This is the opening weekend for WORLD WAR Z, so the question of the moment is… is it worth seeing in 3D?
The jury is still out on this one. But I’ll update this post tomorrow with my thoughts.
G.I. JOE RETALIATION- A good, if flawed popcorn flick. A brisk running time, and strong action sequences makes up for haphazard plot, script, and largely half baked performances.
Not giving you time to ponder too long the film’s shortcomings (the whole Storm Shadow and RZA subplot is so under-written/poorly written it seems almost to belong to a different, unfinished movie) is a definite strength of this film. Taken at speed, and not too seriously, it’s a fun and at times adrenalin inducing 90minutes, and one of the few films to do a good job of utilizing REAL 3D.
Usually not a fan of 3D, however this time a combination of good theater, and I think a well converted 3D film, makes for a film that is fun to see in 3D, rather than a chore. Dwayne Johnson largely carries the film, being the most likeable and engaging actor in the movie. GRADE: B! Enjoy!
“No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. But I know none, and therefore am no beast.”
― William Shakespeare, Richard III
There is no shortage of villains in the oeuvre of the writer known as William Shakespeare. From the machinations of Hamlet’s Uncle-cum-Father who puts Hamlet ‘too much in the Sun’, to the deviousness of Othello’s ‘trusted’ Iago, to the bloody, eye-plucking Cornwall in King Lear, but none are so ever quotable, and perhaps as eminently watchable as Richard III, who is of such expanse in his villainy that he is the star of his own self-titled play, rather than just a player in another character’s tale.
And this comes to life in florid detail in the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s unique production of RICHARD III. Directed by Ian Gallanar, one of the CSC’s founders, RICHARD III is presented in a ‘movable’ style that puts the audience, truly in the heart of the action and makes them mute(and not so mute) chorus to this tale of treachery and tragedy.
Taking place in the ‘haunted’ ruins at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City, Maryland, beneath the stars and the eyes of God, it is truly a presentation to remember. Particularly on a good, clear fall night (which we were blessed to see it on) with the wind picking up just a little, and showering Richard III with leaves, almost on queue, as he woos a man’s widow over his corpse. Ay, it’s a great thing, when the heavens provide your special effects.
And the whole play went thus, as a crowd of over 100, moved from picturesque room or steps or courtyard, moved from scene to scene, and watched actors of talent and temper… a tale unfold.
And before getting into the actors, a bit more on the setting.
Ellicott City is a 30 square mile area, more loose community than incorporated sub-division, that traces its history back to its founding as a Flour Mill back in 1772 by Quaker Brothers named Ellicott. Nestled in the Baltimore-Washington bosom, the area is rumored to, like Rome, be built on seven hills.
So this is no concrete jungle or ‘great white way’ for your theatrical experience, it is a beautiful and languid tree-lined drive, followed by a pretty spooky uphill walk to make the (typically) 8pm showing, that takes place in the Grecian tinged ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute.
So that is the stage, not New York, or Charlotte, or DC or LA, but the woodlands of Ellicott City; and the PFI Historic Park is a stage worth traveling to see.
Now for those who prance upon that stage.
While there are many strengths to an outdoor production, there are also obvious weaknesses. There are minor moments of congestion and confusion inherent in herding a hundred people to and fro, and that very act of going in and out of the ‘reality’ of the play, perhaps can limit how engrossed the viewer can get into the play.
However I think the immediacy of being ‘in’ the play, and viewing that closely the actors and interacting in their space, compensates for any loss of concentrated immersion in the piece.
However one other weakness of an outdoor production, is the sound. Without the acoustics and sound system of a real theater the actors have to project to be heard, particularly should the weather pick up. Some actors were better at doing this than others. Some actors needed to project better. And some actors were stellar.
The word stellar has to be kept close to the name Vince Eisenson who stars as the titular Richard the IIIrd. He has, as expected, to carry much of the play, much of the language, much of the energy. It is a ponderous role to undertake, and Eisenson manages not just to suffer the weight of the role, but to carry it as if he was born to it.
Part of this may have to do with his youth, but more than that Eisenson’s Richard is a far more vibrant and lively Richard, no less tortured than other actors who have portrayed the character, but there is a sophistication there, a deft touch to his portrayal, that eschews mustache twirling, that makes the character’s ability to charm and deceive, more believable here.
Also of note is the performance of Associate Director Scott Allan Small, as he makes the role of Buckingham, that I think can often come off as no more than a yes man, into one of the formidable figures of the play. He particularly just shines in the scene where he mixes with the audience as he ‘attempts’ to get Richard to accept the crown.
Also the scene where Buckingham draws the line at the slaying of children, and demands his due of Richard, I thought was just played beautifully between the two actors of Eisenson and Small. The physicality of how they played that role, with Buckingham played as the brick wall in that scene (like Marvel Comics’ Kingpin transplanted to Shakespeare), against Richard’s flowing water, that seeps into the brick… and breaks it all to pieces.
And the CSC performance is filled with such capable actors, among them Dave Gamble, Greg Burgess, and Jamie Jager in a passionate performance as Richmond. Another highlight scene is with Ron Heneghan delivering a very captivating performance as the imprisoned Clarence; it takes place in a fireplace dominated prison opposite equally entertaining performances by Bart Debicki as Brackenbury (the lieutenant of the tower) and the actors playing his assassins (Rebecca Dreyfuss and Jared Murray).
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable and recommended production, by a theater company I do not think you would be wrong, in calling world class. And this is typified by the fact that the last few performances of their RICHARD III (ending the weekend of this writing) are all sold out.
But don’t mourn too much, if moved by this review to sample the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in the future and will be visiting the East Coast, 2013 brings new CSC productions of Shakespeare’s classic plays, among them ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA and THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.
And If RICHARD III is a gauge, both shows will be much labored over in their construction, and much loved in their delivery.
Accolades go out to communications Director Sandra Maddox Barton for all her assistance, in making this review possible.
“The Quest is the Quest.”
DR. WHO: UNDERWORLD
I’ll be brief, as the media has flapped their lips much, and as always said little. Nothing of use. And I have spoken before on Americans massacring Americans. The unchecked carnage and irrationality, of a population that cheers the death of people and nations it does not know, coming home to roost.
with Machine minds
Killing in these Machine times
I was traveling when the news of Colorado intruded.
That’s the only word for it.
The 24 hour news machine/propaganda agenda… lives nowhere as well, as in places we go to… travel away. Lives nowhere as completely as plane, train and bus stations. Almost like an oft repeated mantra of programming to blunt any true travel, a mantra of… ‘this be the world… forever…there is no escape’.
Something oppressive about the 24 hour news cycle, I have always found.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be informed of tragedies such as Colorado (What a beset state), and immediately informed.
What I am saying is the media seems to want to inform us of nothing else. In a day when pilots averted plane crashes, and good Samaritans saved hikers, and countries at war found moments of peace, none of that good news rated even a footnote.
I’m saying the news is not the world, it is selective showcasing of the world, and perhaps if that selection sought to gleefully make stars of something beyond tragedy and mass murder, there would be less sad, pathetic young men, seeking to make their mark with the media… by giving it what it wants.
I’m saying I listened to reporters almost salivating over every detail of a dozen dead and dozens more maimed and scarred and changed for life.
And I did not hear the victims in all that endless parade of lipsticked Fox whores and well quaffed CNN pimps, putting on their sincere faces as they sought to poke wounds for blood and wring eyes to elicit tears. I did not hear the victims at all. I heard ghouls, almost vibrating with the joy of a juicy, salacious story.
Vibrating with the joy of a new boogie man and court case to make their names with. Perhaps book deals and made for TV movies for all involved.
I am saying one man chose to change many lives, do not let him change any more. Do not give him… the stage. And reasons? I do not care of reasons. Reasons do not raise the dead, or replace eyes or limbs or livers. I do not care the reason people cross the line, it is enough that they cross the line.
And that they must answer for it, in such a manner as to make the next man see naught but misery in the repetition.
And the talk of insanity is and has always been an invalid one. All crime is insanity, so it is never a case of innocent by reason of insanity, it should always be a case of guilty by reason of insanity.
And in no way should monsters profit from their crime.
No book deals, no interviews, no made for tv offers. Make it illegal to profit from a massacre, whether you are the perpetrator, or a tv station, or a movie studio.
Sure you can write or create a documentary etc, but any profits go into a fund for the victims and their families. NO one profits from a massacre, least of all the perpetrator, becomes the new law of the land.
His name is removed, is vilified, is lessened, his likeness done away with, and everything he was reduced to a bland label such as: ‘”pathetic impotent eunuch BH” stands trial for his crimes.’
And throughout history, that is the name and the manner of man that shall be remembered.
Do that, and then see how many will seek that path for glory!
We must stop glamourizing mass murderers, those who take the easy road to their media promised minutes of fame and infamy. Because to continue to glorify and profit from such massacres is to be complicit in the crime, and worse to be complicit in future crimes, by continuing to romanticize a society of monsters.
All that went through my head in the 15 minutes total, over the course of a weekend that I could stomach to listen to the news whores and pimps, in their glory. And to my horror I found them, all the reporters, far more sickening than the man who walked into a theater… to get their attention.
America will not have ground to stand on with any other country, in judging their atrocities, till this country first owns up and manages our own boiling over evils.
I wish for those affected, an end to the monster that caused their pain, but more than that, I wish an end to the monster-makers… which our news media is no little part of.
Here endeth the Lesson.
WEDNESDAYS WORDS is a new weekly installment that ranks the most interesting, intriguing books of the week (old, new, reissues, digital, etc). Contributors represent a variety of genres and sources. Each book includes Title and publisher blurb.
While I found the NY list more interesting than the Amazon list, both were a bit more miss than hit for me. The majority of their items wouldn’t be on my purchase list. What would be?
Glad you asked. Behold:
Dogsbody[Paperback] - Book Description
Publication Date: April 12, 2012
The Dog Star, Sirius, is tried – and found guilty – by his heavenly peers for a murder he did not commit. His sentence: to live on the planet Earth until he can carry out a seemingly impossible mission – the recovery of a deadly weapon known as the Zoi. The first lesson Sirius learns in his lowly earthly form is that humans have all the power. The second is that even though his young mistress loves him, she can’t protect either of them. The third – and worst – is that someone out there will do anything to keep Sirius from finding the Zoi. Even if it means destroying Earth itself. This funny, heartbreaking, stunning book features an introduction by Neil Gaiman, an avid fan of Diana Wynne Jones.
Fire and Hemlock [Paperback] Publication Date: April 12, 2012
Polly Whittacker has two sets of memories. In the first, things are boringly normal; in the second, her life is entangled with the mysterious, complicated cellist Thomas Lynn. One day, the second set of memories overpowers the first, and Polly knows something is very wrong. Someone has been trying to make her forget Tom – whose life, she realizes, is at supernatural risk. Fire and Hemlock is a fantasy filled with sorcery and intrigue, magic and mystery – and a most unusual and satisfying love story.
Widely considered to be one of Diana Wynne Jones’s best novels, the Firebird edition of Fire and Hemlock features an introduction by the acclaimed Garth Nix – and an essay about the writing of the book by Jones herself.
About the Author
Diana Wynne Jones was the multiple award-winning author of many fantasy novels for children, teenagers, and adults. Her book Howl’s Moving Castle was made into an Academy Award-nominated major animated feature by Hayao Miyazaki. She received the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Married to the medievalist J. A. Burrow, with whom she had three sons, she lived for many years in Bristol, the setting for many of her books. Diana Wynne Jones passed away in March 2011, after a long illness.
The Incredible Adventures of Doc Atlas: The Doc Atlas Omnibus (Doc Atlas Omnibus) – Publication Date: October 7, 2011 | Series: Doc Atlas Onmibus
Set in the era of the 1940s and 50s, this collection of pulp-style novellas follows the adventures of the mighty Doc Atlas and crew from the jungles of Central America to the frozen tundra of the North Pole. Whether they’re prowling the streets of Manhattan, investigating reports of a killer gorilla (with the purported brain of an executed criminal) or a crashed flying saucer in a small town named Roswell, New Mexico, Doc and company always see the investigation through to the end. Written with historical hindsight, these tales combine the best elements of the pulp era with actual historical figures and events.
- I’m not a Doc Savage fan. So a Doc Savage homage, is generally not something that is going to get my attention. I would never even have stopped on the page, accept the cover. It had a striking Geoff Darrow cover. So that got me to stop, read the description and decide… yeah it sounds worth a look. And that would neveer have happened without a great cover. I can’t stress this enough, with ebooks and print on demand and specialty presses there is a lot of product and competition out there, make it easy and attractive for your book to stand out and get picked up… pay the money, get a great cover. I see so many books, and I’n a cover guy, so if you send me a book, and the cover looks like a two year old drew it, I don’t care how good the book is purported to be…, I’m just not going to take the time to read it. An awful cover, to me, shows a lack of concern on the writer’s part, for their product, not to package it as pleasingly as possible. And if the writer doesn’t care… why should I? So people, if you spend months or years on a book, don’t short-change yourself… spend the money and have a nice cover drawn up. And that’s exactly what writer Black and Lovato do with this book, and as you can see by me highlighting their title… having a good cover helps. It won’t make up for bad writing, but it will at least get people to open the book and judge for themselves the quality of the writing.
Tales from the Deed Box of John H. Watson, MD: Three Untold Tales of Sherlock Holmes- Publication Date: January 20, 2012
Three previously unknown accounts in the case files of Sherlock Holmes, discovered and transcribed by Hugh Ashton: The Odessa Business, the Case of the Missing Matchbox and The Case of the Cormorant.- I like these theme books, and Hugh Ashton’s stories are getting good reviews.
For other writers who do a fantastic job of writing original Holmes stories, some superior to the originals, I have to direct you to the fantastic audio dramas by the folks at IMAGINATION THEATRE. Jim French with wife Pat French since 1952 have been working in radio drama, and since 1995 with Transmedia have been producing and broadcasting IMAGINATION THEATRE.
Starring John Patrick Lowrie and John Gilbert as Holmes with Lawrence Albert as Dr. Watson, their long running Sherlock Holmes radio series is not just good Holmes, it’s one of the best adaptation of Holmes… period. Better than the BBC productions, better than the Downey movies, better than the new Sherlock tv series (SACRILEGE!!!).
In fact there are only two other adaptations I rate as highly, the Jeremy Brett television series… which is seminal entertainment, and (not the Rathbone radio series) the John Shirley 1940s radio series when written by two particular writers whose names are escaping me at the moment. But that’s it, those two and French’s adaptations, a Californian, An American production, are the tops.
French’s IMAGINATION THEATRE, for hundreds of weeks, producing quietly without the attention it deserves the best Holmes Original stories and Adaptations, of our time.
I wish however they would put together thematic sets of their Holmes audio dramas. They have a fantastic 3 or 4 episodes with a villain, that transcends Moriarty in terms of craziness, but it is spread over multiple seasons. They need to make that trilogy/quadrilogy a boxed collection onto itself, and that would make a fantastic introduction to IMAGINATION THEATRE and their Holmes dramas.
But do they listen to me… no. Oh well, until such time as they do, make do with the following:
The WEDNESDAYS WORDS column is a new blog feature, appearing (you guessed it!) every Wednesday. Come back next week to see which books make the list!
If you’re a publisher, writer, or other creative representative looking to submit items for WEDNESDAYS WORDS, just leave a comment on this post with your email/contact info, comments don’t get posted they come right to me, and I’ll reach out to you with the snail mail details.
And as far as readers, if you see items on WEDNESDAYS WORDS you’re considering purchasing then, if you are able and would like to support this blog, please utilize the attached links.
Your helpful purchases through those links, generates much appreciated pennies to keep this blog running. Your feedback and support… just way cool, and way appreciated. Thanks!
This posting is brought to you by:
Sponsored by Ebay Store: Deals of the Day!
As I’m wont to do, I tend to keep abreast of the entertainment news, specifically film. One thing I’ve been hearing quite a lot in the wake of the Avengers film is talk of it making over a billion dollars. And I listen to the fervor and sense of ownership all these writers and pod-casters are going on with about this financial mark. And I have to ask ‘Why’?
I mean I enjoy the Avengers movie, as much as anyone, arguably more than most people will in 6 months. By that I mean it’s an interesting hive mind approach that occurs in popular films as well as other things, where people’s steadfast belief in whether a movie is good and bad fluctuates with the slightest derision or the popular opinion of the day.
AVENGERS was and is a great movie full stop. Pacing wise, action, wise, story wise. But now barely two weeks into its release you hear a few people say, “oh well the first half was slow”, and people I heard broadcast not even a week ago how great the film was, begin to backpedal and parrot “Oh well the beginning was a little slow”. We live in a monopolized society where the individual is so scared to have an unpopular opinion, to the point that a lot of their opinions generally are not worth the breath they take to say it, or the paper they take to write it.
They have the spineless nature of slugs.
Same change of opinion (but to both a lesser and greater degree) happened to the Bryan Singer film SUPERMAN RETURNS. First week, people came out raving and loving that film. The Airplane scene, the bullet to the eye. It was a solid very good movie. But less than a week later, people began picking up the mantra of ‘why’s the kid there’ and ‘lex again’ and ‘Lois’. And you could see the ship of public opinion so to speak, turn. And people who initially were overjoyed about the film, started backpedaling, “Well, yeah I didn’t really say it was good.”. Until now a few years later people routinely call that movie awful and one of the worst.
It’s something I’ve noticed, Something that is not just American, because I’ve listened to enough British pod-casters do the same thing. So many are seemingly so afraid to hold an opinion derided or frowned upon or be seen cherishing something not embraced by their ‘friends’ or even their ‘enemies’.
It’s a lack of conviction, to anything you believe. Obvious symptoms of a propagandized population, so used to embracing any lie, that will keep it from having to alone, look at uncomfortable truths.
So yeah, when I say I enjoy the AVENGERS more than most people will in 6 months, that’s not me having you on, it’s just a fact. I’m not swayed by the mob.
I thought SUPERMAN RETURNS was a fun, solid B movie when I first saw it, and I still think so. I think AVENGERS is a brilliant, surprisingly so, Grade A movie today, and will think the same thing 5 years from today, when most of you have been pushed far afield of any opinion you may have had on the film.
I mean there’s nothing wrong with changing your opinion, if it’s your change, your growth, your adaptation. But that’s not what’s happening. What’s happening is a propagandized population taught by the media to have no constants, no ideals, no values, that will not be torn down; have learned to make their opinions on shifting sands, always ready to be remade at the slightest rise of the tide.
Which brings us back to the original concern. Why are you celebrating or in any manner cheering the AVENGERS making over a Billion dollars?
Beyond just financial interest, I could care less if the movie breaks even, does 400 million, or does a billion. Honestly I don’t really have a stake in it if it loses money.
Of course liking the film, it’s nice if it doesn’t bomb, for the simple fact it would be nice to see more films by a competent director like Joss Whedon.
But none of that is the case. I don’t personally know a single person who is in any way going to profit, by making a monopolized studio and theatrical system a billion dollars richer. All this did is take a billion dollars from a lot of little pockets, and put it into a very few big pockets.
Now I’m not making a deal on that. I went to see the movie like everyone else, but you can be damn sure I’m not celebrating this state of affairs either.
AVENGERS makes a billion dollars, okay. I accept it as a fact. But honestly, until such time as those funds and profits get distributed to real theaters and real people (a billion dollars, hell you can afford to hire real projectionists, pay the ushers, and ticket takers a real wage, get real popcorn and healthy drinks, etc, etc…but you’ll drop dead waiting for that money to trickle down. In fact all the studios can talk about is reducing costs at the local level and maximizing profits by digitizing everything), I have no interest in celebrating billionaires becoming bigger billionaires.
Beyond a movie breaking even to keep a good director or actor I like viable, that’s where my interest in what a film makes or does not make… ends. Some people were complaining because TRANSFORMERS:DARK OF THE MOON was a box office success. Who cares? I personally don’t get the Michael Bay hate, but as we’ve established I don’t follow the crowd.
Michael Bay is a talented director who puts bodies in seats. Some films of his I like, some I don’t. I loved his first film BAD BOYS, and loved his last film DARK OF THE MOON (which the end of the AVENGERS was more than a little like) and in-between like any other director he has been hit and miss. But even the movies I don’t like I don’t wish them ill at the box-office. What sense does that make?
If you don’t like a movie, does that mean everyone has to wish it ill and hate it as well? Does that mean you have to begrudge it its success?
I personally hated Nolan’s first Batman movie, and thought his DARK KNIGHT while better, was still flawed and over-hyped. So not really a Nolan fan, but I don’t begrudge his films their success. As stated, what Billionaires do or don’t make.. not concerned.
When some of that tremendous profit begins cycling back into the communities, well then that will be something to feel pride and ownership of.
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.
‘I can do this all day.’
The above being a quote from the film, and translates into me saying: “Yeah. I dug it.”
CAPTAIN AMERICA:FIRST AVENGER is an exceptionally well written encapsulation of a character I grew up with, and yet tweaked to make an easy jumping on point for those coming into the film without any prior knowledge of this character.
The script by the screen-writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely delivers the universals of courage and sacrifice, that are as old as the race of man; as old as our ballads of heroism and blood.
Plus I was quite impressed, with how well the movie does touch on much of Marvel Comics’s rich mythology. Offering easter eggs for those in the know, from Bucky Barnes to Stark to the Howling Commandos to Arnim Zola (his first appearance his face framed in glass, ala the comics) to a quick view of the golden age Human Torch, while not bogging down newcomers with exposition on this minutiae… it’s an impressive script.
Impressive, even touching performances, Chris Evans laying to rest any qualms about his ability to own the role, Derek Luke as the howling commando Gabe Jones (I like this character in the comics, and I like the fact of this character in the film. I like the fact the film notices, if only peripherally, the large number of people of color, some would say disproportionate number, that serve in every war, but particularly WWII). Hugo Weaving, even acting under tons of latex, delivers the gravitas, as of course does the great Tommy Lee Jones. And Stanley Tucci and Sebastian Stan of KINGS fame, are also highlights of a very strong cast.
All capably directed by Joe Johnston of the much maligned (unfairly maligned) WEREWOLF. Plus, I did like the present day framing sequence. Nicely done.
All that’s to the asset column. The minus is… while THE FIRST AVENGER is a very good movie, it never really feels great.
You don’t leave the theater going, “that was amazing!”. Like you might… having just left the theater from seeing Spiderman II or Empire Strikes Back or Tombstone or SuperMan The Movie.
So THE FIRST AVENGER is a very good movie, but even while watching it, you’re aware, acutely aware, that it is never more than very good.
And that’s fine, it doesn’t have to be great, though, I guess that’s the hope. But it hits all the points it needs to, and does it in a serviceable manner, I mean even with hindsight being 20/20 I myself can’t say how they could have made the movie any better than it was, and accomplish the inherent goals of an origin and lead-in movie.
It suffers from the needs of its duties.
As must we all.
It does have a tendency to feel long and episodic, but it is not a long movie, so there’s something pace-wise there, that is off just enough to be noticeable; But not enough to be disappointing.
And another problem with the film is you are not with any character long enough for them to be more than caricature.
In fact, I’m thinking through the movie that the film would possibly work better, pacing wise, as one of those 6 part BBC or HBO tv seasons rather than a film. Just because every character is touched on in just such a cursory manner.
And if this occurs to you while watching the movie in the theater, then you do have a pacing issue. And the final battle with Red Skull, both battles actually, come off as anti-climatic. Neither one really wows.
This is coming across as if I didn’t like the film, I did. I liked the film, and will add it to my DVD collection, when it comes out. I just think it could have been more.
I think Marvel Studios is to be applauded for in a market where quality is a crapshoot at best, creating consistently well written and over-all satisfying films, that not only stand alone but integrate into a larger cinematic tapestry. You have to go all the way back to the silent films of Fritz Lang, to get anything close to as cohesive and ambitious a cinematic mythology.
That said, the films CAPTAIN AMERICA and to some extent THOR, I do think illustrate the… lack of climax to Marvel’s individual films. They are being thought of in many ways as episodic television, episodes in a larger serial, which is great for the long term plan, but I think leaves you with a safe, but less then sensational individual movie.
It’s a hard tight rope Marvel Studios is walking, and to this point a quite successful walk. The telling moment will come with their AVENGERS movie, that all these half dozen films have been building toward, and to some extent… sacrificed toward.
Will the Avengers be that amazing, climatic movie that stands the test of time and is the worthy culmination of all this buildup?
Because failing that, failing a really great film (not an okay film, not a good film, not a B grade film, but a GREAT film)… failing that, then the studio that trained audiences to sit through credits to see teasers and trailers (a brilliant move by the way, that if you had asked me if it was possible to do in the age of Attention Deficit Disorder… I would have said no, and am glad to be wrong)… this same studio, may end up training audiences to wait for the DVD when it comes to future comic movies.
Marvel Studios needs a HUGE homerun with the AVENGERS film. Especially with chains like AMC pulling stunts to make the crappy and more expensive REALD 3D versions of the film, the only versions available most of the time.
I went to see a matinée showing of CAPTAIN AMERICA. Turns out that one was in REALD 3D (that was not advertised as being in 3D when I checked the times. It’s like theater chains are starting to hide which versions are in 3D so they can surprise you with the higher price when you get there).
So I’m already at the theater, and no other options available, so not only do I end up seeing this flick in REALD 3D, a crappy process that darkens the screen too much, and the stupid “one size fits none” glasses, sits on your nose just at the right spot to give you an annoying headache, but you have to pay MORE for this mediocre viewing experience??!!! Really???!!!
Anyhow, I spent most of the movie holding the glasses away from the bridge of my nose, and completely taking them off in night scenes so I could actually see some brightness in the picture.
AMC is on my frigging list. AMC and the stupid Sony Backed REALD 3D process.
This is why I say Marvel Studios is going to need a homerun with THE AVENGERS, cause people are not going to continue putting up with this price gouging from the theaters, and annoying viewing experiences, for simply okay films.
AVENGERS needs to be outstanding (and not offered in Reald 3D) or from now on Marvel Studios films gets relegated to the wait for DVD list.
Time will tell.
So Final Thoughts: CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST AVENGER is a solid B movie. But it’s low on re-watchability and the ‘wow/impressive’ factor. If you haven’t seen it in the theater, if you can get a standard 2d Matinée showing cheap, go for it. Otherwise just rent it on DVD. If you, like me, enjoy DVD commentaries, and are looking forward to cast and crew discussing the film then go ahead and purchase. Otherwise… stick to rental.
Movie Review: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON in IMAX 3D
I just got to see the long awaited TRANSFORMERS DARK OF THE MOON in IMAX 3D, and the verdict?
It’s big, it’s noisy, it’s formulaic, it’s often hard for me to decipher one giant robot from another, particularly in battle scenes (whose big idea was it to make the two Primes, the same color scheme?) and, all those failings accepted…
I loved it.
Michael Bay I think gets a lot of undeserved stones cast his way, but he makes exactly the types of films he wants, and they put people in seats.
I think they are always visually dazzling. Now you can argue about depth and reliance on the formulaic, but the formula is the genre in such films, that are part of a long tradition of rousing action yarns, and more of… ballads to sacrifice. DARK OF THE MOON is the 21st century epitome of such ballads, the tale of Grendel, a myth of the hero mated with the monster movie, writ large. Writer Ehren Kruger becoming quickly a name to watch.
Brought to life with Bay’s extraordinary Visual Stylistics, and a level of mating special/practical effects and CGI that can only be called… successful. With no less then 4 visual effects companies, ILM, Digital Domain, Prime focus and Prana Studios, helping to weave their creations into the in camera/live special effects, stunts, and pyrotechnics; it is a massive undertaking.
If there is one thing I would fault the CGI for is perhaps making the Transformers physically too busy and too complex. Even when standing still they are a patchwork mess of colors, and shapes, and dood-dads, it’s hard beyond the generalities of this is a head a torso , two legs, etc… to really know what you’re looking at.
And once they get into fight scenes, forget about it, it is largely just a chaos of moving parts.
Realizing that, Michael bay does kick in the slow motion during crucial scenes.
So, yes, I know the visual effects guys were going for some sort of ‘realism’ in the convoluted design of the Transformers, but I think a bit more simplicity would have made them easier to differentiate, particularly in the battle scenes.
Thankfully the movie moves quick enough that you are not pondering the confusion too much, and the confusion becomes part of the story-telling, but ideally I would have liked less convoluted Transformers.
However, despite that, at no point do you fail to accept the humans and the Transformers inhabiting the same space, instead it is a seamless integration that the audience from first frame to last can just be swept up in.
The crowd I saw the film with… laughed, applauded, oohed, awed, and in places got teary eyed (I know I did) in what should be no more than an 80′s nostalgia, kid’s toy-line cash-grab. But it is a lot more than that.
Michael Bay creates Blockbuster entertainment, and DARK OF THE MOON is his largest, and surprisingly, his best film to date, edging out his debut film BAD BOYS; which I would have previously given that appellation to.
The shear scale of this monster movie (and ultimately that is what DARK OF THE MOON feels like… a huge monster movie) is awe-inspiring, and IMAX 3D shows you clearly why you should accept no substitutes in terms of 3D.
Bay set out to make the most amazing and immersive 3D film since AVATAR, and he’s done that. It’s a technical marvel, but like AVATAR the 3D never feels like a gimmick or afterthought or superfluous it’s part and parcel of the film he’s crafting for you. That said I’m still no fan of the exorbitant prices that movie chains like AMC are charging for IMAX. I paid $13.50 for a matinee ticket for this showing, a $5.50 surcharge over regular 2D ticket prices!!
Needless to say that’s not an expense I support or am prepared to pay, for the most part. I think 3D movies should be the same price as 2D movies. Particularly when most Hollywood films screened in IMAX 3D, have not lived up to the potential. Being technically and cinematically not effective uses of 3D.
However the IMAX 3D (and notice I specify a difference, I don’t like the REALD 3D Sony backed 3D process, and definitely would not pay more for that) in DARK OF THE MOON is (and yes I’m going to say it)… awesome. The scene when they go out the helicopter… wow. If the movie wasn’t nearly $15 I could (and would) go see it again, for wonderful scenes like that.
But great 3D in service of a mediocre film, would still be a mediocre film. DARK OF THE MOON is first and foremost a great film, as Michael Bay grounds this tale of titanic battles of building sized transforming machine behemoths, with the vagaries, and courage of the human heart.
As far as the casting, I have to admit to missing Megan Fox a bit. Newcomer Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is okay, but she’s no Megan Fox. As far as the rest of the cast, I’m no Shia LeBeouf fan, but thought his part was well written here and he did a very good job with it. And everybody else, Duhamel, Turturro, Gibson, McDormand, Dempsey, Malkovich, Tudyk, etc. were all great as well.
Alternately funny, touching, frenetic, sexy, action-packed, dire, epic and courageous, DARK OF THE MOON hits all the requisites of a blockbuster, and more then that all the requisites of a great film. You care.
I wasn’t expecting that, but care I did. There’s a deep vein of sacrifice in this movie, of heroism in the face of crushing odds.
And how that affects you, or if that affects you at all, says a lot about who you are, how you were raised, and what you value.
In a world where heroism, and caring and sacrifice and true liberty… are increasingly endangered concepts, and very few people speak truth to power… I get very sentimental about seeing that hope played out, that dream of dragons… resisted.
You take everything else away from me and what remains is this odd, insane, and totally irrational belief in… heroes.
And DARK OF THE MOON, embraces that ethos of epic and heroism and sacrifice, and is made surprisingly gripping because of it.
Michael Bay has crafted a film of incongruities: a film about machines that talks reverently of humanity, a sequel that improves upon the original, and a summer action flick, that is also just a great and emotional story.
All in all TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON is a film worth seeing in IMAX 3D and in the theaters, rather than waiting for DVD. Highly Recommended. GRADE: A-.