Sunday, December 26, 2010

Complices (Accomplices) 2009

Accomplices is a movie that is deeply layered.  On the surface it's a who done it.   A murder mystery about a boy whose body is found flooding in the Seine.  On the other hand this movie is about so much more.  We meet out cast of characters first as two detectives investigating this young boys death, and then we meet the boy in flashback.  The two stories move forward until they meet at the end.  In between the story arcs we get to know the characters.  Our two investigators played by Gilbert Melki, as Hervé Cagan, and Emmanuelle Devos as Inspector Karine Mangin really bring a three dimensional feel to their characters.  Both these actors play so real that you really get to know them, and in a way care about them.  Both detectives are in their mid 40's and they have been on the job for some time.  There seems to be a bit of chemistry between the two, but the movie isn't about that, and doesn't dwell on that aspect of their relationship.  The other story arc is about the young boy who turns out to be a male prostitute (Cyril Descours) , and his young lover Rebecca (Nina Meurisse).  As both stories move forward we come closer and closer to the truth, and who killed the young man named Vincent.

What we do know is that the young man dies, and Rebecca is missing.  As the two inspectors delve deeper into the mystery we are also privy to some intimate details of the inspectors.  How similar they both are, and how each of them carry a burden that almost seems to overwhelm them.  The film is directed by Frédéric Mermoud who does a very good job at weaving the two tales together and creating characters that have depth.  The movie feels real.  It is the only way I can describe it.  There is no artificial prompting of audience's emotion through dramatic close-ups, and music swelling at times.  No your emotions for the characters are genuine, and not forced.  You care for each one, and you feel vested in seeing what the outcome can be even knowing that one character dies.  In the end when we find out the truth we also feel for the victim of the crime, and somehow Frédéric Mermoud does this masterfully.

The performances should not be also overlooked here.  Both Gilbert Melki, Emmanuelle Devos, Cyril Descours, and Nina Meurisse give exceptional performances of their characters.  I bought their characters hook, line and sinker, and maybe that's what makes this film so special.  The reality of the film.  I even want the young lovers to succeed in their relationship even though I know one is doomed if not both.  In the end

Frédéric Mermoud does a wonderful job in rapping the plot up in a very satisfying way.  That is no small credit and credit should be given to both Frédéric Mermoud, and Pascal Arnold who both wrote the film.  It is hard enough to create an engaging plot but to create characters that we are drawn to and interested in is a sign of good writing.

I would be remiss here to not list all who bring this tale to the screen and contribute in a very unsung way.  The photography by Thomas Hardmeier makes you feel that you are witnessing a glimpse in the lives of the unsung, the reflections in the Seine river are breathtaking without being distracting.  Sarah Anderson's editing does a great job in pacing the movie and making the two story lines converge.  Then there is Grégoire Hetzel score which does not intrude into the movie making us aware of it.  It instead makes you feel the emotions that run through our characters.  Each one has a loneliness that they are trying to desperately reach out of but can't.

I can go on and on about this movie, but I really think it should be seen.  The ending will make you feel satisfied even though the subject matter is a bit hard to witness, and difficult to comprehend.  What I really took away from this movie was it's story about love, and loneliness.  From the two inspectors investigating a simple murder to the relationship between Rebecca and Vincent.  All four of these characters will stay with you for awhile after watching the film, and a good movie is suppose to do that to you.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pirate Radio (2009)

Would you believe way back in the 60's jolly old England gave about 30 minutes of pop music a day due to the fact that the government saw rock and roll as immoral, and lewd.  The answer to this was pirate radio.  These were actual ships that transmitted rock and roll tunes to the English while they were in international waters.  It was legal, and the these stations had about 25 million listeners.

That's the premise of "Pirate Radio", and I have to say it's a rocking good time.  Written and directed by Richard Curtis Pirate Radio is one of those films that transports you to a time where music hadn't been monopolized by corporations yet.  It was the time of the Beatles, The Stones, Iggy Pop, and the Kinks.  The British invasion was on, and what came out of that was some great music. 

Pirate Radio is an ensemble piece, and it has a multitude of characters.  There's Philip Seymour Hoffman, as the Count.  Nick Frost  as Doctor Dave, Chris O'Dowd as Simple Dave, and of course Rhys Ifans as Gavin Canavagh.  There are others which will make you laugh and snicker.  My favorite casting choice is Bill Nighy as Quentin.   Nighy is a one man dynamo who is one of my favorite actors.  If you ever get to see a movie called The Girl in the Café, I suggest you do.  Nighy is outstanding in it as he is in Pirate Radio. 

The plot I guess is simple.  Pirate Radio is a thorn in the British governments side, and they want it gone.  The director does show how governments try and legislate things they don't want or like.  Only thing was that most Brit's listened to Pirate Radio, and it was like putting the Jeanie back in the bottle.  They couldn't, and it eventually failed, only later to be taken over by large corporate conglomerates, but hey this is a review not an opinion piece.


The film shows the day to day antics of the DJ's on board the Pirate radio ship, and we are introduced to Carl (Tom Sturridge) who spends a summer on board the ship.  It is most ironic that in an era of self expression, and sexual liberation the men on board the ship are almost prisoners.  They live to be on the air and play their music.  The film is steeped in songs from that era and it feels authentic.  Most of the action is on-board the ship, and it is funny.   As the government tries to plot the demise of the Pirate Radio, we are introduced to people listening to Pirate Radio covertly.  They are nurses, secretaries, truck drivers, students, doctors, lawyers and so on.  It's amazing to even comprehend that a government would try and stop something that the people already knew about and wanted.  Curtis does a good job showing this all in montage and split screen with the music blaring to the music of that era. 

After watching this film I felt a bit of pain for the old days.  Where radio wasn't so corporate, and it was driven by the music and the personalities of the DJ's.  Here in the states FM was rock and rolls revitalization along with high fidelity sound, and "Pirate Radio" gives off that vibe of smacking that authoritarian mindset.  I did go back after seeing this film and play some albums I haven't heard in a while, and it brought back memories of a day long gone.  That's the only sadness here.  Their seems to be no frontier.  Some say it is the digital arena now, but that's a pay site, and radio was and is free for anyone to listen to.

All in all the performances are solid and funny, the music is grand, and the message is true.  Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a moving little speech as his program is turned off, and that is "you can never silence the music". 

Give me an Amen!  And could you turn that music up a bit LOUDER please!

Here's the original Pirate Radio: Radio Caroline

Rock On!!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SALT (2009)

This is one of those films that escaped me last year.  After seeing it now on DVD I have to say I was very much entertained.   The plot and the circumstances are quite ridiculous, and yet the non-stop action in this film makes it very entertaining.  From the start we are given a full roller-coaster ride of thrills, and I have to say I had fun seeing this film.  Angelina Jolie gives a very determined performance as Salt a supposedly double agent who runs from both the Russians and the Americans.   

The action scenes are really well done, and there is very little CGI work which seems to be the norm in today's films.  That's refreshing, because some of the scenes we can actually see Jolie doing her own stunts.  I must say the lady has some tenacity to do that, and it's what makes the film so enjoyable to watch.

Of course there were times where I said to myself while viewing the film that had that happened in real life the character would have a concussion and a few fractured bones, but this is the CINEMA!  Our heroine comes off with little scratches and no broken bones due to the magic of cinema.  I did hear that Jolie did injure herself slightly while filming, yet she was fine to continue.  It just shows the ladies dedication to the part.

If your looking for a fun and entertaining film to watch that is balls to the wall action then rent it, but if your not into those types of films then I guess this film would not be your cup of tea.  The only thing I have to say is that the BIG surprise in the end wasn't too much of a surprise.  I saw it coming from the beginning and was a bit disappointed by the revelation.  I mean I love spy movies, and always love the fast pace of the genre, but the film didn't have as many twists and turns as I thought it should have.  I mean that's what makes films of this genre so exciting.  SALT does not have that.  Instead it has relentless action, which I liked and thought was well done.

I heard that there were three cuts to this film.  One the theatrical release which opens the film up to a sequel.  The directors cut has somewhat of a more definitive ending, which would be more of a let down for this type of film considering the action is it's center piece.  The third ending had the character return to Russia to exact her revenge.  Guess the studio wanted a possible sequel if the film did well.  The director (Phillip Noyce) is said that the will not be involved with the sequel.  To me that's unfortunate since he's a very good action director, and this film screams action.

All in all a fun and entertaining movie, and nothing more.  Also Angelina Jolie is one hot looking lady who knows how to give a performance.  Without her the film would fall flat.  Funny thing is that this is a film that was written for Tom Cruise, and when he backed out of the film Jolie took it, after they wrote it for a female character.  I think it works, and I'd like to see more of the character down the line.  Can someone say franchise?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cloverfield (2008)

After seeing Monsters I had to go back and see Cloverfield.  A friend said that I should, so I figured why not.  First off I did not see this when it first came out.  I saw footage of it and said that it would just be too jarring on the eyes, and apparently it was for some.  The jarring camera work is enough to put me off, but a funny thing happens when it goes to video.  The screen shrinks and all that shaking of the camera becomes a little bit less annoying.  I say a little less because I swear the filmmaker in me wanted to grab the camera and film it the right way with less shake.  But the filmmakers of Cloverfield knew what they were doing, and that little imperfection added to the reality of what we were seeing.  I mean how scary is a Godzilla movie?  Now if you put a camera in one of the hands of someone running from Godzilla I would think that would be a whole lot more intense.  Not a new idea in this reality based world we now live in, but something someone hasn't done till now.  In fact it's an interesting take on the "monster movie".   Matt Reeves the director of the movie does a really good job at creating the fear and the anxiety of the film.  Drew Goddard who is the writer of the film does a remarkable job at the dialogue of the film.  I mean I actually think at some point that we are seeing "real" people in an extraordinary situation, and what I mean about "real" people is not actors.  That's a credit both to the director, the writer and the cast.

Now I know there was a lot of hype when this film came out, and apparently it did well in world wide release.  The studio did a lot of viral marketing, and it targeted a certain demographic to go see this film.  Well apparently it worked and there seems to be legions of fans out there for this movie.  I really do believe that EVERY FILMMAKER needs to take a lesson from this film, and use alternative ways to promote your film.  Take a look at the film "Monsters" which was released this year.  "Monsters" is a much smaller film then Cloverfield, and it probably doesn't have the P&A budget for a release like Cloverfield got, but I do think more attention to alternative ways in advertising could do for Monsters what the studio did for Cloverfield.  Of course these two films are totally different types of movies, but they are of the same genre, and hence already have a built in audience.  One film taps into that genre and builds on it, while the other film doesn't.  Now since this is a review of Cloverfield I'll stop here and just say that filmmakers and studios should take note and see that there is a different way to reach audiences other then the traditional way.

Michael Stahl-David , Jessica LucasOdette Yustman ,and  Lizzy Caplan do a fantastic job here considering they had no idea on what the monster looks like and were reacting to nothing on the set.  Maybe it's the camerawork that adds to the excitement, but at first I thought nothing about these characters and couldn't care less about them.  In fact they seemed annoying, but as the film goes on I really began caring for these characters.  That is no small feat for the actors, and they should really be applauded by their work.  The direction is also intense and Matt Reeves does a remarkable job on the film.  Critics have written about the film as a  post 911 reaction to the attacks on NY.  It's a good bet that the filmmakers did take a lot of what they saw that day and put it into this film.  Images of buildings crashing down and dust clouds heading towards the people are all too familiar images of 911.  The film does tap into that anxiety, and that dread of 911, and one cannot dismiss those feelings.  It seems to be part of our collective memory now, and images that look and feel like 911 can stir up those feelings in all of us.  The filmmakers do a good job in tapping into that angst while not exploiting it.  It is only fair that people compare this film to some 911 moments since the movie deals with an attack of New York city, but like all films coming out after 2001 Cloverfield deals with a fictitious attack on NY by a monster of unknown origin.  The movie humanizes the attack by concentrating on the people and not the attack itself.  It's this that makes Cloverfield so engaging. 

Because it was suppose to be a point of view story told through a camcorder there is no music in the film, yet the sound track is filled with dread.  Only in the beginning do we hear music that is from the party in the beginning of the film.  Also another great plot device is the notion of going over pre-recorded material.  Occasionally we see the two leads in better days and it is these scenes that kind of make you feel for the characters a bit more.  I have to say I thought I would hate this movie, but I really didn't.  In fact I wanted to see more.  I wanted to know more about the monster, and the events that lead up to the story.  I wanted to know the after effects and what happens to our main characters.  I guess the old saying leave them wanting more is right.  J.J. Abrams has said that a sequel is coming, but he's not rushing it, and it will take a new direction which sounds intriguing.

I really do like this film, and want to see more.  I'm a bit frustrated at not seeing it now, but hopefully real soon the filmmakers will get together and start filming a continuation of the storyline.  There are a lot of speculation that it wouldn't be a sequel or it'll be another point of view of the monster marauding through the streets of NY.  Whatever the scenario is I'm sure it'll be an interesting storyline.  If you haven't seen the film the film is available on DVD, and if your a monster movie fan all I can say is "what are you waiting for".  See it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Monsters (2010)

Just saw the movie Monsters, and was very impressed by the production and the story. This is Gareth Edwards first film of sorts. I say that because Mr. Edwards has done work some some documentaries (Perfect Disaster, Attila the Hun) and a movie called End Day.   Mr. Edwards knowledge of what he can do in the realm of special effects makes Monsters a movie a must see. 

The story in a nut shell is this:

"Six years after Earth has suffered an alien invasion a cynical journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border."

The two leads in this movie make this movie what it is.  Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able are actors that are of the highest caliber.  They are believable, and so convincing you think that you might just maybe be watching a documentary.  I'm sure the director did this on purpose.  I've read in articles that the director along with an associate producer/translator, a cameraman, and a sound man went to several locations in Mexico, Guatemala, Texas, and Belize and filmed his movie from an outline he had written.  He used authentic individuals at the locations to give him the performances he wanted.  It adds to the film, and makes the film completely believable.  Mr. Edwards creates a world that is turned upside down, and I bought it all.

I also have to state that every filmmaker should watch this and read some of the interviews and articles that Mr. Edwards has given about the film.  Edwards did with less, and created more on the screen. 

The film is not a Monster movie in the sense of that we expect to and that is to see these monsters pop out and cause havoc.  What it is is more about two people, and their relationship with the world, and themselves.  I know that sounds corny and a little strange coming from a movie that is called "monsters", but that is the core of the film.  What the filmmaker creates is a believable world turned inside out, and we see the aftermath of what the Monsters are doing.  There even is a hint that man may be the bad and evil one here, but I'll let you decided that on your own.

There are some great interviews here and here about the movie which ever filmmaker should read.  I have to say that I'm inspired by what Edwards does here, and it makes me re-think what is possible now in film making. 

The whole thing about leaving your audience wanting more is so true here.  Edwards does that, and in the end I really wanted more.  I know the film is one big flashback, but I really wanted to know how the characters made out.  In the end they stay with you, and for a little film like Monsters to do that the film has to have done something right to illicit that type of response in you.

I really suggest you watch it, and see it for yourself.  Ladies you will also enjoy it too since it is all about relationships.   I enjoyed it and was intrigued by it, but most of all I was inspired by it.

Note here too.  The cinematography is beautiful.  I'm sure it was the landscape the filmmakers were in, but I have to say that some of the images in Monsters are picture perfect.  Especially the scenes of the boat on the river.  The images are beyond beautiful.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


Putting together an online portfolio of my photos. More to come.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Edge of Darkness (2010)

The other night I saw "Edge of Darkness" starring Mel Gibson.  I only knew the story a little, and wasn't too sure how I would like it.  All I knew was that it was a film about revenge. 

In Edge of Darkness Mel Gibson's characters daughter is killed right in front of him.  The entire picture is about uncovering why she was killed and by who.  detective Craven (Gibson) is a detective in the Boston police department, and after the brutal killing of his daughter he goes on a hunt for the men that killed his only daughter.

So there you have it the story in a nutshell, but what is pleasantly surprising is the feel and the performances of the films characters which really make this film something interesting to watch.  All throughout the film I was thinking of several different types of noir type films, but the one that comes closest is "DOA".  That's right the 1950 film which starred Edmond O'Brien.  It's a favorite of mine, but what "Edge of Darkness" does is bring the human element into it.  The relationship between Gibson's character and his daughter is the thing that makes the film work.  It's the one reason you keep your eyeballs glued to the screen.  We get little background into their relationship before the daughter (Bojana Novakovic) is so violently dispatched. 

But what the director (Martin Campbell) does here is pretty interesting.  We hear throughout the film the young women's voice or we see Gibson's daughter as a little girl, as he remembers certain things in their lives which are significant to him.  It is these scenes that propel Gibson's character to do what he does.  We see the hurt in Gibson's face, and for it to come out and make us the audience feel for the both of them is really something that the director should take credit for, as well as Gibson himself.   It's what humanizes the film. 

There is only one ending that this film could have, and it keeps it's noir roots intake for all that I'm concerned.  The last shot made me smile, and yeah maybe it could be considered cheesy, but I really thought it was appropriate.   The film is an interesting look at corporate and governmental abuses that crush the individual.  It makes its point well, and yet like all noirs do they have their cynical way about them.  In "Edge of Darkness" both the performances as well as the direction are all flawless, and well worth the look. 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Jill Clayburgh (1944-2010)

I was surprised to hear that Jill Clayburgh had passed away.  I had just the other day thought of the film "An Unmarried Women" by Paul Mazursky.    Clayburgh's credits are extensive so I won't list them all.  Check out her IMDB credits if you wish.

I really don't know what to say here when it comes to a person who I've admired passes away.  It just feels that she had a lot more to give and was still very young.  We are at a loss for this, yet we can still see her performances in such films as; "Semi-Tough", "An Unmarried Woman", "Luna","Starting Over", "I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can", and "Hanna K."

Ms Clayburgh died Friday at her home in Connecticut home at 66 after living two decades with leukemia.  She is survived by her husband (David Rabe), her children, and her brother James.

Ms Clayburgh will be missed and always known for her extraordinaire work in both the screen and the theater. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

CCW Part 1

So the other week I was invited to CCW conference.  That's Content & Communication World.  Since they provided me with free admission to the conference and seminars I felt I was obligated to go.  I went last year, and enjoyed it, and learned a lot.  This year was just as informative, yet I would have liked more vendors dealing with the production side of things, but all in all it was still very thought provoking.  I figured that since I couldn't write one BIG blog entry about the conference I figured I try and spread it out.  I went to ten seminars, and a couple of workshops in-between. 

The conference was held in the Jacob Javits center in New York.  Both days I did a lot of walking around to seminars and through the exhibit floor which had over 200 companies. 

I was most interested in DSLR Production, and they had several workshops and one seminar that covered that.  I'll get more into that on later entries here, but needless to say I liked what I heard.  The only thing is that dealing with footage shot through these cameras can be a pain in the butt.    As one cinematographer said he loves the look of it, but hates the work flow. 

I still think that DSLR production is in its infancy, and there is still a lot of problems that they need to overcome, but I have to say the "look" of DSLR footage is well just "pretty cool".

I was also taken aback by NewTek's Tricaster.  No longer do you need to be on a set.  The new Tricaster can put your talent into a virtual set that looks awesome, and better still the virtual set can be modified by the user.  The man who was demonstrating it was in front of a small green screen.  He was very amusing, but what he did with the NewTek Tricaster was simply amazing.  No more BIG studio.  You yourself can do nightly or daily newscasts with ease.  In fact the gentlemen doing the demonstration was being his own technical director.  You can program camera moves without ever touching the camera.  It's easy and pretty awesome.  I've worked with NewTek's tricaster and thought it was a pretty good portable studio.  The only problem was that it didn't come student proof, and hence the abuse it took rendered it useless.  I think NewTek has made their product a bit more sturdier and durable, but I'd be  interested in hearing from producers who have worked with it in the field.  I believe NewTek's new Tricasters are much better, and you can do a whole lot more with them then I was able to do with their older versions.

Other seminars covered 4K acquisition and work flow, Lighting technologies for Production, and Social media.  I'll try and do some justice of the info I've gathered, and try not to be a total geek. 

There were several camera manufacturers on the exhibit floor also, and it was fun to play with all the various models.  A lot of productions are shooting digitally now, and that's more and more happening throughout the production field, but to say tape is dead would be a bit misleading.  I'll get into that also, and try to decipher my notes on that.

I have to say I came away from the conference invigorated and stimulated.  There's a lot of possibility out there, and there is so much one can do now that wasn't possible in the past.

Stick around and let's talk shall we.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The New Year Parade (2009)

I had been wanting to see Tom Quinn's movie "The New Year Parade" for sometime now, and only now have I gotten around to it.  The movie for me didn't disappoint.  Mr. Quinn photographed his film over four years, and with a ton of footage he has managed to create a beautiful film about family, and tradition. 

The film introduces us to the McMonogul family, whose members have been part of the South Philadelphia String Band for several generations.  Mike played by Andrew Conway finds out that his wife (Ann McDonald) has been unfaithful, and he moves out in a rage.  Mike is the captain of the string band, and he buries himself in his obsession, or is it his duty of getting ready for next years show.  Throughout the movie there are hints that Mikes wife had her reasons, yet the movie only hints at that.  It's that which I find unfortunate because Quinn does show the stereo-typical Irish-American family as it has been depicted in many movies for sometime.  You know the working class protagonist who says little but fights his demons day in and day out, and drowns those demons in alcohol.  That's the disappointing thing about the film, yet I still liked it for it's atmosphere & the way it told its story about this family.   It's not about despondent characters, but characters trying to come to grips with their family falling apart.

Quinn has mentioned in interviews that before writing this film he had video taped many friends of his who were victims of divorce.  Through those tapes he set out to create a story that centers around an annual event that happens every year here in Philly.  That event is the Mummers parade.  It's an amazing event here in Philly, and what I like about the film is how Quinn weaves his story around the event.  He uses "real" people to tell us why this parade is special.  It is only through the backdrop of the parade that we are told the story of the McMonogul family.

Greg Lyons and Jennifer-Lynn Welsh play the McMonogul children.  Jack (Greg Lyons) is in his early 20's while Kat (Jennifer-Lyn Welsh) is around 16, and they are devastated by their mom and dads break-up.  Kat decides to stay with her mom, and we can see the division that is happening between mother and daughter.  Jack on the other hand accuses his father of destroying the family and not forgiving his mom. 

The movie shows this in a sort of documentary style.  The performances of the actors are really well done, and I believe that the family is heading for a breakdown, yet again I feel as though I am seeing a movie I have seen before.  Tough, down trodden men & women who believe in tradition, and who lead stoic lives.  But more often the movie is obsessed with details with the mundane. Employing a style that flirts with the cinema Verdi documentary form of film making rather then the narrative form.

What makes it different is Quinn adding the footage of the club preparing for the parade. The movie feels authentic because of this footage , and it has likable characters which we feel for.  It is this that makes "The New Year Parade" interesting and worth seeing.  Maybe it's a compliment that I wanted to see more of the characters interact with each other.  I wanted to see a bit of resolution here, but Quinn doesn't do that and that's alright.  Life doesn't come with happy endings, and yet at the end of the film you feel satisfied.  I heard that it took Quinn two years to edit, and it shows how masterful he was in getting his story put together in such a unique way. 

In the end  The New Year Parade is a film which is told in an unusual way by a very gifted filmmaker, and worth seeing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Machete (2010)

Okay I really wanted to like this movie.  I'm a big fan of those "grind house" movies, and I have fond memories watching them in theaters that were far from stellar, but Machete is in no way a "grind house" film.  It tries and fails miserable. 

First off grind house movies were made with so little money the producers of those films had to come up with ways to exploit them.  A scene that would get audience's tongues talking about.  Here the filmmakers of Machete have enough money to do what they want and they do it poorly.  The movie tries so hard, and doesn't even come close.  The film is played way over the top, and it suffers from it.  Robert Rodriguez who is the director or co-director of the film does it all, and throws everything and the kitchen sink into the film.  The pacing seems all wrong, and it goes from one preposterous scene to another. 

What also takes away from the movie is the actors themselves.  Danny Trejo is the one person I like, but he doesn't do much here.  He sneers, and says a few lines and that's around it.  I would really like to see Danny Trejo in another film where he could use more of his acting ability.  I'm sure he has talent, but in Machete Trejo's talent is wasted.

Also I am a fan of Robert Rodriguez, and yet I feel this film was far from his best.  Does the film have action?  Yes, but Rodriguez hits you  over the head with it.  At a point in the film I felt numb just because of what the filmmaker was throwing at me.  I didn't care for the characters, and I began to watch the clock which is always a bad sign in a movie.

Again I really wanted to like this film, but in all honesty I can't say I did.  Will others?  I'm sure of it.  I mean it does have its share of naked ladies, gun play, and bloody vengeance, so I'm sure it will find its audience.  The one thing that makes me angry is that the filmmakers try to pass this film off as a grind house type of film, and it isn't.  Many of those grind house films were a lot better, and had a story that seemed plausible to some extent.  Machete does not.  It's a check your brains at the door type of movie, and though I have no quarrels with such films I do like my films done with a bit more thought put into them.  Machete is a film that has no thought in it at all except for the message about immigration, and even here Rodriguez does it with a heavy hand thereby missing the message all together.  In essence Machete is just junk food for the senses, and after seeing it you'll forget it as easily as that Twinkie you had.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The American (2010)

I had been interested in seeing this when I first saw the trailer awhile back.  I've always been a fan of stories about spies, assassins, and other under worldly persona's.  Charles Bronson in "the Mechanic", Terrance Stamp in "the Limey", and Bob Hoskins in "the Long Good Friday".  All of these movies are fascinating and are good portrayals of people on the other side of the tracks.  The American is a movie that follows that same formula, yet Cloney as the main lead plays it laid back.  Jack or Edward we really don't know his name is a contract killer or a man who supplies contract killers.  The story never says though in one conversation his employer says he doesn't have to kill here.  That's what makes this movie interesting.  It's the ambiguity of the story that pulls us in, and of course Cloney's performance.  In the first few minutes of the movie we are treated to an ambush.  Just when you think you know where the story is going to go Cloney's character does something unexpected.  It is this event that really seals his fate, and even though we get to like Cloney's character through his performance we know that the inevitable is waiting.

"The American" is a movie which is superbly shot, and has enough atmosphere to swallow the viewer whole.  It is Cloneys performance and the performances of his co-stars that make this movie so watchable.   Violante Placido is beautiful to look at and she gives a good performance of a prostitute who falls for Cloney's character.  There is a love scene in the film that is both erotic, and sensual without being exploitative.  It works in the sense that we get to know a little bit more about our characters.  Also Cloney shows himself off quite well also in the movie and I'm sure it's for the female audience of the movie.   But maybe it's more then that.  Cloney's character is defined through his actions and what he doesn't say.  In other words Cloney shows us depth of the character through his gestures and eyes.   Not many actors can do this, but Cloney can, and he does it so effortlessly.

The audience I saw it with didn't seem to like it, and seemed bored by the movie.  This is no action movie.  It is a character piece and one that has a thick atmosphere of deceit, and beauty.  Maybe it's the way the studio is marketing the film that throws off it's audience, but I do believe that there is an audience for this type of film.  Maybe it's the ending that the audience doesn't like.   Yet I find that to be too simplistic of a statement.  I really liked this film, and I liked all the performances in it.  Paolo Bonacelli  as the priest is a fascinating character, and one who feels three dimensional.  Thekla Reuten also gives an interesting performance as a fellow assassin. 

I can go on and on about the film, and how I liked it, yet I'm afraid that it won't find it's audience especially after coming out so early in the fall season.  There should be some performances here that are worth academy award nomination.  Alone the cinematography should get some mention.  "The American" is a movie worth seeing for its performances and its story of a man who can't escape his past.  If you like good cinema I suggest you see it.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Harry Brown (2009)

Harry Brown is a movie I wanted to see when it came out, but never got around to it.  I was thrilled when it released this week on DVD.  With Michael Cain as the main character I wondered how this movie didn't do as well as it should have.  Say anything about Michael Cain he always gives his A game in a film.  The man could read Webster's dictionary and make it a good performance.  Harry Brown is Daniel Barber's second feature, and he comes out of the gate swinging with this one.  A film about revenge and growing old is what the film Harry Brown is all about, yet it plays on so many other levels too.

After Harry's (Cain) best and only friend  (David Bradley) is murdered Harry takes on the hoods that have taken over his neighborhood.  I know "visions of Charles Bronson in "Death Wish" come to mind, but "Harry Brown is a different movie.  This film is not heavy on dialogue.  Cain's face portrays his character in this movie.  The loneliness, the desperation, and the anger, and the sadness is written in Cain's performance of the character. 

The movie is violent when it gets going, but it does not portray violence for violence sake.  It's dirty, and filthy.  The filmmaker makes a point about today's society without hitting us over the head or becoming too dogmatic.  I really liked Cain's performance in this film.  At 77 years of age Cain can out perform any other actor of his day or of today's actor.  He's fresh and he plays his part so close to the vest.  You can feel his pain, and his loss.  It's not over acted and over dramatized.

I've been a fan of Cain's since The Ipcress File and he has never disappointed.  Anyone who is interested in Cain's acting should read his book: "Michael Caine - Acting in Film: An Actor's Take on Movie Making (The Applause Acting Series) Revised Expanded"  In it he gets very matter of fact about acting and film making.

If you want to see a good film with a good performance by a veteran actor watch Harry Brown.  I would also be amiss in not pointing out the performances of Emily Mortimer, and Charlie Creed-Miles who play the two detective assigned to investigate Harry's friends murder.

The film is a very entertaining and well acted piece of cinema.  On one level you enjoy it for the stories sake, but on another level you really feel for the characters in the film, and for what the film is trying to say.  This is another jewel in the crown of Michael Cain's career and one that should not be overlooked.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Expendables (2010)

What can I say about this movie?  Anyone who sees it is probably a fan of action movies, and is a fan of Stallone.  For an hour and fourtythree minutes one can be entertained to stuff blowing up, fire fights, and good guys vs bad guys.  I won't go into what the story is about, and all the details of the film.  Suffice it to say is that if your a fan of action movies you'll like this film.

I happen to be a fan of Stallone, and think he's a pretty good filmmaker.  The Rocky series proves that hands down.  But after leaving the theater I felt like this film could have been better.  One complaint I had is "sloppy film making".  What do I mean by sloppy film making?  Well just that.  Some of the cutting seemed quick and timed to get a reaction out of the audience.  Now of course you want a reaction from the audience.  Something positive and something that makes them get excited, but in this film I found it forced.

In an age of video games, and digital editing I do think that some filmmakers have adapted the video game as a feature.  The cuts as I said were fast, and the camera moves were faster.  Yes it's great to cut on action, but when the scene becomes a blur I sometimes want to hit the slow-mo button. Accompanying these cuts and camera moves are a screaming musical soundtrack in your ear along with the added special sound effects of grunts, groans, and snaps.  To me it feels forced.  Watch a fight scene in "Enter the Dragon" and your rooting for our hero, and amazed at his agility.    What fast cuts make me believe is that the filmmaker has something to hide.

Yes I know film is an illusion, but throwing images at us, and ratcheting up the soundtrack does not impress me.  Also filmmakers are relying too much on digital effects.  A lot of the bullet hits, and bullet carnage was digitally enhanced.  Now look at a film like "The Wild Bunch" and tell me which is better.  I'm all for technology innovation, but when used to excess it becomes stale, and just plain sloppy.

Maybe it's the pressure of films getting into theaters at a particular date.  The summer moths have become make or break territory for films.   A filmmaker has no choice when he or she has a studio release date set in stone.  I really don't know, or maybe the bean counters that have taken over Hollywood, and are kicking the creative people asses to produce.  After all the market drives the film, and the summer months are hard months for movies.  No more weeks for a film to catch on.  If it isn't immediate it falls off the theaters schedule quickly.

Maybe hence the sloppy film making.  At least that's how I see it, or maybe I'm just older and I have a different take on what passes for entertainment.  I'm no gamer, but I do see flaws, and it makes me uncomfortable.

I really wanted to like this film, and part of me does.  I would've liked a more in-depth look at the characters in the film.  Instead I got stereotypes and one dimensional characters that seemed right out of a game.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Despicable Me (2010)

The family and I went to see Despicable Me the other day and I have to say we all enjoyed it. The film is a funny and quirky film about a villain. Yes that's right the main character is a villain, and his name is Gru. What's even better is that Gru has minions. (Doesn't every villain)

These minions are the best thing in the film. They speak some gibberish that you almost understand, but laugh every time their on screen. My boys loved it, and I heard my oldest laughing along with his mom. I even found myself on the floor laughing at some of the jokes. (Yes it is that funny)

But please don't make sense of the story. It's a fable, and a fun one at that. My 83 year old mom even liked it, and thought it was cute, so all ages seem to like it.

The story is simple. Gru wants to be the number one villain of all time. So he sets out to steal the moon. Of course every villain has a nemesis, and Gru's is Vector. A younger more hip and a somewhat dead ringer for a young Bill Gates. I kid you not the villain looks like Bill Gates.

Anyhow Gru adopts three orphan girls to help him get the dreaded shrink ray back from Vector. But what happens to Gru is that the girls break down his meanness, and he finds love. Yes, yes I know how corny, and how contrite, but I'm telling you it works.

Steve Carell is the voice of Gru, and he does a remarkable job. I have to say that I'm slowly becoming a Steve Carell fan. I'm amazed at the guys depth. Pierre Coffin, and Chris Renaud are the directors of the film, and let me tell you the film flies by at a good clip. The film does not feel as though it is an hour and thirty five minutes long.

If you want to have some laughs and have a good time go see the film. It sure put a smile on my face, and the kids will love it. There are adult jokes in this film that will go over the heads of the kids, but will have you laughing or should I say rolling in the aisles.

It's a good summer movie, and one where the whole family will enjoy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Heaven's Gate a classic

Over at David Lowery's blog he talks about Heaven's Gate, and its director Michael Cimino. There is a link to a documentary on the movie narrated by William Dafoe. It's a good documentary, and after seeing it I had to post some of it here. I remember when this came out. It was 1980, and I was still in high school. I was enmeshed in film making back then. I started watching movies differently. It was also the height of the VCR, and believe it or not movies on videotape was the coolest thing. Only thing was that there wasn't much product yet. So the movies was where you still went to to study them. Heck! I remember sitting in theaters from afternoon till evening watching movies over and over again. I do remeber seeing a re-release of this movie.  Not it's two and half hour version, but the original 219 minute version.   By the time they released this I was in college I believe.  I saw it somewhere in Manhattan, and seeing it blew me away.  It's ironic that for a class in school I was required to read Final Cut.  But I was always on the side that the original version is a classic, and seeing it now in wide-screen does the picture justice.  I really do think that this film will become a major re-discoved classic.  I'm not alone either TMC ran it one night too in it's original cut.  Now that people are replacing their TV's with flat screens, and giving film presentations worthy of theater like viewing in their living room.  I think there will be a lot of films that get re-discovered, but I believe "Heaven's Gate" will be one of them.

If you have time check out the documentary on YouTube.  It really is interesting.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Albert Maysles

I met Mr. Maysles awhile back, and was so impressed at his advice, and his interest in other filmmakers that I've come to the realization that the man is a true artist and documentarian. His advice here is something artists need to listen to.

Thanks Mr. Maysles.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Future is here already!

video platform video management video solutions video player

This is an interesting look at how movie making has evolved. Budget was $15K, and the effects were done with programs you can buy off the shelf.

Makes you really think. Why aren't YOU making a film. This is stuff that excites me.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Survival of the Dead (2010)

So I broke down and saw this film, and in a way I'm glad I did. Survival of the Dead is no masterpiece, but it is better then Romero's "Diary of the Dead", and shows some promise even though the story seems too preposterous.

The whole story about letting the zombies live just seemed too off-beat. I mean zombies and bullets seem to go together. I mean what's the point in keeping a zombie alive? So the conflict between the two families doesn't make mush sense. What did make sense was the story of the survivors of the zombie Apocalypse. That's been it for me and I believe a lot others too. In the most interesting zombie film "Dawn of the Dead" Romero was going for the whole breakdown of society. He used comic book violence to get a point across without beating our heads in with the message. In essence it was fun and yet if you took apart the film there was a lot there. Even in "Day of the Dead" Romero goes darker and the violence becomes less comic bookish, and more realistic. In "Day of the Dead" mankind is in ruins, and the zombie Apocalypse is in full gear. Even in "Day of the Dead" Romero uses dark humor to show us the end of the world. Romero gives us even a glance of hope towards the end of "Day of the Dead" which is unlike Romero.

In Survival Romero seems to be going back to his roots and picking characters he is interested in. Alan Van Sprang plays a leader of a motley crew of military deserters who are searching for a safe place to rest. These aren't the good guys, and Sprangs character says that. They are just surviving, and isn't that what these Dead films are all about. How we as human beings survive this great zombie Apocalypse. It isn't all about the zombies. It's about what kind of society we transform into when faced with extinction.

I'm a HUGE fan of Romero and I really like what he has to say, but he's always constrained by his budgets. He does a good job getting his message through, so when the camera was on the survivors I was most interested in the story. The story between the two families was somewhat interesting, but it got a bit ridiculous towards the middle.

In the end "Survival of the Dead" isn't bad at all, and what I hear is that Romero is making some money off these films finally. I'm happy to hear that, and maybe with that extra money he can go back to what the series is all about, and that is the breakdown of society, and how mankind adapts to the zombie Apocalypse.

Maybe a cable series of the dead. Wouldn't that make sense? Possibly highlighting different survivors throughout its episodes. I would think that it would be financial viable, and it would keep Romero rolling in cash for awhile. Maybe it would free him up to do something more interesting, or different. I don't know, but whatever the case I still believe in Romero the filmmaker.

"Survival of the Dead" shows that Romero is still on top of his game, and still laughing while winking at us as he shows man kinds decent into the zombie Apocalypse.

PS: Can we start filming these films in country again. I know Canada has some interesting financial incentives to film there, BUT with this recession here there are a LOT of GOOD deals to be made with local film organizations that make it cheaper to film here then in another country. Also it just looks a lot better from a cinematic point of view.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

When Your Strange (2009)

What can I say about Jim Morrison and the Doors that hasn't been already said. For my generation he was and will be an iconic symbol of a time where an artist pushed the boundaries of his art. But that's not how I know The Doors. I remember hearing them blasting from big boom boxes that my buddies used to carry around. For some Morrison is the soundtrack of their youth and I guess I fall into that category. It was only later that I developed such a respect on what he did and how he did it. Without compromise Morrison did what he wanted to do. Call him a drug induced rock star that pissed off the authorities of his time or just call him the "lizard King". He was both.

When your Strange is a documentary on Morrison and the Doors and is narrated by Johnny Depp. Tom DiCillo is the director of the film, and he does a great job assembling footage that we haven't seen yet of Morrison and the Doors. If your a fan of the Doors theres not much new in information about the Doors that hasn't been said or written about. It is the footage that is new and how DiCillo mixes the music and the archival footage together is really special. I didn't have a problem with Depp's voice over since it is sparse and not all the time, but it would have been more interesting in just using the audio of Morrison and Doors to tell their story.

The film also made me appreciate Oliver Stones film "The Doors"even more with all the research he had done. It's all here, and it's pretty dead on. DiCillo does a good job, and I think in anyone else's hands the film wouldn't be as interesting as it is.

So if your a Doors fan I highly recommend it, and if not and you don't know much about the Doors and who they were I would also recommend it. Seeing Morrison so early in his career is interesting. I wanted to see more, and that's the only fault I have of the film. I know there's more. Such as Morrison's poetry, and his relationship with the band members and his long time girlfriend Pamela Courson. The film does not dig deep, and maybe there may not be anything else to dig up, but what of Morrison's associates? Where are they?, who were they?, and what were their stories of Morrison? Maybe that's for another film. It would be interesting to see a film about the selling of Morrison now and then, and get a true feeling on how he felt, and what he believed because right now we only see his band mates recollections. That would also be an interesting film, but probably not a sellable one where the band "The Doors" has become a marketing juggernaut. By keeping the myth of Morrison alive it has become more about selling the bands albums to future generations instead of a real look at an American artist who was more then just a singer . I would think Morrison would have something to say about that, but who knows if there is footage of him talking about his art, and his songs. I would be interested in seeing that footage. I surely don't believe that we have seen or heard the definitive Doors or should I say Morrison retrospective.

In any respect "When your Strange" is a compelling look at an artist who inspired a generation, and to this day still inspires others. Some label him a burned out rock star, and others saw him as a poet of his generation. That's the fascination of Morrison, and for some of us he will always be the iconic rock superstar. Long live the Lizard King.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

RED is coming to the masses!

I've seen some really nice things from RED, and it looks like their ahead of the curve on new technology, and work flow patterns.

I'm sure there is a lot of testing to be done yet, but it's exciting news. Technology that breaks the barrier of just who can make new media. Simplicity is the key, and it looks as though RED is doing just that.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Paranormal Activity (2009)

I finally sat down and saw the film that's been hyped for so long. I guess there are two camps to this movie. One is that you'll love it, or you'll hate it. There seems to be no middle ground here.

The story is about a couple who move into a suburban house that seems to be haunted. They do their own investigating by setting up a video camera to document the many odd events that are happening inside their house.

Now I have to say it is an interesting premise, and one that I think really works on some level. Yet it was not scary at all, and I found the movie quite dull. I did like the performances of Katie Featherston, and Micah Sloat as the haunted couple. Though I did think Micah's performance sometimes grated on me. I sometimes wanted to kick the screen when he was on. I don't know if that is a good thing here since I wanted to have some empathy towards the characters, and in the end I really didn't care what happened to them.

People compare this movie with the Blair Witch Project, yet I liked that film a bit better. Maybe because it was first, or maybe because it actually had some eerie parts in the movie that made it a really neat film to watch.

In Paranormal Activity I didn't get any sense of the outside world, yet the action was happening in suburbia. I realize that this is a low budget film, and may in fact be a micro-budget film that actually went on to make a lot of money.

Yet I think it was all hype. The studio did a good job at doing it, and convincing people to go, but to say that this film is a good horror film is a bit much to say.

I was interested in the film as a filmmaker, and was really hoping that it would have some decent scares or some decent plot points that would be interesting. Unfortunately it does not.

I give credit here to the actors who were very convincing. From what I've read the actors did not have an actual script to go by. The filmmaker drew up an outline, and that the actors would improvise their scenes together. That in itself is ballsy, and I really think the actors should get a bigger credit here then the filmmaker. The filmmaker surly knew talent when he saw it, but what I would really love to see is to have the actors get some more work from this. I really think their the ones whose talent shines in this film, and I look forward to seeing them in other work real soon.

If your interested in seeing what you can do wit a limited budget I suggest you watch this, and key into the performances. Remember as the filmmaker said in an article "knowing good talent and getting that talent is important". It makes or breaks a film, and this is one example where good actors shine.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Duplicity (2009)

Duplicity is a film by director Tony Gilroy, which stars Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Tom Wilkinson, and Paul Giamatti. All four of these actors make this movie worth seeing. Be warned though that this movie has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.

The synopsis of the film is this:

"DUPLICITY is a slick, comic caper in which it’s never exactly clear who is being conned. It’s easy to see that ex-CIA agent Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) and former MI6 member Ray Koval (Clive Owen) have a heated history together when they embark on an elaborate mission of corporate espionage."

That's all I'm going to say about this. The way to enjoy this movie is just by watching it, and paying attention to the plot. Like I said the plot has many twists and turns in it, but the film is laced with some dark comic undertones that make this a funny romp. I have to say also that the cinematography by Robert Elswit is stunning, and I really like the feeling of this film. We don't know who to trust and the characters don't trust each other. It's a con within a con within a con. That's what makes it interesting. Tom Wilkinson's performance is stunning, but I dare you to name a bad performance by this actor. Wilkinson is a master here and I love how his character unfolds. But by naming one I do a disservice to all in this film. Julia Roberts plays it straight and serious, and it works. Clive Owens performance is flawless, and Paul Giamatti's performance is just a hoot. Giamatti is so fun to look at and watch I could watch him in almost anything.Watch Giamatti in American Splendor and you'll see I'm right.

Duplicity is a movie you could watch twice, and each time something else is newly revealed. the film and story is that intricate. The only thing I can say about this film is that it may be too complex. Maybe too many twists, but I kind of liked it, and I had no trouble following along. The dialogue is really snappy, and I think the direction works. For a film all about mistrust the director really trusted his actors to come through here. All their performances work for the film, and there is not one fault I can give in any of the performances.

In fact I am inspired to watch the directors commentary here, and learn just how he pulled those performances out. Surely that alone would be worth the price of the DVD. The film does jump around a bit. From present to past, and then back, yet it works here, and it kind of throws off the viewer which I think the filmmakers wanted.

All in all I recommend the film Duplicity. It's a very smart film with very good performances.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Hurt Locker (2009)

Okay I wasn't going to do another review, but having not updated here for some time I figured I should, and why not talk about a really good piece of cinema.

The Hurt Locker deals with an American bomb disposal unit based in Iraq. By now you've heard the hype and seen the awards show. It swept the Oscars, and what ever you have to say about this film it certainly brings the chaos of war home. Kathryn Bigelow's direction is flawless, and she does so because of her talented cast & crew. Bigelow goes for a documentary feel, and makes the viewer feel as though she or he is there with the characters, and that anything and everything is possible. You actually forget that your watching a movie and it feels like a reality program. The use of multiple cameras works here, and the suspense is derived from the hyper active camera.

The cast is also really good. They feel authentic, and seem like real hardened grunts working a job they know can get them killed anytime. Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Bryan Geraghty give performances worthy of an Oscar even though they did not receive one.

One more thing I like to point out about the film. In essence the film is a low budget film. I believe it was shot for 9 million in the desert of Jordon. Though nine million seems like a lot I can tell you that a lot went to the local where they were filming.

The film has limited characters. There are a lot of scenes with extras, and some with named actors such as David Morse, or Guy Pearce, but the majority scenes have the three main actors of the movie in the frame.

The film is a well written film, and there are few lulls in the film. We expect the worst for these characters, yet it is amazing how well they come through all the chaos around them.

I can't say I enjoyed the film. It was gut wrenching and every frame made you wonder what was to come next. A good film is suppose to do that. You are transported to that local with the characters and you almost seem to live with them. Kathryn Bigelow does a marvelous job. Then again Bigelow is a dynamite director. From her first film Near Dark to The Hurt Locker Bigelow is a dynamic and visual director. Bigelow's films are filled with adrenaline like atmosphere which seem to be her trademark.

The Hurt Locker is as good and visceral as a film can get, and it's another example of talented people coming together and creating something extraordinary.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dino Finders!

My boy won as a prize a game where you dig out some small miniature dino bones from what looks to be a rock. Amusing at first I decided to video tape the boys progress.

It was fun, and kind of neat to see the boys so enthralled in amateur paleontology. Kyle loves digging and chiseling, and he so enjoyed the unearthing of bones, which were actually just plastic replicas, but it was fun.

I finally edited it all together and what took about an hour or two is now shortened to four minutes.

I added the music, and it sounds so like Jurassic park that it fit the theme, but I have to tell you I got lucky when I found the royalty free music.

Hey it was fun, and the boys enjoyed it. As well as the adults too.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Avatar (2009)

It was a matter of time till I saw this, and I've been resisting the hype, but I saw it over the week-end, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Now to get things straight. I like James Cameron. He is a decent filmmaker, and he makes movies that are very impressive to see. Avatar doesn't disappoint in this arena. The images are stunning, and the story itself, though simplistic, is well written.

I've head a lot of criticism about it being a tree hugging liberal type of movie. Where man is the enemy. For those who believe that type of clap trap keep watching Fox, and please stay at home. It's a MOVIE! Star Wars was just as simplistic, and no one spouted political triads about that movie. Maybe it was something to do with fighting the big bad Empire. I don't know and I don't care. Avatar is a story, and a pretty good story. There are some things that the filmmaker put in the story that can be a attributed to the problems we face here on earth, but Cameron doesn't hit us over the head with it. Those elements are part of the story. It works, and it works very effectively.

Now I was thinking I should just see this film in 2-D, and skip the 3-D thing. I'm not a big fan on the gimmick, but if your of the same thought I have to say DON'T! I saw the film in 3-D IMAX, and the film rocked. Cameron doesn't use the cheesy coming at you mentality. The 3-D effect is part of the image, and the images are breath taking. We are on a new planet and everything is vibrant, and strange. The 3-D effect enhances it all, and it does so in the most spectacular ways.

I don't want to say too much about Avatar's Oscar nominations, but now that the Oscars nominations have come out I really think some of the performers here in this film have been robbed. Stephen Lang does a great acting job as Colonel Miles Quaritch. Zoe Saldana does a magnificent job as Neytir, and the performances by Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington, and Laz Alonso all do the film justice. I don't know what the Academy is thinking with not nominating these fine thespians. Yes they may be an effect, but the camera recorded there performances. Maybe a bit differently then usually but all the same they were recorded none the less, and the effect doesn't denigrate their performances.

The whole film is masterfully put together, and one that is well made. Cameron brings film making into the 21st century, and does so with a very interesting and thought provoking film. If I had any advice to give I would say go see it in the theater. You will be impressed by the visuals and pretty taken aback by it.

Movies are escapism, and Avatar doesn't disappoint.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Back into the Past!

I've been working on a film about my dad for some time now, and it's also encompassed my mom too. I felt I could not talk about one without talking about the other one. Of course not having dad here and relying on memory can be a tricky thing. Facts and events sometimes get distorted, so I've been painstakingly trying to piece together past family history. This includes me as well, and no matter how uncomfortable I am in front of the camera I need to record fragments of memory so that hopefully in the end it will all piece together.

I got the idea from Scorsese's film "Italian American" where the filmmaker interviews his mom & dad. If you get a chance to see it it's pretty funny and touching. Way back in 1996 I interviewed my mom. My dad had passed away a year earlier, and so with 16mm camera in hand I sat down mom and shot about two rolls of 16mm film. I basically set up a light and shot it. Took the film to DuArt Lab and had it transferred to videotape. I think it cost about $300 to $400 to process it and transfer it to tape. I also had to pay for the audio syncing of the video and audio since the audio was recorded on a Nagra 4.2.

It was a primer to my feature, and I learned quite a bit. One was that I needed an assistant camera badly. Doing it all is cool and ballsy, but quite stupid too.

Now with the digital realm I can just set up a Cannon GL and started recording. I used the same microphone I used on the 16mm shoot, and it worked flawlessly. I was back to the one man crew of my youth.

The problem is that my mom is older now, and memory and her frailty is of a concern. You don't want to push the lady, so I've come up with a wireless situation where I can record her where ever she is, and she can be comfortable talking.

I am using an audio-technica VHF wireless microphone. It's not the most expensive and best, but for what I want to do it works pretty good. I am also using an old Cannon ZR 60. Basically I'm using this as a audio recorder that happens to record video. After all it is the audio that is important here, and I want it to sound good. Also I can go almost anywhere with this, and have decided to also hopefully record my aunt and uncle. I've found out that if you just mike the person, and don't point the camera at them the person becomes a little more relaxed.

I will record video when I can, but right now I'm concerned with audio. With all this happening I am going through a treasure trove of family pictures that my mom has collected throughout the years. I 'm also going through my dad's home movies and transferring them when I can to digital. I even have old reel to reel tapes that I'm looking into transferring to CD.

This project is almost 14 years in the making. I've hemmed and hawed on doing it right, and struggled with putting something down. After all who really cares, but I.

I feel I'm racing the clock though. A lot of people have passed away since 1996, and one cannot stop time. Why I'm doing this is two fold. First off it's something for me to do. I haven't been quite active as I'd like to be in filmmaking, so this helps that. The other reason is that I want my boys to know their past. They never got to meet dad, and know only my mom. My boys are too young to appreciate their heritage now, but maybe someday they'll be interested in it. It's something I'm passionate about.

I've been kicking myself for my lack of enthusiasm for film, and this is one way to get a shot in the arm while testing the DV waters. I also don't want this blog to be just another blog about movies I've seen. There are too many of them and not enough nuts & bolts websites about filmmaking from the lower echelons of filmdom.

I'm supposed to be doing this for ME! It's about time I start doing more filming and less talking. So please forgive me while I kick my own ass into doing something I love. SO expect some masochism from me, and a lot of tough love from me. Time to re-awaken that guy who enjoys & sometimes hates the trials and tribulations of filmmaking.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Terminator Salvation (2009)

So I've been interested in seeing this movie for awhile. I'm a big fan of the Terminator franchise, and I really loved the original one, so I was looking forward to seeing this when I got the chance.

Well it's a good thing I didn't see it in the theaters. Picked it up on DVD as a rental and to tell you the truth the buck that I spent on the rental even seems too much. To put it more bluntly this movie is soulless. I even was surprised at Christian Bales performance. He seemed like he was phoning it in, and as for the directing I really can't say anything nice. I even recognized some shots or sequences that were done in the original movie. The one sequence I remember was when the Terminator was chasing Conner through the Terminator factory. It seemed like a direct lift from the first movie when Sarah is being chased through the factory by the Terminator. I had to play back the sequence, but I'm sure it was a direct lift from the first movie. What? Is McG (the director) saluting Cameron's first movie?

There are some interesting effects in the movie, but they are all worthless. The story seems to play out before Conner sends Resse back into the past. And it seems as though the Terminators are hunting Resse, so they know about the past future thing. My question is why didn't the Terminators off Resse right away. Instead they capture him, and put him in a cell. I mean really aren't these cyborgs a bit smarter then that?

The plot is laughable, and the performances really aren't that good, but I'll blame the director for that. And what's with the name McG? Reminds me of a McDonald's meal or something.

I have no really good things to say about this film. Sam Worthington played an interesting character, but again I blame all the performances here on the director, and at 2 hours and 15 minutes the film drags.

Save your money and don't bother renting or even buying this film. Watch ANY of the other Terminator films. Even Terminator 3 was a lot better then this. I just hope they continue the franchise because I like the films & storyline a lot. There is a lot of potential for the franchise to continue Just not with this film..

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Moon (2009)

This last Tuesday the movie "Moon" was released on DVD, and so this week-end I picked it up. I had wanted to see the film when it hit theaters but it only got a limited release, and so I never got around to it.

Moon is directed by Duncan Jones, and stars Sam Rockwell in a sort of dual role. More on that in a minute. The plot of the film is this:

"Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet's power problems"

It's Sam Rockwell's movie since he is in it almost 99% of the time. It is no small feat to do this also. If you have one main character in your movie the story better be interesting, and the character identifiable, or you loose your audience. Fortunately Rockwell's performance elicits our interest and our sympathies.

The film reminded me of films back in the day. Such films as "Silent Running","Alien","Outland", and even a bit of of John Carpenters "Dark Star". The effects weren't all computer generated, and there was some model building done to show the surface of the moon and the complex where Rockwell's character lives. Maybe it's this, or possible the genre itself that reminds me of these older films.

I like films that show space as a lived in dirty environment. 2001 is the only film that shows it a bit more sleeker then the others I've mentioned. Yet the film reminds me of 2001 because of it's effects. Too much now is done with CGI, and though the effects are getting stunning and quite remarkable I still think it is sometimes not necessary.

But all things contribute to the liking of this film. The writing, the acting, the set design, and even the cinematography. That's what a good movie is suppose to do, and here Jones does it really well.

Are there some problems in the movie? Yes, but I believe those problems just didn't make it palatable to audiences in general. Such reviews like:

"Moon actually gets a little dull in the later reels, just when it should be peaking in mystery and tension." or "By halfway the film starts to feel like a mere exercise, one more effort to get maximum value from limited resources. Too much machinery, not enough dread" are valid reviews.

There does not seem to be a lot of urgency, or drama in the film. I myself liked the look, and feel, but their was no tension in the film. Jones does put in a count down to a ships arrival which is suppose to make us feel some dread, but we the audience already know what's happening, and so there is little tension. I know this film was done on a limited budget. I here the budget was about $ 5 million. For a sci-fi film that is low, and so as a filmmaker Jones needed to keep the costs down in his film. How is this done? By the simple trick of keeping the action in one location. That location is of course the moon, so the sets are very well done, and convincing. But again with little tension in the film there isn't much audience involvement.

Maybe that's what hurts the film. If you like sci-fi stories, and are an avid reader of sci-fi this film is for you, but for the mainstream audience it may be a bit too dull. Hence it's limited distribution I guess.

I enjoyed the film, and thought it was really neatly done. The old adage of leaving the audience wanting more may hurt this film. I really wanted to see Rockwell's character deal with his successful escape to Earth. But that would be a totally different type of film, and I think one more interesting. Also I had questions about the clones escape that was never answered. Like did the company design the clones with a limited lifespan so in order to protect their secret of cheap labor, or did the 1st clone die because of injuries due to his accident?

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but that's what makes "Moon" so cool, and interesting. That's why I like it. It leaves me wanting more, and any movie that does that is good in my book. I recommend the film, and for those low budget filmmakers out there it is a sort of inspirational movie to watch. One can achieve an interesting and good looking movie with little budget. All it takes is ingenuity and this film has a lot of that.