Thursday, December 29, 2011

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011)

I know, I know.  Long time, but I'm back and the first movie I review is a kids film.  Having children of my own they have grown up with Alvin, Theodore and Simon, so when this film hit the theaters you know I had to go.

This is the third.  Yes the third film in the series of the chipmunk movies.  Each one is cute and interesting, but they are defiantly geared to the children.  In this film Dave and the boys along with the chipettes go on cruise.   Yes you remember them from the second movie don't you?  Anyhow the chipmunks get shipwrecked on an island after disobeying Dave (Jason Lee).  Dave and Uncle Ian (David Cross) also get shipwrecked on an island, and need to find the chipmunks.  That is of course if this is the same island as where the chipmunks are, and if you're thinking it isn't then I have a bridge to sell to you in Brooklyn.

The movie is a bit of slapstick, and moral lesson for the kids.  Sure we laugh when the chipmunks cause havoc on the cruise ship, but its all in fun.  Then of course the moral of the story is that parents love us no matter what, and that sometimes we should listen to our parents.  That's it in a nutshell.  I could get more detailed, but the film is for children.  What I do hate is how the studio markets it to children, but I guess that's how studios make their back-end.  Through merchandising toys to children and their parents.

Also there are several songs in the movie by well known recording artists that are given the chipmunk version.  Maybe another selling point that the studio tries to tie into the movie.  Then again with children being so media savoy the songs are to them just extensions of what they hear in everyday life, so instead of it being my soundtrack it's my children soundtrack, and that's okay because the movie is geared to them.  I'm just happy to hear them laugh and howl when Alvin does his thing.

If you have children who are old enough to see Alvin it's a good distraction, and you may just laugh at one or two of the gags.  The animation, and the live action clips of the movie are okay.  I've seen better, but they do an okay job, and the children didn't notice anything, so in the end the studio wins.  I just wish that they would have cared a bit more and maybe not rushed it.  There are a few process shots that look out of place, and sometimes the film looks rushed.  Like the studio had a deadline to get it out before Christmas, which I'm sure they did.  Next time guys take a little more time, and take some care in the film you are creating.   Other then that I can't fault the film.

It's fun to see with the family, and I even saw it with my 85 year old mom who loved it.  Goes to show you a movie can appeal to all ages of the heart.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Evolution of a Revolution

I had a chance to go to the CCW conference this week again, and update myself and talk to others about content & communication.  I find the conference interesting and I learn a lot by talking to vendors, and other technicians and artists who are in the field of communication.  Many provide content to the web, and that content is spilling over to other traditional media such as cable, and network.  One of the seminars was titled: "So What Comes After File-Based Work Flows?  The Next Generation".   I found it interesting what others are doing, and how they are doing it.  Media is getting faster and that ability to become immediate is changing the landscape of how people consume different types of media.  Maybe it's just the way human beings are.  We think that knowing something immediately will give us an edge or help us.
What I was excited about is that the web has knocked down barriers between countries, people, and governments.  People hear things and see things and it sparks ideas, and even movements.

My dad was a big believer in communication.  He was a short wave radio operator and he loved talking to others around the world.  My dad always felt that he could get to the truth by just asking the people who were there.  Of course now governments, and corporations have seen the power of the web, and do so by influencing others to their way of thought.  It's a double edged sword, and one that can do much harm and great good.  It's up to the user to decide what he or she does with it, and there is some really GOOD things happening.

To get back to the seminar.  I was pretty blown away on how fast people could post their content so quickly.  Using an I-pad to shoot, edit, and upload a video clip we can now have that immediacy quickly, and since it doesn't go through the traditional gatekeepers such as editors, producers, and even politicians we can get a more honest look at the human condition.  People producing their own content as easily as writing or speaking. 

I can only think of once when suddenly media was so drastically changed, and that was when Gutenberg developed the printing press in 1440.  It was then that books could be printed for more then just the aristocracy.  Then in the 19th century when the development of the steam powered rotary presses came along we started to print in an industrial scale where books became cheaper and everyone had access to books, and newspapers.   That's what's happening now with social media.  The proliferation of handheld devices is making it more accessible to everyone, and the language is changing.

Josh Apter demonstrated his I-pad camera, and it was pretty cool to see how fast one could create content and distribute it.  In a way it is already happening with people uploading events on their phones to their YouTube or FaceBook accounts.  Just imagine that on a grand scale, and imagine media providers combing through user based content, and broadcasting them.  Such footage of disasters, wars, revolutions, and events coming to us in real time from a variety of sources.

I can only imagine the problems this can create, but it also provides us with a voice.  An idea, or a concept can be shot through the web, and instantly communicated to thousands if not millions. 

We are in the infancy of a modern day revolution ladies and gentlemen.  Like all thing it has great good, and great evil too.  It's how we decide to use it that will dominate human beings for a long time to come.  It's a brave new world, and some sci-fi authors nightmares, or their utopias are over the next horizon.  Let's hope we all choose well.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Exorcist (1973) # 5

The Exorcist was a film that showed me that horror could be filled with terror, and the unexpected.  I saw this film at a relatively late age.  I was way too young when it first came out, but I had heard stories about the film.  Whether these stories were true it didn't really matter.  It fed the myth of the film in my mind, and when I finally saw it I was amazed at the artistry of the film.  From the direction to the cinematography the film "The Exorcist" is a film that deserves mention here.  Based on the William Peter Blatty's 1971 best-selling theological-horror novel of the same name the movie remains pretty faithful to the book.

Having seen the film later in life I did become obsessed about the cinematography of the film.  Owen Roizman was the cinematographer, and from the first shot to the last shot the film is a masterpiece in cinmatography.  I'm not going to say much more about the film because it's all been said before.  The Exorcist is the only horror film to be nominated for ten academy awards.  That is until Silence of the Lambs was nominated in 1991.  The Exorcist won two of the ten in best adapted screenplay and best sound.  I think it should have won more, but that's another story.

The film is a battle between good and the ultimate evil (the devil).  Maybe the film hits some sort of primordial reaction within us that makes us turn away in horror.  After all it is about the devil possessing a young little girl, and battling a priest who is questioning his faith.  I know for some the film is blasphemy, but again I think it goes back to that very primitive emotion within us all.  Like I said about "The Evil Dead" possession movies seem to strike a chord within a audience. 

I know my own perception of the film was that it was a "forbidden film".  That all the stories were true, and that the film was garbage, or cheap exploitation, but that's the myth.  When I did see it I saw it more as a good horror film about good and evil, and that good and evil weren't so black and white.  Our hero in the film has doubts, and a troubled past.  What he does in the end is a noble sacrifice.  When you really get right into the story of the film the movie is truly a classic.  From the music, to the cinematography, and even the direction of the actors are all well done.  It's a film that plays well today and will play well into the future.  I know even today when I hear the theme of the film it brings up goosebumps in me.

Why this film isn't number one or two is purely a personal reason, but it is a film that any true horror fan should watch.  If you doubt me in thinking that it is scary I dare you to see it alone at night by yourself.  I guarantee that after watching the film you'll think twice about turning off that light when you go to sleep.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Evil Dead (1981) #4

I saw Evil Dead where it was meant to be seen. A drive-in. I had heard about this film from some of my classmate’s back in high school, and I read everything I could put my hands on about the film. Fangoria magazine was my pipeline to the fantastic, and for a teenager with an over active imagination, and a thirst for all things movies Fangoria was the magazine to read. That and "Cinemagic" magazine. A magazine devoted to filmmaking.

The stories about how "Evil Dead" was made fascinated me. A bunch of guys going out into the country with some film equipment and their cast and crew and making a film. What they came back with was a film that hit a nerve with audiences, and it became a success. Sam Rami and his gang made cinematic low budget history when they made their film "the Evil Dead". A film with very few characters, and a simple plot. My film professor was right in a way. If you want to make an interesting film take some buddies and film some where in the woods with some actors and crew. His argument was that there was nowhere to go and so you could concentrate on getting the film done, and finished. One location, few actors, low budget. In a way my professor was right, but sometimes it's easier said then done. Evil Dead is a film that shows what a filmmaker can do with little resources and a lot of ingenuity.

Another film shot in 16mm Evil Dead went on to become a success in theaters.  Sam Rami's career started with the film, and he's grown as a director.  No one can argue that him directing the Spiderman franchise was a bad choice.  I was never a fan of the sequels to "The Evil Dead", but there are fans who love them, and who am I to argue with them.  A lot of Rami's movies contain some really blatant humor.  Almost "Three Stooges" type of comedy, and I do remember reading that Rami was a fan of their films. 

Also I would be remiss in talking about the film if I didn't mention Bruce Campbell the films star.  Since he made his debut in "the Evil Dead" he has made a name for himself in Hollywood, and he's a favorite of mine. 

The Evil Dead is a film that has a lot of atmosphere, and is pretty scary.  I remember seeing it with a buddy of mine who liked these type of films but was pretty creeped out by this one.  His answer to why it was so creepy for him was that it dealt with "possession" and that creeped him out.  After all how do you fight a loved one who is possessed by an evil spirit?  You kill the spirit you kill the person who you know.  Maybe that's why "Evil Dead' is such a scary good film.  It posses the question what would you do?  The possessed do some awful bad things to the living, yet they hide in the bodies of our loved ones.  The creators of the film do a great job of pushing the film forward.  They use the location to their advantage, and the dark woods come alive with evil.  Evil that is unseen, yet they use a flying camera through the woods as the spirits POV.  Like any good filmmaker would do it's better to not see the monster and have the audience use their imagination on how it really looks then actually show it.

Evil Dead delivers, and it's a film that really plays well this time of year.  It's also a film that other filmmakers should study and become inspired by.  I know I was, and the film does still play well after all these years.  If you want to see a good solid scary film that has some good performances Evil Dead is your type of film.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Dawn of the Dead (1978) # 3

If I had to name one film that blew my mind when I was a teenage it would have to be "Dawn of the Dead".  George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" is a film that is on so many levels it boggles the mind.  A horror film, a satire on society, a statement on consumerism, and a sequel.  That's what "Dawn..." is and in lesser hands it would not have been effective, but because the filmmaker is George Romero this film hits the audience on all levels.  I was about 14 years old when this film came out, and it was one of the hardest films to see for me back then.  Released without a rating it only played in several theaters, and if you were not accompanied with an adult you didn't get in.  I saw it in Germany while visiting my aunt, and in Europe it was called "Zombie 2".  Argento had made a film called "Zombie" previously and called his cut of Dawn "Zombie 2".  Little did I know that there were two versions of this film.  One was the European one which was released by Dario Argento and included different music, and some other cuts.  Here in the United States it was released by United Film Distribution and that was the Romero version. 

After seeing both cuts I did like Romero's version better, but it explained why my friend and I would argue on some parts of the film.  It was because we saw two different versions of the film.  Maybe it was because the film was released when I was a teenager, but it was a film that all other horror films had to measure up to.  

Romero is a skillful filmmaker, and he puts a lot of dark humor into his films.  The violent scenes of the film were very comic bookish in tone.  The blood was bright red, and the effects were primitive, but effective since no audience had seen such effect like that before. 

The plot of the film is about a group of survivors of the "zombie apocalypse" who hole up in a mall while all of society is falling apart.  How Romero presents this "zombie apocalypse" is interesting.  There is no reason why the dead are coming back.  The audience is given some clues, or some reasoning, but Romero never gets into the details.  It isn't really important.  What is important is how society quickly falls apart, and how we ourselves are responsible for screwing the whole thing up.

Thats why the film plays on so many levels.  You could take the film and actually dissect it into a thesis on "American consumerism".  It has been  done, and it isn't all a bunch of BS.  Romero elevates the horror film here and does it without hitting his audience in the head with a blatant preachy message. 

The film was made independently with the help of European financing, and when it was released it did do okay boxoffice wise even though it was released in a few theaters here because it was not rated.  A few years later it was released in a rated "R" version, along with Romero's film "Knightriders".

I have to confess I am a Romero fan.  I've even met him a few times as so many fans have done, and gone to some screenings where he lectured.   I've enjoyed his stories of production, and find it amazing why Hollywood shuns him at times.  Romero's films are laced with deeper meaning, yet they are fun and escapist type films.  I remember how as a teenager I tried to create my own "zombie apocalypse" amateur film in Super 8.  Maybe that's why the film holds a special place in my heart. 

Any way.  This is one of my top films for seeing around this time.  It holds up well having been made in 1978.  Also the re-make by Zack Snyder of this film is also interesting, and it is one remake that I think is worth seeing.  It is at least an interesting take on the original film, and it does have its moments of pure fright.

So if you find yourself alone on a dark and stormy night I would suggest watching "Dawn of the Dead".  It's a film that really has some scary moments, and makes that October chill even chillier.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Halloween (1978) #2

I would have to say that the one film that makes this month memorable is"Halloween".  Not the re-make of course, but the original from John Carpenter, and Debra Hill.  It stars Jamie Lee Curtis, and Donald Pleasence, and it was originally called "The Babysitter Murders".  The movie was done on a low budget, and looks fantastic for it's budget range.  I'm always amazed at the camera work in the film, and how great the cinematography looks.  Dean Cundy is the man behind the cinematography and the look of the film.  Along with the art direction the film really feels like it was shot in October even though it was not.  The film was shot with a Panaglide, and Carpenter makes good use of it here.  The camera floats through each scene, and it gives us the audience this lurking sense of dread.  Where will Michael Myers (the killer) come from next?  Carpenter always has you guessing.

I'm a strong believer of atmosphere in a movie, and Halloween is such a movie.  The films plot is simplistic, but memorable and unlike other films the villain here is somewhat a mythical character come to life.  Michael Myers is the boogeyman .  I think Halloween was one of the first films to do so.   Carpenter admits that the film is about evil, and about sex.  It is sex that starts the whole film and there is a re-current theme in the film about promiscuity, but essential the film is about evil, and how it never dies.  To make more of the film then what it is seems to be would be a waste of time.  Halloween is a good simple horror film with some good acting, and slick production values.  Carpenters musical score for the film enhances the film and makes the audience get involved in the action.  I remember seeing it in the theater and people were shouting at the screen for the character to run or hide.  To get the audience that involved takes some skill, and shows Carpenter to be a great manipulator of suspense.

In essence the film is a good solid horror film with a bit of a nod to those old B-movie films.  The casting of Donald Pleasence was key here.  Pleasence plays the psychiatrist that is hunting Michael Myers after he escapes from the insane asylum.  Pleasence brings to his part a man who knows who Michael Myers really is.  Pleasence character (Dr. Loomis) is one who has seen true evil, and he is on a crusade to stop it. 

Simple put I like Halloween for its feel and its simplistic plot line.  It has been repeatedly been done since then, but it was Halloween that was the first to do so.  It's production value adds to the film.  Carpenter is a true craftsman, and we see how well he does it here.  The shots at night are picture perfect and erie.  The setting which is a small town called Haddonfield can be any town in the USA, and that too is the movies strength.  That murder and mayhem can happen anywhere in a small town is what adds to the myth of Michael Myers.  In the beginning its almost Norman Rockwell territory.  When Myers comes to visit Rockwell's image of a small town is turned into a nightmare.  Maybe that's what fascinated me, and makes the movie so memorable for me.  The killer is a man in a mask who is expressionless, yet frighteningly filled with anger.  Nick Castle who plays the "shape" as he is listed in credits does a convincing performance of an unstoppable killer.

The film is well paced, and moves along quickly.  It's a good solid horror flick, and that's as simple as I can put it.  In the end evil losses, and will return.  We are left with questions, and a haunting suspicion that Michael Myers maybe around the next corner coming this time for us.  Halloween is a film that involves its audience, and it makes the movie a thrilling experience to watch.  That's why it's second on my list and a film that still thrills me today.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1975) #1

Okay it's that time in the year. The weather gets cooler, the leaves begin falling from the tree, and we all begin to dress up in silly little costumes.

It's Halloween soon, and the countdown has begun. So why not celebrate the month of October with my very own countdown. A countdown of the best horror movies. Based on me. I'm sure opinions will vary widely, but I figured I give it a shot, and see just how many I can write about here.

First up is a movie called "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". The original one that is. Not the remake or the prequel that they made not too long ago. I'm not a big fan of those, and remakes in general. I understand them from a studio's perspective since there is another younger audience out there who may want to see it, and when there's money to be made you can bank that a studio is going to make a remake. After all it's easy money, and the word franchise is a golden ticket for the studios.

But this review is about Tobe Hooper's movie "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". The original movie that stared Marilyn Burns, and Edwin Neal. I was never a fan of the movie until I re-saw the film with a friend of mine. From that time I became a fan of the film, and have always recommended it as the quintessential horror film of all time.

Now I know some of you out there may not agree, but I'd have to say that the film is a stroll through mayhem and chaos with a bit of dark humor laced within the storyline. Just the beginning of the film sets it aside from all other films. The viewer is subjected to disturbing images of decayed human limbs, and a graveyard monument of two human corpses joined together. We are then introduced to our characters, and their trip degenerates into mayhem from there.

I won't go into the plot since so many people know it already, but what Hooper does here is give us a ride on the wild-side that devolves into madness, and hysteria. He does this so well that we actually care for the protagonists in the film. Hooper slowly manages to bring the madness by the introduction of the "Hitchhiker", and then his family. When you think it can't get any crazier it does, and that’s the movies strength. The film is shot in 16mm and it gives it that documentary or docudrama feel. When the killing begins all bets are off. No one is immune, and all become a victim of the madness that the filmmaker has released.

Some of the scenes when Marilyn is introduced to the whole "chainsaw family" can only be described as a trip into madness. Marilyn Burns plays the scene for all that its worth, and you can feel the terror coming off the screen as the “family” tries to kill her.  The scene is so strong that you will want to pull your head away from the screen and not look, but you are transfixed in the moment and can't. That is what true horror is, and I have to say "Chainsaw..." does that.

So that's why I put it at number one on my horror list. It still scares me, and repulses me at times. It can still shake me and after watching it I feel like I've just gone along with Marilyn to the gates of insanity. Its power is because of Hooper's direction. He has done many films after this, but "Chainsaw" is the one that he hit it out of the park. It's no wonder that it has a place in the museum of modern art. I mean it's a classic in its own right, and you can thank Hooper and his production team for making it a classic.

Simple put it's a classic through and through. The images, the sound, and the feel of the film give it its status. None of its remakes does that or even comes close. What I can summarize is that a few talent individuals got together and made a film that they wanted and they pulled no punches. They were young and hungry back then and they wanted to make something that they thought would sell. Little did they know that they would make a classic that would stand the test of time. Not many films do this, but this film does. That's why it's number one in my book. See it with the lights out, and be prepared to get scared, and thanks Mr. Hooper for making a classic that all filmmakers should aspire to.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Kickstarter artist Help

Okay it's been awhile, and someday I'll get to writing about it, but for now this caught my eye.

I hope the filmmaker gets to do this.  I really enjoyed his web series "Westside".

Check it out.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

It's summertime and the movie blockbusters are lining up at your local theaters.  To say that Captain America was a film I've been waiting for is an understatement.  In my youth their was Captain America (cappie for short), then spiderman, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and the Hulk.  I was a Marvel child (sorry DC).  I would devour all comic books as soon as I got them.  So when Captain America was announced about two years ago I began counting the days.  Even got my big boy to want to go see it since he loved Iron man.

So can you predict where this review will go?  I was not disappointed seeing Cappie and I thought Joe Johnston direction was well done.  A origin film is hard to do.  There is a lot of back story to cover, and sometimes it's hard to get it all in and be faithful to the comic.  Captain America has no problem there.  Johnston does extremely well to cover the true origin of Captain America, and stays faithful to the comic.  Chris Evans does a great job portraying Steve Rogers/ Captain America.  Some may call it a one note performance, but I do believe he gives depth to Captain America the human being.   Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, and Sebastian Stan all give great performances that add to the film.

The music by Alan Silvestri is dead on and enhances the film greatly.  How the filmmakers explain the different variations of Captain America is pretty cool.  I enjoyed seeing it as a period piece, and the filmmakers touch on the various different stages that Capie goes through.  This includes the different shields he used to his team he assembles to fight Hydra and the Red Skull.  Marvel could have made several films of Capie fighting the Nazis alone and that would have been fine, but there is a lot of material to cover and the filmmakers get through it at a good pace.

I know this all leads to the movie "The Avengers" set for next year release.  It will be interesting how it all comes together and how the characters fit.  I like how Marvel is putting their films together, and making sure each film fits into the Marvel universe.  It was also good to see that San Lee one of the creators of Marvel had a small role in it.  He even has one of the funniest lines, so look out for it if you get a chance.

"Captain America: The First Avenger" is a film that will make you laugh, and shout.  It's enjoyable, and breathtaking to watch.  It remains one of my favorite superhero flicks of all time.  See it and enjoy it because Cappie's back in town.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

What can I say with two boys who are fans it was my duty to take them and get lost in the inexplicable plot that are the Transformers.   A movie based on a toy, which is based on an old animated series too.  I have to confess I was not a fan of Transformers when it was on Saturday morning cartoons, but through my boys I've learned to love the series.  The animated series did show some intelligence, and did have some interesting stories to tell.  Transformers: Dark of the Moon is an all out assault of imagery of robots battling, and for what small boy does this not make sense?  The series is about a blood feud between the Decepticons and the Autobots.  One loves freedom, and liberty, and the other is into tyranny and destruction.  It's as simple as that, and what director Michael Bay does is provide us with over two hours of mayhem and chaos.  The New York Times said it best in it's review "Mr Bays lax notions of coherence and plausibility are accompanied by a visual imagination that is at once crazily audacious and ruthlessly skillful".

I could not have said it any better.  It's a film that is visually stunning, and the CGI action is almost flawless.  There is also some funny performances by such stellar actors as: Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, and John Turturro.  Even Leonard Nimoy is the voice of Sentinel Prime.  So the cast is entertaining.  What I didn't like was the performance and the addition of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Carly who played the role of Shia LaBeouf girlfriend a bit too stiff.  No doubt she is eye candy and make no mistake Ms Whiteley is a very appealing looking young women.  I just wish she had more to do then just play the girl in peril.  It always amazed me to see her with her high heel shoes on running and climbing through wreckage of battle.  I mean seriously people how about some comfortable shoes.  But no doubt Ms Whiteley was put there for us men to google lustily at.  All I can say is in a movie about fighting robots who cares about the young hottie unless she's packing an Uzi or something.  Let's say something about strong women role models who can kick ass too.  My boys certainly didn't notice anything but the fights, and that's what this series is aimed for, so next time Mr. Bay get it right.

I have to say that the film does drag, and at two hours and thirty four minutes it's a bit long even for young boys to sit through.  There's a lot that could have been cut out, yet I'm sure it'll only be extended in the directors cut on DVD.  I am one of the few people who appreciate Michael Bay.  Bay is a visual artist who knows how to paint his canvas, and keep his audience riveted to the screen.  In a way I think Mr. Bay was looking more to the animated series then the  the last two pictures.  Bringing in Leonard Nimoy seemed to be a salute to that since Nimoy did voice the villain Galvatron in the animated movie. 

Did I enjoy seeing Transformers: Dark of the Moon I can say with an enthusiastic yes.  Seeing it with ones children is almost half the pleasure of seeing a movie such as this, and it creates lasting memories that will warm my memory for years to come.  I guess that's the magic of these films.  Seeing it with your own children, and becoming a child for the amount of time that the movie is up on the screen.  Rooting for the hero's, and booing the villians is all part of the fun, and it made this middle-aged man become a little boy again, so for that I am eternally grateful to the filmmakers.

If your a fan go see it.  If you have children who want to see it go with them and share in the experience.  This is old fashion, yet high tech fun.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Super-8 (2011)

Okay first off I have to thank Steven Spielberg, and JJ Abrams for a trip down memory lane.  Super-8 brings back a time when things were a bit simpler, and life was a bit slower.  Now that I've dispensed with the nostalgia I have to say I really liked the film.  The ending seemed a bit corny to me, and yet it worked.  After all Super-8 is simply a B-movie picture that we all once watched on Saturday nights at the local drive-in.  Joe Dante did this in a film called "Matinee" way back in 1993.  What Spielberg and Abrams does in Super-8 is ratchet the action up a bit more then what Dante did. 

Super-8 feels like a long lost Spielberg film when he started out.  It's a bit like "ET", "Close Encounters of the third kind", and "the Goonies" all rolled up in one.  Yet Spielberg is only the producer.  Super-8 was written and directed by JJ Abrams, and I have to confess I really liked the story, and best yet I loved the characters.  Joel Courtney , Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee , Gabriel Basso, and Zach Mills  all give a great ensemble performance.  I have to give props to Abrams for pulling out these performances.  I really cared about these characters, and each one was authentic.  It's this that gives Super-8 its likability, and what it has going for it. 

Some reviewers say that the film falls apart in the end, and that the cheesy effects take over.  I disagree.  First off the effects worked for me.  I liked that they did not show the monster or alien till the end.  Keeping it in shadow, and showing it at night is all classic B movie plotting.  As for the end I don't want to give it away, but the stories characters did say that when the alien touches you you know what its thinking and it knows what your thinking.  It's telepathic, and it understands our hero's mind.  Joel Courtney  does a great job portraying Joe Lamb.  Joel's character is a child who has lost his mother and can't let go of her.  Joel carries a locket she wore which has a picture of him and her when he was a baby.  Abrams does a very effective thing here and uses that to show his attachment to his mother.  He also uses actual Super-8 footage of Joe's mom and Joe growing up.  Pictures of him as a baby, pictures of him growing and her measuring his height, and of play time with mom.  How many of us have old film footage of our parents and grand-parents that doesn't elicit some kind of emotion with-in us.  Abrams uses that emotion to make a connection with his audience and Joe.  That's the magic of cinema.  Images that are familiar to us are like a group collective of sorts.  Images of mom, and baby, and of child and father.  We all have that stored in us and here the filmmakers mine that for emotional response.  It resonated with me, and it works.

Now in a era where we are bombarded with images 24 hours a day 7 days a week through television, the Internet, and even in the supermarket does this familiar imagery work.  I think it does because in some respect no matter the generation we all have that collective imagery of our family.  I like how the filmmakers do it.  They don't do it maliciously, but in a way that seems to connect us all.  In a way Abrams and Spielberg are saying we're more alike then we think we are.  That's comforting to know, and maybe I'm reading a bit more into the film then there is, but it did strike a chord with me.

I was one of those kids running around with a camera gathering his friends up to tell a story I had watched on the late movie or somewhere.  I remember reading magazines such as "Super-8 Filmmaker" and Cinemagic and dreaming up new ideas and stories.  Imagination is a kids best friend sometimes, and navigating those treacherous teen years can sometimes be more dangerous then adults admit to us.  Each generation has it's problems to overcome.  We look back in nostalgia, but back then it was serious and if we told our parents everything you know they would have locked us up in the house and never let us out. 

That brings me to the message of the movie.  It's about loss, forgiveness, and letting go.  In the movie the adults are all walking around living in the past.  They haven't let go of grudges, and can't seem to move on.  It's this message that I really took away from the film, and it's the one thing that made it special for me.  The performances are all good.   Kyle Chandler  as Joe's father gives a good performance, and one that really shows how sometimes we don't let go of things, and that when we do we begin to live life again. 

I enjoyed the film, and really carried away from it some deep and personal memories about youth and imagination.  Super-8 resonates with the familiar, and its message is loud and clear, yet its entertaining.  It's what a movie should be, and the message isn't preachy.  It's a good throw back to when films were fun.  Go see it, and enjoy it I know I did.  Also don't leave at the end of the credits.  There's more, and it's fun, so remember don't leave after the credits roll.  just sit there.  You won't be disappointed especially if you were one of those Super-8 filmmakers way back when.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peter Falk (1927-2011)

Everyone talks about Columbo, and it's true Falks character as Columbo was perfect.  But he left a lot of great performances on film.  His accomplice or partner in crime was the director/actor John Cassavetes.  Below is a clip from a movie called "Nicky & Mickey", which starred Cassavetes.  The movie was directed by Elaine May.  The scene alone shows both actors talents.  Mr. Falk thanks for the memories.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Renegade Rewind - A Video yearbook

Rewind-opening from Karl Bauer on Vimeo.

This was done several years ago when we were pushing the video equipment to the brink.  It was a team effort, and it was pretty successful.  All I can say is that rendering can be a bear.  If your an editor you know what I mean.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Bridging the Generations - Vietnam Nurses

Vietnam Nurses - Bridging the Generation series from Karl Bauer on Vimeo.

The above video are highlights from one of the first shows I did in the series called "Bridging the Generations".  It was made for the humanities department where I used to work, and these assignments were always interesting to do.  The people I've met through these types of programs have been inspirational, and informative for me.  I learned a lot technically with these videos, and each one got better and better.  I just hope in a world of budget cuts, and dropped programs that these types of programs can continue.  The more we know about our past the better our future will be.   If you are interested in aquiring copies of the programs for your school or organization please go to the Lenape District TV, and order from there.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Blanc de Blanc (2009)

Blanc de Blanc is a small film with heart.  Originally made on a bet that the director could make a film in 2 weeks.  The film is quite professional for its limitations, and it works.  The story is bare bones, yet the plot is somewhat engaging.  A young women  meets a mysterious man, and they start a relationship.  It's as simple as that, and thats the films charm.

How Lucas McNelly (director) presents his film is at times slow and plotting, but it is the actors that make this a fascinating film.  Both Rachel Shaw and Jason Kirsch are brilliant in their performances.  Watching these actors is what riveted me to the film.  The film is shot beautifully by David Eger, and the music by Jerome Wincek is effective and does set the tone of the film.

What I felt was weak was the stories structure.  There is a lot of dialogue that seems to be used as padding for the film.  I felt that a lot of the scenes could have been cut.  The film is strongest when the two principles are on the screen, and it is their performances that held me.  I understand that McNelly uses his scenes to set the films pace, and he does so effectively, yet it felt slow to me, and my attention wandered a bit.  I have to confess I was eyeing the fast forward button at times.  But I can't stress enough that I really loved the performances by the principles, and think McNelly did a great job in pulling that out of them.

I don't agree with how the film ends, and I won't spoil it here.  Leaving the ending ambivalent seemed more of a cop out then a real choice.  Of course this is the filmmakers choice to choose, and McNelly does a heck of a job producing an intelligent and interesting film.

I found the film inspirational, and really enjoyed watching the performances of Shaw and Kirsch.  It's amazing one can do with so little.

The film is available for rent on-line for $2.99 and its well worth seeing what an artist can do with limited resources.  Help support a bunch of talented artists, and maybe get inspired in the process.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thomas Mai on Todays New Film Business

Thomas Mai Presentation ETMA, Strasbourg from Thomas Mai on Vimeo.

This is really interesting, and should be seen by others, so hence it's here.  Hope it inspires, and that you learn something.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Stella's Secret

Stella's Secret from Karl Bauer on Vimeo.

This is my 400th entry here, and I wanted to post something I'm quite proud of. I've met many people throughout my life, and I've had the honor and the privilege to meet some extraordinary men and women. Though I seem to be going through a transition of sorts I still want to continue meeting these extraordinary men and women, and get their story out.

Every one of us has a story to tell. I truly believe that. Those stories need to be shared. We all have commonalties together, and telling these stories helps us understand our fellow neighbors, and citizens. We have to stop building walls and start building bridges to each other. It frustrates me to see a house divided. When I was growing up I heard the stories of my father, mother, grandmother, and grandfather. I heard what they went through, and being young at the time I truly didn't understand all that they had to say. Now being older I get it, and I understand. More and more we are losing this practice, and history is becoming more and more lost to us. We are bombarded with pop culture, commercials, and 24 hour news and slowly losing our history. By documenting the stories we hold onto them for the next generation, so they can make sense of it all.

I want to do more. It's as simple as that. I hope I can and am allowed to.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Battlefield: Los Angeles (2011)

I had wanted to see this film for sometime now, and heard good things about the film.  To say that I wasn't disappointed is an understatement.  Battlefield: Los Angeles is a film that brings chills to one soul.  It is a film that is quite relevant in today's world were we Americans find ourselves engaged in several different wars.  Maybe because of the current events this film hits home.    The plot is simple:

"A Marine Staff Sergeant (Aaron Eckhart) ,who has just had his retirement approved goes back into the line of duty to assist a 2nd Lieutenant and his platoon as they fight to reclaim the city of Los Angeles from alien invaders".

The movie starts with the invasion, and then flashes back to introduce us to our platoon.  We have the marine who is married and expecting, the one who is going to get married, the big strong marine who feels protective of his buddy who is marrying, and the marine of the dead brother who died under the leadership of staff Sargent (Aaron Eckhart).  There are others too, and they show up in the movie later.  But we are given a sort of intro to the characters who we will care for, so when and if their deaths happen we the audience feel something.  Jonathan Liebesman is the director of the film and he does a competent job in setting this all up.  The cinematography is rough on purpose.  The footage looks like combat photography from every war  we've waged in the 20th and 21st century.  I could have done with a little less shake and bounce as I call it, but it is effective, and makes you feel that your in the action.

Aaron Eckhart gives a great performance here, and it should be noted it's hard to show character without dialogue.  His face is very expressive, and we see his pain and feel it.  We also feel his anger at the alien invaders, and we see how combat can be so adrenaline driven.  In one scene he takes out a drone alien ship, and when he comes back we see his hand twitching in a jolt of nerves, and adrenaline.  We really get it, and his suttle performance really adds depth to the film.  There's Michelle Rodriguez who gives a tough and commanding performance as Tech Sargent Elana Santos.  Even Michael Peña gives a good solid performance here.  These performances are what makes the movie solid.  The special effects are eye startling, and the enemy look and sound frightening, but it is our platoon that moves the movie forward.

I know a lot of people will say it's like a video game, and it's a shooter type game.  I do see parables in that argument, but the film is entertaining.  I would not take away that excitement, and cinematic tension that the movie produces by just saying it's a video game.  There's more to this movie then just that.  The characters are what brings the story home for us the audience. 

I said that this movie has relevance in today's current events because there are wars happening now, and TV news shows us daily those who are involved in it.  Seeing and setting the film on American soil brings the combat home to us.  It's not in the desert or jungle somewhere else happening to other people.  In this movie it's Los Angeles and it's our own people being shot and killed, and our own city being destroyed.  For the duration of the film it humanizes war, and shows victims.  Both men, women, and children.  Of course we all know war is terrible, but do we actually feel this if we haven't lived it.  Think of generations of children cowering in fear from bullets, and bomb blasts.  Think what we take for granted and then show how a war destroys all of that.  In a way this film does just that.  It does so by not preaching, but by showing, and making the film as visceral as war can be.  In this post 911 era it hits home all too well.

Maybe I'm reading way too much into it, and what it really is is a film that is a very, very entertaining.  But given the times that we live in I think the film has more meaning.  I defiantly recommend the film, and wouldn't hesitate to see it again.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Finally completed the script.  Wanted to do something creative in a year where everything gets turned upside down.  I have to say that I thought at times why am I doing this, but it was a great creative endeavor, and it's fun to flex that creative muscle once in a while.  In a world where things are upside down it's good that I can concentrate on something creative and force myself to completion.

Is the script any good?  It's got potential I think.  It needs some re-writes, but every GOOD script or movie is done with re-writes.  I enjoy creative criticism, and there aren't many people who do that.  It's usually "it sucks" or "its great".  No in-between.  Constructive criticism is what its all about, and if you have people who can do that you should defiantly take advantage of it.  If it's anything I've learned in my years on this earth it's that criticism can be helpful, and hurtful sometimes.  You yourself have to determine which will get through and which you will use.

Okay enough preaching.  See you on the next entry.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sidney Lumet in his own words

"Finally, movies are art....the amount of attention paid to movies is directly related to pictures of job is to care about and be responsible for every frame of every movie I make.  I know that all over the world there are young people borrowing from relatives and saving their allowances to buy their first cameras and put together their first student movies, some of them dreaming of becoming famous and making a fortune.  But few are dreaming of finding out what matters to them, of saying to themselves and to anyone who will listen. "I care".  A few of them want to make good movies."

- Sidney Lumet
   Making Movies

Monday, April 18, 2011

Close-Up (2011)

It seems that CLOSE-UP has been announced as an Official Selection of the SoHo International Film Festival 2011, which will run April 15th - 21st, 2011

I just came across this fellow Philadelphian, and I took a look at the trailer, and it really looks and sounds good. It has peaked my interest, and I'm very impressed to hear that it was shot on the Canon EOS 7D. How cool is that.  Charlie Anderson is the director of Photography, and it is produced in conjunction with Lucky Basturds Productions. A lot of who is in the film are local talent from here in Philadelphia. The budget for the film according to the director was $7,364, and it looks like a lot of blood sweat and tears went into the making of the film.

I always want to praise a fellow filmmaker who gets his or her story out there, and so that's why it's here. The film has its premiere at the SoHo International film festival in NYC on April 19th at 1:00pm. It's to be held at the Quad Cinemas in NYC on 13th Street.

Take a look at the trailer below, and if you’re in NYC go see the film, and meet the filmmakers, cast and crew. Congratulations guys and I hope to see this real soon. It looks very interesting. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

If These Knishes Could Talk trailer

Documentarian Heather Quinlan is looking for finishing funds to complete her film about New York accents.  Check out the trailer down below, and if you know people, or if you have services like an editing bay, or a mixing facility I'm sure she would be greatful.

The trailer is a good piece of work.  It would be awesome if someone could help her out.  For the record I don't know Ms Quinlan, but the trailer screams finish me, and being a "Nu Yorker" I'd love to see this film get a release somewhere.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Red, White, and Blue (2010)

After being in the SXSW festival last year this film got some notice, and some really good reviews.  After hearing about it I was interested and I finally got a chance to see it this week-end, and I have to say that the first third of the movie I really enjoyed, but after that for me the film falls apart.  The film is about Erica a young woman living in Austin who is promiscuous, she picks up men and dumps them immediately after having sex, never allowing herself to get too close to anyone. This changes when she gets better acquainted with her neighbor who has just moved in.  His name is Nate and he is a quiet man, slightly creepy, but he persists in being kind to her, and he wins her affection in a non-sexual way.  Now this happens all within the first twenty to thirty minutes of the movie, and then we are introduced to other characters who become the movies motivational piece for the violent ending.

Like I said before the first third of this film is really good.  There is not much dialogue, but we get what the filmmaker is trying to say.  Erica is damaged goods.  Without her saying or explaining it we know somethings wrong with Erica.  we also know that Nate is damaged goods also, but in a far more sinister way.  I think the filmmaker was trying to cause attention to Nate and Erica, and maybe inferring that he may be a serial killer scoping out  his next prey, but I didn't get that.  What I got was an odd relationship forming that seemed to be interesting, and right when you have me hooked you introduce other characters and don't go back to Nate and Erica for a very, very long time.  I know those characters have a link to Erica because we see them having sex with her, but when they appear again I really wanted to go back to Nate and Erica.

Erica is played by Amanda Fuller and Nate is played by Noah Taylor.  Their performances are strong, and very well done.  Taylor has a look that works, and it is in this look that makes his performance really work.  Fuller's performance is that of  women who is damaged goods who you want to save.  There is quite a bit of nudity in the film, and in the end the film becomes violent.  Yet I felt that everything was forced.  Plot points in the film don't make sense.  The character that the filmmaker introduces as Franki seems wrong for the part.  I didn't buy him as the character, and maybe that's why it falls apart for me, or maybe I was so hung up on Nate and Erica that I found Franki's introduction a nuisance.

Simon Rumley is the director of the film, and he does a competent job, but some of the shots seemed underexposed, and dark.  I've heard of ambient lighting, but a little more light would have helped.  Some shots seem to be soft due to the fact that the cinematographer was riding the lens wide open thereby loosing a  lot of depth of field.  Maybe I'm technically nit-picking here, but it did cause me to notice it, and it took me out of the film.  I understand low light cinematography, but I really think the production team should have watched the film "Blood Simple" by Joel & Ethan Coen to get some good pointers on atmosphere, and lighting.   That's one film where the creators actually made a great piece of cinema.

I also didn't like the pacing of the film, and that's maybe because of the earlier problem of the director cutting to new characters, and never getting back to the original characters.  But the film seemed to drag, and even at the end the violence seems to go on and on.  There is no crescendo, and no finale.  The film is populated with music from what I assume are local bands down in Austin.  It does nothing for me, and even when the director uses his own music it's annoying more so then it is useful.  If you want a good example of how to create a chaotic feel to the violence watch the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre".  Tobe Hooper does a magnificent job creating terror and the insanity of violence within the film.  The film is in the MOMA for a reason, so more filmmakers should look at it, and study it.

If you want to see a still disturbing film in the same genre go watch "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" directed by John McNaughton.  The film is still very disturbing, yet it is put together far more superior then "Red, White, & Blue.

In the end there are films that are way better then this one, so I can't recommend this film.  People have said that this is a horror film, but I can't really classify it as that.  Maybe its a step above films that are labeled "torture porn", but I really don't think so. I myself hate the genre (torture porn), and wish it a speedy demise and even though the violence happens at the end of the film all that proceeds the violence doesn't redeem the film.  You can do a lot better.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)

Where do I start.  If your into comic book violence, bad character development, and just plain blood and gore this is your film.  For me it is not, and I can't recommend this film at all.  The film is suppose to be a send up on the 80's exploitation films, but it NEVER does it for me, and in truth I walked out on the film.  There are few films I walk out of and this was one of them.  No I did not get squeamish because of the blood, and violence.  I left because because it was not worth my time, and a total waste .

Now I would like to just end this review here now, but I can't.  I like to write about why did or didn't I like a film, so in as brief possiable as I can be I will try and do so.

Hobo with a shotgun stars Rutger Hauer as the Hobo, and I really can't see why they used him.  I love Hauer in "LadyHawk", The Hitcher, and even "Blade Runner", so for the life of me I don't know why they use him the way they use him in this film.  I don't think the filmmakers knew how to use Hauer effectively, Hauer is an actor of high caliber, and he could have been used to such a good effect that it stuns me to see such a good actor under utilized. 

A little history is due here for clarification of how this film came about.  The filmmaker entered a contest to supply the film "Grindhouse" with a trailer of an up coming film that doesn't exist.  The trailer was included in the movie.  The trailer stared all unknowns, and was very good for what it was.  It felt like a throwback to those yester-year exploitation films.  Fast forward to the future, and it seems someone gave the creator money to come up with the film they made as a trailer first.  Only thing is that they should have stuck to the trailer.  Casting Hauer was interesting.  After all Hauer is a good actor, and I really think he could have done great with the film, but the movie that was actually made contains nothing for Hauer to do.  It does not use Hauer to his full potential because there is no decent plot for him to work with.

Of course the story is ridiculous, and revolting at times.  People have compared it to the 1980's exploitation films, but I disagree whole heatedly.  Those movies used reality to their advantage, and did not go over the top like this film does.  I'm a fan of those movies, and this film falls far short of those films it tries to emulate. 

In my opinion the films creator has watched too many Troma films, and is trying to re-create them.  The violence is gross, and does not serve the film at all.  The actors performances are all over the top, and the dialogue they sprout is terrible.  I am convinced that the filmmakers did not know what they were doing or how to make a good film of that genre.  If you take a look at the earlier trailer for the film you would think that the filmmaker knew his genre, but apparently not, and it shows big time.

Don't waste your time on this trash.  Everything about it is a waste.  If you want to see the film they should have been made see the original trailer.  Run away from this film.  The faster you do the better off you'll be.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Script Frenzy

It's that time of year, and I'm kicking myself in the ass and writing once more.  With all that is going on I really don't know how, but somehow I'll manage.  If anything it will be an excuse to finish the screenplay I stopped working on last year.  need to keep the creative juices flowing, and it's self satisfaction for me.

It's a real B-type film.  If you feel stagnant in the creative department give Script Frenzy a try.  You may just get out of it a screenplay.  It doesn't cost a thing.

Also using the new and improved Celtx screenwritting program.  It's very good, and easy to learn.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New York Subway 1986 NYC -directors cut- with stereo audio track.mpg

I had to put this up here. Thinking that the guy who did this filmed it with a BIG old Arriflex 16mm camera while recording sound on a Walkman is so cool. I remember having to sneak shots of the subway when I was in film school. Taking an old filmo B&H DS70R camera was more my style. I even still have one. Never had the heart to get rid of it. If your unfamiliar with a DS70R camera their the cameras that are built like tanks and saw action as far back as World war 2. You had to wind them up, and you got a good 30 to 40 seconds till they stopped and then you would have to wind them again. That's of course if you shot at 24 frames per second. You could get more if you shot at a lower F.P.S, but if you did that you better be rock steady or you'll see every shake and shimmy. Those cameras also had parallax viewfinders so shooting with a 10mm lens and going hyper focal distance was the key to getting some good shots. You did that because you wanted to get everything in focus, and not have people pay attention to you when you filmed. Part of stealth film making back in the day. I'm just amazed the guy who shot the above scenes got an Arriflex with a 400 foot magazine attached through subway security back then. I mean that's BIG! My only thing is why he shot it on reversal. If he would have shot negative he'd have such a better range of exposure. But then again I'm amazed it's reversal film, and I have to salute the guy just for getting it all down on film. Brings back memories.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rango (2011)

Last weekend the family saw Rango, and I have to say I liked the film a lot. The animation is much better then in other animated films out there now. The film is simple. A lizard whose name we don't know has an accident and is stranded in the desert alone. Our protagonist seems to be a thespian of sorts though he has little interaction with individuals. After all he is a lizard in a glass cage, so his people skills, if I can call them that, are limited. But wait if you examine the film "Rango" there are deeper meanings. Don't some of us live in a glass bubbles? Are we not all living our own reality? And when the bubble breaks such as in Rango's case we must confront the harsh reality of the outside world?

What am I talking about? Isn't this a cartoon geared for children? On some level it is, and that's its main purpose. To entertain and sell Rango merchandise. Oh! sorry was that a bit of cynicism on my part? Well in essence Rango is an animated film that is entertaining for the children in the audience, and on another level its hilarious for the adults, but you need to pay attention, and listen to the dialogue. It is because of the duality of the plot that the film is so successful to both adults and children. My boys loved it, and they were having a grand old time. I heard them laugh and giggle at the antics of Rango, and his gang. I have to confess I love films like this. I laughed at the antics like a child myself, and then really laughed at what I heard because I got the in-jokes.

I mean dialogue like: "thespians?... I thought they were illegal in 8 states!" you have to give a nod to the filmmakers for putting it in there. It's as though we all get the joke, and we understand it, but for the children in the audience it goes right over them. Only later will they get it when they see it perhaps with their own kids some day.

The animated sequences are stunning, and much more beautiful then others I've seen of late. The story is funny, and it works in some respect. My littlest one did get bored I think mid-way through the film, but then again he was very much engaged towards the end. My oldest said it was funny, and I heard him laughing throughout the film, so I'll take his word he liked it.

The film does not alienate, and it isn't mindless. There is thought put into the story. There are moral lessons in it, and there are characters we all can relate to. This is what makes "Rango" such a good film. There was a lot of thought put into the film, and you can see that.   The filmmakers really thought things through and it shows.

Another thing which I liked was that it wasn't in 3-D. The story didn't need it, and it was fine without it. With all the studios tripping over each other to create new 3-D versions of films I found "Rango" refreshing. No gimmick, but good story, good characters, and great filmmaking.

I suggest you see the movie with some young ones and get an extra charge at hearing them laugh and giggle along with yourself because for an hour and forty-seven minutes you'll be a kid again too. That's the magic of the movie "Rango", and that's why I recommend it highly.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011)

Not only was she an icon, but she was a good human being.  Her work for and on behalf of AIDS charities will never be forgotten.  She was a class act, and a great performer.  She will be missed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Red Dawn Remake Re-vamped

Okay so I hear that the studio MGM is re-vamping it's film "Red Dawn" to have North Korean invaders instead of Chinese invaders.  First off MGM shot this way back in 2009 and shelved the film because of money issues with the company.  Now the studio is spending money to change Chinese insignias with Korean insignias, and replacing dialogue to fit the re-vamp.

First off I don't know why re-making a movie like "Red Dawn" was done, but since that ship has sailed I figured maybe its one more way to sell a so-so film to a more youthful market.  Then I heard that John Milus the man behind the original "Red Dawn" was co-writing a novel with New York Times bestselling author Raymond Benson called "Homefront".  This is to coincide with Core Games releasing a video game called "Home Front".

"Homefront represents a fascinating vision of the near future,” added John Milius. “After completing my work on the game, it became clear that there were many more stories to tell, and this book will offer a chilling look at this near-future world.”

So now that I hear that a studio is re-vamping its re-make of "Red Dawn" to have North Korean soldiers invading the United States you can see that maybe this is an example of "Transmedia" marketing.

Which brings me back to the conference I was just at about two weeks ago where such people as Ted Hope, Christine Vachon, Frank Rose, and Lance Weiler talked about independent filmmakers and storytellers using trans media to further its audience reach.

Now I'm not sure if MGM, and Core Games, along with some other studio will see an opportunity to market the film, the game, and the novel, but if this doesn't scream transmedia I don't know what does. 

I have not seen a frame of the film, and I am a fan of the original "Red Dawn" film.  it is one of my guilty pleasures, and the dialogue in the film is just so great.  Especially when Harry Dean Statton cries out to his boys: "avenge me, AVENGE ME!"  I mean really how fun is that.  I even still watch it when it's on cable.  Hey it has Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, and even Jennifer Grey.  Personally my favorite actors in the film are Ben JohnsonHarry Dean Stanton, and Powers Boothe.  It's just a fun film to watch sometimes.  I used to watch it with my father-in-law and we had so much fun when it was on.  Dad would always get a kick out of me yelling the dialogue out.  Maybe its a guy thing that I like it so much or maybe its the fond memories of me and dad watching the film, but I'm getting way off point with this.  Needless to say its an interesting film.

So maybe someone somewhere who has juice can pull it off.  The marriage for the re-make of the film, and the release of the game seem almost too good to pass up.  Add the novelization, and you have a cross-platform release of a film that may or may not be good, but it would certainly be an interesting way to market a film that may have a built-in audience.

The LA Times has a more in-depth article about the re-vamping of the remake of "Red Dawn", and it's more about the financial aspects of the studio.  Still I think there is an opportunity here for a transmedia marketing event.  Only time will tell I guess.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mars Needs Moms (2011)

Let's here it for moms! This film celebrates those moms who work tirelessly at home raising us, and getting no respect from their offspring. It was a quiet weekend and the boys wanted to see "Mars Needs Moms", so since I'm not one to say no to a movie we all went. It was time well spent, and we all laughed. The film is about Martians needing moms because you see they’re incapable of raising their own offspring, which every so often emerge from the ground. Yeah I know, I know from the ground? What are the people at Walt Disney studios smoking? I mean really Martian babies from Mars itself? But remember it’s a film for the kids, and my two boys didn't blink. So what the heck. Suspension of belief is the name of the game, and funny thing is it works. The film gets to the point, and the action starts soon after, and that's all that matters. My boys seemed enraptured by the Martian world, and they said they looked cool. My boys especially liked the boy Martians who lived in the junkyard.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, and I'm revealing a bit too much, and I don't want to do that. I didn't expect too much from the film, but it does have its touching moments, and it does have a message in it. That message is Moms are the best", and with simple logic like that who can argue with it.

In essence it about a boy out to save his mom, and how heroic is that. Every young boy wants to do that, and the film feeds on that. It even has a message about uniformity and the beauty of individuality, but don't quote me on it. It's just a fun movie, and it does what it’s suppose to do.

The animation style is interesting, but there is no wow factor. Maybe because we've seen it already and it's nothing new. Maybe we're all a bit jaded. It's the same technology Robert Zemeckis used for the movie "Polar Express". Zemeckis is a producer on this film as well. The use of real actors is unique and adds to the look of the film. I think Joan Cusack does a great job as the mom, and Seth Green is pretty good as the boy. The filmmakers its seems replaced Green's dialogue after the production was finished due to him not sounding like a little kid. This does not distract from the film, and it is enjoyable to watch. Dan Fogler does a good job as Gribble too, and he's pretty funny as well.

So is it worth it? I have to say if your have boys who like sci-fi and adventure I'd say yes. It's a good family picture, and it's fun to watch. There's enough here to satisfy all, and when all is said and done "Moms do rule". Enjoy!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cost of a Soul

Local filmmaker Sean Kirkpatrick is getting his film (Cost of a Soul) released in 50 AMC theaters nationwide on April 15th.  It's good to hear about a local guy getting his due.  Take a look at the trailer below, and on April 15th support Philly film making. 

Kirkpatrick’s film was shot in Philadelphia and it stars Chris Kerson and Will Blagrove.  The story is about two Iraq war veterans who struggle upon returning to Philadelphia after their discharge, and who cross paths in a very dramatic way.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

DIY Conference NYC

Last weekend I went to the DIY conference at the New School in New York. This was my second time at a DIY conference. The first was here in Philadelphia, and both times I was very inspired by the crowd, and the guest lecturers. For those who are not familiar with the DIY conferences it is a roving conference that happens across the United States. "The workbook Project is for those who want to be creative in the digital age. An open creative network that provides insight into the process of funding, creating, distributing and sustaining from one's creative efforts".

Lance Weiler is the founder of the Workbook Project and also a story architect of film, TV and games. Lance is the one who started it and it has become a very impressive forum to voice ideas, and to network with other digital artists. Frank Rose gave the keynote lecture about "The Art of Immersion" which was fascinating. Mr. Rose discussed examples on how the audience became involved with the story and characters. In essence making the audience participate in the story. Lance Weiler talked about his new project "Pandemic", and how they used Transmedia to tell a story and get the audience to participate and evolve the storyline. Dr. Nicholas Diakopoulos talked about story through statistics, and if it sounds boring it was anything but. Molly Crabapple discussed her "Dr. Sketchy" empire, and how she achieved it.  She was one of my favorites, and she gave an inspiring speech.    It was very thought provoking, and revealing. 

Brian Newman gave a great lecture about "Net Neutrality", and really entertained the audience with his colorful and passionate speech about those who threaten the net by eliminating access to it.

I could go on, and on, but the guests and the lectures were as always inspiring, and it made one think. Between the guests there were people who would stand up and who are in need of services, and hopping to try and connect with others. That's what DIY network is all about. It's getting artists of all types together to collaborate on their projects.

I even met a young lady by the name of Bea Hundal is VP of Digital AAJA-NY and is a broadcast journalist at BBC News. I gave her a copy of my feature, which I had and we talked a bit about digital media. So you see you never know who you'll met and talk to. The people who attend this conference are passionate people who have such a wealth of knowledge, and that's what makes this event so awesome.

There are no pretenses here. Everyone shares, and everyone is looking to further the cause of DIY.  In the end you come out of the seminar energized and filled with ideas. Hopefully you've made some interesting contacts that will help you and your project get off the ground. The event is simulcast through the web also, so those in different locations can take part in the event. The event is free, and it is open to all. You can bet that the next time they have another DIY seminar I'll be there again. I just have one request and that is come to Philadelphia again guys. We have people here who are starving for new ideas, and we have the venues to showcase the DIY spirit. Till next time I'll be waiting, and creating.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Don't Let Me Drown (2009)

I caught this on HBO the other day and I was very impressed, and quite taken by this film.  "Don't let Me Drown" is the story of two Latino kids who fall in love in a post 911 New York.  The film is directed by Cruz Angeles, and it is also written by him and Maria Topete.  The film is beautifully shot  by Chad Davidson, and it uses it's New York locations well.  Both families are from working class parents who in some way are touched by the events of 911.  The filmmakers in an interview had an idea about the film as they saw events transpire in New York.  It reminded of them when they were growing up in Los Angeles during the crack epidemic where fear and violence was a common thing.  The director Mr Angeles said in an interview that after the events of 911 fear seemed to sweep the city, and it affected many people.  In the film the two families are knee deep in the 911 events.  One family has lost a daughter, and the other whose dad was a custodian in the towers is now cleaning up at the site, and being affected by the dust.  Both are powerful stories in their own right, but combining the two stories makes the story even more powerful.

There have been several films dealing with the 911 events, but this story is about a love story with two people from different sides of the fence.  I have to say that part of this film that really touched my heart was that the film took place in my old neighborhood in New York.  I recognized locations, and it brought 911 all back to me.  Another viewer probably wouldn't get the nuances that the filmmaker use by using these locations, but I applaud them for having done so.  It makes the film more real, and authentic.

The screenplay was developed by the Sundance Institute, and it shows in the quality in the writing, and in the performances of the actors.    Both E.J. Bonilla as Lalo and Gleendilys Inoa as Stephanie do a remarkable job here.  I buy their performances and they make it real for me.  All the other performers in this film also feel authentic and real, and that's all on them.  Damián Alcázar, Gina Torres, Yareli Arizmendi, and Ricardo Chavira all give powerful performances in the film.  If I can point out one outstanding performance here it's Ricardo Chavira as Dionisio who really gives it his all.  You see anger, frustration, grief, and helplessness all in his face, and you feel for the man even when he gets violent.   The film is raw, and it doesn't flinch in its portrayal of its characters.  All of the characters are noble and are just trying to get past the day, and hold onto their families.  It's this that makes the film so watchable.  You want a happy ending here, and in a way you get it, but its an ending based in reality.  There are no sunsets to walk into.  There is just the day, and the hope that love can push grief and loss away.   

The film does have humor in it also and it makes us laugh at how the characters react to different situations.  How the young generation looks at the old generation is one endearing and at times laughable.  It's this that cements the film as one of those films that gets itself.  The background is 911 after all, and its hard to find any humor in that subject, but by showing how we all get through grief and tragedy with some humor it shows how human we really all are.  This is what makes the film hit home.  At the end of the film I wanted more.  I didn't want to leave the characters.  I wanted more, and yet it's as it should be.  We should be wanting more, but the filmmakers have no ending here.  The characters ending is another day with the promise that love will get them through it, and in the end isn't that how we all try and live our lives?

If you get a chance to see this film see it.  I don't think you'll regret it.  There is some Spanish in the film that is subtitled for us non-speaking Spanish people, but again this only adds to the film.  As I've said before it adds to the authenticity of the film, and it doesn't interfere with the enjoyment of the film.  It only makes you love it more.  Very highly recommended.