Sunday, May 31, 2009

3-Duh

This is an open-ended conversation about 3-D, its efficacy, and its future.

This is Ebert simultaneously praising one technique while reducing another to gimmick status.

He seems to think there is no difference between being distracted by the gimmick of 3-D and being distracted by watching a movie on a screen twelve times the size of a normal one. I have yet to see a feature film on a real IMAX screen, but I'm guessing I'll be aware of its scope just as I was aware very briefly that Coraline was in 3-D. Here's the thing, though: I quickly forgot that Coraline was in 3-D and found myself swiftly accepting the look and feel of the world. It's the most beautiful balance of 3-D and storytelling I've ever seen, to the point where when you do sit up and notice the 3-D again, it's actually kind of a heady thrill, not a cheap distraction. I look forward to seeing Up, tomorrow.

I'm compelled by Ebert's decade-long dissertation on the brilliance of MaxiVision vs. cheaper celluloid and the conversion to digital. I would love to witness this fabled process in action. I'm also with him on the need to run projectors at their brightest settings.

For all that, there's a part of me that thinks the "purity" of the image should not always be a sacrosanct concept. When I was twelve, my brother made dubbed copies of movies he'd taped off HBO and Showtime, including Aliens, Poltergeist, Flatliners, Hellraiser, The Lost Boys, etc. My copy of Ghostbusters and The Neverending Story that my sister made me was also dubbed. These copies were grainy and pan-and-scanned, and they wore out over the years. To this day, that imperfection, that graininess, toyed with my imagination. Of course, movies are artifice. We want a world made differently than the one we're in, sometimes.

It's ok if kids notice the effects in Coraline. Why shouldn't kids learn at some point to be aware of technique, just a little? I don't think every movie should be 3-D, but I do enjoy it when it's done well, just as I enjoy anything that's done well. Where Monsters vs. Aliens was gimmicky 3-D, Coraline was boundary-pushing 3-D, a fantastic utilization of a technique producing a model-box nightmare come-alive. If it seemed to be lit a little darker than a normal movie, that still served its purpose.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Human Condition No Longer Applies To Your Franchise

When McG signed on to direct Salvation, he knew that hardcore fans of the franchise would cry sacrilege. So he decided that he needed the Godfather's blessing. He went down to the set of James Cameron's Avatar, hoping to get a benediction (or at least some advice) from the man who created T1 and T2. But he walked away empty-handed. ''Cameron was very cordial, but he didn't give me his blessing,'' says McG. ''He did tell me, 'I know how you feel. When I directed Aliens, I was following Alien and the mighty Ridley Scott, and people thought, 'Who is this James Cameron? All he's made is Piranha 2!'''

A wide smile spreads across McG's face when he says this. He's not the subtlest guy in the world, and you can tell that he just wants to come right out and say it: Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is his Piranha 2 and Terminator Salvation will be his Aliens.


-Entertainment Weekly.

That last bit seems to overlook that Cameron followed Piranha 2 with The Terminator, a film made with a small fraction of the Charlie's Angels franchise's budget, but never mind. It's fun to let McG speak for himself. More telling, really, is that the T4 screenplay is by the writers of Catwoman. There was clearly very little Jonathan Nolan could do to fix that, and the mind boggles at trying to pinpoint which scenes or themes he has inserted.

Paul Haggis, Nolan, and other screenwriters reportedly jumped in on a draft of Terminator Salvation (Skynet, apparently, has grammatically terminated the colon). The result is still a formless mass, bereft of dramatic action, free of incident, while being needlessly reflexive of James Cameron's films (T2 and Aliens) and also some boring thunderdome-less Beyond Thunderdome.

That's not to say this is really all that much of a letdown, since this series was dead by the end of T2, or, technically, by the end of the needless T3. The point after which your protagonists have at last failed to stop nuclear destruction is when it's hardest for me to care very much about the fate of John Connor (knowing full well that Kyle Reese will be fine until 1984).

In fact, I care very little about John Connor in general, though I suppose when I was a kid I viewed my T-800 guardian quite happily through the eyes of my on-screen Edward Furlong-surrogate. That was then, though, and it's a curious devolution of these films that they would so casually forget what made them appealing in the first place, their erstwhile protagonist, Sarah Connor. The Alien series remembered its female protagonist ass-kicker until the AvP films, deeming it necessary to clone her back from the dead (while giving her nothing much to do).

Sarah Connor dispatches the first Terminator (with some help from Kyle Reese). In T2, she's buff, deadly, and ruthless about her mission. James Cameron was really very good at creating female warriors. That's no small ingredient to the success of these franchises.

Absent that (and some perfunctory inclusion of a sassy female ass-kicker), the one moment of recognition between Connor and the young Kyle Reese (making the film both sequel and prequel), was effectively built into the premise by Cameron twenty-five years ago.

Either write these films, or don't make 'em. If you get to the point where you need Paul Haggis to save you from screenwriter barnacles latched upon your franchise, you've made the wrong fate for yourself.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Three Non-Stories

1) Obama at Notre Dame controversy: There were anti-war protests wherever George W. Bush went. You cannot, however, be truly pro-life and also support war-starting presidents. On the one hand, you have W., invading nations and overseeing the deaths of thousands, on the other, you have a president not personally responsible for a single abortion that has been carried out since Roe v. Wade. Abortion was legal under Bush, right? Either way, it's not a story. People are allowed to protest, and this has not served to "reignite" the debate. The debate's pretty well ignited.

2) Hate crimes legislation: I don't know what position to take on this, but I do know it's a non-story, in that it probably won't end up protecting a single homosexual. I'm more concerned with our basic human rights being covered by the law than I am with this getting passed. Good thing I didn't learn Arabic and decide to join the army. On the other hand, even though I don't believe in criminalizing our thoughts and motivations, I'm tempted to applaud a temporary edict against terrorizing your fellow Americans based on skin-deep differences. Still, carrying out this law will prove problematic, most likely requiring large cultural support. We're gaining ground. The real story is in the marriage and equality fights.

3)Swine-flu: Biggest non-story in years. To the lady at the bookstore who told me I should wash my hands after every single act: I sure hope your weakened immuno-response doesn't get your dumb-ass killed when you come down with regular flu.

Bonus: I'm not going to berate Republicans for being "the party of no". I'd prefer they be a reasonable and informed opposition, but that's a pipe-dream. Suffice it to say though, I'd have preferred it if the Democrats had been an actual opposition party of some kind over the past eight years. There's plenty to berate Republicans for. Berating them for being in opposition to us is intellectually dishonest.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I'm Slightly Hungover and Cranky

and this makes me feel better:



Update:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

To Boldly Whoa

In case you haven't heard, Star Trek, Abramized for your viewing pleasure, is just flawlessly fun. It's the sleekest summer entertainment in years, and stands visor and insignia above the last handful of the franchise's installments.

If you haven't seen it (based on anti-geek prejudices) or somehow haven't heard the buzz, get ye into a proper seat, avoid false IMAXes, and get ready to smile. ('Course, by now you probably have seen it)

One thing I have to ardently disagree with is that the film "reboots" the series. Not true. Yes, it's a new take, but so was The Next Generation, and their film also included a crossover between two casts. This is a full-blooded Star Trek movie. We could have a whole new generation of Star Trek shows and fans, and the best part of it all is the high concentration of love for and recognition of the original series, in the new film.

Many shows of our era, certainly any that hinge upon a group of professionals, bonded in mutual respect and love for each other, owe much to Star Trek. Sorkin's work would've been unthinkable without it.

Weird to be saying this, but Abrams and his crew put this into context for me: Our era needs Star Trek, needs it done right, and needs it completely showing off its true, whole heart. Deep down, it's always been less about starships, pseudo-science and space battles, and more about friendship and discovery. Any Star Trek entry that sidestepped that has done so to its detriment.

We've got it now, though. And the next movie stands a chance of being truly, memorably great.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Ear Tasties

ANIMAL COLLECTIVE "MY GIRLS" HD from KNOWMORE on Vimeo.



More psychedelia:

2009 Borderline from George Salisbury on Vimeo.

Get To It

Visit msnbc.com for Knobs, Outrage, and TITS!



You ain't Bill Clinton. You're better. Fix this.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Drinking To Forget

He is about 175 years old, he apparently stopped changing when he reached Hugh Jackman's age, and neither he, nor we, find out how he developed such an interesting mutation.

-Ebert

The rest of his review is about like that. Ebert completely rejects Wolverine as a character. More to the point, his heart and mind apparently can't comprehend the X-Men. Mutants are simply mutants. We don't concern ourselves with the how and why. Their powers are revealed to them through the course of puberty. Our curiosity was not that he had claws, but that they were made of adamantium.

In any case, Wolverine is best left alone. He winds up joining the X-Men in the midst of a multiple-year amnesia bender, unaware of how he got his shiny new bones. Why anyone ever wanted to spoil that wonderful premise with an explanation, I could never figure out. Thankfully, you won't remember much of Gavin Hood's sloppy follow-up to X3, since the final act works as its own adamantium bullet to your brain.

The various bits of angst levelled at Wolverine, in direct conflict with those 13 year-olds and 13 year-olds-at-heart who seemed to genuinely enjoy the flick, are not feelings I'm able to match. It's a better film than, oh, Fantastic Four 1 & 2, Ghostrider, X-3, Spider-Man 3, Daredevil, Elektra, etc. Spider-Man 1 & 2, X-Men 1 & 2, Iron Man and The Hulk, were all, well, quite good movies. The badness of some of the other Marvel properties only underlines that.

Should Wolverine have been better? My God, yes. Still, I'm not angry, but I look forward to Holly's review. Her reaction snapped me out of a complacent stupor.

Because, folks, much of the movie is pretty bad. I got through it rolling my eyes here and there, but, not expecting much to begin with, had what fun I could.

The bad: There is dialogue and incident that resorts at every possible turn to cliche. There are many moments you will see coming from eight plot points away. For all of Ebert's fawning over Gavin Hood's previous flicks, Hood's other work is no less maudlin. Hood peppers this film with half-sketched themes of imperialism and social injustice. The script he's relying on doesn't really justify his exploration of those issues, but perhaps we can be thankful a Wolverine flick doesn't become Tsotsi with claws.

If you're expecting darkness akin to the new Batman series or the kind of humor we saw in previous X-Men or Spider-Man movies (pre third installments), get ready to be disappointed. Wolverine is portentous when it should be light and corny when it should be earnest. It wastes Gambit, and completely ruins our expectations for Deadpool. Perhaps there hasn't been enough distance between this and the previous X-Men film. A complete reboot was probably our only hope, and by that point Hugh Jackman would've aged more noticeably than Wolverine ever would.

There is good in the film, though: Will i Am has his moments. Dominic Monaghan has a nice, brief bit of screen time as an electricity manipulator. Ryan Reynolds is more enjoyable than I've ever seen him as the mutant who becomes Deadpool. Danny Huston is more reliable than the movie deserves. Some of the action scenes are fun, financial-cut-corners and cheap special effects notwithstanding.

Then there's Liev Schreiber, furious, fearsome and engaging, the whole way through. His Sabretooth is the one durable character in the film. I wanted more of him, par for the course with Schreiber characters. Jackman is fine, but he's given too much camp and too little gravitas to inhabit here. Too bad, but again, why did we even need this movie?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Irony? Lost on Conservatives?

I was about to voice my wariness of Olbermann shedding light on this development, until I remembered he's blocked in most conservative households.