Why do you care if Avengers, or Dark Knight Rises, or Prometheus in Imax 3D makes a boat-load of Money?

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.

Superman Returns [Blu-ray] 2008 Remastered Version

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 it’s not a passion, I don’t have a dog in this fight. If I’m the studio, or someone with a percentage share in the film, hell yeah I’m celebrating every dime it makes. Or in the days when people from your neighborhood actually owned movie theaters and that blockbuster money actually cycled locally, rather than just getting funneled out of the community to make fat cats fatter, I might be happy.

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.

Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION : The RevieW

Well I see there is some interest in my previous post on INCEPTION. Several hundred distinct visits in less than 24 hours.

Well as promised… the review.

I just came from the film, a matinee showing, non-imax, but a very good, high-end local theater. They serve crabcakes at the concession stand for goodness sake.

So a pretty darn impressive theater, a full crowd, just about every seat was taken, and a good, erudite, respectful crowd. Large screen, clean theater, impressive sound system…. and all there to see Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION.

The film starts off with waves lapping an uncertain shore, and in many ways ends the same way.

I thought the movie looked very nice, was well shot, had some really effective use of special effects, and had a smart premise. It seemed well performed by the principals, I liked the sometimes humorous interplay between them, and… I think Dicaprio continues his evolution as a solid, bankable leading man.

All that’s on the surface. The problem with the film, a film about going layer upon layer down below the surface, ironically enough, is it never, really engages on an emotional level… on any level beyond the surface. Its very premise, puts the viewer on guard against real and unreal, and therefore makes the film off-putting, and cold and slightly distant.

You are always outside of the film aware of various layers of unreality, which while sound in theory, in practice it means you are always slightly outside of the jeopardy or concern necessary to make you care or concerned about the characters. It means you are always very aware that you are in a theater watching a film, rather than being in any way immersed in that film. At the heart of the film it should be a love story, I mean at its core it should be a tale of loss love, and one man’s obsession with it.

But it is not.

The thing is you come into the film with that love being a ghost, a dead thing, and it never comes alive in the movie. I never really buy or feel the passion between DiCaprio or Marion Cotillard (who plays that lost love). And without that connection, without the viewer feeling that Casablanca level of love, a man’s sacrifice for that love becomes… understood by the mind but not recognized by the heart.

The film keeps what is real at bay, becomes an exercise in philosphy/metaphysics, rather than ever really becoming what all great or even good films desperately need to be… a wrenching, involving aria to the soul.

I can see the beats that Nolan is going for, but the very structure of his film sabotages any real identification with his characters. Any real sense of their peril and their passions.

It has been compared to the MATRIX (though perhaps a more apt comparison, considering the lead, would be to Scorsese’s superior SHUTTER ISLAND, that uses the same crux of that dead love… but in Scorsese’s film you do feel the connection that could fuel such obsession), but that’s just a crude nod to its style and its premise, INCEPTION is a far more sophisticated film than the MATRIX. But it is also a far emptier film. I just wasn’t engaged, it lacked, from first frame to last… heart.


That is not to say the film is bad, like I previously stated it looks very good, has some interesting scenes (One thing I really like about Christopher Nolan’s films, is the cast. Is the fact that he peoples his films with not just ‘hot’ actors, but great actors who may no longer be in the limelight or who never got their due, Tom Berenger in the former case and Eric Roberts in the latter), but utimately style without substance is… forgettable.

No, not forgettable… dismissible.

I found the movie, here it has been only a few hours, oddly dismissible.

And if my packed matinee audience is any barometer (“okay”, “exhausting”, “disappointing” being some of the comments I heard from the mostly sedate (sedated?) crowd upon leaving) others found the film perhaps a bit… lacking.

One glaring minus… Ken Watanabe’s dialogue is often very difficult to make out. A lot of the movie hinges on caring about him, so having his dialog clear probably should have been a directorial high point. Nolan has done this in other films, where the dialogue is unintelligible (Batman anyone?) but the explosions sure sound good. 🙂 . Again it comes back to that failing of style over substance. “Who cares what the actors are saying, or if they mumble their lines! Man wasn’t that shot pretty!”

It’s a slightly sloppy work ethic, and unnecessarily sabotages Nolan’s films.

For myself. I’m extremely happy I didn’t pay full price for this film ($8 matinee price) and it is not one I’ll be rewatching in the theater, or picking up the DVD or remembering much after this review. I mean there are things a repeated viewing will give you, but those are just clarifications of the what (discussions of the totem, etc.) but without the emotional impetus of the why, I’m not really interested in exploring the what.

Ultimately the massive hype machine, and massive amount of theaters this is opening in, will make it a money maker (not to the levels of DARK KNIGHT, not even close. I was not a fan of DARK KNIGHT, but I do acknowledge it had some fantastic moments. INCEPTION… not so much), people curious about the insane hype (‘best film of the decade’ ‘INCEPTION may become a religion’ ‘Masterpiece’ ‘Instant Classic’) will plunk down their change.

My recommendation, if like me you don’t drink the Koolaid when it comes to previous Nolan films, is (I’m not going to say not to see the film, curiosity alone dictates you make up your own mind) go for the Matinee, and save yourself a few bucks. And then if you do want to deem it a religion feel free to go back for the ‘IMAX EXPERIENCE’. 🙂 .

But I think most of you reading this will find one viewing more than enough.

Final thoughts? Nolan is a filmmaker who is always trying to challenge the viewing experience, make of it a puzzle, a stepping stone to something other… and that is a worthy goal. I just don’t think he pulls it off. He can craft the puzzle, but bereft of passion, they are excercises rather than films, pitstops rather than destinations.

I almost think Nolan would be a, for me, more satisfying filmmaker if he stopped trying for the “gee! see how clever I am!” gotcha moments (he’s not early Fincher or Shyamalan, he can’t pull it off) and instead just tried to tell a story with heart. I’d rather a filmmaker tell a simple story brilliantly, than a complex story sedately.

Final rating? C-/C+.

INCEPTION THE IMAX EXPERIENCE? Give me a frigging break!

Going by the early praise on imdb and various other sites, you would think this film was the 2nd coming or was going to cure cancer. I’ve been there and done that with the films of Nolan, he has a rabid cheering section that seek to lionize films that… for the most part don’t do it for me. That said INCEPTION does look good and intriguing and I look forward to checking it out tomorrow… but not in IMAX!

First let me say I love real IMAX screens, the real 5 story, curved screens that you can find at better science centers in major cities, not the bs retrofited multiplex screens that they call IMAX, when it is clearly IMAX-lite.

That said even those retrofitted screens are worth a look when they are projecting a true IMAX 3D film. IMAX 3D, is the only really satisfying 3D process. So a film in one of these midget IMAX theaters, can be worth the extra money if filmed and projected in IMAX 3d, ala AVATAR.

INCEPTION is not in Imax 3D, so this IMAX EXPERIENCE when it’s done in a retrofitted multiplex screen, is really just code for “boy we think you are really damn stupid and will pay a higher ticket price for nothing”. I saw IRON MAN 2 this way (I thought it was IMAX 3d and instead it was just the IMAX EXPERIENCE) and in a word….was not worth seeing in this manner, a normal theater would have been just as good, and depending on the theater… better.

So here’s hoping that all the smoke being blown around INCEPTION is not just DARK KNIGHT level of bs, and that there is actually a decent film there. And please save your money, and don’t support these psuedo IMAX films. Accept either a REAL IMAX screen or at least IMAX 3D.

So thanks for reading, and come back tomorrow if you want to get a real NON PAID or BS review of Christopher Nolan’s latest.

THE DARK KNIGHT Movie Review: Four Words… “Are you on Crack?!”

This has been a great year for movies.

I’ve seen more films in the theater this year then I’ve seen in the last few years combined. Much of this has to do with me being on the west coast and taking advantage of the movie going groups/scene out here. And much of this has to do with there actually being a ton of really exciting looking films coming out.

This summer particularly has been the summer of the Super-Hero film. With IRON MAN, HULK, WANTED, HANCOCK, HELLBOY, heck even INDIANA JONES. Comic properties this summer have a license to print money with IRON MAN, INDIANA JONES, and HANCOCK leading the pack with blockbuster domestic revenues of between $220 and $330 MILLION DOLLARS to date! WoW, those are impressive numbers!

However, WARNER BROTHERS (that was not having a good summer, their highest grossing movie prior to DK being the $80million from GET SMART) hits a home run with THE DARK KNIGHT. In about 3 weeks, since 18 July 08, THE DARK KNIGHT has grossed over $441 MILLION DOLLARS domestically. It is well on its way to grossing over HALF A BILLION DOLLARS!

Those are impressive numbers. Though honestly, given the fact that this movie has been given a tremendous hype campaign, along with opening on over 9400 screens (according to such sources as HOLLYWOOD.COM and CNN.COM), the highest number of screens ever, a record breaking number of screens (three times what its closest competition opened with); a record breaking opening is to be expected.

That’s just common sense. That’s just math and the law of averages.

Opening in more theaters and more screens means more people can see the film. Plus opening in IMAX screens, where the ticket price is higher, again inflates the revenue this movie is going to generate.

Add the fact that WARNER BROTHERS cozied up to every critic they could find prior to the movie even hitting theaters, and you have record hype to go along with a record number of movie screens. So yeah THE DARK KNIGHT is going to crack half a billion dollars. But that has less to do with it being a great movie, and everything to do with it having a record breaking marketing campaign, and screen release.

HANCOCK which had perhaps the worst marketing campaign of any film I’ve ever seen, opened on a little over 3000 screens, with tons of negative pre-release reviews… HANCOCK was a film marketed to fail, with dismal support from its studio SONY, and negative critical feedback… and managed to surprise everyone by not failing, in fact it’s succeeding pretty darn well. According to VARIETY and MOVIE TIME it has currently grossed over $220 million dollars domestically in a little over a month!

So it’s going to crack 300 Million easily! My point being you put the number of screens and marketing of DARK KNIGHT behind HANCOCK, or IRON MAN they would have cracked the 500 Million dollar mark as well! Honestly HANCOCK with no support is going to do at least half of DARK NIGHTS domestic gross. So just following the math, putting subjective concepts aside, and extrapolating from what the movies are currently doing, if HANCOCK or IRON MAN had opened on as many screens as DARK KNIGHT, with its positive marketing, they would surpass DARK KNIGHT in domestic gross. Period.

DARK KNIGHT’s success is one of marketing more than content. Over 9000 screens, including IMAX screens, and a critical marketing hype campaign bordering on religious hysteria goes a long way toward filling seats. The movie is good, but it is not the masterpiece the critics would delude you into believing.

And I freely admit I’m not a fan of Christopher Nolan, I think he’s an extremely overrated director. I’m not a fan of any of his films. He has a tendency to start films well, but lose his way by the time he gets to the end. MEMENTO…ehh, I could take it or leave it. INSOMNIA… ehhh, just…. much ado about nothing, BATMAN BEGINS…solid beginning, tedious middle, idiotic end…. Stupidest costume ever, PRESTIGE…good beginning, ending…. not so much, it’s a poor man’s ILLUSIONIST.

So that brings us to DARK KNIGHT. Two complaints off the top:

1/ The costumes, both old and new, are still horrendously stupid. How you can spend over a 100 Million on a movie and be unable to come up with a suit that doesn’t make people want to laugh out loud when they see your protagonist is beyond me.

Sandy Collora, A director and Special Effects/Makeup Designer, a year or two before BATMAN BEGINS created for $50,000 a short fan film called BATMAN DEAD END (you can view it here: http://www.collorastudios.com/projects/bde/bdemain.htm). I defy you, I utterly defy you to compare the look of the BATMAN he creates in that film, to the transformer looking nonsense that Nolan has Bale wearing, and in any way prefer Nolan’s version (And no, I don’t know Mr. Collora personally, I just saw his film a few years ago and was then, and remain now… utterly impressed by his brilliant take on the character of the Batman. He got it right).

Collora’s version looks like someone you do not, in this world, want to meet in a dark alley. Nolan’s version looks like a hobo got a hold of some cardboard and Styrofoam, and makes you pee yourself laughing whenever you see him on screen.

Bottom Line; Nolan’s version of Batman is handicapped by a stupid costume, and how you mess that up, when you have over seven decades of comics/storyboards to choose from is completely beyond me. The movie works far better when they don’t have Bale in that laugh inducing box, someone calls a costume. It is inexcusable. And moving on to my next issue…

2/ THE LOVE INTEREST… Maggie Gyllenhaal…. in a word: no. Just no. I don’t want to be cruel here, she may be a nice lady but she’s not remotely the type of person men are going to fight over. So her being a love interest for a billionaire, and the city’s DA, both men that could have their pick of women… was not remotely credible. It’s plain poor casting. Plus in addition to not being the woman for the part, Gyllenhaal lacked the presence to bring anything to her scenes. My opinion admitedly, others may have loved her, but I found her, like the suit, an obvious and inexplicable weakness that should not have made it into the final film. I think it would have been a far stronger film with an actress of say the stature of Nicole Kidman or Rosanna Arquette.

Okay those were the two glaring warts, that continued to bug me throughout the movie. But I’ll give Nolan credit for an ambitious script, that tosses in everything and the kitchen sink. It’s not a great movie, but it has great moments. It is easily Nolan’s best film, and central to this is the performance of Heath Ledger, absolutely phenomenal in his role as the Joker. I did not see Heath Ledger in this movie, he completely created something else, completely was this thing, this… Joker. I think talk of this film being a masterpiece is BS, talk of it being a great film is BS, what I don’t think is BS, is talk of Ledger being nominated for a best actor award.

Like I have said, I’ve seen a lot of films this year, Ledger’s performance ranks up there with the best of them. He single-handedly makes this entire film… better than it would otherwise be. He makes me survive the horrendous scenes of Bale trying to act wrapped in a transformer suit, and helps get my mind off pondering why Maggie Gyllenhaal is even in this film.

His performance makes a trite villain, true. And an uneven film, nearly fluid.

Add to that, moments of cinematic greatness, the triple assassination scene stands out as… brilliant. That you have to hand it to Nolan for, that’s a masterful bit of direction and editing. So there was a lot to like in this movie, and it worked largely because the movie stayed away from Bale in the suit, and Gyllenhaal’s screen time was relatively brief. But ultimately the last act is all about the suit, and that’s the part that works the least for me. So while strong in parts, it’s unfortunately another Nolan ending that leaves something to be desired.

But it’s a far stronger film than anything previous from Nolan. I just think he tries too hard for his films to have a gotcha ending, rather than just a good ending. He’s not David Fincher or early Shyamalan, he can’t pull off the gotcha ending, so he needs to stay away from trying to be cute, and just try for solid and consistent.

So while I hated choices the filmmakers made, that I think unnecessarily hampered a film that could have been… great, they made enough right choices to get this very long film, my grade of: B. Recommended with reservations. (Oh and next Batman movie, hire Mr. Collora to do the suit! 🙂 )