Friday, February 28, 2014

2014 Academy Award Predictions

Gravity ties Cabaret with 8 Oscars without winning Best Picture.  American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave win 3 each.  Frozen wins two.
Best Picture
12 Years a Slave
*American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Actor
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
*Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Best Actress
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
*Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street)
*Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
*Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Best Director
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street
David O. Russell (American Hustle)
*Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
Best Adapted Screenplay
*John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)

Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater (Before Midnight)
Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Billy Ray (Captain Phillips)

Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Philomena)
Best Original Screenplay
*David O. Russell and Eric Singer (American Hustle)
Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
Spike Jonze (Her)
Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club)
Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine)
Best Foreign Film
Denmark, The Hunt
Belgium, The Broken Circle Breakdown
*Italy, The Great Beauty
Palestine, Omar
Cambodia, The Missing Picture
Best Documentary Feature
*20 Feet from Stardom

The Act of Killing
Dirty Wars
The Square
Cutie and the Boxer
Best Animated Feature
The Wind Rises

*Frozen
Despicable Me 2
The Croods
Ernest & Celestine
Film Editing
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
*Gravity
12 Years a Slave
Best Song
"Happy" (Despicable Me 2)
*"Let It Go" (Frozen)
"The Moon Song" (Her)
"Ordinary Love" (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
Best Original Score
John Williams (The Book Thief)
*Steven Price (Gravity)
Alexandre Desplat (Philomena)
Thomas Newman (Saving Mr. Banks)
William Butler and Owen Pallett (Her)
Best Cinematography
Philippe Le Sourd (The Grandmaster)
*Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity)
Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis)
Roger Deakins (Prisoners)
Phedon Papamichael (Nebraska)
Costume Design
*American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
12 Years A Slave
Makeup and Hairstyling
The Lone Ranger
*Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Production Design
American Hustle
*Gravity
The Great Gatsby
Her
12 Years a Slave
Sound Editing
All is Lost
Captain Phillips
*Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor
Sound Mixing
Captain Phillips
*Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor
Inside Llewyn Davis
Visual Effects
*Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness
Short Film, Live Action
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me)
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)
*Helium
Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)
The Voorman Problem

Short Film, AnimatedFeral
Get a Horse!
*Mr. Hublot
Possessions
Room on the Broom
Documentary Short Subject
CaveDigger
Facing Fear
Karama Has No Walls
*The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

Monday, February 24, 2014

Stephen A. Mikalik, Academy Voter

I do not own the above image. Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.
Best Picture
1. Gravity
2. Her
3. 12 Years a Slave
4. The Wolf of Wall Street
5. Nebraska
6. Captain Phillips
First, I believe only movies I give ****1/2 or more deserve to be Best Picture.  So, Dallas Buyers Club, American Hustle & Philomena are out.  My 3-6 are actually my personal 6-9 for the year.  As great as the nearly everything in Her was, Gravity, after a second viewing, holds up physically & emotionally.
Best Actor
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street)
*Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
This was way closer of a race than I thought it would have been.  DiCaprio & Ejiofor were the heart & souls of their movies, but without the perfect subtlety from Ejiofor, 12 Years A Slave would have been almost unwatchable.
Best Actress
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
*Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Like I said, everything in Gravity held up the second time, with Bullock at the forefront.  But, who are we kidding, Blanchett put on a clinic this year.
Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
*Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
In any other year, I could have voted for any 4 of these guys (sorry, Bradley).  In fact, as I was typing this, I changed my mind.  I changed from Leto to Fassbender.  The middle-of-the-night confrontation by lantern did it for me.
Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
*Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
As close as the race appears to be, in my mind, there is no debate.  Nyong'o is pitch perfect in the last half of 12 Years A Slave.
Best Director
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street
David O. Russell (American Hustle)
*Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
If only one of my votes could count, it would be here.  If any little bit of Gravity was off, the entire movie crumbles.  Cuarón. Was. Perfect.
Best Adapted Screenplay
John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
*
Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater (Before Midnight)
Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Billy Ray (Captain Phillips)

Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Philomena)
12 Years is great, but my goodness, I gotta give my personal #1 of 2013 something.  So why not give it to its best (and only nominated) element.
Best Original Screenplay
David O. Russell and Eric Singer (American Hustle)
Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
*Spike Jonze (Her)
Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club)
Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine)
Not going to mince words: Only two of these scripts are Oscar-worthy.  My pick and Nebraska.
Best Animated Feature
The Wind Rises

*Frozen
Despicable Me 2
The Croods
Ernest & Celestine
Only saw three of these.  Not an anime guy and foreign stuff barely comes to Pittsburgh.  DM2 sucks and The Croods starts off terribly before ending up ok.  Frozen was the lone bright spot in the animation world last year.
Film Editing
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
*Gravity
12 Years a Slave
Seamlessness is a thing of beauty.
Best Song
"Alone Yet Not Alone" (Alone Yet Not Alone)
"Happy" (Despicable Me 2)
*"Let It Go" (Frozen)
"The Moon Song" (Her)
"Ordinary Love" (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
No explanation necessary.  Best movie song since "Falling Slowly".
Best Original Score
John Williams (The Book Thief)
Steven Price (Gravity)
Alexandre Desplat (Philomena)
Thomas Newman (Saving Mr. Banks)
*William Butler and Owen Pallett (Her)
Gravity is close, but Her was consistently fantastic throughout.
Best Cinematography
Philippe Le Sourd (The Grandmaster)
Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity)
*Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis)
Roger Deakins (Prisoners)
Phedon Papamichael (Nebraska)
Gravity was mostly special effects.  Inside Llewyn Davis is mostly spectacular.
Costume Design
*American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
12 Years A Slave
Best element of the most nominated movie.  Easily.
Makeup and Hairstyling
The Lone Ranger
Dallas Buyers Club
*Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Don't really care.  So why not?!
Production Design
American Hustle
Gravity
The Great Gatsby
Her
*12 Years a Slave
Toughest decision.  Again, Gravity was mostly digital.  This was all real.
Sound Editing
All is Lost
Captain Phillips
*Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor
Where's Rush?
Sound Mixing
Captain Phillips
*Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor
Inside Llewyn Davis
Seriously, where's Rush?!?!
Visual Effects
*Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness
Like I said, everything had to be perfect.  These had to be the most perfect.  They were.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Entertainment, Film Criticism & POMPEII

I do not own the above image.  Copyright Tri-Star Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

            Just going to say it: Peter Bart is a moron.  Now, why in the world would I call Variety’s editor-in-chief and former Paramount Pictures executive a buffoon, joker, idiot, et cetera?  In his post-Oscar nominations column, Bart posed the question: “Ever try toget a critic to smile?”  I know what you're thinking: Why the typographical error?  Well, dear reader, if you read Bart’s column here, you’ll see that that is how Bart asks the question.
            But what you're really asking is if Bart is right.  I wish I could say that’s a simple question to answer.  I mean, if you ever join me for a movie once, you’ll know the answer is a definite YES.  You saw THE LEGO MOVIE right?  How does one not smile at the absurd humor of Legos™?
But Bart never brings that up.  Bart’s argument is with critics groups and their awards.  Two of the most acclaimed movies are 12 YEARS A SLAVE and INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS.  Bart argues that audiences, and in turn Oscar voters, prefer uplifting & fun movies while critics “ respond…higher on technique than on entertainment value”.  While it is true that the two movies I mentioned are wonderful on a technical level, are depressing at times and not blockbusters in any way shape or form ($52 million combined), the storytelling by the Coen Brothers is the best they have ever done and so near perfect that the viewer has ample opportunity to smile.
So, Mr. Bart, I took your advice and saw POMPEII, a movie made by a (supposed) crowd-pleasing director in Paul W.S. Anderson for purely popcorn-consumption purposes.  What I actually saw was a two hour Gladiator-by-way-of-Pearl-Harbor bland, dumb rip-off.
Milo (Kit Harrington of ‘Game of Thrones’ fame) is an orphan child-slave-turned-gladiator from Rome-conquered Scotland.  On his journey to Pompeii as a purchased gladiator, he serendipitously meets Cassia (Emily Browning), who herself is her way home to Pompeii, by mercy-killing one of her injured horses.  Yes, a meet cute thanks to a dead horse.  Once in Pompeii, Milo adjusts to life as a gladiator by being housed with African one-victory-until-free gladiator Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).  Meanwhile, Cassia’s father is trying to finish a reconstruction deal with Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland).  The cost: Cassia’s hand in marriage.
All this sounds (not) very interesting but what about the stuff that blows up real good?  Well, over the course of movie, Mt. Vesuvius rumbles, grunts & groans, causing increasingly more damage that gets decreasingly more exciting.  The entire third act focuses on the main eruption, where the action feels less like a volcanic eruption and more like the most expensive Mystery Science Theater 3000 alien invasion.  All the while, the above stories have to be finished, by any means possible.
I must admit, I have never seen an episode of Game of Thrones but if Harrington is a main character, I may not want to wash.  Granted, the script by the married writing team of Lee & Janet Scott Batchler w/ revisions by Michael Robert Johnson severely lacks in interest in the characters.  But Harrington and (to a less extent) Browning aren’t that interesting on-screen to begin with and watching them try to convince the audience that their rich girl/slave boy love is real isn’t captivating.
Who’s supposed to smile during this?  Maybe a teenager who has seen maybe 8 movies in his life, 5 of which being Adam Sandler comedies.  Kiefer Sutherland was smiling, hamming it up for the camera, channeling his inner Donald Sutherland.  Tri-Star Pictures hopes to be smiling from the box office grosses.
But, for once, Peter Bart is right.  Film critics, for the most part, will not smile during or after POMPEII.  POMPEII represents the cynicism of people like Mr. Bart who believe this is what audiences want.  Expensive, underwhelming special effects.  Pretty faces.  Cookie cutter stories & dialogue.  But some people will show up.  People always do.  But I guarantee you, Mr. Bart, most will not be smiling.  There is little-to-nothing to smile about here.

*

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Winter's Tale

I do not own the above image.  Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

            There are times where a movie plays in front of me and my body does stuff that it normally doesn't do at the movies.  Sometimes my mouth goes agape, amazed at what I’m seeing.  Others I shift violently repeatedly in my seat, through fits of unease or boredom.  And every once in a while, I have the urge to stand up & leave, only to realize I have a public service to tell you whether to see a movie or not.  WINTER’S TALE performed the trifecta.
            In 1916, orphan Peter Lake (Farrell) has pissed off his boss Pearly Soames (Crowe) for the final time.  A professional thief, Lake goes off on his own, with a mysterious white horse as his companion.  On one of his first jobs, he discovers & falls for Beverly Penn (Brown Findlay), the older daughter of a widowed newspaper publisher.  Beverly is dying of tuberculosis and can’t physically love anyone.  Will the two star-crossed lovers be able to consummate their new found love? Will Soames find & end Peter’s life first? 
            Sounds like a straight forward story, right?  Too bad the marketing campaign is deceitful.  That mysterious horse?  It can fly and might be some sort Native American spirit.  Mafioso Pearly Soames?  He’s a demon whose job is to stop people’s miracles from occurring.  The first scene of the movie?  Peter Lake walking into modern-day Grand Central Station.
            Based on Mark Helprin’s novel and adapted to the screen by Akiva Goldsman, WINTER’S TALE is, to put it simply, a mess.  Right out of the gate, it makes no sense.  If you are going to place mythical creatures or fantastical elements in a real world setting, you need to have a coherent set of rules.  WINTER’S TALE neither has a set of rules nor is it coherent.  Crowe’s Pearly Soames’ mythology is particularly confusing.  He’s a demon yet he runs a crime syndicate.  Was he once human?  If he wasn’t, do his lackeys know?  Are they demons too?  He’s Peter’s boss.  How long have they worked together, considering Peter is supposed to be 21?  What pissed Soames off?  The movie takes place in 1916 NYC.  Do normal folks know of their existence?  Do they live in fear of their hopes & dreams coming true if it means possibly being confronted by Soames and his ilk?
            Similar questions arise throughout the secret, 45 minute third act that is not alluded to in any of the marketing.  Lake is still alive in modern-day New York, still waiting for a miracle to happen.  I won’t spoil it, but a few moments answer questions while still adding a few more.
            WINTER’S TALE looks gorgeous at times.  The $46 million budget had to go somewhere I guess.  The only thrilling & interesting moment takes place in the dark with a superstar cameo that needs to be seen to be believed. 
WINTER’S TALE reminded me of a failed cable television pilot extended to a full feature.  It reminds us once again that, yes, Goldsman is responsible for the screenplays to LOST IN SPACE and BATMAN & ROBIN.  During the end credits, my wife told me it reminded her of an episode of Supernatural.  Well, that explains a lot!


½*

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Oscar Predictions

BEST PICTURE (There will be 9 nominees; listed by likelihood of nomination for ten)
1. American Hustle
2. 12 Years a Slave
3. Gravity
4. Captain Phillips
5. Nebraska
6. Wolf of Wall Street
7. Saving Mr. Banks
8. Inside Llewyn Davis
9. Dallas Buyers Club
10. Her

BEST DIRECTOR
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Martin Scorsese, Wolf of Wall Street
Alternate: Joel & Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis

BEST ACTOR
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford, All is Lost
Alternate: Leonardo DiCaprio, Wolf of Wall Street

BEST ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judy Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
Alternate: Amy Adams, American Hustle

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl, Rush
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Alternate: Bradley Cooper, American Hustle

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Alternate: Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
12 Years a Slave
August: Osage County
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Wolf of Wall Street
Alternate: Philomena

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Alternate: Gravity

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Alternate: Prisoners

BEST EDITING
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Rush
Alternate: Wolf of Wall Street

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
The Hobbit: Desolation of Smoag
Gravity
Pacific Rim
Alternate: Iron Man 3

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Atlas”, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
“Let It Go”, Frozen
“My Lord Sunshine (Sunrise)”, 12 Years a Slave
Alternate: “Ordinary Love”, Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
12 Years a Slave
All is Lost
Gravity
Her
Saving Mr. Banks
Alternate: The Book Thief

BEST SOUND EDITING
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Rush
Alternate: Iron Man 3

BEST SOUND MIXING
All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Rush
Alternate: Lone Survivor

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Gravity
The Great Gatsby
Inside Llewyn Davis
Alternate: Her

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
The Great Gatsby
Oz: The Great & Powerful
Saving Mr. Banks
Alternate: The Hunger Games

BEST MAKEUP
American Hustle
The Great Gatsby
The Lone Ranger
Alternate: Dallas Buyers Club

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Frozen
Monsters University
The Wind Rises

Alternate: Epic

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Winter Box Office Draft Results (3/22 Update)

Stephen 
1. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
    Budget: $5 million  Worldwide B.O.: $86.36 million  Profit: $73.86 million

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    Budget: $170 million

3. The Lego Movie
    Budget: $60 million  Worldwide B.O.: $380.74 million  Profit: $230.74 million

4. Transcendence
    Budget: not reported yet

5. About Last Night
    Budget: $12.5 million  Worldwide B.O.: $48.38 million  Profit: $17.13 million

6. Endless Love
     Budget: $20 million  Worldwide B.O.: $31.6 million  Profit: $(19.4) million

7. Vampire Academy
     Budget: not reported yet  Worldwide B.O.: $8.96  million  Profit: $ (?) million

8. Tyler Perry presents Tyler Perry’s Single Moms Club (starring Tyler Perry)
     Budget: not reported yet  Worldwide B.O.: $9.45 million  Profit: $ (?) million

9. Non-Stop
    Budget: $50 million  Worldwide B.O.: $137.58 million  Profit: $13.58 million

10. Draft Day
    Budget: not reported yet

Alternate. Veronica Mars
    Budget: $6 million  Worldwide B.O.: $2.51 million  Profit: $(12.49) million

Bomb. Robocop
    Budget: $100 million  Worldwide B.O.: $234.05 million  Profit: $(15.95) million 

Justina 
1. Rio 2
     Budget: not reported yet

2. Divergent
    Budget: $85 million

3. Monuments Men
     Budget: $70 million  Worldwide B.O.: $128.65  million  Profit: $(46.35) million

4. I, Frankenstein
    Budget: $65 million  Worldwide B.O.: $71.15 million  Profit: $(91.35) million

5. Labor Day
    Budget: $18 million  Worldwide B.O.: $14.47 million  Profit: $(30.53) million

6. The Quiet Ones
     Budget: not reported yet

7. A Haunted House 2
     Budget: not reported yet

8. Winter’s Tale
    Budget: $60 million  Worldwide B.O.: $12.52 million  Profit: $(137.48) million

9. Ride Along
    Budget: $25 million  Worldwide B.O.: $143.87 million  Profit: $81.37 million

10. Mr. Peabody and Sherman
     Budget: $145 million  Worldwide B.O.: $157.02 million  Profit: $(392.55) million

Alternate. St. Vincent
     Budget: not reported yet

Bomb. Noah
    Budget: $130 million

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

LIE WITH ME


I do not own the above picture.  Copyright Brandi Brothers Productions.  All Rights Reserved.

                The worst thing a movie can do is not try.  Not try to be anything other than a 100 minute piece of fleeting entertainment that you may laugh at once or twice and tell your friends about just how “good” it is.  Then said friend sees the movie & screams at their friend “IDENTITY THIEF is awful!”
            But I digress.  What is a movie tries and fails miserably?  And by miserably, I mean there is nothing positive to say about the movie that would be visible to the average moviegoer.  A movie where the only element worth writing home about may be non-existent to any human besides yours truly.
            LIE WITH ME is a small movie from the twin brother team of Jamison & Jason Brandi.  The film, their second full-length feature, follows Carla (Younger), a prostitute whose specialty in the world’s oldest profession is with gentlemen in wheelchairs, as she returns home with her significant other Ian (McEvoy).  Back home, there’s crippled father Stan (Gordon), jealous younger sister Susan & terminally ill mother Deanna (Strassman).  But it’s the fifth family member who has run of the house: revulsion.
            LIE WITH ME starts interesting enough but quickly, very quickly, the film falls apart at the seams.  First, I can’t help but feel the screenplay is only 60% finished.  There are scenes where we are just dropped in the middle of conversations and are given no opportunity to catch up.  Or, if we do, the scenes abruptly end.  Plus, some of the dialogue in the serious scenes is cringe-worthy.  A fight between two people where one person says the same thing three or four times in a non-comedy is the definition of cringe-worthy.
In addition, the boyfriend/fiancé character is, I guess, supposed to be us.  At least, I think he represents us when he’s holding his tiny digital camera for some documentary he never gets into detail about.  He just doesn’t really need to be there the whole time.  The family itself is interesting but the mother is wasted.  The movie starts (I assume, since it’s never really mentioned in the movie that’s why Carla goes home) because Deanna is dying.  What she’s dying of isn’t important, or so say the filmmakers.  But we also don’t get a scene between the three women.  Even if they had no relationship, you’d think there would be something that gets either daughter in her bedroom before the rising action scene.  But we get nothing and the mother just feels useless too.  The sisters' hate/love relationship is fairly effective and their relationship to their father is the driving force of the movie.
            While the Brothers Brandi did put maximum effort into the making of the film, on a technical level, the movie is a mess sometimes.  You can have the most professional, affordable cameras; but if you can’t place them at logical or interesting angles, they’re worthless.  Most shots come from low angles with the camera tilted up.  They could be showing us what the wheelchair-bound father sees but the camera is usually too low to be that way and why in the world would we want to see the world from the perspective of that despicable human being.  Plus, serious emotional moments are amplified by jump cuts.  Very distracting.  But worse of all is the sound.  You can hear the points where the dialogue was cut during the editing process.  Unbelievably distracting.
            I get the sense that I know where the Brandi twins wanted to go with this: a serious dysfunctional family drama.  But at 84-ish minutes, there isn’t enough time to tell that story.  There is something there, begging to get out.  But with a half-finished screenplay, a broken tripod and high school film class quality sound, it appears trapped.  Just like Carla.


*1/2

Friday, August 23, 2013

5 BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN Issues More Pressing Than the #Batfleck Hire


I do not own the above image.  Copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment/DC Comics.  All rights reserved.

            For about 24 hours, Ben Affleck has been Bruce Wayne.  The reaction to the new resident of Wayne Manor has been decidedly mixed, from the indifferent to the livid to even suicidal.  Seriously, look it up on Facebook.  Am I thrilled with the hire?  Count me in the “indifferent” camp.
            While the casting of Bruce Wayne/Batman is over and controversial, BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN has much, much greater issues.  I’ve got five.

1.      Screenplay/Small Production Window
MAN OF STEEL writer & THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy co-writer David Goyer will return.  Just one problem: there are no reports of a finished first draft.  And even if there were, the release date (July 17, 2015) is less than 23 months away.  So, if there are story issues (and just about major studio release ends up with some), there will be little time to fix them.
Once the script is finished, then you need to film, edit, market and screen the film.  An indie flick needs about 6 months to do all this.  But a big budget, potential blockbuster?  The production crew will be doing double-time to reach the release date.  Plus, I’m sure Warner Bros. and any potential companies with product tie-ins will want to see a final cut before July.  At worst, BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN will have to be done & in the can by Memorial Day weekend 2015.  That’s 21 months.  Good luck.


2.      Decrease of Christopher Nolan Involvement
For anyone who watched any of the trailers knows just how important Christopher Nolan to the marketing.  “From the Producer of The Dark Knight Trilogy” was about as large as the title itself.  Zack Snyder’s name was basically hidden.  From what I understood, Nolan was on the set & over Snyder’s shoulder for a good percentage of filming.
This time around, however, Christopher Nolan has downgraded himself to Executive Producer.  How far down the food chain did Nolan fall?  His name is not on the Warner Brothers press release announcing Affleck’s hiring.  Nolan will have his hands full with his new original idea INTERSTELLAR.  So he won’t be on set or in the editing room watching…


3.      Director Zack Snyder
Confession: I HATE Zack Snyder.  Hate him.  I think he has little talent or an eye for quality.  His best received movie by critics & audiences?  A horror remake.  His personal “best” to me:300.  And I wasn’t that impressed  The rest of his filmography?  The uneven WATCHMEN, the awful SUCKER PUNCH and the rightly forgotten movie about the owls. Yuck!
            Sure, I enjoyed MAN OF STEEL.  But how much of what I enjoyed was Zack Snyder unchained and how much was Snyder on Nolan’s leash?  Sadly, we won’t find out until you purchase your ticket in two years. 


4.      Expectations
This issue has two sides and one of the sides is a double edged sword.  The target audience to impress here aren’t Superman people. It’s Batman people.  The Dark Knight Trilogy, especially the middle film, outperformed beyond anyone’s fantasies.  The Batman fanbase is as large & as active as they are ever going to be.  Nolan & Bale, in the eyes of WB, quit on them.  Studios don’t quit when they are ahead; only when the well is out of stones that make up the well (See THE HANGOVER trilogy).  Batman folks are going to expect something special.  Most fans will show up but WB hopes everyone does.
            This is where the hiring of Ben Affleck gets interesting.  Hiring Affleck puts a bonafide movie star in a comic book movie.  But that begs the question: if it weren’t for the success & subsequent inclusion of Bruce Wayne/Batman, would the world get a MAN OF STEEL sequel?  Would MAN OF STEEL have gone by way of SUPERMAN RETURNS?  This situation just screams that WB has little to no confidence in Superman.


5.      Every Other Summer 2015 Release
A few weeks ago, Brad Brevet ofRopeofSilicon.com wrote about the stacked schedule already for summer of 2015.  There will be a bloodbath at the box office.  Such potential blockbusters include STAR WARS VII, THE AVENGERS: ULTRON, PIRATES 5, ID4 II, JURASSIC PARK IV, MOCKINGJAY PART DEUX, BOND 24, FINDING DORY...  The list is endless.
            After the disaster that was the summer of 2013, the number of movies that will fail to reach a large audience in two summers with that slate may be higher than the number that succeed. 


BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN will be successful.  But with all these pre-production issues, Warner Brothers needs to hope bad press stays away.  Now that Affleck’s reputation is at an all-time high and with a majority of the fanboy backlash out of the way, it probably won’t be an issue.  Probably.