Reboots… okay, let’s go

I don’t know if I can really be upset about reboots anymore. Because if you think about what we would be missing if we hadn’t been rebooting stories throughout time. Would we have the great myths of Greek & Roman mythology? How many times has Shakespeare been done… in diff languages or styles? I know of at least 10 different Hamlets in the same number of years. I am more upset by the rebooting of bad stories now then good stories. We should want to keep retelling the stories. Reboot them when we can maybe make them better. These are essentially our modern mythologies that will be retold over and over again over the centuries. The ones our descendents will be telling their children about. Would the fans of Euripides be upset about how often his plays were rebooted? Now… Hollywood quit the reboot of Van Helsing, the story sucked and reboot Bringing Up Baby. I am sure people are going to disagree with me because yes, sometimes the reboots are not as good as the originals. But are all the versions of Shakespeare well done?

Hunger Games…

I sit here thinking about the movie “The Hunger Games” and trying to put down in words my thoughts on this movie. I will say there will be spoilers for the movie in this review so proceed carefully.

I guess the best way to start is to discuss the most important issue: adaptation from book to movie. I personally think they did a pretty good job with the adaptation. It is not easy to take any story and adapt it for the screen while keeping the essence and beauty of the story alive. There have been some absolutely horrid adaptations and this is not one of them. I do not know how much Suzanne Collins was actually involved in the creation of the screenplay but it always is a plus to me to see the novels author on that list of names. Yes, as per usual there were many things left out of the movie that were in the novel but they were able to work in many of the more important plot points in other ways. There were times I wish they had expanded upon some parts of the story, like the relationship between the two tributes – Peeta and Katniss. It made it hard to believe there was any connection between the two by the end of the movie – whether it be friends or lovers. But this may work for the upcoming movies or maybe we are made to feel the disconnect, the unrealness just as some of the other characters do. But all in all, it was not a bad adaptation of the novel. While at points the story was rush, it would have been nice if we could have felt a little more depth in the story. More on that in a bit. My favorite part in the adaption is their use of the anchors for the Hunger Games to explain some of the things that happen in Katniss’ head in the novel. They gave us the explanations of certain aspects of the film that we wouldn’t have gotten unless they had inserted a narrator into the story. Plus, it gave us more Stanley Tucci! But it felt that they gave up parts of the actual novel to give us a different aspect of the story. Showing us how the game worked behind the scenes to show us how much of a “tv show” the games are for the people in the Capital.

As for the acting, before I even heard of the novels I heard of the uproar around the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen and I hope they were not disappointed. I feel that she did a wonderful job in the role. One of the biggest traits we see in the novels of Katniss is a kind of disconnect, she has this huge shield up not letting anyone in except maybe her sister and her best friend Gale and I felt that Ms. Lawrence was able to make this happen on the screen. You as an audience member were able to feel this shield she has up because you wanted to see her to express something, anything to see her breakdown and unfortunately this is one of the parts where the screenwriters screwed up because they cut out some of those moments in the novel where Katniss lets it all go and shows so much emotion. These were some of the most powerful moments in the novel because they let us see the humanity in Katniss, instead they did not give that to us and showed us for the most part a very robotic character.

Now the other characters, there acting was very well done as was the casting. You could sense the nonsensical desperation in Effie Trinket (played by the wondrous Elizabeth Banks) in the few scenes that she had. I wish we had, had more of Woody Harrelson. His part in the story is brushed over even more. It would have been nice to see a bit more from him but alas the movie was already a long 2 1/2 hours long. I am very torn on the casting of Peeta. I do not know if I should love it or hate it. In truth, like a lot of the other characters I felt as though there really wasn’t enough of him to be able to really know anything of his character. In the novel, we learn so much about his strength and character after he and Katniss can finally fight together but part of the movie is rushed by and smushed into what now seems to only be one day instead of days and days of time for them to connect and bond.

My favorite character was the President, okay not favorite character but my favorite role in the film because we really don’t see him at all in the first novel but they gave him a bigger role in the movie. Showing us what could have happened with him behind the scenes. But even with a few scenes, Donald Sutherland, was able to show us so much about how this man thinks and what makes him tick. They did a great job casting him in this role because he is one of the few actors I think who could have given us so much and helped set the stage for this important character.

I will say that the screenwriters did a good job at projecting the essence of the overall story into this movie. There is a scene in the film that I believe give us a hint of the next two films and did not happen until then. And I do hope the next two books do make it to the screen and this film doesn’t fizzle out like some of the other series have once they made it to the box office – Lemony Snicket and Eragon. I want to see who they cast in the future movies for certain roles. Can’t you see Meryl Streep as President Coin?

I think fans of the book will be happy with the movie, it gives you more to talk about when discussing the story. It makes you double think some of the things that you thought were important to the novels but maybe they really aren’t. And I think people who go see it may be slightly confused at certain points but will enjoy the movie as well. I wouldn’t take younger children to see it and I think any parents who let their kids see it, should see it themselves and use it as a starting point to a deeper discussion on humanity and how wrong it can go. We have many examples from the past but sometimes a fictional story can help explain the darkness in our own reality.

Now on a side note: Before I had a chance to read the novels, I read a lot of reviews and there were a lot of people aghast at the idea that anyone would think that this was a good idea for a novel for teenagers, tweens or anyone to read. How dark they were and how can they dare make this into a movie?! But in many ways, this is not a new story to us. Even I made the comparison to Battle Royale before I picked up the books. Or even the short story I think everyone I have ever met has read The Lottery. But Collins took this basic plot and made her own story of it. Yes, the idea of killing children for the entertainment or as tribute is something many people could not fathom but in many ways, death as entertainment is not anything new. While not real, just as The Hunger Games is not really real, how many horror films center around teenagers being ganked by some faceless serial killer? In many ways the story of The Hunger Games reminds me of a future despotism society’s version of the Gladiator games. We saw a similar story with The Running Man. This not anything that is new. Yes, it is a horrific idea but death as entertainment is not something we made up recently. Think about how people used to go to hangings for entertainment. I stated it a little bit ago that I think this story is a great thing for a parent to use to sit down and talk to their children. Maybe one day I will use it as well when my son gets older.

The Way…

I don’t do many personal blogs anymore just because it seems with everything else going on in my life – baby, husband, school and writing – that sitting down and writing a blog about some random topic just seems to never happen. Especially since my child likes to play with my computer if I have it open. But I am sitting here working on some homework and watching a new movie by Emilio Estevez called “The Way”  which stars his father Martin Sheen. I had never heard of it before and while it was filmed in 2010, it only recently came to OnDemand in the past month or so. I had been seeing trailers for it and wasn’t too sure I wanted to watch it, I mean there are so many other big blockbusters to watch. But today, I decided to put it on just to see what it was about and I will say I am glad that I did.

Not only was I pleasantly surprised by the soft, rolling story that had me in tears from the beginning to the end. But also because in our movie world today its all about the big blockbuster, how shiny and graphic filled it is, that it has to be a major blockbuster with big names in it. While yes it does have Martin Sheen in it, one of the bigger names in Hollywood, you know he did this for the love of his son and you can see this. Emilio plays his fathers son in the movie – literally. It is always nice to see these two working together on the screen. Their dynamic is different then when we see Martin with Charlie on screen. Their moments together are very few and far in between but each time they happen it is meaningful.

I do not want to give too much away but the blurb on IMDB.com states:

A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the “El Camino de Santiago,” and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.

And it is that simple… a man loses his son and decides to take the journey his son could not make. Now, if you have never heard of the El Camino de Santiago, it is basically a pilgrimage taken by thousands each year from various starting point to the Santiago Cathedral in Spain. It is also called The Way, hence the title, or the Pilgrimage of St James. And it is a pilgrimage people have been taking for thousands of years. I won’t go too much into it, you can easily find out more about it by doing a simple google search where you will get thousands of hits from companies that take you one it, guides, personal stories, photos, histories and more. But first and foremost it is a spiritual journey in all ways.

This is a film about the journey of Tom, his son and those that Tom meets on his way… his reluctant journey mates who all come with their own baggage and desires and pain. It is a personal journey, a spiritual journey and about becoming someone he never believed he could be.

I wanted to write about it because by the time the movie end, it made me want to do something. Not walk the El Camino because I am unsure if I could physically do it right now but to express my enjoyment of the film. Is it an Oscar winner… no but it was a beautiful, moving movie that has made its Way onto my list of must see films for those I care about. Yes, there is a religious aspect to the film because of the fact that its a Pilgrimage but the main part of the story is about a man finding himself and coming to peace with the loss of his only child. We don’t see these movies enough and if they are out there we do not hear of them very often. Its hard to hear their quiet musings through the loud explosions that take over most of our movie outings.

I will say this, I have found that this type of film – a tight story with a small focused group telling it is a specialty of Emilio Estevez as a writer and director. He hasn’t directed a huge amount but I always enjoy it when he does because you can see the love he puts into it.

So in the end I will say… watch the movie and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Dear Hollywood…

Dear Hollywood Movie Makers,

So… we have come to the end of another “stellar” year of movies! Can you read the sarcasm in that statement? If you didn’t … then at least you are now aware that it was a sarcastic comment. I am writing you to make a request, okay several request, for the coming movie making years. Why am I doing this? Mainly because I am tired of the same crap and getting bored of walking out of the theaters dissatisfied with what I shell out my hard-earned money for.

Request #1 Can you please quit over marketing your films! Especially the big blockbusters like Avatar and any number of big action flicks… especially when they end up being boring because we have already seen the entire movie in trailers, product tie ins, myspace advertisements, etc. I am giving you money to already see a movie that I know all the big parts in? If your movie is really good it will sell itself. I want to see a movie in whole and not be tired of it before it is even out on the screen. This weakens my desire (and others that I know of) to even go see the movie yet alone enjoy it. I can understand that for some producers out there – they may not give a shit whether I enjoy the film as long as you get my money. This lets the world know that you are not movie makers but just cash cows. You don’t care about the film itself or the quality just that you get money to line your pockets. I know many of you learned that market tie ins like shampoo with movie characters on them et al at the altar of George Lucas (I do adore his films, well except for Howard the Dock, but he is the king of product tie-ins IMHO) it gets boring and take away from the magic of the movie itself.

Request #2 Throwing big names together in a romantic comedy does not a hit make. One of the worst rom-coms of the year was “The Ugly Truth” which made me feel that who ever cast it just looked at two actors they wanted and cast them. Not once having them meet in person and didn’t think of the chemistry that is needed to make a good rom-com. Richard Dreyfus and Nia Vardalos had more sexual chemistry. There were a few others over the years that were boring as hell for the same reason. On this note – while I love Amy Adams and she is the new Meg Ryan, please don’t over use her or she may lose her rom-com magic.

Request #3 Please get off the bandwagon of comic book movies – not every comic book needs to be made into a film. As we learned when we watched Daredevil and Elektra. And on that end of things – if you are going to make a movie from the comic quit screwing with the story and trying to make it more… more… more whatever the hell you call it when you mess up the storyline. And making new comics to tie into the movie so that your new cool storyline is now canon is idiotic. I went to see Wolverine to see the Wolverine story, instead of what I remember reading I got a whole new story of blah blah blah… AND! Too many villains means a bad movie. Come on! Spiderman 3 didn’t need 3 villains. Keep to one and focus on that damned story instead of a gazillion other ones and then we get BORED and confused and frustrated and want to write nasty letters online.

Request #4 When you translate a beloved book from the written word onto the screen please, please, please, please try to keep the soul of the book and/or story intact! Lord of the Rings is an amazing movie and they changed parts of it and moved things around but they KEPT the soul of the story alive which why the movies kicked ass and still do! Hire a writer or writers to translate the work who love the original work and don’t mess it up just to make their vision more important then the original.

Request #5 Take a lesson from the past, sometimes a simple story is better than a gigantic movie blockbuster… ie – Marty, made to be a tax right off and ended up winning oscars because it was a GOOD story!

Request #6 quit with the constant movie remakes! Yes, retelling the story of Dracula and the Wolfman over and over is good BUT retelling the story of Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a shot by shot remake… kinda boring. The original was good, it didn’t need to be remade. Oh and neither did Halloween with the whole new origin story. Nor do we need a remake of the following: Karate Kid, Bill & Ted, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Top Gun, etc etc etc… Star Trek did it well – told the beginning BUT with the twist of a new timeline then the original Star Trek so they can start all over again. And that movie showed that unknowns are sometimes better than getting a known actor for a lead. And taking chances – never thought Simon Pegg would be a perfect Scotty but he was! Oh, and I am still waiting for my remake of Clan of the Cave Bear… hello!? Sometimes the remakes are better but most of the time they are just pale imitations – like the Bad News Bears. Can you tell this is a sore point with me? Take a poll online and see how many people really want that remake of Nightmare on Elm Street?

Request #7 Please cut back on the number of movies you release and make better films instead. I only have so much time and money, as I am sure many others do, and would like to see more better films then a bunch of crap that I regret. Not every movie will be good just because you throw a bunch of money at it… most of the time it will still be crap.

Request #8 When you make zombie movies… can we have some realism please! Its zombieland! With 4 humans left roaming the US and they only come across a handful of zombies as they go from Texas to California? And let alone get to LA and there are only several dozens who attack the amusement park? In one of the most highly populated areas in the country?! Driving thru downtown LA and there are 2 or 3 zombies wandering around? Is this Zombieland or Zombie Small Town? Get James Gunn and throw money at him to write another  zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead… now that was a GOOD zombie flick!

I could keep going but I have a life to lead and a plane to catch. Just please Hollywood… I miss good movies. I miss summers when there were multiple big blockbusters that were big not just because you sold it well but because the movie was actually good. I want real story tellers telling movies not just going where the money is… you have to look at some of the smaller budget or the miracle movies that made it big in years past. No body wanted to try to sell a movie about a farm boy on a distant planet  but they took a chance and it paid out or believed in a movie like Marty was something anyone would want to see and it is still beloved today or that a 3 person film (including the director) that cost $11,000 would top the movies of the year or that a film school drop out from New Jersey would have a successful movie franchise because he made a movie he wanted to make or that … I could continue … I miss the Hollywood of Dreams and wish it was back instead of the Hollywood of Fads we seem to have today.

Or maybe I am completely alone on this?

I do want to add a quick thank you to those directors that follow their visions and go for it. Ignoring what may or may not be popular at the time but telling the stories they truly love for the sake of the story not the sake of just what comes into the box office. You make me continue to go to movies and hope for a better future of movies with souls like yours. I will not name names because people know who they are… You keep it alive. Thank you! This letter is not directed at you but those who only seem to care about the money.

Who Watches the Watchmen?

If any of you went to see The Dark Knight this past weekend, which according to the numbers was most of you, you probably saw the trailer for the movie “Watchmen” which is based on the acclaimed best selling graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore and David Gibbon. Like many of the others out there I was instantly awed and inspired by the trailer. How can you not be? Its beautiful and the music is spot on. It makes your heart race. Which means that once again Director Zack Snyder will most likely have another box office win. His vision on the screen has been masterful so far (Dawn of the Dead remake and the bloody wonderful 300) and it is possible that it will be once again. I especially love his use of music in a movie. He always seems to know exactly which music to use.

As many others, I too went home and picked up my copy of Watchmen off that shelf and started to reread it. I haven’t read it in probably 5 – 6 years now, ever since I was first introduced to Alan Moore through the graphic novels “Top Ten”. I am half way thru it. Taking my time of taking it all in once more and I can’t help but wonder. Will it translate as well onto the screen as the trailer makes you think it does? The trailer is only certain aspects of the movie and it is hard to say. Watchmen seems like it will be difficult to do. With the different story lines, a huge amount of main characters to pull from. How will it come to together? I have many theories, all I know is that if it is to turn out well, Snyder is the one to make it not just well but spectacular. And I can not wait to see it. Especially with the cast that he has assembled together including Bill Crudup as Dr. Manhattan. I guess we have until March 6, 2009 to speculate about it…

And then I have to wonder, can I can get my best friend to dress up as Rorschach.

The Dark Knight… a Bright Light?

I went last night to see “The Dark Knight” the latest installment in the new Batman series and what can I say? It blew me out of the water for the most part. I was aware of this when I went into the theaters of course. How could it not be?

The following is my review of The Dark Knight, there will be some spoilers – if you do not wish to be spoiled, do not keep reading.

You have Christian Bale – one of the industries secret gems until a few years ago. Who while he may pick some questionable roles to play on the screen, always gives a stellar performance. In truth, I think Steven Speilberg was genius and psychic when he picked this young actor to be the main character in Empire of the Sun. Alone, mysterious and intense from the beginning. Then you add in Heath Ledger, another gem of the industry but not so secret. He rampaged onto the US movie scene with his teen romance flick – 10 Things I Hate About You (one of my fav mind candy movies) and into the hearts of teenage girls in America.

Both of these actors have a precesnce of the screen that is undenable when they are seperated. Bring them together and its a rocky roller coaster you can’t look away from. Especially when they are playing against each other.

“You Complete Me”
While I watched the movie I could not help but realize, the best scenes in the movie were when these two were on the screen together. Fighting one another. Being the two sides of a coin (oh! Maybe there was another reason to bring that 2nd villian into the movie… hum, smart Mr. Nolan very smart). The director was smart that most of the time when they were on the screen together – no one else was present. It was smart because anyone else who happened to be there seemed to lack where the other two shined. I think they brought out the best in each other as much as the Joker and the Batman bring the worst out of each other.

“Question First, Agree Later”
I was kind of doubtful when Ledger was first cast. Could he handle the Joker? The character, as my mom so kindly put it is the opitime of evil and insanity. So, when he was announced I sat down and re watched every Ledger movie I could think of. And they were right. Last night confirmed it. Heath Ledger was the Joker in this movie. Where he was solemn and stoic in Brokeback Mountain – he was the complete opposite as the Joker. You could see the joy in his eyes when the Joker set Gotham on their toes during the film. Not because he was Heath during this time but he was truly the Joker. Or at least he made me believe it and I could not help but shed a few tears that he is gone.

And for me, it was one of the best performances by Ledger to date and if the Oscars will finally recognize the honesty in comic book movies and the acting that is in them… Ledger will once again be nominated for an Oscar for his performance in a film.

“The Toss of a Coin”
I mentioned earlier about Nolan using a second villain to be tied into the epic story of the Joker and Batman. For those versed in the comic book world, its widely known that without the Batman, there is no Joker. And without the Joker, there is no Batman. They are equals on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Just as Lex Luther is as smart as Superman is strong to balance the hero with his nemesis. Thus you have the Joker to the Batman… One wants order and justice, the other the complete opposite. Both seemingly the opposite sides of one coin. And they both consider Gotham their city.

I found it interesting that the extra villan that Nolan thru into the mix is the one Batman villain who stands in the middle of the Joker and Batman. Two Face.. now, I love the character of Two Face, he is one of my favourite villains and I always wondered why and now I understand a little bit more then why. Here is a man who starts out in the Batman saga as the shining beacon of hope for Gotham City. The unmasked man who can bring true justice for its citizens without fear. Only to be turned into what he hates. Constantly at odds with himself. Making his own destiny or chance with a flip of a coin. And with that same coin choosing the fate of those he hates and his enemies. There is something balanced with his character. And he is a wonderful tool in this film.

But what about the actor who portrays him in The Dark Knight? Aaron Eckhart? Does he pull it off? Yes, yes he does. Brilliantly. He plays the dashing, charming DA who has no fear when he faces evil very well. And you can slowly see him breaking down and starting to show his other side as the movie progresses. His trust in those that are on his side but his inability to trust their choices. In short – forget the horrible Tommy Lee Jones portrayal of Two Face. He was a facade of what Two Face truly is… where as Nolan brought out a true insanity to the role that wasn’t cheesy and goofy. But dark and full of rage.

“The Bad?”
Everyone else that is cast in The Dark Knight that plays an important role in Batman’s life were the same as always. Amazing actors whose lifetime and body of work can only show how amazing they really are. Except for Maggie Gyllenhaal. I usually like her work, she is a very talented actress but she has the unfortunate job of working on a film surrounded by some of the top actors in the industry. In ways she shines, in others she doesn’t so much. Remember earlier when I mentioned that having Bale and Ledger on the screen together at the same time diminishes everyone else. This is what I am talking about. Amazing actress but diminished by the abilities of the men on screen with her at times. She was still wonderful in the role of Rachel Dawes. Making you happy they recast it from Katie Holmes.

“The End of the Beginning”
In conclusion this is the movie of the summer. And that is saying something. With all the amazingly well done movies coming out these past few months and more coming up. This is the shining star of the summer. Rising higher then all the other stars and not just because of people’s morbid curiosity on Ledger’s last full movie role. But because this movie has surpassed the first one. You are prepared for the next movie the moment this one ends and you want it to be out as soon as possible to continue on with the saga of one the comic industries greatest heroes and one its greatest villains. But I do not know who they will get to replace the irreplaceable Ledger. All I know is he has HUGE shoes to fill and even then they may not make the grade.

So, get off the computer and go see it again. I’ll see you there just as soon as I can get the kink out of my next from sitting in the front row of the theater (which didn’t ruin the movie in anyway).