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.

2012 MOVIE Review : THE Verdict is in! AVENGERS… Avenged!!! :)

You are reading this either because you saw the film and want to compare your experience with others, or haven’t seen the film, and want to get a general idea of what people thought of it. I’ll answer both demographics, without going into details about the film.

I think most of you coming to this blog know, my grumpy persona aside I’m not a contrarian. I’m not one of these IMDB idiots who rate all films either 1 or 5 (on a 5 star system, I use a 4 star system), the concept of grading and gradations seemingly lost on them.

That said neither am I a bandwagon jumper who is going to praise a film when it’s trendy to do so, and eviscerate it when it is trendy to do so.(SUPERMAN RETURNS and TITANIC being two movies with more than their share of flip-floppers).

I often listen to pod-casts, and it is amazing how often you can hear one person excited by a film, but then his friends don’t like the film, so you can hear the person backtrack from his/her position, so they can be in line with the likes of their ‘friends’.

An anthropologist might define it as a clannish race survival technique (“Bubba let’s go lynch that thar 12 year old boy, for looking at that thar white woman.” “Why Bubba Senior, that thar’s a fine idea. Hyuck. Hyuck. Hyuck.”), I’ve always just defined it as cowardice.

I’m saying my good opinion or my bad is not formed by the whims of the mob.

Never has been. Never will be.

So if I give you a review you can be sure it is my review, my considered opinion… and I stand behind it.

So my considered opinion on the AVENGERS movie?

Joss Whedon, whose other film this year CABIN IN THE WOODS I wasn’t a fan of (more due to the first time Director on that film, than to Whedon’s script), here in his role as Director and Writer, knocks this film out of the park.

THE AVENGERS is… I’m trying to avoid hyperbole here, leaving that to everyone else, but it has to be said… it is a FANTASTIC film.

It’s as smart as CABIN IN THE WOODS, but with Whedon behind the camera you also get characters and moments you really care about. You get the pathos to go with the pomp and circumstance.

I mean how do you pull this off? The culmination of all these films, all this planning, all these actors, how do you pull it together and make it work and make it live up to expectations? It is really an amazingly ambitious film, a daunting prospect, and Joss Whedon… does it.

It’s really rare for me to laugh out loud in a film, I laughed out loud numerous times in this film, just because it is so knowing, and so sharp, and so biting, and so friggin fun!!!

I’m so glad I went into this film without watching a bunch of trailers or features, or ruining any surprises because I just had a ball. And along with the fun, Whedon gave space and weight to the tragedy, something that is glossed over sometimes in epic films. The weight and cost of this battle. Whedon never loses sight of the street level view, the common men and women caught in the midst of a war of Gods and Monsters.

The humanity he imbues the attack scene with is reminiscent of Mimi Leder’s phenomenal direction in the criminally underrated Clooney action film PEACEMAKER. Where every loss and every life… was felt.


The Peacemaker (Widescreen Edition)

And going along with that, for a big, loud, blow stuff up action flick on par with Bay’s TRANSFORMERS:DARK OF THE MOON (which the battle scenes bear a resemblance to) everyone gets a chance to actually act and emote in this film. Whedon’s TV/Buffy dialog/experience serving the film well.

Every principal actor really gets a chance to shine, Scarlett Johanson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo (Who I didn’t think could fill Ed Norton’s shoes, is phenomenal. Both as Banner and the Jade Giant he has some of the great scenes/lines in the film), Downey, they all bring it. And big kudos to Tom Hiddleston who plays Loki as more than one dimensional, but with charm and depth to match his machinations.

Anything more would be me… gushing. Suffice to say, if my math is correct this is the 6th Marvel Studios film, the culmination of half a dozen years, and their shared Universe experiment, and they pull it off. Creating a cinematic climax to this multi-year and multi-film storyline that is actually bigger and better than the films leading up to it.

I’m seldom the guy to tip my hat to MARVEL, but you have to give them their due. STAR WARS couldn’t do it (RETURN not quite living up to the greatness of EMPIRE), STAR TREK every other film is bad and they are all one off stories, BOND also is one off stories, INDIANA JONES no, MATRIX… no, LORD OF THE RINGS … no, but Marvel Studios managed to end their ambitious story… even stronger than they began it (Though it is worth noting that the heart of this whole AVENGERS cinematic concept, starts with one writer, Mark Millar of WANTED and KICK-ASS fame. His vision is what Marvel Studios followed from page to screen. And in the dozen years since his ULTIMATES comics, his involvement is perhaps not credited as much as it should be).

The AVENGERS storyline that began with the first IRON MAN, went out on a high-note with this film. Arguably only Harry Potter could claim to have as effectively told a story over multiple films. Plus they give us a great teaser at the end, can you say…. awww but that would be telling! 🙂

Go see the film. It’s earned its praise. Highest Recommendation A+.

And read more about the Avengers, here [Definite spoilers :)]:

The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection

The Ultimates 2: Ultimate Collection

Ultimate Comics Avengers by Mark Millar Omnibus

Avengers: Kree/Skrull War

And these books will get you up to speed with the teaser at the end of the film:

Essential Warlock – Volume 1

Essential Captain Marvel, Vol. 1 (Marvel Essentials) (v. 1)

Essential Captain Marvel, Vol. 2 (Marvel Essentials)

Infinity Gauntlet

Movie Review: TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON in IMAX 3D

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.

And was.

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-.

2011 Upcoming Summer Fall films worth seeing in the Theater! (And those that aren’t)

This Summer & Fall’s selection of movies is pretty uninteresting.

Pirates- don’t care. Harry Potter- don’t care. Green Lantern- trailer looks awful. Hangover- Don’t care. Panda2- Don’t care. Cars2- Don’t care. X-men First Class- Trailer has me completely uninterested.

So yeah, summer is sequel heavy, and I am not spending my money on most of em.

    Also ones that sound interesting and they can go either way, being either okay or terrible, are:

STRAW DOGS- As I’ve previously mentioned I have my qualms about this remake, and having just seen the trailer it only increases my doubts about this film. First the trailer basically is the entire film, and 2nd the film is a pretty formulaic reduction of a far more complex original, and 3rd the actors as I’ve previously discussed. Basically the trailer has actually decreased my interest in this film. The lack of a decent poster at this late stage, illustrating the lack of this films identity when compared to the original, that has one of the great, iconic posters of film. So based on all this, currently no plans to see this remake in the theater if at all.

VIVA RIVA- This congo film is seemingly getting some attention, but from some conflicting reviews it sounds like it might be more exploitation flick, gansta rap than I care to be interested in.

I liked CITY OF GOD because there is a vein of decency and humanity and redemption that grounds it. VIVA RIVA has me concerned that it’s just a lowest common denominator, abuse women gangsta want-to-be flick, and that doesn’t interest me in the slightest.

I have a low tolerance for watching women get abused, or the glorification of ignorance, not my idea of something to pay to see. If reviews come in and paint this as something better than what I think it is, then I’ll catch it on DVD.
ADDENDUM: I just saw the trailer to VIVA RIVA… it looks good. So yeah, if I can catch this at a local theater I’ll check it out.

ABDUCTION- I keep wanting to like the films of John Singleton, but the thing is typically I just don’t.

BOYS IN THE HOOD was okay, a nice debut, but is ever in the shadow of the superior MENACE II SOCIETY by the Hughes Brothers. The former feeling dated even upon release, and the latter being ever timeless in its stylish, existential and gothic examination, of hearts of darkness. But very few films can compare favorably to the Hughes Brothers debut, but taking that out of the equation Singleton’s followup films from SHAFT to FOUR BROTHERS also tend to underwhelm, to go through the motions of having a story but tend to lack either momentum or direction.

So adding to my misgivings of Singleton as director, is my complete disinterest in watching his TWILIGHT star, that is the lead in ABDUCTION. I don’t mean any harm… but that is one odd looking kid, but I guess the teen girls find something in that look. However me being not a teen girl, I require out of the star and the director, the ability to carry a film and make me care about it. And I’m completely uninterested in watching this actor. And the trailer does nothing to change my reservations.

So failing any additional feedback ABDUCTION will probably be a DVD rental if that.

    Now the ones that do interest me enough to pay theater prices? Glad you asked 🙂 They are:

10 Jun-

SUPER 8- looks like a cross between ET and CLOVERFIELD, and considering it’s a collaboration between Spielberg and JJ Abrams, that particular feel is obviously by design. I hated CLOVERFIELD but JJ Abrams coming off his impressive STAR TREK reboot, has built up some good will with me, so I’m willing to plunk down money and try this one in the theater.


29 Jun 2011

TRANSFORMERS DARK OF THE MOON IMAX 3D- For reasons previously discussed, very interested in this film. And will be the only movie I pay IMAX 3D prices for, for the rest of the year. Michael Bay shot this with the Cameron 3D cameras, so the 3D should look as good as AVATAR. Plus the trailer just looks great.

THE LEDGE- Matthew Chapman’s first film as director in over 20 years, it’s an intriguing premise about a man compelled to committ suicide. Stars Terrence Howard trying to put his career back on track post the Iron Man debacle. This and another 2011 film LITTLE MURDER, directed by Predrag Antonijevic, starring Howard and set in post-Katrina New Orleans has me interested.

1 July 2011

THE PERFECT HOST- A criminal chooses the wrong house to hide out in. Not typically the kind of film I would pay to see in the theater, but the trailer looks good. Definite maybe.

5 Aug 2011

RISE OF THE APES- There’s only two trailers for the rest of the year that really made my jaw drop and made me exclaim “I have got to go see that!”.

One is the TRANSFORMERS DARK OF THE MOON the other is RISE OF THE APES.

Just like any other kid who grew up in the 70s I liked the Original PLANET OF THE APES films, largely due to the performance of Roddy McDowell one of my favorite actors, and Kim Hunter who I only recently realized was the Kim Hunter of STREET CAR NAMED DESIRE and THE 7TH VICTIM (If you had to define my perfect woman, what I’m attracted to, it would be very close to Kim Hunter in those two roles, her looks and the strange aura she gives off of both vulnerability and sultriness).

So shorn of these two actors to center such a out there scifi film, I had doubts about any remake. Particularly given the awful Tim Burton attempt. However this trailer is going for a different tact, and the Universal Monster/Frankenstein fan in me… really likes it. If the movie lives up to the trailer it will be AWESOME. Either way, I’ll be in the theaters to find out. Also I’m hearing noting but accolades for writer/director Rupert Wyatt’s previous film THE ESCAPIST (which I will make time to watch on DVD in the coming week). This could be the movie of the summer, if not the entire year.

12 Aug 2011

FINAL DESTINATION 5- The series that cannot die returns for a fifth installment. The previous entry which I saw in RealD 3D, was okay 3D, with a fantastic opening credit sequence, unfortunately that was the best thing about the movie, after that it continued to lose steam till the forgettable ending. That said a new director, the addition of Tony Todd, and a pretty solid trailer, and the fact it was shot in 3D has me interested enough to give this latest entry a look on the big screen.

26 Aug 2011

COLUMBIANA- I really liked SALT, and the trailer for this does look good, and I like Zoe Saldana, and how do you not like a director with the name Olivier Megaton… all that is on the plus side. On the minus side is Zoe Saldana playing a bad ass is pushing my suspension of disbelief too far. She’s a 110lbs for goodness sake. The guns are bigger than she is.

Angelina Jolie is at least a big, substantial girl, so you can buy into her handling herself a little bit more. Plus I don’t like how they are kinda grooming Zoe Saldana to be the next Halle Barry, ie someone who is being groomed for typical Black women in White films type rolls, ala MONSTERS BALL. These type of roles are the reason I don’t go to see anything Halle Barry is in, and i would hate for Zoe Saldana to fall into such easy stereotyping. All that to say, the trailer looks good, but I do have qualms. I may see it in the theater though, because it also has Lennie James in a starring role, and he’s a good actor.

Entering the fall only one film as of this writing has me interested in seeing it in the theaters, Tarsem Singh’s THE IMMORTALS.

11 NOV 2011

THE IMMORTALS- Tarsem Singh who helmed the visually stunning THE FALL returns this fall with THE IMMORTALS. By the producers of 300, it has that 300 feel with some CLASH OF THE TITANS tossed in. Visually the trailer looks awesome. However just in that bit of trailer the acting looks hokey and the story similarly questionable. It was a problem that plagued Singh’s THE FALL; shaky performances, and a shaky story. Unlike Snyder who can do both amazing visuals and elicit amazing performances, Singh has yet to meld both in service of a strong, engagingly told story. However, there’s always a first time, and based on the visuals alone I’m intrigued enough to give this film a try in the theater. Because again, like Snyder, even his failures are far more interesting than most directors’ successes. Much like Peckinpah who produced films that never did great at the box office, and opened to mixed critical reviews, but 50 years later have grown in esteem, and are now remembered and still watched when the more commercially successful films of his day are not.

That’s the trajectory of directors Snyder and Singh… they are making movies, slightly ahead of the comfort zone of their time, movies that people will be discussing and praising 50 years from now. Perhaps IMMORTALS will be one of those films or perhaps like most mythological movies it will sink like a stone from the memories of men. Time will tell.

Okay some last minute mentions:

After a lapse of over a decade, John Carpenter returns to the directorial chair with the horror film THE WARD. The film which wrapped in 2010 and received a UK release in January 2011, is finally slated for an 11 July 2011 US release. By all reports critical response to it so far has been luke-warm. I’m still at odds with the idea of releasing US movies abroad before releasing it domestically.

While some of this has to do with studios playing games of economic gymnastics, for smaller studios… much of that has to do with the monopolistic distribution system in the US and the difficulty and expense of getting a slot for wide release in increasingly studio controlled theaters. Whatever the reason THE WARD after a sizable delay is hitting US theaters this year.

Seemingly dealing with a ghost in a women’s institution… the film doesn’t scream original, but from the trailer it is shot nicely, plus it’s Carpenter, he’s earned the benefit of the doubt with me.

That said, the poster is not filling me with confidence.

I’m a big believer if you don’t care enough to put out a creative poster, that’s pretty proportional to what value the backers put in the film. Having a good poster is no indicator of quality, look at Roland Emmerich’s 2012 (a horrible film), but at least it means someone thinks enough of a movie to try and promote it well.

Typically when the poster is nothing more than someone’s face, the money men are saying “we’ve paid for a star, we’re not paying for marketing as well. Their mugshot either brings in people or it doesn’t, either way we’re not spending any more money to market this turkey.”. You get these bland mugshot posters typically when the backers think they have a commercial failure on their hands.

Now that’s not always the case, sometimes expected financial disappointments turn out to be commercial successes… such as HANCOCK (worst… poster… ever, but turned out to be a good movie and managed to gross over 300 million).

So we’ll see if THE WARD will also be an exception to the bad poster rule. Somehow I don’t think so.

And another delayed film, the Guillermo Del Toro produced DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, after being shelved for some time, is also looking at a theatrical release this year. Already released in Iceland in March, the film gets a UK, Australia, and Turkey release on the 12th of August, a Finland release on the 19th of August, and finally cracks the states on the 26th of August.

That just annoys me. But the vagaries of distribution aside the film itself looks interesting, if extremely familiar and formulaic.

With odes of DARKNESS and any number of “child in jeopardy, not believed by the parents, evil house” films. Films that tend to infuriate me with the stupidity of its leads/writing.

Helmed by first time feature director Troy Nixey, the film can go either way. The trailer itself is okay, but films like this tend to lean on that same conceit which I have a problem with, of staying in a house when they’ve been made aware of the danger. So time will tell if this film can do anything different. Katie Holmes, who I tend to find, comes off very annoying and abrasive in everything I’ve seen her in, from Dawson’s Creek to the Batman films, seemed okay in the trailer, we’ll see if that extends to the film as a whole.

I have seen pundits on-line creaming their shorts over the trailer for Jeff Nichols 2nd film, TAKE SHELTER, scheduled for 7 Oct 2011 release. I’ve seen the trailer, it’s okay. Obtuse, not giving anything away, but kinda intriguing. What it is not… is great, or deserving of all this hyperbole of best trailer ever. Are you people on crack? It’s a small, understated trailer, that doesn’t really say anything, but hints it’s about a guy with schizophrenia. May be worth a look, or not. But all this hype screams of award season bs. Time will tell.

And as of this writing that’s all the films for the rest of 2011 that have me interested enough to see them in the theater. I’ll add to this list should any notable new trailers pop up.

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+.

2011 Upcoming Movies/Films to be on the Lookout For!Pt. 1 of 3!

So 2010 was a fantastic year for film. Whenever you get me going to the theater over a dozen times in a year, pretty good year.

So before we continue with the 2010 Year in Review, will 2011 be as exciting?

Well so far the first two months of 2011 are pretty uninteresting film-wise (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu of BABEL film released BIUTIFUL this January. He’s a brilliant director, but the film’s premise doesn’t interest me enough to see it in the theater, but I will pick it up when it hits DVD. There’s a film called LOVE that is listed as a FEBRUARY release but I haven’t seen it in any theaters, like too many intriguing films, such as BLACK DYNAMITE it probably can’t get distribution, so probably will end up straight to DVD, but sounds great. Like this year’s MOON. Another one I hope to check out on DVD at least). So let’s take a look at what films do have me interested enough to pay theater prices to view them:

THE UNKNOWN-Thriller-Release Date: 18 February- I wasn’t a fan of Liam Neeson’s TAKEN, and this film seems to be in the same playground. What does interest me is the director Jaume Collet-Serra, I was quite a fan of his ORPHAN.


Feb 25th sees the release of DRIVE ANGRY 3D and SHELTER. Both I’m pretty lukewarm on, especially DRIVE ANGRY.

So 3 maybes, that’s a pretty pathetic January and February.

March gets a bit better, RANGO is a fun looking, family friendly animated film.

I really am, as a filmgoer, tired of Matt Damon, you would think he was the only actor in Hollywood, but that aside the previews for ADJUSTMENT BUREAU by first time director look very good. So that one is on my radar. But really casting couch, can you cast someone besides Matt Damon?

Also in March you get Jonathan Liebesman’s BATTLE OF LA.

It looks a little less stupid than the similarly themed, and by all reports awful, SKYLINE. However Liebesman gets a little bit of rope with me for his film DARKNESS FALLS, which while it faltered at the middle, and limped to an ending, that first 15 minutes is impressively scary and effective! So BATTLE LOS ANGELES is a weak maybe.

So far a lot of maybes but nothing I’m really committed to seeing in the theater. Until… SUCKER PUNCH. I know going in this is going to be completely nonsensical, but I also know it’s a Zack Snyder film, and he is one of the few directors that creates films, truly deserving of the big screen. His film are visual game-changers, adrenalin fueled power houses, designed to rattle your bones and stun your senses. So even when his films stumble (WATCHMEN) they are still compelling, and Amazing, and definitely worth seeing on the big screen. So SUCKER PUNCH is my first must see movie of 2011. Congrats to Zack Snyder (That said , what the heck is wrong with Zack Snyder hiring a British Actor to Play Superman!? Really? Is America no longer producing actors? All our actors come from England, or Australia, or South Africa or Canada? Really? WTF? Comeon, I know there are home grown actors out there besides Matt Damon!)

Okay, so onto April…

April 1st sees the release of Duncan Jones’ follow-up to MOON, the film SOURCE CODE. An interesting DAYBREAKesque type time mystery/thriller/scifi flick. Sounds good.

James Wan’s INSIDIOUS sounds like a reworking of POLTERGEIST, sounds intriguing but have not seen a trailer. It’s a maybe.

Steven Soderbergh has been more miss than hit for me recently, and I’m getting a little tired of all these female Assassin films (SALT was good, but enough is enough) however HAYWIRE is getting buzz of being Soderbergh’s best film since THE LIMEY, so depending on the trailer may be worth a look.

April 22nd sees the release of the mysterious sounding APOLLO 18. I saw the trailer and looks intriguing, about the moon landings discovering (and covering up) evidence of life on the Moon.

Okay May 6th sees the release of one of the most hyped films of 2011, Kenneth Branagh’s THOR, which I discussed in a previous post. Up there with SUCKER PUNCH as a must see in the theater movie of 2011. It’s been a long time since Branagh has had a hit, I think interest alone will make this film profitable, but it being good depends upon if Branagh, can rise not only to the challenge of a blockbuster action film, but the quality of his own early success. I’m hoping he succeeds, and will be in the theaters to see for myself.

Okay so here it is almost six months into 2011, and the only films with any significant number of characters of color, particularly Black characters are comedies. Inane product like “Medea something something”, and idiots walking around in drag, or whining, snap your finger, shake your head, talk show complaining flicks. I mean I’m sure those films have their place, but everything in effing moderation.

Which is why I LOVED the fact that 2010 gave us films like TAKERS and OBSESSED and even THE LOSERS. It gets old, Hollywood films that have no characters of color, or worse the token, step and fetchit character of color (COP OUT anyone). IT infuriates, mostly because I go to the film festivals and there are dozens of great films and filmmakers of color out there, but their films do not get picked up for distribution.

I can see the conversation going something like this: “Wow a movie that has characters of color not wearing their pants on the ground, or cursing every other word, or not a comedy, or otherwise lowest common denominator?? In other words showing Black People as more than the propaganda and stereotypes we’ve spent billions of dollars to sell to their children? Nope, we don’t want any of that!!” :).

My facetiousness aside, that seems to be the general thinking of the gatekeepers, those who determine what ideas, perceptions, should or should not reach the larger consciousness and conversation of the masses (particularly American).

So my rule these days is to seek out films that star characters of color in non-stereotypical ways, challenging and hopefully uplifting ways (which generally means no Halle Barry movies 🙂 ). And you’ll see by the films I select (with exceptions), if a film doesn’t at least recognize diversity in its casting, I don’t recognize it in the Box Office. It is one of the reasons I have very little use for Woody Allen films.

Okay tirade over, onto the rest of the year of upcoming movies:

June has films that should be heavy hitters, but I’m really not interested in. GREEN LANTERN film, while it has a decent director, not a fan of the lead casting, or the trailer. But film does have Angela Bassett as Amanda Waller and Nick Jones as John Stewart and Taika Waititi as Tom Kalmaku. So those three and decent word of mouth may sway me to see this film. Matthew Vaughn, follows up KICK ASS, with X-MEN:FIRST CLASS, I’m a bit indifferent about the film, but Vaughn is an interesting director, and removed from his uncomfortable juxtaposition of extreme violence and preteen kids, I should have less problem with this film then I did with KICK ASS. It’s a maybe.

And also in June, JJ Abrams, a hit and miss director for me, is coming off a big hit with STAR TREK so I’ll follow him into his latest release… the scifi/alien flicK, possibly found footage film, SUPER 8.


July 1st brings us Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS:THE DARK OF THE MOON, and I have to tell you, I have no real interest in TRANSFORMERS, but much like I said about Zack Snyder, I find Michael Bay a filmmaker who makes films that are deserving of the big screen. And he has an amazing eye for camera placement and shot sequences, that stays with me long after I have seen his films. That’s a rare Pekinpahesque ability he has, for getting his images… to persist.

There’s a shot in TRANSFORMERS 2, where Megan Fox is leaning over the prostrate Lebouf, and the helicopter flies over her head in slow motion. It’s an absolutely gorgeous shot. I’ve seen that particular scene maybe twice, about a year ago, and that image is still rock solid in my head. David Lean would be proud.

It’s an amazing understanding of the iconic, and what visually… compels. So caring very little about the Transformers, for his visuals, as well as being a director who uses a diverse cast (While not a fan of his lead actor, his supporting actors are always intriguing) I’ll be in the theaters for this movie.

July 22nd brings us Joe Johnston’s CAPTAIN AMERICA:FIRST AVENGER. Like THOR that’s a no-brainer for me. I’ll be in the theaters for it. And the 29th brings us the latest from Jon Favreau, COWBOYS AND ALIENS. Riding high on his new lease on life with the IRON MAN films, we’ll see if he can continue his blockbuster ways sans Robert Downey Jr.


August brings us yet more hack remakes and sequels, in a year full of them. Among them CONAN (Lead actor looks great, but the director has a horrible track record. This, right now, looks like rental fodder), FINAL FANTASY 5 (This one has a fledgling director, but one who has assisted James Cameron, and writers who did not write the atrocious previous films, but also have not proved themselves capable of doing any better, one of the writers has also written the THING prequel, so FF5 could be a good barometer for how good or bad the THING movie will be), and also FRIGHT NIGHT (by a director of comedic romances).

September 2nd FINALLY brings us a film with a couple of people of color in the lead, Zoe Saldana (of TAKERS, STAR TREK, LOSERS and AVATAR fame… yes she has been very busy 🙂 ) as the protagonist in COLUMBIANO, and Lennie James (WALKING DEAD) as Special Agent Ross.

Though I’m not crazy that Hollywood is trying to groom Zoe Saldana to be the next Halle Berry, or the fact that the film is yet another SALT permutation, about a female Assassin seeking vengeance. Still, I’ll support COLUMBIANO strictly because of the casting of Saldano and James in a thriller.

September 16th brings us DRIVE the latest from director Nicolas Winding Refn of BRONSON and VALHALLA RISING fame, a heist/thriller it’s a wait and see. Stars Tina Huang and Tiara Parker.

Also on September, 16th Rod Lurie who helmed the brilliant CONTENDER and is master of political thrillers, enters more stark thriller territory with the remake of Pekinpah’s classic STRAW DOGS. I’ve never been a fan of remaking great films, the optimum form of that film already exists, re-release it in theaters rather than remaking it, or push the DVD. However, if you’re going to remake something for a new generation, then remake something that you can improve on.

While I quite like the casting of James Woods and Laz Alonzo, and it is intriguing to see Kate Bosworth and James Marsden kinda reprise their SUPERMAN RETURNS roles of ill-fated lovers (though Kate Bosworth looks completely different as a blonde, that and the scant years, have made quite a difference in her face, there’s something quite unusual and perhaps a bit feral in her face in recent stills, that makes her quite beautiful and quite perfect for the role of a woman burning from within), I’m still a bit wary.

No one has ever improved on a Pekinpah film, and I don’t think Rod Lurie is going to be the first.

That is a concern, as is the fact the film hinges on James Marsden filling the role, amazingly performed by Dustin Hoffman in the original, and to date Marsden hasn’t shown the ability to be compelling on screen, or to have the range to make you care about him. X-MEN, SUPERMAN RETURNS he’s always the least interesting person on screen. Still, Lurie tends to be able to get the performances he needs, so I’m intrigued enough to give this one a look.


23rd September sees the release of ABDUCTION. I have no interest in the lead actors, or really the premise, but John Singleton as director makes me intrigued. Mostly because he’s slated to helm the POWER MAN/LUKE CAGE film, and what he can do with this film, will speak a lot on whether POWER MAN/LUKE CAGE will be horrible or great.

John Singleton is a director I keep wanting to like, but his films tend to underwhelm. SHAFT was awful, yet his last film… 2005’s FOUR BROTHERS was good, if not great. So I’m hoping the years since that movie, have made him a stronger filmmaker. We’ll see.

And closing out September we have Daniel Craig in director Jim Sheridan’s DREAM HOUSE, “a couple move into house where murder was committed” type thriller/spook tinged film.

Some honorable mentions that I’m not sure when they are being released:

CARANCHO- Just saw a trailer for this Argentine thriller, and it looks great. Mad, and war touched, and a bit beautiful.

RUBBER- Okay I’ve seen my share of weird movies, but this trailer even gave me pause. A killer tire??? Trailer is pretty funny, take a look.

RED RIDING HOOD- I’m no fan of TWILIGHT, but this take on the Red Riding Hood myth, stars Gary Oldman, and the trailer is pretty good. Plus I’m a huge fan of Werewolf movies. This is one to go see.

BLACK HEAVEN- Distributed by IFC films, the trailer for this French import looks quite compelling. Something about a VR game, that has dark and mysterious consequences in the real world.

CONSPIRATOR- Just saw the trailer for Robert Redford’s latest film, concerning the trial of conspirators in the wake of Lincoln’s Assassination and it looks FANTASTIC.

LIMITLESS- The trailer for Neil Burger’s latest re-imagines the idea of someone with superpowers, powers used not to jump around in gaudy spandex, and fight crime, but the way most would probably use such gifts, to pleasure themselves and to acquire more. It’s WALLSTREET meets THE BIONIC MAN. Nice hyper-kinetic trailer.

BLACK DEATH- This trailer tells a tale of superstition, and a reign of bloody torture during the dark years of the 14th century. Quite compelling trailer.