Most Anticipated films for the remainder of 2012 Film 1 of 10: Robert Zemeckis’ FLIGHT

2012 is off to a gangbusters start, and is poised to be the best movie year in terms of both quality and commerce for Hollywood since 2008. And like that year, it’s a very Superhero and Sequel Heavy Blockbuster summer.

This installment will be coverage of my most anticipated films for the remainder of 2012. But in true Heroic Times fashion, you’ll see some entries covered in each installment that you won’t find mentioned anywhere else. Enjoy :)

So part of the purpose of this reoccurring installment is to give love to films that might otherwise fly under the radar.

So what is on the list already?!!

Okay, Okay! Sheesh, you’re a pushy bunch… here goes:

The first film that get’s the nod is FLIGHT.

I find Robert Zemeckis an interesting Director. He tends toward light, family friendly films, which I have to be honest is not really what I gravitate to. However Zemeckis does family friendly, very well.

His films are a diverse, and always imaginative and technologically ground breaking bunch, from the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy, to FOREST GUMP, to WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT to WHAT LIES BENEATH (I think it’s the film of his, an ode to Hitchcock, that holds up the best). WHAT LIES BENEATH showed me that Zemeckis could handle more mature and suspenseful films… and that brings me to FLIGHT.

So news that a new film of Zemeckis is in post-production, called FLIGHT and starring an all star cast (that includes:

Denzel Washington [opposite the drop-dead gorgeous Sanaa Lathan], Don Cheadle [with the majestic Megalyn Echikunwoke], Bruce Greenwood [raucus with the lovely Leslie Hope] , Tamara Tunie , Garcelle Beauvais, Rhoda Griffis, John Goodman, Michael Beasley, and Nadine Velazquez ) makes me happy.

First and foremost because that’s a cast filled with REAL actors, rather than just CW faces of the moment. And films that have an ethnically diverse and deep cast (so more than just 2 characters of color) gets me to spend my money and go to the theater.

Huge fan of RED TAILS, so suck it! :)

I’m just a dumb ass southern boy, who misses my cartoons on Saturday, and my Hong Kong Chop Suey Soul Cinema Creature Feature films on the weekends. Current Hollywood films are just too bland and similar for me in terms of both content and casting. So any time I get a film that grates against the imposed tokenism of conventional Hollywood films… well saddle up the General Lee boys… cause I’m there! :)

Now that said Zemeckis does have some issues as director.

He helms big budget films, that have a hard time making their return on investment. His last two films, BEOWULF and CHRISTMAS CAROL carried budgets of 150million and 200 million respectively, and they didn’t make that money back theatrically, not even utilizing the IMAX and 3D price gouging.

This has less to do with the director and more to do with studios budgeting 150 million for a film, that would be more sensibly priced at a 50 million budget.

Just like with the upcoming BATTLESHIP, if that film was budgeted at 50 million rather than 200 million it could without question make a profit. As it stands I think BATTLESHIP is going to do commercially the same that JOHN CARTER did; which is to say not well.

The mindset of the studios pricing everything so high, including the cameras and marketing, I think has more to do with keeping the little guy, the independent studio out of the process of getting films in theaters, rather than the content of the specific film. I think it’s really about for the most part ensuring the people who can get movies into the theaters are one of the big studios.

Now of course in this day and age of found footage films you can definitely make films cheaply, but those films, THE PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, etc have to be picked up and sanctified by the gate keeper, the big studios, otherwise like most films made, such as BLACK DYNAMITE, they get seen at film festivals and that’s it.

Without the blessing of a gatekeeper, Sony, Fox, the big boys, You have no chance to make your money back in theatrical distribution. If you’re lucky you get some limited streaming or DVD deal, but for all intents and purposes you’re dead in the water.

So yeah that’s the only rationale I can find for studios not just having astronomical budgets on films, but in the wake of the films struggling to break even… keeping the budgets astronomical.

The studios increasingly using the films as loss leaders, tax breaks/write offs, and as a means of market control/theatrical control. And further they are using their bad decisions, their shell game of profit and loss, to cry broke and enforce changes on the theatrical market. Such as the move away from real film cameras and projectors (35mm and the rarer 70mm) and instead move to all digital cameras and theatrical installations. (Which is bad for numerous reasons not least of which digital cameras/projectors cannot match the range of 35mm film, and is left in the dust by 70mm film; as anyone who has seen LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm can attest).

So all that thinking weighs in when discussing Zemeckis’ recent mega-budget films, and their under-performance. Zemeckis’ films are so expensive they tend not to break even theatrically. It is a paradigm, an unsupportable one I think, that bears watching and curtailing in the future.

But for the present if the studios are good with their movies not breaking even, it works for me.

So yeah count me among the ones anticipating Zemeckis’ thriller tinged drama… FLIGHT.

MOVIE REVIEW! THOR IMAX 3D… The Verdict is…..????

Well the long awaited THOR movie is finally exploding across screens everywhere, and as I mentioned in my previous posts a lot hinged on this film, not least of which is a turnaround in a string of commercial disappointments for director Kenneth Branagh.

Well having just come back from seeing THOR in IMAX 3D… my verdict….??

It’s good, I enjoyed myself. It’s nicely paced, surprisingly smart film that also hit all the notes and plot points to shut-up people who were complaining about a multi-cultural cast, particularly Idris Elba (who always brings it), for pretty much all the story reasons I surmised.

So I was expecting it be action packed, but not necessarily as inventive, and even touching as it was.

Now that said, it does perhaps not quite meet the Juggernaut action expectations built up, but a solid story and performances, make up for that.

Kenneth Branagh handling perhaps the most difficult of all comic adaptations, exceptionally well, finding that difficult balance between regal and relate-able.

THOR even in the comic books, is extremely hard to a/get right and b/command a storyline. Instead working best as the heavy gun of the Avengers, then as a solo character. So for Branagh to steer this ship safely into movie theater shores, is no small accomplishment.

That said the ending felt a bit anti-climatic, the most effective action is clearly in the early portions of the movie. But that aside, the story beats, the emotional intensity, the Shakespearean like levels of tragedy and sacrifice, Branagh hits well. Hits hard enough… to satisfy.

Now leaving the movie proper to discuss the projection of the movie. I saw this in IMAX 3D, paying rather than the normal $8 matinée price, an exorbitant $14.50 for ‘IMAX 3D’. A $6.50 surcharge.

Before seeing this movie I couldn’t get any reviews to really discuss the 3D and if it was worth it. I’ve seen my share of IMAX 3D movies, real ones and the retrofitted AMC ones, and the ones not shot in 3D but simply post-processed, ie THOR.

Outside of a real IMAX THEATER (5 to 8 stories high, viewable at better science centers throughout the world), the best I’ve seen at an AMC IMAX theater (a midget IMAX) is of course AVATAR. Cameron pushing the technology to create 3D that actually works in a cine-plex.

But beyond AVATAR on IMAX 3D, most other 3D films suffer in comparison. THOR is no exception, it looks okay in 3D, but closer to the inferior Sony backed REALD 3D process, then real IMAX 3D. Sony’s inferior REALD 3D, gives a sense of looking into the screen, but it’s unable to give a real sense of the screen coming forward into real space, your space. This is what true IMAX 3D does so well. Not only offering depth, looking into something, but immersion, the film intruding and surrounding your real space.

So THOR IN IMAX 3D, looks okay, it just isn’t great. It isn’t IMAX 3D, and therefore is not worth the $6.50 surcharge. I personally think 3D movies should be the same price as 2D movies, but particularly if you’re going to charge that premium, the 3D experience should be breathtaking, and THOR IN IMAX 3D is just okay. The 3D almost transparent, and therefore, what’s the point.

So all in all if you can see this in 3D for no price increase, go for it. Otherwise avoid and stick to 2D on a big screen, you won’t be missing anything. And may actually gain something in brightness of picture.

3D is a nice thing for the occasional viewing, for the gee whiz factor, but it is no replacement for a really beautiful rendered and composed 2D film.

Just as HDTV for all its praise is not, nor never will be the equal of 35mm film, much less 70mm film.

HDTV is like DVD, a bastard compression medium, used to compress film into something viewable into the consumer confines of a tv and a living room, rather than the commercial standard of a movie screen and theater. Similar, but make no mistake, inferior, to true film.

And whereas a 70mm true IMAX 3D movie is in no way inferior to standard 70mm film, it is not appropriate for everything.

Cinema is a language.

And just as Black and White film can speak in a way color film can’t, and why I’m a huge Film Noir fan, 2D is also a distinct cinematic language, and sometimes that flat plane is the thing.

Not being in the shot, but observing the shot, is the thing.

Just as you can do THE THIRD MAN in color, but you would lose an ineffable part of the tone by so doing, that’s the same way that David Lean’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm, saying things about distance and alienation, would be lost translated into the “in-your-face” histrionics of IMAX 3D.

I like 3D in all its forms, to differing degrees, but even in its best forms I understand it’s a gimmick, that should not be overused.

3D ultimately is about lying to your brain, it’s about forcing a lie onto your brain, that this thing in front of you on the screen has as much depth and reality as the person sitting beside you or the world outside the theater.

In moderation it’s a fun gimmick.

But with this recent push to 3D TVs, you risk making it something else. You risk making the exception of lying to your brain, the rule, and what long term effects this can have, particularly on children’s development, growing up exposed constantly to this new medium, what challenge or aberration to their motor skills, and coordination, and socialization?, are questions that in the rush toward a new revenue stream… too many are ignoring.

Some of these 3D TVs are coming with warnings. You should heed them, and leave the 3D in the theater. My gut reaction? Stick to 2D for the home. At least till all the bugs are shaken out.

Likewise troubling, is the Sony push to digitize cinemas, as it has nothing to do with the best picture quality and everything to do with control and maximizing profit streams. The theaters forced to go this route will see their profit margins dwindle, and find themselves ever more at the mercy of the studios. And true 70mm and 35 mm theaters will go the way of the dodo, becoming a high priced specialty item for the few to seek out.

Here ends the public service announcement. :). Back to our THOR review.

Here on out I’ll be avoiding all 3D movies, unless a/specifically shot in IMAX 3D, with the Cameron cameras, or b/if it’s something especially gimmicky and is the same price as a regular film.

So given this criteria Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS III, which meets criteria # 1, will be the next 3D flick I check out. Unlike some people, I’m still quite enamored of Michael Bay’s visuals and always have fun at his movies. So if any movie can visually give Cameron’s AVATAR a battle, it may be Bay’s TRANSFORMERS.

So getting back to THOR, a very good if not great movie, that is poised to be the critical and commercial hit that Kenneth Branagh was definitely needing. And stay past the credits for the easter egg, if so inclined. Nothing earth shattering, but it’s fun that Marvel continues to do this universe building. Giving people a reason to sit through the credits.

Grade is a strong B/B+.