Sunday, October 30, 2011

Warning: This Review Will Save Your Life

I cant post this on Retro Review, due to the mandate that all films posted there must be at least 15 years old. But this movie needs to be addressed, not to incite people to see it, but to warn them. It is indeed the worst film ever. Trust in the review, DO NOT see this film, it will F*** you up for life.

Title: Actium Maximus: War of the Alien Dinosaurs
Starring: Mark Hicks, a box with a blue knob, and a stalagmite. 
Written by: Mark Hicks
Directed by: Mark Hicks
Rating:  Negative * * * * *

Let's talk about bad movies for a moment. A bad movie tends to fall in one of two categories. The first being that it has some redeeming quality. Maybe it's funny in spite of itself, maybe it becomes a guilty pleasure. The other category is one that is so abysmally bad that it can only be enjoyed with friends over beer and pizza, laughing and making MST3K-esque comments throughout the film. The later was our intention when deciding to watch Actium Maximus: War of the Alien Dinosaurs.

This movie was far beyond bad. It belongs in a category all by itself (and then that category, along with the film, needs to be shot into outer space). In fact, ten minutes into this film we could no longer make fun of it. It became physically painful to watch, and may have caused permanent psychological damage (I now have an incontinence issue when confronted with play-doh). So bad was this film, that upon completion of watching it, I fully expected my phone to ring, and a voice on the other end informing me I would die in 7 days.

It is unclear what writer, director, editor, composer, weight watcher's drop-out, village idiot, and star Mark Hicks was shooting for, but what is clear is he was not taking his medication. You would think a movie, containing both a narrator and subtitles would make the plot easier to understand. Not so. The narrator speaks as distinctly as the Daleks from Dr. Who with a bad case of strep throat. The subtitles, often paragraph long and displayed for only 3 seconds, was certainly in need of a spell checker. I'm no expert, but if I was to venture a guess, Mark invested his life savings into this film, all $140.00, and $25 of that was spent on Chinese food while editing. 

There were very few humans in this film. Mark Hicks plays Jacinlun Axezun (say that fast 5 times), a character similar to Han Solo. That is if Han was an overweight, monotone, lifeless dullard with all the bravado and sex appeal of a substitute chemistry teacher on anti-depressants. The arch-villain of this film is Grand Automaton Polpox (sounds like a disease) wonderfully played by a box with a blue knob. In order to divert the masses from his genocidal plans to exterminate the Rebel Laffrodites (I seriously am not making these names up)he holds these grand exhibitions pitting alien dinosaurs in mortal combat. Get ready, some serious blue-screen work here. I guess Phil Tippit was booked, because these dinosaurs were crafted from sock puppets, coated in play-doh, bacon and corn syrup. 

Every good director knows to have an establishing shot, especially when moving from one location to another. Mark doesn't disappoint here, as he creates an establishing shot of the exterior of the city which was actually the surface of a water-less aquarium.

Sounds good so far right? So while Mark and his crew (consisting of some woman who may or may not of had dialogue, as she apparently didn't have a microphone) Polpox's right hand man, played by a stalagmite, warns him of an assassination plot against him. The assassin, as it turns out, is a moth. Go figure. 

The subtitle, "War of the Alien Dinosaurs" is also confusing. To be defined as "alien", it must come from an alien world. That's fine, as Polpox gathers dinosaurs from other planets. But dinosaurs? Unless he has a time machine, these beasts would just be indigenous animals. Or are the indigenous animals once prehistoric animals from the homeworld that somehow migrated across space. But, considering that these dinosaurs are made out of sock puppets, play-doh, bacon and corn syrup, I suppose it doesn't warrant much thought.

The one saving grace this film offers is intellectual higher ground. What that means is, if someone is engaged in a conversation and utters the phrase "(insert name here) is the worst movie ever", take comfort in knowing they're wrong.As for me, if I was the sole survivor of a global holocaust, and this was the only DVD left on Earth, believe me when I say I would glee-fully coat my eyes with honey and face-plant into a pile of dirt covered in fire ants.

Sadly, Mark intended this to be a full on series. This was to be his grand gift to the world. If Mark truly wants toi give us a gift, he should climb the highest building and jump off it, with the master copy of the film, and his  chinese food.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Are Video Games Replacing Movies As A Favorite Pastime?

In the late 70's I bummed a quarter from my Mom to play this game called Space Invaders. There were several rows of nasty looking space critters slowly descending level by level, and it was up to me to save the Earth. I moved back and forth, I slammed the fire button a thousand times, killing off one alien at a time. They would shoot back, but with some evasive maneuvering, I was able to avoid their lasers and fire back. As they got closer and closer, they began to move faster. Licking my lips, I could taste the sweat. The fate of the world was in my hands. Who would stop the invaders if I fail? A quick move to the left, a rapid fire succession of plasma bolts, and I killed the last one. Earth was saved! Or was it? Seems, that was just the first wave. A whole new crop of invaders showed up. It was more of the same, only they moved a bit faster than before, and they seemed to fire more frequently. I didnt have time to aim, I had to spray and pray as the aliens were unrelenting in their assault. One by one, they took out my defenders till I was down to my last man. In an epic battle for cosmic supremacy, I fended off the last several invaders until one lucky shot by this tick looking alien hit me. GAME OVER. I have failed to save the Earth, but I swore I would return. They haven't seen the last of me.

From that moment on I was hooked. I would return to take on that second wave, eventually defeating them. Then a 3rd wave, and a 4th, 5th, etc. It never ended. The better I got, the more there were. Video games became a passion. That Christmas I received my first video game system, the Atari 2600. I had the Combat cartridge, as well as Laser Blast and Asteroids. From 7am to 9pm, I was in the kitchen, plugged into the tiny black and white television kept on the counter. Lunch and diners were served to me there in the hopes that I would eat. I cared not for any other activity that whole vacation. I would go on to collect such classics as Bezerk, Adventure, Pitfall, and Kaboom. As I got older, I hit the arcades, where non-athletic competitors entered the proving grounds of dominance by climbing the leader boards. Pac-Man, Paperboy, Tron, Donkey Kong, Q-Bert, Frogger, Centipede, MACH 3, Spyhunter, Xevius, and Punch-Out where familiar friends to me.

As time went on, video games evolved. Better graphics, more buttons, more challenges, and more expensive. Suddenly, arcade games were 50 Cents, 75 Cents, and even a Dollar. However home game systems like Sega and Nintendo brought the arcade experience home. Unlike Atari, Coleco, or Intellevision, these consoles perfectly translated what the player experienced in the arcade at home. In terms of graphics, sound, and play, it was identical. But for the most part, video games were the same. An endless series of repeating events that escalated in speed and intensity until mental fatigue or lack of extreme hand/eye coordination caused you to die.

Then something happened. Video games started to have endings. Legend of Zelda is generally attributed as being the first to do this. Programmers recognized that many games already featured characters and plot. So why not expand on that? With the integration of RPG style gaming, players could build their characters up, customize them, and send them on an adventure. An adventure that had a goal, and once the goal was achieved, the story ended. Your initials on the high score leader boards became less important than facing bosses (end of the level bad guys who offered unique challenges to players), leveling up, and defeating the head honcho.

As we moved into the 21s century, programming has become so sophisticated, that many video games look and feel like a theatrical film. Indeed, whole teams of people are assigned to a games lighting, or texturing. Voice actors are brought in. Plots are story boarded. In fact, with games like Modern Warfare, Gears of War, Red Dead Redemption, watch the end credits. Their as long as movie credits. Millions of dollars are spent on their production as video games are fiercely more competitive than Hollywood is. Top talent is brought in to do voice over work. Ray Liota, Samuel L. Jackson, Ving Rhames, Tobey McGuire, Dennis Hopper, Carrie-Ann Moss, Seth Green, Kiefer Sutherland, and Mark Hamill just to name a few, have lend their talents to the interactive experience.

But it's not just actors and graphics that make these games engrossing, it's the writing. Video game programmers must have an understanding of the theatrical arts. Making a character look nervous is one thing, but why is that character nervous. Animators create body language that accurately depict fear, hostility, suspicion in how they get their characters to move and behave. Programmers create engines designed to have characters behave in certain manners depending on the events around them. This all leads to more and more realism. Some of these games have real emotional weight. Combat games sees allies and friends die. Cinematic cut scenes allow you to take a break from the controller and better understand why your character is there, and what his/her motivation is. At the end, genuine emotions ranging from sorrow to euphoria as you once again save the human race, rescue the girl, stop the enemy from nuking the city, or whatever the resolution is to the epic adventure you just played through.

While movies continue to entertain us in a vicarious way, video games plunge us into the action and mystery of what's on screen. When the music escalates, we get nervous. In a movie, it's easy to yell at the screen, telling the curious person "don't open the door." In a video game, not only will the character open the door, you must be the one opening it. Movies are also a pleasant diversion for two hours, give or take. A video game story can last 10, 14, even 20 hours or more of game time. If its an RPG like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, be sure to clear your calendar. Friends meet at school, and talk about their experiences. Unlike a movie, it isn't about "did you see this", it's about 'this is what I did", or "how did you get past that?" It becomes a shared experience.

In terms of profitability, video games are more profitable than movies could hope to be. Consider the average cost of a ticket, $10, versus a game, $60. And yes, people gladly fork over that much, because they offer so much more. They're not just buying a compelling story, but a story they get to interact with. In fact, a 2008 survey shows that the film industry in the U.S. had a theatrical revenue around $9.5 billion. By way of comparison, the video game industry in the U.S. that same year was over $22 billion. To be fair, the DVD industry is more competitive at $23 billion. However, all projections show the game industry surpassing DVD sales soon. But DVD's or Video Games, the message is clear; people want to be entertained, and entertained at home. Here's a fine example, in 2010, three blockbuster films were released, Iron Man 2, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Inception. Their opening weekend grosses were $128.1 million, $125 million, and $62 million respectively. Collectively, that's over $315 million. Call of Duty: Black Ops, in its opening weekend, $650 million. If that isn't enough, Call of Duty not only makes money off the initial sale, but through periodic releases available as downloadable content. Then, a year after it's release, a new Call of Duty game is set to release. A never ending source of revenue.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Staring Contest: Universal Brilliantly Blinks

TOWER HEIST movie poster 2 image

Tower Heist is a Universal Studios film coming out November 4 staring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, and some other fine folks. From the trailers, it actually looks pretty good. But that's not what this article is about. 

Universal kinda threw down the gauntlet to movie theaters over this movie. See, then announced that three weeks after Tower Heist was released to theaters they were going to make it available for streaming on Comcast's Video on Demand.

The theaters went ballistic. Chain after chain announced that they weren't going to carry Tower Heist at all.

And hence the staring contest. Universal dared the studios to react but when the studios did... they backed down. They blinked. Universal announced that it was cancelling its streaming plans.

Universal's move, while it might seem cowardly, was really brilliant. Although they appear to have lost they actually earned themselves a boatload of free advertising for their movie by making Tower Heist a news story before its release.

Additionally, Universal fired a "flare" at movie theaters, feeling them out and testing their position. The fact that movie theaters reacted so strongly is clearly a sign that they feel threatened. When, in reality, they had no reason to be. Let's be frank - three weeks after a film is released in theaters it's a dead product. 90% of the people who are going to see the movie in the theaters have already seen it at that point. Add to that the fact that Universal was going to charge the RIDICULOUS price of $59.99. Who's going to pay $60 to see a movie when you could take an entire family of four to the movie theater or buy three DVDs for less? Heck, that would pay for five months or so of Netflix (for now). In addition, the streaming movie was only going to be available in Portland and Atlanta, not the entire country. 

Ultimately, this battle will be won by the studios. Just as movie theaters acted in unison, studios will also act in unison. Already four other studios tried to start up talks with DirecTV to make their movies available 60 days after their theatrical release. What are movie theaters going to do when all of the studios do this? Refuse to show any movies? They've got a losing hand and they know it.

So maybe you'd better go out and watch Tower Heist in the theater. Because someday you'll want to tell your grandchildren about the ancient time when you actually had to get in the car and drive to see a new movie release. They'll think it's really strange. Like video rental stores.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Have You Ever Hated An Actor Because Of A Role?

Have you ever watched a film in which an actor or actress played an antagonist role so well, you literally hate them for it?

For example, I absolutely hate Sally Field. I was so enraged with her character in Mrs. Doubtfire, that it has tainted my perception of any future work she has done. While I loved her work in Sybil, Forrest Gump, and Smokey and the Bandit, I find these films difficult to watch when she's on screen, simply because I now see her roles through Mrs. Doubtfire-colored glasses. From what I know of the woman, she's a decent human being, and is a generous person. Still, my anger at her character has forever changed my enjoyment of her as a performer.

Before anyone accuses me of being too harsh, and that I should "let it go", I ask only if the opposite is true. Have you ever become so enamored with a performance that you just "love" a particular actor or actress? Has someone put in such a good performance as a protagonist that you find yourself loving this actor or actress through that film's colored glasses? Is that fair to do?

It might just be a hallmark of a great actor/actress who can play a role so well, that they garner such a passionate response. I'm sure Sally Field will go on to continued success without me seeing her films. And I acknowledge that she's most likely a decent human being. But ever since her portrayal in Mrs. Doubtfire, I just hate her guts.

Am I alone? I wonder if anyone else has hated, or loved an actor/actress based solely one a single role they have played. I know one friend who despises Ben Afleck for his role in Mallrats. I guess his portrayal of the proprietor of the Fashionable Male hit too close to home for him. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why Do Movies Flop?

The movie Creature distinguished itself recently - only not in a good way. It became the worst opening-weekend grossing movie, per screen, for a film premiering on at least 1,500 screens. It's total per screen? A paltry $220!

This event raises the question... Why does a movie perform horribly at the box office? Below, I've tried to compile a list of the relevant factors.
  1. Marketing - You can't go see a movie you don't know exists. I, for one, didn't even know Creature came out before I saw the news article about it tanked. While you can't force audiences to show up in droves to watch a piece of trash the power of marketing is undeniable. There's a reason why you see Happy Meals, toys, clothing, and lunchboxes all themed to a property of a successful movie along with print and television ads. A good marketing campaign puts the film's images everywhere so potential audiences can't forget about it. If your film is invisible, so will be the box office.
  2. Quality - Movie audiences are discerning. They can smell a stinker a mile away by watching a trailer. Quality films, as a general rule, obviously do better at the box office. Going to the movies is expensive now days and people want to have a reasonable chance of getting their money's worth when they take the time to drive to the movie theater.
  3. Word-of-Mouth - This one can work both for and against a film. Even if a bad film manages to get a large audience for its opening weekend negative word-of-mouth can eliminate future box office potential. Likewise, sometimes a movie that goes unnoticed originally (perhaps due to a lackluster marketing campaign) can garner big box office numbers due to positive word-of-mouth. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is one example of this. Certainly every film at the top of the highest-grossing film lists from E.T. to Avatar to Titanic had people who saw the movie telling their friends to see it.
  4. The Built-In Audience - Movies that are based on a recognizable property such as Transformers, Spider-Man, The Help, and Mortal Kombat all come with pre-made fans. These are people who are chomping at the bit to see the film no matter what. Sequels also fall into the category and it is the big reason so many sequels are made. We don't have to wonder what Ghostbuster 3 will be about and the studio doesn't have to waste time selling the concept to the public. With a movie like Creature, however, you have a concept that the public has no knowledge of previously. If your film doesn't have a built-in audience it better have a strong marketing campaign. Otherwise, it's, "Welcome to obscurity and financial failure!"

So, there you have it. You don't have to wonder why The Hunger Games, 21 Jump Street, or  World War Z was a success or failure at the box office. Just ask yourself how the film ranks in the above four areas and you'll have your answer.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Critic's Cafe: Bill & Scott Discuss The Potential Lasting Power Of Their Generation's Films

Scott: Isn't it amazing that we still remember and watch the Wizard of Oz when it was made in 1939? That's 72 years ago! It got me thinking... are there any movies that were made during our lifetimes that will be remembered fondly 75 years from now, in the year 2086? And by "remembered fondly" I don't mean in that, "Oh yeah - I've heard that was a classic," way but I'm thinking of, "This movie is the pinnacle of the cinematic experience and it is still watched and loved today." Maybe we should start by identifying some more films by bygone eras that we still remember fondly in 2011.

Bill: Our lifetime is almost 40 years. I'm not sure if Wizard Of Oz is a fair comparison. It's 72 years old. For instance, I think we can agree that Star Wars has staying power. But it came out in 1977. So, by your reckoning of 2086, should Star Wars endure, that's a 109 years! No movie has met that benchmark and is still watchable and acceptable to modern audiences.
But, if we're talking movies in our lifetime that have the potential to sustain itself for three quarters of a century, regardless of whatever year that would be, I'm game. I would say, off the top of my head, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Godfather, Forrest Gump, Titanic, Jaws, Superman: the Movie, and Back To The Future. We can discuss these at length, but they each have a pedigree going back 15-38 years already. Certainly well on their way towards the 75 year benchmark. The real challenge, as I see it, is what films over the last 10 years have that potential? 

Scott: Sure... 2086 would be for a movie released this year. Maybe we should qualify our exactly lifetimes. I am born in 1977 so that makes me 34 year old. I completely agree with Star Wars, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Godfather (even though Godfather was a little bit before my time - was it released in your lifetime?).
I think I'm going to disagree with you on Back to the Future, Jaws, Titanic, and Superman: The Movie. Not to say that all of these aren't great films - I just don't believe they'll be held high as the gold standard of cinema, watched, and loved by fans 75 years after their release.

Since we disagree, allow me to briefly defend my positions.

Back to the Future - While it's a great film, I believe it may be only for our generation. I don't think newer generations watch and appreciate it the way we do. I don't see loyal Back to the Future fans among people outside of our generation.

Jaws - Certainly a classic, but I don't think it rises to the level of Wizard of Oz. It has a reputation for genuinely scaring people out of the water and there are plenty of folks that will stay away from something that could disturb them.

Titanic - While it performed epicly at the box office, I don't think it has staying power. I think people kinda got sick of it, actually. The scene on the bow of the ship and the scene when Jack dies are both thought of as jokes now - not as serious drama.
Superman: The Movie - I would say this is THE Superman movie... but then again, I would because this is my generation's Superman. If you asked somebody who grew up in the 50's they would tell you that George Reeves is "the" Superman. While good, it's not even the best superhero film let alone the one that will endure the longest. Superman will continue to be reinvented and reimagined for each generation. Once a good, newer version comes out the old will eventually be forgotten. EX: Tim Burton's Batman.

Bill: Well, I was born in 1972, which makes The Godfather within my lifetime. It also makes you a whipper-snapper sonny-jim, lol. As far as the films you disagree with, let's start with Superman. It was released in 1978. Now, 33 years later, it is still going strong. Of all superhero films, it has endured the longest without a reboot. Batman has had 2 reboots so far, and Spider-Man is getting one a mere 10 years later. It is still a mainstay on cable television and reboots or not, it will be the gold standard by which other Superman films will be measured. Was Gary Oldman's Dracula superior to Bela Lugosi's? Perhaps. Did it erase Bela's from the history books? Certainly not.

Jaws - Currently holds the #48 position on the AFI's top 100 films of all time. Released in 1975, it is 36 years old, almost 1/2 of the 75 year benchmark, with no signs of slowing down. Outside of some 70's haircuts, the movie transcends the era it was filmed in. It's a classic tale, perhaps the Moby Dick of the 20th Century. 

Back To The Future - 26 years later, it is still relevant today. "Hello McFly", "Flux Capacitor", and "Slacker" are as much a part of our cultural lexicon as "Live long and prosper", and "Go ahead, make my day." Films as recent as Knocked Up (2007), Fanboys (2008), and Arthur (2011) reference BTTF. As long as the future continues to hold a strong contingent of nerds and geeks, this Time Travel film will hold up as the measuring stick of other time travel movies.

Titanic - Oh, absolutely this film is gonna make it. It seems once a month some cable channel is playing it somewhere. There has been a dozen films about the Titanic, but none so vivid as this. The fictional love story alone is great. Poor boy meets rich girl, they fall in love, jealous fiance and his lackey interfere, timeless. Now, put that with the most historically accurate account of the Titanic to date, and you have an instant classic.

Ohh, and before I forget, other movies that I need to shout out, that came to me after the "top of my head" moment, are Ghostbusters and E.T. the extra-terrestrial.

Scott: Listen, I'm not disputing the quality of these films. The AFI list is completely irrelevant to this conversation. There are plenty of amazing films that have found themselves on the ash-heap of history. In the top ten alone you have Raging Bull, Singing in the Rain, and Lawrence of Arabia - all of which are cinematically fantastic but nobody watches anymore.

Sure, Titanic is shown on cable monthly... but do you believe that will be the case in 2072? I think not. And as for the way movie quotes make it into our everyday language, I'm sure plenty of people have said, "Go ahead, make my day!" Or "Asta la visa, baby!" without having ever seen Dirty Harry or Terminator 2.

As for your other two suggestions, I agree with E.T. You actually stole that one from me! I was going to say it. But as for Ghostbusters, I think this is the perfect example of a movie that was loved by its generation and forgotten by the next.

Here are a few movies I had in mind:
In the tradition of Christmas movies remembered far after their initial release such as It's A Wonderful Life how about A Christmas Story? That movie has a die hard fan base even though it's initial theatrical release was a complete bust.

I also think Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Princess Bride, Toy Story, and Disney's Beauty and the Beast?   

Bill: You couldn't be more wrong. You could try, but you couldn't do it. AFI completely irrelevant? The point of the AFI is to preserve film. If some film is expected to go 75+ years, it would need to be preserved and worthy of preservation, wouldn't you agree? Nor was the AFI mention the crux of the argument, but just reinforcing the others.

If people who never saw films like Dirty Harry and Terminator 2, yet recite lines from it, just further proves my point. They've had enough cultural impact from those who have seen it to make it part of our vocabulary. There are people who never saw Star Wars, yet will say "may the force be with you", and know that they just recited Star Wars.

Ghostbusters forgotten by this new generation? Explain the upcoming Ghostbusters 3 film. Explain a successful animated series and recent video games that have carried the torch for this widely accepted and beloved film. The film is referenced in recent films like Casper (1995) The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005), Just My Luck (2006), Zombieland (2009), as well as television episodes of Family Guy (2006) and Robot Chicken (2006).

100% with you on Christmas Story. In fact, this could be a separate discussion unto itself. "In our lifetime, has there been a Christmas Movie that will be as timeless as Scrooge, A Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th St?" The Santa Clause, Elf, Bad Santa, all funny films, but destined to be lost through the filter of time.

I also agree with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The exception here is that unlike Wizard of Oz, which has mass appeal, Rocky Horror will never grow beyond its small, but persistent, cult following.

I think as far as animated Disney films go, we can do better than Beauty and the Beast. Aladdin and the Little Mermaid spring to mind. The Lion King is epic too, thanks in part to Elton John's "The Circle of Life" which owned the Billboards back in the day.

I have nothing but love for The Princess Bride, and it has the hallmarks of an enduring film. My gut tells me it'll get passed over around the 40 year benchmark, but I hope I'm wrong. 

Scott: When I mentioned the AFI I was referencing the top 100 list you mentioned. It is clearly evident that quality films are completely forgotten about by the general population.

Ghostbusters 3 may thrust the original back into the spotlight once again but I feel very comfortable saying that in 2059 it will not be remembered like Wizard of Oz is today. There have been a recent string of very late sequels and video games released (such as the Warriors video game and the new Rambo film) that have very little to do with fans demanding their release. Hollywood is, for the most part, out of new ideas so they just keep recycling the old ones.

You mentioned Lion King. While I don't think it will stand the test of time as Snow White has it will be interesting to see how it does when released as a 3D film. Are families willing to pay in the theater to see something they have at home on DVD?

I think the big challenge animation has in staying relevant is the progression of CGI technology. Almost every animated film is now fully CGI. Once the technology moves on, so do audiences - as is evidenced by silent films to talkies and black and white film to color. No silent films remain relevant today and very, very few black and white ones do. Could 3D be the next big revolution that makes 2D films seem obsolete in the eyes of audiences?

Bill: I still say its a bad call on your part about Ghostbusters. But time will tell, and we just have to be patient. Still, if the Mayan Doomsday Calender is correct, I predict that Ghostbusters will endure to the end of mankind.
I don't think 3D will ever replace 2D. While it certainly is a sustained novelty, going as far back as the 1950's, audiences don't seem compelled to watch television with special glasses all the time. 3D will be, at best, a specialty, like a "directors cut." Unique, but not fully replacing the original (unless its a film by George Lucas).

As for animation, good call. Will be interesting to see how the old ink & celluloid hold up. Old Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, and Flintstones still hold up on television, but as for big screen films, anything new is given the CGI treatment. Still, Disney vaults their films, releasing them periodically, driving up public interest as they do. So, conceivably, this method may sustain their films for decades to come. 

While we seem to agree on what makes a film have lasting value, we differ on some of the titles. Still, the real challenge in this discussion for me are recent films. Anything 2001 and forward? Any thoughts, ideas, prospects?

Scott: If there are any, I think I'll be surprised by them. There are some good movies but I think they lack the qualities to truly withstand the test of time. Dark Knight, Iron Man, Gladiator, Sin City, Avatar, the Lord of the Rings films, and Memento - I like them all but I don't think they're going to be the next Wizard of Oz. For a movie to achieve that level of sustained popularity it has to have timeless themes and a great deal of re watchability. What are your thoughts - agree or disagree?

Bill: Lord of the Rings has potential for one reason, it's been done, and done well. While it is true that Hollywood does run out of ideas and is prone to reboots and remakes, I don't recall them ever remaking an epic film on an epic scale. So I don't think this trilogy will ever be touched. LotR will always have a core literary fan base, but will it be enough to sustain the film for decades to come? 

Gladiator may be our generation's Spartacus. But how often do you come across Spartacus

Dark Knight, Iron Man, shoot even Spider-Man. But I fear that in 75 years, there will be at least 2-4 reboots of these franchises.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here, totlly left field, and say Shaun of the Dead. Here are my reasons. Despite its lack of universal appeal, I can offer this up as you offered up Rocky Horror, which also has limited appeal. I would venture to say that not since Airplane! has there truly been a movie that knows how to spoof an entire genre, and spoof it well. While films like Scary Movie, Date Movie, and Meet the Spartans tend to spoof a few movies in their films, Shaun of the Dead wonderfully spoofs the zombie sub-genre of horror. It touches on many zombie movie themes, but tells its own linear story without ripping off other zombie movie scenes. Having re-watched Airplane! recently, I noticed just how funny that film is, even if so many things have changed regarding air travel today. Today, you do not run into Harri-Krishna's (sp?) at the airport, there are no smoking sections, and overhead luggage are now put in closed-door compartments. Still, people of a post 9/11 world still laugh at this films comedy, because there are so many universally funny things involved. Therefore, I feel that as long as the Zombie genre holds up, Shaun of the Dead will always be an appreciated and often watched film by fans of the genre. 

Scott: I just had the chance to poll a group of 19 to 22 years olds on this topic and I think they've changed my mind on a couple of movies.

They all said that they had seen Titanic, Jaws, and Superman: The Movie but that they thought they were bad for various reasons (such as the Jaws shark looking too fake). They DID however say they loved Back to the Future so I'll change my mind and agree with you on that one. They also said Lord of the Rings so I'll agree with you on that one as well.

Two movies they suggested that I actually agree with are Rocky and Grease.

As for Shaun of the Dead... I think it has cult film potential but not on the level of Rocky Horror Picture Show. In its heart it is a parody and parodies have a shelf life that is tied to what they are spoofing.

So far, we've agreed on the following movies:

Star Wars (all three originals?) -1977
The Godfather - 1972
Back to the Future - 1985
Lord of the Rings (all three?) - 2001
A Christmas Story - 1983
Rocky Horror Picture Show - 1975
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark - 1981
E.T. - The Extraterrestrial - 1982

Bill: Well, for Star Wars and LotR, I'd say all movies in their respective trilogies. I just can't see A New Hope lasting 75 years, while Return of the Jedi fades away. I'd also say Rocky Horror Picture Show should go. Yes, there will be a cult following, but the argument was for films to be as accepted as Wizard of Oz. Clearly, Wizard has far more appeal. Other than that, I'd say the list looks solid. But let's include: Rocky.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Where Is All This 3D Going?

It seems that 3D is becoming the accepted norm of cinema. This once novelty approach to films is now being standardized. All the big budget films are released with a 3D counterpart, and many classic films are getting the 3D treatment. But why? Is this a quick grab for some extra bucks at the theater? Or is 3D going to be the new standard in movie viewing.

Sometimes, films move forward, and don't look back. Once Al Joleson's The Jazz Singer hit theaters, the silent film era gave way to the "talkies." Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz perfected coloring techniques that is the norm of film. Could 3D be the next evolution in film making? 

But wait, 3D isn't new, it's been around since the 1950's. The traditional red/blue glasses were used in b-movie horror and sci fi as a gimmick to sell more tickets. 3D was a gimmick to draw attention to the less-than-stellar films of the day. But today, 3D spans the gambit from low brow b-horror like the remake of Piranha, to big budget blockbusters like Transformers 3, Thor, Captain America and more. So why the sudden resurgence in this old gimmick?

There are many reasons, but most notably is the advancements in film making technology. Digital cameras on set, and digital projectors becoming standard since the late 90's have allowed directors to open the floodgates to visual effects like never before. With this advantage, 3D has returned, and is leaps and bounds better than your granddad's 3D. The 3D of yesteryear saw directors focusing on a single object, like a knife, that would get a steady shot so in post production, the knife appears to come right out of the screen. Nowadays, to sit in a 3D theater, your eyes are assaulted as a hundred different objects move about you in every direction. An exploding window has hundreds of shattered pieces of glass flying at you. With digital surround sound, you literally duck for cover.

As the 21st Century opened, theater owners saw a dwindling in overall attendance. With HBO, Netflix, PPV, and streaming video, movie goers have more options now than ever before. And going to a movie theater is unarguably the most inconvenient, and expensive option. Theater owners and studios embraced the new 3D technology as it would give audiences an experience they could not receive at home, or could they? In the last couple years, high end plasma and LCD tv manufacturers are coming out with 3D televisions, complete with glasses. This will most certainly usher in a slew of DVD's that like regular or blue-ray, will also have a 3D option. Even major cable companies are coming out with 3D stations.

Recently, not only are studios issuing films in 3D, but are converting older films. In an offense as terrible as the early 80's, when Ted Turner was looking to colorize old black and white films, today's film makers seem to be following suite with this new technology. Already announced is a Titanic 3D, the Star Wars Trilogy 3D, and more. Converting to 3D is expensive. Studios show an additional 10-30 million dollars are spent to convert. Surely such an investment isn't meant solely for theatrical release which can only yield a short term gain. But if the 3D can also be applied to the home, that's more DVDs sold, more licensing profits to Netflix and Hulu, as well as commercial revenue from network and cable stations.

3D sems like it's here to stay. But like 3D itself, this too may be an illusion. Recently, Sony sent letters to North American theater owners that as of May 12th, 2012, they will no longer be paying for then3D glasses that accompany their films. Other studios are expected to follow suit. 3D glasses account for 50 cents of a movie ticket, and cost a studio $5-10 million per tentpole picture. This move may put the US in line with the UK and Australian audiences who buy their 3D glasses. While 3D seems to be on the decline in the US, overseas not so much. However, a survey done in the UK by the BBC reported that only 19% of British moviegoers felt the 3D improved the movie experience. 41% still see it as just a gimmick, while 52% said they would be more inclined to see 3D, if they didn't have to wear the glasses.

So what's next? Holographic television?