Friday, August 31, 2012

My Tops of 2012 - August

MOONRISE KINGDOM could only aspire to being good, not great. It had great cinematography by Robert Yeoman and the signature patterns of Wes Anderson, but the story of two kids in love, running off before a big storm, wasn't really compelling, not even with the idiosyncratic edits and off-ball performances.

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD lived up to its Sundance hype. It isn't something new but feels absolutely fresh. It is a world that is magically inviting yet strange and dangerous.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 blew the first film out of the water. Rich in meta-humor and overdosing in violence, the action movie was always exciting and funny. Of course, when Arnold Schwarzenegger is not in frame.

TOTAL RECALL was such a deep dark abyss of boredom. It was like watching a bad cover band on open mic night, as Len Wiseman butchered every single favorite moment of Paul Verhoeven's take, all the while having nothing else to deliver. He couldn't even give his wife/frequent star Kate Beckinsale a steady direction.

LOCKOUT certainly was "Die Hard in space", but having none of that film's greatness. This was yet another mediocre output supervised by the once upon a time wunderkind, Luc Besson, and suffered from stupid characters, a hack-job script, and Maggie Grace constantly being threatened with rape, whether as her character or incognito.

Best Films of 2012

1. The Avengers

2. Chronicle

3. The Secret World of Arrietty

4. The Hunger Games

5. The Cabin in the Woods

6. 21 Jump Street

7. Beasts of the Southern Wild

8. The Grey

Worst Films of 2012

1. Project X

2. Dark Shadows

3. The FP

4. The Devil Inside

5. Rock of Ages

6. Total Recall

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Summer 2012 Review

Sometimes, everything in the film world is just and given its proper treatment, whether it is high praise or universal derision. For the Summer of 2012, which overall was fairly good despite some dark new stories, the good guys finished first and big, while those expected to be awful were shockingly skipped over even by the normal mainstream audiences. Once the smoke cleared after several humongous duds, the season seemed to show the possible end of the Michael Bay era. Good taste prevailed while the severely blah and barely living or new corporate-friendly franchises died badly. New stars and heartthrobs replaced the former poster childs, whose work looked creaky and sterile.

Of course, I know this good feeling will not last long, maybe not even the end of the year, but it is odd how this summer movie season felt after previous years of disappointment. The fact that my Top 10 Picks list still got a passing grade despite some setbacks and one postponement is a bit astounding.

The most enjoyment of all summer was of course the first shot heard around the world: The Avengers veni, vidi vici the box office and pushed Joss Whedon into being the new Spielberg of the entertainment industry. He, along with some help from Marvel/Disney, accomplished the impossible dream of a making a tentpole comic book movie that keeps continuity in high regard while delivering all the stylish violence and colorful dialogue audiences wanted to watch.

The rest of my Top 5 had some problems, internally and sadly externally, that kept them from being the masterpieces they desperately wanted to attain but were still good at the end of the day. Brave was a nice feature with great visual animation but had a hard time overcoming its very special-like storyline that was practically ripped off a lesser Disney flick. Controversy and audience polarization effected the next two, as The Dark Knight Rises and Prometheus received both hefty intakes and sheer amounts of anger and frustration. Both suffered significantly from plot holes and unanswered questions, with Prometheus far ahead in this area compared to Dark Knight, and bloated running times. Though I was fine with the two, the aftermath of both took away all of their charisma and mystique, whether it was funny nit-picky internet videos or the unfortunate situation in Aurora, Colorado. G.I. Joe 2, on the other hand, skipped town for re-shoots and a healthier landscape for itself in March.

Six and seven ended up being the successful dark horses I wanted and expected them to be. Before being tied up and hurt by a tabloid scandal involving its lead lady, Snow White and the Huntsman was a successful launch for a possible new fairy tale film franchise. It also cemented the year for stars Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron, who, along with a certain other actor, have achieved a stellar run on cinema screens. But it was Beasts of the Southern Wild that won in the magical department, living up to its Sundance acclaim and becoming one of the best times in theaters to enjoy a nice little cry.

The dead last three earned their spots alright, though the one in the tenth spot ended up being more entertaining, whether good or bad, than the preceding two. Battleship is the film I was alluding to earlier as the final sayonara to Bay-tainment. People stayed away in droves for it, even before learning it was more about chicken burritos than battleship warfare. At least it deserves to be called a true guilty pleasure. However, I do feel pretty bad for Taylor Kitsch, who is just having the worst year of his career.

Though others cried foul and made it loud, I was sticking to my picks for Dark Shadows and Total Recall, only to suffer like Daffy Duck. Both films blew up in my face as two clear examples of boring entertainment and how not to do remakes of previous properties. Dark Shadows was vastly unfunny, especially in the case of Johnny Depp, and delivered one of worst scripts bared to witness this year. Meanwhile, Total Recall was dire in all of its PG-13 non-glory. Its interesting art direction was hammered down by eye-rolling callbacks to the original, sheer miscasting, and direction that just sucked all of the energy out of the picture.

There were a few surprises, even for this jaded viewer. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted did not have to prove itself to its detractors, yet its often engaging script and beautiful flow of animation produced a lot of mouths agape. Still, those moments can't make up for the vicious hell spawn that is "Afro Circus". The lovable Ted helped save the rated-R comedy genre, as its tone, raunchy with a side of heart, won over crowds. Later in August, Stallone and his motley action crew crafted the generally awesome The Expendables 2, which brought sheer amounts of 80's-tastic violence and bravado. Also, though I wasn't wowed by it, I do need to give a little mention to Moonrise Kingdom, which had its share of fun idiosyncrasies.

Then, there were the disaster sights, that had many sitting back and basking in the schadenfreude. My prediction of June 15th as America's Skip Weekend ended up being true, as Rock of Ages and That's My Boy both tanked at the box office. Boy sadly ran away from my grip before I could induce pure pain into my cerebral cortex but not Rock of Ages, which was glorious in how truly horrible it was and how much was cut out to achieve a PG-13 rating that did them no favors. Other bombs include another badly made found footage film (Chernobyl Diaries), the other misstep for writer Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), Oliver Stone's latest misfire (Savages), and the next installment in America Hates Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, Sometimes (Neighborhood Watch).

Despite the crap, and despite that I missed out on some other fairly important releases (The Amazing Spider-Man, where are you?), I am glad that this summer was a pleasurable experience. Maybe doing that overview of the summer releases was a contributing factor. I guess we will see at the end of the year, as coming out early next month, I will go over the films of the fall and winter season.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Nintendo Power Will Cease to Exist

The bad news has hit all around the web. Nintendo Power, one of the longest and most popular video game magazines of all time, will cease its publication. The Nintendo Company did not want to renew its licensing agreement with Power's owner Future Publishing, thus dooming the magazine.

For kids during the reign of the NES, and then later with the Game Boy and the SNES, Nintendo Power was their always informative best friend. It revealed cheat codes, easter eggs, game maps, previews, and even comic book adventures. Subscribing to the magazine also gave the benefit of special VHS sent to your mailbox.

I was a fan of the magazine when I was young, even though I was a Sega kid. The magazine was one of the reasons why I kept begging my parents for a second video game console. Once I saved up my allowance for the Nintendo 64, the next thing on my special checklist, other than actually getting a game to play, was to obtain a subscription.

The magazine will release only a couple more issues, hoping to make them memorable for all of their fans.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tony Scott - RIP

Film director Tony Scott sadly committed suicide on Sunday. He was 68 years old.

Reports are still flying out, trying to find the reason for his sudden departure. The most prevailing news is that he was recently diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer.

Tony Scott, alongside with his older brother Ridley, was part of a new wave of British and European directors with a keen quality look to their films, even if the story didn't have much weight. Though breaking through with his first feature, the cult film The Hunger, his biggest success came in 1986, where he ruled over the American pop culture with Top Gun. From the slick MTV visuals to the heavy emphasis on pop songs and adrenaline-producing action, the film utterly dominated the landscape and jump-started the career of Tom Cruise.

The MTV look continued with Beverly Hills Cop 2, replacing Kenny Loggins with Bob Seger at the top of the charts and continuing his new partnership with mega-producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. Once the 1990's hit, Tony greatly increased his commercial popularity. He made many films that would later and still fill up TV schedules, with his best being the Tarantino-scripted True Romance and the tense submarine film Crimson Tide.

With 1998's Enemy at the State to the present, Tony started to make the action genre more jarring, with an increase use of hand-held camerawork and breaking the barriers all around his films so hard that subtitles would be ingrained inside the frame. He also began a new relationship with Denzel Washington, which started with Crimson Tide but became more fruitful with Man on Fire, Deja Vu, The Taking of Pelham 123, and his final film Unstoppable.

He will be missed.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Total Recall - Review

TOTAL RECALL doesn't have the ability to separate itself as its own property and originality, unless you talking about it in a negative light. You can not watch this film without recalling the 1990 action flick directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even if you haven't watch that movie, you can sense the callbacks and lip service given to it. Unfortunately, each precious film allusion is transported into a world of utter boredom and stale people.

The basic story is same as before, total deja vu: Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is weary of his blue collar lifestyle and his hot wife (Kate Beckinsale). He heads to the dangerous company of Rekall, willingly injects himself with artificially created memories, messes up his mind and enters a modified world where he is a hunted double agent and the key to a social and political uprising. Or is this new life really happening to him? Do you care? Would you like to know more?

Now it's time to ruin it all with the "original" vision of writers Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback. Instead of making it a battle between the forces of Earth and Mars, it is now between Britain and the Colony, a.k.a. Australia. Why only these two? Because, silly, this is now a post-apocalypse story, one of the most over-used plot dilemmas today next to a zombie outbreak. Britain has all of the power, jobs, and it is perfectly nice, clean, and white. The Colony is supposed to be a grungy slum with a 24-7 red light district yet it generally looks fine except for the constant raining. The bigger question you may have is how do people travel to the two points? The answer is not planes or spaceships, but a giant subway system that bores through the center of the Earth's core every 30 minutes on the dot. Dear lord, the science and logical questions that come from this stupidity!

It gets worst; In one instance, this film blows through stupid town into the city of travesty. There is a sequence where the main leads enter a place called the "No Zone". Take that in for a second; a 125 million dollar feature-length film that honestly calls something the "No Zone". This area was affected by the nuclear holocaust, so it is highly radioactive and surely can kill you without protection. For these people in the far-flung future, they only need to wear a gas mask in order to survive. No protective suits whatsoever. While these losers and big-wigs talk in the foreground, inside an oxygen controlled environment, I'm too preoccupied with the poor background soldiers, whose job is to guard the place from the outside. Sure enough, a raid happens, busting through the windows and blowing up their way into the complex. The outside radiation has now spread everywhere, infecting everyone inside, and yet all of these morons still think it's a good time for long stretches of exposition dialogue, all the while not wearing masks.

I had another rant about the antagonist Cohaagen's giant plan of evil involving a robot army and the laughable presence of hand phones but I think I have enough garbage bags to fill up the bin. With such a clueless and eye-rolling script, director Len Wiseman implements his signature style of inescapable weariness. He cares more about lens flares popping up in the frame than he does with the pacing of scenes. I would have noted that the art direction is probably directed better but even that has its own share of terrible faults. There could be a nice sleekness in the design of rooms and corridors only to be bungled by the limited color palette of white and gray. Another a strong case is the comparison between the police robots and the policemen. The robots have a menacing visor and face-plate, bulky chest and shoulders, and they look dangerous with a gun in their hands. The human officers, however, look to be extras from INCEPTION, namely those mind anti-bodies who fought Tom Hardy at the snow fortress.

The acting side of the picture is another headache. Colin Farrell is a great actor but only when working with individuals who actually have talent. Here, he has the unfortunate time and pleasure working with Wiseman behind the camera and Jessica Biel in front of it. No wonder he always look namby-pamby and a total sourpuss in a supposedly valorous role. Biel, on the other hand, just does not look the part of a resistance fighter nor able to act. She looks more at home as a Blernsball player for the Colony Cretins than as a sexy spy Quaid is willing to die for. But it is Kate Beckinsale who has the most gloriously botched position, despite being in the hands of her own husband. As evident in the above plot description, she plays the same character as Sharon Stone did, the fake wife/undercover agent Lori. To further confound her character, Lori is combined with Michael Ironside's role of Richter, Quaid's vicious pursuer and lackey of Cohaagen. This creates a destructive paradox; Lori constantly hunts after Quaid, urged to kill him despite strict orders not to, yet she mixes her desire for cruelty with a ton of wife-related puns, which ruins any chance to take her seriously as a threat. Beckinsale does give the ole college try, hamming up the camp in certain moments, but the damage is done.

A film remake is always a troubled product, a form of art that will always be judged against its original form. This is a case that can be easily thrown out of court. Do not watch this inferior interpretation of the Phillip K. Dick short story. It is a corporate mutation with a teen movie rating. Stick to the Verhoeven version; beg you parents if you have to. If you need proof why they should let you view a rated R movie, just pay for their cinema tickets to this crap and wait for their reply. Be sure to be on call in the event of a walkout.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Expendables 2 - Review

THE EXPENDABLES 2 is an accelerating rush of dumb fun, honestly making it one of best purely action films of the year. I would even make the claim that it is way better the internet-famed THE RAID: REDEMPTION. This film may not have THE RAID's magnificent martial art choreography but for this newly started franchise with some old fogies, this second installment is certainly redemption after the fiasco of the first one. It gladly sneers at seriousness, parlaying a plot where men and one woman can let bullets rip in a menagerie of violence, bringing it to such an extreme that it becomes laughable. There so much winking involved that I'm surprised you didn't see bloody tears coming from the actor's eyes after every lame TERMINATOR quip.

Seemingly, Sylvester Stallone learned his lesson and took notes from the critics and the questionable fanbase. After creating a turgid, dark blue lit mess with horrendous CG effects and a camera stuck in close-up, Stallone has walked away from the director's chair. Enter Simon West, a former glorious wunderkind of action who needs a few better days and a film crew that can handle it. Thankfully, most from the original film were not retained, replaced with capable hands, such as cinematographer Shelly Johnson. Fist-fights are done in long shot. Body position and continuity is upheld. The battle set pieces are easily introduced before featuring memorable gory fights. This back to basics approach should have been a given but it becomes a major positive edit after what was so-called achieved in the first film.

Look no further than the script when it comes to the term basic. The film is supposed to be a perfect hang-out, where friends can share some good times and rock or shoot out to that old time rock-n-roll. Why kill the buzz with something deep? The story features walking deus ex machinas, a Chekhov's gun, and a MacGuffin that leads to more MacGuffins. It's such a deconstruction of 80's actionsploitation that it leads to two big ideas: First and foremost is Jean-Claude Van Damme, who is the villain literally named Vilain. He is suavely evil and camps the hell up to make a true big baddie we want to see the Expendables track, find, and kill. The second example is a firefight within a city. It is not a real city per se but a former Russian training area specifically designed to look like New York City. You can't go more 80's than re-tread some Cold War propaganda.

The film does try to solve one of the most glaring errors of the first, that all of the Expendables, even lowly Terry Crews and Randy Couture, had god mode activated and weren't in fact expendable. A member does in fact die here but it isn't a true hallelujah. Without spoiling, let's just say that it is someone you really, really do not know much about. Of course, a case can be made that the person is just another addition to the meta-filled plot. However, sometimes the meta becomes sickening and annoying, especially when it comes to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Up on the screen is Schwarzenegger the toy doll, not the actor; All he does is pull his string and bark off awful variations of his signature "I'll be back", nearly to the point that the other characters have to tell him to shut up. Schwarzenegger looks visibly worn out compared to the others and is a walking display of desperation. Chuck Norris is fine with his few scenes but the inclusion of the Chuck Norris meme is baffling and surely a mistimed effort nowadays. Also, Jet Li fans will be vastly gob-smacked as he leaves the picture after the first mission. At least Dolph Lundgren continues his run as the most over and likable character.

It is not perfect but THE EXPENDABLES 2 is some really good popcorn fuel. It doesn't fool the viewer twice, nor does it fool itself in being completely solemn. The film is a nice throwback and counter-example to the recent comic-book and spy fares that dominate the movie landscape. It also is raw in its absurdity, to the point of including a reaction shot of Sly Stallone openly breaking character and laughing at an Addams Family joke. When the inevitable third entry comes out, will it be as good as this or clearly be the middle child? I can't fathom to guess but hopefully they will keep Stallone away from the camera.


Friday, August 17, 2012

WWE Studios Need a Savior, Calls Up Scooby-Doo

Two childhood loves are coming together, as the WWE, a.k.a. the WWF for anyone born before 2002, announced that they will be co-producing a new Scooby-Doo film. The film is to be another entry in the successful Scooby-Doo direct-to-video series produced by Warner Bros, qhich first started with 1998's Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. A cast of WWE wrestlers/superstars are to be featured, including John Cena, Triple H, Kane, and a slew of the new faces of the promotion's current TV-PG era. Vince McMahon himself is also to be expected to lending his voice.

There are a couple of reasons why I wanted to discuss this. The first reason is that it is personally great to write up something on this site about professional wrestling that isn't a tragic and unfortunate death. Though I still follow the "sport" per se, I haven't been watching the WWE's product lately due to their many missed opportunities and bad writing.

Scooby-Doo, on the other hand, has actually been prospering and improving with age. Though many will mock the live-action feature film adaptations or re-do their bad stand-up routines about the hidden messages of the original series, the franchise has overcome many obstacles and waning years to finally achieve critical success, to easily go hand in hand with its brand recognition. Some of the DTV films can honestly be creepy and scary, or at least have a proper budget and slick animation, and the recent television series, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is genuinely funny and deep even for a kid's show.

As for WWE co-producing credit, this is a shocking development for some, an abject horror for others, but seems a logical business decision. The WWE's film division, dubbed WWE Studios, has been in the toilet, a widely mocked joke around Hollywood. Except for their first release, a great documentary about Wrestlemania XIX, none of them have been any good, hampered intensively by badly inserted WWE wrestlers, wasted talented actors, and crews that know nothing about structure or quality. Some could make a case for the laughably cheesy horror See No Evil or the laughably cheesy action b-movie The Marine but not for any of the other long-time residents of the five dollar bin. Working with a known product and franchise that is guaranteed to sell units, push your talented stars to a wider market, and have repeated showings on Cartoon Network is an ideal move.

Of course, anyone who is a fan of Scooby-Doo is aware that this isn't the first time the lovable dog and his mystery gang have teamed up with real-life celebrities. Throughout the many television shows entries of the franchise, the animated crew have personally met with people ranging from Sandy Duncan and the Addams Family to A Simple Plan. The WWE wrestlers featured in the upcoming film will be the most noteworthy sports-related celebrities since the great dane's many unexpected meet-ups with the Harlem Globetrotters.

Oh, and the last reason: they fight with a "mysterious ghostly bear", which is both awesome and a great in-joke for wrestling fans.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Trailer Review - Red Dawn

Red Dawn
1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Young Marine Chris Hemsworth, a very whiny Josh Peck, blink or miss him Josh Hutcherson, blink or miss her Adrianne Palicki, badass father Brett Cullen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as not Power Boothe, Conner Cruise as Mr. Nepotism, and Isabel Lucas as Peck's very pretty, never talking girlfriend.

Scene Pop: A plane crashes into a house.

Briggs Breakdown: 2 planes destroyed, 2 houses destroyed, 4 cars destroyed, 4 building and store explosions, 1 crashed school bus, and rampant gunfire.

Effective?: Yes, yet cookie-cutter and tiresome.

Check it Out?: Matinee at best. I don't know what dates this film further: how young Chris Hemsworth is, the many new stories and delays it had, or the use of Filter's "Hey Man Nice Shot." Teens may head to it for an escape but it will not have the genuine "what if" fear the original film had during the 1980's. Whether anyone will like it or not, the film will certainly be a "camel."

Trailer Review - Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty
1st Teaser Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Um...Kyle Chandler?

Scene Pop: Um...any of the James Bond-esque credits.

Briggs Breakdown: Um...26 redactions.

Effective?: Inconclusive.

Check it Out?: I will be seeing this, regardless of my mixed reception to the trailer. It's way too vague and subtle yet it just feels right. The trailer is specifically designed to appear as slowly revealing the secrets of the mission to find Osama Bin Laden, while making the film look to be a Bourne-like thriller. Also, I love the poster and title art; simple and effective.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild - Review

Despite what anyone may tell you, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is not something new. Sure, it does bring a new cinematic voice, that being director Benh Zeitlin, and a breakthrough performance for its main character, eight-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, but the art film relishes on using popular and theatrical tropes of melodrama to go with its random fantastical moments. From the dysfunctional alcoholic parent to the mama search to the medicine run, the film actively wants to push all your buttons of emotion, mashing them when a scene calls for a purposeful reaction. It is all fun and games until it comes time to be super-serious; once there, bust out the tissues or use your butter-stained napkins because Zeitlin wants tears to be flowing out of those eyes.

I may have some strong criticism against its deliberate direction but it doesn't stop BEASTS from being the most affecting film of 2012. It may feel familiar but the film is genuinely fresh and moving, brimming with hurtful looks and bridled up sadness. This family depression is pureed with a plentiful bevy of surreal metaphors, which are sometimes literally punched into the plot, and scenes of all-out joy. For an allegory of Hurricane Katrina, it is nice that the film would rather capture human strength and happiness amid a destroyed world far more often than all-out exploitation of suffering.

On a lonely but uproariously civilized island near New Orleans, dubbed the Bathtub by its residents, lies the perplexing lifestyle of young Hushpuppy and her father Wink. They live in separate fabricated houses, both composed of dilapidated junk but made suited to their current states of mind, only to briefly meet up with each other for evening's supper and rampant town celebrations. Calling their relationship strained is putting it mildly, especially since Wink will disappear for a time without telling Hushpuppy, nor seems to care. However, the two must stay together and alive once a mighty, prophetic storm hurdles upon and drowns the island. That is, if they can survive from their malicious American neighbors behind the leeves and an incoming flux of formerly extinct aurochs, who seem destined to go after Hushpuppy for some reason.

Despite the film's curtain and guise of being set in a magical realm, the painful realism of a father-daughter relationship is the real story. Zeitlin can throw out more goofy characters with strange habits, odd tattoos, and giant rampaging animals but they can not subside the venom and nervousness between the two compelling characters. This will be the crux for many who wish to view this, as the constant switch between artificiality and despair could be a fatal mixture for some. I frankly enjoyed it though I do feel that the kookiness factor and off-putting dialogue is a bit groan inducing at times, despite the knowledge and awareness that the story's view point is from a child.

Going the Terence Malick approach also helped the movie, as the evocative cinematography, done on ole reliable 16 millimeter film, captures unfiltered and untouched jollies and frights. The score adds another layer to the beauty but is often rendered muted by the sheer powerfulness in the lead performers. Quvenzhané Wallis is of course getting the most cheers from the majors, as she does convey maturity and professionalism beyond her years. Every big protagonist needs someone to put the person over, however, and that is why I believe Dwight Henry as Wink is really the star of the show. An untrained actor who has lived through several hurricanes in New Orleans, Henry just exalts abrupt emotions that exemplifies a man broken down by distrust with loved ones and his own body. His loose cannon antics make the screen pop and create boundless endings to scenes, causing audiences to hold their breath and await either a slap, a chuckle, or something more deep and personal.

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is very devastating yet cheerful. I may feel abused by Zeitlin into feeling something on a moment's notice but this factor doesn't take away the fact that there is so much goodness upon the screen. BEASTS is one of the films to be celebrated from this year's Sundance and throughout all of 2012. Despite its PG-13 label, this is a good fairy tale for kids, sure to help them feel important in life and give them a good dose of ambiguity.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Marvin Hamlisch - RIP

Marvin Hamlisch has died. He was 68 years old.

The renowned American composer has crafted some of the most memorable tunes of the 20th century, on screen, on the radio, and on Broadway.

For many, he is treasured for his work with Barbra Streisand, particularly creating the theme song of The Way We Were. While I'm not a fan of either the film or the song, I am a supporter of his other memorable works. His score for The Sting is still noteworthy in the pop culture zeitgeist, with "The Entertainer" being a highly used piece for commercials, television, and films. He also made many great Oscar-nominated or winning songs, including one of the best Bond tunes, "Nobody Does It Better." His highest acclaim, winning both a Tony and a Pulitzer, was his excellent musical score for A Chorus Line.

He will surely be missed.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Great Gatsby Moved to Summer 2013

Another significant feature film has been scheduled to a new date in 2013. Joining next to a gung-ho war toy flick, with its necessary new revisions of more Channing Tatum, will shockingly be The Great Gatsby, a film whose trailer I was not particularly fawned of.

As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. will move the film from its original, profitable, and Oscar-possible release date on December 25 of this year to an unknown date in summer 2013. The presidents of Warner Bros' distribution departments, who executed the release change, sent out a quote, saying they wished, "this unique film reaches the largest audience possible." No possible reason for the delay has been released yet.

The Hollywood Reporter does have a good first theory from this shocking news: Overcrowding the DiCaprio. Christmas Day would have featured two big-time film releases, both featuring Leonardo DiCaprio in prominent roles: The Great Gatsby and Django Unchained. The former would have been given more money love, with its expected PG-13 rating and popular source material, compared to the latter, which obviously will be rated R and have an adults-only crowd and lower weekend gross.

Outside of troubles with the 3D footage or possible creative differences between Luhrmann and the studio, I have no clue why Warner Bros. did this maneuver. Their pull quote rings a bit false for my tastes, though it does make sense to get a bigger box office take with a summer release. The thing is, other than the 3D aspect, what kid would want to see this during the dog days of summer? Why slog through moral falsehood, heavy-handed allegories, and the destruction of the American Dream when I can watch superheroes, or a peculiar art indie, or more superheroes? To make matters worst, especially for the American youth, this new release date will certainly cause some teachers around the nation to schedule and require their next year English students to read the book, see the film, and write an essay before the first day of school. With the December 2012 release date, these students could have had a field trip to the local mall. Way to piss off your audiences, Warner Bros.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom - Review

I guess I just hate little boys as my main characters, especially those who are orphans. Last year, I reviewed HUGO, a film that was simply good, not great. Here today is MOONRISE KINGDOM, another film that is just good, not great. The major critics and audiences may prove to say otherwise, since the film is getting great notices and is a big sleeper hit. I don't think or believe that those people are incorrect at all in their own opinions, so I will just choose to sit elsewhere, far away from the cool kids table. Why join the herd when you personally feel something is wrong with the picture?

The comparison between MOONRISE and HUGO isn't finished though. Other than both having a lonely but self-sustaining little boy as the protagonist, they both have two key flaws that undermine their characterization. The first flaw is that they both have a truly lame life goal. For Hugo, it was repairing his late father's cockamamie robot that honestly did nothing to the plot that couldn't have been skipped over. For MOONRISE's Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), he wants to run off with a kindred spirit, his first childhood love, away from the rest of his island community and her goofball parents. Certainly a better goal but doomed to fail, since he is just a lowly boy scout and they have a walking deus ex machina/narrator in the form of Bob Balaban. The second flaw is that both boy protagonists have a far more engaging and compelling female character at their side. Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) is Sam's partner in crime, though she has the opposite personality of Chloë Grace Moretz's character in HUGO. They both have an affinity to books with globe traveling escapades, but Suzy is a dangerous product of low self-esteem and a turbulent family home where love is dead.

Outside of comparing it to another film with an auteur surrogate, MOONRISE KINGDOM doesn't have anything noteworthy about itself other than discovering new child actors and beautiful cinematography. Robert Yeoman has been a long time ally of director Wes Anderson, and also co-writer Roman Coppola, and he creates one of his best recent displays of artwork. Feeding off of Anderson's dream of crafting a moving children's storybook, he utilizes the dolly shot constantly and to its fullest, as scenes transform into expansive tapestries. As for the piles of child actors pulled and hired for the film, they are all good and have the potential for a great future in the business. Jared Gilman is fine as Sam though hampered at times by his mumbling and low key nature. Kara Hayward is a bit better, nearly a revelation, as her crooked eyes and deep emotional depths show off a dark but hurt individual.

The rest of the cast aren't so lucky. One of Anderson's best features as a film director is that he can make nearly every character memorable and have substantial material. Despite having another great cast listing, featuring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and long time Anderson collaborator Bill Murray, none of them have much of a presence, especially since their scenes are drastically limited. A possible exception could go to Norton, as Sam's boy scout master, who does receive a nice little character arc but is often silent and standing behind the other adult actors in many scenes. However, Jason Schwartzman is the only true exception, since his funny cameo is tied into the plot with all of the kids.

MOONRISE KINGDOM is a film for cinematographers. Plot and direction wise, it is completely uneven. The movie can be labeled as Anderson's most middling output to date. His usual artistic flares and heavy flagrant art direction can't overcome and hide the problems in the foreground. The sheer non-threatening conflict is too much to bear, even with the hilarious sight of young kids with extremely violent weapons. You might always recall your first love and the feelings that overcame you at that age but that doesn't it would make an interesting story.


Vertigo Defeats Citizen Kane on Sight & Sound Poll

Today, prestigious/pretentious Sight & Sound released their newest poll of the Top 10 greatest films ever made, as according to those surveyed. From the large pool of film critics and filmmakers all around the globe, there certainly was a stunner, as Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo came out on top over the long-time reigning champion, Citizen Kane.

Though I love the two films, I will say both as a follower and fan of the poll that I am happy for the upset. I tend to prefer Hitchcock's masterpiece over Citizen Kane, since it balances its visual direction and story, unlike Kane which is more of a spotfest of great cinematography.

Other big news from the poll was the newly included presence of experimental silent film classic The Man With The Movie Camera and John Ford's The Searchers. Both are well worth checking out, if you haven't already done so.