Sunday, June 26, 2005

Meg Ryan must've developed TASTE

When Nora Ephron and her sister were pitching their "reimagined" version of Bewitched for Studio Execs. Nicole Kidman, on the other hand, must've been the subject of some Blackmail and was forced to take this role, just as she was in last summer's flop, THE STEPFORD WIVES. Will Ferrell, well, I'm convinced that he's become such a whore that he'd take any role thrown his way, much like a starving dog will grab any scraps thrown his way in a back alley by some bum.

I'm sure that in the 254 Episodes of the TV series that there MIGHT have been enough material around to rip-off to make a almost funny 90 minute movie, however Nora Ephron and her sister, Delia decided to take a different tact - by making the movie ABOUT remaking the TV show, and having the female lead (played by Nicole Kidman) an ACTUAL witch. The first 2 thirds of the movie shows promise, but it starts going downhill fast. This movie is filled with sarcasm and in-jokes about movie making that I'm sure are quite biting in Los Angeles, but doesn't mean anything anywhere else.

Nicole Kidman in the role of the witch, I found annoying.. She seems to start off playing Meg Ryan playing Marilyn Monroe, but half way THROUGH the movie starts to play a completely different character.. It's as if suddenly she discovered who she was supposed to be.

Will Ferrell.. Well.. he plays.. Will Ferrell. The more I see of him, the more I think ELF was a fluke. Granted, I have not seen Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, but truth be told, I don't find him as funny on the big screen as I did on Saturday Night Live. I'm sure if he stopped taking every role that's thrown his way I wouldn't find him so annoying.

I see this as an opportunity lost. I think BEWITCHED would make a perfect movie - if they FOLLOWED the formula that the TV series had. In fact, the FOUNDATION is there for the movie, unfortunately this 90 minute setup has killed ANY chance of it ever materializing, and that's too bad.

Sitting through this version, I could have SWORN I heard Elizabeth Mongomery rolling over in her grave, and I'm sure the bottled water the person next to me was filled with Dick York's TEARS.

Bewitched is a D

Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Why a Bat? Because I'm afraid of them,

and it's time other people are as well." - Bruce Wayne talking to Alfred

I just got out of the IMAX screening of BATMAN BEGINS at the local theatre, went in with some expectation, and was immediately sucked in to it.

This isn't like any of the other Batman movies, which is a blessing. This is a beginning... literally.

For the first time, you UNDERSTAND Bruce Wayne's motives, how he becomes who he is, all told in flashback, never out of order. This is a movie that takes the totally implausable, and makes it, well seem plausable. Gotham City actually LOOKS like a city, not the dark gothic vision in the Burton films, or the comic book camp style that became dominant in the Atrocities brought forth by Joel Schumacher. All that was scrapped.

Bruce Wayne is torn between 2 secret identities: The Bat, driving to clean up Gotham, and his billionaire playboy persona, to hide his true intentions or cleaning up the city of crime and corruption. You don't see conflict, because in this movie, Bruce Wayne FEELS the Billionaire Playboy image is more of a disguise than the costume he wears at night. The playboy persona isn't HIM, but it's necessary facade to stop people from asking too many questions.

Most comic book movies that studios try to make into franchises have to follow a VERY fine line in the first installment: they have to give enough backstory of the superhero to bring those not familiar with the character up to speed, and not give so much backstory that is bores the core audience that has read EVERY comic book, and graphic novel that's been written.

BATMAN BEGINS succeds with this.. The backstory isn't used as confusing fodder. Take for example the scene in Time Burton's Batman where Michael Keaton has a Flashback that connects the dots (Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moon light?). That didn't ADD to the movie, or to Bruce Wayne's Character, it confused the issue.. OK.. Bruce Wayne in the 1989 version saw his parent's get killed.. It's left there.

The 2005 version draws you into Bruce Wayne's character, you see how things develop, and the setting is familiar. Gotham looks like a major american city, so you aren't drawn away from a setting that could make this into a camp piece.

Christian Bale is perfect as Bruce Wayne, The rest of the Cast is just as solid. Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as Gordon, Katie Holmes (You might have heard of her) as the Assistant DA, all bring in Solid performances.

Warners has made me forget and forgive the last Batman series. This is a SOLID start to a new beginning. Hopefully when the sequel comes out.. if you've seen the movie you know the setup. I won't go into it here.. They won't screw it up.


Trailers are called trailers because the used to TRAIL the main feature, and the name stuck, is what I've been told.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I generally have low expectations

when a novel is made into a movie. Here's a "hypothetical":

Let's say you just finished reading a really, REALLY good novel. We'll call the novel, oh, I don't KNOW Leonardo's Puzzle (Any similarities to any novel presently out there may or may NOT be intentional).

Let's say that Leonardo's Puzzle weighs in at over 464 pages, and is a real page-turner. It's caught on like wildfire! Now you discover that they are making a movie of your (and the rest of the world where people have books) favourite novel, next to Harry Potter. So now, you and everyone else waits for Leonardo's Puzzle: The Movie EVENT!

This week You go to a movie, and see a "Teaser Trailer" for Leonardo's Puzzle BEFORE the director shoots a single frame of film! If that doesn't add to the excitement to the waiting for the release, nothing will!

Here is why if they were making a movie called Leonardo's Puzzle I have no expectations for it right now. In Fact.. using a recent novel as an example, which IS being made into a movie, why there are warning bells going off in my head, albiet quietly.

1) The general rule of thumb when making a movie is that one page of a screenplay equals one MINUTE of film. So, right away you KNOW that if the filmmakers were going to make a FAITHFUL adaptation of Leonardo's Puzzle, the movie would be 464 minutes. That won't happen in a million years. The attention Span of the average movie goer is the time it takes for them to chow down on Popcorn and finish their Dr. Pepper, OR The length of time between cell phone calls. This means a LOT of fat from the novel has to be trimmed.

2) Because of point 1, market research is done to find the parts of the novel that people EXPECT to see in the film. They also try and fit the movie into one of the established formulas that they KNOW draw them in.

3) You see the report that (insert "A" list actor here) has been cast in the lead role for Leonardo's Puzzle: The Movie EVENT! The Actor is friends with the director, so there's a chemistry that is SURE to come across on screen. Then you read the director's Quote in an article on a Website Where he says "Leonardo's Puzzle is a CEREBERAL movie. (insert Actor Here) is an exciting actor to watch thinking. "

So, even though I LOVED Leonardo's Puzzle, I have no expectations as to how the movie will turn out, since I know because of the process of adapting the book to a movie, a lot of decisions will have to be made that won't please EVERYONE.

What was the last novel you saw on the Big Screen? How did the movie version compare to the novel?

Here's the question of the day: Why do they call movie Previews "trailers"?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Most Valuable Tool

for a director, besides the screenplay are his storyboards. If you aren't involved in film, storyboards are what directors use to visualize their film before starting to shoot, sort of like a comic book version of the movie.

So, it constantly SURPRISES me that Hollywood can completely SCREW UP movies based on comic books. How hard is it to translate what is essentially 50 volumes of storyboards for the big screen?

Granted there are some exceptions to the screw up rule: SPIDER-MAN 1 & 2, X-Men, Richard Donner's Version of SUPERMAN, which seem to avoid breaking the rule. Recently though movies like THE PUNISHER can't seem to click with audiences. Why not? I think it's because most of the people that are WRITING the movie version have never SEEN a Comic Book, or "Graphic Novel" as they are called these days. The other reason is that the Hollywood Execs that APPROVE such things don't understand the core audience.

I bring this up, because tonight in less than 2 hours from when I post this, the latest comic book franchise is relaunched with BATMAN BEGINS. Directed by CHRISTOPHER NOLAN (Insomnia, Momento), and starring CHRISTIAN BALE (Laurel Canyon, American Psycho, Empire Of The Sun) as Bruce Wayne. This movie is NOTHING like the last films directed by JOEL SCHUMACHER, which reduced Tim Burton's dark vision into a rehash of the TV Show which starred Adam West.

Once of the complaints I had with the TIM BURTON version of Batman back in 1989 was that it didn't give any depth to the Bruce Wayne Character, WHY was he a BAT MAN and not say, Gerbil man? What drove him to fight crime? WHERE did he get the cave, WHERE did he get the Car?

BATMAN BEGINS is a character driven movie, that delves into this aspect, we finally get to see what drives Bruce Wayne into his role of crime fighter. This, from what I hear, is that the Core comic book audience is looking for.. a comic book movie that is true to the source material.

Hopefully, other studios see this movie, and take notes for any other comic book film in the works. I know that Warners is getting ready to relaunch the SUPERMAN franchise, with BRYAN SINGER (X-Men, The Usual Suspects) at the helm. Warners is getting it right, why can't the other studios?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

I think this has been my worse week ever.

No, not because the Honeymooners opened. I had a trip to the Dentist on Monday, and things went from bad to worse.

The good news: The molar he's been worried about for 2 years didn't need a root canal. He just had to prep it for a crown.

The bad news.. The Temporary crown hasn't stayed on the tooth for more than 27 hours. The gum AROUND the tooth is raw. I'm in constant pain. My diet this week has consisted of Advil or Tylenol 3, and Water. I've lost 11 lbs. Tylenol 3 doesn't last for more than 5 hours at a stretch.

During one of the lapses of pain thanks to Tylenol 3, I went to see Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

Now, I'm not one of these people that I know that sits at the newsstand waiting for for those bastions of journalistic integrity on movie stars known as PEOPLE or US or IN TOUCH. I've never been one to get absorbed into the world of "celebrities".

I know from experience that Movie Stars are just people, and when it comes right down to it, they do everything normal people do, albeit on a grander scale. I haven't really cared about Brad Pitts love life, or who's he sleeping with, etc. .

All I care about at the end of the day is when I pay my admission if the movie stars have entertained me. If I walk out of the theatre at the end of a movie and I feel like I've seen something that has engaged me, or I've seen a great performance or performances, then I feel that the actor or actors have done their job. I leave satisfied.

I'm not an idiot either, I know the cycles of film: Summer is the season of "event" pictures, and Fall/Winter is the time for the films that want to win awards, and are for the most part, adults. I've learned that these days Summer Movies aren't supposed to be engaging on an anything but the "thrill" level, they're supposed to be more like a ride at an amusement park - Give people the maximum amount of thrills that might make them say "Whoa! I wanna do that again!" and get them BACK in line.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith is directed by DOUG LIMAN, who behind the BOURNE (Identity, Supremacy, and the soon to go in to production Ultimatum) films. This, to me guaranteed that the car chases would be tightly directed, if anything. This is a summer movie that has everything a summer movie is supposed to have: Things exploding on a grand scale, and lots of shooting. The chemistry between BRAD PITT and ANGELINA JOLIE is evident, which doesn't hurt the movie either. When I saw the movie, the theatre was sold out, filled with people that came TO see Pitt and Jolie, so there was a lot of swooning going on around me. I'm no idiot on this front either.. The demographic for a summer movie ISN'T someone over the age of 30.

At the end of the day I left the theatre knowing the movie accomplished what it set out to do: entertain people with explosions and car chases, then when the lights come up be forgotten by the time you wake up the next day. It's sorta like Chinese food for the eyes.. you get full, but a couple of hours later, you're hungry again.

It made me forget about my tooth for a couple of hours, and this is the last you shall hear me gripe about it as well.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

What an IMAX-ination you have...

There used to be a theatre in my town (The North Hill Cinerama Theatre) that was one of the best places to see movies. About the only theatre left that I know of that resembles it is the CINERAMA theatre in Seattle. I'm sure that there are a couple of others, but that is the one I'm familiar with.

The North Hill theatre used to show 70-mm movies on their 60' X 20' screen, and it was jaw dropping. I saw 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and APOCALYPSE NOW on that screen at least 5 times, and it was impressive. Same with EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, The sound and clarity of the picture is what I really remember. 70-mm went out of style, mostly due to the cost of the prints, and the shipping of them to theaters. A piece of movie-going history was lost.

Now, I'm really getting into watching IMAX films. It's just like seeing 70-mm again, and I think everyone should experience it at least ONCE. Normally, an IMAX movie runs 45 minutes, and is Documentary style films, as most IMAX theaters are in Museums, etc.

But IMAX has perfected it's DMR Technology, so they can take ANY 35-mm movie and convert it to IMAX size with little or no grain. There have been only a few films released in IMAX DMR: Star Wars: Episode II," "Matrix Reloaded" and "Matrix Revolutions.", "Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets" & "Spider-Man 2", and Polar Express 3D. This summer the latest DMR movies will be released: "Batman Begins" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory".

It's been interesting to see this technology mature. At first, for Apollo 13, and Attack of the Clones, the films could only be 2 hours long. The 2 hour time limit isn't a BAD thing: I hate to admit it, but I prefer the IMAX version of CLONES to the Theatrical version. About 20 minutes of the film had to be cut, and the editors at Lucasfilm made the right choices. The other problem at the start was since an IMAX Screen is SQUARE, movies that are anamorphic had to be cropped, so it was like you were watching a pan-and-scan version of the movie.

Now, IMAX DMR presentations are letterboxed (No, you don't NOTICE the black bars. The screen is LARGE enough that they aren't intrusive), and there is no 2 hour time limit.

I think IMAX DMR presentations are the closest thing to a true "movie going experience" these days. You can't help but be in AWE of the picture and sound. Hopefully, Hollywood will see the audiences reactions to IMAX releases and help nurture it. I've heard that IMAX has now perfected the technology to take ANY 35mm Movie, and convert it to IMAX 3D. My mind reels at the door this opens.. CASABLANCA in 3D.. I'd be in heaven.

What movie would you like to see in IMAX 3D? It seems the sky is the limit.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson

When I was a kid, one of the first "adult" movies I saw on TV was THE GRADUATE, directed by Mike Nicols, and starring DUSTIN HOFFMAN and ANNE BANCROFT. Back then, when I was 12, the movie was quite risqué.

Now, I can appreciate it for dialog like this:

Benjamin: Mrs. Robinson, I can't do this.
Mrs. Robinson: You what?
Benjamin: This is all terribly wrong.
Mrs. Robinson: Do you find me undesirable?
Benjamin: Oh no, Mrs. Robinson. I think, I think you're the most attractive of all my parents' friends. I mean that.

Anne Bancroft's career varied, The sixties in general were her best years, with movies like The Pumpkin Eater (1964) directed by Jack Clayton, 7 Women (1966) directed by John Ford.

In 1962, Bancroft went from supporting roles, to winning an Oscar for her role as Annie Sullivan and her struggle to teach the blind and deaf Helen Keller how to communicate, In THE MIRACLE WORKER, directed by Arthur Penn.

After the 60's Bancroft reduced her appearances in movies but still had roles in films like Garbo Talks (1984) directed by Sidney Lumet.

Today, word came out that Anne Bancroft died in New York of uterine cancer. She was 73.

My thoughts and condolences go out to her husband, Mel Brooks and the rest of her family.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

"Boxing is just show business with blood." - Frank Bruno

I can count the number of movies about boxing that have grabbed my interest on one hand:
Raging Bull (1980) - Martin Scorcese's look at the story of Jake La Motta, and has been one of the most powerful (and bloody) films I've seen

The First Rocky Movie (1976) - a good story about an underdog who's given a shot at the title.

Million Dollar Baby (2004) - A boxing movie that turns out to be more about NOT boxing than boxing.

This weekend, I decided to give CINDERELLA MAN a shot. I saw the preview, and it caught my eye. I went in not expecting much, and was surprised.

The story is about Jimmy Braddock (Russel Crowe), who, as the movie opens, is riding the wave of victories in the ring that's letting him live the comfortable life with his wife Mae (Renée Zelwegger) and his 3 kids. Then the depression hits. Soon, Braddock falls on hard times. Fighting with a broken hand, Braddock's boxing license is revoked, and he can't box any more. Just as he hits the low point, his former manager (played with great flair by Paul Giamatti) gets Braddock him one fight against a #1 contender to the belt, and thus begins one of more amazing comeback stories which inspired hope for everyone during the 30's.

Sitting in the theatre, I saw more than a few resemblances to Raging Bull in regards to style - This is the first boxing film I've seen since RAGING BULL where you can almost FEEL the pain on each blow, and the performances are outstanding. Russell Crowe and Paul Giamatti should be shoe-ins for acting nominations come Oscar time. Sure, Ron Howard gives the story enough sentimentality to make you roll your eyes, but this is more about the performances than anything, and it's a nice diversion from the other summer movies out there right now. - B

I wanted to see LORDS OF DOGTOWN this weekend, but didn't have a chance. If you have seen it, would you recommend it? What movies are you looking forward to this summer?

Friday, June 03, 2005

The New York Times had an

interesting article the other day about how DVDs & TiVO are changing the habits of people, who are staying home instead of heading to the theatre.

The article says that people have started to find that going to theatres may not be worth the trouble, when they can wait 4 months until a movie is out on DVD to watch it in the comfort of their own home. Hollywood is still raking in money at the Box Office (9 billion+ Dollars) so it isn't DYING, but there is a drop in attendance. What's a Multi-Million Dollar studio to do to save their profits at the box office?

In my mind, this is actually a double edged sword. Sure Hollywood provides the PRODUCT for a Theatre to show, but the local cineplex has a part to play as well. Here then, are my suggestions to help Hollywood and Movie Theatres save their profits:

1) Embrace Digital. Film is dying. Sure, it was great a hundred years ago, but now it seems archiac. When a movie is being shot & chopped digitally, it seems BACKWARDS to convert it to film for distribution. I've heard the arguments: It's too expensive for the theatres to convert to digital, and the Studios are worried about piracy. If a studio can spend $100 million on making a movie, maybe they can afford a little R & D to find ways to help theatres convert to digital.

2) Piracy As long as a movie is PROJECTED on a SCREEN, piracy will exist.

3) 3D Lately a few top movie directors have said that 3D could be a good deterrent to piracy. I'm not convinced this is the case. People download movies recorded off a screen in a Theatre with Crappy Sound and peoples HEADS in the frame. Do you really think a Blurry picture will stop them?
If everyone thinks 3D is the way to go, here's what I think COULD be done:
Devise a system that eliminates the screen, and project the images IN the Glasses. Again, using some R & D, come up with a way to let the Digital System know when glasses are being used to activate them. If a special signal ISN'T being received, no video goes to that port. This system should be simple to implement, if you have $100 million to spend.

4) Movie Theatres - Get USHERS that do MORE than clean up If theatres don't take steps to stop people from being jerks in theatres, then they will lose business. They have to be proactive in getting people to behave. Maybe have VIP Theatres Certain Screens showing certain movies with a little stricter followup on stuff like Cell Phones. In those theatres, maybe don't ALLOW couples with babies to wander in. Just a few simple steps, may make things a lot better for everyone.

Overall, Hollywood is in a Win/Win situation: revenue from DVDs are skyrocketing and theatrical revenue, although LOWER isn't exactly hurting their coffers. It's the Theatre Owners that will ultimately lose out, if they can't change with the times.

What do you think? How can people be enticed to get back into the theatres? Will theatres ultimately go the way of the drive in?

The floor is open for your comments.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

In 2004, There was one movie

that blew my socks off, it was MILLION DOLLAR BABY. Written by PAUL HAGGIS, I was drawn in to this Clint Eastwood directed film that ended up winning Best Picture this year.

I bring this up because 2 weeks before Star Wars was released, I saw CRASH which was directed by PAUL HAGGIS. When the movie was over, I just sat in my chair in awe. The plot of CRASH is simple: Several stories are interwoven during two days in Los Angeles involving a collection of inter-related characters: a black police detective(Done Cheadle) with a drugged out mother and a car-thieving younger brother, the brother and his partner-in-crime who is constantly theorizing on society and race, the distracted district attorney and his irritated and pampered wife (Brenden Fraser & Sandra Bullock), a racist veteran cop (Matt Dillon) (caring for a sick father at home) who disgusts his more idealistic younger partner, a successful black Hollywood director and his wife who must deal with racist cop, a Iranian-immigrant father who buys a gun to protect his shop, an Hispanic locksmith and his young daughter who is afraid of bullets, and more.

The performances in Crash are incredible. Don Cheadle as the police detective owns this movie, but Saundra Bullock and Brendan Fraser also give great performances.. they are so good I sat there thinking "When did THEY learn to Act"? Even bit roles like Tony Danza make you go "Wow".

CRASH is a perfect example of a movie that grabs you and holds your interest. I'd say it's a must see.

Since I've seen the movie, people I've recommended it to have asked if it would be up for Oscar contention this year, and the answer is no. It was released in 2004, in Time for consideration for last year's ceremony, and well, we know the outcome of that.

The notable news today is that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have approved the screenplay for INDIANA JONES 4. Harrison Ford needs to read the screenplay since he gets script approval as well. If Harrison likes it, then the movie is a go.

Spielberg has 2 other projects on his directing plate: a story about the Munich Olympics, and another on Abraham Lincoln. It will be interesting to see if he can fit Indiana Jones in before these other projects.

There. Not all my posts will have a negative tone. I just call 'em like I see 'em.