Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Art of Storytelling is Entertainment

There are four kinds of filmmakers, whether your field be narrative, documentary, or animation. There is the arthouse auteur, folks like David Lynch or Jim Jarmusch who make films purely for artistic purposes. Then, there is the classic auteur, the Martin Scorsese's of the film world, who make films first and foremost for artistic reasons, and their films tend to be very prestigious and occasionally make a profit due to things like Oscars and such. Then, there is the respectable studio director, the Steven Spielberg's of the industry who make films primarily for entertainment, and rarely think of their work as art, but they still hone their craft to the height of their abilities to maximize entertainment value for the audience. And finally, there is the studio slave, the drones of the studios who make films that have no real personification to them and are made for entertainment only, these directors often just do what the studios pay them to do for some fortune and glory and that's it.

I've been in a big think tank this whole Summer since I finished my last film back in late April. I was not satisfied with my last film, and I knew it deep down all along making it. To be honest I've never been fully satisfied with any film I've done, but this was the worst. I knew I had to figure out the question as to what kind of filmmaker I needed to be.

I knew I never wanted to be a studio slave, I love movies too much for that, and I never wanted to be an arthouse director, so that left me flip-flopping between the classic auteur and the respectable studio director. I once thought I wanted to go down the route of the classic auteur and be Martin Scorsese, but the more films I make, the more I realize I can never be that. I could continue down the path of a classic auteur, try to be an artist, but I don't think I would ever find satisfaction in anything I make. I would rather be happy with what I've done than always be frustrated whenever I think about my films, and that's how I am now when I look back at all of my auteur-wanna-be films. And when I really think about what kind of filmgoer I am, I would rather watch a film by someone like Spielberg or Christopher Nolan any day of the week, they're just more fun to watch, and to be honest, they were probably a whole lot of fun to make.

What I've learned through all of my deep thought and soul searching over the Summer is that entertainment matters way more than art. I'm not a real deep person, I'm a what you see is what you get kind of guy, and that's how I want to make films from now on. I'm gonna be myself, and see where that gets me as a filmmaker rather than trying to be something that I know I'm not. There's the cliche of the frustrated artist for a reason, art tends to be about suffering or something real profound that can't be explained in words. I, like all, hate suffering, and I hate not being able to understand nothing, so as it is, I'm striving for face value.

I just love movies, and I never even thought about them as pieces of art until about two years ago when I started college. Thinking of film as art, just kind of ruins the great illusion of the movies for me. The larger than life figures on the screen, the mystical powers of the dark, crowded movie theater and its ability to transport you somewhere else. I had forgotten, and now remembered, and I never want to forget again. Cause I mean, let's face it, art can last forever, but if you're bored to death by it, why's it matter. The first storytellers did not tell their stories to be artists, they did it to entertain, and when I look back at my life, the happiest I've ever been was when I was entertaining. So I've figured it out. The true art of storytelling is entertainment.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Deathly Hallows Arrive

Purely fantastic. I cannot wait for this film, but not only does this trailer show lots of Part 1, but it probably shows more of Part 2 and the Battle of Hogwarts. Just, watch it, I can't say anything else, I'm too excited:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Classics: Vertigo

It's always tough to be the odd man out, it's even harder to be just that on a film by one of your favorite filmmakers. Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is often considered one of the all-time greats for the Master of Suspense, and it really pains me to disagree with the vast majority, but that is how these things often go.

Vertigo tells the story of a retired San Francisco detective played by Jimmy Stewart who suffers from vertigo. Stewart's character is hired by an old friend to tale the friend's wife who has been exhibiting odd behavior recently, her husband believing she is channeling the spirit of a 19th century woman. The premise is well set up, and the starting paces play out superbly, but when the story starts trying to explain all of the supernatural with a Sherlock Holmes-style deduction, I find the film hard to swallow. The film becomes more farfetched when it tries to explain realistically all of the supernatural events rather than just letting it be a ghost story. As well, the romance between the characters played by Stewart and Kim Novak, who portrays the woman Stewart is following, just develops too quickly to be believable.

As I said, it pains me to talk such as this. The film had been so built up before I finally saw it, that I guess I expected something completely different than what I got, but what I got was something that started out as one thing, and then midway through the film transformed into another that just negated all of the things I loved about the first half of the film. Want my advice, if you love Hitch, try Rear Window or North by Northwest. Way more suspense, way more mystery, and way more fun.

I give Vertigo an F!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Peter Jackson, Returning to Middle Earth?

Double post day, I don't care, cause this just warrants a post in-and-of itself. Director Peter Jackson, who helmed the momentous Lord of the Rings trilogy is officially in final negotiations to direct J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel, The Hobbit. Now, if you remember, just little over a month ago, director Guillermo Del Toro had dropped out of the project citing that it was just taking too much time to get it to the big screen and he had to move on to other projects, after that happened the internet was abuzz as to who would take Del Toro's place. While Jackson was lobbied about by many a fanboy, it didn't seem as if he would take up the reins until just today with the word from MGM and New Line that they're working with Jackson to realign his other projects so that he can not just produce and co-write The Hobbit, as he had been doing with Del Toro, but also fill in as director, as well.

To be honest, this was a long time coming. After the epic legal battles that ensued for years upon years over this property and who was the rightful owner of the Middle Earth franchise, it was long believed that Jackson had moved on and was just sticking with the franchise as a producer only, but I guess he just realized he couldn't escape The Hobbit when it seems fate has drawn him back to Middle Earth and the one ring to rule them all. Personally, while Del Toro was a good choice, Jackson is obviously the guy everyone wanted in the first place, and he'll probably deliver a better film that is more in keeping with the style and tone of the trilogy. So as a whole, I hope that the negotiations come full circle, cause this is a fanboy's dream come true.

Comedy Central

I enjoyed Meet the Parents, and Meet the Fockers, had its moments, but now it just feels as is if the mill has run dry with this new trailer for the third film in the franchise, Little Fockers. The film reunites Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro for more of the same old, same old. Check out the trailer:

But if that doesn't wet your whistle, then this will. Red is a DC Comic that, when being honest, I have never heard of. It's about retired CIA agents getting back in the saddle, starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Mary Louise-Parker, and John Malkovich. Now, this could be the movie to get you through the slow October month. Check out the trailer:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Movie Review: The A-Team

Out of my Dad's affection for the original TV Show, I took him to see film remake of The A-Team for Father's Day. Now, I don't have much knowledge of the initial show other than what my Dad's told me, but I will say that if the TV Show was anything like this movie, I might give it a go, cause the film was a rip-roaring good time, albeit a tad outrageous and over-the-top.

The A-Team is an elite Alpha Unit for the US military, led by Col. Hannibal Smith, played by Liam Neeson, chewing up the scenery as much as he chews on his cigars. But when the A-Team is accused of a crime in which they didn't commit, they all four bust out of military prison to clear their names as the A-Team. The movie's greatest strength is that it's just fun, I mean, not many movies have this much high flying action and carnage without any real consequences. While Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is funny as B.A. "Pity the Fool" Baracus, it's Sharlto Copley as Murdock that steals each scene he's in. He's hilariously foolish to the point in which I don't think Murdock thinks like the rest of us, which might explain why if he's not in the care of Hannibal he's in mental hospitals. Rounding out the team is Bradley Cooper as Face who walks through every scene with a ladies' man swagger, but it's Patrick Wilson as CIA agent and badguy Agent Lynch that makes one laugh with his egotistical, frat boy antics that he embarks upon with the aid of his CIA badge.

While the movie would have been stronger had it stayed around the 90 minute mark opposed to two full hours of buffoonery, still, the movie manages to hold on during the slow paces of the final act and deliver the hilariously unbelievable thrills you've come to expect from this franchise. I probably wont remember it at year's end, and it definitely isn't Oscar caliber, but as a good time with my Dad, The A-Team excels.

I give The A-Team a B!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hornet's Sting Turns Green

The first trailer for the film remake of the television cult classic, The Green Hornet, has hit the net. The film, directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), looks extremely fun and entertaining in the action department, and the banter between Britt Reid and Kato looks spot on, I just still have reservations about Seth Rogen and his portrayal of newspaper magnate Britt Reid, a.k.a. The Green Hornet. While the flashes of Academy Award-winner Christoph Waltz as the baddie are enough to wet anyone's whistle, Seth Rogen just makes Reid come across more as a buffoon and not enough like the suave playboy he was in the TV show. To put it simply, a George Clooney-type. Regardless, the Green Hornet's car, the Black Beauty, looks awesome in action. Check out the trailer:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Movie Review: Toy Story 3

For those of us who grew up with the Toy Story films, we, like Andy, have left behind our toys to venture out into adulthood, but we all still hold that fondness for the things from when we were children. Toy Story 3 is the full summation of fifteen years of growing up, from childhood to adulthood. I was five when the first Toy Story hit theaters, now I am twenty and Toy Story 3 is here.

In between that time, Andy has grown to be seventeen and leaving for college, and he is faced with the dilemma as to what to do with his old toys, Woody, Buzz, and the whole gang. All these once cheerful toys want is to be played with, but now their in the doldrums from not having any playtime in years. One thing leads to another and the toys accidentally wind up at a Daycare Center. At first it seems like a magical resort for toys, but it in fact winds up being a prison. The Center is enforced by a big teddy bear named Lotso who utilizes his crazy cymbal, clanking monkey for security to keep toys in line. The film really takes off though with the the toys' determination to return to Andy's house before Andy leaves for college. This is where the movie has it's real fun as the toys try to escape the almost impenetrable Daycare Center.

In a way, Toy Story 3's ending has all the more emotional resonance because I have grown up with these characters and it is hard to leave them behind. I think that is why Toy Story 3 is such a fascinating film. The film is about life, and one's contemplations, albeit it's about a bunch of hunks of plastic. You feel for these characters, you even feel for Andy and his conflictions as to what to do with these toys that he still loves so much. But what the film is all about, is about not trying to hold onto one's past, but learning how to move on. This is, thematically, Pixar's heaviest film that they've ever done, and I don't think that there is any dispute about that. You walk out of the theater at the end, both wanting to cry and smile.

Director Lee Unkrich's directorial debut is well done, channeling John Lasseter's fascinating work on the first two installments, while layering the film with a very appetizing visual flare, but Unkrich's direction soars thanks to Academy Award-winner Michael Arndt's funny, yet increasingly moving screenplay that has surprises around every turn. All of the voice cast returns and delivers pitch perfect performances, I mean, you can't really beat Tom Hanks as Woody, but Tim Allen's Buzz Lightyear comes close. Michael Keaton's Ken is the most fun new addition to the cast, but Kristen Schaal (Mel from Flight of the Conchords) makes the most of her limited time as Trixie the Triceratops.

Like every third installment, the film feels as if it has thirty climaxes, but each one is played to maximum perfection. Like the first two films, Toy Story 3 is filled with pint-sized adventure and much hilarity, but it's the heart that ultimately wins you over, and it's the heart that makes one remember.

I give Toy Story 3 an A+!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Top 10: Pixar

Pixar is one of the more consistent film studios around. If only other studios could take up their motra of story first and everything else second. This Friday Toy Story 3 hits theaters, Pixar's 11th film. Seeing as how there are only ten films in the current Pixar catalogue for just one more day, I figured it'd be fun to do a Top 10 list ranking all of Pixar's films from best-to-worst. So let's get cracking and get a move on:

10. Cars - The only Pixar movie that I can't sit through if I see it on. There was just nothing fun about this one. From Larry the Cable Guy as the comedic relief to the boring, uneventful storyline, Pixar delivered an unfun, and emotionally disappointing film.

9. A Bug's Life - While I've got my problems with this one, it's still a fun, small-scale epic about a bunch of bugs fighting for their home. The animation is now a tad crude compared to Pixar's more recent offerings, but it still has that undeniable Pixar charm, even though you really only wanna watch this one for the finale between the ants and the grasshoppers.

8. Toy Story - I think that this should be seen as a testament to Pixar's abilities as storytellers that the original Toy Story clocks in at number 8 on this list. This film's a flawless showcase of adventure and heart, one of the most heartwarming films you'll ever see, and just one of the best period. Really, from this point on, I'm just gonna have to play favorites on this list.

7. Finding Nemo - I saw this movie so many times when it first came out, I got a tad burnt out on it, but don't let that stop anyone from thinking that this isn't an amazing film. Quite possibly Pixar's most emotional film they've ever done, and yet at times their funniest thanks to Ellen Degeneres as Dori.

6. Monsters, Inc. - One of the more original ideas ever produced, the monsters of Monsters, Inc. are just so lovable. The movie is hilarious thanks to Billy Crystal as the one-eyed Mike, and this movie delivers one of the most imaginative climaxes I've ever seen in a film when they're flying through the various doors to children's bedrooms trying to save Boo. A fabulous adventure, through-and-through.

5. Wall-E - This film was, in many ways, a step forward for Pixar. The animation was astounding, but Pixar managed to do something in Wall-E that they hadn't done in any other film they'd ever made. Wall-E provoked thought alongside the best of the science fiction genre. Like 2001, Wall-E is a fascinating space odyssey that while, yes, is funny, is more serious and slower paced than most of Pixar's other offerings, making it more delectable for the adult-oriented, food-for-thought category, and less so for the children in which usually eat up their films.

4. Ratatouille - Arguably Pixar's most beautiful film to look at, the cinematography of Ratatouille is worth seeing on its own, but the story is also a fascinating tale of unlikely friendship and people not always being exactly what we think they are. Never in my life have I ever seen anything that made me feel sorry or sympathize for a rat till I saw this film. And like every other Pixar film, it's a hilarious adventure through the streets of Paris and in the kitchen, but at the same time it's one of Pixar's most refined, and most classical films they've ever done.

3. Toy Story 2 - A rarity amongst sequels, a sequel actually better than its predecessor. The animation is cleaner, the jokes are funnier, and the heart has never been bigger. Pixar succeeded with this film, putting more of the focus on Woody this time around rather than Buzz, and we got to see the legacy of Woody's Roundup, an old 1950s TV Show where Woody was the star. But seriously, the main reason this one is better is cause they had already established the world and characters in the first one, and in this one they just kind of sat back, relaxed, and punched it into overdrive delivering all the fun, excitement, and adventure that a toy can bring.

2. Up - You know, all the talk about Up is usually focused on its emotional core and its genuine heart, which it does deliver exceedingly well, but what is often glossed over by so many critics is that Up is just a whole lot of fun. It's probably the funniest, most action-packed Pixar film there is. It has all of the adventurous thrills of Indiana Jones with all the hilarity and heart of Toy Story. Up is a masterpiece, and the first ten minutes are worth the price of admission itself.

1. The Incredibles - Okay, as a diehard superhero fan, how could this one not be on my list at number one? The Incredibles took a small nugget from something like the Fantastic Four, and made it into something that's way better in every way. Brad Bird's film is hilarious, action-packed, and filled with awesome twist-and-turns every step of the way. And did I mention that this happens to be one of the best family dramas ever made as well? Well, if I didn't, I just said it, cause it is. Seriously, superheroes, family drama, comedy, awesome Michael Giacchino music. All the ingredients for a genuine classic.

Toy Story 3 hits theaters tomorrow, go check it out. I will.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Threshold of the Future

I talked a bit about E3, the world's biggest video game convention, the other day, but with the show officially starting today, the game's afoot. Microsoft has already disappointed with what used to be the Project Natal now known as the Kinect, being merely a rip-off of anything and everything Nintendo has done for the past, oh, ten years. The real surprises though came from Nintendo at their press conference. I make no mistake, I'm a Nintendo nerd, I love Nintendo, always have, and I've stuck by 'em through all their rough patches and I feel like the pay off is coming. Not only did they show off a new Zelda, more of the new Metroid, and made me salivate over Disney Epic Mickey, they made me want stuff I didn't even know I wanted, like a Wii remake of Goldeneye, a new Kirby, and a brand new Donkey Kong! But, the main thing they did, is they might have changed the future of gaming, and not just gaming, but the future of the entertainment industry as well.

Nintendo unveiled their new handheld game console, the Nintendo 3DS. Let's put it simply, it's just like the Nintendo DS with better graphics, and, oh yeah, it's all in 3D. And you wanna know the best part? You don't need 3D glasses to play it. That's right, you can adjust the depth of field with a little slider on the side of the handheld. There are two screens, the top screen will play widescreen 3D and the bottom being a touch screen like that of the DS. And if that's not enough, Nintendo announced the ability to watch feature length 3D movies on your 3DS, you can take 3D pictures with it, and it will be completely wi-fi capable. I've just gotta say, Nintendo is ahead of the curve once again. 3D is one of the big topics at this year's E3, a lot of developers making games in stereoscopic 3D and releasing them with 3D glasses, but Nintendo has taken a giant leap above and beyond the competition, and if the 3DS delivers, it will be the gamechanger to the entertainment industry that Avatar was supposed to have been.

The mere thought of just being able to look at a screen, no peripherals, and see real 3D images is astounding from a technical point of view. While I'm still not sold on the idea of 3D in film or television, in the world of gaming it sorta fits, and if anything Nintendo has made me a believer, especially since I wont have to wear the dumb glasses to enjoy something like a brand new Kid Icarus game! But the main thing I wonder, is how does it work? If it's real 3D, just without the glasses, it's got something to do with the screen itself. Is the screen like a projector or something? I don't know, but after seeing the display at Nintendo's press conference, it got me to thinking about the application of this 3D technology across the whole entertainment industry.

Imagine seeing a 3D movie and not having to look like a dork in your 3D glasses, but can just enjoy it with no dimness of the light or colors. It's more natural, and you know what, I might actually like that. And what about 3D TVs using the same technology as the 3DS? The only thing that can hold this advancement back is the simple fact that Nintendo has a patent on the technology, so it will be a few more years before say Samsung has a 3D TV out with this technology, and it would be even longer for movie theaters to convert to this new format. I mean, if it's the screen itself that's making 3D possible, then that means movie theaters would have to install new screens at a very high price tag to keep up, and if 3D TV catches on before then, or 3D gaming, people wont wanna leave their house for the gimicky 3D movie anymore. But I'll be honest, I'm a 3D skeptic, but I really wanna try out a Nintendo 3DS, maybe even buy one when it comes out, cause it truly can be the threshold of the future.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Movie Review: The Karate Kid (2010)

Can you capture lightning in a bottle, twice? That was the goal and ambition with the remake of the '80s cult classic, The Karate Kid, starring Jaden Smith (the son of Will) and Jackie Chan. Even through all the marked similarities between the original and this newer version, the film still manages to pack a powerful punch and deliver the thrills and cheers of the original with a bigger budget at its disposal.

The story follows the original almost by verbatim, but instead of our hero moving from New Jersey to California, he moves from Detroit to Beijing, China where he learns Kung Fu, not Karate. But after all that, the scene structure is for the most part the same as the original. Our hero, Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) arrives in China, knowing nobody, but there is a shimmer of hope when he meets a cute Chinese girl who's interested in him, but he must contend with the bullies of his new school who train at the meanest and baddest Kung Fu Dojo around with a teacher who teaches them, "No Mercy!" But alas, Dre starts forging a relationship with the maintenance man at his apartment complex, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), and Mr. Han starts teaching Dre Kung Fu in order to let him take on the bullies one-on-one at the big Kung Fu Tournament coming up.

So yeah, in many spots the film kind of has a been there, seen it vibe to it all, in particular in the beginning and end. As it is, having seen the original, it is very hard to look past all of the similarities, especially since in the first hour or so you can pretty much predict what the next scene will be about, even what the dialogue will sometimes be. But of course, there is a reason it all worked the first time around, it's a good, crowd pleasing formula, and it still delivers even with different settings and characters. But there is a segment in the middle, when Dre finally starts learning Kung Fu from Mr. Han that the film really starts coming into its own and becomes its own entity.

While the movie starts out exceedingly similar, the story quickly lets you know not all is the same. First they train Kung Fu, not Karate, and second, the main characters are not teenagers but rather kids, so it actually is a Karate Kid this time around. With it being kids, the romance plays as a first love sort of thing and not just a high school romance, so in those regards the film actually delivers far better. And they do Dre's training in such a way that it feels vastly different, and in many ways his training is the highlight of the film, such as when Mr. Han and Dre train in the courtyard at night and their silhouettes and their shadows race across the walls; the scene is iconic.

The acting was very spot on. While Jaden Smith's Dre was very similar in emotional reaction as Ralph Macchio's Daniel, he did a fine job. As well, Jackie Chan's Mr. Han is not just a mirror version of Mr. Miyagi. Mr. Miyagi was Pat Morita, and in this film it feels as if they tailored Mr. Han to fit better with Chan's own abilities and own screen persona. Mr. Han does not have as many one-liners as Mr. Miyagi, and he is far more serious of a person than Miyagi. In particular, where as Mr. Miyagi was kind of like Daniel's crazy uncle or friend, Mr. Han becomes more like Dre's father by the end of the film. These vast differences in characterizations between Mr. Han and Mr. Miyagi is actually one of the finer aspects of this film, and I've gotta say I've never seen Jackie Chan deliver such a fine dramatic performance.

So while it is all predictable, if you have no knowledge of the '80s romp you're gonna love it, and even if you do have knowledge of the original, you're still gonna get a good kick out of watching Dre fighting to the top of the heap, cause the formula still works. With slight, subtle differences in story, the film manages to come into its own just enough for anyone to enjoy, and to put it simple, it's the best around.

I give The Karate Kid an A!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Taking a Break, E3 Next Week

If there's anything that's just as exciting as the Oscars, it's E3, the biggest video game convention/conference in the world. Seriously, if a big gun is to be unveiled, it's unveiled here; nowhere on Earth can there be so many surprises wrapped within one package. Last year Microsoft unveiled the Project Natal, their reaction to motion sensing gameplay. While I still think the Natal looks like crap (cause I mean how can you really play a serious game without a controller, we're not to holographic gameplay yet), I don't know if there will be anything this year that will send shockwaves across the internet, but you can never count E3 out.

Personally, I'm excited to see what Nintendo has to offer this year. Nintendo really got back on track last year with their focus on the Hardcore gamer in the press conference, and I expect this year to take it even further. There's been the usual buzz of a potential new console announcement, I don't buy it, but we will see a whole lot more of the Nintendo 3DS, basically a DS handheld, just in 3-D. But Nintendo's real muscle comes in Zelda 2 for the Wii. Seriously, I don't care about Halo Reach or a new Call of Duty, I mean, they're kind of pumping those games out every year now, but Zelda is a once every 5 or 6 years experience so you've gotta be excited when it comes, and if they announce it will be hitting store shelves before the end of this year, I might just wet myself (kidding).

So if you're a gamer, check out all the action this whole next week on G4 TV network or stream the press conferences live on or

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Are You Tired of Franchises?

This Summer has been lackluster, to say the least, in both the quality of films released and the amount in which they have earned. As of the moment of this writing, every major blockbuster has underwhelmed so far this Summer, the time in which people most often see movies. Even stuff like Iron Man 2 failed to deliver in both quality and in the box office numbers many predicted, so what reasoning can there be behind this?

I think the answer is not in the economy, cause the economy is no worse now than it was back in the Winter when Avatar was racing across the box office charts. As for all the money, 3-D is just a smokescreen to make it look like the studios lackluster product has actually turned a profit. With an average 3-D movie ticket price of about $15, about $7 more than your average 2-D movie ticket price, that automatically pads the numbers of say Alice in Wonderland or Shrek Forever After, so in all actuality those films weren't the blockbusters in matters of attendance like the box office numbers say they were, even Avatar which was still the most attended film of the past decade, would have probably barely edged out The Dark Knight had it of only been in 2-D. But enough of my ranting about 3-D, back on topic. What is the reason for a dip in movie attendance when we're now in the thick of Summer?

Part of me wants to say quality, where in this economy no one really wants to shell out money for crap, they wanna wait for something worth seeing, but I don't think quality is the only thing holding people back from the cinemas. I've just noticed a trend in moviegoing since about last December when Avatar came out, and the trend isn't 3-D, but rather originality.

When you think about it, for the past decade just about every major blockbuster was an adaptation of some comic book or long-desired fantasy/sci-fi novel, in other words, the past decade was all about the franchise, the big buzz word that swept around Hollywood like a plague, every studio just itching to catch it. But what Avatar did, is I think it reignited an interest in the filmgoer to actually see something new and different for once. I mean, we all like the security that a good franchise like Batman brings to us, but no one filmgoer can't tell me they haven't ever desired to go see a movie that they had no knowledge about whatsoever and just be blown away? Majority of the first blockbusters, like Star Wars, Close Encounters, Indiana Jones, E.T., and Back to the Future were not based upon any prior source material, but were all original concepts tailored specifically for the screen, and if anything I think Avatar has sparked an intrigue in this type of blockbuster once more.

We're already seeing that this Summer with director Chris Nolan's Inception being probably the most buzzed film of the Summer across the net and around the water cooler. But the net's also buzzing about J.J. Abrams' new film coming out next Summer, Super 8. Maybe this is just a small trend, but perhaps people are just tired of the franchise and want something new? Personally, I'm tired of the franchise. Now, I love Spider-man and Batman and all those guys, and you've gotta be stupid to not think I wont go see the newest incarnations of these characters when they hit the screen, but the market has been oversaturated at the moment with so many adaptations and so many franchises that I've gotten worn down, tired, and I think a lot of other filmgoers have as well. This is why Avatar was so big and why Inception and Super 8 are so hyped at the moment.

What I'd personally love to see is a proper balance between original big budget concepts and the franchise. Because sometimes nothing can beat that feeling of putting on some old shoes and watching a James Bond flick, but it should never be predominantly too much of either one, because then the market becomes oversaturated and we go into a slump like we are now where people are just sick to death of sequels, reboots, remakes, whatever you wanna call it. The same could happen if there is too much originality and not enough familiarity, but right now Hollywood, you need to be a touch more innovative and step away from the familiar if you wanna win back the audience.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Series Review: FlashForward

One of the shinning pinnacles of this past year in television was ABC's FlashForward. While the show has met its untimely demise due to a lot of behind the scenes politics after just one season, the show was always a consistently entertaining action/thriller with plenty of mystery. It always felt as if it was going somewhere and not just stalling so the writers could come up with some sort of junk to fill in the gaps of the storyline, and if I have any complaint is that it was canceled too late and they didn't get to do a proper send off so the final episode is a cliffhanger, like a season finale, but is in fact the series finale.

The show's premise is easy enough to understand, the whole world blacked out for 2 minutes and 47 seconds on October 2nd, 2009. They all saw a two minute glimpse of themselves six months in the future in April of 2010. The show gets extremely intriguing when some characters didn't even see their futures and learn that they will die in between now-and-then. But really, the whole show all boils down to the concepts of fate and predetermination. Can you change your future? Will the universe course correct even if you can escape your fate? As the show tries to answer these questions at times, it isn't always subtle, as a matter of fact, the whole show is very much a soap opera in terms of the character dilemmas and drama involved, but soaps keep you coming back for more, and no film or televisions show is without these soap elements of character struggles and romances. I mean, why else would we tune in week after week if it weren't for these soap elements?

The show primarily follows a group of FBI agents and their families, as the FBI in Los Angeles spearheads the investigation behind the blackout. Mystery hides around every corner, as the FBI soon discover video footage of a man awake during the blackout. As it is, the ultimate cause of the blackout was scientific, a scientific experiment of sorts that was sort of modeled after the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, but even still, there are bad guy motives behind it all; rogues willing to kill for science. Seriously, every episode was intense, full of action and suspense. It was so riveting for this very reason. But the main reason I enjoyed this show so much was that they answered your questions in a satisfying fashion. It was handled timely, answers slowly filtered throughout the season, but by the end of the series you had the full picture, so for that this show gets full props for me. Not to mention, the show was just flat-out entertaining.

I give FlashForward an A+!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Good Ol' Ford

I've always been notorious for seeing anything with Harrison Ford in it, I mean, why else would I have seen Hollywood Homicide? Regardless, Harrison has been up to some real work recently, being cast in Cowboys & Aliens and is now in the upcoming movie Morning Glory, playing opposite Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Jeff Goldblum. The trailer's now online for the film where Ford plays a morning news personality on the classic Good Morning-type of show that plays in every major city around the nation. It looks part chick-flick being written by the writer of The Devil Wears Prada, but seriously, it's got the Ford along with Jeff Goldblum, which means I've gotta see it. Hopefully it'll have a few laughs like the Meryl Streep surprise hit that will make it worth it. Here's the trailer:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hidden Gems: Charlie Bartlett

Move over Dear Abby, there's a new kid in town and he's got meds. Some people just need some advice, and the title character in Charlie Bartlett knows how to give it.

The film is about a teenage boy named Charlie Bartlett, played to modern day Ferris Bueller perfection by Anton Yelchin (Ensign Chekov in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek). Bartlett has spent his entire life in private school after private school, always getting kicked out. Finally, Bartlett has no more private schools to go to and is stuck in the middle of the public school system, where surprise, this rich guy doesn't fit in. But luck turns round for Bartlett when his mother makes him see the family psychologist, and he decides to take this experience, and the meds he gets from his shrink, to be the top secret school psychologist at his new high school, skyrocketing himself to super popular status.

If anything, it's a modern day Ferris Bueller-John Hughes type of film. It's witty, funny, and totally unbelievable in the John Hughes fashion. While the film is a touch more crude in its humor, and deals a lot with the drug situation in many high schools, it's a very easy comparison to make between this film and something like Ferris Bueller. Both are about high school legends who are wise beyond their years and know how to play the system to satisfaction. I laughed an awful lot at this movie, and I was actually surprised at the emotional depths that the film plunges to in its third act as well, while still retaining a comedic touch throughout.

Kat Dennings is charming as Bartlett's girlfriend, Susan Gardner, who is the daughter of quite possibly the best school principal aside from Mr. Rooney himself, Mr. Gardner, played by "it" actor Robert Downey, Jr. Downey manages to shrug off his Iron Man persona and actually act like a man his age is supposed to act. He's actually more of a straight man in this film than just about anyone else, and maybe that's why I was impressed by the performance. Still, the real star is Yelchin as Bartlett. He completed the package, and seriously, this kid has way more talent and comedic chops than Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, or any of those younger comedians have combined.

So I'll definitely say that this film is well worth your time. Not in many films can the whole school dance get high on Ritalin. While the film makes some, almost, not too subtle comments about youth drug use, it actually has a message beneath its exterior, that whether it gets through to the kids watching it, I don't know, but hey, it's there if you want it. Bottom line, Charlie Bartlett is a hilarious movie, that has some actual weight to it, and has a surprisingly genuine heart to go along with it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Oscar Watch: Post-Cannes

Well, it's about that time again, time to check back in for the 2010 Oscar Season. A few weeks back was the international Cannes Film Festival held all the way over in France, often considered by many to be one of the first real events that one can add to the Oscar discussion of the upcoming year. Not to mention, we're now in the thick of the Summer movie season with May already under our belts. So in all, this is really just an update on how this year in Award's cinema is shaping up. There are some new titles that have risen to produce some intrigue on their behalf, so let's not waste any time, cause the road to the 83rd Annual Academy Awards starts right now!

Most notably is the events at Cannes a few weekends back with the Palm d'Or going to Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives that has little to no shot at Oscar next year, but the real films with Oscar hopes coming out of Cannes didn't really even win any awards at the Cannes ceremony, save for Javier Bardem as Best Actor in a tie for Biutiful. The real contenders out of Cannes are: director Mike Leigh's latest, Another Year; Babel director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Biutiful; Sundance hit Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Willaims; and finally, Fair Game starring Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and directed by Jumper director Doug Liman, of all people.

I'd say Another Year is the strongest Oscar hopeful out of the whole Cannes crowd, most notably in Best Picture and Best Actress for Lesley Manville, though I think Leigh himself will get in for Best Screenplay and Best Director, possibly, cause he was overlooked two years prior for his film Happy Go Lucky. The others from Cannes aren't on as solid of ground. Biutiful's critical response has been mixed to say the least, with really only Bardem to go for Oscar in Best Actor, the film itself proving to possibly be too dividing for Best Picture, and the same could be said for Blue Valentine's such dark portrait of married life, though both Gosling and Williams are threats in Actor and Actress (respectively). One that has me on the fence is Doug Liman's Fair Game. The film was well-received at Cannes, and looks like typical Oscar bait, and I definitely wouldn't count out Watts or Penn when it comes to Oscar, but Liman just isn't the kind of director who usually does this type of stuff, and if anything that may hold both him and the film back when it comes to Picture and Director.

Other than that, here we are. Pretty much every film I've seen so far this year has underwhelmed and disappointed. Shutter Island, Iron Man 2, the list goes on and on. The only well-liked film that has any shot at an Academy Award released thus far this year is How To Train Your Dragon, and that's a Best Animated Feature bid at best. So now we must look forward and try to gaze into the future to try and fill out the Oscar race for next year.

Looking at this Summer, two Sundance hits are making way to theaters, Winter's Bone (Grand Jury Winner) and The Kids Are All Right. The Kids Are All Right's politically charged subject matter is so hot right now in Hollywood that I don't see how it can't be at the Oscars next year, but Winter's Bone might just be too low-key for the Oscars to get in.

But moving on, this Summer only holds one blockbuster that even has any remote shot at potential Oscar glory and that is Inception. Director Chris Nolan skyrocketed to A-list status after The Dark Knight, so all eyes in the Academy will be watching that film closely to fill the populace spot at the Oscar ceremony come next year. And I'll just say it, I've got a vibe about Zac Efron's new drama coming out later this Summer called Charlie St. Cloud. I'm not counting it out. May be this year's The Blind Side.

That takes us to fall where more Oscar hopefuls will potentially emerge out of Toronto or Telluride Film Festivals, though there are a fair few studio films and indies coming out later in the year that do have Oscar potential, such as: Clint Eastwood's Hereafter, an intriguing supernatural thriller; Terrence Mallick's The Tree of Life starring Brad Pitt that makes no sense to me; The Fighter starring Mark Whalberg and Christian Bale in a period boxing film; Peter Weir's big return after the disappointing Master and Commander, coming back with a film called The Way Back; then Edward Zwick has good buzz coming out of his new comedy Love and Other Drugs about a viagra salesman. Still, I'll say it, watch out for the Coen Brother's remake of True Grit. One final note, I don't buy into all the hype about David Fincher's latest, The Social Network, about the founder of facebook.

So that's just a small rundown of the films in contention, time to give my predictions for Best Picture:

The Kids Are All Right
Another Year
Love and Other Drugs
True Grit
Fair Game
The Tree of Life
The Fighter
Charlie St. Cloud

And that does it for now. Till next time!