Saturday, December 27, 2014

Best and Worst Films of 2014

It’s that time of year again. I want to give you my best / worst films of 2014, followed by the films I’m the most excited for in 2015. My list is going to be based off films I have watched. Since I live in a smaller town, my local theater doesn't get many low-budget or independent films, so my list may not have some of the greatest of the year.


  1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  2. Gone Girl
  3. Boyhood
  4. The Theory of Everything
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
  6. The Lego Movie
  7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  8. X-Men: Day of Future Past
  9. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  10. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


  1. Transformers 4: Age of Extinction
  2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  3. Lucy
  4. 300: Rise of an Empire
  5. The Legend of Hercules
  6. Hercules
  7. Divergent
  8. Dracula Untold
  9. Maleficent
  10. The Amazing Spider-Man 2


  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  2. The Avengers: Age of Ultorn
  3. Ant-Man
  4. Jurassic World
  5. Inside Out
  6. Mad Max: Fury Road
  7. Tomorrowland
  8. In the Heart of the Sea
  9. Pixels
  10. Hitman: Agent 47

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Series of Genres: Fantasy

We are back to the old regiment. This week I’m going to explore the magical lands set forth by various storytellers throughout history. These lands provide many opportunities to rise as a hero. Riding shotgun through the hero’s journey we, the audience, empathizes with the hero; experiencing the vast unknown world yet to be explored, together. On our journey we may be joined by a company of friends and allies compose of the following: a wise old mentor, a brave warrior, a man of the cloth, or a charismatic scoundrel. Our company of adventures will be tested both physically and mentally on the perilous journey head. If fate is in our favor we will return home unscathed, but as change individuals with inspirational stories of heroism.

For those of you that have been following this blog recently may recognized this anecdote as an adventure, and may be wondering why I’m not talking about fantasy as the title suggest. Let me recall my adventure post where I said “…adventures are usually paired with other genres. Personally, I think adventures pairs nicely with fantasy and sci-fi films.” Most people, including myself, lump fantasy and sci-fi together, because they tend to share themes and motifs. This week I want to focus just on fantasy. So what separates fantasy from sci-fi? The primary thing that separates the two genres is setting. Science Fiction (sci-fi) is rooted in science or scientific theory that usually has an outer space setting where as fantasy is set in an imaginary world, ruled by magic and mythological beast. Those descriptions are not hard definitions of the two genres, but good generalization that both genres usually follow.

Now that you know what basically separates fantasy from sci-fi, let’s delve into some of my favorite stand-alone fantasy films. I’m going to start off with some classics and then move into the modern ear.

First off is one of the first fantasy film, The Wizard of Oz. The Wizard of Oz is based loosely off the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. The Wizard of Oz follows Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) and her dog, Toto, as they explore the colorful Land of Oz in an attempt to find a way back to their home in Kansas. Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (a fairy godmother type character), and the Munchkins (jolly halfling people) instructed Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, were Wizard of Oz resides. This would be their best bet on finding their way back home. On her way she encounters a scarecrow, who want a brain, a tin man, who wants a heart, and a lion, who wants courage. The road isn’t easy because the Wicked Witch of the West, foils their plans by sending her flying monkeys. Dorothy defeat the Wicked Witch and save her friends. Upon returning the Wicked Witch’s broom, The Wizard of Oz “grants” their wishes, in the form of tokens of gratitude. Modern fantasy film uses an exuberant amount of CGI to create their fantasy world, were in 1939 they used color and detailed set piece to distinguish the difference between the dream world (Oz) and reality (Kansas). That level of filmmaking give me great respect of how they did things back then.

The next two films on my list also have that same level of respect because the films were made primarily with puppets. Those two films are The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. In the 1980’s, Jim Henson had a crazy idea to make a film with nothing but puppets. His first attempt was The Dark Crystal. The film did decently at the box office, taking home a little over forty million. What would happen if they made a film like The Dark Crystal but bringing in star power? Jim Henson’s next non-Muppet film was just that. Labyrinth brought with it David Bowie and, newcomer, Jennifer Connelly. Even with the star power, Labyrinth tanked at the box office, making less than thirteen million, about half of its budget of twenty-five million. To make matter worse the critic ate the film up saying things like, “it was awful.” Labyrinth didn’t gain its popularity and cult following until its release on home video.

Fast-forward a few years past Labyrinth to the year 1988. A little gem of a film titled Willow, came out that year. This was Ron Howard’s first full length high-fantasy film. The film was written by George Lucas (Star Wars) and screenplay by Bob Dolman. Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) is a humble farmer who stumbles upon a human a baby girl, which he places in his protection. The village is attacked by a hound during Willow’s ceremony to become the apprentice to the village wizard. Willow is then tasked with returning the baby to the humans. On his journey he allies himself with a human swordsman named Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), a sorceress named Fin Raze, and two brownies named Franjean and Rool. This company all join forces to protect this baby, named Elora Danan, from the evil Queen Bavmorda, and her armies lead by her daughter, Sorsha. What I like the most about this film is it light heartiness, and fun spirit.

Throughout the 1990’s there were numerous Sci-fi film, and handful of fantasy films. In the early 90’s, 1991 to be exact, the film Hook was in theaters. Hook stared Robin Williams. The film takes place many years after the original telling of Peter Pan. Peter Banning (Robin Williams) is fairly neglectful father to his children, Jack and Maggie. While visiting their grandmother Wendy in London the two children are kidnaped by a mysterious figure and taken to Neverland. Tinkerbell shows up and tries to convince Peter that he is Peter Pan. He doesn’t believe so Tinkerbell has to forcibly take Peter to Neverland. After seeing his children with Captain Hook, he decided to fight for them by remembering that he is Peter Pan. With the help of the Lost Boys and Tinkerbell, Peter becomes Peter Pan. Peter fights Hook and wins the hearts of his children. The three of them return home and live happily ever after.

In the 2000’s many films were experimenting with visual effect, making many breakthroughs in CGI. One of those major breakthroughs was Motion capture (Mo-cap). Mo-cap allows the visual effects team to capture an actor’s motions / performance and use that as the framework for a CGI character. During this era movies were filming full scenes with nothing but CGI, blanketing sets in green screens. Then came along a Mexican filmmaker named Guillermo del Toro, who become known for using a healthy mix of practical effects and CGI. I believe that the film, El laberinto del fauno ( Pan’s Labyrinth) is the best example of Guillermo del Toro’s style. The film was beautiful, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would back me up on this, awarding the film Oscars in the Art Direction, Cinematography, and Makeup categories. Apparently, Pan’s Labyrinth didn’t make the mark in the Visual Effect category that year, instead the category was filled with the following films, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Poseidon, and Superman Returns. Taking home the prize was Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Pan’s Labyrinth merit, not only lie in its visuals, but in it story as well. Pan’s Labyrinth follows a little girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her quest to become the rightful princess of the Underworld. To do so Ofeli must complete three tasks given to her by a faun. These tasks lead her into a dark fairy tale world filled with eerie monsters. The reason why I spent the so much time on Guillermo del Toro and Pan’s Labyrinth is because del Toro has a connection to one of the franchise in my top five list.

I don’t need a better segue than that, here is my Top Five Franchise in the Fantasy Genre that you all have been waiting for:

  1. Tolkien Film Franchise
  2. Star Wars Franchise
  3. Harry Potter Franchise
  4. The Chronicles of Narnia Franchise
  5. Shrek Franchise

  • Honorable Mention: The Neverending Story

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films bring Professor Tolkien’s classic novels alive. J. R. R. Tolkien is known for elaborated histories and world building. Tolkien started his work in the early 1930’s with his first tale in Middle-Earth drawing inspiration from many mythologies, including: Finnish, Norse, Greek, and Christianity, among others. What I like most about Tolkin’s work is he gave each race in his stories their own history, culture, and language. He not only does this for the normal fantasy races like dwarves, elves, and men, but for the monstrous races like goblins, trolls, and orcs. This attention to detail can also be seen on screen, in the story and in the craftsmanship. Peter Jackson utilized a native New Zealand special effects and prop company named WETA. One example of their detailed work is the armor they crafted for the film. They hand crafted each piece of armor and weapon in the film, bring aboard blacksmiths and leather-workers. The film also uses quite a bit of CGI, creating creatures such as the Balrog. Some of the CGI creatures, one in particular, came to life via motion capture. Andy Serkis brilliant mo-cap performance brought the creature Gollum to life. The level of acting talent doesn’t stop at Andy Serkis. The cast list in The Lord of the Ring is fantastic: Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Sean Bean, Billy Boyd, and Dominic Monaghan. All their hard work didn’t go unnoticed either; The Return of the King alone racked up 11 nominations at the Oscars. Roughly ten years after the release of The Return of the King, Peter Jackson would return to Middle-Earth and produce The Hobbit, with Guillermo del Toro at the helm. Guillermo del Toro left the project because of filming conflicts, passing the reins back to Peter Jackson, but he retained a writing credit for his conurbation to the film. I could talk about the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films all day, but it is time to move on.

Star Wars is seen as Sci-fi because of its setting and its use of scientific looking things like the lightsaber. Personally I would classify the films as a space fantasy. The themes and motifs line up more with fantasy. George Lucas drew inspiration from many different sources, including old war and samurai films. Examining the heart and soul of Star Wars, its story, one will realize that it’s modeled after Joseph Campbell’s theory, the hero's journey. For a better explanation of the hero's journey, check out this diagram. The original trilogy did a lot to advance the technology of visual effect, which spawned a company. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is one of the large visual effect, if not the largest. ILM has worked on many film over the years, averaging about 8 to 10 films a year. ILM has worked on most of the films I have mention in this post. What I’m try to get across is ILM has been a big part of the visual effects world. Star Wars in general didn’t really see a lot of love from the Academy, except for A New Hope, winning 6 out 10 of their nomination. All three films in the original trilogy won a Special Achievement Award for visual effects. I personally love Star Wars and I can’t wait for The Force Awakens.

Harry Potter hold a special place in my heart. I read all the books. I was one of those Potter nerds that stood in line for hours on end waiting for my copy of the newest book. I repeated that process for every movie once they started making them into films, except for the years I work at a movie theater. Harry Potter is a coming of age story with magic. Harry goes from being a “normal” boy to a great wizard powerful enough to take down the big bad wizard named Voldemort. In the Harry Potter world, magic is real, but its usage has been hidden from us Muggles, those lacking in magical abilities. Harry Potter’s only picking up Academy Award nominations in many of the artsy categories like Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, and Best Costume, but where it lacks in prestigious awards it make up in finances. The Harry Potter franchise has made just under 8 billion dollars worldwide, placing it in the top three most successful film franchise, financially.

The Chronicles of Narnia is another special childhood / teenage memory for me. The Chronicles of Narnia was the first time I was exposed to a fantasy world. In the books and later in the films, the audience follows a group of children as the journey to the Land of Narnia. This land can only be entered by magical means, the first of which was through a magical wardrobe. The first time I watched The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe I was impressed with how they handled the Christian undertones that C.S. Lewis wrote in his books.

Sherk is one of those animated films that works for both children and adults. I personally thought Sherk was clever and fun, but then it turns bad, with all its sequels and spin-offs. Shrek is produced by DreamWorks Animation. I jokingly say DreamWorks Animation put out one good film for every ten films. Form my personal tastes, that statement is kind of true. From that production company I enjoyed: Sherk, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon. There maybe a few more that I liked, but not love. I’m a Pixar guy through and through. I haven’t really seen a bad Pixar film, well in my opinion. With that being said I’m excited for Pixar’s newest movie Inside Out.

Now for my Honorable Mention: The Neverending Story. I haven’t had an honorable mention before because the race wasn’t as close as it was this week. Sherk barley made it in my top five because I didn’t like its sequels and spin-offs. The Neverending Story is based off a novel with the same name written by Michael Ende. The Neverending Story brings out the same love I have for the other fantasy films from the 80’s. I like how the story comes to life as the boy reads the words. It’s just one of those films I have a special place for, even though it’s not the greatest films cinematically.

This post should be going up on Christmas Eve, so I would like to wish my readers a Happy Holiday. I will end by asking, what films is everyone planning on watching this Holiday season? Maybe, Into the Woods, would be fitting because it is a fantasy film opening on Christmas Day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Distributor: New Line Cinema
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer(s):  Fran Walsh (Screenplay), Philippa Boyens (Screenplay), and Peter Jackson 
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Other Dwarves, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lily, and Benedict Cumberbatch as the Voice of Smaug / Necromancer
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Running Time: 144 min
Synopsis: Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the terrifying Smaug from acquiring a kingdom of treasure and obliterating all of Middle-Earth.

What Others Are Saying?

Rotten Tomatoes: T-Meter: 59% "Rottenh", Top Critics: 54% "Rotten", Audience: NA "Like It"
Metacritic: Critics: 60 out of 100, Users: NA out of 10
MRQE Metric: 68 out of 100
My Review

Source Material: Based off The Hobbit, and other "Middle-Earth" books written by J. R. R. Tolkien.   

Entertaining Value:

  • Action Elements: The title of the film is called The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. It delivers an epic battle.    
  • Comedy Elements: This film has more of a serious tone, a tone much like the Lord of the Rings films, being a war film after all.     
  • Dramatic Elements: I liked that characters inner struggle drove most of the drama in the film. A lot of the film's tension comes in the form of trying to stop the inevitable battle from starting.
  • Sci-Fi / Fantasy Elements: "This film is set in a high fantasy world called "Middle-Earth" with humans, dwarves, eleves, hobbits, and dragons.       
Cinematic Value:
  • Acting and Dialogue: 7: A lot of the greats are back, performing at adequate levels. Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, and Hugo Weaving are all fantastic actors. It was exciting to see their characters actually live up to their names. Even the "new comers" did a fine job. Even if you don't agree that some of the characters don't belong. Overall the performances were fine, they may not be Oscar worthy like we got in the Lord of the Rings films, but this isn't the Lord of the Rings.
  • Art Direction: 8: "New Zealand is the best backdrop for high fantasy worlds." I said that very thing for the last Hobbit and it still reign true. I also would like to add that the ruin city adds a new depth to the film.       
  • Cinematography: 7: I really liked that the battle sequences were focused on. I felt the scope of the battle without being overwhelmed. The fight sequences were well choreographed, making for better shots.          
  • Direction: 7: I believe this film has the shortest running out of the three the Hobbit films with a running time of 144min ( 2hrs and 24mins). For the most part every minute of the film was entertaining. I think Jackson did a fine job, like the performance, he did an adequate job, but not Oscar worthy, Good not Great.                       
  • Editing: 7: For me the editing was fine. I felt that most of the scenes had enough time devoted to them. There were only a few scenes I would have cut, but primarily those pertains to the character development.    
  • Screenplay: 6: (Note:I know I'm hurting my credibility here a bit when I say I haven't read the Hobbit. With that being said, I have limited knowledge on how accurate the films are to its source material. I do have access to a friend who is a BIG Tolkien fan, who is very well educated in all things Middle-Earth. I tend to refer to his knowledge, when I need validation on lore.) From my understanding a lot of this film was fabricated but with good tasted. Presumably, most of the interaction added to the film can be found either in the appendixes of Tolkien's other works or in Tolkien's personal notes. I know some are still "butt-hurt" with the additions of Legolas and Tauriel. Legolas makes sence. I'm even fine with Tauriel as a strong women elf, who is an orc killing machine, even thought her character was 100% fabricated. It was absolutely unnecessary to make her Kili's love interest. Personally, I don't think there love story is coherent with Tolkien lore. Secondly, there love story didn't add any to the overall story, if anything it detracted from it. Kili already has enough motivation to fight. I think that's only the tip of the "nerd rage" iceberg pertaining to Tauriel and Kili's love story.
  • Sound and Music: 8: I have always love the score to the Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit.
  • VFX: 10: It visual effect was fantastic, I see an Oscar nomination if not win in the future.
Overall: 7: I really enjoyed this film overall.            

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Series of Genres: Epic

This blog is going to take a turn for the epic, or at least its contents will. That’s right, we are going to talk about Epic and Historical films this week. A genre that could be renamed, Sword and Sandal, for the attire the characters wear in these films. An Epic film is a story that is larger than life, even if the story was embellished upon. Most Epic films are rooted in historical events and follow a hero with an extraordinary life. That is the type of Epic films we are going to explore this week. Epics can come in many forms; Adventure films can reach epic proportions like in The Lord of the Rings. Even some War film can have an epic scope like Saving Private Ryan. Even though these are good films in the Epic genre, I want to focus more on the Sword and Sandal style of film. If you want to see my opinion on the Tolkien films, check out my top five franchises in the Adventure genre, here. For my opinion on Saving Private Ryan and other War films, stay tuned to this blog because I plan on writing about War films near the end of my genre series. This week I’m going to break away from my format because of the nature of Epic films. Epic films tend not to have sequels, so I can’t really give a top five list in the Epic genre. Instead of skipping the Epic genre entirely, I decide to compile a top ten list. One of the lists, I drew inspiration from is, WatchMojo’s Top 10 Sword and Sandal Movies, seen here. Let’s compare their list to my list:
  1. Gladiator
  2. Ben-Hur
  3. Spartacus
  4. The Ten Commandments
  5. 300
  6. The Passion of the Christ
  7. Conan the Barbarian
  8. Troy
  9. Clash of the Titans (1981)
  10. Jason and the Argonauts
  • Gladiator follows the life of Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe). Maximus is Roman General in Marcus Aurelius’ army that becomes a slave because of Commodus’ scheming plot against him and his family. While in slavery, Maximus used his military training to rise in fame as a gladiator. As a famous gladiator, Maximus was presented with an opportunity to fight in Roman Colosseum, which impressed Commodus himself. After learning that Maximus is the identity behind the gladiator, Commodus arranged a fight between himself and Maximus in the arena that ends with Maximus restoring his honor as a good man. This story is mixed with a healthy amount of epic gladiatorial battle sequences that were obviously inspired from other film on this list, including Ben-Hur and Spartacus. Both Russell Crow and Joaquin Phoenix showcase Oscar worthy performance.
  • Ben-Hur follows the life of Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston). Judah Ben-Hur was a rich Jewish prince who becomes a slave at the hands of his childhood friend, Messala (Stephen Boyd), who happens to be the newest commanding officer of a Roman Legion. Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins) offers to be Ben-Hur’s personal trainer as charioteer because he admires Ben-Hur’s determination and self-discipline. Three years later Ben-Hur becomes a free man learning Roman rule from Arrius, his now adopted father, which leads to him becoming a champion charioteer. Ben-Hur longs for more than fame and fortune so he travels back home to Jerusalem. On his way through Judea, Ben-Hur learns about a chariot race being held in honor of Pontius Pilate from an Arab sheik named Balthasar. Ben-Hur declines the offer to compete even after hearing his friend, now rival, Messala would be attending. In Jerusalem, Ben-Hur meets with Messala, in an attempt to free his mother and sister from prison. The two women concreted leprosy while in prison and were sent out of the city. The women didn’t want Ben-Hur to find out about this truth so they asked Esther, Ben-Hur’s love interest, to cover for them. Esther tells Ben-Hur that his mother and sister have died, which in turns changed his decision to compete in the chariot race.
  • Spartacus follows the life of a gladiator named Spartacus (Kirk Douglas). Spartacus and his fellow slave buddy’s lead a slave uprising against Roman rule during the events known as The Third Servile War. Spartacus and Ben-Hur paved the way for most of the film on this list.
  • The Ten Commandments follows the life of Moses (Charlton Heston). Moses was a Hebrew boy born during Pharaoh Rameses’ decree, to kill all firstborn Hebrews males. Since Moses matched that description, his mother decided to place him in a basket and float him down the Nile River. Pharaoh's daughter finds the basket with the baby Moses and raises the child as her own. Moses is seen as a “Prince of Egypt” and equal to Rameses II, his brother and rightful heir. Moses discovers his heritage and realized he belonged with his people. Moses defends the Hebrew slaves and is banished out of Egypt by the new Pharaoh, his brother, Rameses II. Moses and his family move to the desert and settle in the land of Midian. While attending to his flock Moses is contacted by the Hebrew God via a burning bush. God requires of Moses to save his people from Egypt. Moses returns to Egypt and kindly asks Pharaoh Rameses II to free the slave, he refuse. God answers his refusal in the form of ten plagues. In the final plague, God sends the angel of death to take the life of all first born males, not protect by the blood of the lamb. After finding his son dead, Rameses II free the Hebrew people, but only for a moment. Rameses and an army of chariots pursue Moses. They meet at the impassable Red Sea. Moses raises his staff and the Red Sea parts, allowing the Hebrews to cross on dry land. Rameses and his army follow, but are washed away by the sea. Moses climbs Mount Sinai to receive God’s laws, while away the Hebrew’s create a golden calf. Moses returns down the mount with God’s laws, The Ten Commandments, and see the calf. Out of anger he smashed the tables on the calf. After this event the Hebrew’s wander the wilderness for forty years, finally stumbling upon Canaan, the promise land. Not being able to enter this promise land because of his disobedience, Moses appoints as the new leader of the Hebrew people. Moses life has been told many times on the silver screen in films such as The Prince of Egypt, and Exodus Gods and Kings but, I personally think The Ten Commandments is the best rendition.
  • 300 follows the life of King Leonidas (Gerard Bulter) and his 300 Spartans as they battle King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his massive Persian army. This story is rooted in history, but heavily embellished upon. This film is based on the graphic novel with the same title written by Frank Miller. Frank Miller took the main players and events in the Battle of Thermopylae and created a story fitting for a graphic novel. One aspect of the film I like the most is the panel by panel accuracy.
  • The Passion of the Christ follows the life of Jesus of Nazareth (Jim Caviezel), or at least the last 12 hours of his life. The film focuses primarily on Jesus arrest, trial, and crucifixion. The film does a decent job at compiling the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) into a signal narrative. The film also sprinkles in references to other religious text in the Judeo-Christian belief, to paint a picture of Jesus as Lord and Savior. The film is fairly accurate in historical science. It does this by showcasing the Romans meticulous facilitation of crucifixions and the choice to use regional and historical languages, making The Passion of the Christ a quasi- Foreign Language Film.
  • Conan the Barbarian follows the life of Conan (Arnold Schwarzeneggere). Conan is a barbarian who witnessed the savage death of his parent's by the wizard Thulsa Doom. Conan becomes a strong man by working in the slave pits. He earns his freedom by winning numerous gladiatorial battles. As a free man Conan set out on a quest to avenge his parent death. Taking up a sword he finds in an ancient tomb, Conan cuts down his enemies, unless they are female then he may sleep them for information. If this classic 80’s sword and sorcery film doesn’t spark your fancy, then maybe the remake starring Jason Momoa will.
  • Troy follows the life of Achilles (Brad Pitt) as a hero in the Trojan War. Troy is loosely based on Homer’s Iliad, which is an epic that tells the story of the quarrels between King Agamemnon and Achilles during the Trojan War. The Trojan War is a great war in Greek mythology between the Achaeans (Greeks) and the Trojans. This war starts at the hand of Paris, a prince of Troy, abducted King Menelaus’ wife, Helen of Sparta. The Greek’s retaliate by setting in motion a siege upon the city of Troy lead by King Menelaus’s brother King Agamemnon, king of Mycenae. King Agamemnon recruits many heroes to fight along his side, including Achilles and Ajax the Greater.
  • Clash of the Titans follows the life of Perseus (Harry Hamlin). Clash of the Titans is another movie rooted in Greek mythology. In this story, Perseus is sent on many quests to fight monster including Medusa and the Kraken, in doing so, winning the heart of Princess Andromeda. To complete his missions, Perseus is guided by the gods and gifted a sword, a helmet, and shield. Zeus himself gives Perseus a flying horse named Pegasus. After Perseus victories the gods, honor him and his companions in the stars. What I like most of this film is the stop-motion animation used for the monster.
  • Jason and the Argonauts follows the life of Jason (Todd Armstrong) and his Argonauts on their quest to find the famous Golden Fleece. Yet another story from Greek mythology, Jason is tasked from Pelias to find the legendary Golden Fleece. Jason assembles a crew to help him sail the ship Argo, among them is the hero Hercules (Nigel Green). On their journey the men fight many monsters including harpies, a giant bronze Talos, a hydra, and an animated skeleton army. Another favorite Greek mythology, film caulk full of stop-motion animation.
I’m sorry that it has taken some time to post this epic blog. I plan on focusing on Fantasy film in the upcoming weeks. With that being said, I will talk about the Tolkien films again, because they made a great impact on both the adventure and fantasy world. I will wait until after the premiere of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies this coming Tuesday (December 16), to post. In the meantime, give me your thought on either epic movies or the Tolkien films, since that’s where we are going to next.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Star Wars Teaser Trailer Reaction

Most of you have probably already have scene the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser, if not check it out here before reading on. My first reaction was utter amazement mixed with excitement. I very much like the fact that the tone of the film has an original Star Wars feel. Seeing the fleet of X-wings zip past above the water, brought out my inner child wonder and amazement. From an art direction stand point the world looks lived in and broken down, which for me is another positive quality. There was one thing after another that just make me want to see this film right now. Then the internet blew up.  

After see the internet blow up, I decided to give my two cents on the one major complaint of the teaser. Near the middle of the teaser, we see a guy walking in the wood dressed in black, activate a lightsaber. This lightsaber isn't normal, it is a crossguard lightsaber.  For those of you who don't know what that is; a crossguard lightsaber is a light saber with two secondarily blades protruding out of the sides of the handle, making the lightsaber look like a longsword with a pommel. Apparently this type of lightsaber is too exotic, and has ruined Star Wars. I personally can't believe a different design in a lightsaber blade would poke the uber Star Wars nerds. Don't get me wrong at first it throw me off, but then I thought it was kind of bad ass looking. Aesthetically speaking the Sith usually have more exotic looking lightsabers anyways. Darth Maul has his double bladed lightsaber. Count Dooku has a curved hilt lightsaber. If you included the Clone Wars cartoons as cannon, then Asajj Ventress has two curved hilt lightsabers that can be attached to one another to from a double blade lightsaber. On the flip side Jedi's tend to have straight forward lightsaber. I personally think that a simple sword represents humility, a trait the Jedi strive towards. As you can tell I ambivalent about the new lightsaber design.   

All in all I think it was a good teaser. For those of you who wanted more, be patient. This film isn't due out until December 2015, about an year from now. I assume that they will release a full length trailer this coming summer, that will reveal a synopsis of plot and give context to this teaser. Until then enjoy what you have.     

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Series of Genres: Crime

This post is going up later than normal, hopefully I’m not committing any crimes

This week we are going to look at both sides of the “crime genre” coin. On one side the Crime and Gangster genre appears and on the other the Detective and Mystery genre. Hopefully, we will learn about how intertwined these two genres are by a simple comparing and contrasting of the two.

The Crime and Gangster genre gives us a variety of sub-genres, including, Serial Killer, Heist, Organized Crime, and Gangster. Each of these sub-genre gives the audience an inside look at the psychology of a criminal or group of criminals. I believe a good Serial Killer movie achieves this the best, because filmmakers tend to focus on the “why” question. While the other sub-genres do a good job of showcasing the plotting of the crime. Most Heist films have a simple formula that exemplifies the plotting attributes I mention earlier. The formula is planning the heist followed by the execution of the plan. Heist films are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to organized crime. Now, real organized crime comes in the form of the Mafia; a group of individuals who controls the inner workings of all the crime in a large metropolitan area like Chicago. A lot of the 1940’s and 50’s films focused on the drama in the organized crime scene, labeling them as Film Noir.

On the flip side, the Detective and Mystery genre has a few sub-genres of its own. Law and Order start on the streets with the fine police work from a good Buddy Cop movie. Movies such as Lethal Weapon 2 and Hot Fuzz. Sometimes the job takes a turn for the serous creating thrilling moments. Some films have captured these moments given us a nice insight on the day-and-life of a police officer; films such as Training Day and End of Watch. Other sub-genre include Film Noir, Courtroom Drama and Mystery. Film Noir is basically an old crime drama made between the 1940’s and the 1950’s known for its low-key black-and-white style. As film has evolved over the years, the Noir genre has as well. One of the modern terms for a newer Noir style film is Neo-Noir. Some of the most successful directors in the Neo-Noir genre include, Martin Scorsese, Joel and Ethan Coen, David Fincher, and Quentin Tarantino.

Justice comes in many forms, sometimes it fought over in the court of law. Courtroom Drama’s showcase various court cases ranging from murder to civil liberties, both scenarios have a lot tension that makes for good drama. Some of the most renowned Courtroom Drama films include, Kramer vs Kramer, A Few Good Men, and To Kill a Mockingbird

As you can see there are many ways to view the Crime genre. I want to take a little bit of time and point out a few stand-alone films in the Crime genre. As I explore these films in the crime genre, I would like to name drop a few filmmaker, which I mentioned above, who have made a career out making good crime films.

Let’s start with Martin Scorsese. I would say he’s the king of Crime and Gangster movies. I personally like the Gangs of New York, a film about two gangs and their feud that lead to a blood bath hand-to-hand combat. The two opposing sides consist of the U.S born nativist gang lead by Bill "the Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) and The Dead Rabbits, an Irish Catholic immigrant gang lead by Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio). Gangs of New York maybe one of my favorites, but Martin Scorsese has many films that are better and revered as great crime films. Films such as, Goodfellas, Casino and, The Departed.

Joel and Ethan Coen are brother filmmakers who I would call pioneers in the Crime genre. One of my favorite films from them is Fargo. Fargo is both a great dark comedy and crime film. The film takes place in the great white northern states of Minnesota and North Dakota. The film is told from two perspectives; from the detective side, Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) has to investigate the homicides. From the criminal side, Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) hires two guys to kidnap his wife in an attempt to con is boss out of money.

David Fincher is one of my favorite directors in general, but he has displayed some good crime films. The cult classic that everyone praises is Fight Club. This film is more of a dark comedy with crime elements. The story becomes more of an activist type of film, where the activism turns into vandalism. Some of David Fincher’s other works have been labeled as mystery thrillers, and for good reason. The Game, Zodiac, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl all revolve around the protagonist working on solving a mystery. David Fincher even has a film that incorporates Courtroom Drama elements, this film is The Social Network. The film may be known as the Facebook film, but the various legal battles Mark Zuckerberg faced is what makes the film dramatic. The only David Fincher film I haven’t mentioned, that fits the theme, is Se7en. Se7en is one of my favorites of his. I think the film dose a good job of relaying the duality of the crime genre. The film follows two detectives, David Mills (Brad Pitt) and William Somerset (Morgan Freeman), as they unravel the clues in a serial killer case with a killing pattern corresponding to the seven deadly sins.

Briefly, I want to touch on Quentin Tarantino and his crime themed film. There are two that come to mind, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. Both have renowned status as cult classics. Out of the two, I think I prefer Reservoir Dogs. I like that the film is a heist movie, which focus more on the before-and-after than the heist itself.

There are a lot of good stand-alone crime films, so much so, I could talk about for days. We both know what you came here for, to see my top five franchises in the crime genre. So with nothing further to do here is my top five list:
  1. The Godfather Trilogy
  2. Hannibal Series
  3. The Dark Knight Trilogy
  4. Sherlock Holmes Series
  5. The Boondock Saints
  • Not including The Godfather films on my list would be sacrilege, even more so if I didn't place them at number one. The Godfather is the epitome of a Gangster movie. The film explores the inner workings of the Corleone crime family. The film was well received by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Godfather Part I won Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role for Marlon Brando performance, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Parts II and III rack up its fair share of nominations and wins, including another Best Picture win from The Godfather Part II.
  • The Hannibal Series features the fictional serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. The films were inspired from a series of books with the same titles. The first film in the series was Manhunter, a film adapted from the book Red Dragon. Will Graham ( William Peterson) is a FBI detective brought in on a case to track down a killer known as “The Tooth Fairy” To do so Graham has to interview a imprisoned, Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox), who almost killed Graham before becoming imprisoned. The next film in the series is most known and revered. The Silence of the Lambs has a very similar plot as Manhunter, but the detective in this film is Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) and Hannibal Lecter is portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. Just like in Manhunter the deceive has to interview Hannibal Lecter in hopes to catch a killer, in this film they are searching for Buffalo Bill, a serial killer known for skinning young females. Hannibal is a sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, which takes place ten years later. Red Dragon is the prequel to The Silence of the Lambs that was basically a remake of Manhunter. The last film in the series is Hannibal Rising. This film tells the story of Hannibal Lecter as a younger man.
  • The Dark Knight trilogy is Christopher Nolan’s version of Batman. Batman as a character is supposed to be on par with Sherlock Holmes when it comes to the uncanny ability to do detective work. The Dark Knight Trilogy maybe one of the greatest set of comic book movies, but it is also a soiled crime film. The themes in The Dark Knight alone give this trilogy enough clout as a crime film. Heck the opening scene start off with a heist. For the rest of the film the Joker causes chaos while Batman tries to stop him. What’s inserting is Christopher Nolan isn't new to these themes. In his three previous films (Following, Memento, and Insomnia) he explores similar themes. To be frank, Christopher Nolan is another filmmaker that I would consider as someone who has made a career out of crime films.
  • Sherlock Holmes is a modern telling of the character Sherlock Holmes. The film stars Robert Downey Jr as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson. Even with Sherlock Holmes being the greatest detective, that’s not the main reason I included films about him on my list. I want to praise Guy Ritchie, the director of the Sherlock Films. If Guy Ritchie hadn't directed these films, I would have talked about him in the stand-alone section because he has directed some great crime film. If you liked the Sherlock Films I recommend checking out Guy Ritchie’s other works: Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and RocknRolla.
  • The Boondock Saints directed by Troy Duffy, tells a story about two Irish Catholic brothers (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus) who get a vision from God to clean up Boston. There righteous justice comes in the form of killing evil men. The saint’s killing spree grabs the attention of an FBI agent played by Willem Dafoe. The movie becomes an elaborate game of cat and mouse. In the second movie the brothers come out of hiding and travel from Ireland to Boston to avenge the death of their beloved priest. From my understanding Troy Duffy is working on the third one currently.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Series of Genres: Comedy Part Three

Before I move onto the Crime and Gangster / Detective and Mystery genre study; I want to reveal my top five list you all have been waiting for. So here you go:
  1. Wayne’s World
  2. American Pie
  3. National Lampoon’s Vacation
  4. Home Alone
  5. The Hangover
  • Wayne’s World spawns from a sketch comedy show that airs on Saturday called Saturday Night Live (SNL). The skit focus on two rock music fanboys named Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) who happen to run their own television show names Wayne’s World. I typically don’t like adapted sketch comedy skit as feature length films, but these two films make me want to party on for some reason.
  • American Pie captured the fantasy of high school life in the late 90’s. A story about four guys who make a pact to score by senior prom. The preceding films follow those four guys through college and even marriage. The films give a nice outlook on the folly of pretty much every young adult’s exploration of their sexual maturity. I remember when the first American Pie film came out. I was in Junior High School and all my classmates were quoting the film left and right, but I hadn't seen the film yet. Let’s just say rated R films were more or less forbidden when I was growing up. When I finally did watch the film, years later, I thought it was hilarious. Unfortunately there were four or five spin-off films that dawn the American Pie brad, but not the quality.
  • National Lampoon’s Vacation movies follow the Griswold family and their various family vacations, which usually have many mishaps. Their first vacation destination is a Disney-esk theme park named Walley World. The family has travelled to Europe and Vegas, but my favorite vacation of theirs is Christmas Vacation. It’s a good film to dust off and watch during the holidays. The film is a good reminder that, family may be dysfunctional, but you got to love them.
  • Home Alone is another great holiday treat. Another film with a dysfunctional family, so much so, they leave their youngest home alone. While home alone the protagonist Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) has to defend his house from the “Wet Bandits” played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. He does so by placing various Rube Goldberg style booby traps throughout the house. Home Alone 2 plays out a similar scenario, but in a Ney York City hotel. While the third film is basically Home Alone one, but with a new protagonist Alex Pruitt (Alex D. Linz). I personally didn’t like the third film.
  • The Hangover is a film about three guys trying to find their friend after a long night of partying in Vegas. When this film came out, it was one of the first films to keep me laughing from start to finish, in a long time. Then the sequel came out and it was just the Hangover but in Bangkok. I didn’t even see the third film because part two wasn’t that great. This film series proves that comedy struggle with making good sequel. There maybe more story to tell or even new adventures to go on with the characters but there is no new jokes. Even with bad reception of two and three, The Hangover is a solid comedy to cover the butts of Part One and Two.
There you have it, my top five franchises in the comedy genre. Let me know you’re thought in the comments.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Series of Genres: Comedy Part Two

For me, some of the best comedies are films with a group of witty people that can rift off each other. I believe that to be true for filmmaking in general. Time and time again, I see films made by a group of close knit friends do better than films made by professional strangers. Genuine chemistry between actors come from good friendships off screen. In this next part of the exploration of the comedy genre, I want to look at the different ensemble of cast members that have created great comedies.
  • Monty Python: Monty Python (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin) started out as a British television sketch comedy act in the late 60’s, known as Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Their film debut was in 1971 with the film And Now for Something Completely Different. Four years later they produced one of my all-time favorite comedies, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This film is a parody of the Arthurian Legends that turn the story of an epic into a farce. See the silliness in the trailer here. There follow up film was Monty Python's Life of Brian, a film that was a mockery of the times surrounding Jesus’s life. A funny parody that taught us to “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”
  • Marx Brothers: These five brothers (Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo, and Zeppo) had a knack for entertaining people. The family started off with vaudeville acts on Broadway, then they graduated to film in the 1920’s. The three eldest brothers Chico, Harpo and Groucho became the stars of their act in the mid 1930’s when Gummo and Zeppo decided to pursue other careers. I personally have only watched one of their films, Duck Soup. Duck Soup is known for popularizing the famous mirror gag or mirror scene. A scene that has been copied many times even by Bugs Bunny.
  • The Brat Pack: Named after the Rat Pack, this cast of “teenagers” (Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy) frequently appeared in John Hughes’s coming-of-age films. The Brat Pack film that sticks with me the most is The Breakfast Club; a story of five teens and their Saturday morning detention. What I like about The Breakfast Club is that the film gives an opportunity to connect with every teenage. Each student in the film represents one of the main clique in high school. Also the film has one of the best endings. Other Brat Pack films include Sixteen Candles, St. Elmo’s Fire, and Pretty in Pink.
  • The Frat Pack: A group of comedic actors who either act like frat boys or portray frat boys in the movies. (Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, and Steve Carell) This group of guys is led primarily by Ben Stiller, and his films. There are a couple of filmmaker I mention in part one that have worked with many of the actors in this group. The Farrelly Brothers have worked with Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson in films such as There's Something About Mary, Shallow Hal, and Hall Pass. The other is Judd Apatow, who has produced many of the films starring the Frat Pack. Judd Apatow is actually the connecting person between this group and the next on my list, via his film The 40-Year-Old Virgin starring Steve Carell.
  • Team Apatow: A group named, well, after Judd Apatow, a producer known for making stoner comedies, as you may recall from part one. The actors that belong to this group have had many roles in Judd Apatow’s films. Actors such as, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Jonah Hill, James Franco, and Craig Robinson. Most of these actors have become close friends with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and have made many films together.
Hopefully, this will tide you all over until I reveal my top five in part three.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Series of Genres: Comedy Part One

Comedy may very well be the oldest genre, dating back to Ancient Greece. The Greeks called any theatrical performance that ended in a happy ending a “comedy,” but comedy isn’t that simple. Defining the comedy genre is actually fairly difficult, even the Greeks had many iterations of the concept of comedy. Aristophanes, one of the first comic playwrights, typically wrote political satires caulk full of poop jokes and sexual innuendos. The philosopher Aristotle also gave his thoughts on comedy in his work Poetics. Aristotle defined comedy as “a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character” but he also agreed that the basic requirement of a comedy is a happy ending. Aristotle also purposed that comedy could be divided into three sub-genres: farce, romantic comedy and satire. The Greek’s had a different idea of comedy than what we do today. 

Today comedy is more or less defined as something amusing with the attentions of laughter. The modern definition may have changed the tone of comedy, but the themes are relatively the same. Modern comedies still have their fair share of poop jokes and sexual innuendos. Modern comedies also layer in other types of humor, including racial humor and schadenfreude (pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune) in the form of slapstick. Even Aristotle’s three sub-genres (farce, romantic comedy and satire) have been expanded upon in the modern age. Some of these “new” sub-genres are: black comedy (dark comedy), parody, screwball, and stoner comedy. Black comedies presents the serious subject matter, like death, in a humorous way. Parodies are satirical imitation of other people’s work. Screwball comedies are romantic comedies with more slapstick that features a “battle of the sexes” theme. Lastly, Stoner comedies tend to have plots involving cannabis and its sub-culture, these types of film have been relabeled in the common jargon as, “Bromance” films. 

Now that we have explored comedy history, let’s press forward and explore comedy films. This week I’m going to mix it up and compile multiple top five lists. I will deliver my normal top five comedy film franchises. I also want to share my favorite comedy directors and comedy groups in film. Let us start with the men who have written and directed our favorite comedy films.
  • Kevin Smith and his View Askewniverse: Kevin Smith is a normal Jersey nerd / geek guy who happens to make films and write comic books. Kevin Smith attributes the film, Slacker as his inspiration to take up filmmaking. He took that motivation and created his first film, Clerks, which will later become the first film in the View Askewniverse. View Askewniverse was named after Kevin Smith’s production company View Askew Productions. The films in this universe focus primarily on two character’s Jay and Silent Bob roles performed by Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith. The films feature recurring characters, themes, motifs, and location. The films in the View Askewniverse are: Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Clerks II.
  • Edgar Wright and his Cornetto Trilogy: A series of three comedic genre films starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Each film in the series is a parody of a genre film. The first film is a parody of a zombie film title, Shaun of the Dead. The second is a parody of a buddy cop film titled, Hot Fuzz. The third is a parody of a Sci-Fi Apocalypse film titled, The World’s End. Edgar Wright does a great job at making a good comic version of those various film genre. I also like another film of his not in the “trilogy” that is worth a mention and that is, Scott Pilgrim vs the World.
  • Mel Brooks: Is what I call the “King of Parody.” Mel Brooks’s whole film career center on making fun of classic genre films. Some of his most popular films include: Blazing Saddles (A western parody), Spaceballs (A Star Wars parody), and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. (A Robin Hood parody). Most of his films spawn quotable lines that are still funny today.
  • Judd Apatow: Judd Apatow is known for producing a good number of stoner comedies staring primarily Seth Rogen and Friends (Jay Baruchel, James Franco, and Jonah Hill ect.) Some of his most notable films include: The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, Step Brothers, and Pineapple Express. Paul Rudd and Jason Segel are two actors who make frequent appearance in Judd Apatow’s film. These two star in a John Hamburg film titled I Love You, Man. In the film the two are good friends that end up in a “Bromance” a term coined by them. The Internet adopted the term to basically describe a “date” you would have with your “bro.” I would say most of Judd Apatow’s films would be the type of movies a “Bromance” would occur.
  • The Farrelly Brother Farce: Peter and Bobby Farrelly are known for their farces. Some of their films include: Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, There's Something About Mary, Me, Myself & Irene, and Shallow Hal. These two have brought some pretty funny film to the big screen. Most of their material is over-the top and a bit silly but that’s what I like about their films.
I don’t want my audience to fall victim of me talking their ears off all in one post. I have decided to extend this conversation over the next couple posts. In part two I will discuss my favorite comedy groups. In part three I will reveal my top five comedy franchise. You should see these post roll out in the next couple days, but in the meantime, tell me about your favorite comedies in the comment section.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Series of Genres: Adventure

“Adventure Time, c'mon grab your friends, we’ll go to very distant lands. With Jake the Dog and Finn the Human, The fun will never end, it's Adventure Time!” That’s right, I just quoted the opening theme song for a very popular cartoon on the Cartoon Network. Why? Well, because the television show is about a boy and his best friend, who happens to be a dog that can stretch, going on adventures. Many of the show’s tropes are inspired from fantasy role-playing games (RPG) like Dungeon & Dragons (D&D). 

In Dungeons & Dragons, the players assume the various roles in a “party” of adventures. Through game play, the players will make decisions as their characters, reacting to the various challenges set forth by the Dungeon Master (DM). The DM is the person who is the most familiar with the game rules; that directs the story and controls the various aspects of the fictional world, like the non-player characters (NPCs) and monsters. Each character is assigned numerical representations of their strength, dexterity, constitution, wisdom, intelligence, and charisma, called ability scores. These values will determine how well as character can achieve skills ranging from climbing a wall to deceiving an enemy. The players will determine the rate of failure and success of each challenge by rolling polyhedral dice. After completing an adventure or campaign the DM will award the characters with experience and sometimes treasure, both of which, will help the character achieve success in a future adventures. 

Any good adventure movie should emulate the themes and motifs that are brought out in a game of Dungeons & Dragons, or even in an episode of Adventure Time. One of the main themes in Dungeons & Dragons is a group of misfits coming together to overcome a great adversary, but at the price of many trials and tribulations. Seeing that theme portrayed on the big screen is exciting. Like the old saying goes, “It’s not the destination but the journey that counts.” That’s the attitude I want to see in an adventure film. There are many films that showcase this attitude, but I want to narrow it down to a top five list. That narrowing process was quite difficult because adventure is usually paired with other genres. Personally, I think adventure pairs nicely with fantasy and sci-fi films. Some of the film franchises on this list may appear later on another list. 

Before I reveal my top five list, I want to explore a few stand-alone adventure films. The first is The Goonies, directed by Richard Donner. This film follows a group of youngster who stumble upon a treasure map, that happens to be real. I like that this film has an eclectic group that can draw from each other’s strengths and weakness. The next film is a farce on the classic Arthurian Legends. Monty Python and the Holy Grail brings out the sense of adventure, but with a comedic spin. I like that the film basically turns the King Arthur story into a silly adventure. Another film that fills the comedic adventure role that I like is, The Princess Bride. The last film I want to share with you is a film that hits many emotional notes, that film is Up. Up is a Pixar film that follows the life of Carl and his sense of adventure. This film is one of my favorite Pixar films. After exploring some of my favorite stand-alone adventure films, I can finally reveal the list you all have been waiting for.  

My Top Five: 
  1. Tolkien's Middle Earth (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit Films) 
  2. Indiana Jones 
  3. The Pirates of the Caribbean
  4. The Chronicle of Narnia
  5. The Mummy Trilogy
  • The Lord of the Rings is a story of a Hobbit name Frodo Baggins, who is tasked with destroying a magical ring of great power. Along the way he is allied with eight companions who help him along his journey. This journey tests each and every one of the members of the fellowship, that's one of the main reasons why I like it so much. The Hobbit on the other hand is supposed to be more light hearted following a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins and a company of thirteen dwarves. Their story per-dates The Lord of the Rings by roughly 60 years, but the journey is just as epic. As a film franchise it has done very well for itself. It has made roughly 5 billion dollar worldwide and that's not including the last Hobbit film which comes out this December. The films have taken home numerous Academy Awards. I can conclude that this film series is overall a great franchise
  • Indiana Jones made archaeology cool way before Lara Croft. Indiana Jones is a professor of archaeology who travels the world in search for ancient artifacts, which have included the Ark of the Covenant, and the Holy Grail. Indy mission in these films is to keep the artifacts out of the wrong hands, usually the Nazi's. It is interesting to see Indiana Jones come full circle. The character of Indiana Jones was inspired from old 1930's adventure serials, while characters like Lora Croft were inspired from Indy.
  • The Pirates of the Caribbean is a film inspired from a ride at Disneyland. The main protagonist is Captain Jack Sparrow who seems to perpetually get himself into trouble, but with a little luck and some skill he weasels his way out. The Pirates of the Caribbean is a modern swashbuckling film that is fairly enjoyable. The film franchise started off very solid, but dwindled over the years, well critically anyways. Financially The Pirates of the Caribbean film do pretty decently so much so the studios are willing to make more. There is another film schedule to come out in 2017.
  • The Chronicle of Narnia is one of those film series that I will praise in my fantasy list, in the weeks to come, but for now I want to talk about it as an adventure film. The story starts with four children playing hide-and-go-seek in an old house. One of the children hides in a wardrobe, which happens to be a gateway to the land of Narnia. Her curiosity leads her deeper into this mysterious land. After meeting with a faun she returns home and shares her adventure with her siblings. The siblings don't believe her at first, but they entertain her imagination and discover Narnia themselves. Its that childish curiosity that makes The Chronicle of Narnia film good adventures.
  • The Mummy Trilogy has a slight Indiana Jones feel, especially since the main cast are treasure hunters and adventures. The film also modernizes the classic mummy horror flick. I think the The Mummy Trilogy is fun an adventure. The spin-off film The Scorpion King was bad, I DO NOT recommend the film.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Series of Genres: Action

Sometimes I like to go the movies and watch a mind numbing action flick; take in all the explosions, fight scenes, and car chases. Action films are a good way to get your fill on popcorn and not felt guilty about your weight. 

What makes a good action film? For me the most important aspect of an action film is a good fight choreography. I want a fight in an action film to be believable and fluid. Fight sequences in action movies start to lose my respect, once they start to remind me of the WWE. Don't get me wrong, I liked wrestling as a child, but I don't need that over-the-top fighting style anymore. Secondly I think the cinematography is very important in an action film. Is it necessary for the camera man to join the fight? Adding a shake here or there in the shot can bring out the realism, but going full blown "shaky cam" can be really distracting. Lastly, I want a good story. I like to see characters who have a reason to fight.

My Top Five: 
  1. Bourne Trilogy 
  2. Mission Impossible Franchise 
  3. James Bond Franchise 
  4. The Matrix Trilogy 
  5. Die Hard Franchise 
  • The Bourne Trilogy is a good set of action film that also satisfies my cinematic needs. These films have really good fight choreography. I also like the balance between "shaky cam" and steady cam. Matt Damon acting isn't bad, and that's always a plus in an action movie. 
  • The Mission Impossible films are the fun popcorn action movies I was talking about above. Oddly enough, this is the only film series on my list that hasn't revived an Oscar nomination or win, Mission Impossible actually revived a Razzie nomination for the "Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million" Even with the "bad" reception I really enjoy these films. 
  • James Bond is the most iconic action hero. A film series that spans 21 films over 50 years. I personally like Ethan Hunt more than James Bond, but The Bond films are damn good movies, especially the trilogy starring Daniel Craig. The best part of any Bond film is the music. The Matrix Trilogy is the best set of films on this list, visually.
  • The Matrix and The Wachowski are credited with inventing "bullet-time" The Matrix made break throws in the VFX world of film. I thought the story was quite dumb and riddled with existential BS. 
  • The Die Hard Franchise is the definition of 80's action flick, but it doesn't compare to other franchise on my list. I truly believe that some of the best villains in an action movie, if not ever, comes out of the Die Hard Franchise.

A Series of Genres

My buddy Devon has a daily blog and a weekly podcast at Informal Talks. Last week he posted a list of his favorite film franchises. This list gave me some inspiration to put together my own list. I'm going to showcase my favorite film franchises by separating them into genres. In this series of post I want answers the following questions for the films on my list: How entertaining was the films? Did the films, please me aesthetically? How well did the film do financially? Did the film impact / define our culture or subculture? Did the film change the world of filmmaking? I'm going to try my best to make this series a weekly occurrence, posting sometime mid week. Each week I will tackle a different genre naming my favorite films and movie franchises within said genre. This week I'm going to tackle the action genre. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy


Guardians of the Galaxy

Distributor: Marvel Studios (Disney)
Director: James Gunn
Writer(s): James Gunn (written) and Nicole Perlman (written)
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, and Karen Gillan
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.
Running Time: 121 min
Synopsis:After stealing a mysterious orb in the far reaches of outer space, Peter Quill, a half human/half alien is now the main target of a manhunt led by the villain known as Ronan the Accuser. To help fight Ronan and his team and save the galaxy from his power, Quill creates a team known as the 'Guardians of the Galaxy' to save the world.

What Others Are Saying?

Rotten Tomatoes: T-Meter: 92% "Fresh", Top Critics: 87% "Fresh", Audience: 96% "Like It"

Metacritic: Critics: 76 out of 100, Users: 9.2 out of 10
MRQE Metric: 76 out of 100
My Review

Source Material: Based on comic the book series created by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.

Entertaining Value

  • Action Elements: Enough action to keep your action-philes out there excited.
  • Comedy Elements: A lot of one-liners that will crack you up.
  • Dramatic Elements:  There is a hint of drama here and there. This film is action-comedy with a lot of sci-fi elements.
  • Sci-Fi / Fantasy Elements: Its based on a comic book, but its not your typical comic book film. Its more of an action-adventure in space.
Cinematic Value:
  • Acting and Dialogue: 8: Seeing some of the names on the cast list I was a bit concerned to say the least, names like Dave Bautista and Vin Diesel. Vin Diesel voices a nine foot tall tree like alien that only has one repeated line of dialogue, "I'Am Groot" Dave Bautista known for his "professional wrestling" plays Drax, the Destroyer, who is a very muscular barbaric alien hell bent on getting revenge on those who killed his family. These non- thespian actors were cast for appropriate roles, that was a giant step in the right direction. Lets move onto the talent then, Chris Pratt is known for his comedic roles primarily, Park and Recreation does a great job as Peter Quill aka Starlord. I like the fact that Pratt based his character off Late 70's early 80's action-adventure heroes like Han Solo and Marty McFly. Zoe Saldana is your go to gal for any leading female role in a Sci-fi film. Bradley Cooper voices Rocket, which was a perfect choice. Michael Rooker known for his role in The Walking Dead as Merle Dixon play the same basic role in this film as Yondu Udonta. There are a lot of great actors rounding out the cast: Lee Pace as Ronan, Karen Gillan as Nebula, John C. Reilly as Corpsman Day, Glenn Close as Nova Prime, Benicio del Toro as The Collector.
  • Art Direction: 9: The thing I liked the most about the art direction was each location had a unique feeling. The Xandarian planet ruled by the Nova Corp has a shiny future feeling to it, while "Knowhere" Had a rustic slums feeling. I like it when films have many different environments with vastly aesthetic differences.
  • Cinematography: 8: The action in the film was well shot. I liked how the film brought me along for the ride without making me feel sick
  • Direction: 9: James Gunn is more known for his writing, penning screenplays like, Scooby-Doo, Dawn of the Dead (2004), and Slither. Guardians of the Galaxy wan't Gunn's first time in the director's chair but it's his first time with a film of this magnitude, and he kills it.
  • Editing: 8: The pacing was good
  • Screenplay: 8: I think you could take this story out of the MCU and it could stand alone as a great space-action-adventure. I like that the story was basically a group of misfits turning into epic heroes. It was nice that every character had a significant back-story. I also liked that the main protagonist was kind of a bumbling idiot who showcase heroism only when the galaxy, which he lives in, is threatened.
  • Sound and Music: 9: The soundtrack of the film is the soundtrack that plays in the main protagonist, Peter Quill, head/ Walkman. Having this as the soundtrack brings us, the audience, into the film. It also gives an outlook on what's going on in Peter's head.
  • VFX: 10: Two major notes on the VFX: Rocket and Groot. The filmmaker did an amazing job giving these two character a wide range of emotions, especially with Groot, who doesn't say much.
Overall: 8.5: I recommended this film for a great summer action-adventure. This is a film I would see a few times in theaters, if I had the funds to do so. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Where Has The Plot Gone?

It's been a while since I wrote what's on my mind, especially movie related subjects. I want to talk about movie plots and how is spending quite a bit of time NOT focused on them. The no-focused plot problem has been happening for a long while now, but for me personally it has been more noticeable lately. We are currently in summer movie season, which means a slew of big budgeted blockbusters. These types of films suffer the most from this plot problem, here's why: Mr CEO Producer at Big Film Studio 6 wants to make a crap ton of money. He thinks to himself, whats hot right now that I can take to the bank. He realizes comic book movies, teen fiction novels, and toys turned cartoon series. He then calls up his three best friends who happen to be a filmmaker. The first filmmaker is a geek or nerd that makes geek or nerd movies so he's handed a script to the lasted comic book movie. The CEO asks him to spearhead the first movie in a ten picture cinematic universe, here's a crap tone of money make me proud. The second filmmaker isn't as well know to mainstream Hollywood, but has made some decent film in the past. The CEO asks this guy, "Do you want to swim in gold coins like Scrooge McDuck? Well, here's the latest seven part teen fiction novels that we just acquired the movie rights for. The third guy is known for making "guy movies" The CEO calls him up and says, "Hey bro we just got the rights to Toy's INC action figure line. I loved the cartoon as a kid now makes me love the live action version" Respectively each of the three guys create their fun summer blockbuster that make tons of money. Once this happen The CEO calls the three guys up and ask one question "You ready for a sequel?" Is this really that bad of thinking? Not quite. From a business model it works, but from an artist standpoint its bad news. Being a graphics guy I'm okay with the filmmakers spending a good amount of their budget on visual effect. I'm even okay with the filmmakers being detail oriented and hiring on specialized craftsmen to craft sets and costumes. I'm okay with filmmakers experimenting or expanding upon the tech side of filmmaking. All these things take a lot of time and money to execute. Writing a story takes time, but very little money compared to they other thing mention. Ideally, there will only be one guys or gal that the studio will have to pay plus, maybe one person who created the source material if the script is adapted from someone else work. The key word here is "One" Now days it seems there's at least four or five people penning screenplays, which I believe affects the plot, here's why: Sam the screenwriter writes a decent screenplay but he thinks it need improvements on the story. He gives it Steve the storyteller to read and improve upon. Steve gives his feedback and returns the script. Sam thinks Steve's advice was great and change the script. Since the script was changed significantly with Steve's idea's Sam decides to credit Steve with the story. Sam and Steve decide to submit their screenplay to Big Film Studio 6. The studio likes the screenplay for the most part, but they want their studio guys to give it a glance. Tom changes the tone of the film. Dan tweaks the dialogue and Andy add some more action, while Carl adds a more comedy element. These four in-house studio writers have added to the screenplay so they deserve credit as writers as well. Do you see the problem? I personally think Mr. CEO Producer is suppressing the creative freedom of his filmmaker to play it safe because he knows that his type of film will make money but a movie with plot may not. What do you guys think about this problem? For another plot related post, click here.