And some things….that have not yet come to pass…

Hey all.
This post is basically to apologize for having missed 3 scheduled posts in a row.  I took a spectacular holiday last weekend and I simply haven’t had time to get a new post made yet. School has obviously kicked into session and I am just trying to get in the rhythm of things again.  More will come of that later, but for now I am announcing that the Tuesday post on Soontobeangel is dead – posts will come as I am able to get them up.  Art of the Trailer will still be on Friday’s as best as I am able and you can still expect the trailer for Thin Ice to be up soon.

I have a lot in the works right now, not least of which are 4 reviews for recently released trailers, and I am happy to say, my first video game review of 2012:

So stay tuned, thanks for being patient and I look forward to bringing you some great reviews and rambles soon!

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The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Finally! Better late than never, here is my triumphant return with a review of the Maltese Falcon. Expect the Art of the Trailer schedule to recommence in about a week, and I have some more good stuff on the way pronto. Enjoy 🙂

**Summer Film Challenge 2011**
Film:  Maltese Falcon
My Rating:  8/10

This film is blunt so I will strive to be also:  it is the epitome of Film Noir.  The “fight for my own cause” detective, the femme fatale, the mysterious gangsters and the more mysterious treasure.  I can fully see why it has sealed the title of the Perfect Noir film but I have a few issues with it.

First and foremost, let me start off by offending most of you: I have a new famous actor  to add to my “Can’t act” list – HUMPHREY BOGART.  He shows no emotion during any of his scenes.  He has the exact opposite problem of Daniel Radcliffe – I can tell he is processing the emotions of the characters but it is too buried in his eyes.  You can see that it is there but only just.  Maybe I should say that he can only act as one character, which isn’t much of an upgrade (Nicholas Cage, Keanu Reeves, etc).  It is the same roles and same non-emotional response we see in Sam Spade as is found in Rick Blaine of Casablanca.  You stop seeing the roles because you can’t stop seeing Humphrey Bogart, “that wonderful, classic actor”.  It really made it hard to enjoy the film. [In case you are wondering the other major figure of that list is the GREAT AND MIGHTY Orson Welles]

The second thing is the blistering pace of Film Noir.  It both makes the film work and can make it not work at all. In this case it did a little of both.  I enjoyed that the film kept moving and shifting, never giving you time to stop and figure it all out.  However, I did get a little lost towards the end.  Basically it is a trade-off that if you want that action pace you have to deal with some people losing the plot for a bit.  I am sure that a second viewing would help me understand it better.

And on that note I must clarify that I knew how it ended before I saw the film (Thanks AFI’s Top 100 Movie Quotes!) BUT it was still fun to get there.  I did enjoy watching Spade delve deeper and deeper into the mystery of the Falcon and the hunt for it.  It was fun to watch him get to the place of being in the thick of it all.

My only other note is that while Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet give excellent performances, Mary Astor never acted the way her character really was. Is she the coldhearted player she seemed to actually be or was she in reality the sweat girl caught up in it all?  Just like Bogart, I can tell that she (Astor) knows the answer but her performance doesn’t give me (the audience) any answers.  Really disappointing there.

Ultimately I would say that it was a good story that was marred by some rather mediocre acting.  The good performances balanced it out however so I will gladly give it an 8 out of 10. Glad to cross that of the list of movies to see.

Whelp! Thanks for sticking around. I know it took me forever to get this out and I thank you for my patience.  I just got really busy – my mom and I drove across country, I have been moving into my junior year of college, and I found this really weird device….from the future?  I don’t really know.  I will have to compile all of my notes and put them up on the blog soon…so be expecting that.  I also just finished Assassin’s Creed II!  So that review will be up very soon as well!  Finally the Art of the Trailer will return this Friday with my review of the teaser for the Hunger Games film!  Yeah!  Thanks all and check back soon for new content!

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Damn you, Woody Allen! Bein’ all Smart ‘n….Stuff!

I hate Woody Allen right now….just a little bit…. **Spoiler Warning**

Summer Film Challenge 2011
Film:  
The Purple Rose of Cairo
Date:  6 August 2011
My Rating:  9/10

Damn you, Woody Allen!!  I got so into this movie and then it just dropped me flat.  The best way I can describe it is that it is a groaner. For those of you comedically uncultured, let me give you an example:

Twin brothers, one named Emal and the other Juan, grew up and moved out of the country. A year later, their mother receives from Juan a letter and picture of himself. His mother sighs and mentions she wishes she had a picture from Emal as well. ‘Why,’ replies her husband, ‘if you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Emal.’

At first you have no idea where it is going. It seems sort of random and odd, yet you are intrigued. Then there is a slight turn towards the middle and you begin to realize you know where it is going. From there you just watch it unfold until it takes the final turn at the end and then you realize how frustratingly funny it is.  Thus – the groan.

And thus The Purple Rose of Cairo.  At the beginning you really don’t know what is going on and where this insanity is headed.  As the film progresses you develop a belief (or perhaps a hope) of where the film is headed. As it goes on, however you begin to realize what it is trying to say and you watch it begin to spiral to that point. Finally at the end, with the last little twists taken care of, you arrive at the truth – Allen told you this was coming throughout the whole film and you just have to deal with the fact that he was right.  When I watched the movie I got towards the end and started saying to myself, “Don’t you do it, Woody!” Don’t you make your point!” But of course he did, and that is what makes this movie great.

Basically the point is this (and I can’t remember who said it in the film):  It Only Ever Happens In The Movies.  Cecilia, as well as we the audience, get suckered into truly wishing that things would turn out for the best – like they always do in the movies.  But of course that is exactly what Woody Allen wanted us to thing.  He masterfully manipulates our expectations so that when the true ending occurs, we see it new and fresh just like Cecilia. And while we hate him for it at the time, we realize upon reflection exactly how brilliant the thing truly is.

One final note about the style – I would say that this is the second of the very few ways in which a Defeatist film can really work.  It does pretend to be something that is fantastic and worth my time, and then drops it all at the end.  However when you take time to think about it, that was the purpose of the film – to get us to think.  It is meant to be jarring so that we can see the true brilliance of it.  I know I use that word a lot but in this film it has been earned – it doesn’t really go anywhere plot-wise but it takes us places spectacular. It is defeatist with an ironic point – to BE defeatist.

The acting was phenomenal!!!  Jeff Daniels definitely had the role I thought he always deserved (having watched all of his work in reverse).  His portrayal of two versions of the same man was great. I loved his boyish enthusiasm as Gil and his uncanny perfection as Baxter. Truly a phenomenal performance and he had a great leading lady to play off of!  Mia Farrow destroyed the role of the woman who loved the movies – who got lost in the reels of the cinema.  Really I feel she captured the essence of what all of us who know and are passionate about Story feel like – the immeasurable spaces we get lost in when we open ourselves to fictional lives.  Great work all around in that department.

The only issues I had with The Purple Rose of Cairo were with the flapper soundtrack – which was definitely a bit much at times – and the out-of-the-blue move by Actor Gil at the ending. His decision seemed unmotivated and while I guess it makes sense to say he put his career first, there wasn’t any explanation of that really.  He just wasn’t there all of a sudden (Yes it plays into the moral, but it still didn’t make much sense).  Other than that though it was really an amazing film that I am glad to say I have seen.  I look forward to more of Woody’s work in the future.

Why we in the Film Business do what we do

So there you go!  One more of the Summer Film Challenge down and out of the way.  I still have a long way to go to finish everything from that list so expect a lot of reviews in the next month or two. Thanks for sticking around and while you’re at it, check out my friend Ryan’s reviews of this film and, one of my personal favorites, Harvey over at his BLOG.

Up next is that Humphrey Bogart classic – “The Maltese Falcon” – which should be up fairly soon. Also, don’t think I have forgotten about the Legend of Korra review on my Art of the Trailer blog.  That will be up shortly after this one is posted.  Thanks again and check back real soon for more good stuff!

BTW – My Assassin’s Creed review has had three 100+ view days in a row now!  That’s awesome! Thanks for all the support!

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Quickee-Palooza!!!

So, I am way-far behind on the reviews.  And I was really struggling to figure out how to create a full and complete review for movies that I saw a month ago now.  The solution – A Quickee post!  I might do this in the future if this comes up again but basically I take 1 or 2 paragraphs for a review rather than a whole post.  So with that rushed and poorly explained description, here we go!

Amelie

Yes. I did finally watch it with Subtitles 🙂  I still believe watching it in French was better, but I did need to see it with Subtitles to get a complete enough grasp of it for review.  It was nice to catch some of the nuances that the writing has that can’t be gained by the gorgeous visuals alone.

The film is a celebration of the importance of the smallness and magic of life’s little things.  We enter a beautiful fairytale of Jeunet’s design which revels in the peculiarities of love, adventure and the imagination.  The film itself is beautiful as are the message and plot.  All around it has very quickly become one of my favorite films and I strongly recommend it to any adult (there are a few risque scenes for younger audiences to be aware of)

MY RATING:  10/10

Pontypool

I found this movie channel surfing on the HBO channels.
I read the book it was based on.
I bought the dvd.
I am terrified by this film.

This is by far the most interesting twist on the Zombie genre since George Romero gave it life…again. The idea that the zombie virus is spread via speech is fascinating and either brilliant or insane.  The book was bizarre and very oddly written and the film manages that peculiarity while having almost nothing to do with the book! Crazy!

Pontypool has a great concept that gets a bit muddied at the end. Again I say that the plausibility of a virus hiding in our language is suspect, the idea of it is bone-chilling.  What I love most about the film is that it capitalizes on the fear of the unknown – most of the film we don’t really know what is going on until the good doctor comes in and gives a rough explanation of it (btw I like that he figures it out then and there). From this lack of definition of the problem arises the far more interesting problem of “what the bleep is going on!?”.

The location is amazingly well chosen – both because of the intimate connection of radio and language and because of its confining nature. I honestly would love to adapt this as a one-act play.  It reminds me of “Sorry, Wrong Number” – a great emotional dichotomy of a single character that plays out over a short space.  I would definitely go watch a man slowly discover that the world is caving in around him. Just a thought.

Anyway the fact that I spent all night thinking “Kiss is Kill” to me emphasizes how good the film really is.  The ending isn’t so hot but I do recommend this, again, to older audiences due to the graphic nature of some scenes.

MY RATING:  8/10

Gone with the Wind

I finally got around to seeing it.  I can see what all the hype is about but at the same time I have to admit I have several issues with it.  First it is definitely Epic – the genre, not my feeling for it.  It clearly pushes the limits on scale of setting and extras.  However it doesn’t push any limits on story – it is one of the most basic storylines I have ever seen.  Emily mentioned that the first half could have been it’s own film.  What makes that work is the excellent quality of the writing for the characters. Scarlett and Red are fascinating roles, both fanciful and incredibly real.

The reality of the film most likely comes from the shear length of it.  You cannot sit watching people’s lives for 4 hours without beginning to see them as real people.  The writing is spectacular which does help but honestly I think it is just flipping long.  Visually the film is amazing!  I cannot think of another film that uses of silhouette at all, let alone to such wonderful results.  The visual style is vibrant, yet dimmed during the low points, and brings to life both the pre- and post- Burning-of-Atlanta South. Absolutely beautiful film.

Now the ending. First let me say that this is what I mean by a good Defeatist ending. It is depressing but they end it on a “Life goes on” message. Even if that message is rife of mixed feelings, it still gives me enough catharsis to let it end.  Just enough. What also makes the ending interesting is the audience’s mingling desires for revenge and for catharsis.  We spent the first half of the film wondering why we should care about this Bleep of a woman and yet we are crying for her at the end. It was a very interesting feeling which I think is unique to this film.

Overall it was a great movie that I am glad to cross off my list.  Long but good stuff.

MY RATING:  9/10

Btw – There is an odd similarity between the Theme song and “I’m All Alone” from Spam-a-lot….coincidence?  I think NOT!

The Manchurian Candidate

My last Quickee of the day is of the 1962 classic with Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury. As Emily will attest for me, I screamed at the screen that “Angela Lansbury doesn’t Co-star to anyone!”  And of course she played the role fantastically. Sinatra did great – I didn’t even recognize him until halfway through the movie.  Laurence Harvey also performed excellently. I loved his vacancy throughout the whole thing.

The plot was okay.  I thought it was handled well and I imagine that at the time this was groundbreaking.  However to the modern audiences it might seem a bit cliche.  I was surprised at the reveal and pleasantly at that, but for the most part it was a lot like other films.  The positive there is that it was good enough to inspire such copycats 🙂

Ultimately great film that I highly recommend to all.

MY RATING:  10/10

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Yup there you go!  Hope you enjoyed the four Quickee’s – I know it was fun to make them 🙂

I also wanted to express my flabbergast-ation and deep thanks for the incredible response I am getting to my Assassin’s Creed Review.  It has gotten over 90 hits in the last week only!  I am amazed and so appreciative for your readership and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for it. With that I am pleased to announce that I have a new video game review in progress: Assassin’s Creed II.  I haven’t finished the game yet but I’d like to get the review up before the release of Assassin’s Creed Revelations on November 15.  Thank you so much and spread the world – the sequel is on the way!!!

Final announcement:  look forward to a couple of Summer Film Challenge Reviews in the coming weeks.  I have seen several and am definitely going to have them finished before my cross-country roadtrip back to Cali next Tuesday.  In the meantime, check the my review of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on the Art of the Trailer. Thanks for sticking with me and check back real soon, ya hear!?

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Pottermore Update

I am very pleased to announce that I got into the Pottermore Beta!!!

I am SO excited about the new world of Harry Potter that is about to arrive in the form of Pottermore.  I still don’t know much of what exactly it is but I am really looking forward to exploring it with you in the very near future.

In my review of both Thor and Captain America, I mentioned that I like to make myself aware of just enough information about something to have an appreciation going into it, but not enough to spoil the magical experience of discovery.  Now I don’t know what I will be asked to conceal as part of the early crew into Pottermore.  They might ask me to be silent on the subject until the official release in October.  And if they do, I will honor their wishes.

While I want to share as much as I can about how amazing Pottermore undoubtably will be, I don’t want to ruin it for you.  I want you to experience it exactly as I will – fresh and new.  So, if I can tell you stuff, I will.  If I can’t, I won’t.  Trust me.  It will be better this way.

I am PUMPED about it and I will keep you up-to-date with anything and everything I can share.  It is going to be an amazing thing that I think all of us Potter-ites can enjoy together as a fan base.

So thanks and stay tuned for new Pottermore updates as the coming weeks arrive.  And if you haven’t already, check out other ramblings and reviews on the Soontobeangel blog!  Also check out my weekly trailer reveiw show at the Art of the Trailer.  Thanks and stay thirsty, Generation-that-shall-not-be-named!

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Appreciation and Understanding w/ Dash of Irony

Hello all!  I thought I would take a break from my reviews to share some news, and have a little ramble.

First, my IRONY MOMENT OF THE WEEK!!!  I was cleaning my room recently, being all productive and stuff, when I found my old Pokemon Ruby Game. Now a bit of history: I have been playing Pokemon games since the first set (Red & Blue). I can still remember playing them on my Original B&W Gameboy at the ballpark when I was 10.  Good times… Anyway, in the 10 years I have had since I have never, repeat NEVER, beaten one. Seriously. I bought every game up to the ruby/sapphire generation and have never beaten any set of Elite Four and Champion. I either spent all my time focusing on completing the Pokedex or lost interest before getting there.

Now having said that, I decided to play the game a bit just for old times sake.  I had made it all the way to Stephen, the Champion, before but I could never beat him.  I decided to try victory road, again just for kicks and made it all the way to the final battle of the 5 and somehow, having not played in over a year now, I BEAT HIM!!! It was so crazy!!! I finally beat a Pokemon game!!! Part of my childhood had ended, IRONY, on the day that the Last Harry Potter film came out!! Just an amazing thing that those two coincided with….the battery died.

I was watching the final cutscene where May comes back and is all surprised that you are the Champion and then Prof. Birch comes in and is all surprised that you are the Champion and then he takes my Pokedex and says, “Here’s some advice…”  CLICK.  My battery dies….right there….. GAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!

It was just hilarious that I had waited so long for that moment and when it comes I was robbed of it 🙂 I did go back and beat it about an hour later after I had gotten over how funny it was.  The ending was awesome just as i had always read in my strategy guide (JK!! Haha. Just…..just kidding…….totally not me………..yeah. I did read it cover to cover….yeah.) I loved the Hall of Fame thing and the credits (didn’t even know they did that!) and then….at the end….it says….”THE END”  😀

YEAH! 😀

So now that the embarrassing, end-of-my-childhood moment story is over, I turn to a more philosophical thought.

Something which I have been trying to nail down for many years is how one appreciates a work such as film or book. Recently I had a breakthrough thought which I’d like to share with you for your thoughts.

Our society seems to stress two conflicting opinions.  First, post-modern culture puts forth that appreciation of art can be had in any form or way and by any medium, but I will focus on the thought that no Understanding is required for Appreciation. The Second worldview, coming from Academia, says that in order to fully Appreciate something, one must have full Understanding of it.

Let me give two examples to clarify.  The former puts forth things such as John Cage’s 4’33” or Jackson Pollock’s abstract art as important because each person experiences it differently and in unique manners. The Latter would take things such as Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” and say that in order to fully appreciate it you must know that it was done as a fun exercise with his wife, and that each variation is based on one of his friends.  Obviously the two are in conflict and thus I turn to film.

My friend Ryan and I have a disagreement. Last year he gave me the French film Amelie as part of the inaugural Summer Film Challenge. When I started the movie and realized it was entirely in French without subtitles, I made the decision to watch it without them.  I had taken French in High School, but the true reason I made that call was because I wanted to see what the film was like unhampered by English text muddling the image.  I wanted to watch it as the French did, and I am not sure whether Ryan has forgiven me yet. 🙂

The reason I bring this film up is that I just ordered it on Amazon and I am not sure I will ever watch it with the subtitles, which brings us back to the original point:

What is the relationship of Understanding to Appreciation?

I propose these thoughts on this issue:

  1. I think that everything is art, and some of it is good, but only a rare bit is Great Art and that is what we must focus on. (More on this in a Ramble to come)
  2. While I can get how Knowledge in tandem or conjunction to a piece of art that helps me understand it’s origins and purpose enhances the experience of it, I wonder if we are losing a part of Appreciation by doing so.
  3. The Appreciation lost by seeking understanding I shall call Wonder or Awe. It might be aptly titled “Magic”.
  4. The Wonder I experienced when watching Amelie in French was that, though I could understand only the occasional word or phrase of the dialogue, I was able to understand the film’s plot and message remarkably well.

As my friend Ryan pointed out to me, I did miss the full meaning of the “Counting Orgasms” scene.  However I was able to appreciate that sex plays a major role in the life of Parisians in Amelie’s world and that she is keenly aware of the sexual world around her while remaining aloof of it. I was able to gleen that without being told it by verbal means. This shows me that their is a level of appreciation which is obtainable and important because you experience something unobtainable otherwise.

If you enter into something without understanding and experience it, you are able to return later with understanding and have a new experience (see – INCEPTION).  However, this path cannot be traversed the other way; if you know going in, you can’t experience that Magic (see – INCEPTION again). You can never watch Fight Club, Memento, even Jaws the same way you did the first time, so I stress the importance of not missing appreciating something as wonderful, magical and worthy of our awe.

Just to point out, I do see the irony that I am discussing “Magic” both in the context of the fanciful film Amelie and on the eve of the finale of Harry Potter franchise. 🙂

Thanks for sticking around.  Please tell me what you think about how we appreciate art, film, etc.  I’d love to hear from you!

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Super 8 – A Super Movie! :D

**Non-Summer Film Challenge**
Film:  Super 8
Rating:   9.5/10

So I finally got around to seeing Abram’s and Spielberg’s collaboration and, like everyone else, I loved it!  It was well written, well executed, all around just excellent film. It tugged heart strings that I didn’t expect as well as satisfying the mystery and excitement that I did anticipate.  I loved that I went in thinking it was a dark, updated version of ET, but it really showed up as it’s own film that is worthy of all the hype it is getting.

I was surprised at how dark it really is. I expected it to be more intense, of course, than the early Spielberg films that it is often compared to, but I didn’t expect it to be so crazy.  The wreck was terrifying, as was the reveal of what was in the train car.  I really didn’t expect it to go as far as it did in that realm but I was pleasantly surprised that Abrams didn’t hold back.

The other thing that really stood out to me about it was the performances of the children. They really brought their A-game, I thought, and the film really is carried by my empathy for and with them. It was also a joy for me as a filmmaker myself to see the parallels that must have occurred on set. I wonder if Joel Courtney (who plays Joe Lamb) was given the opportunity to shadow a makeup artist, if Riley Griffiths (Charles) got to hang out with J.J. and see how it works. It must have been a joy to work on and I wish I had known they were filming in West Virginia. I might have gone out to help!

Only a few things seemed off to me, and I will touch those lightly. First, and others might have mentioned this, but the lens flair thingy at the trains station (the blue line when they first arrive) didn’t really work for me. Both my Dad and I were thrown off by it. It jarred us out of the film to wonder if that was a mistake, and (***SPOILER COMING***) I get the parallelism with the end, but it still doesn’t really work for me.  It is too jarring and it doesn’t come enough for me to be cool with it.

The only other issue I have might have been an issue with the theater in which I saw it.  The sound was weird. It seemed like it was constantly peaking which caused it to sound scratchy and nasty. This particularly came through during the train wreck. I understand the concept of using sounds to enhance a mood, going from silence with bigger sounds to a loud bit in which it’s all a bit blended together. However it seemed to me that everything was a bit blown out. Again, I saw the movie in a really junky theater (Carmike) so if you had the same issue and know what I am talking about, please comment and let me know below. Might push my review up to a 10 if that was just the theater.

Ultimately, it was an amazing film that I plan to go back and watch again.  Well crafted bit of cinema that reminds us that it still can be done. Might not take my young friends to see it but certainly well worth the time of anyone who loves movies.

Thank you for sticking with me, as I have been working hard on my new blog – The Art of the Trailer. Check it out and let me know which trailers you want me to review.  It is going to be fun and I look forward to really delving into it.  So again, thank you, please comment below, and I will leave you with a clue as to my next review:

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