Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Psst! Fox! DC Comics! Warners! Make ‘Batman’ on DVD happen.

July 21, 2009

So last summer, to commemorate the theatrical release of The Dark Knight, I did a ten-part review series called Batmania, in which I reviewed every Batman movie, in addition to some Batman-related spinoffs. I’m not going to lie—it was fun.

The first film I reviewed, Batman: The Movie, kinda’ baffled me. I knew of the campy TV series from the 60’s, but had grown up mostly with the dark Tim Burton-esque Batman (which, compared to The Dark Knight, looks a little campy itself). But recently I watched a documentary called Holy Batmania!, which explained the cultural climate surrounding the TV show. I finally got it–Batman was campy on purpose, because in the mid-60’s, anything superhero-related was considered poison. To produce a live-action show based on a comic book, the producers felt they had to be tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing, knowing that being ludicrous was the only way to get people to watch.

So now that I understand the context better, I want the series on DVD.

But there’s a problem. The original Batman TV series is like the one thing Warner Bros., DC Comics’ sister company, doesn’t have the distribution rights to. The show was produced at 20th Century Fox, but the rights to the characters still lies with DC. It’s kinda’ complex, and you can read a better explanation of it at TVShowsOnDVD.com.

Hell froze over a couple of years ago when Disney began releasing The Muppet Show on DVD, something I thought would NEVER happen. Could Fox, Warners and DC play nice (you kinda’ did it before, with the whole Watchmen lawsuit last year) and get a significant piece of Batman and television history out on DVD before my bones turn to dust? Does anybody have any new information?

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I’m so two-dimentional.

April 12, 2009

Since the new digital 3-D technology emerged a few years ago, I’ve seen the following films in 3-D: Monster House, Nightmare Before Christmas, Meet the Robinsons, U23D, Coraline, Madea Goes to Jail (just kidding), and, most recently, Monsters vs. Aliens.  I think it’s fair to say that I’ve become somewhat familiar with this new way to see movies.  And now I’ve made up my mind: I don’t really like it.

Granted, the technology is better than the old school 3-D technology (2003’s Spy Kids 3-D gave me a migrane).  If you haven’t been to a digital 3-D movie yet, you’ll notice the glasses are different.  Gone are the red and blue lenses.  Other glasses–like the ones used in some IMAX theaters, require you to look directly at the screen without tilting your head.  If you move your noggin ever so slightly, the image goes all skiwampis and gives you a headache.  The glasses used for digital 3-D films allow you to lean, tilt and jostle your head to your heart’s content.

But if you ask me, that’s the only plus about these new 3-D movies.  Here are my beefs with them:

1) They cost more to see. If you have a hard time coping with the ever-increasing cost of seeing a movie in a first-run theater, you’ll have a full-blown conniption when you find out you’ll have to pay an extra two to three dollars for seeing a 3-D feature.  Outside the auditorium you’ll see bins with signs on them politely asking you to recycle your 3-D glasses when the show is over.  You know what I say to that?  HELL NO!  If I’m going to pay extra money to see a 3-D feature, you can bet your sweet bippie that I’m keeping the specs.  (I use them as props when I perform improv comedy.)

2) Your eyes adjust after five minutes.  After the initial ooh-ahh-ing of seeing images in 3-D, your eyes get used to the images.  So basically you pay more money to forget you’re seeing a movie in 3-D.

3) Everybody’s doing it.  Jim Cameron, director of Titanic, is working away on his new film, Avatar, which apparently will be meant to be seen in 3-D.  Steven Spielberg is shooting Tintin using the technology.  And Disney recently announced that Toy Story 1 and 2 will be re-released as a double feature this fall in–you guessed it–3-D.  Also expect Beauty and the Beast to return to theaters in 3-D as well.  Jeffrey Katzenberg, head of DreamWorks Animation, even said (and I quote): “Someday, people will buy their own movie glasses, which they’ll take to the movies–like people have their own tennis rackets.” (You can read about Cameron, Spielberg and Katzenberg’s enthusiasm for 3-D right here.)

Whaaaat?  Is he serious?  Do you really want to see Julia Robert’s latest romantic comedy or a low-budget indie in 3-D?  I most certainly don’t.

I feel about this 3-D renaissance the way I do about Disney’s attitude towards traditional hand-drawn animation in the early 2000’s.  They felt that computer animation was the wave of the future, and abandoned any plans for good ol’ fashioned, this-is-what-we’ve-done-for-generations animated features.  But they completely missed the point.  Good storytelling and character development should be every filmmaker’s goal, not technology that lets you do good stuff.  While all of Pixar’s films are computer animated, they would all be just as good if they were hand-drawn.  (Thank goodness that John Lasseter–Pixar’s head honcho who now oversees all of Disney’s animation–has enough sense to bring back the medium, with The Princess and the Frog.)

I feel the same way about the new 3-D movies.  Filmmakers are getting caught up in the technology that they are forgetting to make a good movie (cough–Monsters vs. Aliens–cough).  Let’s hope that Avatar and Tintin are good movies in their own right, instead of gimmicky spectacles without much substance.

So to all the upcoming 3-D movies like Ice Age 3, A Christmas Carol, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and every subsequent Pixar and DreamWorks Animation feature: simply be a good movie.  I’ll see you first in a regular, 2-D presentation, and then if I like you so much that I want to experience you in 3-D, I’ll gladly fork over the extra money and add another pair of glasses to my growing collection.

My new guilty pleasure is ‘Incredible.’

August 20, 2008

So The Incredible Hulk has become my new favorite movie. It’s a guilty pleasure, but not in the sense that the film is so bad it’s good (like how I feel about the first Alien vs. Predator). While the film will never be mistaken for Best Movie Ever, it wasn’t boring like the 2003 original and walked away with pretty good reviews overall (RottenTomatoes.com has its freshness at 67%–not bad for a remake/sequel that no one was clamoring for). Still, everybody (including me) knows that The Dark Knight and Iron Man are better films. But Incredible Hulk has become my new favorite, even though there are candidates with better qualifications who deserve the coveted spot. I feel guilty in the sense that I’ve let something not completely deserving of my cinematic affection get the best of me.

I’m not even a Hulk fan. I can count on two fingers the Hulk comics I read as a kid. I never watched the 70’s TV show. I always thought he was kind of a boring character. So why has The Incredible Hulk won me over?

I think I like Incredible Hulk for a variety of reasons.

It has great pacing. How Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) becomes the Hulk is explained in the opening credits. This isn’t an origin story where we have to wait until halfway through the movie to get to the good stuff. The good stuff is already here. (I’m not saying that Iron Man and Batman Begins aren’t entertaining because they take their time building up to when the main character becomes the hero. I’m simply saying that the IH filmmakers keep things moving from the get go.)

It’s filled with ridiculous science jibba-jabba. Biological experiments! Gamma radiation! Crazy dialysis! I find all the science-y stuff in this film highly amusing. It’s not grounded in reality by any stretch of the imagination, but it seems like so much fun. Any world where LIv Tyler is a biology professor is fine by me.

Edward Norton is great as Bruce Banner. He’s such a tiny little dude, skinny and kinda’ frail, that the dichotomy of him turning into a big green monster (albeit a CG one) works for me. I’ve never been a big Ed Norton fan, but in this film I find him just as believable as Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne or Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark. (Sorry Brandon Routh. Your Clark Kent was pretty weak.) Banner’s yearning to be with his girl is the real dramatic pull in this film, and even when they finally reunite, a happy ending is nowhere in sight.

At the end of the day, I love watching things destroy stuff. This year I’ve seen my fair share of quiet, heartfelt films with dramatic heft (Bella, Under the Same Moon, Sweetland), and I’ve liked them all. But I love, love, love watching stuff get blown up, torn apart and smashed into bits. Needless to say, Incredible Hulk delivers.

It’s pure escapism. Watching Incredible Hulk means giving myself permission to not have to think about all the things going on in my life. I’ve got a full plate (hence the more sporadic postings than in previous months), and at times I feel a little overwhelmed with my responsibilities. I’m glad I can spend two hours without worrying about deadlines and homework.

The film has plot holes and at times feels like important things were cut out to keep the film at a decent running time. But I don’t care. Dark Knight may be the best movie I’ve seen this year, but Incredible Hulk is the most fun I’ve had at the movies of late. (Yes, I know in my review of Incredible Hulk I said that Iron Man had the edge in terms of fun-ness. I have since changed my mind.)

I’ve shared my guilty pleasure; what’s yours?

Best. Trailers. Ever.

August 6, 2008

I often express my frustration with trailers. It’s not that the trailer itself sucks, it’s that sometimes after I see the advertised film I realize that the best parts were in the trailer. I feel let down.

I don’t blame the people who make trailers. Their job is to get people excited about the movie. And I’ll admit that in my career in film marketing I have on more than one occasion made a movie seem more awesome than it really is. (But in my defense, sometimes I didn’t have much to work with. Ah, independent film.)

So what, you may ask, do I think is a good trailer? Here are five examples in no particular order. (Keep in mind that my love for these trailers may not correlate with my love for the actual film.)

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This is a FANTASTIC trailer! In three minutes, you know everything you need to know. We are introduced to the main characters (and the important supporting ones) and we know the setup. I wish more films took this approach to marketing their films.

STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This trailer was released Thanksgiving 1998. Anticipation was high for the first Star Wars film in 16 years and…well, at least the trailer is good. It invokes a sense of wonder like the original Star Wars film did: what you’re seeing in something new and exciting. We also didn’t know who or what Jar Jar Binks was. Ignorance was bliss.

CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE

This is one of those trailers that is really cool because all the shots work so well for a trailer but don’t necessarily work in the finished product (because they seem to be made for a trailer). It’s loud and fun and has LOTS of edits. This trailer probably took three years off the editor’s life.

THE INCREDIBLES

This teaser was shown in front of Finding Nemo. It sets up the premise–superhero back in action–so simply. It’s funny and accurately sells the movie even though none of this footage ended up in the actual film.

COMEDIAN

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant!

Musings on ‘The Dark Knight’

August 4, 2008

So I saw The Dark Knight again, which brings my tally to three.  What a great movie.  I’ve had some thoughts regarding the film, which I’d like to share.

1. I’m happy that The Dark Knight has crossed the $400 million box office mark in record time.  I’ve always been a DC kid, so the fact that the biggest movie of the year was not a Marvel film makes me smile.  Iron Man was fun, Incredible Hulk was good, but Batman–the best superhero of them all–still kicks butt.  The Dark Knight is the perfect marriage of quality and cross-promotion; it’s a hugely commercial piece that doesn’t insult audiences’ intelligence.  (In fact, it wasn’t until the second viewing that I fully understood the plot.)

2. If the powers that be feel the Joker should return for the third film, Johnny Depp should play him.  Who else has the chops, credibility and fan base to take on such an iconic character?  Depp can play any type of character, be it Ed Wood (cross-dressing D-list director!), Jack Sparrow (fey swashbuckler!), Willy Wonka (creepy chocolatier!) or Sweeney Todd (homicidal barber!).  He could make the Joker his own without having to impersonate Heath Ledger.  And people would come see him, either out of curiosity (how’s he going to pull of the Joker?) and/or loyalty (I’ll see him in anything!)  

3. I’d love to see the Riddler as the next villain.  A lot of Batman’s enemies wouldn’t be that believable in Christopher Nolan’s Gotham City.  The Penquin?  No way.  Poison Ivy?  Uh-uh.  Bane?  Yeah, maybe.  Catwoman?  Possibly, although the cats-ressurrect-lonely-cat-loving-spinster-who’s-actually-really-hot mythology used in Batman Returns and the dreadful Halle Berry movie would have to go.  Riddler seems like the only fully plausible villain.

4. I hope Robin never EVER shows up in subsequent films.  I’ve always had a hard time with Robin.  It’s creepy that a single billionaire like Bruce Wayne would live with a kid.  It’s also not very sensical to have Batman fight crime with a kid sidekick, especially in Nolan’s ultraviolent Gotham.  And why the hell is his name Robin?  

I’m done.

7 movies coming to a theater near you. But not too near.

June 11, 2008

Part of why I started this blog was to let my readers find out about movies they probably wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. (If you want information about movies you’ve already heard of, go somewhere else.)

That’s not to say I don’t/won’t see the big blockbusters, and that’s not to say I won’t review them here. But it’s always the little films that need good word of mouth that tend to restore my faith in movies. This summer, there are a lot movies that may never make it to your suburban multiplex (and, sadly, with gas prices what they are, a trip to the art house may not be feasible). But keep your eyes open. Sometimes these types of films play in a theater near you, usually for a week because they aren’t well advertised. (In my neck of the woods, a second-run “dollar” house picks up a lot of the films that never make it to the first run theaters. It’s nice to see a movie that wouldn’t normally come to my town, although the $1.50 admission–75 cents on Tuesdays–is an indicator of the quality of the movie-going experience at that theater.)

So here, in no particular order, are seven smaller films that may or may not make it to you this summer:

1. Young @ Heart

A documentary about old people singing. The initial premise sounds boring, yes, but they sing Coldplay!

2. Bigger, Faster, Stronger

Take a look at that dude’s arms. They literally look like Popeye’s! This looks crazy good.

3. Mongol

Foreign language film about Genghis Khan. Apparently it’s the first in a proposed trilogy!

4. The Visitor

A drama about a widowed college professor who finds out illegal aliens are living in his New York apartment. But instead of reporting them to the police, he lets them stay.

5. When Did You Last See Your Father?

Colin Firth and Jim Broadbent in a drama about the dynamics of the father-son relationship.

6. My Blueberry Nights

Norah Jones’s acting debut that also stars Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz and Jude Law. Reviews have been kind of tepid for this one, but I’d still like to see it.

7. American Teen

A documentary that’s being hailed as a real-life Breakfast Club. It might be painful to relive those awkward high school years, but it can’t be any worse than my awkward college years or awkward young adult years.

So there you have it–seven movies I probably won’t see in the theater (but not by choice). Expect upcoming “Netflix This” reviews to come from this list.

It’s not easy being green

June 2, 2008

Okay, so I’m on the fence about “The Incredible Hulk.” Yes, I love super hero movies (correction: I love the idea of super hero movies–Elektra, anyone?), and yes, I thoroughly enjoyed Marvel Studios’ first summer entry, Iron Man, but I’m not sure if I’m up for another Hulk movie.

Ang Lee directed the first Hulk movie, which seemed like a good idea at the time. Lee’s film was dark, brooding, choking on its own angst. Oh yeah, and it was BORING. It opened fairly strong (about $60 million) but then plummeted at the box office once the negative word of mouth got out.

Which makes me wonder why Marvel went ahead with another Hulk film. Apparently after the first movie bombed Marvel got the rights back to the character (it had sold rights to its most popular characters to various studios: Spider-Man and Ghost Rider to Sony, X-Men and Fantastic Four to Fox. Which means we’ll probably never see a Spider-Man/X-Men team-up movie. Fight back the tears). After a string of unbelievably crappy movies (Daredevil, Spider-Man 3, X-Men 3, Blade 3, Fantastic Four 2, the aforementioned Elektra), Marvel wanted more control over the properties it completely owns.

Which worked really well for Iron Man. Robert Downey, Jr was perfectly cast, the direction by Jon Favreau was slick and tight, and the film itself was highly entertaining. (If you haven’t seen Iron Man yet, I highly recommend it!) But will lightning strike twice?

If scientific hearsay has taught me anything, it’s that lightning doesn’t strike twice. But I could be wrong.

Here’s what the new Incredible Hulk movie has going for it and, for that matter, against it.

They completely recast for the second film. Gone are Eric Bana and Jennifer Connely (who, in their defense, were adequate in the first film, but aren’t really name actors). In are Edward Norton and Liv Tyler, which kind of seems like sixes to me. Sure, Downey never starred in a summer blockbuster but pulled it off in Iron Man, so it could work for Norton. But I’m betting on scientific hearsay.

The film is directed by the guy who made the Transporter films. The film is guaranteed to be less boring the first, but it is the guy who directed the Transporter video ga–I mean, films.

I’m also a little confused as to whether this film is a sequel or if they’re starting from scratch. And I think the trailer tells way too much. And it could turn out to be like Indiana Jones and the Disappointed Audience, where you think, if this is what they put in the trailer, just imagine what they left out!

Apparently Marvel is laying the groundwork for an Avengers movie in 2011. (The Avengers are Marvel’s equivalent to DC’s Justice League.) Rumor has it that Downey has a cameo in the new Hulk movie, and that there may be further cross-pollination of characters between upcoming films (Iron Man 2 and Thor in 2010, Captain America in 2011). Meh. If future movies suck, it won’t matter.