Friday, April 13, 2018

Ready Player One 2018

It's been awhile, but I finally went to see a Steven Spielberg film in the theater which I have not done since 2008.   Don't get me wrong I did see "Lincoln" and "Bridges of Spies", but on cable and at home.  Spielberg's films are masterful, and when seen on the big screen you know why he is such a consummate director.  Spielberg's visuals are breathtaking, and he knows how to tell a good story.  He has been a favorite of mine since I was a teen and saw a picture of him filming when he was a teen.  It's taken me awhile for me to get excited about a movie, and I have to confess my boys were more excited seeing this film then I was.  After all it's about gaming, and what teen doesn't game?

The movie is 40% live action, and the rest is CGI, and animation, but Spielberg blends the two so well it's hard to see where the line is drawn.  Since the movie is about a fantasy place called the Oasis, and the reality of a bleak future I think Spielberg does a fantastic job showing the different worlds.

The movie is all about pop culture of the past, and how Spielberg interweaves the two is fascinating.  My son has the book and I read a bit of it, and I have to say I like Spielberg's version better then the authors.  I'm not saying the author does a bad job, but film and books are two distinct different mediums.  Spielberg is a master at film, and what he does is create a couple of set pieces in the film that are very memorable.  The race which starts the film is exciting and breathtaking to watch, and so is the dance off at the Oasis between the two characters Parzival and Art3mis.

I did not get all the pop culture nods in the film, but I'm sure that's for me to see when I see it again.  I have a feeling that you will see something new after every time you see this movie.  My boys certainly caught a lot of the pop culture references and characters then I did, but then again they have young eyes, and are trained to react quickly because they game.

I swear the next generation will be hyper sensitive to visuals and very good at multitasking.  Their brains are being wired to think faster, and react faster, and do more then us older folk.  I don't see this as a totally bad thing, because age is always a decider in one slowing down, but Ready Player One is a movie that plays to the younger generation.

The movie though did speak to me.   Spielberg infuses the film with a deep moral compass which I can't argue with, and that is we all NEED to interact with each other on a one on one bases.  That's how we develop connections.

The main character starts out a loner with friends he truly doesn't know, but by the end he is a boy with many friends and a deep love for them.  It is their love that get's him through to the end of the contest in the film.  In essence Spielberg says imagination is good, but look to reality to create you're relationships and through those relationships you can create a better reality.

I liked the message, and that's why I have to recommend it.  The movie does have romance, adventure, and is funny at times.  But then this is a Spielberg film.  Spielberg knows his stuff, and he knows what he's doing.  Ready Player One is a fun and exciting film that people of all ages can enjoy.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War Official Trailer

The anticipation for this film is off the charts.  No matter what you think about these superhero movies Marvel does a great job at promoting it's content. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Tobe Hooper (1943-2017)

Another legendary horror filmmaker has passed.  Mr Hooper's filmography lists some of the most original, and probably the most scariest films of modern times.  Of course what Tobe Hooper is best known for is the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre".  A film that has been listed in both the museum of modern art in New York, and the library of Congress in Washington.  Not bad for a film when it was released was dismissed as a sort of pornography of cinema.

What the film "the Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was a film beyond its time.  Scholars have written about the film, and I believe it will be continually be written about when talking about horror or American cinema.

I was introduced to the film by a friend, and when I saw it I did not know what to make of the film.  It certainly pushed some buttons within me, and that's what I think it did for a whole lot of people.  When people describe the film they say it was the most bloodiest and goriest film they had ever seen, but if you really look at the film there is little to no blood in the film.  There is no blood in the film and the gore is almost non-existent because it's all implied, and that's because of the mastery of Hoopers filmmaking skills.

The film is about terror, and it does have some very dark humor in the film.  Listen to the conversation between the cook, and Leatherface, our chainsaw weilding protagonist.  Though Leatherface does not utter a word his gestures and his eyes convey it all.  Gunner Hansen who played the villain Leatherface does some extraordinary acting in the film, and it is these performances that make "Chainsaw..." the film it is.  I can only surmise that Hansen got his directorial instructions from Hooper who saw Leatherface as not a caricature, but a complex personality whose reality is warped because of the way he was brought up by his strange family.

Back in 1974 when the film was released there was no film like this around.  The country was experiencing Watergate, gas shortages, inflation, and the defeat of Vietnam.  Kent State was in the social consciousness as well.  "Chainsaw...." burst upon the screen like the angry child it was.  It laid to rest that we were heading to a beautiful future.  What "Chainsaw..." showed and said that madness is around the corner and it is waiting to consume you if you don't watch out.  All the protagonists meet grisly deaths except our survivor who goes through hell and back.

"Chainsaw...." was a film that gave it to you right between the eyes.    It is because of this that "Chainsaw...." is a film that will always be remembered as a classic.  It was and is a no holds bar slugfest that doesn't let up, and when you think it does it goes into overdrive, and into territory that makes us uncomfortable.

Even if you discount "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" Hoopers other films were filled with terror that disturbed us.  "Poltergeist" was a film about an assault on the modern suburban family, "Salems Lot" was a TV movie epic about people fighting modern vampires.  From the film "The Mangler" to "The toolbox Murders" are all films that make it's audience uncomfortable because Hooper knows how to scare his audience while at the same time make them laugh even though it is a nervous laughter.

It is this formula that made Hooper the great director he was.  Mr. Hooper taught film at the university of Austin I believe , so he knew his material, and knew how to evoke responses to certain material.

All I can say is that another great American filmmaker has passed, and for that we are all at a loss.  Thankfully we have his work to study and talk about.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Dunkirk (2017)

Dunkirk is one of those movies that is better seen in the theaters then seen later at home.  Dunkirk is a film that harkens back to great filmmaking.  Every frame of this film is a work of art.  The sound design is quite intricate and when the German Junkers dive bomb the beach you feel as though you are there.  Christopher Nolan the director of Dunkirk uses all the tricks of the trade to really make you feel that you are there at Dunkirk, and the dread that faces the troops stranded on the beach.

Nolan divides the film between the sea, the air, and the beach.  To say that there is no one character to concentrate on would be correct.  Nolan divides the screen time among various actors who do a fantastic job at conveying the dread and the fear of the early months of the war when Germany was running through Europe, and devouring all that was good.

Throughout the film we see the horrors of war, and the film begins with a bit of silence as several soldiers wander the streets of Dunkirk and are suddenly surprised by enemy troops.  Nolan never really shows us the enemy.  They are at a distance, and it makes them more scary.  We as the audience know what will happen, but how do these soldiers get away to fight another day.  Well that is Dunkirk.

In history Dunkirk was very important.  It rescued many British, Belgium, and French troops trapped at Dunkirk.  Tom Hardy plays a RAF pilot who does his duty without thought.  What he does and how he does it is a reflection of how badly the British were overwhelmed by the German blitzkrieg, yet they persevered against insurmountable odds.  Tom Hardy is almost unrecognizable in the film because he is outfitted with his airflow mask, yet he conveys everything through his actions and his eyes.  Harry Styles also does an impressive bit of acting as well.  There is little dialogue throughout the film for our characters to engage in, but there are moments where they all shine, and that's all die to Nolan's direction.

Going in to the movie I was aware of the history of the events that took place at Dunkirk, but the film brings it home, and makes it very personal, and because of that the film is better for it.

I would be remiss to mention nothing if I was not to mention the cinematography, the music, and the audio mixing of this film works all in its favor.  Nolan surrounds himself with true artists and makes the film work on so many levels.

The cinematography was by Hoyte Van Hoytema, and shooting in 70mm sure makes the screen epic.  The music is by Hans Zimmer.

Dunkirk is worth seeing in the theaters.  I saw it in 70mm, and was a bit taken back by the movies landscape.  I would suggest seeing the film in IMAX because Dunkirk is a film better seen on the big screen.

I did notice a bit of a flicker on the 70mm, yet I do not know if this was because of a technical issue or if it was normal since I was seeing the shutter on a analog projector (celluloid) and I was watching a non digital image.  I still enjoyed the film, and it never really bothered me because I was wrapped up in the film.

Monday, July 17, 2017

George A. Romero 1940 - 2017

George Romero the director of such films as Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow, Knightriders, and Martin has passed at the age of 77.

Romero directed Night of the living Dead back in 1967 with some friends and colleagues and changed cinematic history.   Shot for about 100K the film would go on to become a classic of modern horror, and would also be inducted into the museum of modern art, and into the Library of Congress’s National film registry. 

Romero would go onto produce and direct many other films such as Martin, Dawn of the Dead, and Knightriders.  It was the film Dawn of the Dead that put zombies back into the media and it is a film that re-invented the zombie genre.  Many current shows and movies have Romero to thank for being the first to re-inventing the zombie genre and making it profitable.  Roger Ebert considered "Dawn of the Dead"one of the best horror movies ever made.

On a personal level George Romero showed that one could work outside the studio system, and so he really was one of the first DIY filmmakers that would go on to be very successful.    His passion for story telling was very well known, and he loved talking to his fans about filmmaking and his movies.  To many of his fans Romero was very approachable and it was that that made him so special.

Talking about the production of his film “The Crazies” or his film “Martin” you understood that Romero's films had so many different sub-text.   Whether an allegory about consumerism (Dawn of the Dead), or a story about loneliness and misunderstanding (Martin) Romero's films work on many levels.   Even towards the end of his life he was still trying to get films made.  He had boundless energy, and loved what he did, and took the time to meet his fans and admirers. 

Romero is survived by his wife, his daughter, his son Andrew Romero as well as his other son Cam Romero from a previous marriage to Christine Romero  

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017)

What is it that make the Guardians of the Galaxy films so fun and worth seeing?  It's the characters simple put, and the actors who play them.  Plus there is a theme in the movies that run throughout the series or franchise and that is that their more then superheros their family.  A dysfunctional family, but no less a family.  That's what makes this franchise so good.  The humor that is built into the films, and the actors who play them so well.  From Chris Pratt who plays Star Lord to Dave Bautista who plays Drax the actors really bring a certain joy to their characters that they are playing.  Even Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper who do the voices for the characters of Groot and Rocket are entertaining and fun.

I could go on about the direction, and the art direction, but why?  It's all good.  In fact its so good you take them for granted.  The writing is perfect James Gunn and Dan Abnett do an admirable job keeping it close to what the Marvel comic of the Guardians was like.

And even if you're not familiar with the comic you'll enjoy the film(s).  The filmmakers do this by casting actors who love their characters, and who are having fun doing so.  The chemistry between  Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana is magical, and you really want to root for our heros because they are family.

The latest film also expands the character of  Yondu played fantastically by Michael Rooker who is a personal favorite of mine.  The theme in this film is family, and how Star Lord finds out who is his father played by Kurt Russell who seems to get better and better as he gets older.  The theme of what a father really is hits close to the heart, and plays well into the narrative of the film.  

So it's not the effects, or that it is a superhero movie that makes Guardians of the Galaxy 2 a superior film, but it is its theme of family, and adversity that makes it a fun movie.  Audiences can relate, and that's what makes the film a superior fun filled family film.  Even when the jokes are a bit risque they are funny because you know some of them will be over children's heads, and adults, don't have to stress about explaining it to their young ones. 

Also don't get me started with the soundtrack.  Both films have some great  old music that brings back a nostalgic vibe to the film.  It's unique to the films, and I really enjoy it.  It's an added bonus, and I really like it, and I'm sure many fans of the film also enjoy it.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is a fun filled action packed summer movie with heart.  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Rogue One - 2016

So after seeing Rogue One I was thoroughly impressed to see how Disney is expanding the Star Wars universe.  A picture about getting the plans to the Rebels became an interesting and thought provoking story that greatly expanded the Star Wars universe, and added depth to the story.  Plus the effects, the acting, and the direction push the Star Wars universe in a very interesting place.

I remember seeing the original so long ago in a theater in Manhattan.  It was my first venture into the city, and I was overwhelmed at the movie,  The sound, the effects, the story all compelled me to know more about this film.  How they made it.  Who made it, and was there more.

The same could be said about Rogue One.  Special effects have come a long way since 1977.  The re-creation of Peter Cushing is remarkable, and certainly it opens a whole new way to make films, while at the same time opens a whole can of worms for the acting industry.   The last shot of Princess Leia in the film is remarkable as well since Carrie Fisher who portrays her is no longer with us, and yet we see a 19 year old princess Leia taking the stolen Death Star plans.

The filmmakers definitely wanted Rogue One to be the film that precedes the original Star Wars "A New Hope".  It is well done.

I don't want to spoil it, and I tried to not know much because I wanted the experience to enjoy the film without knowing much about it.    First off Felicity Jones does a great job here playing our heroine.  The writers create a very well written character who just wants the love of her father who is played by Mads Mikkelsen.  As Star Wars did it relies on many foreign actors too, since it was filmed on many locations just like the original.  It's from this vast pool of talent that makes the films so fantastic.  It's creators Lucas and now Disney know where the talent is, and the Star Wars universe is richer for it.  Maybe that's why Rogue One makes a great companion piece to "Star Wars: A New Hope".

While watching Rogue One I was reminded about another film.  A film about misfits with a mission, and that film was the World War 2 film "The Dirty Dozen".  Starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes and George Kennedy.  It is a favorite of mine, and the director of Rogue One, Gareth Edwards, certainly makes you feel like you're watching a film about a bunch of rebels with heart.

I've always been interested in why many who play the video games, or watch the movies side with the Empire.  I looked at the statistics of game play and a lot of players play as the Empire.  I guess it's the cool gadgets.  Walkers, tie fighters, and stormtroopers, but I've always sided with the rebels. Guess I'm just a hopeless optimist, and always had a problem with authority which the empire represents.

I find it interesting that a film like Rogue One comes out now just as a new administration comes into power here in the United States.   Where there is hope their is resistance.  Rogue One gives that in spades and I like that.  Hence I like the film, and I'm sure a lot of Star Wars fans will enjoy it.

It's also wonderful to see the film along with my teenager boys.  It's like looking back in a mirror at myself when I was young.  I'm sure this is a feeling that is happening to many families also.  The Star Wars epic has encompassed a generation of fans, and is now making newer fans with the new films.  It's brilliant marketing, and one that works very effectively on its audience.  I just hope the stories stay well written, and are not released haphazardly or written in haste to produce box office gold.  

To sum up.  It's a fun film, and a superior looking and feeling film.  Enjoy it.