Sunday, July 24, 2011
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Every once in a while a movie comes along that really affects me. It moves me or has me thinking about it a lot not to mention seeing it multiple times. In the past it’s been ground-breaking movies like Blade Runner or Amadeus. Last year’s Inception also comes to mind.
This summer it has been JJ Abrams excellent work of art called Super 8. On the surface – this film can seem like just another coming of age story with a funny, great group of friends who also happen to run into a scary powerful extraterrestrial that’s trying to get home. (Ring any bells?)
In fact, many critics have compared (dismissed?) it as just a nice little homage to Spielberg’s movies of the 80’s (ET, Goonies, Gremlins etc.) as well other kid classics like Stand By Me. And every person with whom I’ve seen it with the exception of my wife has had comments like: “Oh it was good but kind of just reminded me of…” (See the above mentioned movies) or “Yeah it was ok…a little slow in parts.”
Personally, I think JJ has gone a step further in showing his uncanny ability to hone in on what really counts in ALL movies – and that is: characters matter! If you can develop the characters as completely as possible – they become a group of people that we are solidly rooting for and want to hang out with! We even desperately want to help them complete their journey.
Forgetting for a moment his prolific successful experience as a TV producer and writer; (Alias, Lost) - as far as feature films go – this is Mr. Abrams 3rd time at the helm of director (and his 2nd as both writer and director) and he is already proving himself to be a master.
He currently holds the record for the biggest budget given to a first-time director for a feature film – and that was for his directorial debut of Mission Impossible III. Tom Cruise asked him if he would direct it after seeing his work on Alias.
His second film – which he wrote as well – was the brilliant rebooting of the Star Trek original series franchise - still holding a solid 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.
So needless to say he’s doing something right. And in my view, the thing he’s doing right (write?) is characters. And especially their relationships.
Super 8 is so brilliantly put together and moving for several reasons. First of all – JJ and I are only 2 years apart in age which puts him at 45 and since Super 8 is set in 1979 (when I was 15) I can tell you he nailed that part down perfect. Costumes, sets, décor, music – you name it – it was bang on!
Second, he manages to pack in so many lifelong principles and emotions – loss, forgiveness, redemption, first-love, coming of age and maybe, most importantly timeless friendships, that all flow so beautifully that they don’t become lost, trite or convoluted. By the end of the movie you love all of these people.
This brings me to the third reason: The casting. Every character in this film is so perfectly cast that it’s almost impossible to think of anyone else playing them. And with one or two exceptions, all of them are unknowns! Joe, the main character has an unbelievable ability to convey emotion without saying anything. There is a brilliant scene that is so moving but if you blink you could miss it – but again shows Mr. Abrams real talent; it’s right after the train has finished crashing and Joe is standing by himself but he can hear something trying to break out of the train-car in front of him – petrified, he pulls out the necklace that belonged to his mother and holds it in his shaking hand and the emotion in his face is so powerful. You can’t teach that kind of acting.
Cary, the pyromaniac friend almost steals the show and provides all of the comic relief. I could go on but go see the movie and you’ll see what I mean.
Lastly, with the exception of the look, I think JJ came up with the perfect alien. Not an ET, Yoda, or Ewok cutesy thing but a powerful, frightening and scared creature that is not without malice but simply is scared itself and just wants to go home. It’s what makes Joe’s courage and heroics that much more stirring and profound at the end. I would have chosen an alien that looked a little less animal-like because when you start to do that it makes it harder to believe that this creature could have built a space ship and traveled through the galaxy – but I’m nit picking.
Maybe its nostalgia or perhaps I’m just a sucker for a well told story with compelling, thoughtful characters and emotions that seem to be so rare these days; but it is easy to see why Mr. Spielberg was eager to be the producer on this film as well as lend his Amblin brand name to the production.
If JJ Abrams continues with these kind of moving, strong characters and triumphant thoughtful story-telling, I think he’s on his way to surpassing his mentor.
Monday, July 4, 2011
Considering the Sequels is a monthly film podcast that examines the merits and weaknesses of specific movie franchises. In this BONUS episode, we consider the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. Our special guest is filmmaker and film critic Tim Buel, host of The Golden Briefcase podcast.
Listen here: http://bit.ly/j5cLwo
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Considering the Sequels is a bi-monthly film podcast that examines the merits and weaknesses of specific movie franchises. In Episode 12 we consider “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and answer some voice mails from our new, Listener Feedback Hotline: 801.382.8789.
Find this episode here: http://bit.ly/loSKLv
Friday, April 29, 2011
Considering the Sequels is a monthly film podcast that examines the merits and weaknesses of specific movie franchises.
In Episode 11 we consider the “Fletch” movies with film critic Cody Clark. As always we each give Mini Reviews of recent film releases and whatever else we’ve been watching lately, and this episode concludes with the reading and answering of listener e-mails — as well as drawing our winner for the random, free DVDs!
Go here to listen to this podcast: http://bit.ly/jsClIQ
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Considering the Sequels is a monthly film podcast that examines the merits and weaknesses of specific movie franchises. In Episode 10 we consider the original “Star Wars” trilogy. And, as always, we each give Mini Reviews of recent film releases and whatever else we’ve been watching lately. This episode proudly features two special guests: Dave3 of Geeks of Doom.com and “Star Wars” Guru Steve Hernandez.
Listen here => http://bit.ly/fr6zhf
Friday, March 11, 2011
Considering the Sequels is a monthly film podcast that examines the merits and weaknesses of specific movie franchises. In Episode 9 we consider the “Star Wars” Prequel trilogy with special guest Steve Hernandez, a Classical Studies scholar and “Star Wars” guru. This episode also includes a Concept Discussion in which we’ll analyze Robert Zemeckis’s “Cast Away.” And, as always, we each give Mini Reviews of recent film releases and whatever else we’ve been watching lately.
Listen to this episode here: http://bit.ly/ggowod
Friday, March 4, 2011
Um....what else is there to say about "The Fall"? I wish I was actually a writer. I am not. I even have to write for my profession and I'm not very good at it. I've had a pretty good idea for a screenplay for over a year and I can't seem to finish up a first draft. I hate writing. My dislike for writing is the opposite of Tarsem Singh's love for movies. He loves movies, loves the production of movies, and loves epics.
He's like Stanley Kaufman (see Synedoche, NY). Unfortunately, for the Kaufman's and Singh's of the world, we are a fickle movie-going public. Epics are tough. They are expensive, long, complicated, deep, and, unfortunately, boring to most people. And you know what, even "critics" and "movie lovers" get bored in films. I get bored. But, and I say this with some amount of esteem, I can watch and even enjoy boring films.
"The Fall" is not so much boring as it is long and slow (and a little bit boring)... Ok, it drags, but it's simultaneously super fascinating.
And the art....wow. This is probably the most colorful film I've ever seen. The production values are incredible, and the bluray transfer is fabulous. Acting - superb. Directing - excellent. Movie - great, but too long. And, as far as a money making adventure, it was a flop. I don't think it appealed to any particular audience. It's clearly shot with a child's bright perspective, but the length and material were well above a child's grasp.
Anyway, that's all I have to say about that...
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Recently I went over to my good friend Jason’s new house to check it out. In the interest of full disclosure – it happens to be the very same Jason who is the purveyor of this here blog.
It is Jason and his lovely wife Natalie’s first home purchase. And I must say they picked a dandy. As Jason was giving me the grand tour, I noticed that the basement was unfinished; and as men are want to do – I started imagining all the possibilities just waiting to be created in the always exciting art of home theater. At this point I hadn’t said anything out loud.
When we got back upstairs to the kitchen where Natalie was working on something with their cute son Davy, I braved the friendly air with a casual: “You know it’s great that the basement isn’t finished yet cuz we can pre-wire it for a nice home theater!”
At this point Natalie looked at me with a hint of a smile - but try as her body most assuredly did, she could not force back the inevitable rolling of the eyes that is almost as natural as blinking for women when they are forced (consciously) to think about anything that has electricity flowing through it.
Now at my age, I’ve learned to overlook such blasphemy from the unwashed, and put it down to a lack of (audio/video) education. It reminds of a time when I was first married (now 20 years ago) and my wife would look at me with disgust and disdain after I had just purchased yet another piece of audio or video gear. It took many years of proving over and over again why something was better or improved and how it added joy to our home movie viewing.
One of the things that didn’t help was the fact that for every new piece of gear that you would buy – another remote control was added to the arsenal. And finally after a while – our coffee table started hinting that an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) factory was just in the other room. It seemed that manufacturers would never come together to solve this very unfriendly-to-wives situation.
Enter Logitech. That’s right – the famous computer mouse and keyboard making company that we’ve all come to love as one of the best makers of cool working devices for communicating with our beloved PC’s. About 6 years ago they decided to buy a little company called Harmony. A company whose name was so inspired – it seemed as if God himself had a hand in it - probably to ward off the ever increasing divorce rate from out of control husbands who couldn’t figure out why their wives had a problem with 14 remotes!
Harmony had started building remote controls that were designed to control ALL of your gear! Imagine only having to pick up one remote and you could control all 10+ devices in your system!
Harmony’s idea was so beautiful and simple – that it’s one of those that you wonder why it took so long in the computer age. Harmony’s idea was to take their remote, hook it up to your computer via a USB cord, fire up the Harmony remote program and tell the program the brand and model number of each piece of gear that you wanted it to control. It would then program the remote with the correct codes and voila! But they didn’t stop there. They also programmed the remote for your system so that whatever activity you were going to do – watch TV or DVD or play a video game – it would know which devices to turn on AND which inputs and settings to set each device on. Couldn’t you just hear the angels singing? I could.
They even went one better and included a HELP button. Which is designed that if during the setup of a particular activity – something didn’t get set right – you just hit the help button and it re-runs the macro and then asks you a series of questions to see if everything is as it should be.
After I bought my first Harmony remote – (that’s right – I’ve owned a few and currently have 2 – one for each room) my wife no longer looked at me with that hint of “what made me say yes to you all those years ago?”
It’s these little inventions that bring man and woman together; and let’s face it, ensure that we can keep buying more crap and not be single again.
After years of me teaching my wife how an audio system should sound or how a calibrated TV should look – she finally gets it AND more importantly – appreciates it.
I remember the tear in my eye a couple of years ago when she came home from a friend’s house and said to me – “They were watching a movie or something and I could tell that their TV was way out of whack! – It made me appreciate ours more” Honey – you had me at “I could tell”.
Having children and watching them grow up is awesome – but having your wife notice when someone else system isn’t as good as yours? That’s a keeper.
So remember gents – harmony in the home is worth its weight in gold. A Harmony remote? – Priceless.
In Episode 8 we consider the “Red Riding” trilogy. This episode also includes a Concept Discussion in which we’ll discuss the idea of the “life-changing movie” and if such a thing exists. And, as always, we each give Mini Reviews of recent film releases and whatever else we’ve been watching lately.
Listen to Episode 8 here: http://bit.ly/f3tLZs
Thursday, February 24, 2011
As the official podcast of this site, Considering the Sequels is a monthly film podcast that examines the merits and weaknesses of specific movie franchises. But the bonus episode we just posted varies from our usual format and gives us the opportunity to discuss the job description of a director and the industry phrase “execution dependent,” while comparing and contrasting “The Cave” and “The Descent.”
Listen to this episode here: http://bit.ly/fvv64J
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
by Jason Pyles
In late March, the official podcast of this site — the Considering the Sequels podcast — will have a bonus episode on “Extreme and Shock Cinema.” (We’ll post it at ctspodcast.com in April.) We’re going to investigate the morality, utility and social repercussions of filmmaking that graphically depicts the dregs of human depravity. Our discussion won’t be for the faint of heart, so be ye warned.
Though comparatively mild it may be, the infamous Japanese film, Batoru rowaiaru — aka “Battle Royale” (2000) still falls upon the fringes of this extreme, macabre film movement.
Reading from the Internet Movie Database’s plot description, “In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill one another under the revolutionary ‘Battle Royale’ act.”
So what you’ve got here, is a dystopian society, of sorts, where military-types gather a group of 14-year-old kids into a room and explain that they have to engage in mortal combat, in an every-man-for-himself, last-man-standing fight to the death. And to illustrate their seriousness, the military instructors kill a kid or two in front of their classmates to demonstrate that the same fate will surely befall them if they don’t participate.
So, these kids must fight or die, with the objective to kill every last person — even friends, love interests and siblings. No mercy. The solitary winner will be set free. Each child is given a small “kit” that includes one weapon. These weapons vary in their utility. Some “weapons” really aren’t weapons at all. And most of the kids aren’t natural-born killers, though they must learn quickly or else.
The violence is fairly graphic, which is unsettling, since the perpetrators and victims are so young.
You might have guessed that, upon its release, this film instantly became a cult classic. And really, it is “a trip” to watch. It’s a little hard to believe your eyes sometimes. It’s just so weird.
As I’ve thought about “Battle Royale” and other entries of extreme cinema, I’ve noticed that these films and the milder horror genre, in general, reduce down to two primal elements: fear and sorrow.
Through myriad illustrations of unthinkable violence, extreme cinema and the horror genre are fueled by intense fear and profound sadness. Now, these movies aren’t for everyone. I’m personally not even into regular horror movies, really — let alone shock cinema. But there is no denying that there is an enthusiastic audience for such filmmaking.
So, speaking about that audience from a place of curiosity and not condemnation — what is it about the human condition that draws so many people to become fascinated by the aspects of life that we instinctively tend to avoid the most — fear, sorrow and death? (The only one I didn’t mention here was “fire,” but many of these films also use fire to great effect, as well.)
This is something we’ll explore in our podcast, we hope, in non-judgmental terms. But in short, I think when it comes to viewing taboo atrocities — such as ninth-graders being forced to kill one another — we are so hard-wired to steer clear of such things, having been raised by “proper society,” that we are paradoxically drawn to them. It’s that age-old principle, if you want someone to press the red button, all you have to say is, “...and under no circumstances whatsoever — whatever you do — don’t press this red button.” At that point, we simply have to press the red button. We must, and we do.
Many, perhaps most, humans have a morbid curiosity and fascination with the macabre because those things are so far outside our circle of daily, monotonous experience.
And I guess in some, sick way, “Battle Royale” serves as some kind of twisted wish-fulfillment: I mean, if we’re perfectly honest with ourselves, who among us didn’t have at least one person in junior high that we would have liked to knock off?
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
by Jason Pyles
OK. So this is how it happened. This is why I chose “Top Secret!” (1984) to review for this site. In the rec room (where did I get that archaic term?) of a house where I used to go for band practice, someone had the DVD for “Top Secret!” lying around. I kept seeing it there, week after week, and the floating cows wearing boots always got my attention. I asked my friend Jeff Bryner, in a condescending tone, “What’s this?” And after flipping out that I hadn’t seen it, he said, “Hey, don’t judge a movie by its cover — you will laugh your head off during this movie. I guarantee it.”
A few years later, I still remembered that exchange and reasoned from the DVD cover alone that surely this must be an unusual film, so I chose it for this site — not realizing that it was one of those spoof-parody movies.
Even so, Jeff was partially right. “Top Secret!” has some pretty funny parts, but I still don’t think it was a worthy pick for our lofty purposes here ... but then, we’ve also discussed things like “Urban Menace” and “Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man” on this blog, too.
Released in 1984 and having three directors, “Top Secret!” stars a young Val Kilmer. As near as I could tell, this movie is “Airplane!” (1980) meets “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964). It’s an apt comparison, especially since it was made by the same people who made the former. But despite its charms, “Top Secret!” really isn’t in the same ballpark as the latter.
Val Kilmer plays Nick Rivers, a Beach Boys-like American pop-singing icon who has been commissioned to perform at an East German festival, where an evil, German, world domination-type plot is afoot. Unlike other more recent spoof movies, “Top Secret!” actually has a story — and isn’t just a number of random, pop-culture sight gags strung together. (The excruciating works of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer — as well as Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans — have been a blight on moviedom the past 10 years.)
The highest praise I can give “Top Secret!” — meaning, if you’re going to watch it, then this is why you should — is that it defies your expectations right and left, every step of the way. To me that’s where the humor of this movie comes from. It’s silly humor, which I usually don’t go for now that I’m no longer 14 years old, but this silly humor almost always comes as the result of an expectation-defying surprise.
Now that I think back to it, “Top Secret!” is actually pretty funny. I laughed more than I usually do during a comedy — and I’m tough on comedies. So, maybe Jeff Bryner was right, after all. You can’t judge a movie by its cover.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
"Monster Camp" is a documentary about the Seattle chapter of NERO. NERO is live-action role playing; Dungeons and Dragons, but acted out in real life. It's the guys (adults) with swords in the park dressed up like medieval sorcerers and elves hitting each other with wooden swords and shields.
It honestly felt like I was sneaking a look at someone's deep dark secret, and I was a little ashamed of the dispersions I cast while watching the show. It gave me some amount of unfounded and unfair esteem that I was not, nor had I ever, been involved in that sort-of thing; that I wasn't THAT weird. But in reality, I probably am. We are all weird in our own ways, right? I drive all over the country collection National Park stamps, and some days are ridiculously rigid and stressful, yet I'm supposed to be on vacation. I have a few subjects where I know WAY TOO MUCH information. But still...I don't pretend-hit other people with sticks.
Fascinating documentary though. Brilliant, actually. I guess it may have fallen in their laps, but the story telling of the characters was excellent. It wasn't simply a documentary about some odd adults who dress up and play fight with swords. They were real people who were having a lot of fun together, and somehow having serious drama about their person struggles and interpersonal relationships.
Wow. If you thought he characters in "King of Kong" were fascinating, check this one out...
thoughts by Andy
Friday, January 21, 2011
Considering the Sequels is a monthly film podcast that examines the merits and weaknesses of specific movie franchises.
In Episode 7 we consider the “Mad Max” trilogy. This episode also includes a concept discussion in which we try to identify the elements that make a film a masterpiece. And, as always, we each give mini reviews of recent film releases and whatever else we’ve been watching lately.
Go listen to this podcast here: http://bit.ly/fcVxhE
Thursday, January 20, 2011
by Jason Pyles
Think of the odd, graphically violent comedy of Quentin Tarantino, framed as a western with the charm of “Maverick” (1994), and the entertainment value of “3:10 to Yuma” (2007) — all set in Manchuria, China, and populated primarily with Korean actors — and you’ve got a good feel for “The Good, the Bad, the Weird.”
As Andy noted below, many posts ago, “The Good, the Bad, the Weird” is a South Korean film that’s subtitled, and yes, it’s loosely inspired by Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966).
The term “revisionist western” comes to mind, though this movie is even more genre-defying than that — hence its inclusion here. Many films that are blatantly, almost rebelliously, shedding genre conventions are also disregarding tonal unity and clarity, which is to say, they’re all over the place when it comes to dramatic elements, comedic elements, etc. Films like “The Good, the Bad, the Weird” run the gamut, as if written by multiple personalities or my moody ex-girlfriend from high school.
“The Good, the Bad, the Weird” is made with apparent technical skill. First of all, the film looks beautiful. It’s the kind of movie that’s rewarding to simply look at — even if you can’t hear the volume. (And hey, it’s mostly subtitled, so I guess you could watch it as a silent film.) The film opens with a pretty spectacular tracking shot on a train. And at about 61 minutes in, a character leaps toward the camera and sails through the air while the camera is backing up, passing between a railing and then resuming a chase, following the running characters on the ground below. It is phenomenal, and I’m still not sure how that trick was done. In short, this film is worth watching for its cinematography and direction alone.
There’s one last aspect of talent that I’d like to highlight: The actor Byung-hun Lee, who’s like a Korean Ray Park, has a remarkable physicality and agility that’s sort of mesmerizing to watch. In this film he plays “The Bad.” It’s funny to compare him to Ray Park (Darth Maul, Toad), because in “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” (2009), Park plays Snake Eyes opposite Byung-hun Lee, who plays Storm Shadow. We get to see them face off in “The Rise of Cobra,” which is the only reason to subject yourself to that movie.
Anyway, “The Good, the Bad, the Weird” has a title that’s nearly a mini review of itself, minus “the Bad” portion. It’s good and weird and I recommend it.