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Archive for the Category "Movie Reviews"

The Hobbit and High Frame Rate Dec 22

Legolas or just Orlando Bloom?Liked the movie. Hated the high frame rate.

In select IMAX theaters they’re showing the The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug with the higher frame rate (48 frames per second vs. the standard 24 frames per second). Having never seen a movie with this controversial format before, I was excited to experience the high frame rate (HFR), which promised more vivid and realistic images.

Within the first few moments of the film (and Peter Jackson cameo), I immediately understood why there was so much controversy over this format. The images were crisp and life-like… and didn’t look like a movie.

What was it like?

My brother said it was like watching a televised BBC production (TV has a higher frame rate than movies). Some people liken the experience to watching a play. I’d go one step further. It was like watching really clear behind the scenes footage of a movie, where you see the actor in costume rehearsing their lines — and at no time confuse them for their characters.

And that’s the problem. It looked too realistic. In many cases, I stopped seeing a character, and started seeing an actor with imperfect skin and contact lenses. I stopped seeing an Elf Forest, and started seeing fake tree props.

If you’ve ever been on a movie set, you’ll quickly notice how fake everything looks in real life. Why the hell would I want that? I want LARGER than life for my movie experience, thank you very much!

The Art Form

I’m always an early adopter of technology. I love innovation and applaud Peter Jackson for trying this new format out. You never know when something new will resonate with audiences. Believe it or not, “talkies” (i.e. modern movies where you can hear the actors’ voices as they say their lines, instead of reading their dialogue in subtitles) were controversial when they first came out.

But I can’t help but feel like HFR is a solution to a problem that didn’t exist. Movies aren’t reality. They’re heightened reality. The paradox is that making films look more “real” may actually compromise our ability to suspend our disbelief.

If the goal is to make the movie-going experience more like real life, perhaps we should get rid of the score in scenes where there wouldn’t normally be music playing. Or maybe we should shoot all of the scenes from one camera angle. All this jumping from angle to angle stuff isn’t how we view the world.

And when is that smell-o-vision gonna get here? I’m sure audiences would love that. I can think of one scene in particular from Slumdog Millionaire that would be especially… powerful.

Did you see The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug in its higher frame rate? (If you’re unsure, then you probably saw it at one of the majority of theaters where it was played in its converted and standard 24 fps.) What did you think of the format?

Have you ever changed your mind about a movie? Aug 03

Second Looks

Have you every been wrong about a movie? You know, you’re flipping channels and happen across a movie you saw a few years ago that you thought sucked, only to be suddenly drawn in by it.

For me, that movie was Starship Troopers – Edward Neumeier‘s adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s military sci-fi classic book, directed by Paul Verhoeven.

When I first saw it, I thought it was campy and ridiculous. When I later saw it, I suddenly realized it was a brilliant satire and social commentary. How did I miss that the first time through?

Has that ever happened to you? What movie was it?

‘Fright Night’ is for real Feb 28

Fright Night (2011)A couple of years ago, I wrote an open letter to the TV and movie vampires of the world. That’s definitely worth a quick read, but if you’re pressed for time, it can be summarized by a simple question:

If blood is so tasty, then why do you leave so much of it on your damn face?

Well it seems that the vampire in the remake of Fright Night (played by Colin Farrell) read my post, because there are several scenes where he stops to lick the extra blood off his face and chin.

Finally — a vampire movie that pays attention to the details! Credit must be given to Marti Noxon (of Buffy fame) who wrote the smart screenplay, as well as director Craig Gillespie (of Lars and the Real Girl fame).

There are a number of really nice touches and surprises in this movie that make it a cut above most remakes out there. If you like your vampires more dark and broody, less sparkle and moody — then you’ll enjoy this film (which is now on DVD/Blu-Ray).

Anyone else pleasantly surprised by this movie?

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, SzzzzZZZZ…. Jan 27

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, SpyTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – NOT a Thriller

Anyone else a feel little disappointed by this movie?

I’ve decided that you can’t call your movie a Thriller if A) no one runs in it, and B) the protagonist is never shown to be in any real danger.

An intense Espionage Drama? Sure. But a Thriller? That’s a bit of a stretch in my opinion. Damn you false advertising!

And what was the big fuss over Gary Oldman’s performance? Solid acting to be sure — but some of the reviews were making it sound like it was the role of his life.

Or maybe it was — what do you think? Was his performance understated, nuanced and bravura? Or was it just stoic, boring and unchallenging?

Did the trailer or the commercials have you feeling a little deceived when you finally saw the movie? Or was it just me? Let me know!


Important tip for your action movie’s climax Jul 24
Captain America Poster

"I'm coming to save you, faceless multitude!"

Note: There’s a very minor Captain America SPOILER directly below, but it’s worth braving because this tip is a really good one.

Ready?

Let’s get the minor Captain America spoiler out of the way first. In the climax of the the movie, Captain America saves the world. Duh.

Okay now let’s get on to the tip. And this one’s a doozy. I’m tempted to call it “Save the Cat… Again!”

In an action movie’s third act, make sure your hero is saving someone specific.

Captain America was actually quite an enjoyable movie. The first half, especially, was very strong, and even emotionally moving at times. But the last act left me wanting for some reason. Sure, ol’ Cap was doing his action hero thing, and the stakes were high (the aforementioned saving of the world), but there was something missing.

And that’s when it hit me. There was no one specific to save.

“The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”
- Joseph Stalin

It sounds paradoxical, but if your hero is fighting to save a faceless multitude (even if it’s millions of people), it’s less compelling than if he’s fighting to save even one character you know.

The best action movies

Think of all your favorite action movies. There’s always someone specific that needs to be rescued. It’s either the hero him/herself, or at least one character you know, or both.

If it’s only the hero him/herself that needs saving, then that means the hero needs to escape from a situation that they didn’t willfully put themselves into in the third act.

  • The Matrix - Neo had to save Morpheus and the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar (as well as defeat Agent Smith)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark - Indy had to save Marion (as well as defeat the Nazis)
  • Die Hard – McClane had to save his wife (as well as defeat Hans Gruber)
  • Aliens – Ripley had to save Newt (and defeat the alien queen)
  • Alien – Ripley had to save herself and her cat (and defeat the alien)

Think how much weaker those movies would have been if they were only about defeating the bad guy(s). Keep that in mind when you’re writing the ending of your next action movie.

Can you think of any brilliant action movies that break my rule?


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