What If You’re All Just Being Used? The “Whattsa’ matter with Movies?” Edition

I love movies and believe the best way to see them is at the theatre. However, I rarely go and don’t really feel like I’ve missed out on a lot when I watch an anticipated movie at home on my 40 inch television. Special effects are no longer that special, too often it is too obvious people are just standing in a green screen draped soundstage, sufficiently reciting their lines and trying to blend in to a world they won’t really conceive until it is laid out in post production. This is akin to trying to act blindfolded and no matter the talent, a director can only do so much. Anyway, here’s what I think may help our movie going experience remembering theatrical releases are where they produces need to make their most money. They’ve already shown their willingness to spend on lazy 3-D so why not this, are you ready? Here we go.

Imagine a movie theatre as a box and the walls of that box are all screens. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, every inch a projection medium. I’m going to use the recent movie “Pompeii” as an example here. There will be seats on the floor the viewers will still face front but the chairs could offer some mobility be it up and down and side to side depending and the viewer will be immersed in the production. The volcano will erupt in front of us! The lava will flow beneath our feet! The skies above with darken with soot, smoke and ash! Terrified Pompeiians will flee on either side of us as buildings crumble all around us. We already have surround sound, why not surround viewing?

If these people, producers, backers, pimps whatever have so much money to spend on convincing us to watch their product, why the **** not just spend it on making a decent product nay an enjoyable? Spend it where it counts or spend it in a different industry. It’s an insult. The world is full of talent, the internet gives us unprecedented access to it yet the same hacks and cronies are utilized again and again. Something stinks here, it started at the core but it’s soaking outward and starting to get on my shoes, so I’m starting to take it personally, as you all should as movie fans. Stone cold fact – you’re being lied to, manipulated and used. You’re being made to feel bad for not supporting these franchises, I can’t say exactly how but I know this is how marketing works and moreover, I know how I feel. This is psychological warfare all in the name of generating profit from movies and herein is the nut of my point.

I’m no accountant but I do know people are not afraid to spend good money if they believe they’ll get better money back. With the advent of digital display I believe the cost will be negligible and if done correctly will bring people back to the theatres. I’ll leave this up the bean counters and their bean counters. What I do recognize is a saddening trend in ‘film’ these days, exploiting a well established property to deliver garbage, generally speaking. Classic tales are being picked apart to create spinoffs, sequels, prequel, side-quels you name it which some fans should be glad for. To be honest, in the case of Star Wars fans this is what we’ve been clamouring for isn’t it? Again, in theory yes, but recent history gives us cause to be wary if not totally creeped out. Like the proverbial uncle, protected by the surprisingly elastic familial bonds, these guys are going to fondle you everywhere and often until you not only scream foul but get your fists up.theatre

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The Hobbit Trilogy (2012 – 2014)

Talents : Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage,Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Manu Benett,Lee Pace, Ryan Gage, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Elijah Wood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Fry, Andy Serkis.Screenplay by: Fran Walsh, Philipa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro from the novel “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. Directed by: Peter Jackson.

As this will cover all three movies I’m going to do away with the three-tiered review and just lay it out, tiers ‘a’ through ‘e’.

So to begin, for movie lovers of all sorts there is not much here, it’s a mess for anyone whose attention span doesn’t reset every seven minutes or so. Though the core story of ‘The Hobbit’ is laid out it’s watered down by the filler needed to expand this into three movies. I guess, if you ever dreamt of an expanded universe than this may give you some enjoyment. Otherwise I’d stick to the book even the earlier version released in 1977. Though dark and generally unsettling, it was coherent and faithful. Lovers of Tolkien are advised to avoid, it’s a waste of time unless you need clear evidence of how greedy and shameless movie producers can be these days.
The CGI is sloppy, rushed and lazy and most offensive is it’s at least 5 years out of date. The make-up, hair and costumes are all overdone and are believable even in the fantastical world of Middle Earth.
Sooo many added or expanded characters to puff up the running time and nothing more. I’m going to stop here as I have nothing positive to say besides it was nice to see Frodo and Gandalf was great but it was like looking at them through a blob of multicoloured jello. It was a total misfire. which brings me to my next point, and one I’ll address further in a follow-up post on the state of the industry as a whole. What the hell were they thinking? More on this later. Consensus : Avoid read the book or graphic novel. Spend your money (or time at a library even better) on a production who actually gave a damn.

I’m sure it did! Sidney Crosby

*(this is a new but intended to be regular format in which I analyze a popular media story. ‘I’m Sure it did!’ does reflect the intention of refuting the content therein).

Last night in the National Hockey League the Pittsburgh Penguins played the Columbus Blue Jackets. The game was much like the Penguins season and a strong reflection on their captain Sidney Crosby. Now I’m not a Sidney Crosby fan for several reasons, sure he’s got good hands and makes interesting scoring opportunities but he’s got a lousy attitude. For all his acclaim and his being the face of the modern NHL by virtue of being league Commissioner Gary Bettman’s pet insert crass euphemism here. In other words I call this favouritism and I don’t like it and see it as having a bad impact on the league nevermind his team. Why isn’t the team around the, sigh, “Best Player in the World” tm, copyright, suspect fact better? How does a team like this middle around the standings (as of this writing they are 7th in Eastern Conference)? They are fresh young talent, or were, with definite makings of a juggernaut so what happened? Back to last night’s game, Sidneys been in bit of a slump lately or as I see it his gradual decline which is fine, it happens, but if only the hype would follow! His frustration became evident when he of the golden fists dropped the mittens with his nemesis Brandon Dubinsky. It wasn’t a great fight but anyone taking the time to swing at SC will get my attention these days. In a post game interview that was in no way coached (long, slow wink) Brandon referred to Crosbag with odd respect given the way he plays against his and as “…arguably, the best in the world.” I love that line. Dubinsky, who later on would go on to score the game winning goal after blown coverage by SC, arguably became my, new favourite hockey player.

Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Talents: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough. Written by : Alejandro Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo. Directed by : Alejandro Iñárritu.

Tiera – Lots to enjoy here. A filmic experiment, it was edited to look like one long take save a few ‘soft’ or subtle transitions to different locations. It’s an effective attempt as it brings you into the story, and keeps you there. This really serves the script as the director and co-writer, recognizing the rather weighty nature of the material, manages to not only maintain viewers attention. What’s keeps us invested is the caliber of acting on display . It was shot quickly, 20 days, that probably helped here. Director Iñárritu gets excellent performances out of his actors especially Micheal Keaton who was throughly used, in a good way, allowing him to shine but not over-shadow his co-stars (apologies on the mixed euphemisms). Not really a fan of the director before this and I would call this as his most coherent work.

Tiere – It’s a familiar story : A down and out __________ (actor) gets one last chance to redeem him / herself by ___________________ (funding / producing/ directing/ writing and starring in a broadway play) therein is a journey of self discovery to acceptance via exorcising psychic ghosts and mending fences with family, friends and colleagues. Inside Hollywood jokes abound, mirrors are held up to the actors and the plight of modern celebrity in general. Cutting or shooting rather, ones nose off to spite their face and in turn spinning personal tragedy into career boost gold. Good dramatic turn from everyone, including favorite Emma Stone with a nice addition to her portfolio here (Oscar nod Yo!) and Ed Norton, love or hate him, he’s always captivating. For the readers among us, this is based on the short-story ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ by Raymond Carver. Not his first tap on shoulder from Hollywood “So Much Water So Close to Home” and “Tell the Women We’re Going” were adapted for Robert Altman’s 1993 feature film Short Cuts. And for the Broadway crowd there are several clever jabs directed at the theatre housing the play this movie centers around.

Tiero – Despite Super Hero movies currently being big business we get an insight into the curse it could be seen as. We get a simplified but respectful look into the psyche of an actor famous for playing a super hero. Throughout the film, Micheal Keaton is spurred on by this foul-mouthed alter ego resulting in some ‘real super powers’ on display culminating in a cool action sequence right out of said movies. Also some scantily clad famous bodies along with some sexual stuff smattered throughout. Last by not least there’s Zach Galifianakis, the familiar and beloved(?) general goof ball, dirt bag buffoon. At first I was ‘oh no’ it’s that guy but he was surprisingly steady in this, it’s a legitimate acting performance and it’s impressive, really, to see him nail a mature gig. Not sure if that’s good or bad as it lacks his usual ridiculousness but you do realize he is an actual actor not just a reactor.

What if you’re all just being Used – Box Office Mojo?

So we’re in a downward slide of movie attendance and despite all the price jacking the financials are finally representing this. I see this as a positive development, people are speaking out with the loudest voice they have; their wallets.  They’ve been burned enough by empty, false advertising and have finally learned Hollywood hates them, but it loves their money. I see this as a positive development and let me explain why. Firstly it’s because I love movies and the act of buying reviews through bribery via screening passes or set visits only cheapens the medium. It is proof that studios, or whomever is behind this horrible stretch of main-stream movies, are hedging their bets on making all their money on opening weekend. This is effective, sadly or used to be, two-fold. 1) it avoids negative word of mouth that will inevitably spread and 2) They can use the ‘big opening weekend numbers’ to further advertise the movie as to why you should go see it. Interesting right? Lie through anyone’s teeth you can con via a meet and greet party with celebre du jour, spread these lies far and wide and watch that opening weekend moolah rrrroll in. Then use this essentially conned money to further tout your piece of crap movie as watchable merely because of its massive cume. They’ll even go further to invest and infest benign looking message boards with their bullshit opinions where they mainly attack anyone with a conflicting or honest opinion as being ‘haters’ or ‘trolls’ et cetera. Do you see what I mean? This has reached a crescendo this year and I think we’re about to see the waters recede here but what lies beneath is the question. A return to talent supported film making? Honest reviews? One can dream and I do. More on this to come!

Bad Words (2013)

Talents: Jason Bateman, Rohan Chand, Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney, Philip Baker Hall. Written by : Andrew Dodge. Directed by : Jason Bateman.

Early Thoughts: I was impressed, I liked it. I like Jason Bateman but I’m not sure if I know anybody who doesn’t . He’s been on television since the early eighties beginning with the classic of all classic tv shows I have yet to see an episode of The Little House on the Prairie. And though this was his first feature film directing gig his first was at the tender age of 18 (the DGA’s youngest ever according to IMDB) on the show Valerie aka The Hogan Family. Since then he’s directed 11 episodes of 7 different TV shows including one episode of Arrested Development. It’s stuff like this that makes me consistently like JB. I assumed that by virtue of his being around long enough, driven by ego or boredom, he’d earned his right to direct but he seems to have taken his time bothering to learn the in and outs. He started behind a TV camera, which makes sense as it’s where he began and working up to running a film set. Based on the strength of this outing I’m tentatively curious to see if he takes a second crack at it anytime soon.

Tiera : Ultimately and oddly enough it’s a tale of revenge but also a solid, nuanced character driven piece against the back drop of a Children’s Spelling Bee. However unlike most revenge movie the structure here allows the protagonist to assemble the building blocks for a life post vengeance. This movie takes place in the real world, perhaps looked at through a darker lens both metaphorically and figuratively. I’m assuming it was a deliberate decision but either way it’s very effective and most importantly consistently executed.

Tiere : As I said before it’s a Jason Bateman movie, though we are treated (?) to a different side of him he’s dependably root-for-able as usual. If you like him, you’ll like the movie. Katherine Hahn, most recognizable from ridiculous comedies, plays this one straight and delivers a steady and impressive performance as his confidant / love interest / therapist. She is a great mirror for the frustration we experience. Also it delves into some interesting and somewhat unique family dynamics without becoming maudlin, we are afforded an insight into what makes the two main characters tick. On a bit of a depressing note, fellow comedic stalwart Philip Baker Hall really shows his age here. . He’s good but I think he may have delayed retirement a bit too long. That’s all I’ll say

Tiero : A lot of ‘Bad Words’ are spouted from all corners of this picture. Jason Bateman delivers some dynamic lines punctuated by his dead pan delivery but by the reactions of his targets. Genuine Jack-ass inspired montage of decadence involving a minor undergoing various rites of passage including underage drinking and a visit to a prostitute. Also some solid bathroom humour including the old lobster in the toilet gag, a couple of cool car sequences and just the right amount of comeuppance delivered to those who deserve it most. As I said, this is a real world picture and it does it’s job well, not that I’m calling it believable but it exists just inside the bracket of great nonsense that makes movies such an effective medium.

The Wolf Of Wall Street Review

Stars : Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley, Matthew McConaughey. Directed by : Martin Scorcese. Written by: Terence Winter based on the book by Jordan Belfort.

Tiera : A balanced story about the real life Jordan Belfort who made millions skimming the wallets of trusting middle incomers looking fora short cut to the excesses of the american dream.  In standard Scorcese style, it’s a very well made movie featuring one of Leo DiCaprio’s best performances.  Finally living up to some of his hype. A detailed but not tedious look into how these type of scams work and the surrounding laws that are exploited to allow it to continue including a bit of clarity over why Switzerland is considered such a financial safe haven for those with money to protect.

Tiere : Jonah Hill, like him or find him creepy he does a good job here. 100% believable in all his ridiculousness, I am a fan and I was impressed though I honestly can’t believe he’s actually where he is professionally. All in all a pretty standard MS film, it delivers though one gets the impression he recognized the stories weaknesses and bloated running length and compensated for potential viewer lethargy by regularly interspersing the party scenes and all their excesses. One also considers had he trimmed a lot of the fat perhaps these scenes used more sparingly may have worked better.  Some genuine humourous bits involved drug over-usages ( yet not overdoses), a Lamborghini, tapped telephones and ham slices.

Tiero: Looooots of sex, nudity, drug use, flashy cars,  yachts, jewelry and big boys toys. A general mountain of decadence spread out through the film.  Some cool action scenes resulting from a bad decision to try to make the boat trip to Monaco through some ‘chop’ that is reality a raging storm.