no aliens in this movie, just our hero Cillian Murphy pitted against a psychotic astronaut charred by the sun, alongside Danny Boyle's visually stunning direction.

Sunshine is a striking piece of science fiction. The film's story is simple, our solar system's sun is dying, and eight astronauts are sent on a mission to re-ignite the sun with an advanced atomic bomb, but it is the way in which the story plays out that is remarkable.

The film starts out as an ensemble piece, and then later on as the various astronauts begin to succumb to the dangers of their mission, we start to focus on Cappa, played wonderfully by Cillian Murphy.

Cappa is a physicist, his part in this mission is to make sure the atomic bomb is launched into the sun at the right trajectory when they reach the launch point. Course when they discover the remains of their predecessors damaged spaceship, Cappa makes the call to try and man the bomb from the other ship to have a back-up bomb to launch into the sun in case the first malfunctioned. This is where the film really kicks into overdrive, becoming a suspense/thriller as they unkowingly pick up the crazed Captain from the deserted ship, who begins to pick them off like flies, and it is up to Cappa to fulfill their mission for all of the human race.

The film was directed by Danny Boyle who manages to create a science fiction/thriller unlike any other. The wondrous images of the spaceship imposed against the impending sun are beautiful, and are simply fantastic to behold. Though the film's strength is that Boyle manages to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire film.

There are only nine characters in this entire film (ten if you include the ship's computer), and the film does not waste any time in hooking the audience. After a few scenes establishing the characters and their relationships, we see their dangerous mission go from bad to worse and astronauts start perishing left-and-right. Boyle makes us question whether or not this crew will actually succeed in their mission, and that is what makes this film such a thrill-ride. But Boyle does not overplay the suspense, he lets it unfold naturally, as if in real-time, taking a page out of Hitchcock on that one.

Sunshine is a truly marvelous film, one that is sheer wonderment and chock full of suspense.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Movie Review: Where the Wild Things Are

There aren't many films made about childhood that don't speak down to the kids in the audience, this is one of those rare films. Where the Wild Things Are is quite simply a film about childhood, told in a deeply affecting way, speaking directly to the kid in all of us instead of speaking down at us.

The film is based off of the classic children's book of the same name, following a young boy named Max, who after a fight with his mother, runs away from home to the land of the Wild Things (big furry creatures supplied by the Jim Henson Creature Shop). That's the story, plain and simple. Of course the biggest question is how well does a nine sentence book translate to a 90 minute movie? Surprisingly enough, splendidly.

While the first 20 minutes set in the real world kind of run their course a bit, the film really picks up speed once Max is crowned King of the Wild Things and the film doesn't slow down till the credits roll. Director Spike Jonze should be commended for maintaining the very essence of the book while making something that is very much his own. The film is a visual feast. Jonze has created a gritty fantasy world, one that can be both beautiful, and foreboding, but it is within the characters that this film finds its strength.

There are really only a handful of human characters in this film, the rest are the Wild Things themselves. Each Wild Thing has a distinct personality. Unlike many kids movies, the Wild Things are not caricatures of fake people, but rather they are real people deep down. The feelings, the emotions, the thoughts in which the Wild Things express, are more human than most human characters in similar children's fantasies. My personal favorite of the Wild Things is the hippy-like KW, voiced by Lauren Ambrose, but all have their moments to shine.  And if an actor could get an Oscar nomination for voice-over work, I'd campaign James Gandolfini for Best Supporting Actor as the leader of the Wild Things, Carol. Then there is Max himself, played funny enough by a kid named Max Records. Records is simply marvelous as Max. He's at that ripe age where he isn't afraid to express his emotions and he is able to carry a film on his back better than many adult actors. It is through Records that we identify with this film. The childhood arguments. Games of pretend war. Being outgrown by our older siblings. Being hurt by our parents or our friends through the lies and pettiness of childhood. It is all there in Where the Wild Things Are.

Where the Wild Things Are is simply put, a wonderful film. While I found the segments taking place in the real world a tad slow-moving, once we reach the island of the Wild Things, it shifts into high gear telling a beautiful tale laced with genuine heart.

I give Where the Wild Things Are an 8 out of 10!

Old School Fridays: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

It's that time again. Time for a new edition of Old School Fridays!

Seeing as how I reviewed this film yesterday as part of our Classics segment, as well to celebrate the release of the new children's fantasy Where the Wild Things Are, I decided to share the original theatrical trailer to my favorite children's fantasy of all-time, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Check it out:

I actually like this trailer. Aside from the cheesy narration at the beginning, the trailer peaks your interest for the film. It manages to embody everything the film is about without giving too much away. As well the trailer never fully shows you E.T., so it leaves you wondering what this alien even looks like.

Well, that does it for this Friday. Check back next week for another edition of Old School Fridays!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Classics: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

How can one describe the experience of watching E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial? There does not seem to be a word in the English dictionary that can fully describe the total experience of watching such a masterful film. It is moving, heart-wrenching, funny, optimistic, and exciting, all in one.

When one hears the simple premise of a young boy befriending an alien from outer space, they must think that this is the worst film of all-time, but that person would be wrong. E.T. is quite simply a masterpiece, one of those rare pieces of cinema that comes around only every so often. I genuinely believe this to be director Steven Spielberg's greatest film.

What Spielberg did with this film was simply magical, no other filmmaker could have made this film. E.T. is a lovable character, even though he is so ugly. Spielberg made us care for a character who in the wrong hands would have just ended up being an ugly Muppet that would terrify children, but Spielberg managed to bring E.T. to life.

Though E.T.'s true heart lies in its simplicity, through a child-like view of the world, more specifically the view of Elliot and his siblings. Henry Thomas stands out here as Elliot. He has this gleam in his eye that makes you believe that E.T. is a real creature, as if the fantastical is all possible. Thanks to the terrific performance from Thomas, and Spielberg's masterful touch, E.T. is a film wrapped in beauty and poignancy, telling the story of a lost boy from a broken home and his finding friendship.

E.T. is one of the most beautiful films of all-time. It is a film that will make even the most hardened moviegoer cry, but never tears of sadness, but tears of joy and happiness. When you come to the end of E.T., you feel as if you just got off of one of the best emotional roller coaster rides of your life, and it never changes each time you ride it. This is one of cinema's finest achievements.

I give E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial a perfect A+!