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This Blog is Now in 3D

June 1, 2011

Do you have your glasses on? I hope so.

Now take them off. You look ridiculous.

Today at work I noticed a story in the rundown about 3D movies and how the trend seems to be fading out already.

Thank God!

I mean, sure, the technology is cool when it’s used properly. Watching Avatar in 3D is kind of the point. It was made to be seen in 3D. But do we really need to see The Hangover 2 in 3D? Jackass in 3D? Okay, I’ll admit, that one was probably for the shock-factor alone. But quite simply, the answer is no.

These days it seems like every single film is being released in 3D, and in my opinion, that’s the technology’s downfall. People are sick of it and the novelty has worn off. But Hollywood hasn’t stopped there! It’s not enough that they’re releasing new movies in 3D…now they’re going back and releasing older movies in 3D as well! Well, that sounds like a brilliant idea. Let’s port old movies that were never intended to be viewed in 3D over and make some extra cash. Everyone deserves a chance to see Jar Jar Binks acting like a complete moron in 3D. (But hey, the podrace sequence could be entertaining, at least.)

The truth is, novelty technologies are just raising the price of movie tickets in an economy where the average consumer is already strapped for cash. There has to be a point where Hollywood draws a line between greed and common sense. Pesonally, I think 3D technology has a brighter future in the video game industry.

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When Did We Become So Cynical?

November 21, 2010

Remember when people could go to a movie and enjoy it? Remember when everyone wasn’t super-critical of everything that came out? I sure do. I kind of long for those days.  Are we as movie-goers so jaded that we can’t truly enjoy anything anymore?

If you’ve read past the first paragraph, you’re probably wondering what I’m ranting about. Last week I went with some friends to watch Skyline. The trailers for this film looked alright. I certainly didn’t expect it to be the next major blockbuster, and in that sense I was correct. But I did expect it to be enjoyable. Again, in my opnion, I was correct. There’s potentially a few spoilers below, so if you haven’t seen the movie and plan to eventually, you have been warned.

Let’s take a moment to list a few complaints I heard from people I know.

1) It didn’t have a happy ending.

Who cares? Life isn’t happy. I was kind of glad to see a movie where the good guys didn’t win for once. The whole time I watched it I was expecting the humans to find a way to repel the alien invaders and all would be happy again. Why? Because that’s what always happens. It was nice to have the opposite happen for once. And this brings me to number two.

2) I come to movies to escape reality.

Ah, yes, mindless entertainment for the masses. You are the reason reality shows exist.

3) I liked this movie better when it was Transformers.

I’m sorry, what? Maybe I need to watch this again, but I didn’t see any giant robots in this movie. No similarities whatsoever. Was more of a mash-up of Independence Day, the first Matrix, and War of the Worlds, if you want to compare it to anything.

4) It had no resolution.

Let’s have a word with Mr. Webster: “The point in a literary work in which a complication is worked out.”

Well, alright. Fair enough. But war isn’t one-sided, folks. There are two sides, each with a different goal. The aliens won. That’s resolution. Just because it wasn’t the resolution you expected, doesn’t mean it wasn’t resolution at all.

5) I don’t like movies that I have to think/draw my own conclusions about.

See point #2.

6) There weren’t any well-known actors in it.

There weren’t any well-known actors in the original Star Wars Trilogy either, and look at how those turned out. Point: well-known actors do not make a movie great.

And then there’s other people who just keep saying that it was bad without giving a reason. When asked why they thought it was bad, I received responses such as “Think about how bad it was…” or “It was so bad it was good.” Thanks for answering the question.

But this attitude toward movies is something I seem to notice more and more these days. Why is this? Does it have to do with the economy and people expecting more for the price of a movie ticket? Maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal if say, I dunno, we didn’t spend so much on a gallon of soda and popcorn? Try it sometime, your kidneys will thank you. Or is it that we’ve all become critics in the age of the internet and social networking?

If you can’t tell already, I enjoyed Skyline, although this wasn’t a review per se, but rather something that was on my mind after hearing some comments about the movie.

I would love to hear your opinions on this subject. Fire away, folks.

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Discussion Night #1 – “The Invention of Lying”

May 29, 2010

The Invention of Lying Wow. I just realized exactly how much time has passed since my last update. It truly is amazing how fast time goes by. When I look at my dashboard, I see all these unfinished entries that I began putting together over the course of the last eight months. Perhaps someday in the near future, I might post them all as is. That is, if there is enough interest in seeing such poorly written drafts. Unfinished entries include: Inglourious Basterds, The Men Who Stare at Goats, my Top 10 Most anticipated films of 2010, and I think I might still have a Star Trek post lying around somewhere that never got published.  But anyways, let’s get on with the true subject of this post. Before we get started, however, I want to offer my apologies for not writing about something new. The truth is, it has become difficult for me to keep up with new films. Plus, I really hate going by myself. So it’s a catch-22 of sorts.

Those of you who have taken the time to get to know me will recall that I attend a church called Crossings. It meets in the Square Room on Sunday mornings. Cory Mounce decided to host a film discussion in the conference room last night, and the film he chose was The Invention of Lying. I thought this film had a lot to say if you were able to look past the surface.

Note: There are spoilers below, so do not continue unless you have seen the film or unless spoilers do not matter to you.

The general synposis of the film is that Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) is a screenwriter for a company called Lecture Films. They produce documentaries. He is quite unsuccessful at his job, not to mention other aspects of his life. At the beginning of the film, he is meeting up with a woman by the name of Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner). The two have a date planned, and oh…did I mention in this fictional world, nobody can tell a lie? Imagine the awkwardness of a first date where you’re just not feeling any chemistry and you have to be brutally honest with the other person. But I digress. Mark meets up with Anna, and after a really awkward scene in her apartment (bear with it, that really is the worst part of this film) they proceed to dinner. Anna admits that she finds Mark unattractive, doubly so since he’s financially unsuccessful. Later, she e-mails him and tells him that while she did have a good time with him, she can’t be with him because they aren’t a genetic match.

To make matters worse, Mark loses his job which leads to him being evicted. As he’s going to withdraw the rest of his money from his bank account, he realizes that he alone has the ability to tell a lie and everyone will believe what he says, no questions asked. Over the course of the film, he gets a second date with Anna that leads to the two of them becoming best friends, unintentionally creates a religion which is a shallow facsimile of Christianity, saves a guy’s life, gets his job back, and becomes wealthy and successful. All by lying.

Problems arise, however, because he falls in love with Anna, and Anna realizes that he makes her happy. Despite this fact, she clings ever so tightly to her preconceived notion that she can only be with someone who is her exact genetic match because she does not want “fat, snub-nosed kids.” Her mother only makes the problem worse by reinforcing the notion. During the course of Mark and Anna’s friendship, she meets his rival Brad Kessler (Rob Lowe). Brad is the perfect match, according to her standards: he is very successful as well as very attractive to her. She views him as her genetic match. Her mother agrees.

The turning point of this film is when Anna and Brad decide to get married. Mark goes into a deep depression and won’t even talk to her. She finally shows up at his home and gives him an invitation to the wedding. He asks her, “Why do you want me there?” and she replies, “Because it would make me happy.” So, Mark tosses the invitation aside and Anna leaves. The wedding is the next day, and he has no intention of going. Fortunately, Mark has friends such as Greg (Louis C.K.) that care about him and make him get up and get himself together. Greg, as he shows Mark his suit and a razor says, “You haven’t lost yet.” and convinces him to go to the wedding.  When all is said and done, he manages to make Anna realize that her standards were unimportant next to her own happiness and she marries Mark instead.

If only the real world worked like that, right?

The first question asked last night following the film was, “Does it change your perception of the film knowing that Ricky Gervais is an atheist?” Well, I was unaware of that, but the answer is no, it does not. As I said last night, I think sometimes it takes someone who does not share our beliefs to slap us in the face and make us wake up. If everyone believed the exact same thing, there would be no reason for us to seek answers, no reason for us to discuss important issues, and without challenges to our faith, I think there would be no way for it to grow. Personally, after viewing the film, I think Gervais at least has a decent knowledge of religion. I also think he has a measure of respect for it because despite the tongue-in-cheek jabs, he really wasn’t blasting it as much as he could have. It wasn’t outright disrespectful.

Another point was the subject of moral ambiguity. If we could make things better by lying, is it justified? Mark saved Frank’s (Jonah Hill) life in the film by lying to him and convincing him that he had no reason to commit suicide. Bill Wolf even brought up a few Biblical points where lying had been used to save lives (I wish I could remember them, but I’m drawing a blank). Does it make it right? I’m not sure. I don’t have an answer for that. I’m an honest person. That’s not to say I don’t have my secrets, but if asked outright, I’m an open book. If it came between telling a lie or knowing someone would commit suicide, I think I would tell a lie. I believe a life is more important.

The religion that was created in this film was the result of a lie that Mark told to his mother as she lay on her death bed in order to help her find solace. The doctor and nurses overheard it and believed it, of course, because lying was unheard of. It got passed along to the media, and before he know it, it got blown out of proportion and he was forced to write ten truths down on pizza boxes and deliver them in a scene reminiscent of Moses delivering the Ten Commandments. His main issue was convincing people that “The Man In the Sky” was responsible for the bad as well as the good, something the people had trouble wrapping their heads around. And don’t we all? One thing that stuck out to me later in the film was when Mark was walking down the street and there was a street-preacher who said, “We can do two wrong things and still be rewarded when we die!” (Mark had previously said in his rules that it was a three strikes and you’re out sort of deal). While according to Mark’s rules, that was certainly true, it just goes to show you how we as humans twist and corrupt things around to serve our purposes and mislead people. It quite honestly disgusts me.

Another point along the same subject is when Greg, Frank, and Mark are sitting around the pool and the subject of why Frank hasn’t tried to better his life comes up. He responds by asking what the point is if he’s going to be rewarded in the afterlife? He figures he could just endure a bad life and speed things up by drinking excessively and wait for the better rewards. Don’t we all know people who are like this, though? People who just sit around and expect rewards but they never get out and do anything that involves effort on their part? Then when questioned about his line of thinking, Frank blurts out, “F*** ‘the Man In the Sky!'” Have you ever felt that way? Despite his faith, I imagine Job must have at one point. I can honestly say I felt that way as recently as three weeks ago.

But now I want to get to the last point. Anna is only looking for a perfect genetic match. That’s her standard. Forget true happiness. Over the course of the film, Mark falls in love with her, and she develops feelings for him, but she’s never going to be with him because of his genetics. And then we see her mother, and she’s exactly the same way. It begs the question: is Anna holding onto that belief because she really believes it, or is she holding onto it because it’s what she got from her mother and it’s all she’s ever known? Has she ever taken the time to come to her own conclusions? We can kind of see something happening to her during the course of the film as she begins to realize that Mark makes her happy. There’s an inner struggle going on with her character as Mark tries to show her that you have to look past the things that people can’t change and look at who they are.

At the end of the film, Mark goes to Anna and Brad’s wedding and essentially forces her to choose between her standards and true happiness. Sometimes someone or something comes along that forces us to re-evaluate what we think we want for ourselves. So, Anna finally comes around and goes against what her family thinks and what she thinks she wants and chooses happiness.

In conclusion, sometimes we have to come to the realization that the standards we create for ourselves, when placed side by side with God’s plans, are complete rubbish. We have a saying at Crossings that I think illustrates the point quite nicely: There is a God. His name is Yahweh. He has a plan, and it will not be thwarted.

I’ll close with what my usual closing: don’t take my word for it, make up your own mind.

Shalom.

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Knowing Is Half the Battle…

September 18, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra has been one of the most anticipated films of the gi-joe-intl-postersummer,  and nobody was looking forward to it more than those of us who grew up on the old G.I. Joe cartoons.  When I sat down in the theater, I saw a lot of children in there, and I couldn’t help but think to myself: How is G.I. Joe even relevant to kids today when there’s not even a cartoon to support it?  Perhaps it was just parents bringing their children along with them as they came out to enjoy some nostalgia.

I never was a hardcore G.I. Joe fan as a child.  I watched the cartoon because it was always on the regular evening line-up and perhaps Saturday mornings as well (I really can’t remember that far back).  I always enjoyed it, but I never collected the toys or any of the other various merchandise that went along with it.  That being said, this movie is pretty much what you would expect from a film based on G.I. Joe.

Many of the fans that I’ve spoken with have said that they thought this film was better than Transformers, and I have to agree with that statement.  This film has what you expect from an action movie: lots of fighting and special effects.

The film was well put together, entertaining, and the casting was mostly appropriate.  However, I didn’t agree with the casting for Ripcord.  I felt Marlon Wayans was inappropriate for the role.  I know he was probably changed to an African-American character in order to be politically-correct, but I’m a purist and believe characters should be portrayed as they were originally intended.  Also, I found Dennis Quaid’s acting to be a little forced.

On a different note, I think my biggest disappointment with this film was the fact that there was no PSA after the credits!  I fully expected one as a joke and a nod to the old cartoons.  There’s no way they could’ve just let that slip by.  Someone had to have thought of it!  Oh well, maybe on the DVD, I hope.

Overall, it was enjoyable. Watch it when you get the chance. Maybe it’s on at a cheap theater by now, since I’m finishing this so late.

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There and Back Again: A Blogger’s Tale

August 8, 2009

Alright, everyone, I’m back. I’m sure those of you who check this blog regularly have wondered where I’ve been for the past month. Well, wait no more. I’ve spent the past three weekends on the road, and it interfered with my movie watching.  The first weekend I was absent was spent in Nashville, TN visiting friends and listening to some friends’ band play.  The second weekend was spent as the videographer for a friend’s wedding in Corbin, KY.  Last weekend I found myself unexpectedly making a trip to Louisville, KY to shoot a Cool Hand Luke show.  Despite being busy last weekend, I did manage to make it to the theater to watch Funny People, however.  But before I get to that, I feel it wouldn’t be fair to completely ignore the movie I watched just before leaving for Nashville.  And I do apologize for not giving Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the full review it deserves, but the past month has been quite busy.

harry_potter_and_the_half_blood_prince_potter-_poster2

So, yeah, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince…I watched this one the day before I left for Nashville and I enjoyed it.  Keep in mind that I’ve never read a single Harry Potter book and I don’t intend to.  Sorry to all of you fans out there, but it’s just not my type of reading.  However, even though I’ve never read a Harry Potter book, I did get the distinct impression that a lot of information was left out of this movie.  The most notable instance for me was when Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) reveals that he is the Half-Blood Prince.  It just happened kind of out of nowhere and what relevance that has is never explained, despite being the title of the film.  I can only hope that it gets explained for us non-readers in the final two films.  Overall, though, I found the movie entertaining, and even went to all the trouble of watching the other Harry Potter movies before going to see this one so that I’d at least have some clue as to what I was talking about for the blog.  Too bad that unseen forces conspired to prevent me from doing a full review.  It’s definately worth watching in the theater, and I’d even suggest seeing it in IMAX if you have the chance.

funny-people-posterNow…on to Funny People.

Let me start by saying that I was thrilled to see Adam Sandler doing a funny movie again.  While I enjoyed some of his serious films such as Spanglish and Reign Over Me (I never watched Punch Drunk Love), comedy is definately his element and I think he should stick with it.

This film is about a stand-up comedian named George Simmons (Adam Sandler) who learns that he has an untreatable blood disorder and is put on an experimental drug treatment.  At one of his performances, he meets aspiring comedian Ira Wright (Seth Rogen).  George offers Ira a job writing for him as well as a chance to become his opening act.  The two form a genuine friendship and Ira is the first to learn about George’s illness.  Ira convinces George to tell someone else, and in doing so, he attempts to rekindle his relationship with his now-married ex-girlfriend Laura (Leslie Mann).

I’ve read mixed reviews about this film.  But I honestly thought it was good, if not ridiculously long for a comedy with a runtime of 2 hours 26 minutes.  Most comedies tend to average at about 1 hour 30 minutes. Funny People is Judd Apatow’s (40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) third film as director.  It’s a little different than his previous two films in the sense that it tries to be serious and funny simultaneously.  I’d phrase it as being “a serious story about a funny guy.”

The humor is pretty much what we’ve all come to expect from Adam Sandler.  I also appreciated how they even worked some video footage of Sandler’s old comedy routines and prank phone calls into the movie.  Good use of old material.  Seth Rogen is pretty good in this film as well.  His character comes off as a guy who’s not really as funny as he thinks he is but finally ends up finding something that works and getting a break when he meets George.

Overall, it’s a good movie. I laughed. I felt bad for George at times, and was happy for him at times.  It’s a film where two people find humor even in the worst of situations.  The worst part is that it was a little long, but it had a lot of material to cover. I know it’s been out for a week already, but if you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, go check it out.

I know this isn’t as in-depth as some of my other posts, but I’m having to condense and get caught up this time around.  Expect my review of G.I. Joe soon…

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I Love Gangster Films But I Hate Jump Cuts

July 6, 2009

publicenemiesposterFor those of you that know me, you know that I can’t resist a good gangster film.  I love films like The Godfather, Scarface (the 1932 version), etc, so naturally, this one caught my interest.

Based on the non-fiction book Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34by Bryan Burrough, this film tells the true story of bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and FBI Agent Melvin Purvis’s (Christian Bale) attempt to bring him to justice.  The film received a great deal of hype prior to its release, and perhaps that fact is one of its most significant problems.  I honestly expected a bit more from this film.  It had all the ingredients of a great period drama and it was based on an actual event.  And while the story and acting were good, my problems with the film were all technical.

One of the most obvious things I noticed was the jerky camera-work.  I realize this was most likely intentional, judging from the composition of some of the shots, but I am just not a fan of that style of filming.  That being said, I understand that it has its place, but when its used as the primary style for a film, it just becomes annoying and slightly nauseating (especially when you’re one of the unfortunate people who have to sit up front).  In my opinion, it was bad cinematography on the part of Dante Spinotti.  Spinotti has done decent work in the past (X-Men: The Last Stand, for example), and here’s hoping this style doesn’t carry over to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader next year.

While we’re on the subject of camera-work, I have to bring up the graininess of some the shots in the scenes taking place in low-light environments.  For a film shot in high-definition, these particular scenes certainly didn’t quite measure up. 

And now let’s get to something that just made me cringe: the jump cuts.  Granted, I only noticed two, but jump cuts are something that annoy me.  The first jump cut I noticed in this film was during the first bank robbery.  The lookout is positioning himself in the doorway and preparing to bring his gun up and all of a sudden there’s a cut to a similar shot for no apparent reason.  I had to ask myself if I really saw that, and was prepared to write it off as my imagination, but then the same thing happens during a later bank robbery before Dillinger enters a bank vault.  Being an editor, jump cuts are something I cannot easily overlook or forgive.  I even get upset at myself when I miss them.

Here’s something that’s easily forgivable, although extremely annoying: there’s a scene where Baby Face Nelson is drunk and asks his friends if they want to hear his James Cagney impersonation.  He then proceeds to quote one of Cagney’s lines from Angels With Dirty Faces.  That particular film wasn’t released until 1938, and the events of Public Enemiestake place in 1933-34.  I’m notorious for picking up continuity and accuracy mistakes and hate when they’re allowed to slip through.  Just ask anyone I worked with on the Algorithm: Black project; I was constantly on everyone’s case, sometimes to the point of making everyone else angry.

In conclusion, I can’t complain too much about the plot and the acting.  Johnny Depp and Christian Bale both did an amazing job portraying Dillinger and Purvis, respectively, without coming off over-the-top.  As far as gangster films go, it was entertaining and I’d recommend seeing it in the theater.  My only issues were technical issues, and to the average viewer who doesn’t care that much for such issues, it wouldn’t really be all that noticeable.

Give it a watch, check it out, let me know what you think!

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The Fallen Shall Rise or How Many Times Can We Play the Same Green Day Song in One Film

June 26, 2009

transformersDon’t get me wrong, “21 Guns” is an amazing song, and I listen to it quite often, but I can count at least four times off the top of my head where it was used in this film.  But I digress.

Here’s the main two complaints that I am hearing regarding this film, from both fans and critics alike.

1) There were too many explosions and it was too loud.

And this is a complaint why?  You don’t go to a movie like this expecting something artsy.  You expect it to be loud and full of special effects.

2) Megan Fox wasn’t as hot in this one.

I’m not even going to comment on the veracity of this statement.  It makes me laugh. Even if it is true, I find it extremely difficult to take any critic or fan who makes this claim serious.

I went to this movie expecting to see the latest summer blockbuster action movie.  I wasn’t disappointed. Explosions, robots, great special effects, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving…those are the ingredients of a great recipe. 

The story was fairly decent.  The Decepticons return to Earth in order to locate energon and resurrect Megatron (voice of Hugo Weaving).  Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has the map to what is believed to be the energon’s location stored in his brain which makes him a target of the Decepticons.  After traveling halfway around the world and across the deserts of Egypt and Jordan, the Autobots and the Decepticons meet in the final showdown.

The effects were great, the story was decent, and the acting was about what you would expect from a movie like this.  That being said, I had a few problems. 

Problem #1) The Twins

This was a lame idea.  They acted completely stupid and their humor was terrible. I’m all for comedy relief, but only when it’s believable and not over-the-top.  These robots were pretty much the Jar Jar Binks of the Tranformers movies.  I’ve also heard some criticism saying that the portrayal of these characters is racist.  I don’t buy that,  but they were just a bad idea. Period.

Problem #2) Identifying the Robots

I’m not a die-hard Transformers fan.  I never even watched the cartoon growing up except for a few episodes.  I knew a few of the characters and had friends that liked the show, however.  But for the average viewer, I found it somewhat difficult to tell the robots apart, especially the Decepticons.  But that’s just my opinion.

Overall, this was a highly entertaining movie that was worth paying admission for.  I would even say it’s worth seeing in IMAX, but I chose not to simply because I didn’t want to wait until late in the afternoon.  It’s what you would expect out of a summer blockbuster and there’s plenty of content in the movie that kids and adults will both enjoy, however the PG-13 rating comes mostly from the language and a suggestive scene or two.

If you’ve seen it, let me know your thoughts. If not, go see it and drop a comment or two.