Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

In the last several years there has been a surprising trend in Hollywood.

I'm not talking about the remake trend that has permeated much of what we see today.   I'm talking about the resurrection of franchises that for the longest time appeared to be dead.

In 2006, 19 years after the last installment, Superman returned.   Also in 2006, after 16 years, Rocky Balboa stepped back in the ring.  In 2007, 17 years after New York, John McClane refused to die hard.  In 2008, two decades since Afghanistan, Rambo lifted his bow and knife.    Also in 2008, 19 years since his last adventure, Indiana Jones returned for his next adventure.   Next year, 23 years later, Gordon Gekko returns to Wall Street.  Also next year, after 28 years, we return to the world of TRON.  And now, it appears in 2011 after 22 years, the Ghostbusters will once again be ready to believe you.

Resurrecting a franchise is a real gamble, not only financially but creatively.   The one thing you have no control over is audience expectations.   If it works great.  If it fails fans will say you should of ended it with the last one.   A whole new generation is being introduced to these characters but how much do you cater to that new audience without losing the core fan base?  

Three of the sequels I mentioned turned out better than I ever expected.  Sure I wanted to see them but in the back of my mind I really hoped that they didn't suck.   The one thing that these 3 franchises have in coming are that the originators of the role are returning and they are pushing 60+.   The reaction of most is that these guys are too old to play action hero.   Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis proved everyone wrong.  The new films didn't hide from the fact that the leads are much older and that was a strength.  On top of that, the action wasn't as over the top as you would find in a modern day Seagal movie.   

Rambo was different from the films before it.   It was ultra-violent, yet action packed and loads of fun.   I expected a decent action movie but never expected it to be as good as it was.  It ended up in my top 20 for 2008.    Rocky Balboa was also much better than expected.  It's one of my favorites in the franchise and one of my faves of 2006.   It was a purely character driven piece that recaptured what was lost since the first.   Live Free or Die Hard, while over the top, also turned out to be a fun action-packed adventure.    All three of these entries were actually better than the previous entry.

I mentioned audience expectations.  No sequel has been more eagerly anticipated than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.    I for one could not wait.   After seeing it, I was stunned and depressed.   I didn't expect it to be better than the previous entries but I had expected to be as good as them.   I just wanted to have a fun time.   I didn't.  In this case, the creative risk I mentioned rears its ugly head.   There were moments that worked but after awhile I just wanted it to end.   I had the opportunity to see the first three Indy films as a triple feature in a theatre and there is no way I can even include Crystal Skull in the same class as those films.   There are some who consider this the best but I always ask if they've seen the others.  Some have and some haven't.   Clearly, this one catered more to it's new audience then the core fan base.

Unlike Superman Returns, all the other franchises have characters that I forever connected with a certain actor and no one would except someone else in the role if they brought them back.  So in that case, time is a factor in resurrecting a franchise.   Jeff Bridges returns in Tron, Michael Douglas is back in Wall Street and the original Ghostbusters are back in some capacity.

Money certainly can be a major factor in resurrecting an established franchise.  Surprisingly, Rambo was the only one to under perform at the box office.   However, it did well enough for them to greenlight Rambo V.   I for one welcome the return of a favorite character if there's a good story to tell.   Really that's what it boils down to is what story do they want to tell.    Story is what these sequels have in common, the story worked well for most but not all.   Hopefully the stories for Wall Street 2, Tron:Legacy and Ghostbusters III are worth telling.   Otherwise you run the risk of slipping a black sheep into a beloved franchise.

On that note, let's forget any ideas about doing Godfather IV, Back to the Future IV, Lethal Weapon 5 or  Dirty Harry VI.  There are some franchises that are perfect as is.

Now let's talk about Howard the Duck II.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Coming Soon...a month of film!!!

I'm going to attempt something I've never tried before.

During the month of January,  I will see a new movie or more every day.   Why more?  This will account for my epic movie days where I see anywhere from 1-6 movies in a given day.

I'll be watching them in all formats.  In the theatre, Blu-ray, DVD, streaming and cable.  However in the instance of cable, I'll only watch the film if it's presented in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio. 

I believe my record of movies in theatre is over 40 in a month.  It was the July that the Half-Blood Prince was released.  I was not in a theatre on July 4th and the two days it took me to read Potter 6.

Starting January 1st, 2010.   I'll watch a film and post my review here.

"What did you see this weekend?" "Death Wish 3!!!"

Nope, it's not 1985!!  It's 2009!!!  Only in LA can you say you watched "Death Wish 3" in a theatre over the weekend.

One of the things that I truly fell in love with when I moved to LA was the large number of repertoire movie theatres in the area.   Those who know me know that my preferred viewing choice is seeing something in a theatre setting.  However, with the advent of hi-def televisions, blu-ray and true HD audio I now split my time between the theatre and home.   But if it's the right film, I will go see it  in the warm confines of the local cinema.

Today I want to focus on my favorite repertoire theatre in LA.  This would be the New Beverly Cinema or the "New Bev" as some call it.

I can't remember when I first set foot in this theatre, I think I was seeing Buckaroo Banzai.  I've seen it again at the New Bev since then.  The theatre may be small but it exudes charm.   It's an old-school one house cinema that seats about 250 with traditional seating.  The screen isn't very large when compared to other theatres but this really isn't much of a concern.   The real draw to this place is what they show.

They run double features every night for $7.00.  On some occasions they may even run triple features or even themed marathons.   The sword and sorcery marathon featured Barbarian Queen II, Deathstalker IV, The Sword and the Sorcerer, Conan the Barbarian and Yor-The Hunter from the Future.   Sure the majority of these films are bad but the audience enjoyed them and laughed throughtout. 

It's also a place where more often than not, celebrities can go to a movie and not be hounded by people demanding autographs.   Yes, celeb-hounds the New Bev is a good place to spot 'em.   I've had meaningful, though sometimes brief, discussions with people like director Joe Dante, actor Clu Gulager, Justin Long and Drew Barrymore, to name a few.   But again going to the New Bev isn't about the celebs it's about the films.

Of course, the Bev can bring in their fair share of talent to discuss the film.  Not a week goes by where someone involved with a film they are screening is in attendance.   Seeing the films again is great but having the talent behind the films to discuss them is a bonus.  Watching the Back to the Future trilogy with Christopher Lloyd was a blast.  Seeing Flash Gordon with Timothy Dalton was memorable.   Or even seeing the people who work the Bev showcase their feature film was a highlight.

The films themselves are a treat.   On many occasions they will show something I've never seen, never seen in a theatre setting or just haven't seen in a very long time.    I relived my childhood with a double-feature of At the Earth's Core and The People that Time Forgot.  When I saw Howard the Duck it was the first time I've seen it in a theatre since opening day way back in the '80s.    My first all-night movie horrorthon was one to remember and I was so glad I went.   Who could forget the Dolph Lundgren film festival or Tarantino's Grindhouse fest?  How about the many trailer festivals?

Bottomline, the New Beverly is a theatre for people who loves movies.  It's no coincidence that the theatre is owned by Quentin Tarantino.  Thanks to him, the New Bev will continue to present films the way they were intended.  Incidentally, it's the only theatre I know of that takes the no cellphones during the movie to heart.  I've seen Phil give people the boot.

If you haven't been there, do check it out.   Maybe I'll see you there.


New Beverly Cinema
7165 West Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Sunday, December 27, 2009

3-D or IMAX 3-D that is the question.

So Avatar has been taking over the box office for the last week and a half.  I hope it has the legs to supplant Transformers 2 as the top film of the year.  It deserves to be the biggest box office draw of the year.

Avatar is the first film, I think, to be available in all formats.  2-D, Digital 3-D, Real 3-D and IMAX 3-D.   Now believe it or not there is a substantial difference and I'm not referring to 2-D vs 3-D.  

The non-IMAX versions have a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  If you've seen movies like Transformers, Twilight or The Blind Side they were in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio where the screen is more rectangular then square.   When seeing the film it is very much like watching a film.   It's comparable with Beowulf or A Christmas Story in 3-D.

The IMAX 3-D version of the film is 1.78:1.   In this case, the entire screen is used which is square.  Cameron supervised the transfer so that information is not lost when comparing the 2.35:1 and 1.78:1 version.  True Lies and Titanic were shot in Super 35 which did not lose any info when shown in the traditional pan and scan on television.   Now the major difference is that the 3-D coupled with the enormity of the screen, you are immersed into Cameron's world like no other feature film before it.  It doesn't matter if you see it in true IMAX or faux IMAX, either works fine.  When in a faux-IMAX theatre I suggest sitting in the front four rows for the true IMAX experience.

To truly appreciate Avatar, it should be seen in a theatre and in IMAX 3D.  This was not a ploy to bring in more money, this truly shows just how great the medium can be when put in the right hands.   I for one am glad it's doing so well because Cameron says he already has two more films in development.

"One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach, all the damn vampires."

So who would win in a fight, Edward or Blade?   Edward, the glittering vamp from Twilight or the relentless vampire slayer, Blade from the series of the same name.   It's a fair question.

How about which is a better film, Twilight or Let the Right One In?

Twilight Saga: New Moon or Chan-wook Park's Thirst?

In all the excitement over Twilight, I think two of the best vampire films of the last few years have been overlooked.   Twilight is The Littlest Vampire when compared to either of these films.  Both of which were on my best list for '08 and '09, respectively.

Let the Right One In is a touching tale about a friendless boy and his budding friendship with a little girl on the other side of the courtyard.    Thirst is a dark, sometimes comedic tale about a man who discovers he's become a vampire and tries to do good, by the way this man is a priest.  

They are both beautifully told, well directed and finely acting.   Fans of Twilight should do themselves a favor and see these films.   They are not set in the safe, glittery world that is presented in Meyer's book.  These worlds are dangerous, bloody and heartbreaking. 

For the non-Twilight crowd, these are fantastic genre films.   I prefer Let the Right One In over Thirst but they are both worth a look.

BTW, Blade would wipe the floor with the Cullen clan.

Twilight - **
Let the Right One In - ****1/2
Thirst - ****

What the hell is "Knowing" doing in your top 20 of the year?

Great science fiction makes you think.  Great science fiction makes you ponder the possibilities.  Great science fiction makes you ask "What if?"  Great science fiction makes you say WTF and then after thinking about it you go Wow!  

I was watching "Knowing" totally going along with the story.  When the big reveal occurs I was stunned to the point where I said that was ridiculous.   However moments later I asked, "What if?"   The whole film became clear to me and became what true science fiction does.  It presents ideas that can make you question what you know and make you think that as ridiculous as it may sound it's plausible.

I don't want to reveal much about the film.  Nicolas Cage comes into  possession of a note that contains random numbers on it.  In time, he discovers these numbers are dates that correspond to tragic moments throughout history.  It also contains dates to events yet to occur and soon these events start happening.    You think you know what's going on but you don't.   Having seen countless movies, I thought I knew how things would unfold but I was wrong.

The film is directed by Alex Proyas who made The Crow, I Robot and the sci-fi classic Dark City. 

Avatar was a fantastic film.  I'm not saying this is better but unlike Avatar, Knowing really made me think.

Go in with an open-mind, leave any preconceived notions at the door and let the tale unfold. 

Maybe you'll love it, maybe you'll hate it.  Either way you'll have something to talk about when it's done.

KNOWING - ****1/2

A New Blog for a New Decade!!!

Well, technically the new decade doesn't start until 01/01/2011 but who's counting anyway?

After many requests I've finally caved and decided to start my film blog.

Here in I will post my thoughts and opinions on everything that is film.  I'll have reviews, comments on the industry, box office discussions and a look at my love of the repertoire theatres in LA, just to name a few.

So enjoy, happy reading and happy viewing!!!!