Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Classics: Bonnie and Clyde

People seem to never get tired of gangster flicks. Bank robbers, gun-totting killers, they've been the rage since the inception of the film industry, and still to this day we get gangster flicks made by the bucket load, though Bonnie and Clyde is not your usual gangster flick.

Within Bonnie and Clyde, there is something more that many other gangster films do not have. The film turns these straight-up criminals - the ultimate anti-heroes who kill, cheat, and steal to live - into loving and endearing characters that this is simply their way of life, their profession, like a person dressing up and going to work. They don't kill unless they have to for survival of their way of life, and even when they do kill, they feel remorse. Not only that, the romance between Bonnie and Clyde is believable and is actually, in my own opinion, one of the finer onscreen romances of all-time.

At the beginning of the film, Clyde comes sweeping into the small Texan town in which Bonnie lives working as a waitress, and Clyde after an attempt to steal Bonnie's mom's car, ultimately charms Bonnie with his criminal ways and convinces her to run off with him. In all actuality, this is the only part of the film in which I do not like, the whole opening sequence feeling awfully contrived, but the rest of the film really kicks off from there and doesn't stop. Bonnie grows from the small town girl into a swift and charming gangster with a heart of gold, just like Clyde. In a way them and their gang are similar to a modern day Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Sure they steal and kill, but they do it to not only survive, but is evidenced when Clyde meets a man whose house was foreclosed upon by the local bank, he proceeds to try and rob the bank.

The film is the one credited for making both Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway stars as Clyde and Bonnie respectively, and they are both deserving of credit, in particular Dunaway who kind of acts as the anchor to the whole emotional component of the film. Bonnie very often feels sadness for leaving her life with her mother behind in Texas, and it is that emotion she feels and her desire to just slow down and live a normal life with Clyde, which Dunaway conveys beautifully to the audience.

While Bonnie and Clyde may not be the finest gangster film ever made, it is one of the more unique ones ever made and is a classic through and through that is worth watching for any fan of film.

I give Bonnie and Clyde an A!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Old School Fridays: The End Is Just the Beginning

As a part of redesigning the Unicellular Review, one of those casualties is the series titled Old School Fridays, where we highlighted a different old movie trailer to a classic film each and every week. Well, as all things are, certain things come and go. I feel as if I achieved my initial mission with Old School Fridays, so now there isn't really much of anywhere to advance to. I will greatly miss doing this series, but in all honesty, there is only so many old movie trailers that are worth watching, and the gamut has kind of run dry, but I've decided to say farewell to Old School Fridays in its own signature style, highlighting some new old movie trailers that I had yet to ever show, and a few of my personal favorites from Old School Fridays' past.

Now, the time has come. Without further ado, let's kick things off with a genuine classic, Charlie Chaplin's City Lights:

Moving on, how about more recently with Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park:

Now, how about a film that to me symbolizes the Golden Age of Hollywood in all its splendor, Singin' in the Rain:

Of course, this wouldn't be doing justice if we didn't pay homage to one of the more timeless classics of all-time, The Godfather:

And last, but certainly not least, the original trailer for my favorite film of all-time, The Empire Strikes Back:

That does it for Old School Fridays! Whilst it is sad to be saying goodbye, it is also liberating, allowing us to look forward into the future and to bigger and better things. Things are only getting better here at the Unicellular Review, I promise, and thank you Old School Fridays for helping to establish the Unicellular Review for what it is.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

David Goyer to Write the Man of Steel

Hot on the heels of the announcement that director Christopher Nolan would produce and godfather a new Superman film, it already seems, according to Latino Review that screenwriter David Goyer will write the film being titled The Man of Steel.

This really isn't any big surprise to anyone, seeing as how Goyer co-wrote both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and at one time he was writing The Flash for WB, so Nolan bringing on Goyer is logistically a good move. Still, they must be careful, because Goyer is the same guy that wrote and directed Blade Trinity, and he isn't known for writing the best dialogue, but unlike many other screenwriters, Goyer has a passion for comic books and a knowledge that should translate well to screen.

What I don't buy is the reports about the supposed story to The Man of Steel. According to Latino Review the story is said to be like modern day Supes comics, stemming from the John Byrne era in the '80s, involving both Lex Luthor and Superman's other big baddie, Brainiac; it says the story deals heavily with Kryptonian mythology, and is not an origin story nor a sequel, purely picking up at a point, assuming we know everyone and how they got there. To be perfectly honest, this story just sounds like some obsessive fanboys wish as to what the story will be. While certain aspects of this might be true, too many fanboys on the internet have been clamoring for this sort of Superman film for so long, I really wont believe that this is the story till an official press release from Warners, regardless, awesome news, just hope Goyer doesn't get too dark with The Man of Steel and can maintain some levity.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oscar Watch: The Safe Bets

Less than two weeks away, the 82nd Annual Academy Awards are looming nearer and nearer, and the race is now in full swing, just about coming in to its home stretch. After this past weekends BAFTA awards, more and more things have started to come into focus about the Oscars, and while a few things are still up in the air (and no, that was not a pun) I think it's a good idea to spend a day speaking about the safe bets come March 7th.

There are a few things that are pretty much locks by now, and if a surprise came, I'd personally be so shocked I don't know what I'd do. One of the big ones that seems to have been locked in place for some time is Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Inglourious Basterds. As well, after what I thought to be a fairly shocking win at the BAFTAs this past weekend, Mo'Nique has the Best Supporting Actress race tied up for Precious. Now, while the BAFTAs were telling in some areas, I do not think that the wins of Colin Firth or Carey Mulligan in Best Actor and Best Actress really add that much to the Oscar discussion. As far as I'm concerned, Jeff Bridges should already have the Best Actor Oscar engraved and that speech ready come March 7th for Crazy Heart. Though, Best Actress is a little more dicey, and perhaps Mulligan's win may spice up the Oscars in that category.

Moving on, how about some tech awards? I do believe that Best Visual Effects has been hooked, lined, and sinkered since the first trailer for Avatar premiered, and now that the film is as big as it is, District 9 and Star Trek do not stand a chance. As for Best Original Song, T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham had better be ready to get up on stage and accept the award for "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart, cause seriously, this category this year is so one-sided, this is the only song that really gels with the Academy's tastes in this category. Of course, Best Original Score has been locked up for nearly as long as Visual Effects. Michael Giacchino will finally bring home his deserved Oscar for the score for Up, after being overlooked in this category so many times before, and even after conducting the Oscar orchestra last year, I think it's time that one of my favorite film composers win.

As for Screenplay, Original Screenplay is a toss up really at the moment, but after big wins at the Critic's Choice, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and WGA, there is no way that Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner's screenplay for Up in the Air wont win Best Adapted Screenplay come Oscar night. This is good for Reitman, especially considering the fact that Best Director has already been decided. The Academy has ignored women in the directing category for too long, with only 4 women ever being nominated. After bringing home the Critic's Choice, the BAFTA, and the DGA Award, Kathryn Bigelow will beat out her ex James Cameron for her work on The Hurt Locker. There is really no debating it, Cameron got his glory at the Globes, not to mention he has the higest grossing film of all-time, the guy shouldn't be hurting when his name isn't called on Oscar night, and seriously, I think Tarantino and Reitman are already expecting this so they'll just be happy with potential Screenplay wins, though Tarantino is locked in an intense duel with Mark Boal for The Hurt Locker.

So that's that, the only awards that I believe to be firmly locked into place. While some might claim that The Hurt Locker has essentially already won Best Picture, I still believe that this category, along with many others, is still Up in the Air (and yes, that was a pun). But that's another discussion for another time. Till next week and another edition of Oscar Watch, enjoy and relish in the anticipation for the Oscars.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Redesigning the Review

Change is just around the corner here at the Unicellular Review. I have been thinking about this for the longest of time, and I have finally devised my solution. The Unicellular Review is being restructured to be more in keeping with what it was in its initial inception. So what does this mean?

For a long time I kind of have felt I've been running two blogs, one that was more sophisticated, and the other more of a laid back op-ed seminar. This blog was originally designed to be a forum for film lovers, but it's slowly morphed into something I don't like. Very often I would post something that I really had no interest in purely to post something that day, it was a filler post with no meat, and I do not want to do that any longer. My passion has waned and I want to rekindle my passion. It is not fair to you, the readers.

From this moment forward, the Review will start transitioning and become a forum as it was in its initial inception. One big difference is posts will be less frequent, maybe only 4 or 5 times a week, but this will better allow for more quality posts that are much shorter and more succinct. One big thing that is different is I'm ending series like Trailer Rush and Old School Fridays, and when ever I come across a new movie trailer or an old one I like a great deal, I'll just post it. The only series that will remain active on the Review are the Movie/TV Reviews, Hidden Gems, The Classics, and Oscar Watch. As well I am adding a new form of review called From Book to Screen, where I read a book that has been made into a movie, then I watch the film, and after that I compare and contrast the two and decide which is better, the book or the movie. The goal is for the Review to become a Lounge where filmmakers, filmgoers, and all other film lovers can congregate and talk about film. There will be reviews, talks about movie news, and filmmakers blogging about whatever they are currently working on in no strict manner.

With this massive redesign, don't expect everything to be different all at once, but change isn't far away. I am personally excited about all this and I hope you are too. See you in the Lounge.

Hidden Gems: Amistad

Steven Spielberg's Amistad is one of those forgotten films. A film that actually details a fairly important event in American history that is typically glossed over in the history books.

The film relays the tale of the ship, La Amistad way back in the 1830s. While on its journey towards the Americas, the ship, which was carrying countless illegal slaves (because the slave trade had already been disbanded), was the site of a bloody slave revolt. Of course, the United States could not let this insurrection pass and they hold a full on trial to decide the fate of the slaves, and all that is there to defend the slaves is one abolitionist's determination and a young real estate lawyer who team together to try and free the slaves.

The film is a solid entry into Spielberg's filmography; while it lacks the gut punch of some of his more popular works, it still is a beautifully told story with marvelous performances. Anthony Hopkins shines as John Quincy Adams, Morgan Freeman is his usual charming self as the abolitonist fighting for the slaves, but Matthew McConaughey surprisingly delivers as the real estate lawyer defending the slaves, and Djimon Honsou is spectacular as Cinque, the inadvertent leader of the slave insurrection. These four performances form the foundation for this film, and without any one of these actors, I don't think the film would have been the same.

Now, Amistad is a far more political film than say Schindler's List, though it is less graphic, so it makes up where it lacks. Amistad is more interested in the legal proceedings of the slaves rather than showing more about how the slaves were rounded up and shackled upon ships. The few scenes we get though of their tragic journey across the Atlantic is heartwrenching to watch, but ultimately adds that extra layer that is needed in order for you to actually feel anything when injustice is slapped against these innocent slaves who just want to return to their homes in Africa. The courtroom scenes are all handled with fine precision, and it is here that the core of the film lies.

Spielberg has not really made a film about slavery, but more about the justice system in the United States at this period. Now, take from that what you will, but I was satisfied as to how the legal proceedings played out and I think it makes it different than just about any other film on the subject of slavery. What is evident here in Amistad though is Spielberg's usual energy and charm, and that is what takes it that final step. No one can manipulate the emotions or tug on the heartstrings quite like Spielberg, he is a pupeteer, and a master at that. He does not overplay the emotional scenes. He creates an ethereal beauty that ensnares you within and when Cinque learns how to say, "Set us free," in English, it is the stand-out moment of the film that would not have been the same had it been done by any other director.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Predicting the BAFTA Film Awards

Update: Well, on the upside this was my first time predicting the BAFTAs, so inevitably I wasn't going to be that solid, next year will be much better. This year I went 11/23, better than I thought I would do, to be honest. I was a touch shocked at how strong the support for The Hurt Locker actually was, it bringing home Best Film, Director, and Original Screenplay, along with Best Sound, Cinematography, and Editing.

In some cases I overestimated the support for local product like An Education in the top category, but in others I didn't give thought to the British Academy honoring one of their own, like their giving Colin Firth Best Actor for A Single Man. I did quite enjoy Carey Mulligan finally getting her due and winning Best Actress for An Education. Of course, Avatar was really kind of beat with the ugly stick tonight, only bringing home a pair of awards for Visual Effects and Production Design, which if tonight was any indication, The Hurt Locker is a safer Best Picture bet at the Oscars than Avatar.

So there we have it, my first time predicting the BAFTAs, but I have a feeling, as poorly as I did this year the only way I can really go is Up, which by the way won for Best Animated Feature and Music (and yes, I know that was an awfully cheesy segue, mainly because I couldn't find a good place to fit it in above).

Original Post: The BAFTAs are the British equivalent of the Academy Awards. It stands for the British Academy of Film and Televisions Arts, a mouthful. In the past the BAFTAs have been accused of just merely trying to predict Oscar, essentially being another precursor to the Academy Awards like the Golden Globes, though occasionally a British film will surprise and actually win the highest honor. Personally, I don't get why this is considered a British awards show since they have to have a special category called Best British Film in order to award their country's own product because Best Film is generally populated by American films, which is no different this year with the likes of Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, and Precious being nominated. The only British film up for Best Film is An Education, and I think that this film will have the strongest showing at the show tonight.

I'm actually extremely excited about tonight. This is my first year predicting the BAFTAs because in previous years past I hadn't been able to watch it so I didn't bother, but this year my cable package now includes BBC America and I'm gonna be watching and I can't wait. So this is my first real stab at trying to guess the winners, so I might get 'em all horribly wrong. Here it goes:

Best Film - An Education
Best British Film - An Education
Best Director - Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Best Actor - Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Best Actress - Carey Mulligan, An Education
Best Supporting Actor - Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress - Mo'Nique, Precious
Best Original Screenplay - Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Best Adapted Screenplay - Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche, In the Loop
Best Cinematography - Inglourious Basterds
Best Editing - Avatar
Best Costume Design - Coco Before Chanel
Best Production Design - Avatar
Best Make-up/Hair - Nine
Best Sound - Avatar
Best Visual Effects -Avatar
Best Film Music - Michael Giacchino, Up
Best Non-English Language Film - The White Ribbon
Best Animated Feature Film - Up
Best Short Animation - The Happy Duckling
Best Short Film - I Do Air
Orange Rising Star Award - Carey Mulligan
Most Promising Newcomer - Duncan Jones, Moon (Director)

Alright those are my predictions. Tune into the BAFTAs at 7 o'clock tonight on BBC America, and after the show I'll be back to see how well I did. Till then!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Top 5: Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese is often considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time, and that claim is not unwarranted. He has made some of the most memorable classics to ever grace the silver screen. With the recent release of his latest film, Shutter Island, I've decided to count down my list of my five favorite Scorsese films of all-time. Perhaps this list wont jive with your personal tastes, but these five films listed below are when I think the director was at his best and most daring. So no point in all of this build up and suspense, here's the list:

5. Mean Streets - The film that catapulted Scorsese into the spotlight of the film industry. The film features a fine performance from a young Harvey Keitel and marked the first collaboration between Scorsese and Robert DeNiro. All are in top form here, and Mean Streets has lots in common with Scorsese's other memoirs to New York, but this film feels more personal, and it really feels as if more passion is infused within this film than say Taxi Driver. I didn't fully appreciate it upon first viewing it when I was 14, but looking back now, I am amazed at the mastery.

4. Gangs of New York - Some complain that this film is more of a mixed bag than anything else, and it is not Leo's best performance, but how can you not love Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher. Gangs of New York is a genuine gangster flick, kind of being an homage to the Western while being its own entity. I don't know if I've ever seen a movie that is quite like this one, it is one of those films that breaks down genre and just is what is, and if you can accept that, you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

3. Raging Bull - It's a cruel injustice to call this film a sports movie. In all honesty, I'm not a huge fan of biopics, the straightforward telling of one man's life, and I'm not gonna lie this kind of greatest hits compilation of the life of boxer Jake LaMotta is kind of like that, but it is DeNiro's powerhouse performance and Scorsese's beautifully realized fights within the ring that make this film a stand out in Scorsese's filmography. Not to mention it is his and DeNiro's finest collaboration.

2. The Departed - To me, this film has just about everything a Scorsese fan could desire from his works. It's kind of like a melting pot, and he took a little bit of every film he'd ever made and tossed it into a cauldron and distilled it to this fine, burning molten liquid. The film is a scorching modern day gangster story about the Boston mafia, featuring Jack Nicholson in top Nicholson form (no other way to describe it), rounded out by a dream cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen. How can one not love this movie? Not to mention it is probably one of Scorsese's more entertaining achievements.

1. The Age of Innocence - My personal favorite Scorsese film for a great many reasons. This adaptation of an Edith Warton novel, set in the late 1800s of upper crust New York City society, was so out of character for the director that it stands out from the rest of his filmography. The film tells the tale of Newland Archer who is engaged to be married, but he falls in love with his fiance's free-thinking cousin and what erupts is a tale of silent love in this buttoned up society. Scorsese's first PG rated film, no f'bombs or gratuitous violence, for once you can actually just enjoy his mastery behind the camera without it being marred by disturbing imagery. Not to mention, the film features fine performances from Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer, and being Scorsese's only real attempt at an authentic love story, it actually pays off and is a very touching, and heart-wrenching film.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Movie Review: Shutter Island

Director Martin Scorsese weaves a tale that I can't quite place words upon. Shutter Island is part drama, part thriller, part horror. It is a touch film noir, while also being a pinch trippy. Regardless as to what it truly is, the mystery of Shutter Island is one worth seeing, but perhaps not the director's best in his long pantheon of work.

On an island off the coast of Boston, engulfed in the fog and on the rim of a hurricane, there lies a mental hospital called Aschliffe. The hospital only takes the most dangerous, most mentally unstable patients. A patient has recently escaped, and no one can explain her mysterious disappearance. Two U.S. Marshalls come to the island, our hero Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner. But is there more going on upon the mysterious Shutter Island than meets the eye? That is what Teddy is trying to find out, while also searching for his wife's killer, who is an inmate in the institution.

This film is what one would call a mindbender, and for that Scorsese should be duly applauded. While I figured out the big twist at the end about halfway through the film, I was severely impressed at how well Scorsese painted a portrait of insanity in this film. To call this film crazy would actually be a compliment and not a detriment to its storytelling abilities. It is an insane film, making you feel as if you ventured inside a crazy man's head for 2 hours. Dream sequences, hallucinations of the ghosts of his past, Teddy is our guide through this look at sanity and its breaking point, and it is there that the film is the most stunning.

The dream sequences highlight Teddy's past, his traumatic history. The death of his wife, his time serving in World War II where he came across a graveyard of dead bodies in a Nazi concentration camp. A man with such a tragic past, it is very easy to see how he eventually snapped. Though, it is with these dream sequences that Scorsese evokes his adoration for film noir. Teddy is the quintessential film noir protagonist. He's a troubled man, haunted by his past, and he is madly in love with the elusive woman he can't have. DiCaprio is stunning as Teddy, delivering a timeless performance that at times is reminiscent of Bogart or Cagney, but he always remains true DiCaprio and makes the emotional scenes between Teddy and his deceased wife all the more believable and heartbreaking.

Martin Scorsese instituted his trademark visual flare here with the marvelous dream sequences and well done flashbacks, but as a whole the film lacked that special something to make this one of Scorsese's best. The film starts off riveting, dripping with suspense, and oozing with mystery. The latter half of the film is not as strong as the first, and it is debatable as to whether or not the ending was the right one for the film, because it kind of feels as if the story kind of just comes untied and feels incomplete rather than satisfying. Regardless, the film is a visual feast and is a cinephile's dream, and don't get me wrong, the film is entertaining and mindbending, but it does not manage to live up to the suspense, nor the mystery set up at the beginning of the film.

I give Shutter Island a B!

Old School Fridays: Mean Streets

"Four Honorable Men... And Johnny Boy!" This week's edition of Old School Fridays is in honor of the release of director Martin Scorsese's latest film, Shutter Island, and what better way to christen Scorsese's latest than to take a look way back at his first genuine film, Mean Streets. The film starring Harvey Keitel and Robert DeNiro skyrocketed Scorsese into the spotlight and now he is considered one of cinema's greatest, so sit back, relax, and enjoy this nostalgic look back, with horrendous voice-overs and all. Not to mention the fact that the trailer tells you nothing about the movie except, "Four Honorable Men... And Johnny Boy," but who cares. Take a look:

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

Thursday, February 18, 2010

DC on Film

DC Comics vs. Marvel Comics, since when did it become a battle? So many comic book nerds tend to either label themselves as a DC fan or a Marvel fan, most tend to take an interest in only one and stick to their guns defending it to death. I happen to be a rare hybrid of the two. I actually like DC and Marvel equally.

While at the end of the day, Marvel is more hipster in its aesthetic, DC is all about the classic superhero motra and what one thinks when they hear of superheroes. Now, obviously Marvel has gotten it together recently in regards to their film franchises, pumping out high quality product like Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, and that is just the tip of the iceberg with a reboot of Spider-man on the way, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers all getting the big screen treatment within the next three years. Now, let's take a look at DC's slate for the next three years as well. At the least there's gonna be a Batman 3 and a Green Lantern, alongside few lower tier DC Comics properties, like Jonah Hex.

When it comes to the battle of the cinema, Marvel wins by a landslide. Sure, DC has the highest grossing comic book film of all-time with The Dark Knight, but Marvel is currently winning the war. But with recent announcements involving Christopher Nolan's involvement with the Superman franchise and DC forming DC Entertainment with parent company Warner Bros., it's clear that DC is wanting to get in on the Marvel game, but is it possible, and what are the things that could keep DC from reaching Marvel's success, and what are the keys to unlocking the secrets that will enable DC to usurp Marvel as the movie king?

DC seems to be trying too hard at the moment to mimic Marvel's success, and my biggest fear is that in their attempts in competition they will rush out lackluster product that is not worthy of the DC Comics logo. DC has not had the best track record when it comes to their film adaptations. It took them almost two whole decades, millions upon millions of dollars on countless actors and directors, to finally get Superman Returns made, and guess what, the film came nowhere close to turning a profit because of that.

The one good thing about DC and WB, they do know when to slow down and call it quits if something isn't coming together, like the horrendous Superman Lives written by Kevin Smith, directed by Tim Burton, and starring Nic Cage as Superman, or the even worse Justice League film (think G.I. Joe in terms of style and you'll see what I mean) that was scheduled to happen up until the writer's strike and it fell apart, thank goodness. Even still, even if DC and WB managed to avoid disaster, they still thought at one time that something like Superman Lives or Justice League was a good idea, so what to expect from their future in the cinematic arena?

Though DC does have a few irons in the fire that have some real potential to challenge the best of Marvel. Obviously a potential Chris Nolan directed follow-up to The Dark Knight is high on many filmgoers list of most anticipated films over the next 2 or so years, but also one must not forget that DC and WB are also making a Green Lantern film about the intergalactic superhero, starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale). The simple fact that WB has decided to do a more faithful interpretation of the Green Lantern character as opposed to their initial idea of turning it into a comedy starring Jack Black, is very much appreciated from a fan such as myself, but in all honesty, I've always believed that Green Lantern was the perfect cinematic superhero. Not only does majority of the story take place against the backdrop of space, but Green Lantern's power ring can pretty much create anything that its wearer can imagine, so you can only imagine the awesome cinematic possibilities for the film. While I'm still not psyched about the casting of Ryan Reynolds, they have a highly talented action director so perhaps this could be DC's Iron Man and really jump start a line of DC related films.

Over the years DC has also had a great many film properties that just couldn't get off the ground, like Wonder Woman and The Flash, which just seem as if they're lost in the obscurity of countless script revisions and rewrites, though ever since Marvel started their whole initiative of trying to create a unified world with all of their films and ultimately tie them together with The Avengers, many had been wondering when DC would try and pave the way as well leading to a faithful, and justified, Justice League film.

With the recent announcement that helmer of the Batman franchise, Chris Nolan, would play godfather for the latest installment in the Superman franchise, clearly WB and DC are hoping that he can not only reboot Superman in the same way in which he did with Batman Begins, but also I believe it is their intent for him to find some way to tie the two universes of Batman and Superman together to where it is how Nolan sees fit. A few years back when DC and WB were trying to make a Justice League film that had no connection to Nolan's Batman films, Nolan raised some cane about the whole situation, saying that his Batman was not ready to join the Justice League, and I believe that this is WB and DC's way to appease Nolan's wishes that they don't create two parallel film universes at the same time of the same characters, and it will satisfy the studios desire to eventually see a Justice League film. But in a way, it's also WB and DC saying, well Chris, you didn't want us to do that Justice League film, so tell us how we should do it.

Now, I for one love Christopher Nolan and his vision for Batman is perfect, and I believe he is probably the finest filmmaker currently working in the industry, but I don't think he should really be involved within the world of Superman. The last thing Superman needs to be is realistic. The appeal of Superman, to those of us who adore him and call him our favorite of all superheroes, is that he is a big blue boy scout, the ultimate goodie-good if you will. Superman always does the right thing, and sure it is pretty darn convenient that every villain has access to some kryptonite, even though it is supposedly rare, but I mean, seriously, don't dock off points for that. Not to mention, Batman is about realism, he is the world's greatest detective, he could plausibly exist in the real world, but with Superman, he is fantasy. I want to believe that a man can fly, much like I did when I first saw Superman: The Movie with Christopher Reeve. Nothing ticks me off more with modern fantasy or sci-fi than the filmmakers feeling a need to over explain every aspect of the fantastical to where the world is no longer awe-inspiring and it's just kind of like, oh, the Force is derived from these tiny microscopic cells called midichlorians, that's why they can manipulate time and space, it's not really magic. Okay, but enough of this rant, back on track.

While I applaud WB and DC for trying to get all of their ducks in a row, I'm afraid that they're being too hasty and rushing the process, such as hiring Chris Nolan to spearhead a Superman reboot. Now they definitely have some good things going, such as Batman 3 and Green Lantern, but that still isn't enough to put a ding in Iron Man's armor or Captain America's shield. Hopefully if Green Lantern succeeds, DC and WB will start to focus more so once more on The Flash and Wonder Woman, and perhaps if Nolan pulls off interconnecting the worlds of Batman and Superman, a Justice League film might be a warranted reality in the near future, much like The Avengers, but at the moment I feel DC and WB are walking on thin ice and must be careful not to make a crack or else they'll go plummeting into the icy cold waters below.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Production Diaries: Color Corrected

It is days like this that I despise being color deficient. It's time for color correction on my latest film, Lost & Found, and trust me, it is a pain. The ultimate goal is to submit this film to festivals when it is all said and done. My satisfaction level on it at the current stage is about an 80%, which is way better than any other film I've done thus far, and I believe once the film is color corrected and I have the music put to it, I could be dangerously close to a 90% satisfaction rating (don't know if it will ever get any higher, but maybe).

Regardless, there is still a long road ahead. Once I have the film color corrected, then I'm taking it over to my composer and he'll compose music for the film and then time to mix the audio, make any final touch-ups, and the film is done. Not to mention, I have the constant distraction of the film I'm making for my film class, titled Heaven's Touch.

Currently, we're location scouting for that film, possibly going to shoot at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens for a few scenes, which should be extremely cool. As well, we're gonna attempt to do some green screen work for one scene which is supposed to take place in outer space! I'm actually real excited about this film. It's from a screenplay that me and my producer wrote and I'm directing. We have a spectacular crew assembled, with a marvelous DP, and some good set hands to keep things flowing smoothly once cameras start rolling, but even still, since it is a class, I'm very preoccupied at the moment having to do storyboards and scouting for locations that it's eating up my time from working on Lost & Found.

When I have time to work on it, I'm so drained of energy I don't want to do anything else. It has been a slow and methodical post-production process on the film and I'm at the moment trying to speed it up and have the film finished and submitted to festivals by the end of March, but I just have to stop being lazy, fight the fatigue, and work on it even when I am tired. Easy to say, right now is a busy time for me as a filmmaker, so keep checking back on the blog for updates on both of these projects in development.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oscar Watch: Insurmountable Odds, David vs. Goliath

It's a heavyweight clash! In this corner, we have Avatar with 9 nominations. James Cameron's box office behemoth, rumored to have been the most expensive film ever made, and when not adjusting for inflation, is also the highest grossing. Then in the other corner, there is The Hurt Locker, weighing in at a scant $12 million in total gross, but has the precursor awards and 9 Academy nominations to prove its mettle. Not to mention a Kathryn Bigelow directing Oscar that is nearly in the bag. There it is, David vs. Goliath, the Battle of the Exes, if you wanna be cliche' and put all the same labels on it as pretty much every other Oscar pundit.

In last week's edition of Oscar Watch, I talked about the potential for surprise come Oscar night, but today I'm gonna talk about two sure things when it comes to time for the Academy to announce the winners, the overall haul between Avatar and The Hurt Locker. Seriously, whether or not you believe that there are some potential upsets coming March 7th, at the end of the day both of these films will bring home a lot of gold, and I think it's safe to say that they will both most likely rack up the most amount of trophies of any other film nominated. So what this post is about today is whether or not The Hurt Locker has enough support to vault over Avatar and be the big winner, or whether Avatar can muster up the steam and keep Kathryn Bigelow's war drama at bay.

If you had told me, even just a few months ago, that the race toward the Oscars would essentially be Avatar vs. The Hurt Locker, I would have laughed in your face and said that it was wishful thinking. Back then, Precious was the frontrunner to bring home the gold and Up in the Air was its heavyweight competitor, and oh how much can change in just a matter of 7-8 weeks. To be honest, Avatar has really only received all of the accolades it has because it has made so much money and is groundbreaking in the art of motion capture technology. Where as The Hurt Lokcer is comparable to last year's Slumdog Millionaire. It's a film that was made for about $10 million, with established actors that no one really knows who they are, and its ascent to the top of the award's circuit was really just the perfect storm of virtuoso storytelling, critic approval, and industry adoration.

While many want to look at this race as the Battle of the Exes, between formerly married couple, directors James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, at the end of the day, Bigelow will win the clash for Best Director, so that news story has little clout. Now when it comes to the Tech Categories, while The Hurt Locker could pull off the upsets over Avatar in Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing, Avatar will still most likely bring home Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction, and The Hurt Locker is a potential threat in Best Original Score and Best Original Screenplay, where as Avatar is not in neither so no point in talking about those. Two of the real battles between these heavyweights will be for the awards of Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing.

So I despise the fact that Avatar is considered the frontrunner for Best Cinematography. It was all done in a computer for the most part, none of it was really done on location. They had controlled lighting and could pretty much create an image anyway they saw fit, where as with something like The Hurt Locker, it was gritty, down to Earth, oozing with documentary-styled realism, the kind of realism that is tough to capture on film and I could see more cinematographers in the Academy honoring over Avatar. Of course, Film Editing is a little more tight, but at the end of the day, if The Hurt Locker is really as well loved by the industry as I believe it is, I think it will steal Avatar's thunder here as well. Of course, what about Best Picture, where these two films will really get to duke it out?

What it's all going to boil down to is if this new preferential voting system will swing the vote in favor of the more mainstream, or if The Hurt Locker has been seen by enough in the Academy to generate enough love for it to get enough number's 1, 2, and 3 votes to claim the top prize. I really do not believe that The Hurt Locker has been seen by all in the Academy. With a gross of only $12 million, only a select few have actually seen the film, and seeing as how the Academy is so large, it's entirely possible that the small handful who have seen The Hurt Locker wont be enough to give it the win. This is where Avatar could steal The Hurt Lokcer's ultimate glory.

Being as big as it is, just about everyone in Hollywood has seen Avatar, and so now it is all just a matter as to whether they want to stroke James Cameron's ego and give him some good number 2 and 3 votes, or out of pure frustration with the guy will they go lower on the scale to like 9 or 1o votes and give the mainstream vote to something like Up or Up in the Air.

I personally believe that The Hurt Locker will not win come Oscar night, but neither do I think that there is enough industry approval for Avatar to win the top prize either, but for full details check out last week's edition of Oscar Watch titled "Potential for Surprise".

At the current moment the only way I see The Hurt Locker winning March 7th, is if a bunch of folks in the Academy just vote on auto-pilot. These guys haven't really seen any of the films nominated, so they just mimic what they think others expect them to vote for, thus The Hurt Locker could have a shot. I will say The Hurt Locker winning is more likely, because honestly, I cannot imagine hearing Avatar's name being called out on Oscar night.

That does it for this edition of Oscar Watch! Come back next week as we take a more in-depth look at this craziest of Oscar races as we are now entering the home stretch.

Monday, February 15, 2010

President's Day Honors

President's Day, one of those countless national holidays that many of us Americans tend to overlook. Seriously, it seems as if there is some sort of national holiday at least every other week, but anyways. The Presidency of the United States has typically played a fairly big role in the world of film. Often being fictionalized to great aplum, whether it be a disaster flick, a comedy, or a straight-up drama, one thing is certain, people love to see movies made about the President of the United States.

Now, while there have been a great many movies that have told biopics about former United States' Presidents, I always tend to enjoy the fictional President a touch more. They're idealized to the letter of the American dream, and I believe that is why we flock to see a good President up there on the silver screen who is not corrupt and if existed in reality would have almost perfect approval ratings when faced with imminent destruction or turmoil. Here are my picks for the Top 3 Movie Presidents of All-Time, the ones that made the greatest lasting impact upon me.

3. The President played by E.G. Marshall in Superman II
I hope that if an obsessed Kryptonian general named Zod came down to Earth and tried to rule, I really do hope that the President would act much like E.G. Marshall did when confronted with the tyrannical Zod. He went toe-to-toe with the general, unafraid, kneeling before Zod to spare the lives of the innocent. A true-blue American movie President if there ever has been. Though, it is laugh worthy that he is simply credited as The President. Seeing as how I can't find a good clip of The President, this clip of my favorite line in the film will have to do.

2. President Thomas J. Whitmore played by Bill Pullman in Independence Day
Bill Pullman was the President with enough gall to realize his limits and decided to join in the final battle against the aliens rather than hiding in the bunker. He piloted his aircraft alongside the rest of the fighter pilots, gunning down aliens. When threatened, Bill Pullman came through and he made those aliens realize that they should not have messed with the United States of America. That is a real American President. Plus, he gives probably the best presidential speech in history, and it's just a bunch of words some screenwriters wrote. To think politicians waste so much money on overpaid speech writers.

1. President James Marshall played by Harrison Ford in Air Force One
Really, did anyone think this wouldn't be number one? Harrison Ford was the most awesome President ever. He was fearless and not afraid to get his hands dirty to get the job done. He's a marvelous speech maker, and not to mention he beats Gary Oldman to a pulp and then... Well, you just have to see it to believe.

Hooray, for Harrison Ford!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Trailer Rush: Toy Story 3 (Trailer 2)

Lots of trailers recently, and it just gets more and more stuffed. A few days back the latest trailer for Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 3 hit the net, and I've been so slammed with other things that I'm finally getting around to posting my thoughts. But before that, check out the trailer:

I just can't get all that excited for this film. I'm a big fan of the first two Toy Story films, but this one just seems to be lacking the magic. I don't think I have genuinely laughed once at any of the footage I have seen for the film thus far, and that is very telling for a film that is primarily a comedy. Perhaps I wouldn't be so critical if this wasn't Pixar and if it wasn't a sequel to two of the finer animated classics ever made, but it is, and it has to live up to its predecessors, and if it can't, I'm afraid many will see this as a misfire (which with the exception of Cars, Pixar has never had). I'm still hoping Toy Story 3 will deliver, but I guess we wont really know till it hits theaters this June.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Unsung Heroes of Film

When speaking of the Golden Age of Hollywood, there are only a small handful of Golden Age
directors that are still talked about as some of the greats of all-time. Howard Hawks, John Ford, Frank Capra, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles. Almost everyone who has ever watched a film knows those names. They are those filmmakers that made an impact and are still in mention today as major influences on film. But of an entire generation of filmmakers, you can't tell me that there weren't other directors from that period who were equally as innovative and have made a lasting impact upon film?

These unsung heroes of film, as I call them, are just that. All five are directors, all five have made classic films, and all five have never fully been given their due for all of their talent and impact that they had on the film industry. But no longer must they fly under the radar. I've been gestating this post for some time, and I have finally found the five Golden Age directors that I think deserve their time in the spotlight. So to release the suspense, let's get a move on:

* Carol Reed - The Oscar-winning director of such classics as The Third Man and Oliver! Nominated three times with one win, he was known for infusing his British sensibilities within his works. Like British food, his films are usually straightforward, with very few fantastical frills and whistles, but only a man such as that could successfully transform a Charles Dickens classic about an orphaned waif and make it a song-and-dance musical that became a bona fide classic.

* Victor Fleming - Winning an Oscar for Gone With The Wind, he was essentially the studio's Mr. Fix-It director in the Golden Age. If you look at the credits of many of his films, he was not the only director. Fleming was usually brought in to replace another director and fix the problems with a film to where it is audience ready. To be able to have the vision to take something someone else shot, and mimic it to shoot the other 90% of the story is astounding. Aside from Gone With The Wind he directed The Wizard of Oz and a great many other adventure classics.

* Michael Curtiz - This filmmaker racked up four Oscar nominations in his career with a resultant win on one of the occasions. His mastery of the camera was astounding. When I watch his films I feel as if I'm watching a Spielberg or Scorsese film, they're so masterfully shot, full with movement. Not only that, he gave us films like: Captains of the Clouds, Yankee Doodle Dandy, a great many other war propaganda films, and the genuine classic, Casablanca. Need I say more.

* Elia Kazan - A five time Oscar nominee and two time winner finds his remembrance through his collaborations with a young Marlon Brando. Directing such classics like On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire, he obviously knew talent when he saw it. A marvelous actor's director, often challenging actors to travel out of their comfort zone, as is noticed in his film A Face in the Crowd where good ol' Andy Griffith just plays a straight up unlikable dude. Few directors nowadays would take a gamble like that.

* William Wyler - The most nominated director in Oscar history, and people often don't even know who he is. With twelve nominations and three wins, he is a real, Golden Age filmmaker. He did it all, and so brilliantly I might add. He handled drama in The Best Years of Our Lives. Romance in Roman Holiday. And he knew a thing or two as well about epics, directing Ben-Hur. A marvelous filmmaker if there ever has been, who made the chariot race to beat all chariot races.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Movie Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians-The Lightning Thief

I've never been a big fan of Greek mythology, so based upon that criteria I've never been a big fan of movies about the subject. Though I have grown to be pretty fond of the book series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I was astounded at how well Greek mythology was interwoven into the modern day culture as author Rick Riordan told a rip-roaring adventure tale, filled with humor, mystery, and tons of action. Like all things successful, Hollywood likes to get in the game, so it's no surprise that a film has been made of the first of the Percy Jackson books, The Lightning Thief. The film, Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightning Thief, seems to have lost something in the translation, winding up as a film that really only shares the name of the book and nothing else.

The story of the film follows teen Percy Jackson, who has absent father syndrome. He has never known his biological father and harnesses deep bitterness toward the man who forced him and his mom to live with his demeaning stepfather, Gabe. Then, one day Percy's substitute teacher, Ms. Dodds, transforms into a gigantic winged beast and attacks him whilst on a field trip, to be saved by his best friend and silent guardian, Grover (who turns out to be half human-half goat), and his teacher, Mr. Brunner (who is really hero trainer and centaur, Chiron from Greek mythology). Percy learns that he is a demigod (half human-half God), and that his father is Poseidon, God of the Sea. But trouble is afoot for Percy, because Zeus's lightning bolt has been stolen and Percy is the prime suspect in the midst of a feud between brothers existing long before he was born. Now Percy must prove his innocence if he wishes to keep the world from being engulfed in an all out war between the Gods.

This film just seemed to lack any of the charm that can be found within the book. Screenwriter Craig Titley, did not have a very good handle on these characters. Percy was the smartest of his ring of friends, and not his super smart friend, Annabeth (who happens to be daughter of Athena, God of Wisdom, is there anything wrong with her being portrayed as witless and stupid?). Now, I never consider myself a book purist, I understand things must be amended in order for the book to work as a film, but this adaptation was just all over the place. They changed and cut things that should have been left in, I mean, they cut out the main villain of the entire series in this film, Kronos. Without Kronos in this first film, how can they possibly hope to make any sequels and have them make even a lick of sense?

Director Chris Columbus was the man who brought the first two Harry Potter films to the screen, he knows how to create pure movie magic, but something just wasn't clicking with this film. The film flew at a breakneck pace, never taking any time to breath and let you drink in this fantastic world. Like when Percy believes that his mother has died, he's told his mother's dead, then two seconds later he's up on his feet with a smile on his face. Not to mention, the film dispersed major plot points as if they were just reading statistics off of a teleprompter, making me wonder if someone who hasn't read the book will even be able to follow this movie, or if they will even care when it's all said and done.

As it is, I will not lie and say I didn't enjoy it when Percy and his friends battled the Hydra, or when they got trapped in this hotel & casino in Las Vegas that drugs you with sweet Lotus flowers to where you never want to leave, but these few moments were not enough to redeem this film. Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightning Thief, is a mind-numbingly raw experience from start to finish.

I give Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightning Thief an F!

Trailer Rush: The Secret of Kells

One of the big surprises of last week's announcement of Oscar nominations, was the surprise inclusion of the animated film in Best Animated Feature, The Secret of Kells, an Irish film about Irish folklore.

The film beat out critical favorites like Ponyo and Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs to get the nom, and I was blown away when I first heard of the announcement; not only that, I had no clue what the film was, so I was doubly intrigued, learning that the film had only played in theaters for one week in L.A., but that was enough to qualify the film for the Oscars. Well, the film will hit theaters on a larger scale March 6th, so obviously the Oscar nomination has managed to allow it reach a higher profile, and after seeing the trailer that might be a good thing. While Up has Best Animated Feature in the bag, it allows smaller films like this to get into the public eye and actually be seen. Check out the trailer below:

I've gotta say, I dig the animation, and I don't think the story looks too shabby either, kind of channeling the best of Disney and Miyazaki in style. I am extremely curious to see this film. I hope it comes to a theater near here.

Old School Fridays: Raiders of the Lost Ark

That time has rolled around again, time for a new edition of Old School Fridays! This week we're taking a look at the original theatrical trailer for the first Indiana Jones adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Check it out:

This trailer captures the spirit of the movie perfectly. It is not cheesy or over-the-top, it accentuates what is great about the movie and if I saw this trailer nowadays, I'd probably be curious and wanna check this movie out. Of course I already love this movie, so it makes me a touch bias in that department.

That does it for this Friday, tune in next week for a new edition of Old School Fridays!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

From Book to Screen, Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Hollywood is always in a rush to find the next big thing. The studios, rather than placing their bets on original properties, would rather take a comic book, book, or video game franchise with a rabid following and transform that into a movie. Ever since stuff like Harry Potter and the X-Men hit the screens over ten years ago, this has been the trend in Hollywood, and now the studios might have found their next Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

The first of the Percy Jackson books, The Lightning Thief has been made into a film and is set to be released in theaters tomorrow. The story has many similarities with Harry Potter, which is probably why the studio behind the film, 20th Century Fox, is so eager to see it succeed. Not to mention, Chris Columbus, the director of the first two Harry Potter films directed this first installment of the five-part Percy Jackson series, so obviously the studios aren't very coy about their hopes for this franchise.

The story follows a teen boy named Percy Jackson who discovers in our modern 21st century world that he is the half-god, half-human son of Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the sea. By being Poseidon's son Percy has the power to manipulate water, not only that, Percy is taken to a summer camp for fellow half-bloods, where these heroes in training all hone their sword-fighting and archery skills, to become this generations mythological heroes like Hercules and Jason from Jason and the Argonauts. But when Percy is accused of stealing Zeus's lightning bolt, Percy must go on a mission to the Underworld to prove his innocence and rescue his human mother from Hades. Joining Percy's side are his best friends, get this, a geeky kid named Grover (who is a satyr), and a really smart and plucky girl named Annabeth. Sounds like Harry, Ron, and Hermione, but I let that pass.

So far I've only read the first two books in the five-part series, but I love these characters and their world. It's like X-Men meets Greek mythology and Harry Potter. While the world of Percy Jackson is not as rich or as thought-provoking as Harry Potter, the story is so filled with action and adventure how can you really care. The books are a masterpiece of children's literature in my opinion, being way more action-packed than just about any other book I've ever read. Not only that, but the book itself lends itself perfectly to a potential cinematic adaptation, being obviously inspired by stuff like the film, Jason and the Argonauts. For this reason alone, I want to see this film, so I'm here just wondering what to expect.

Whenever any book such as this is brought to the screen, obviously there is going to be a lot of things cut or changed in order to make the film more intriguing, but from what I can tell from the trailers and whatnot, the movie seems to be faithful enough to The Lightning Thief book to where I'm not too terribly worried at the moment. Some small changes have been made in the form of the filmmakers moving certain sequences from later books in the series to the first film, like the Hydra fight from book two. The biggest change that has been made was changing the age of Percy and his friends from 12 to about 16, which actually makes more sense than having a bunch of 12-year-old's running around trying to take on Greek gods and goddesses in battle. Another big change from book to screen that I know of already is that in order to get to the Underworld, Percy must find three small orbs to gain entrance, but in the book he simply had to reach the gate and enter, but this difference creates more tension and allows for the film to have some classic adventure film signposts, so I don't mind that. One other thing though, it seems as if the filmmakers decided to have the final confrontation between Percy and his half-blood enemy, Luke, be a full-fledged hero battle in New York City rather than a suspense-filled scene of dialogue where Percy is barely hanging on for his life, but hey, it makes the film all the more action-packed. Other than that, the spirit of the book seems to be in tact, and from my diagnosis at the moment, if you liked the book, then you'll most likely like the film, which has me excited.

I'm excited to see Percy and the gang venture to Vegas and get trapped in the Lotus Hotel, I also can't wait to see the sequence involving Medussa (played by Uma Thurman), and I really want to see how they visualize the Underworld in this film. All in all I'm excited and plan on seeing the film soon, posting my review as soon as I see the film. Here's hoping it delivers.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Trailer Rush: The Last Airbender

I've never been a rabid fan of M. Night Shyamalan, but when he's on his game he's a master of the cinematic craft, ranging from The Sixth Sense to Signs. His latest is a big departure for him. First off, it's not a thriller. Second, it's a kid's movie. Third, it's based upon a television series and not original material that M. Night scripted himself. The film is The Last Airbender, an adaptation of the Nickelodeon animated hit, Avatar: The Last Airbender, not to be confused with James Cameron's box office behemoth.

The story of the film chronicles a young boy named Aang. Aang lives in this world where there are four elemental tribes, each distinguished by a different element: earth, water, wind, and fire. The fire tribe has begun a conquest to rule the world essentially. In this world there are beings known as benders, and these beings can manipulate the elements in which they are from, i.e. an airbender can manipulate wind to fly and blow people away. What Aang discovers is that he is the avatar meant to save humanity, and by being an avatar he has the ability to manipulate all four elements. Check out the latest trailer:

I really don't know what to think of this. Part of me thinks it looks like Dragonball: Evolution, whilst the other part of me thinks it at least looks like a fun geek-out movie. I've never seen the animated series, so I have no prior knowledge of this world, nor its characters, so in a way going into this film in such a way could benefit me as a viewer by not having any preconceived notions about the story, but at the same time it's pretty hard for me to get over the fact that this is a bunch of kids fighting people three times their age. 3 Ninjas anyone? Whether or not this movie turns out to be Night's Star Wars, as he said in an interview about a half a year back, has yet to be seen. It looks as if it will satisfy fans of the series, but can it appeal to anyone else? That's the real question.

This film hits theaters this summer, and did anyone else notice Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire in there as a badguy? Very interesting casting to say the least.

TV Review: Heroes-Volume 5

Television's Heroes is one of those shows, that as a longtime fan, I must admit its best days are behind it, it's arguable that the show hasn't been the same since Volume 1 (the show is in Volumes instead of Seasons). Of course, it doesn't stop the producers from trying. After countless years of listening to whining fans, of the producers trying to deliver what they thought fans wanted and ultimately screwing up the story worse, the producers finally just decided to do what their job is: Tell a story and forget about those whining fans. The result, Volume 5, probably the most solid Volume of the show since the perfect Volume 1, but does that really take much doing?

The story of this season all revolved around this elusive carnival made up of superpowered beings. The beings of the carnival were a superpowered cult in a sense, taking orders from one man named Samuel Sullivan (played marvelously by Robert Knepper), and calling themselves a family, a fraternity of sorts. Of course, one could draw comparisons between Samuel and his carnival and Magneto and the Brotherhood of Mutants, but alas if you're always trying to compare Heroes to X-Men you wont ever get any enjoyment out of this show in the first place (essentially being an X-Men rip-off since day one). Regardless to say, the carnival was actually menacing and was extremely well played throughout the season, and I definitely got the vibe from the finale that Samuel will become the new Sylar and be the ultimate villain of the heroes (especially since Sylar is now a good guy, stay tuned).

This season we saw some really marvelous Hiro moments, where Hiro learned that he has a brain tumor and is dying and Hiro goes on a quest to right all the wrongs in his life before dying. We witnessed Peter actually using his powers to help people and become the guiding force of this team. Not to mention, Sylar went on a long and winding path to redemption, this time possibly for good. I was especially impressed in the way that they handled Sylar's mind trapped in Parkman's head and his body constantly shapeshifted to look like Nathan, actually worked quite well (though, the Nathan thing dragged on a touch longer than I felt it should have before they finally killed him off and merged Sylar's body and his mind back together). Plus, a new character named Emma was introduced, a deaf woman who can see sound in terms of colors, and she was used to marvelous effect as a potential love interest for Peter in the future. If only the rest of this season was as intriguing as this.

Claire was inevitably the weakest link, and of course the showrunners felt she deserved the most screen time, as always, and we got more and more of annoying, whining Claire. Seriously, she is this series Kate (and if you watch LOST you know what I mean). Her relationship between her father Noah Bennett deepened this season, and speaking of Bennett, his storyline really droned on, and in all honesty, I was not a big fan of finally learning why he became the way that he is. But back to Claire. She got more annoying as she went to college, tried to fit in, and then fell in love with her lesbian roommate, all the while constantly swapping sides between Samuel and her father. Ugh! Can they just write her character off the show, please!

One great thing about Volume 5 was how well they utilized all of the heroes powers for the first time in the show's history. Peter was actually saving people, getting into some real awesome brawls, like when he fought a superspeeding villain in a knife fight, or when he took Samuel's powers and fought him in an earthquake fissure battle in the finale. Plus, Samuel was a genuine force to be reckoned with, sinking an entire town into the ground, and nearly submerging New York City in the end, if it wasn't for those pesky heroes.

All in all, if it wasn't for Claire and Bennett's storylines that dominated the entire season, this would be an A+ season, but alas they dragged down the overall quality in the end. So we must look on to Volume 6 which is already ordered and in production, titled, "Brave New World," and if the ending of the finale the other night was any inclination, it should be intriguing, now that the heroes have revealed their existence to the world. But please, let Robert Knepper return as Samuel, cause he is the Magneto-like villain that this show has been missing for some time.

I give Heroes-Volume 5 a B!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oscar Watch: Potential for Surprise

This week's edition of Oscar Watch is all about the concept of surprise. Last Tuesday the nominations for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards were announced, meaning that we're now roughly only three weeks away from the Oscars. I'm trying to curb my excitement, and to do that we're gonna be talking today about the potential for surprise all across the board come March 7th. Let's get started!

Many analysts are believing that at the moment the race towards the Oscars is simply a two pony show, between The Hurt Locker and Avatar, both are clearly frontrunners thanks to their healthy hauls in the precursors, but this does not necessarily mean any other film isn't a threat. I really believe that there could be a wealth of upsets come Oscar night, ranging from the tech categories like Best Visual Effects to the big prize, Best Picture.

To say that Avatar pretty much has all of the tech categories locked is an overstatement, I believe some of the tech categories are a touch shakier than most would believe. I especially see it possible in Best Visual Effects against Star Trek and District 9 and, also in Best Film Editing. If anything, the 9 nominations for The Hurt Locker shows, is that it is a threat across the board, especially in Editing. As for Best Cinematography, I think the cinematographers might throw a bone to something like The White Ribbon, or to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. As well, I believe that there is a storm brewing in terms of Best Original Score, and it's a storm in the shape of The Hurt Locker. While Michael Giacchino is the clear frontrunner in this category for Up, the fact that The Hurt Locker showed up surprisingly in this category when it was nowhere near here in the precursors, makes me think it could be the dark horse no one saw coming. Now, moving on to the big guns.

Best Actress has some mystery in terms of the heavyweight bout between Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep, but is everyone just saying that just because they don't want to bet against Meryl? I think Gabourey Sidibe or Carey Mulligan are the dark horses that might surprise everyone come Oscar night. Here's my thought on this. Many are clamoring for Streep to win because she hasn't won in so long, and Bullock has never won, but Mulligan and Sidibe both will get the indie vote. As for the battle between Bullock and Streep, the vote could be split between the two to allow Mulligan or Sidibe the win. It has happened before (i.e. Marissa Tomei).

As for Original Screenplay, while many are placing bets on Tarantino to win, I think Up presents a really strong case since it has been so well received and was nominated for Best Picture, not to mention it could give Pixar its first writing Oscar, seeing as how they've been nominated for so long in this category and never won. Though could Mark Boal jump ahead of everyone and ride the tidal wave of The Hurt Locker's success to win? As for directing, while most would place their bets on either Kathryn Bigelow or James Cameron, I think if the Academy can finally accept Tarantino's eccentricities, he could surprise all and win, not to mention Jason Reitman is quietly lurking in the shadows for Up in the Air to be a safe bet if Cameron and Bigelow happen to split the vote. Now onto the big potential surprises, those in Best Picture.

This year not only has the Academy spread the Best Picture race from 5 to 10 nominees, but they've also instituted a new voting system for the top category, in the form of preferential voting. What it is, is basically all of the members of the Academy are given ballots with the 10 films on them, and then they would list their choices on the ballot, in order from 1-10 (1 being the best, and 10 being the weakest link). My guess is a point system will be utilized, such as 10 points for every number 1 vote, 9 for every number 2 vote, etc. Basically what this means, is that the highest number of number 1 votes doesn't matter, what matters is how many total points the individual film ends up with, which could mean one thing, what is thought to be the clear frontrunners now might not be what has their names called out of that envelope come March 7th.

Is The Hurt Locker really the frontrunner when taking into account this new method of Oscar voting? The Hurt Locker only netted $12 million at the box office, it is assumable that a great many in the Academy haven't seen it, where as with a film like Avatar and The Blind Side it can be said that the majority in the Academy have seen them. It doesn't matter if those that saw The Hurt Locker put it as number 1 on their ballots, what will matter is the film that winds up with the majority of number 2 and number 3 votes. So Avatar could be the ultimate victor, but from what I understand, industry love for the film isn't as great as the critics, which with the Academy, the industry is what matters. A great many in the Academy loved The Blind Side, or else it wouldn't have been nominated, so I truly believe it could be a potential dark horse.

Speaking of safer surprises now, I think District 9 could also benefit from the populace vote, but what could help it is what might also hurt it. It is a piece of fanboy fare, and those that love it really love it, and those that don't, are very vocal, so in all actuality I could see The Blind Side win over a District 9 victory (a similar case for the Coen's A Serious Man and Inglourious Basterds). Of course, Precious and An Education have enough of the artsy crowd and enough mainstream followers behind them to where anything could go in their favor, but I strongly doubt they'll be the ones to pull off the upset, if any film does.

Honestly, the two films that I think will benefit the most from the preferential voting system is Up or Up in the Air. Up in the Air and Up were both critical and commercial successes that are well loved by the industry, making them both safe bets to potentially bring home the Oscar, but also making it entirely possible. So many in the Academy loved Up and Up in the Air, I could see either two films being many of Academy voters number 2 and number 3 votes, where if one of these films gets enough votes like that, it will win.

For fun though, I'll just finish up today by saying which film I think has the best chance of pulling off the upset come March 7th, and the one I personally hope wins, Up in the Air. Till next week!