Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 10 Films of 2011

2011, much like last year, was very tame and not all too exciting. Like every year, there’s disappointments, and there’s pleasant surprises. Was Super 8 as good as I hoped it was? No. Was Shark Night 3D the stupid fun I hoped it was? No, it was a boring turd. Does a GOOD Captain America film exist now? Yeah! Is it possible for a GOOD horror film after 1995 to exist? Yes! I didn’t think I could even compile a list of 10 for 2011, but once I really thought about it, it was feasible.

1. The Beaver

The Beaver is one of those films where I don’t think could work without the talent involved. And by talent, I mean, Mel Gibson. Don’t get me wrong, Jodie Foster did a great job, in terms of direction. It’s just that Gibson steals each and every scene. And really invested himself into the role. Though, many would say it didn’t take a whole lot for him to portray an insane schizophrenic. I am one of those people. Let’s face it. No one does crazy like Mel. THE BEAVER REVIEW

2. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Here’s a film that was EXACTLY what I wanted, and delivered on the level that I wanted it to. The Beaver exceeded my expectations. But it wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be (and that’s partially due to the original score [hey, music can alter a film drastically]). Not saying I didn’t love the score. It’s just that it really altered what I was expecting. With M:I 4, it delivered exactly what I expected. A sleek, high-octane, stunt-spectacular train of a film. Once it starts, it never lets up, and I couldn’t ask for more. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL REVIEW

3.The Muppets

Here’s one of the many films that really surprised me! For a franchise that has laid dormant for over a decade, they delivered one helluva film. There is so much to love about The Muppets. The characters, the jokes, the music, the zaniness, everything! First of all, the film is self-aware of the declined interest in the franchise. It pretty much serves a “Blues-Brothers-getting-the-band-back-together” entry into the franchise. And I have absolutely no problem with that. And make no mistake, this is not a “kids movie”. Yes, it’s for kids, but its for adults too. It’s the quintessential family film. And to be a family film, you have to have jokes and themes for everyone. For instance, in the film, there’s a character called “80’s Robot”. His job is to pretty much make the teens and adults laugh. From references to montages to dial-up internet connections. That’s all stuff that goes over the head of a 10, 11, or 12 year-old. And then there’s of course corny jokes for the kids that still makes you laugh. It all works. Maybe the only thing hurting the film is it’s run-time? But that would be my only gripe if I had to have one. And I don’t have to have one. So, rather than me back-spacing, just forget I typed that.

4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Unlike most “remakes” (I quote that for a reason, but Ill get to that in a second), I have usually seen the original first. That is not the case with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. And I kind of wanted it that way. Look, it’s David Fincher. And unlike many directors working today, his worst is usually better than most director’s best. But with his adaptation of Dragon Tattoo, I knew he was going to work closer from the book than the original Swedish film. And that leads me back to the whole argument as to whether or not it’s a remake. For me, if you make a film based off of an original movie, THAT is a remake. But if you make a film derived directly from the source material (I.E. novel), then that is simply just another adaptation. And having finally watched the Swedish version, I can honestly say I like Fincher’s adaptation more. I think his film is a darker, colder and a better photographed film. Many people have been complaining about it not having enough personal touches. But I disagree. It doesn’t require any personal touches. This isn’t a complicated love story. It’s an eerie murder mystery with a dash of romance. And the amount of human emotion thrown into the film is enough. Enough to actually give two fucks about the two main characters, but not to the point where it gets sappy.

And like I said, this film is shot beautifully. Some scenes make you feel cold, some scenes give you the creeps, and some are just downright raw. And a lot of that is due to the colors and camera placement. If you’re reading this, you probably already know there is a rape scene. And while many directors would have the camera shaking to build on the tension already happening, Fincher knows when a scene’s content is enough to make you feel uncomfortable.

5. Puss In Boots

Okay, Im a cat person. And I know I’m destined to grow up to be a crazy cat lady. And that might be 50% of the reason why I love Puss In Boots. The other 50%?... Well, more cat jokes. So I guess in actuality, this film is humor for the clinically insane. Dreamworks makes films for the clinically insane. That’s my review. And the 3D was fantastic. Fantastic 3D for the clinically insane.

6. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Michael Bay. Robots. Robot-dick-punches. ‘Splosions. I think Ive got that covered HERE and HERE.

7. Rango

Rango is one of those films that is disguised as a “kids film”, but is really for adults. Really, this film is basically Chinatown. But replace Jack Nicholson with a lizard with a Hawaiian t-shirt. This is, I think maybe the best animated film of the year. Even though I think Puss In Boots might be better, the ANIMATION in this is incredible. This is ILM’s first foray into 100% CG-animation. And honestly, it looks better than Pixar. The direction Gore Verbinski went with this was great. When I say the animation looks real, I mean it looks photo-realistic. The designs of the characters are outrageous, yes, but the rendering of the textures look so damn real. But I wouldn’t expect less from Verbinski. Ive watched all the Pirates making-of doc’s, and he’s a hard ass when it comes to CG. And more directors need to be that way. But then again, not all directors were visual FX artists prior to directing.

8. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

You know, it’s surprises like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark that restore my faith in horror for 3.6 seconds. I expected NOTHING from this film. But once I watched it, I was pleased to find out that it wasn’t a heaping pile of shit. It played like a classic gothic haunted house story. Except instead of ghosts, they’re disgusting rat-like asshole… Things. I know this is a remake of the 1970’s made-for-TV-movie (which I hear is damn good), but this one worked. It didn’t try to modernize the film too much. Enough to simply take place today. No distracting references to Facebook or any of that horse shit that is commonly popular in horror today. It just plays as a straight “what-goes-bump-in-the-dark” horror film. The creature designs are fucking creepy, the story is pretty interesting, and the score wasn’t too bad either. Had I been anticipating the film, I probably wouldn’t have been impressed with the film too much. But that’s what happens when you go into a film with no expectations.

9. Captain America: The First Avenger

Who would have thought Captain America would have actually been… Cool? Certainly not I. Im sorry, I always found the character to be incredibly corny. Even his name is ultra-hokey. But what Joe Johnston managed to do with the character worked, and because of that, the film exceeded my expectations. Joe Johnston is one of those directors I can respect because of his accolades. This guy has worked on Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I don’t know about you (nor do I care), but I could die happy having just been apart of those films. But Johnston has never been a very good DIRECTOR. Honey, I Shrunk The Kids was a fun film as a kid, Jurassic Park III was a mess, and The Wolfman… Well, I hear it was pretty much a dud. But with Captain America, he actually made a good film! And Im happy, because I knew he had it in him.

He managed to take a character I dislike, and make me like him. But I do have to say, there is one particular element that he injected into the film that was an easy “they’ll love this!”. And that’s Indiana Jones. Johnston doesn’t necessarily make makes nods to the Indy films, as much as he uses the overall tone in his film. And much like most superhero films, the villain in 50%. The Red Skull was awesome. I want to set the record straight. I HATE NAZIS, I think they’re scum, and simple-minded sub-humans. BUT… You throw an S.S. uniform on anybody, they instantly look badass. The contrast of The Red Skull’s… Red skull, and his black leather S.S. uniform? You really cannot fucking beat it.

Is Captain America an amazing film? I don’t think so. But it definitely showcases Johnston’s ability to direct. Give him enough preparation time, a decent budget, faith, and artistic freedom… And you have a solid film.

10. Drive

Everyone loves The Big Lebowski, correct? Correct. Everyone is sick of hearing hipsters brag about their “The Dude Abides” shirts and their “Dude” sweaters, right? I know I am. Yes, I own a couple Lebowski shirts, and I really don’t get the urge to wear them too often because of the frameless hipster ass wipes. But I will not let them ruin the film for me. Because if they do, the terrorists win. The same will go for Drive.

Drive is a film that has already become a “cult classic”. I really enjoyed Drive (hence, why it’s on this fucking list). But I see people already wearing that white jacket with the yellow scorpion on the back. The same people incidentally have frameless glasses. Hmmm…

Drive really is a good film, and doesn’t deserve to be ruined via hipsters. The film is very simple and very minimalistic. It replaces action for contained ultra-violence, and has a sick sense of humor. I was really surprised at the level of ultra-violence there was. A scene would play, you’d sense “Oh, maybe this girl is going to die”. Okay, shot in the chest, scene over. Nope. Let’s have a shotgun headshot in slow-motion. You know, just so you can take in all the blood, brain & skull fragments at a slower rate. Is that anything new? No. I just thought it was rad because it wasn’t expected. I wasn’t expecting ultra-violence. Drive has a cool score, some damn good acting, and some awesome car chases.

And that was 2011 for me. That’s not to say there weren’t any other films I enjoyed. I thought The Skin I Live In was a bizarre and unique film. The Adventures of Tin Tin was enjoyable. Great animation, fun inebriated humor, and another Indiana Jones-esque film. Hugo was really good. Excellent film-making, great performances, the 3D was incredible, and what else? Oh! That’s right! It’s Martin Scorsese. So I guess the list would be shorter if I listed what DIDN’T work with Hugo. Cowboys & Aliens was a fun western/sci-fi fusion. X-Men: First Class and Rise of the Planet of the Apes were surprisingly good. And aside from the aforementioned films, most films were either A) a disappointment (Super 8) or B) Just irredeemable shit (Conan).

2012, please don’t let me down. Id like The Expendables 2, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, The Avengers, and Bullet To The Head not to suck.
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Monday, December 19, 2011

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

I’ll put it out there. Im not the biggest Mission: Impossible fan. I’v never caught an episode of the original television series. But I have seen all 3 films. But by the end of it, it’s a fairly decent action franchise. The first was okay. The second was a mess. And the third? Well, Id say the third was the best… Until now.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol manages to take the best aspects of its 3 predecessors, and even build on them. But what it doesn’t do, is it doesn’t depend on them, as many sequels tend to do. A hint here, a nod there, a reference over there. That isn’t to say it doesn’t bring back a couple characters, but it certainly does not rely on them.

First off, I want to address the director, Brad Bird. This is his first live action film. But that isn’t to say it’s his first film. Most people would know Bird from his animated films The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouillie. But what he does with M:I:4, I wonder… Why has Hollywood been hiding this guy behind a computer screen for all these years? Seriously, this his is freshman live action film, and it feels like a seasoned veteran directed this. And Im not even speaking in terms of the action in the film. Im talking the pacing, the humor, and hell, even the IMAX format.

You would think that you would be content with shooting in 35MM for your first live action film, test it out, then graduate to the fancier formats (3D, IMAX, etc.). Nope. Brad Bird managed to create an EXPERIENCE, and not just the fourth entry in an action franchise.

The film opens with Ethan Hunt in a Russian prison. Okay, this should be interesting. Obviously, the objective is to escape. What's he in there for? You find that out later. All that matters at this point is the “how”. How is Ethan Hunt going to get out of this mess? Well with the help of his team members at the IMF. Basically, it’s a very strong opening. All the jail cells are opened, Russian convicts litter the halls, destroy prison guards, its just chaos. So as Hunt is trying to escape, he has to fend off not only prison guards, but the inmates as well. And the use of music works really well too. The Dean Martin song "Ain't That A Kick In The Head" playing over the loud-speakers. So not only is the action great, the choice of song is great. What else is thrown into the mix? Successful humor. Humor isn’t always successful in action films. In fact, it’s usually terrible. EVERYTHING works in this film.

The basic gist of the film is this: Ethan Hunt and his team are given another mission by the IMF. The mission? To track down the Russians who possess the launch codes to nuclear missiles. The catch is, they’re the only 4 left of the IMF. So… No back up. That is what makes this mission a little heavier. And I know what you’re thinking, “That plot seems a little thin”. Well here’s the thing, like with any espionage/spy film, there are always more twists and turns and subplots. And with a lot of espionage/action films, too much usually gets in the way. If you have a film that is predominately a spy/thriller/drama, the action can sometimes get in the way of the actual story. And if you have a film predominately action, complexity of story can sometimes get in the way of the action. Action doesn’t always have to be dumb, but it doesn’t always have to be “calculus-smart” either.

The action/story in M:I:4 is, in my opinion, perfect. There was nothing in terms of story that had me scratching my head saying, “Really? That’s all there is to it?”. It just suites the action perfect. Because in the end, the M:I films are ACTION films. M:I:4 is set piece after set piece after set piece. And it manages to pace it at a rate where you can breath between, take in all the information you need to follow the story as it progresses, and brace yourself for the next action scene. And the action is shot perfectly. Geographically, you know where you are in each scene. There are very few shaky-cam shots. Shaky-cam, people forget, is something that is unavoidable in an action film. Whether its used for 5% of the film, or 80% of the film, it’s in practically everything you watch. Its just less noticeable in certain movies. And M:I:4 is one of those movies.

Speaking of shots, lets talk about IMAX. Brad Bird has gone on record by saying that 25-30 minutes of the film was shot in IMAX. And all of it looks fantastic. There was one issue I had going in that I hoped was going to be addressed and corrected. And that was the aspect ratio change. And it was indeed corrected. I didn’t see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in IMAX, but I heard there was a major issue involving the constant switch-over from 35MM to 70MM in a single scene. With Ghost Protocol, there is no issue. Once the IMAX-shot sequence begins, it consistently fills the screen until the scene is over. So if there is a close-up dialogue cut, it’s shot in IMAX, and doesn’t subtract the scope of the scene. And I love the transition from 35MM to 70MM back to 35. Its edited in a way in which it feels as if a top and bottom curtain are being lifted to expose the whole picture. As opposed to just cutting to the IMAX-shot sequence harshly.

Every IMAX sequence is great. But the one that is the most impressive is indeed that climbing of the Burj Khalifa. You know, the one that they’ve used in ALL the marketing. And for good reason! Its fucking INCREDIBLE! Not only is it the greatest sequence in any of the Mission: Impossible films, but it’s one of the best sequences in any action film in the past 10 or 15 years. There are so many damn elements that make that scene work so fucking well. Ill just list ‘em as I go. First off: Tom Cruise. The fact that this man (who doesn’t need the money, mind you) was willing to climb the world’s tallest building (a half a mile high), without a stunt man, is just incredible. I wish I could buy the guy a shot right now. And it’s one thing to just go out on a harness 2700 feet in the air. But it’s another thing to run down the building, run across the building, and plunge yourself from one side to the other. Secondly, the scope of IMAX. As you watch Tom Cruise hanging onto the side of the building, you actually feel as if you’re going to fall into the screen. Granted, this film isn’t in 3D, but it sure as hell pulls you in. And when Cruise slips and falls, your stomach drops with him. Thirdly, the score really enhances the scene’s energy. When the main Mission: Impossible theme enters, you get goosebumps. Maybe you wont, but I did. I get ‘em just thinking about it. And as if the scene wasn’t dangerous enough, along with the height, he also has to fear the dreadful sandstorm heading his way. The scene is just perfect. And that’s only the half-way point of the movie. There are still even 3 of 4 more action sequences after that!

The rest of the film, I don’t feel I should even write about due to the fact that the studio doesn’t really reveal too much of it in the ads and trailers. Which is great! For once, you can go into a movie and actually see something you DIDN’T see in the trailer. For the most part, the TV spots and trailers showed you most of the action sequences from Moscow and Dubai. For the last quarter of the film they go to India, and what happens? Well, watch the fucking movie.

The team. You have Benji, the computer-tech. Jane, the female agent. And Brandt, the new guy/secret commando. And of course, Ethan Hunt. And surprisingly enough, it’s a very strong team. Benji obviously serves as most of the comic relief for the film. And for the most part, he is hilarious. Jane was pretty badass in the was that wasn’t too forced. I mean, she did kick a girl’s ass, then knock her out a window. That’s pretty rad. And with Brandt, you might think this is a spoiler, but it’s not. They reveal it in the trailer. Brant APPEARS to be just an analyst from D.C., but as the story progresses, it’s revealed that he’s a soldier who can hand your ass to you. So that made for an interesting touch. But what makes it so interesting is that, for once in the M:I franchise, someone who isn’t who they say they are is actually GOOD. Usually the guy who you thought was good, was playing for the other team. The one thing that I DON’T like about Brandt actually has nothing to do with his character. It’s the direction they want to go in the next installments of the franchise. From what I heard, Jeremy Renner (who plays Brandt) is supposedly going to be passed the torch from Tom Cruise to be the new leading man in the M:I films. Hey, I liked his character in Ghost Protocol, but Mission: Impossible is Cruise’s franchise. This isn’t Bond.

All in all, Brad Bird, Tom Cruise, producer J. J. Abrams, and the rest of the crew did one helluva job on this film! Its amazing that the fourth film in a series can surpass its predecessors ten-fold almost 17 years after the initial film. But this only makes me wonder, how can you top Ghost Protocol? The Burj Khalifa scene alone is hard to top! We’ll see. If this is Brad Bird’s FIRST live action film, what the hell is he going to do next?!

Really though, see it in IMAX. Or fuck off.
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Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Thing

1938 brought us the short story "Who Goes There?". 1951 brought us Howard Hawks' The Thing From Another World. 1982 brought us John Carpenter's The Thing. And 2011 brings us Not John Carpenter's The Thing. Okay, maybe it's really Matthijs van Heijningen's The Thing, but Im not so sure he'd really want to put his name on this film.

I, like almost everyone else, LOVE John Carpenter's The Thing. It's one of my absolute favorite films of all time. And certainly Carpenter's best or second best. And anytime you're going to do a prequel to a film that is adored, you're doomed to fail. And I, UNLIKE everyone else, was willing to not necessarily be optimistic about it, but at least NOT be pessimistic, if that makes sense. I want to give a brief history of this project. At first, it was supposed to be remake of Carpenter's remake. Some people might say that is still the case, but only disguised as a prequel. And that's not the case. But Ill get into that later. The director thought it should be a direct prequel of Carpenter's The Thing. Okay, that's kind of respectable. What isnt, is the final product...

The film starts off kind of strong. It introduces potentially likeable characters. It has the big reveal of the spaceship, and has an actual pretty cool title. There were some things that were going to help make or break this film for me. And one of those things was the title. The reveal in the '82 version was brilliant! Cut-out logo, blue light, and a burning trashbag? Not only was that creative, but looked fucking phenomenal! This logo wasn't getting me to shit my pants, but it left a good taste in my mouth. It was influenced by the '82 version's but didn't fully replicate it (pardon the pun).

The first half hour wasn't as bad as I was expecting. Plenty of flaws, but passable ones. Stuff that I would have personally done differently, but hey, whatever. You're introduced to the characters. Some likeable, some just flat. Either way, it moved the story along enough. Once they cut out the cube of ice with the alien in it, it starts to move a little quicker. Fast-forward 10 minutes, the fucker breaks out of the ice. And I was skeptical in the trailer how the alien just decides to break out THEN, and not thousands of years ago. Well, it's pretty much explained. It's sitting there, being drilled into and melting. Well of course the ice is weak enough to break out of. So I was happy they clarified on that issue. Then it of course hides and snatches its first victim.

Going back to the issue of making or breaking the film. The most important one was... Special FX. One of the first things that pop into the head of a JC Thing fan's mind when hearing the words "The Thing" is: Special FX. That film has some of the most incredible special FX in any film. And Im talking practical FX, not optical or digital. Im talking splitting necks, bulging flesh, and tentacle glory. And the one lie the director of this film told us, that I do not fucking appreciate, is that his film would have plenty of practical special FX. Well, fuck you and fuck your face. The ONLY practical FX in this film were when it was lying on the fucking table doing less than a fucking paraplegic. When we're talking great special FX in JC's The Thing, we're not just talking great designs and sculptures, were talking full-on animatronic movements. Just watch the scene where Norris' head separates from his body and slides down the table. That looks god damn INCREDIBLE. Every fucking creature that moved in this 2011 The Thing was CG. And bad CG, at that. I am all for great CGI. Throw as much CGI at my face, as long as it looks great.

The first replicated human that exposes that it's The Thing was HORRID. I almost had to pinch myself as to how terrible it looked. And what was worse was that it got worse during the 7 seconds as it happened. It was like being raped THEN being set on fire... While still being raped. And it sucks because it happened in a fairly cool scene. The Thing is in the helicopter with these guys when it exposes itself, then the helicopter crashes. Would have been a flawless scene. And that happens throughout the whole movie. What you were watching had potential to be a solid prequel.

There was one thing I liked about the film, and that was the idea of it's "test scene". Instead of using blood, they use the idea of any in-organic items on or in you. IE: Tooth-fillings, metal plates, etc. So basically, The Thing can replicate you and your living cells, but nothing inanimate. Now as much as I liked the idea of not replicating the blood-test scene, it still has it's flaws. So... What if someone has never broken their bones or always flossed? Because they took care of their body, does that mean they're automatically alien? Granted, I like the idea, the blood-test was flawless seeing as all humans happen to have blood.

If you dont mind, Ill cunt about the FX a little more... They've managed to take cool designs, and completely spin them around and turn them into laughable ones due to the CG. One Im still on the fence about is the classic "split-face" creature. The route they went to explain how that happened was actually pretty cool. Basically, another guy exposes that he is The Thing, and crawls to one of the other camp members and pushes his face towards the other guy's face. To describe it best, it's almost like what a cat does with your hand or face. Pushes its face into it. The Thing was pushing it's face into the other guy's face. And the CG was a little better than previous scenes, but still would have looked 100% better had it been practical FX.

Remember in the '82 version of The Thing where there were no women? Well replace the word "women" with the word "tri-pod" in this version. I swear, there was not one fucking scene where the frame wasn't constantly moving. Close-up, wide-angle, coverage shot? Didnt fucking matter, the camera was CONSTANTLY moving. And for no damn reason. The beauty of Carpenter's The Thing was that it was so minimalistic. Let the tension prodrude out of the situation and reactions of the characters, not the fucking camera movements. The only feeling of tension I got from any of those scenes was the urge to cock-punch the damn camera man. Simplicity is key.

Before watching the 2011 version, I revisited the '82 version about 3 or 4 times to really keep an eye out of certain things at the Swedish... I mean, Norwegian camp. The bloody ax in the wall, the throat-slit guy, those yellow papers Doc is holding, the ice cube room, the helicopters, and so on. Some stuff they referenced, some stuff they didn't. First thing is first. If you make a prequel to a film in which one of it's coolest scenes includes an anonymous guy who slit his throat 4 inches deep with the blood frozen stream of blood running down his body... You not only create a 10-minute (at least!) scene explaining how and why, but you do it RIGHT! Was there a scene showing or explaining what happened to the guy for him to do this? No. In the credits, they show a shot of him. But guess what they managed to do? Fuck it up. They couldn't even replicate the gash in his throat properly. In the original, the cut in the guys throat is DEEP. In this? It's literally just a little cat scratch. I hate to complain about little things like this, but guess what? You make a prequel, you get the details down pat. You dont do your rendition of it, you do exactly as it is in the previous film to seamlessly connect the two films. That's just how it fucking works.

I will give credit where credit is due. He managed to explain the bloody ax in the wall, and managed to replicate the ice cube room pretty decently. As well as the Norwegian helicopter. You can bet your ass I was looking out for the "LOKK" (with the triangle) and "Norge" on the side of the helicopter. And he delivered. The only problem is... It was a mid-credit scene. You cut to credits when the movie is OVER. Not when it's almost over. There are exceptions, but this is not one of them.

Im actually jumping around a bit. I haven't even gotten to the climax. Im not going to give away too many spoilers, but the climax brings us inside the spaceship. It's even a track title on the soundtrack, so it's not much of a spoiler. But to go off in a little tangent, I want to explain a little something about spaceships and films. There are 3 cuts of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The theatrical release, the special edition, and the director's cut. My personal favorite is the director's cut. Speilberg's least favorite? The special edition. Why? Well, when the studio wanted to release a special edition, they asked to film an additional scene for the end of the film. They wanted to see Richard Dryfuss' character go into the ship, and actually see inside the ship. Spielberg filmed it, put it in and hated it. His theory, the mystery behind what was actually in the ship? Much better than actually SEEING what was in the ship. Which gives me a new motto. "Never go in the ship". There are of course, as always, exceptions. But for films like these, GTFO. The same happened with the ending of Cowboys & Aliens.

And to address the notion that this is a "remake". It really is not. I said it before I watched the movie, and I say it post. There really is not much else you can do different with a movie like this. You're secluded in Antarctica, where the only landscape you have is white. And when you're not outside, you're confined in a tight hallway or a small room. And since the Norwegian camp was the initial camp to encounter The Thing, the same plot tactics have to be used. Stage 1: Disbelief. Stage 2: Strategy. Stage 3: Paranoia. And so on and so forth. The one thing you CAN strike at the movie is... Well, since you can't actually do anything radically different with the film, why produce it? And Ive wondered that myself. I commonly paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcom from Jurassic Park with situations like these: Just because you can, doesnt always mean you should...

Was The Thing (2011) good? No. Was it the worse thing Ive ever seen? No. There were things to enjoy about the film. But the bad completely out-weighed the good. There are a couple things Im leaving out about the film. And that's because I just dont want to spend any more time on this film. I dont want to completely knock the director because I dont work in the film industry and I dont know what is your decision to make, and what is the studios'. And this guy being a first-time director, I cant imagine he had much say in a lot of THINGS. Get it?!?!!? Fuck off.

... Ha, and apparently the Norwegians never blew up the ice over-top the ship with thermite charges in the original. That was just in our heads (even though there was footage of it... About 9 hours of it). The vibrations from the ship miraculously disintegrated the ice in this one. Inconsistencies, inconsistencies. Fucking blow me.
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Alice Cooper's "Welcome 2 My Nightmare"

36 years ago came a release entitled "Welcome to My Nightmare". And what that was, was Alice Cooper's first forray as a solo artist. For those of you who are uneducated in the class of Alice Cooper, Alice Cooper was actually the band's name before he went solo. And to be frank, they are some of the best rock albums you will ever hear. But going back, "Welcome to My Nightmare" EXPLODED onto the scene, and was a huge success. Critically and financially. And with any concept album, there's ALWAYS room for a sequel. It's like a Stallone franchise. There's always gonna' be another. And for unhealthily obsessed fans as myself, it's music to my ears. Literally.

The first "Nightmare" album put you inside the mind of Alice Cooper, the character. And it varied oh so well. From it's jazz-rock intro (title track), the finger-snapping "Some Folks", the teary-eyed "Only Women Bleed", the rebellious-youth anthem "Department of Youth", the necrophilia food-referencial "Cold Ethyl", to it's straight-up/stripped down close "Escape", the album is all over the place. And in the best possible way. So good, there HAS to be a second part, right? Right... Only 36 years later.

I've listened to the new album maybe a good 5 or 6 times already, and Im still unsure of all it's micro-references and storylines. All due to the fact that I dont have the actual hard copy and booklet. Yes, I downloaded it. And you know what? Fuck you. If I shell out the $40 for the pre-order, Im entitled to enjoy it a little earlier. With any concept album, reading along as the story progresses is the best way to take in everything. But until September 13, Im going to have to try and piece it together by ear.

And so the nightmare begins. The albums opens up with "I Am Made of You". I absolutely LOVE this song. It creates an atmosphere parallel to the '75's "Nightmare" atmosphere... Only different. There's auto-tune. Yeah, I said the same thing when I heard about it. But take a couple steps back. Think about what auto-tune was intended to be used for. As an effect. I have no problem with someone who has the ability to sing using it as a tool. Most of the rappers using it can't fucking sing. So they rely on technology to sing for them. But Alice can sing. And it actually makes him sound creepier. From what I've gathered, it picks up right where the last "Nightmare" left off. He's trapped in this nightmare and he's looking for someone to get him out. It's got some rather powerful pieces.

Next up is "Caffeine". This is quite possibly my favorite song on the album. Fucking LOVE it. It's a great rock 'n roll jam. Ridiculously catchy verses and a fun wit-filled chorus. The song is essentially a Nightmare on Elm Street-esque song. It's not about the film, but it shares the idea of having to stay awake or you'll die. I just love the line "Im shakin' in the ice cold shower! I've been here for about week!" doesn't sound too cool in black and white, but listen to it. You'll understand what I mean.

Third is "The Nightmare Returns". For those of you who know "Steven", this is essentially the beginning of "Steven", but with a heavy rock injection. The beginning has Cooper singing a children's nursery rhyme. It kind of reminds me of "Lullaby" off of "The Last Temptation" album. It's a short track, but very enjoyable.

"A Runaway Train". This one is a stripped down, one-beat, no-structure kind of song. The title works really well with the song itself. It sounds as if the song is a runaway train itself. The same riff and beat just keeping going and going and going. But it never gets boring. The lyrics compliment the tunes because they're actually quite clever. I remember when I first heard the lyric "Im on the wrong side of the dirt", I thought to myself, "Hmmm, that sounds a bit... OH I GET IT.". But once I got it, I thought it was genius. Cleva' girl. And for some reason, it reminds me a lot of Jimi Hendrix.

Next we have "The Last Man On Earth". And this is another personal favorite of mine. It's so fucking good. For those of you keeping score, this is almost the "Some Folks" of "W2MN". The music itself is what you would hear at a cheap Vaudevillian show. Snares with brush sticks, banjos, fiddles. Everything about the song works so well. But what stands out is Cooper's vocals. He has a fucking MEAN snarl in this song. When I listen to this song, I cant help but to think of the Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Merideth. That's the setting I see for this song. Empty, desolate... An anti-humanity paradise.

"The Congregation" is next. I enjoy this song quite a bit. It has a cool intro, then segways to something that could be off of "The Eyes of Alice Cooper". It's got that garage rock attitude. This song serves almost as the purgatory of the nightmare. When you die, you go to The Congregation. Towards the end, Alice turns into a sideshow showman. In a non-lyrical speaking bit, he introduces us to dead lawyers, pimps, stock brokers. Touches up on our disastrous economy a bit. But it's very tongue-in-cheek.

Here we have Nicolas Ca...Er, Alice Cooper's "I'll Bite Your Face Off". A title only Alice can get away with. This serves as the single for this release. And it's a great one at that. "I'll Bite Your Face Off" is undoubtedly The Rolling Stones. It almost sounds as if the notes are emitting from Keith Richards' decrepid fingers right then and there. The song itself is about a woman who does very bad things to men. Alice has done quite a few songs like this. In fact, he has two on this album. One good, and one... We'll get there. Anyway, the best part comes toward the end. It's a gorgeous piano bit. As Walter Sobchak would tell you, "It really ties the song together".

Ah, "Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever". This is a song that you're either going to get. Or not get. And if you dont get it. Get the fuck out. This song is genius. This track follows a group of people who go on a killing spree at a disco club. And as humorous as the song is, it's creepy as well. The line "On the wall, count to ten, we mow you down, RELOAD AGAIN!". Fucking hilariously creepy. 75% of the song is an actual disco song. And that's the part I dont think people are going to get. But you know what? Fuck 'em. Their loss. Because once the disco music stops, and the killer Motorhead-esque riff revs up, the song just floors it from there.

"Ghouls Gone Wild". I cant say it's my favorite song. But it's not bad. It's pretty much a Beach Boys/Green Day hybrid. When I hear the song, I just picture the beginning of Jaws. And that's pretty much what the song is. Ghouls partying on the beach, in the streets, and so on. It's a fun little tune with a clever title, but that's really all.

The obligatory Alice ballad. "Something to Remember Me By". One thing Alice has always been consistent with, is his ballads. I dont recollect one album without one. Even his 2 god-awful industrial nu-metal albums have some beautiful ballads. And this song is nothing short of beautiful. Now Im still unclear as to WHAT that "something" is. Upon hearing the title, I picture something twisted. Like a severed head or a dead animal. But there's nothing in the song that indicates a twisted love song. Regardless, it's a beautiful song. To compare it to another ballad, it's in the vein of "I Never Cry".

"When Hell Comes Home" is particularly interesting because it has this heavy piano eerieness to it. And it meshes perfectly with the dark content of the lyrics. Which delve into child abuse, drinking, and murder. Lyrically, it reminds me of "Dead Babies". Cooper's singing style in this song is like that of a snake. Snakes cant sing, I know. What Im trying to convey is his flow has a slither-like quality to it. All in all, it's a damn good song.

Ugh, I was trying to avoid this song. For days Ive tried to forget this song. Nothing works. Hammers, clubs, tire-irons, nothing is releasing this song from my brain. And this song is "What Baby Wants". The OTHER "woman doing bad things to men" song. Except this woman is the Devil. And the Devil is Ke$ha. "You mean Alice is making fun of Ke$ha in the song?". "No, I mean she sings on the song you wish was only making fun of her.". To be honest, it's not even an Alice Cooper song with Ke$ha on it. It's a Ke$ha song featuring Alice Cooper. Is it really? No. It's on the album. But that's what it sounds like. Computer-processed feux-sounding guitars, weird computer bleeps, and just a plethora of "No! No! No!". And what's even worse is there is one section that almost caused a black hole in the center of the universe. One section features a synthesized violin that is pulled directly out of Britney Spear's "Toxic", which is a rip-off of Alice Cooper's "Poison". So Ke$ha, a rip-off of Britney Spears, appears on a rip-off tune that's a rip-off of Alice Cooper to begin with. In a nutshell, simply make the song "not exist" when you transfer it into your iTunes or whatehaveyou.

"Gotta Get Outta Here" is the last vocal song on the album. It pretty much serves as the "Escape" of this album. It's also a re-capper as well. It sums up the whole album's series of events. As for the music itself, it's very catchy. It's more so an acoustic-based tune with the support of distortion.

And the nightmare concludes with this INCREDIBLE instrumental, orchestrated suite called "The Underture". This song features orchestrated/rock renditions on some of the new tunes, but a few off of the original "Nightmare" album. A great closer. And almost serves as a great opener (if you're going to listen to the album directly after it's finish!).

What can be said about Alice Cooper's "Welcome 2 My Nightmare"? Genius. As much credit Alice deserves for this installment, Bob Ezrin, Alice's producer deserves just as much. The problem with some of Alice's later albums was that Ezrin didn't produce them. And the way I see it, Ezrin is the glue. He somehow manages to mesh together a handful of things that would otherwise never mesh together. Ezrin also adds that extra ensured quality as well. There are only a handful of Coop albums that I do not like (and those are from the early 80's). But I can openly admit, Ezrin and Cooper are definitely stronger together than alone. There are so many little nuances on this album that I am sure were spawned from Ezrin's brain, and Im sure there are little nuances that were spawned from Alice's grey matter only because he probably thought, "What would Ezrin do?".

Another plus, the original Alice Cooper group. The original members perform on a handful of these songs. Which I find to be incredible. Kinda' odd at the same time due to the fact that the first "Welcome to My Nightmare" was the first album WITHOUT them, but killer nonetheless.

With this latest effort, I think Alice will get a little revival in terms of mainstream popularity. I can only imagine what the stage show will be in support of the new album. The first "Welcome To My Nightmare" is amongst the biggest stage production EVER done at that time, and amongst the biggest stage shows in Alice's arsenal. And I think this will be Alice's biggest financial hit he's had in a long while. To conclude though, this is a SOLID fucking album. One dud on a 52-minute album? I dont see a problem there. And nor should you.
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Retro-Appreciation: Roadie

A couple weeks back, a co-worker of mine suggested a movie to me called Roadie. And how he sold me the movie was, "The whole objective is that this groupie MUST travel the road to have sex with Alice Cooper.". Okay, this movie can't have existed in the 80's. That is something I would have come up with intoxicated (probably even sober). But fortunately enough, there is someone else out there whole managed bring that idea to frusion. I find it simply amazing that this movie was made. Simply. Amazing. What isn't amazing is how I hadn't found out about this film until now. I've listened to Alice Cooper since I was 7 (didn't start loving him until about 13), and Im just finding out about this movie NOW? Despicable on my end...

Anyway, so as I mentioned before, the film is essentially about a girl who just needs to get laid by Alice Cooper. Oh yeah, and it has Meatloaf (starring), Blondie, and Art Carney. Meatloaf plays a hick truck-driver who gets sucked into being a roadie for Hank Williams Jr. And turns out, Meatloaf is a phenomenal roadie. There are a few skewed plot points in my memory due to a fair amount of alcohol-consumption, but by the end of it, it instantly became a favorite of mine. It is indeed as retarded as it sounds. And it isnt by any stretch a "good movie". But it sure as hell is fun. As Ive explained before, it's The Blues Brothers with a potent dose of Budweiser, incest, retardation, loud music... And Alice Cooper.

For those of you who enjoy the good 'ole rundown, this film includes:

- Meatloaf being sloppy

- Meatloaf having a literal ram-head-butt bar fight

- Meatloaf saving a Blondie concert single-handedly

- A redneck wedding

- A redneck beer-cooler/wheelchair

- Cokehead laundry mat grandmothers

- Sexual-arousal by Alice Cooper

- A mobile redneck telephone booth/house phone

- And honestly too much to mention...

To elaborate on points that AREN'T Alice Cooper, incest, or retardation, there is an actual conflict. That being, Meatloaf falls in love with the groupie who wants to sleep with Alice Cooper. And through that, the last act seperates into it's own little sections. With a movie like this, you actually do need a little SOMETHING to give it some glue to stick together. As much fun as it is to hop from bar to bar, show to show, you need something that at least imitates a story. Now the last act is where it gets juicy. For me, it's almost like going down a water slide. For the whole movie you get the talk of "Alice Cooper! Alice Cooper!", you hear the songs, but you never get to see him. But as I said about the water slide, you're getting wet along the way, but then you spill out into the pool. And in the last act, you get to not only meet him, but he also performs.

Really, when it comes down to it, it's just a fun movie to drink to. But then again, what isn't? Oh yeah, Memento. If you're a giant Alice Cooper/Meatloaf/Blondie fan, watch it. If you enjoy The Blues Brothers, watch it. If you enjoy films in which it's posters feature tiny leaves between a film festival logo... Just fuck off.
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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens

John Favreau is one of those directors in which I really don't care for most of his films, but I actually really like the guy. And by that, I mean that I know he's not a hack or a fraud. Ive seen plenty of interviews, his Dinner For Five show, and he genuinely seems like a lover of film and has that genuine non-forced nerd quality about him. But not in the annoying vein of Quentin Tarantino. Like a more relaxed Martin Scorsese (in terms of personality, NOT film making). Im not the biggest fan of Iron Man (in fact, I think it's actually pretty bland). Iron Man 2? It got scathed, but I dont think it's much worse than Iron Man. It's just kinda' more of the same. That doesn't go to say that I think either are terrible. I am just not a giant fan of his movies. Until Cowboys & Aliens.

To jump right in, I really enjoyed Cowboys & Aliens. What I love most is that it's a western with aliens. Not a sci-fi film with cowboys. It's almost the opposite of Star Wars. Think about the scene in which Obi-Wan, Luke and Han all meet for the first time. It's in a bar (which would translate to a saloon), and they're basically looking for a gun for hire with a horse and carriage. It's a western in a sci-fi setting. That's what I think makes this film work. It's the fact that they try to establish characters that actually interact with each other. Not just fodder for the aliens to fuck with. I actually kind of gave a shit about why this kid shouldnt be sent to jail, and the repercussions that would come. Obviously, it's not going to be character work that you're going to see in Once Upon A Time In The West or The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but it's enough to actually CARE.

Ill continue with the top-billing name. Daniel Craig. Ive grown to really like him. He met all the requirements of a James Bond and he seems like a rather cool dude. The role was originally supposed to go to Robert Downey Jr. (no surprise there [everyone wants their Bobby DeNiro]), but for some reason, he didnt do it. And I dont mind because Daniel Craig did a good job portraying the Eastwood-esque badass. I have a feeling that Downey Jr. would have included more of his signature wit, which would not have been a totally bad thing. I just think the character called for a more take-no-shit kind of actor. And Craig definitely carried that out within the first 15 minutes. Punching dicks and bashing heads into steel? That works.

Now to the main reason I pledged myself to this movie... Harrison Ford. I remember when the movie was announced, I was like, "Yeah, I'll check it out.". Then Ford was casted and I went from "Sounds cool" to "IM IN". It was something that I always figured he has done, but never actually did. A western. I mean, look at Indiana Jones. I know that when I think about Indy, I see dirt, deserts, and all the ruggedness that comes with a western. Except now, he's actually IN one. PERFECT casting by Favreau. Harrison Ford fanboy-ism aside, was he phenomenal in Cowboys & Aliens? No. But he was pretty damn fucking cool. The one thing about his character that I was surprised with and enjoyed was he was a semi-heel to start with. He wasn't a terribly good man. And Ford needs that. He's always the hero, rarely ever the baddie. That isn't to say he stays like that, but for the little while he is, it's fun to see what he does with his character Dolarhyde.

The rest of the cast was pretty impressive as well. Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown (Starship Troopers!), and a brief appearance from STEPHEN. Who's Stephen? A wanted man from his island. Okay, maybe Im cross-referencing here. Stephen from Braveheart, David O'Hara. I love that guy. Braveheart, The Departed, this. Everything he's in, he's golden. But again, the cast was pretty damn good. Olivia Wilde was good too. Though, any problems with her character that I had werent really HER fault. More so the writing. Cant really talk about those problems due to it kinda' being a giant fucking spoiler. Though mentioning it being a spoiler might be a spoiler in of itself...

The aliens. Spoiler or not, I have to touch up on what half the fucking movie is about. This has been a fairly disappointing year in alien design. And for that statement to exist, there has to be a plethora of alien films. And this year there were plenty. Battle: LA, Paul, I Am Number Four, Super 8, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Now of all those releases, only 3 are straight-forward alien films. Battle: LA, Super 8 and now Cowboys & Aliens. And as I said, the creature designs have been "meh". Battle: LA's aliens were incomprehensible and Super 8's alien design was pretty fucking lame. And Cowboys & Aliens? Well, it was a slightly satisfying visual. When I first saw the creature, I didnt know what to think. Then I saw more of it, and my opinion started to become more whole. And to be honest, I thought it was okay. And at this point, that's good enough for me. After being so incredibly amped for Super 8, and it delivering such a crappy creature design, I can settle for the aliens in this film. They're almost crustacean-looking aliens. But not like District 9. In this, they're more bulky and menacing. Could they have given me a better-looking alien? Yeah. Did it turn me off to the film? No.

The score. Nothing overly memorable, but I dug it. Im listening to it on YouTube now just to remember the tone of it. I remember liking it. But I was also drunk, so I dont remember too much of the score itself. But hearing it now, there are actually more layers to it than I remember. It has 3 particular thematic ques. The action ques, the western guitar ques, and some softer emotional ques, in which I du. The score wasn't mind-blowing, but it definitely complimented the film. And that is essentially what a score's main purpose is.

Is this one of the better summer films? Id say so. It hasnt been an incredible summer. Let alone, year. Im hoping the fall and winter brings some surprise gems.

But my hat's off to Favreau. Finally a movie I can say I actually really like from him. That's another thing I give him immense credit for. NOT to shoot the film in 3D. And Im not hopping on the "I hate 3D" train. I love 3D when the film calls for it and when it's done properly. This movie? There was really nothing that screamed "3D!!!". But that's not why I respect Favreau for his decision. It's because he wanted to shoot his western on celluloid film. And with 3D, you have to shoot digital unless you want a mediocre post-converted 3D final product. So in the end, Cowboys & Aliens is a job well done. But seriously... Cowboys & Paraplegics? Come on.
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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Michael Bay Action Movie #9. That's how many people will look at Transformers: Dark of the Moon. And I cant really say I disagree with them. But the difference is... I actually really enjoy (most of) Michael Bay's films. Do any of them have intricate and/or compelling stories? No, not particularly. But the man knows how to make a solid action flick. That is for sure. I really don't want to start this review off all "Michael Bay! Michael Bay! Michael Bay!", but I think I need to address my position on the dude. I am well-aware that his films are mindless action. I know he owns his copy of "How To Make A Movie" with the "Characters" and "Story" chapters ripped out. But guess what? He DOES know how to make a movie. He just needs to hire the proper writers. But when I walk out of a Michael Bay film (even Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), I never feel ripped off (well, that kinda also has to do with being a theatre manager and not having to pay). But what I mean by that is, he DOES give you his bang for your buck. Literally. There is a reason the films cost so much. And that's the production value. The FX, the locations, and the all-around scale of the film.

People can complain about his movies being FX-heavy. Well? Fuck off. You can complain about films being too FX-heavy if their FX are terrible. And even though I voice my pro-Bay opinion with a slightly less defensive tone, I will battle anyone who says his films' FX are "shitty" or "terrible". Feel the way you want about him (and I can totally see why people hate his films). But do NOT trash the FX. That is the one thing he is more talented at than anyone. Bringing great special FX to the big screen. And no, that doesnt make a film good. But it certainly helps a great deal. Alright, Ive said what I needed to say. Now to TFDOTM. No, not "Transformers: Dark of the Moon", "Total Fucking Destruction On The Maximum Level". Okay, so there's no "L". I thought it was clever enough to not have to waste it. Im an idiot. The review...

2007, Transformers. A fun, surprisingly entertaining movie. Didnt know how much you could do with a live action toy franchise film. But it was fun enough to lure me back for the second. 2009, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Eh. Everyone trashes it, but I look at it for what it is... Robots punching each other in the dick. And dont kid yourself, that is what they are. But the first has that element of surprise. The second was just more of the same, just longer. People seemed to think they could take more away from an orgy-of-metal film. As much as I can enjoy Revenge of the Fallen, I do admit it was a far lesser film. Now, 2011, we have Transformers: Dark of the Moon. And I can honestly say that surprise element is back. And that's only due to Revenge of the Fallen falling off the wagon a bit. Had Revenge been just as good at the first, there would be no surprise in Dark of the Moon being good. It would just be expected. But Bay hopped back on the wagon again, and really made a solid Transformers film again.

With Dark of the Moon, he made some good decisions and some bad decisions. First, the good. He erased those fucking terrible twin ebonic robots. Unlike most people, I wasnt offended by them in the second film. What is there to be offended by? So what? They speak like black people. If you were offended, just piss off. The problem with the ebonic robots was that they were FUCKING ANNOYING. And luckily, Bay had enough sense to scrap them for this film. That isn't to say that he doesnt have stupid robots in this. Just not on level of retardation as Skids and Mudflap. Another thing done right by Bay was that he scaled the film down. But by JUST enough. Pirates 4 tried to scale it down from the third film, and it just made it fucking BORING. Pirates 4 felt so damn bland because it needed to feel bigger. Dark of the Moon had just the right size and scope. Granted, the film is still HUGE. But it's not all over the world. The film mostly takes place in D.C. and Chicago.

Now... The bad. As expected, the humor. Or as I call it "Michael Bay Humor". I dont think I really need to elaborate on what that is, but I will anyway. Bay has the humor of an 5th grader. And that's not to say I dont have the humor of a child, but I dont make $200 million dollar films with 5th grader humor. And you know what? Every 15 childish jokes, does come that one guilty laugh. It sometimes CAN make you laugh. But I dont forget why Im sitting in that seat. It's because I want to hear robot dicks clanking together for 2 and a half hours. But my 5th grader humor aside, Bay is pretty terrible at humor. But when it is humorous, it's usually only humorous in the "laughing at you" kind of way.

The FX. Again, Bay and his team managed to make my brain hurt. And I mean that in a good way. Im very rarely confused with who's fighting who, as most people are. That's not the reason my brain hurt. The real reason is because I cannot understand, and probably never will understand how they manage to create such incredible FX. I still cant fathom how it's done. I understand that it is a plethora of animation artists, but that doesnt make it any less easier to comprehend. My hat goes off to all the sketch artists, the concept artists, the rendering artists, the animation artists, everyone. Each and every dollar really does show up on screen.

The 3D. This film has been praised to have the best 3D since Avatar. And I can say that I would agree with that. I dont particularly think it's better than Avatar's 3D, but it does a hold a light to it. Im happy Cameron convinced Bay to shoot in 3D before shooting. Because the last thing I would want Paramount to do with Dark of the Moon, is post-convert it as they did with their previous and upcoming releases for this year. Thor's post-conversion wasn't bad, but it doesnt really sell 3D in a GREAT light. And to my giant surprise, Bay didn't really pull any "Comin-At-Ya" 3D tricks. The film actually has less 3D gimmicks than Avatar. I would expect the opposite from Michael Bay.

The cast. Bay managed to round up an impressive cast. Well actually... They're all just Coen Brothers steals. Ill give him John Tutoro since he's been in every film since the first. But to bring John Malkovich and Frances McDormand into the mix, I liked that. McDormand was pretty okay. Nothing special. But I liked her in this. Malkovich was.. Well... Bay-ized. Michael Bay managed to turn him into a typical stupid Michael Bay character, but a fun stupid Michael Bay character. Basically, John Malkovich plays a Boston-accented Bob Barker. He talks like Matt Damon, but looks like he slept in Bob Barker's spray-tan soaked bed. As I said, his character was stupid, just not annoying stupid. Guilty-laugh stupid. And that's good enough for me in a Michael Bay film. Shia LeBeouf is Shia LeBeouf in this. Not particularly likeable, but not annoying-as-fuck as he can be. And his new girlfriend. Well, it's another case of Michael Bay casting a super model instead of an actress. So many people complain about Megan Fox's absence. Uh...What's the difference? Neither can act to save a short bus of retarded children. To me, it was like replacing a mannequin with a pull-string with another mannequin with a pull-string. Except... This mannequin looks like a duck. I dont know if Rosie Huntington-Whiteley spent money to get her lips to look like that, or needs to spend money to get them fixed. Regardless, I still think Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington were two broads who were getting boned by Michael Bay and happened to walk in front of the cameras for 3 movies.

I always hate vaguely writing about the end of the film because it's usually the worst or best part of the film. And you usually feel the most passionately about something you love or hate. Let's put it this way: If you have read any reviews on TF3, the end IS the best part of the film. For a solid 40+ minutes, it really stays strong. Ive read that it's "cant breathe great". No. There are a few minutes of down-time between each giant robot-destruction beat, but it's not dull downtime. All I can say aside from that is that THAT is where the 3D looks the absolute best. The fucking jumper pilot shots are just as good as anything Avatar 3D.

Wrapping up, see Transformers: Dark of the Moon if you are interested. If you're not a fan of Transformers, dont waste your time. And see it in 3D. It may not be as good as Avatar's 3D, but damnit, it's close. Dont feel like paying the 3D price? Steal glasses from the recycled glasses bin (have fun with that pink eye!). Just dont do it at my theatre. Ill kick your ass out.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Ward

R.I.P. John Carpenter. Or rather, rest in peace John Carpenter's CAREER. Years and years ago John Carpenter made Ghosts of Mars. Awful. Just awful. Okay, maybe it was just a poor script choice for him. Whatever. Every director gets them. But USUALLY a director hops back on the wagon and makes a good film after that. Even if they make another shitty film even after hopping back on. And I can gladly say that Carpenter hasn't taken George Romero's route. George Romero is WAY past the point of no return. Almost so far that if he was announced "dead" tomorrow, I would say, "They're just releasing it?". But Im not going to go that far since he did create 3 of THEE greatest horror films to ever exist, and from what i've heard, Romero is a really nice guy, so I he doesnt deserve ANY bad words, PERSONALLY. But the man can't make a film worth sloth shit anymore. Ive said it before... All of Romero's fans should invest in putting ole' George in a home. And sadly, I think Carpenter might be next. Except... Carpenter SEEMS sensible enough to realize, "Wow, I dont make good movies anymore...".

So... John Carpenter. The man who made Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, Escape from New York, The Thing, Big Trouble In Little China, Prince of Darkness, and so many more, he finally lost his marbles with The Ward. And you know what? It's not as bad as you're expecting. But it's not good. And I guess as a huge Carpenter fan, it could be worse. But in the end, the film just looks like a huge tombstone with his career engraved.

Okay, the film starts off pretty good. An okay set-up, a really cool title card, and some pretty cool credits (the classic Carpenter font, for those of you who are pathetic enough to know what I mean). And really, for the first 15-20 minutes, it's pretty okay. Nothing "FUCK YES"-worthy, but good nonetheless. Then the girls start "acting". Alright, horror movies and females acting... USUALLY the same outcome. A train wreck. But in something as non-over-the-top as this? Get SOME decent actors.

So as the movie "progresses" (to progress usually means to get better [in this case, it doesnt]), the same tricks are used. Something weird happens at night, it pans to the girls face, and it fades to the next day. That happens about 3 or 4 times. And it's not as if there are any pieces left for us to pick up or follow. It's just being mysterious for the hell of it. It wasn't until a couple minutes later where you say, "Wow...". And no, not that "Wow..." where you think something's going to happen. It's that "Wow..." where you realize you've seen this movie before. Not only that, but done better. It was called Shutter Island. Seriously, the movie was Shutter Island with a fraction of the budget. And seriously, when you pit John Carpenter against Martin Scorcese it's a hard battle for me. I LOVE both. I enjoy Carpenter's best films over Scorcese's best, but the difference between those two, is that Scorcese is so much more consistent throughout each and EVERY decade.

Moving on as to why The Ward is a lame chapter in Carpenter's career. He really needs to edit from the past while he creates in the future. And what I mean by that is, a lot of the times, the edits and sound design were really bringing out that "Straight-to-Video" quality. Or lack thereof. If he edited this as if were made in the 80's, and not with all the editing tricks of today, it would have felt like a lesser 80's Carpenter film. And as uninspiring as that sounds, it's hopeful at the same time. Meaning, all he would have to do is find that perfect script and he's golden. If his direction was sharp in this, I would totally give it more points. But it wasn't. Sharp direction with a poor script, is Michael Bay. Bash the guy all you want, but he knows how to make a movie. Knows pacing. Knows shots. Knows how to ecenomically make a film. A story? Not so much. Unfortunately with Carpenter, he cant choose a good script or direct as well as he could before. And another sad fact about The Ward is that he didnt score it. And it's not the first time he hasn't scored a film of his, but maybe it would have given it some more of that Carpenter feel. But granted, one of the best things about the film was SOME of the music. And I say "SOME" because there were little sections that I loved, but mostly were just that annoying mesh of sounds and kinda-almost-music. I hate that.

And the end. Well. Im not going to "ruin" it. But halfway through I thought, "Please dont be that It's ___ in _____ head" ending. Hope I didnt ruin it for you. Because I totally didnt expect it. At all. Not. One. Bit. Like, at all. Ugh. I really expected more from Carpenter. Really? The ending in which was popular 5 years ago? It's not even like he hopped on the band wagon. He hopped on a band wagon that lost it's wheels years ago.

Does the movie suck? I guess not? But is it good by any means? I guess not. It's one of those. And I still cant decide which is worse. I love John Carpenter. I always will. He's made some of my all-time favorite movies. And he seems like a real great down-to-earth guy that I would blow my whole paycheck on, to buy him countless rounds of booze and countless packs of smokes, but I dont know if he has it anymore, as a film maker. When I heard Romero was making whatever "... Of the Dead" film a year or two ago (I honestly forget what it was called, thats how bad his career has gotten), but when I heard about his film announcement, I didnt really even pay attention. But Carpenter? You bet your ass I was on it. I followed the film with every story that was ran. But then it got a shit-release. And unlike The Beaver, I guess I can understand why. The movie was not good. But can you give the greatest horror film maker a shot? Even if the movie sucks, give him a good run. I never thought you could get worse than STV (Straight-to-Video). But you can... VOD (Video-on-Demand). And that's what The Ward has gotten. John Carpenter, the man who made HALLOWEEN, is now VOD film director.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Super 8

I remember a little over a year and a half ago, I saw a little teaser before Iron Man 2, and it was a film called "Super 8". Now, the first image was a yellow truck. And for some reason, the first image that came to mind was Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Which of course features Richard Dryfuss' character, Roy Neary's truck. There was no particular reason as to why I thought THAT truck, it's just what I thought. And it wasn't until "something" was trying to break out of the train cargo that I thought "Wow, this might be a Close Encounters reference". So as the months passed by, more marketing was done for the film. TV spots, trailers, posters and I was instantly hooked. I love aliens, I love Spielberg, and I really dig Abrams (not so much his work, but his nerd/creative mentality). I mean, I just like the guy. So without going into complete spoiler territory, Ill keep it to a mininum.

First off, I want to explain one thing. There is a difference between ripping off and homage. Tarantino rips people off. In his HEAD, he's paying tribute to whoever he is ripping off, but there is nothing to indicate "HEY! This is from another movie!" to the average movie goer. And Ill admit it, sometimes he rips people off good (as counter-insulting as that sounds [is that a word?]). But what Abrams is doing here is just a complete homage to the ole late 70's/80's Amblin films. And honestly, just having Speilberg as producer on this film instantly makes it a homage to his films. It's kind of like if I were to film a scene in which a guy parks his car like The Blues Brothers. If it was just that, you would say, "That's ripped straight out of The Blues Brothers!". But if he parks the car like The Blues, and his passenger said, "Okay, Elwood...". That's a nod or a homage to The Blues Brothers. It's not trying to pass as it's own. And as I said, just having Spielberg as a producer instantly passes it as a nod and not a rip off to any of his films.

And you know what? The movie works. Until the end. But Ill get to that later. For now, Ill elaborate as to why 80% of the movie works. First of all, the kids. They casted a GREAT group of kids. It was clear they were going for The Goonies/E.T. group of kids. And it worked really well. You have the lead, Elliot-type character, the fat Chunk-like character, the girl, and the side friends. But the best was the main kid, the fatty, and the girl. This is a first time job for most of them, and they hit the right timing on most of their lines. The main kid didn't overact anything really, at all. The fat kid had some great, genuine comic timing, and the girl had that right balance of "the regular girl" and totally not boring. And the one great thing about it was, they seemed like they were actually a real group of friends, eventhough they all met on the set. Kudos to the kids and casting agents. And to Abrams for knowing how to direct kids.

As mentioned above, this movie is a bunch of movies in one. And to just put it out there, it's: The Gonnies, E.T., Close Encounters, District 9, and Signs all in one. The Goonies and E.T. I already elaborated on. But the main influence, that I see, is Close Encounters. And Im not just saying that cause it's one of my absolute favorite movies of all. There are shots taken DIRECTLY from Close Encounters. From the evacuation scenes, to the US Military's presence, to even the setting. It's all Close Encounters. And I dont have a problem with that. It actually did it quite well. I absolutely love that small-town rustic 70's look. It makes your bond with the group of kids that much more meaningful. If it were in a kind of boring setting, you wouldnt really care what the hell they were doing, or where they were going.

I also listed Signs as one of the influences. Was it an influence? I dont think so. Could it have been a rip-off? I think so. And this not being a spoiler, the kid's mom is dead in the beginning of the movie. So all it is, is the kid and his father, who is a local police deputy. So therin lies not only a Signs rip-off, but a Spielberg nod. Instead of father-neglect (a common theme in Spielberg films), it's his mother. Only, she didnt neglect him. She died. But getting back to the Signs rip-off. In Signs, a father is left with his two kids after his wife dies from being hit by a car while jogging. And the person who hit her tried to reach out to the husband, but just couldnt bring himself to it. In this, dude's wife dies because a co-worker called out, she covered his shift, and something terrible happened at work and she died. The dude goes to the funeral and tries to reach out and the husband doesn't want it. There's more to it in the film, but I dont want to lay the whole movie out for you. But there are some story-points taken from Signs.

The other film it kind of riffs from is District 9. And with this, Im not going to get into. Reason being, it would give too much away, story wise. Although, Im sure you might have guessed what it might have taken from D9. Now those are the films that I saw that Abrams had been influenced by. But he listed a few others, officially, as influences. The Thing, Scanners, and Slumber Party Massacre. Slumber Party, really? Apparently, it was for soundtrack musical choises. Why that film? Dont know. But it's odd and I like it.

The end. Dont worry, it's safe to read after this point. It's no secret, you see the movie you see the monster. Or alien. Or whathaveyou. And THERE lies the problem for me. The one thing Abrams SHOULD have taken from Spielberg's past films, was Jaws. In Jaws, you barely see the shark until really the end. Yes, you see glimpses of it, but not the entire thing. First off, Abrams could have chosen a MUCH better creatur design. And this is coming from someone who loved Cloverfield (I dont give a flaming shit. That was a great monster movie!). I loved the Cloverfield monster. It looked as if a creepy white hairless cat had mutated with a grasshopper. It just looked fucking cool. But this monster... Eh... No. Im not going to describe it, because that would be fucking retarded. But they could have done better. Much better. I have a comparrison as to what the monster looked like, but I wont say. Ill only give 3 clues: A 1998 animation film that ends with the letter "Z". Moving on...

The monster was where the brick started to crumble. And what happened after... They could have avoided the "SHOW EVERYTHING" approach. And I guess that's the end of the review really. The rest would just be spoilers.

All in all, it was a fun movie. Had an intriguing story, some really good acting, some fun references, a decent score, and a worthy entry for Abrams' film catalog. Was I disappointed? Yeah. Was it terrible? No. It'll actually probably end up being one of the better summer movies. Oh yeah, and there are lense flares.
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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Beaver

The Beaver. He's here to save Walter's life. And this being a spoiler without being a spoiler, he saves Walter's life. Now that might tell you the outcome of the film, but it's not the outcome of the film that you really care about. It's what causes the outcome...

Now it's no secret that I am completely homosexual for Mel Gibson. It's no secret that I have 10 Mel Gibson posters lining my whole bed. It's no secret that whatever he says or does affects me 0%. In fact, a lot of it makes me smile and only adds to his genius insanity (Ill get into that later). But the point Im trying to get across is that, as I sit here, typing up this review, Im being non-biased. I can tell whether I like a film because it's a good film, or if I like it because someone I admire is in it. And The Beaver is a film I like because it is a good film.

When I first heard about this film, I had one question. It was slightly different than most people's initial question, which was, "Is he really doing this movie?". But mine was, "Is this art imitating life, or vice versa?". Because this a PERFECT role for Mel Gibson. Let's see, one of his most iconic characters (that WASNT Max Rockantanksy or William Wallace) was portraying an insane person. Martin Riggs. And The Beaver's Walter Black wasn't far off, in terms of sickness in the head. So I was instantly excited for this film (aside from the fact that it was Mel Gibson's next prospect). Okay, got that out of the way. Moving on...

The Beaver as some of you may know was directed by Jodie Foster. And not having directed a film for 16 years, she did a damn good job. And as any movie, it didnt play without flaws. But I was really impressed with her directing capabilities. First off, this film had a script that was on the "Black List" for a while. And for that alone, I give Foster immense credit for taking on this project. Now with a film like this, you balance on a VERY thin line of drama and comedy. And that's a very hard thing to do. But Foster does it good. Granted, not perfect, but good. To get into more specifics, there is a scene where Walter tries to kill himself. She actually hits all the points that she needs to hit in that scene. She nails the comedy of him not being able to even kill himself properly, but then nails the drama and pity you start to feel towards him by letting it settle to make you think, "Shit, it's funny, but it's really kinda' sad...". Unfortunately, she doesnt use that perfect formula throughout, but it at least keeps you aware that the film you're watching, it's made by someone who DOES know what they're doing.

Before I get to the flaws of the film, Ill touch up on the positive aspects of it. First and foremost (and again, Im being non-biased) is Gibson. This film might not be what is considered an "Oscar-worthy" film (eventhough it's a thousand times better than half the dogshit that is nominated), but his performance is. Gibson really does carry this film. And not without the help of Foster's direction. Walter Black is clearly the source of "The Beaver"'s voice, but Foster manages to include Gibson's mouth or face in every shot, whether he's blurry in the background, or right aside the puppet, he's always there to remind you that it's not a completely silly premise. Now, if you walked into the theatre completely unaware about the movie, you would say to yourself, "Really?!", but it's Gibson's portrayal of his character where you stop smiling and start to realize that this guy has a serious condition. Some actors uses tones and line-delivery to really drive a scene. Gibson, not only does that, but he uses his facial expressions to really sell the scene. You have method actors, actors who NEED to get into a character, and natural actors, who can do almost any role without HAVING to go that extra mile. And Gibson is the latter.

Now to the direction. If this movie is any indictation, I can say that Jodie Foster knows how to balance multiple tones. For instance, this was comedy and drama and she did it well. but as I said before, it didnt play without flaws. Some scenes felt as if she should have treated them with a little less unintentional humor. There were scenes where it should have focused more on Walter than Walter and the beaver. Maybe she was trying to convey the feeling that his family felt, with them not being able to deal with him without the beaver, but personally, I felt it could have focused more on HIM than them. Maybe get inside his head a little more BEFORE he finds the beaver puppet. But she did achieve a good balance formula for about 85% of the movie.

One other flaw though, was Walter's son. And this might actually be a partially biased opinion. But I didnt feel very sympathetic towards him. First off, I do not like Anton Yelchin as an actor. Secondly, his whole storyline didnt really demand the amount of interest as his father's. Dude wrote papers for other people in high school... Okay. So where's the conflict? It was a very weak attempt to make us feel for the guy. Thirdly, his relationship with the girl he liked was pretty weak as well. Not as weak as the "conflict" he faced with writing papers for people, but weak nonetheless. I kinda' didnt give a shit about what was going on when he was on screen by himself or with his fling.

Aside from those nit-picks, the film was pretty damn good. Im still not sure as to whether or not the film exceeded my expectations, but it definately met them. It served a fairly decent score, a humble acting job by Jodie Foster, some good shots, good editing, an all around good film. Too bad it's not going to make any money due to being given a shitty limited release, and now a shitty expansion run. Mel Gibson regurgitates a chill pill again, and automatically NO ONE is going to flock out to see his movies again? Charlie Sheen anyone? The guy has made more cash in the past year by milking his pathetic psuedo-insanity than most actors in the business. Gibson deserves a proper comeback. Edge of Darkness? Kicked ass. Did okay in the box office. But that's what happens when you dump a movie in January. Give him a good script, a good director (if not him), a good release date, and his career is back on track...

"People love a trainwreck... When it's not happening to them."
- Walter Black (Mel Gibson), The Beaver
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

7 Deadly Scenes

This is a list comprised of mostly nit-picky film nerd gripes. And is really only for film nerds. Now, this list doesnt deem every movie bad for being guilty of including some of these nit-picks. Hell, a lot of the movies on this list are some of my absolute favorites, but they are still cliches in film that piss me off.

1. Cops Always Arriving After the Finale

My first gripe is the fucking cops always arriving after the finale or showdown, or what have you. I understand it either makes the third act and conclusion that more personal or intense, without the whole Police force there, but come on, it's just too convenient. But there are some exceptions. Some very good exceptions. For instance, Silence of the Lambs. The absence of the Police is almost a plot device in the third act of that movie. The Police think they have Buffalo Bill's house, but they dont. Leaving Clarice alone in Buffalo Bill's house. Thus making it a pretty damn intense scene. And some people would say Die Hard is guilty of it too, but it's not. At all. The cops definitely get there on time... They just cant do a thing about the situation.

Films guilty of this:

- Lethal Weapon (in which I love)
- The Terminator (not that the cops could do a fucking thing anyway... It's The Terminator)
- Big Trouble In Little China (in which I love)
- Predator 2
- And plenty more...

2. Ground Bullets

This is a kinda' tricky one. Being as I dont have any specific examples to present. But it's something I've seen time and time again. Okay... If you're in a helicopter and you're shooting at your target, and you miss, what are you going to see? You're going to see either a spark (on concrete), a dust cloud (if you're in a desert), or water splashes (if youre target is in water). And I have no problem with that, because it's 100% accurate. What I DO have a problem with is a bullet traveling parallel to the ground, missing it's intended target, and seeing the result of it penetrating the ground, water or what have you. Okay, I get it. The bullet missed the target. But it's not going to fall that quickly from however far away the person is (50 feet, 100 feet, 200 feet). Yes, it depends on the gun. But very few guns used in film are close-range guns (with the exception of shot guns). Like I said, there really arent specific examples. But Im pretty certain you can find movies like Rambo: First Blood Part II (in which I love), Rambo III (in which I also love), and a lot of TV guilty of this.

3. Computer Noises

Now here's one I have PLENTY of examples of. And in fact, this is the one that bothers me the most! I absolutely fucking hate it. So let me elaborate... So you're watching (let me think of a terrible fucking movie guilty of this throughout the whole movie)... Oh that's right! Live Free or Die Hard. Okay, so you're watching Live Free or Die Hard and Justin Long is typing away on the computer (like everyone does in the whole fucking movie), and as he's typing you hear these "processing" noises. Everytime a window opens, moves, minimizes, a message pops up, a message is sent, THERE'S A FUCKING NOISE. I dont care what computer you have, no computer makes those noises. In fact, all the computers being used in "high tech" movies like these should be quieter, shouldnt they? You know, cause they're like... High tech and shit. Bottom line, it's really irritating hearing those noises. It's almost they think were too retarded to know they're using a computer, so they have to give us noises to signal that they are, in fact, using a computer. Suck my ass.

And the movies guilty of this? Virtually every movie made from the mid-90's on.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

4. Dark Blue Filters

Ugh. Fucking dark blue filters. Really, whoever first decided to film a whole movie with this filter. Well... He must be a color blind prick. There are A LOT of movies guilty of this. And some can get away with it. One that comes to mind is Traffic. Why? Because it's used properly and used to suit the story. For those of you who have not seen Traffic, it's one of those quadruple intertwining-story movies. You know, 4 separate stories, inter cut with each other, that all are related towards the end of the movie? I really enjoy that kind of storytelling. Pulp Fiction did that, Sin City did that. It's just a neat concept. But yeah, Traffic uses about 4 filter throughout the whole film. One for every character story. And the dark blue filter used is for Michael Douglas' character. And Im pretty certain they used it for 2 reasons. The first: They needed to differentiate his story from everyone else's (as they did with each other character). And second: I think they wanted to portray Douglas' cold and lifeless world. Especially being that his daughter turns into a meth head.

But back to the cuntplaining, it just doesnt look good at all throughout a full-length movie. Here's an example: Payback. But fortunately, Mel Gibson can save almost any film.

Exhibit A:

5. The Misuse of the Words "Product Placement"

This isn't particularly a gripe I have with movies, as much as it is with the people who watch them. If you're watching a movie, and the movie is reality-based, in the real world, and your character is walking down the street and you see stores with "Coca-cola" signs, and "McDonalds" signs, and logos that you would typically see everyday? That is NOT product placement. But if you're watching a movie about vehicles turning into robots, and all of the sudden you see an XBox turn into a robot while making the signature XBox noise? THAT is product placement. Let me elaborate...

If you're going to make a film with realistic characters in a realistic setting, you NEED logos. You cant walk outside of your house WITHOUT seeing a car brand logo, food logos, etc., etc. It's part of our everyday lives. Believe me, if you took out all the logos of a movie that was, for instance, set in a city... You wouldnt believe how odd it would look. So in reality, you need logos. Now of course, if you have a movie set in todays day and age and the whole damn thing takes place in a pine box (Buried), logos are not completely necessary. THOUGH, there would be a logo on the phone, or the lighter, or his jeans, or his shirt. BUT, it would only be product placement, in my eyes, if they focused on the logo.

Now to the example of ACTUAL product placement. Back to the Transformers example. So, the XBox console gets affected by "The Cube" and it turns into a robot. Already, you have a blatant case of product placement. But what really sells it, is the fact that the sound designers specifically went out of their way to insert the trademark noise you hear in the XBox commercials. THAT is a product placement.

Exhibit A:

6. Slowed-down Scenes Shot at 24 Frames

There are A LOT of movies guilty of this. It's just too sketchy looking. If you want a scene in slow-motion, you shoot it to be in slow-motion. For instance, if you want to have a nice smooth and fluent scene in slow-motion, shoot it in 120 fps (frames per second). Basically, every movie is shot in 24 fps, the higher the frame-rate, the slow the movements. The way I see it, if a director slows down a scene shot in 24 fps, it looks like they didnt know what they were doing while doing the principal photography, and just said "fuck it!" in the editing room, and decided to put it in slow-mo.

Exhibit A:

And the proper way to shoot slow-motion:

... I still love Lethal Weapon considering it's guilty of 2 of my gripes on this list.

7. TV Lines on HD TV's

And the last? Well, Im getting tired of typing so Ill make it quick. First if all, high definition means there is NO grain and NO lines. So why do film makers and editors still insist on putting them on HD TV's? This typically happens when a character is watching a news report, or the news report is on the full screen. It makes absolutely no sense. The latest film I saw that suffers from this is Unstoppable. There's scenes where they cut back and forth to news reports, and the characters are clearly watching HD TV's and there's lines. I understand that 95% of television images, and computer screen images, and anything involving a screen is usually superimposed over a green screen. But do you have to take that extra step to make us aware that its a television?

Exhibit A:

Now at second glance, I see that there are lines on the screen, but there doesnt appear to be any on the titles and logos, which seems to indicate that it would be the camera producing the lines, and not the TV. But to be honest, I dont think that's the case. All news networks have converted to HD and use HD cameras. So at the end of the day... I think I still have something to bitch about. Phew!
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