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.