Sunday, December 29, 2013

Walking with Dinosaurs (2013)

My younger son wanted to see this, and he was counting the days to see this film, so we went and saw the film.  I wasn't expecting anything great, but I did want to see my youngest happy so off we went.  The thing is that I had read all the reviews saying that the film was weak and predictable.  I have two boys one older and one younger who also attended, and both enjoyed the film , but not as much as my youngest.  I like to see things through my boys eyes.  It gives me a different perspective, and I enjoyed the movie a bit more seeing it as my boys see it.

Now that being said is this a good film?  It depends on who is the audience.  I feel the film is better suited to younger audience's then older ones, and that's not it's problem.  Some of the visuals in this film are really stunning.  The story is predictable, but the film has a moral, and for its younger audience its okay.  The moral is that we win by sticking together.  It also educates its audience with the names of the dinosaurs.  I've heard the criticism that it's a juvenile film, and all  I have to say is that's is it's target audience.  The animals don't talk or mouth their dialogue.  It is heard as narration, and I didn't have a problem with it.  This where I have to say that without the skills of the narrators this film would be a lot less entertaining.   John Leguizamo narrates most of the film and provides a lot of the humor in it.  The kids got the humor, and it was pretty funny for the adults too.  That is in big part of Leguizamo's skill as a story teller.  I have been a big fan of his for a long.time.  He really makes the film entertaining.  My boys laughed, and so did my wife and I.

It's a special film.  A film you and your family can sit down and laugh with while at the same time maybe learning a few things about prehistoric days.   The animation is stellar, and what the film does is combine live action with animation.  The film does this seamlessly, and as I said the visuals are stunning.

I enjoyed the film.  I'm sure it will have a long life on DVD, because their are always younger children interested in big dinosaurs, and it's audience will always grow, but I do say that I'd wait for the home release of the film and watch it there.  But if you have a little one who really wants to see this and really loves dinosaurs I'd think you would enjoy seeing it with them.  There is some hard scenes where a parent is lost, but like I said the film is not gratuitous, so no parent should have a problem with any offensive scenes because their are none.

I enjoyed going to the movies and seeing and hearing my children laughing, and being captivated by a story. I do have to mention John Leguizamo again for his performance.  I do believe he contributed a lot to the film, and it is his mastery of telling a story that made us laugh and cry.

What I didn't like was how much it was to get into the theater.  That is what is wrong with movies today.  Back in the day ten bucks got you in, and you had money for a drink and some popcorn.  Now I need a loan to just walk into the theater, and that's not sustainable in today's world.  A word to the studio heads.  Make affordable films affordable to the public, or risk loosing that revenue to other venues.  Just my two cents.

Otherwise the film is a good ids film.  If you can wait for the home release then I suggest you do so, but if you have an insistent little one who wants to see dinosaurs go see it.  I think you'll enjoy seeing it with them.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Journey to Planet X (2012)

I am always interested in movies about making movies.  Maybe it's because I want to see how others suffer for their art, or maybe it's just plain curiosity. But after watching ten minutes of "Journey to Planet X"  I got hooked. The film is about Eric Swain and Troy Bernier who are scientists by day and amateur filmmakers by night. In the film we see their work from the past and it is very amateur like, but the work has heart. It's Swain's and Bernier's can do attitude which is refreshing and inspiring.  In the film they are making a more ambitious short entitled "Planet X"and the documentary is all about how they do it.  All the good and the bad of filmmaking is seen in this making of film, and middle way through the film you find yourself rooting for these guys.

The documentary goes through the whole process of our two hero's making their film from preproduction to post, and we get to see how the actual film develops.  Both Eric and Troy are interesting characters too. One very particular, and the other is whatever works is okay with him. How the two come to terms with their different personalities is funny and inspiring.  Amateur means doing something for pleasure, and their passion for doing the film shows through. It's this that makes the film so genuine. It's an interesting film to watch and see how these two individuals make their dreams come alive. The documentary is 76 minutes long and it is a fairly short film that has good pacing. The filmmakers Josh Koury and Myles Kane do a good job at capturing their subjects passion. Watching Eric and Troy tackle technical problems, scheduling issues, and location limitations is interesting and can be revealing to the average public. After all no one really knows what it takes to get a film finished, and seeing how they handle each problem is quite inspiring. In the end it inspired me to create something myself after watching this movie. After all creative types know the highs and lows of producing. This film shows that it is possible and in the end we do what we love, and this film captures that spirit and as I said can do attitude.  If Hollywood studios would stop letting the bean counters make the films and put it back in the hands of the artists we would have some better films being made today, but that's another argument for another day. If you get a chance to see this film, and you love filmmaking I highly recommend seeing it.  Get inspired and just keep doing it until you get so good that studios will be calling you.  Then the FUN really begins.  


Sunday, December 22, 2013

An Affair of the Heart (2012)

Rick Springfield is a unique musician.  In this documentary we are shown Rick Springfield and his fans.  The problem with the documentary is that I enjoyed seeing Rick Springfield perform, and even listening to his devoted fans, but the film doesn't know what it wants to be.  A fandom film explaining why his fans love him, and go out of there way and see him, or that of the artist himself.

I really took away the hard work Springfield puts into his concerts and his performances.  He really is a working mans musician.  He seems like a really ordinary person who had fame thrust upon him, and then disappeared for awhile.  Springfield still produces new material, and tours heavily, but it's the fans that the filmmakers seem to be interested in and yet they do a poor job at getting into the heart of that.  The filmmakers focus on only a handful of fans, and don't really get to the heart of why Springfield is so popular with them.  We do see how hard Springfield works, but I'm sure that any musician worth his or her salt does the same.  After all it's because of the fans and their love for them that the performer is even on stage.

I wanted to know more about the man especially when they talk about the details of his life.  The suicide attempt, the infidelities, and the problems with drugs are all glossed over.  They do mention that Springfield wrote a book "Late, late at Night" and the film feels like a commercial for the book.  Maybe it's all covered in the book, but one wonders if the film is all about the promotion of the book or an actual account of an artist and his fans.

So I really don't know what to say about the film.  Yes I really do have some respect for Springfield, but he glosses over things and doesn't really answer the question of why.   It's a good hour and half to hear and see Springfield's commitment to his fans,and to see how hard he works, but if you want to know who he is, and why he does the things he does then you'll be disappointed.  Their is no true depth to this documentary.

I like the artist, but the documentary is just gloss and fluff.  The film doesn't know what it wants to be.  I feel that the filmmakers were too close to their subject and not objective enough.  It also feels that maybe they too were blinded by his charisma and lost their objectivity.  The scenes with the fans also seem a bit staged, and sometimes they come across as too obsessive.

Your better off putting on one of Springfield's albums for a better experience with the man, and skip the documentary altogether because according to Springfield it's all in his music.   All the pain, hurt and joy is there and all you just need to do is listen.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What to Expect when Expecting (2012)

Okay it's the holidays and you want a feel good flick, or you just want to laugh out loud with others.  Then sit back and watch "What to Expect when Expecting".  Going into this film I totally thought "chick flick", but hold on there buddy there is some stuff in here that isn't all that bad.  First off I have to say Chris Rock steals the movie for me.  What part is scripted and what parts are all Rock is to be debated, but honestly he made me laugh, and he was quite good in it.  Could it be Rock is softening with age?  He still retains his humor in this film, but he lets some zingers out that make you laugh out loud.

The ensemble cast is pretty good, and Jenifer Lopez who gives a beautiful performance in the film.  I swear she had me welling up tears at the end, but I won't swear to it.  I also have to say that Ms Lopez looks so beautiful, and she seems to really put her heart and soul into her performance.  The cast does a good job at showing the different stages of pregnancy, and what women go through.   Elizabeth Banks as Wendy certainly gives a good performance on what it's like to be pregnant, and the problems women sometimes have.  You will certainly laugh at her antics, and what she goes through within the film.  It's really funny, and I think a lot of women out there get that, and maybe that's why it hits the mark for them.  It is honest that pregnancy isn't all afterglow, and cravings.

But for us guys it's a funny film with some funny moments.  I was surprised to see Dennis Quaid in the film as an old time race car driver who is a father again in his late 50's.  The rivalry between Quaids character and his son played by Ben Falcone is pretty hysterical.  The racing golf carts is too funny.

Some of the movie seems to go on and on, but just when you think you'll loose interest in the film the film seems to drag you back in, and you are touched or you are laughing.  Since the movie is based on a book that has no characters, or story it isn't that bad of an ensemble piece.  The filmmakers seems to have put things in the movie that appeals to every demographic.  Young, middle, old it's all in there, and maybe that's where it's a bit weak.  By catering to everyone you loose a bit of the films moments.  Everything isn't like a Hallmark story, and there are pretty heady issues that are only glanced over.  A better film maybe would be less characters, and less slapstick, and more meaningful plot.  But that would be a different film all together, and some how that's what this film isn't.

But again the film is light, and it does have its moments.  Renting this movie for an over night viewing may be the best way to see it.  Also see it with someone you care about, or with your significant other.  I think it will get you talking about stuff, and you'll laugh again at the antics of our hapless characters, and maybe recognize a bit of yourself in the characters.

On a scale to 1 to 10 I give it a 7 or maybe a 7.5.  The movie entertains, and it has it's moments, but it could have been much better then just a comedy drama.   When a movie makes you laugh, and you weren't expecting a whole heck of a lot from the film to begin with you have to give it its props.  The film is entertaining, and it has some poignant moments in the film, and for that I certainly give it its due or should I say its due date.  Okay I couldn't resist.   See it and laugh a bit, you'll thank yourself later.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cabin In the Woods (2012)

Okay I have to get this off my chest.  I finally saw the movie "Cabin in the Woods", and I have to say I was very interested in seeing it, but it totally let me down in the end.  The movie has great production value, and even some interesting casting.   Especially Richard Jenkins, who I think should have gotten the academy award for his performance in "The Visitor", but I digress.  Even putting in Bradley Whitford in this film doesn't help it.  I do like the scenes between Whitley and Jenkins, but again putting A list actors in a B type movie does not help it.   It does make it memorable, but only because the actors are really good, and you can see that their having fun with their performances.

It's a typical teenagers or in this case college roommate's and friends weekend away from civilization when things go horrible wrong.  The twist to this is this, and this is a SPOILER ALERT.  The victims are part of a test and they are nothing but lab rats caught in a horrible maze.  That's about it.  How the testers subject our victims to the horrors is sometimes amusing, and just plain stupid.  Again this movie has some originality, but it's wasted in the end.  I was hoping that this was something more then just people in a cabin being dispatched in interesting ways, and there is a glimmer of that, but the end is such a let down.  It's like the filmmakers throw in everything and the kitchen sink, and then come up short for the touchdown.  Sorry for the sports metaphor, but the movie plays like that, and coming from such filmmakers as you would think that the movie would have some interesting thoughts on the genre.

To blame it on the "ancient ones" is just plain weak.  Too manufacture a threat so great that it will destroy the world seems really interesting, but really?  You're telling me that these ancient ones who are so powerful, and mighty go underground, and we humans keep them there and appease them through sacrifice of the innocents, the athlete, the misfit, and the lustful?  REALLY!!!!!

Like I say you almost had me, but that ruined it for me.  Also invisible force fields too.  COME ON!!!!!

I love horror, and I think that there are some very good horror films being made, but this isn't one of them.  This steals from all the genres and wraps it up with a weak plot.  Do I care for these helpless victims.  I did, but they were too stereotypical written.  I know that's the point, but I thought this would be different.  Sure it's great to root for the underdog, and have the testers get their comeuppance, but throwing weak folklore without any real world logic is to me talking down to its audience, and I hate that.  It's like the filmmakers are winking at us and saying "watch how cleaver we are".  Well you're not, and next time you want to do a horror film why don't you do some research, and watch some old movies, and read some really good horror novels.  Then see what you come up with.  It would be way better then this mediocre movie.

Okay so I hated it.  Maybe you'll like it, but if you're a fan of the genre you'll find yourself hating yourself because its 1hour and 35 minutes that you won't get back. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Peter O'Toole

It seems that this week a few well known entertainment celebrities have passed on.  For this one I wanted to celebrate Mr. O'Toole's work, and try to persuade some readers to see some of his work that the critics have failed to talk about.  Most of the news agencies have all done tributes to this great actor, but they always forget other works that need to be talked about and I'm here to remind others that there is a a number of Mr. O'Toole's films that need to be seen.  So let's start with the first.

Of course there is "Lawrence of Arabia", a film directed by none other then the famous director David Lean.   Not only is O'Toole's performance brilliant, but the film is epic in scope.  Alone for the photography the film is an interesting piece of cinema.   His performance is outstanding, and watching it one feels for his character.  But let's go on to other movies that O'Toole was in that aren't mentioned, but should be.

A film I once saw late at night on TV was a film called "Murphy's War".  In it O'Toole plays the sole survivor of his crew, that has been massacred by a German U-Boat in the closing days of World War II.  In it he is driven mad by his desire to extract revenge on the U-boats crew.  O'Toole gives a riveting performance in the film, and one I have always remembered for so long.  Not only is his performance fantastic, but the cinematography by Oscar winner Douglas Slocombe is beautiful.  O'Toole's performance as man driven to madness is quite breathtaking to witness, and O'Toole does make you believe that his obsession is just.  If you get a chance see this film you'll soon not forget the film or the performance.  I think it is the performance and the way O'Toole communicates his madness that made it so memorable for me.  I can still remember the last shot of the film, and though I won't give it away it stays with you, and is most fitting for the end.  It is a lesson about obsession and how obsession can burn us and why sometimes our obsessions should be just left alone, and not acted on.  Peter Yates directed the film, and it is a well directed piece of cinema that has been relegated to bottom of peoples list.  Not mine that's for sure.

Another film where O'Toole is at his top is a film that I consider a modern cult classic.  'The Stuntman" was released in 1980 by the director Richard Rush.  Rush had been trying to make this film for over ten years, and it is to his credit that he created a masterpiece of cinema, but it is O'Toole's performance that makes the film so memorable.  As Eli Cross the director of a fictional film in the film O'Toole pulls out all the stops.  One wonders if O'Toole is channeling all the directors he has worked with into his character or if he is just making it all up.  In the film O'Toole plays a manic director who is trying to complete a film about world war I, and in it comes our main protagonist Cameron played by Steve Railsback.  The scenes between O'Tool and Railsback are exceptional.  O'Toole plays Eli as a God like figure, and in a lot of the scenes he is seen floating on a camera crane giving orders and advice to his actors as if he was God.  "The Stuntman is a film for cine-files as well as a film for the general public.  It has so much to offer and the director plays the movie on so many levels.  I can remember taking this film apart in my film criticism class way back in college.  O'Toole's performance is flawless, and I was stunned when he didn't get a Oscar for this film alone.  It is also sad that he never got an Oscar for any of his nominations.  Which speaks to Hollywood's wisdom.  As  the screenwriter William Goldman said in his book "Adventures in the Screen Trade" nobody knows nothing, and in Hollywood that is so true it seems. 

Lastly I want to point out one of O'Toole's latest films.  Venus directed by Roger Michell.  O'Toole's performance in the film proves that even at an advanced age O'Toole was all about the performance.  I do not want to spoil anything about this film.  I will say that it is about some old actors getting their world turned around when they meet a brash young girl.  O'Toole's gift even for physical comedy is astounding, and in this part he shows that age is only a number.  I really liked the film, and it is a favorite.

Of course I have not mentioned all of O'Toole's performances that were exceptional.  There are so many films worth noting such as:  Becket, What's New Pussycat, The Lion in the WinterGoodbye Mr. Chips, Man of LaMancha, Caligula, and My Favorite Year.

Peter O'Toole leaves us with an impressive work, and he was a very extraordinary fellow.  Thanks Mr. O'Toole for the work and the performances.  He was a very gifted thespian, and one we will never see again.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's all about the lenses......

 While at the CCW expo I saw a lot of cameras with a lot of lenses on them.  We always talk about a pristine image, and one that is detailed, but a GOOD lens is what can make the difference.  Are lenses expensive?  They can be and the good ones usually are, but for us cinema obsessed people renting a good lens is something cinematographers do constantly.  But there are a whole host of lenses to choice from, and which one will be right for your project is not always an easy answer.

But your in luck.  A classmate of mine has just written a pretty good tutorial about lenses.  I suggest you pop on over and get schooled.  Remember an image is as good as the lens it is being seen through, so when talking about 4K you'll want a GOOD lens in front of your camera to catch all the detail of the scene.  The best lens to give you a variety of different shots would be a zoom lens.  I'm a lover of good prime lenses, but zooms have saved my bacon on many occasion, so one should know about them.  Mr. Gladstone does a good job in describing them, and tells you on what to look for.  Give it a read.  You'll won't regret it.

Cinema Zoom Lenses by Steven Gladstone.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why 4K? CCW part 1

So this week I was at the content & communications conference here in New York.  The conference is always interesting and somewhat informative.  Usually each year there are themes, and this year it seemed all about 4K.  Last year there were a lot of panels for 3D, and this year not a peep about 3D.  I always knew 3D was a fad, and would not catch on.  It's all about consumers voting with their pocket book, and 3D never had a chance.

4K on the other hand is another story.  It's all about product, and what will drive 4K will be content, and will that content be worth seeing in 4K.  Right now consumers are pretty happy with their flat panel screens of various sizes.  At one time the bigger the screen the higher the price, but not so today.  LED panel screens are the rage, and they reproduce HD content really well.  But the thing is no broadcaster is broadcasting in 1080, and so we're not truly seeing HD.   In the United States, 1080p over-the-air broadcasts still does not exist; all major networks use either 720p60 or 1080i60 encoded with MPEG-2.  So why this talk about 4K.

One of the seminars I went to was called: "Is a 100 year work flow possible?", and there the discussion about 4K was about that 4K has four times the data of 2K.  Every step of the process will take longer, and taking longer means more money.  4K with it's demand for increased bandwidth, and storage capacity can be taxing on a productions budget, so as many post production professionals said that it's hard to justify the expense.

Sure it certainly is nice to shoot in 4K and have it, so that way when the technology becomes more available in the market or more in demand by the consumer the producer can output a 4K program, and sell his movie, or program to that market.  But that's a BIG if.  Right now the expense is way too high for a low budget film to even think about finishing in 4K.

I did see 4K displays at the expo, and the images were great, and the bigger the screen the more cinematic it felt.  The price for a 4K display on the other hand was high.  In time I'm sure the price would or will drop, but right now it's all about the money, and will consumers go out and buy another display to see a superior image?.  I don't really think so.  At least not until the cost drops, but it's never too late for producers to shoot 4K and try and future proof their work flow for the future.  To not shoot in 4K is short cited, and it may limit your products distribution in the future.

The argument will go on for some time.  Some facilities will want to have the capability to go 4K since it is a choice that they can provide to the producers, but till there is significant product in the pipeline, and till the consumer sees a true difference between what he or she has now 4K will will take a back seat in the home theater arena.  For 4K to catch on it needs a foot hold, and there I would think it would begin with sports. Sports bars investing in large 4K displays for BIG highlighted games could be the foundation of where 4K catches on.  But for that to happen the networks need to have another tier on their cable channel offerings to consumers, and that may take awhile since the networks would need to invest on new equipment.  But 4K is here, and it's not going away, so welcome to the future because someday we'll all be looking at 4K, and we'll watch programs from the past like we do today, and wonder how we ever got along without 4K.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Bukowski: Born into This (2003)

 I know didn't I already write an entry on Bukowski?  Yes, but there is so much about him that I think a review of the DVD "Born into this" is something worth noting.  Released in 2003 and directed by John Dullaghan the documentary is worth seeing if you know nothing of the man and his work.  The film is also pretty much a warts and all about Bukowski.  The good and the bad, and as the filmmaker says in the film it was just as well that Bukowski never saw it because some of the footage would have made Bukowski uncomfortable.   Seeing this footage shows us how Bukowski is such an interesting and worth while artist and a one of a kind.  His wife Linda Lee Bukowski gave the film it's blessing and the filmmaker worked real close with his wife and had access to a lot of footage that Charles Bukowski left behind.

The most interesting documentaries show us the human condition good and bad.  After all we all have things in our closet that we are not proud of, but what makes us us.  Being an artist and laying bare all your faults and your genesis is something that I admire.  Bukowski was a work in progress and to pigeon hole him as a writer would be a disservice to his memory.  For example the scene where he has a fight with his then fiance  Linda shows a very ugly side to the man, and yet through that scene we see Bukowski's weaknesses and the demons that really drove Mr. Bukowski.  Every artist has them and this documentary really gets under Bukowski's skin, and we see a little glimmer of what made him tick and why he was such a prolific writer.  

Bukowski wrote from his soul, and bared it all to us.  Almost like a chain of thought, but what Bukowski saw nobody else saw.  Even the filmmaker who fully admits that he just went out and began shooting his documentary and in time it grew and evolved into what it was.  Much like a Bukowski novel the filmmaker delves right into Bukowski, and what we see first is a caustic, and bitter man.  There is no narration discussing Bukowski's origin.  Instead we hear it from the man himself.  How he was abused by his father, and how his parents showed no love to him, and his writing.  How he was so conflicted as being an artist and having a job.  He was an everyday man who knew the realities of the world, and had some contempt for the world of art.  All he knew was that he had to write, and that he had to feed the demon everyday.  Ever day life became poetry and his life experiences became books.  To read his novels is like peeking into his soul and what made Bukowski Bukowski.

I highly recommend the film, and it is worth seeing just to admire Bukowski's talent, and his tenacity towards his work and life.  The filmmaker should be given high praise for his work also, and to think Mr. Dullaghan had no idea where to start and how to approach his subject, and yet he does a great job.

If you're a writer, and you feel frustrated.  Pick this DVD up, and give it a viewing.  I think you'll find some inspirational things here, and you'll see how  genesis and madman can be applied in the same sentence when describing Bukowski.

The film is a great look into a writer who is complicated and passionate about his work.  Worth viewing.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


So it's been a pretty quiet here.  I get that way sometimes.  I think we all do.  One evaluates oneself and thinks and wonders where am I or who am I?   I've been receding into Charles Bukowski. work.  I've always been an admirer of the man and his work.  But I began reading his novels and have even started reading some of his many poems, and have become invigorated by his words.  I started with the novel "Post Office" and have so far finished three of his novels, and am waiting to read more of his works.  This all comes courtesy of my local library, but I was impressed on the many works they did have of Bukowski's work.  I even picked up a documentary called "Bukowski: Born into This", and it was a very revelatory film about the man.

I've also read "Hollywood" which was his novel about the making of the film "Barfly", which I also viewed.  I have to say I have a new respect for the film, and after seeing it again I had forgot how good the performances were in the film.

So I've become somewhat obsessed on all things Bukowski, and at the same time find myself being taught by the man.  An artists life is not easy.  It is filled with frustration, apathy, and panic.  Yet sticking to it and "DOING IT" makes one a better artist.

Maybe it's the right message at the right time in my life or maybe I'm full of shit.  After all that's the way Bukowski would say it.  But I have always been striving to achieve goodness or a sense of quality within my work.  What ever that work is, yet I seem to want to push myself into other boundaries.  Things that make me a bit uncomfortable, but yet excite me.  It seems Bukowski's work is working its magic.  I have to say some things I don't understand, and don't like, but there is a lot I do like.  I also see how he struggled, and how unsure of himself he was.  I think it's a strong statement to see, and a very comforting thing to know.  We all get that way because life does that to us.  If it was easy everyone would be doing it.  Hence the struggle of the artist. 

So if you get a chance head on over to Bukoski's website and take a look.  Maybe you'll find something you like and maybe you'll be inspired.  I know I was.

I'll be commenting more about the documentary and Bukowski's work in other entries, but for now an update was needed.

Monday, September 09, 2013


I was watching the other day the movie Chaplin with Robert Downey Jr. as Chaplin.  The film was okay, but what really got me to thinking about Chaplin was how much of an innovator he was.  I had to take a class about the silent era in college, and though I was no film studies connoisseur back then I did admire and even learn a few things from the masters.  In fact I've come to the conclusion that cinema has not changed much since the silent era.  Sure there is sound and with sound comes dialogue, but telling a story with pictures only was as basic as it got, and to consider that filmmaking was in its infancy back then and it was all being developed seemed exciting.  I became a fan of Buster Keaton, but I'd admired Chaplin very much.  His movie "The Kid" was the one that did it for me.  In it Chaplin as the Tramp finds a child on the streets, and he is forced to raise the boy.  The bond that the two develop is heartwarming, and will tug at your heartstrings.  In the end there is a happy ending with the child being re-united with it's mother, and it is extraordinary in how Chaplin tells the story.

But instead of telling you about it why not watch it.   It's times like this that make me giddy about the Internet.
Though not as effective as watching it on the screen, "The Kid" still evokes emotion, and laughter.  So I hope you enjoy the film from the master filmmaker Chaplin.  It has inspired me again, and I'm sure it will inspire you.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Frankenstein's Army (2013)

Frankenstein's Army is a cleaver horror film that uses the found footage concept to tell a story about a lost Russian unit that comes across a secret Nazi lab where the journal of Dr. Victor Frankenstein is being translated into gruesome experiments.  The film is directed by Richard Raaphorst and Mr Raaphorst does a good job with what little he has.  I was unfamiliar with Raaphorst work so I enlisted a friend who knew of his work.  Mr. Raaphorst was the individual who did a fake trailer of a film entitled "Worst Case Scenario".  The clip went viral and was nominated for the best trailer, no movie, at the golden trailer award.  Frankenstein's Army is a movie with some of the ideas Raaphorst presented in his trailer "Worst Case Scenario" video.

Shot in Prague, in the Czech Republic the film uses it's location to maximum effect.It was shot in an old abandoned mine.  I was fascinated on how the film came about, and since this is Raaphorst's first feature he should be commended at the quality of the film.  The monster's in the film were not CGI, which seems to be the fad in today's movie making, but not here.  In the film the monsters are actual creations and they are something to look at.  The gore content is a bit much, but after all we're dealing with zombie soldiers made from dead corpses.  The art direction is stunning and it makes the film worth seeing.

The one thing that kind of made me suspend disbelief was the concept of the found footage.  The film is shot from the point of view of the cameraman, and that's fine, but this is happens during the closing days of World War 2, and the handheld color film camera would not be developed until the late 50's early 60's. Knowing this kind of took the air of reality away from the film for me, and yet I still liked it.  The detail in the monster creations and even the acting in the film is well done.  Some of the cinematography is dark, and the editing is a bit quick for me at times and it felt like a video game, but again this is hard not to achieve when the audiences point of view is that of the cameraman.  It would be interesting if the filmmakers had more money to do a more narrative film.  I do believe that the story is an interesting one, and one where a more narrative story would enhance the films horror, but sometimes you are given what you are given and must make due, and filmmaker Raaphorst should be commended on what he has made.

In a way Frankenstein's Army is a throwback to those old monster flicks from the past, and maybe that's why I really liked it.  The film is not long at all, and it has some good pacing in it.  I have to admire Raaphorst's direction, and being that this is his first feature film I can only hope that this is the beginning of a promising career.  The visuals in this film are stunning, and if you like a good old fashioned horror film with some gore then this is your film.  In fact this film reminds me of Stuart Gordon's films such as "Re-Animator" & "From Beyond", and if you like those types of films you'll love "Frankenstein's Army

All in all a really good solid horror film.  I believe it is playing on VOD in some regions and it is also on Amazon on demand, and itunes. I believe it will be released sometime in September on DVD.  I know I'll be interested in seeing if the DVD has a director's commentary.  If so it will be worth picking up.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lovelace (2013)

I had been waiting to see this film for some time.  After reading Linda Lovelace's books "Ordeal" and "Out of Bondage" I was mortified by what she experienced and what she went through.  It wasn't until I met the lady at a convention that I had a chance to talk with her for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Some critics point to Lovelace's appearances at these conventions as her being a hypocrite and that her experiences were all a lie.  I only spoke to her for a little while, and she was pleasant and I addressed her as Ms Marchiano since that was her name now.  She told me to call her Linda, and she really seemed genuine.  She talked about her children, and I saw how much she was committed to them.  I believe it was this that drove her to provide for her family, and why she would resurfaced as Linda Lovelace.

So how was the movie?  Seeing this film is hard.  Especially if you've read the book "Ordeal".  It's well written and written with Mike McGrady who was a prize winning reporter for Newsday. It's what's not in the movie that I have a problem with.

The filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman do a good job.  They stay close to the book, and present Lovelace's rise to stardom two ways.  One way we see her as everyone else saw her.  A pretty shy young women rise to stardom. The second half of the movie is what really went on, and how Linda was seduced by a Svengali type named Chuck Traynor.  To tell you the truth I wasn't too keen on this type of structure in the film, but it does work.  Especially if you know nothing about Linda's book or her experiences.  If the filmmakers would have done the drama in a linear fashion the tale would be very dark and almost hard to watch.  It is difficult to see the abuse that Linda experienced, and it makes you uncomfortable to watch, but let me say that if they had stuck closer to the book those scenes would be 100 times worse.  I kid you not that the book is brutal in its description and I applaud the filmmakers for making a film that shows the abuse, but in so doing so they make what Linda experience less then frightening and more melodramatic.  

Chuck Traynor was an evil man.  He was a sadistic control freak, and he took full advantage of Linda's vulnerabilities.  In interviews Traynor denies all the abuse, and tells anyone who will listen that Lovelace made it all up, but Lovelace took a polygraph before the book was published, and though some people can fake the results I don't believe Linda did.   Peter Sarsgaard does a good job as Chuck Traynor, and yet I believe that the filmmakers pulled their punches, and didn't really show how twisted Traynor really was.  By doing this the filmmakers give us a one dimensional view of Traynor.  A film can either go all the way or not at all for me, and by not showing the true evil Traynor was I believe the film waters his character down.  The abuse that Linda experienced was physical and mental, and it was only herself that saved her.  She became stronger and walked out on Traynor, and if the filmmakers had concentrated on this I think the film would have been better.

The way the film presents Linda's emancipation seems weak, and if anything Linda was not weak.  She became a strong willed women who fought her critics.  She did not back down in the advance of adversity. That's what I thought the film should have focused on, and since it doesn't it's a weaker film for that.

As for the performances.  They are all fantastic.  From Sharon Stone's performance as Linda's mother to Chris Noth's performance as Anthony Romano the financier of the film "Deep Throat".  All do a great job. I'd also like to give credit to Robert Patrick ,Debi Mazar, and Hank Azaria as supporting characters.  They all do a great job here, and should be noted for their fine performances.  But the one who should really be complimented is Amanda Seyfried who plays Linda.  Her performance of Linda is really well done, and she really brings the role to life. Seyfried plays Linda with such passion that you really believe she is Linda.  It's because of this that the movie is so watchable.   I have to recommend seeing this film.  It is even relevant to today's climate, and should be seen by everyone who thinks porn has no victims.  If anything I hope it makes people seek out Lovelace's book "Ordeal" and read it for themselves.  It's a good book that is quite revealing and eye opening.

There is a documentary also about the film "Deep Throat" called "Inside Deep Throat", which I highly recommend.  It's an interesting view on the film, and why it succeeded and why it will always be popular.

In the end I liked the film, but felt sad.  I knew that Ms Marchino wanted her story told, and she was hoping to capitalize on some of it since she was not paid or never made anything from the film.  Her daughter and son are listed as consultants and I hope that they are happier seeing their mother's plight and her triumph over such adversities.  I think she would have liked the film, and hope that it would serve as a warning to other young girls.  The film also touches on Linda's self esteem problems that contributed to her being a victim of Chuck Traynor.  It is a theme in the book that Linda touches on throughout her book "Ordeal".   But Linda Lovelace will always be an enigma to us since it is hard to put oneself in her shoes.  The book tells us, the movie shows us, but for many of us she will always be known as that girl in the funny porn film that made a lot of money, but what is ironic is that the real events were anything but funny.  They were more tragic then funny.

In the end Lovelace is a hard film to see, but it is the performances that make you look on.  The performances are all riveting and this is the films strength.  If you get a chance see it. The film is also available on PPV on most cable systems, so if you're local theater doesn't have it you can order it on cable from home.  I hope this way the film finds its audience and is successful.  It would be a nice footnote to Ms Marchiano's legacy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Red 2 (2013)

To start with my wife and I are fans of the first movie, and so Reds 2 was an inevitable for us to see, and I have to say that Reds 2 is a good popcorn movie.  Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louis Parker, and Helen Mirren are all back as our favorite retired but extremely dangerous assassins.  Even though the movie has it's funny parts it doesn't work as well as the original movie did.  Malkovich and Willis are the anchors to this story.  Their banter between each other is hilarious, and it really works.  It is when the story goes into Frank's (Willis) relationship with Sarah (Parker) that the story seems to drag.  In the beginning of the movie we see that Frank and Sarah are trying to have a normal life, and it's killing Frank, but he loves Sarah so he does what most normal people do and not kill anyone.  The movie is funny, but it jumps around from one location to another as our hero's try to piece together why everyone connected to a project called "nightshade" is dying, and why they themselves are targets.

 Simple plot, and yet it seems all forced.  Reds 2 works when we are laughing at the antics of our assassins as they go about their business.  The humor is dark, and that's what Reds is all about.  It's based on the DC comic which is rooted in dark humor.  But Reds 2 tries to be PC, and straddle the line of political correctness, and the problem is that it was never suppose to be that way.  The original film was rated R, and Reds 2 is rated PG-13, and I believe that's not a mistake.  I'm sure the studio wanted a PG-13 film so younger people could see it.  I'm not arguing why they did it, but for a film about retired assassins to be rated PG-13 seems to defeat it's own purpose.  I'm sure the hardcore fans were not happy, and to try and water down material that in itself is violent seems to be counter intuitive.  The series is based on those violent events, and how easy our assassins dispatch their nemesis.  The comedy comes from how they do so, and that their assassins with heart.  Now Willis and Malkovich are great at this.  So is Ms Mirren, as Victoria.  In fact some of her scenes are the best and the funniest, and that's because she plays against her type.  We think of Mirren as this demure older women when she is a vibrant and passionate assassin.  Some characters make a re-appearance from the first one, but I wanted to see more of them.  I wanted to see more of Brian Cox as Ivan.

The story also seems to be forced.  It seemed more like a video game where you collect clues and advance to the next part of the story.  Byung-hun Lee as Han Cho Bai is wasted here.  He's like Willy E Coyote chasing the Roadrunner, and then he becomes part of the team.  Catherine-Zeta Jones looks great, and has some funny scenes with Willis, but again she isn't in it enough for my taste.  Anthony Hopkins on the other hand is great here.  He chews the scenery up along with Willis and Malkovich.   Simply put Hopkins makes a great villain.

So did I like this film or not?  I had to say I enjoyed it.  But it's far from being a great film, and it seems as though it could have been so much more.  That's my problem.  The plot points are as big as ever and one could drive a semi through them, but again there are parts where my wife and I had a good laugh.  I can't fault a film for doing that, so that's why I like the movie.  I just wish it could have been better.  I don't know why the filmmakers don't use more of the comic book since that's what Reds is based on.  Maybe it's too dark for general audiences, but when you water down material so it plays better with a the general public you defeat what Reds is all about.

All I can say is that the movie could have been better, but maybe they'll release it with additional footage that they cut out for time or footage that they deemed to hardcore for a PG-13.  But for a fun escapist night or afternoon Reds 2 isn't that bad.  It's just not that great also, and that's it's problem.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dennis Farina (1944-2013)

Dennis Farina passed away Monday Morning in Scottsdale Arizona.  Mr. Farina was born in Chicago, and became a Chicago police officer for 18 years in the cities Burglary division.  It was while Mr Farina was a consultant for Michael Mann's film entitled "Thief" that Mann gave him a brief role in the movie.

Farina continued to do parts while he was a police officer in the Chicago theater scene.  It wasn't until Mann cast Farina as a lead in his series "Crime Story" that Farina made the full transition to actor.

He later played many different parts.  Some as police officers and other as mobsters.  Farina was a life long cubs fan, and he eventually took the part of Detective Joe Fontana on the series of Law & Order.

I was always enamoured by Mr. Farina's style of acting.  He was a natural, and you could see he was having fun.  He did a stint on a show called "In-Laws" which showed his comic timing, and how well he did in comedy.  It only lasted 15 episodes, but they were funny and it showed that Mr. Farina had range in his acting.  

He was taken from us too early, and our condolences to his family on their loss.  He will be surely missed.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Despicable Me 2

So it's July 4th week-end, and what's more American then going to the movies, and so we did.  I'm a big fan of the first movie, and I have to say I loved the whole story.  Having said that I was a bit disappointed by the 2nd film.  That's not to say that I hated it.  I enjoyed seeing the film with my family, and we all laughed at bits in the film, but it is no where near the movie the first one is.

Why is that?  Why was I a bit disappointed at the film?  Simply put it was the story.  They were on the right track.  After all our main character Gru is now out of the super villain business because he has his new family that he loves.  Making him a superhero is the right thing to do, but the story seemed to be too simplistic.  The movie did have some cute elements in the story which is one thing that made the first film so endearing, but it all seemed forced which is sad since you would think that Universal Studios would give more thought to the story of one of their super successful franchise.

That being said I did like seeing once again our favorite characters Gru, Edith, Margo, Agnes, and even Dr. Nefario. And who doesn't love those lovable minions which is one of the films strong points.  In this film Gru is recruited to discover who the  villain is that is threatening the world, and the problem is that we all know who it is.  Even Gru knows but is ignored because he is more concerned about some boy being interested in one of the girls.  This is cute, but so drawn out.  It distracts from the plot a bit.  After all WE all know who it is, yet it is the sub-plots that distract the audience. The sub-plots only seem to lengthen the story and not contribute to it.  It just seemed to take away from the story, and it kind of insults its audience.  There are holes in the story you could drive a semi through, and it is this that I had a problem with.  Sure Despicable Me 2 is a children's film, but the first film was a film that did not ignore it's adult audience, and at times Despicable Me 2 seems to forget that.

But I did say I liked the movie, so how can I criticize a movie I enjoyed?  Easy I just wanted more from this film.  What I got is a watered down version of the first movie.  The authors could have done better that's all.  Are some of the skits funny?  I'd have to say yes, but they could have been better, and maybe focusing on the family would give Gru more of a reason to fight our arch villain who seemed a bit wimpy and not as threatening as villains should be.

Again I did like seeing this film.  Hearing everyone laugh at the antics of the minions, and seeing Gru fall in love with Lucy is enjoyable.  It is even very sentimental at the end, which is really what I liked.  So yes Despicable Me 2 isn't what the original film was, but its close, and because of that it's fun to watch.  It's also a good film to take the kids to and laugh out loud.  There aren't too many films out there that you can do that to, so I have to say I would recommend Despicable Me 2, after all those minions are funny to watch, and their so damn cute!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

World War Z (2013)

I just had to go see World War Z being an avid "zombie" genre film fan.  I had never read the book by Max Brooks, about eyewitnesses account of the zombie outbreak, but I have read a few chapters here and there and what I read seemed interesting.  What the movie does is compile all those survivors accounts into one character's view of the outbreak.  Gerry Lane played by Brad Pitt is a former employee of the UN's health organization.  He is seen in the first scene of the movie making breakfast for his family.  He has two daughters, and a wife, and we find out that he quit his job due to what it was doing to him.  But that is latter on in the movie, and in the beginning of the movie we see Pitt interacting with his family while making breakfast.  We hear on the radio and on the TV that things are happening in the world, but like all news with a 24 hour cycle it is background noise to the characters.  For us the audience we all know that something is coming, and that it will impact out characters shortly.

Why do I set this all up?  Well it's the bases of the whole movie.  How does our hero and his family survive this outbreak?  To not give anything away I will say that it does start immediately, and the director Marc Foster leaps into the story with both feet.  This is the movies strength.  We quickly identify with Pitt's character, and his family and we want to see him survive.  I do believe that Pitt himself brings his own persona into the movie as well.  Pitt is known for being a consummate actor, and a family man in his personal life.  It is these factors which makes us buy his character so quickly.   I wondered a bit if we were given someone else other then Pitt would we so quickly tie our emotions to the character.  This is not insignificant and something that should not be looked at lightly.  The book is about several characters.  The movie is about one character and his family.  In the first few minutes of the movie Pitt's character defends his family from on coming Zombies, and lawless people while still all maintaining his humanity.  It is no wonder we identify with him so much.  We want to be him, and we want him to succeed in getting out of plight.  While others run around and loot and destroy our hero maintains civility.  You see this when he shoots an attacker and when a police officer enters the scene he holds his rifle up in a non threatening way, but all the police officer see and wants is what's in the store.  This scene symbolizes the breakdown of civilization, but not the breakdown of our characters civility.

I would have enjoyed seeing and hearing the different types of survivors that the book concentrates on.  It would be a much different movie then, and one I would think that would be longer.   The movie is 116 minutes and the movie is well paced.  There are some really stunning set pieces that Pitt's character gets into, and some of the side characters that he interacts with seem to be worthy of their own film, but since this story is focused on Pitt's character we are only given his perspective.  It is because of this I really think the movie works.  Maybe a HBO limited cable series could be made about the other events that happen in the book?  There is certainly enough material to do so, and an audience for it, but I'm afraid that AMC's "The Walking Dead" has taken that territory successfully and there may not be that much more material that the public could stomach about a zombie outbreak or maybe I'm wrong and there is more of an apatite for zombie stories.  HBO take note and time to do some more focus groups on that.

Being a fan of George Romero I would be remiss here to mention him, and his films.  What makes them so unique is that there is a message in them, and in a Romero movie all characters are subject to dying certain deaths.  In most of Romero's films the characters that you may identify with become zombie food.  Not here in World War Z.    Forster does this to some of his side characters but not our hero Brad Pitt.  Pitt's character goes through some hair raising events and your on the edge of your seat as he does so, but in the end we know that our hero must prevail because his objective is to learn about the plague, and get back to his family.  So the story is as old as some Greek myths where the hero must slay the enemy and get back to his family.   There is nothing wrong with that, and like I Forster's pace and sense of tension he has throughout the film.  In fact I think that it is the films strength, and can only describe the film as tension ridden.

Also what this does unlike any other zombie film is keep the gore to a minimum, and hence the PG-13 rating.  I've heard people like the film who are not into such films, and that's a credit to the director again.  Unlike the zombies of yesteryear these zombies are quick, and multiply quickly.  A human who is bitten has 15 seconds before he or she changes, so hence this is a different zombie then what has been presented to us in the past.  Danny Boyle's "28 Days later" is a film that more reflects "World War Z" zombie.  But in Boyle's film he does not say zombie.  In Boyle's film the people are called the "infected", and the infection is transferred by not a bite, but by the blood.  Boyle's film is really well done, and what he does on a small budget Forster does on a big budget.  What can be done on a bigger budget you ask?  Well a whole host of things.  How about confronting zombies on an airplane?  or what happens when a wall of a city is breached by zombies?  The set pieces in "World War Z" are amazing to see, and you truly are amazed at how the filmmakers pull it off.  I enjoyed the film, and yes there is a ending to this plague, and it's kind of unique so I won't spoil it for the rest of you who will be seeing it.

The one thing that kind of got me was how the film tried to tie everything in a nice bow.  There is no doubt that the filmmakers had to show our hero re-uniting with his family, but how it does so seems forced.  I guess wanting the audience wanting more is a good thing, but sometimes it's a killer, and that can kill the pace of a film quickly, so I understand why the filmmakers ended the film the way they did.  I do believe that the audience seeing the film will enjoy it, and will come away from the film on a positive note.  After all for almost two hours the audience is subjected to nothing but tension.  The release of this tension happens when we see our hero is triumphant, but most zombie films end on a cautionary tale.  The book certainly ends more on a cautionary note then the movie and maybe that's what I missed.  Can I recommend this film?   I most certainly can.  It's a good entertaining popcorn film that you'll enjoy watching, and Brad Pitt carries this film all the way.  So enjoy and get ready for the zombie apocalypse.  Never has the apocalypse been so exciting and riveting.  You'll enjoy the ride.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jim Kelly (1946-2013)

I just found out that Jim Kelly passed away yesterday.  Jim Kelly starred along with Bruce Lee in "Enter the Dragon", and after seeing that I was completely hooked on Jim Kelly's performance.  He made everything look easy and he exuded coolness like no one else.  His films include "Three the Hard way", Black Samson, Black Samurai, and Black Belt Jones.   After several more films Jim Kelly left acting and became a professional tennis player.on the USTA  senior man's circuit.

He will be missed.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Man of Steel (2013)

So for Father's day we all went to see "The Man of Steel".  I have always been a BIG Superman fan, and remember seeing the old episodes of Superman on the TV while I was growing up.  So I was anxious to see this new one.  I have to say that I wasn't disappointed at seeing it.  Now I do remember when Superman came out while I was a teenager.  The two Superman movies were something special for me, and Christopher Reeve was a very special Superman.  But I always wondered what happened to Superman during his teenage years.  Sure I read the Superboy comic books as a child, but in those he just seemed like a Superman who was just younger.  In "The Man of Steel" Superman is seen more human.  He is conflicted about who he is and what he is.  The flashbacks of him and his Earth dad Pa Kent is touching and revealing.  After all could not have Superman been bad.  Could he have used his powers for evil instead of good, and this movie explains why Superman is our champion.  Also we see his original father a bit more, but still having a presence in Superman's life.

I enjoyed the movie because of these things.  In the older movies Superman was one dimensional, but here he's a bit more, and I liked that.  I'm not saying I hate the older movies or the TV series.  They are still as good as they were, and just as fun to watch as this one is, but "Man of Steel" gives us the conflict that Superman has.

Now I know some people are upset by this film, and how Superman is portrayed, but I like how the filmmakers made it more detailed.  More cerebral, then the other films.  This in no way lessens the film, but what it does do is make it less exciting to younger kids.  I took my two boys and they loved the fight scenes, and they enjoyed seeing Krypton, and how it exploded, but they were less amused by Superman's emotional  revelations.  Is the movie not for children?  Yes and no.  After the movie my boys seemed to have liked it, but I did sense that during the movie they were more interested in their popcorn then what was happening on the screen.  But I don't fault the filmmakers for this.  I applaud them for making a mature themed Superman.  "The Man of Steel" is a film that shows us hero's have their vulnerabilities, and I'm not talking about Kryptonite, but what makes us who we are.  Our character.  Superman's character was always truth, justice and the American way, but in a multi-cultural society such as ours he is a hero to ALL because he's just like us.   That's what appealed to me.  Also with any movie with Superheros there has to be a villain and General Zod played by Michael Shannon is a worthy opponent.  Shannon does a marvelous acting job as Zod, and he is a very memorable villain.  But again their is Kevin Costner as Pa Kent, and Diane Lane as Superman's earth mom, and they all contribute to the film.  Their performances make this film what it is.  Also Russell Crowe's performance as Jor-el is also one to note.  It is all these performances that make "Man of Steel" worth going to see.

I did have a problem with the pacing, but my boys felt it more then I did.  It's not that roller coaster ride you get in some block-busters, but for me getting to know Superman and what made him tick was worth it.  I also have to note that the story is the beginning of a love story.  Yes I said love story.  Louis Lane's and Superman always had something, and it is in this film that we begin to see that.  In fact it's his love of Louis that compels Superman to fight for the humans.  I do hope that they pursue more of their relationship in future movies, and by the opening week-ends box office I'm sure there will be more to come.  All I can say is BRING IT ON!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Richard Burton Matheson (1926-2013)

Yesterday I heard that we lost another great writer.  Richard Matheson was a writer of over 25 novels and countless short stories.  He was a big influence in my life because I was introduced to him through the old Twilight Zone episodes.  He wrote one of my favorite novels "I am Legend" which has been made into several movies.  "Nightmare at 20,000 feet" and the episode called "Steel" were two of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes.  He was what writers needed to aspire to.  What Mr. Matheson wrote and conveyed in a 30 minute episode no one has yet to come as close to perfecting.  His writing touched you like no one elses could.  He brought humanity into his stories, and he certainly was prolific with the work he produced.

Not only did he produce great work but he influenced others such Stephen King, George Romero, and Anne Rice just to name a few.

He will be missed, and all I can say is thank you Mr. Matheson for the great work you leave behind for future generations like my boys to discover.  Thank you also for the inspiration you provided through your writings and a BIG thanks for cultivating my creativity and the creativity of others.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Filmmaking Advice from filmmakers!

Here in Philly and the surrounding area there are a group of people I admire and hope to work with some day.  They were on a panel about film making at a gaming con.  They mention some things that I think is relevant and true, so give it a listen it's worth hearing.

Friday, June 07, 2013

DSLR Filmmaking

I've been researching and looking into DSLR filmmaking.  There are many cameras to do this.  The Canon 5D is one of those films, but I wanted to look into the Nikon side of DSLR.

The below clip was shot with a Nikon D800.  I've already come to the conclusion that the Nikon d600 has too  many problems and is not good for the average filmmaker.  It has a problem with low light, aliasing, and it can only be used for 20 to 30 minutes of continuous filming.

It seems that the Nikon D800 has fixed those problems.  More on what I find out and what the D800 can do.  In the meantime here is a film that was shot with the D800.  You be the judge.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Star Trek: Into the Darkness (2013)

After seeing Star Trek Into the Darkness I have to say that the franchise seems to be in good hands.  Being a fan of the series, and the movies I was a little worried about re-vamping the franchise, but all those worries were for nothing.  The creators of the new Star Trek seem to respect and admire its past while giving us a new future.  What Star Trek is about hope.  Hope that man gets it right after all it's screw ups and that the human race does makes it to the stars and becomes a catalyst for hope in the universe.  That's the big picture of course.  What Star Trek is also about and what makes it a phenomenon is its all about relationships.  The crew of the Enterprise is like a big family and the two centered in that family is the relationship between Spock and Kirk.  It is these two characters that make the adventure of Star Trek so endearing to its fans.  In the old series William Shatner, and Leonard Nimoy were two sides of the coin.  Both trying to understand each other while showing love and respect for one another.  It is their relationship that has catapulted them into many adventures that us fans so like.  The other characters in Star Trek such as Sulu, Uhura, Scottty, Bones, and Chekov were also part of the family, and the filmmakers of the new envisioned Start Trek know that.  In fact they take it a step further and throw a few surprises in the relationship to make us more interested in our merry band of explorers.

I won't get into the plot or even say what its about.  It's best seen not knowing too much of the film.  What I will say is its a nod at the movie "Wrath of Kahn", which itself was and still is one of the best Star Trek films made.  "Wrath of Kahn" took the franchise into uncharted territory for the Star Trek franchise, while at the same time enhancing the relationship between the characters that we have grown to love. 

JJ Abrams does the same thing, and gives us a few surprises to keep it all fresh.  The acting is a joy to watch, and its all because of the casting.  Lightning seems to have been caught again in a bottle, and Abrams knows what to do.  What we are given is a true re-birth of Star Trek and what makes it so endearing to us fans.  All the actors do a great job, and you can sense their enjoyment working with each other.

I really liked what they did with the franchise, and I enjoyed the film.  I think if you're not a fan you'll enjoy the film just for the  sheer pace of the film.  It's a fast pace film with lots of chills and thrills for the moviegoer who isn't a fan of the franchise, but for us fans it a great re-boot and a fun ride.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Weekend (1967)

Okay this is my last Godard review for awhile.  Since I read the book: "Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard" I wanted to review some of his films to get a better rounded view of Godard.  First was Breathless, and now "Weekend".  Weekend is considered Godard's last film of the 60's. He would eventually come back to movie making in 1972, but till then Godard was as he said "finished with cinema".  The end of Week-end even states this in the end credits.

To tell you that it was a difficult movie to get through is an understatement.  Not that it is a bad movie.  It's far from that.  Weekend is one of Godard's darkest films, and it really reminded me of  certain other films about the end of the world, but what Godard does which other filmmakers do not is to include sociopolitical undercurrents within the story.  The film is about consumerism, and breakdown of civilization into savagery.   Our main characters Corinne (Mireille Drac) and Roland (Jean Yanne) play two characters which garner little sympathy  from its audience.  Right at the beginning we hear that these two characters are plotting each others demise with their respective lovers.  They are also plotting together to kill Corinnes's ailing father for the inheritance.  So right away we really have no vested interest in these characters.  We are just passive viewers on a journey toward the downward spiral of civilization.

Pretty heady stuff isn't it?  It's hard to follow, and at times I felt myself drifting.  But the world that Godard presents is one of utter chaos, and one that is yet poetic in nature.  The films lead characters are driven by primitive instincts.  I won't get into how Godard's political views find their way into the film, nor will I discuss the underlining meaning of the film and its characters.  For that their are other film scholars who can do a better job then I can ever do.  What I will discuss is the way the film is structured, how it looks, and how does it stand as a film.

The film is dark.  In the end our characters meet their demise, and the funny thing is that we don't really care. The film's look is interesting.  I also wanted to see "Weekend" because it was in color, and I was intersted in seeing how Godard handles it.   I found out that most of the film was shot in exteriors, and Godard increased the films speed by force processing the film.  Godard's long time cinematographer (Raoul Coutard) said, that at times he needed to put filters on the cameras to decrease the exposure because of the high  ISO they were rating the film stock at.  By doing this Godard creates a interesting color palette in the film, which gives the film that certain quality of documentary.  I believe that is what Godard wanted since he liked the intimacy and the unpredictability of the documentary form.  It's why sometimes Godard did not give his actors their lines before shooting.

I've always said that atmosphere in a movie is important.  That atmosphere in the film works, and it gives it an edge that a lot of films in it's day did not have.  I am reminded of Wim Wenders "The End of the World", and Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" looking at Godard's film.  Godard even touches on cannibalism, and it is the human condition spiraling into savagery and it's this that I come away with.

Godard while making the film seemed to be mocking the critics, and it is largely known that Godard was tired of the whole process that was film making.  That is why at the end of the film it says "the end of cinema".  There are scenes in the film that disturb.  The killing of a pig is one.  Godard handles the violence very objectively, but it is this scene that disturbs the viewer.  Throughout the film we see dead people on the road, and cars crashed and burning, but its is the scene with the pig that jolts us.  Godard's does this on purpose to get a reaction from his audience.  In an interview Godard says this about the scene:

"I think an audience will be much more shocked by the death of a pig then the death of a human being, even if it were told that it was a real human being.  One is not used to the idea of shooting animals just for a movie."

We (the audience) have no emotion of seeing all the dead human beings throughout the film lying in the road.  But when Godard injects the scene with the pig he is showing the duplicity of his audience.  You can see Godard sneering at the thought of our reaction, and that is what he wants.

So is "Weekend" a film for everyone?  Definitely NOT!!   Does it show Godard's genius?  Yes it does.  Of course for a lot of us the film may not work for them, but I don't see it that way.  Godard makes certain points in the film, and he does so by engaging his audience.  That separates Godard from other filmmakers.  He is willing to engage his audience even to the point of pissing them off.  

Godard has a lot to say and he pushes cinema further and further then most filmmakers would or dare to.  You have to appreciate that.  An artist grows only when he or she pushes his art to its limits.  Sometimes it works and othertimes it may not, but one learns and it is this that I find so compelling about Godard.  He is always learning.  Godard incessantly and broadly self-critical, and that makes Godard Godard, and an interesting filmmaker.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Iceman (2013)

So I did get a chance to see "the Iceman" starring Michael Shannon, and directed by Ariel Vromen.  The story is based on a true story about a man who was a contract killer for the mob.  But that is over simplifying the film or the subject matter.  The movie is based on the book: The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer.

The film is also based on the HBO documentary called "Conversations with a Killer". The man's name was Richard Kuklinski and he was a contract killer.  He claimed to have killed over hundred people, but some authorities say that his body count is much more since Kuklinski was also a sociopath.  I have to say that the film gives a chilling account on how he preformed the murders and how he lead a dual life as a family man and a killer.   Michael Shannon gives a wonderful performance as Kuklinski, and the movie is all on him.  But the supporting characters here also need their due.   , , ,, and an unrecognizable all give their best here.

The film isn't easy to watch, but it is Shannon's performance that makes this film, and I really like the way he looked and presented himself.  Winona Ryder performance is so good that you really do believe she loves her man so much that she does not see his imperfections.  In one scene where Kuklinski goes into a rage Ryder is convincing as the loyal wife, yet we the audience see the pent up rage that lies in Kuklinski, yet she is hopeless in love with him.  It is only at the end that she and her daughters realize what a monster Richard really is.

Now the only problem I did have with the film is the way Kuklinski is caught.  In the film and if you don't want to know I'll say that this will be a spoiler alert, so read no further if you don't want to know.

But in the end of the film Kuklinski's daughter is hurt, and somehow we find out it was done on purpose.  Now I'm not too sure about this but I don't believe that was how Kuklinski was caught.  Yes it was through an undercover cop who posed as a fellow hit man, but it was through police work and several mistakes that Kuklinski did that got him arrested.  I know the filmmakers did this to make the story more dramatic, but I really think that it would have been better to see how this cold blooded killer made mistakes because of his own delusional way of thinking instead of putting a child in jeopardy.  IT's dramatic, and it makes the point that Kuklinski gets emotional thereby making mistakes and getting arrested, but I do think it would have been much more interesting seeing how Kuklinski made his mistakes all because of his sociopathic mind.

That's my only problem with the film, and I would not have known it had I not seen the documentary on Kuklinski.  The film is well shot, and gives you that fell of the 1970's.  The film was shot in Detroit and  Shreveport Louisiana and it still looks like it was shot in the 70's in NJ.  The art work is very convincing and should be applauded.

I enjoyed the movie and really thought it was well done.  Very convincing performances by all, and a film that should have got wider distribution.  If you get a chance and you like crime drama, and true crime novels I don't think you'll be disappointed.   Also the performances are worth the admission price.