31 January 2012

Act of Valor (trailer)

          Ok, so I saw the trailer for this movie a couple of months ago.  But today, I watched a featurette about it and decided it was too awesome not to share.  So, Act of Valor is a movie about Navy Seals doing their thing.  (I'm not sure about plot details).  I am personally a sucker for this kind of stuff.  I have so much respect for our Troops and Armed Forces.  I am so thankful for them defending our freedoms and for those who came before and gave us those freedoms.  So, this type of movie is right up my alley.

     Click HERE for trailer.

          Now, the thing that makes this movie even more awesome is the fact that it uses real, active duty Navy Seals.  They were originally going to cast actors, but then decided to get the real deal.  And, it's supposedly base on real Navy Seal missions.  So, that makes me excited to see it.  But then I watched this:


          They use real bullets!  Yea, real bullets; not blanks.  That is so awesome.  You thought it couldn't get any more realistic with the active duty Seals, but then they throw live rounds in your face.  I'm no gun expert so I don't know how much of a difference it actually makes.  However, just the fact that they did it is awesome.  (I think that awesome is the best word to describe this movie).

          So, yea.  That's basically it.  It looks really good and I just wanted to share.  It hits theaters 24 February.

     But that's just my opinion...

30 January 2012

Everything Is a Remix

          I found this interesting web series after my friend tweeted it.  (I guess it's a good thing I finally got Twitter.)  It is called Everything Is a Remix and it was created by Kirby Ferguson, a filmmaker.  It is a 4 part series, talking about creativity and where it comes from.  Ferguson claims that creativity is really taking old ideas and making them new.  He says that there are no real "new" ideas; just ones that have been "remixed" from others.

          In the first video he basically talks about how bands (Led Zeppelin in particular) copied those that came before them.  The second video focuses more on movies by explaining how George Lucas, while creating Star Wars, essentially did the same thing:  borrow elements from previous movies.  In the third part, He explains how Apple took an idea by Xerox, bettered it and gave rise to the modern computer.  The fourth video is about...I  don't know.  It hasn't been released at the time of me remixing previous ideas into this blog.

     Click HERE to watch the web series.

          As Ferguson says in the videos:  Creativity isn’t magic.  It happens by applying ordinary tools of thought to existing materials.

     Here is another VIDEO he made about The Matrix.  It is also on the above website.

     But that's just my opinion...

Enter the Dragon (1973)

          The essential plot rundown:  Bruce Lee sneaks around killing people.  Bruce Lee's last movie; my first Bruce Lee movie.  Ok, this movie was obviously made in the 70s.  Some older movies age well.  This one did not.  Everything about it screams "70s!", especially the soundtrack.  But don't get me wrong, Lee is an amazing fighter and he dominates in this role.  And it was an entertaining movie.  But that doesn't make it any less campy.

          The movie begins with Lee at his temple beating up some poor guy.  Then he is given the task of redeeming the temple's honor by defeating a former student, Han.  I always thought that martial artists usually have some kind of code, where they don't kill unless they have to, like Batman or something.  But, Lee goes on a rampage on Han's island, killing everybody without a second thought.  It's not that big of a deal (let him murder whoever he wants).  It just struck me as kind of weird.  But then again, no one ever forbid killing, so it must be ok.

          Lee also has a personal vendetta against one of Han's guys.  So when they eventually fight, it was the moment I've been waiting for.  I was expecting an intense action scene, with the two dueling it out.  But, Lee literally whomps on the guy; he never had a chance.  This is the only character that had a real connection with Lee's character.  So normally in situations like this, the bad guy has the upper-hand, building tension.  This makes the audience antsy, waiting to see how the hero is going to win.  Then something happens, the tables turn and the hero emerges triumph.  But, in this fight Lee goes in and makes the bad guy look like a sissy right from the beginning.  There was no real glory in his vengeance.

          That is probably the biggest problem with the movie.  Bruce Lee is so badass that you are never worried about him.  There is no momentum, no tension buildup.  Nothing is really at stake.  He just tiptoes around and kills everybody.  There is never a moment when he is in real danger.  50 guys come; he takes them all down in 30 seconds.  He makes all of Han's guards look like Stormtroopers.

          The end fight with Han was also a little disappointing.  I really liked the setting, placing them in a room full of mirrors.  It did add to the scene, making it a little more intense.  However, because of all the mirrors, they spend 2/3 of the time just looking for each other and not actually fighting.  But, luckily for Lee, his sensei/boss/teacher/I can't remember exactly made a very wise comment at the beginning, which allowed Lee to remember it during the fight, giving him the upper-hand.

          It was fun to watch.  Bruce Lee was awesome.  There's not much in terms of plot and what not, but the fighting definitely made up for it.  I would recommend it but this movie totally ripped of Mortal Kombat.

     But that's just my opinion...

29 January 2012

Teddy Bear (2012)

          The essential plot rundown:  A shy bodybuilding has trouble finding love.  I really enjoyed this movie.  Normally, people would think a person looking like Dennis (Kim Kold) would be outgoing and confident.  So, it was really interesting to see the spirit of a extremely shy person inside this monstrous frame.  The mixing of shyness with size created an intriguing dynamic between Dennis and the women he encounters, who are literally a third his size.  It is a little slow moving, but you do really get to know Dennis and his struggles.

          In the movie, Dennis encounters essentially two different problems:  dating and lying to his mother.  As Dennis resolves the first, this complicates things and creates the second problem.  As he was trying to overcome his shyness and meet girls, I couldn't help but feel bad during his failures and to encourage him to keep at it.  However, as he entered into the second part of the movie, he started doing things that I questioned.  I found myself asking "Why, Dennis?!  No, what are you doing?  Dennis!"  I was rooting for him the whole time to clean up the mess he made and set things straight.  Kim did an excellent job portraying the meek giant, Dennis.  I found his acting sincere.  I felt his pain as I watched him struggle to meet girls. He is looking for real love but finds women only interested in sex.  He is clearly uncomfortable with their advances.

          One of the things that bothered me was how he overcame his problems in meeting girls.  It felt a little too rushed; too quick of a change.  One minute he's barely making conversation and the next he's moving in for a kiss.  Another thing bothered me, but I didn't notice it until after the movie.  He is looking for love, but he is sent to a place filled with lust.  He is in several situations where women make advances towards him sexually.  He seems only interested in going on a date whereas the women have something totally different in mind.  At first, I thought he was just naive, misinterpreting the women's messages until things got too uncomfortable.  Poor guy, he doesn't even know whats happening.  However, afterwards I was thinking, and he had to have know what he was getting into before he left.  He had have known what type of women these were.  Maybe I mistook his shyness for naivety.  Now, I can't decide which one it is.

         Overall, it is a film worth watching.  You get to care to Dennis and root for him during the whole thing.  It was rewarding to watch his struggles and consequent growth.  Teddy Bear, directed by Mads Matthiesen, won the 2012 World Cinema Directing Award, Dramatic.

My friends and I drove to SLC to see it

     But that's just my opinion...

28 January 2012

Unicorn City (2012)

          The essential plot rundown:  Voss, a gamer, needs to prove himself to get his dream job, so he creates his own "utopia for gamers."  I missed the first 15-20 minutes, so I may have missed something important that could have changed how I enjoyed the movie.  Nevertheless, it was fun and I enjoyed it.  But, it wasn't anything special.  It was not the best comedy I've seen nor the worse.  There were some funny moments, especially involving Rhubarb.  The acting was good and the characters were interesting.  My only real complaint was this running joke of characters making out.  "Hey, these two characters are a couple.  We should have them making out the whole time cuz that's funny, right?".  Another thing I didn't really like were the cops.  They were too old for me.  And at one point, the actions of one seemed really unnatural.  Why would she do that?  But, overall it was a decent flick.  I'd recommend it if there wasn't anything better to see.

     But that's just my opinion...

LDS Film Festival

          Ok, so at the beginning of the semester, one of my teachers gave us a list of movie recommendations.  On this list was one called Unicorn City.  The reason for the recommendation:  he worked on it (though I can't remember how exactly).  So, I made a mental note to look for it whenever it got released.  Then, earlier this week, one of my friends invited me to go to the LDS Film Fest in Orem.  There's a LDS Film Festival?!?  Thats sweet.  I was like "I'm free Friday.  What's playing?".  So he read off the movies and Unicorn City was one of them.  Unicorn City?  Nice, I remembered that looking funny.  So I said 'Let's do this!'  (I didn't actually say that.  I just had him buy me a ticket.)

          So earlier today (well, technically yesterday, but who really cares?)  some friends and I headed over to the SCERA Theater to watch U.C.  When I got there I saw a sign that said "Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed poster signing."  They made a second Saints and Soldiers?  Nice.  And that's a sweet poster.  I want one.  I looked at my watch; movie starts in 10 minutes.  Look at the line; there's no way I'm going to make it through this line before the movie starts.  So it came down crucial decision:  watch the movie from the very beginning and not miss a thing -or- get a poster signed by the cast and crew and miss the first 20 minutes of U.C.?  I opted for the latter and ended up with these:


          and this:

          Yea, that's David Nibley and Corbin Allred, two popular Mormon actors.  Needless to say I was pretty stoked.  As giddy as a school girl as some would say.  I did not even know this was going to be happening.  I wish I would have brought my own camera.  So after waiting in line for 20 minutes, I finally got my poster and into the theater to watch Unicorn City.  (More on that later.)  Afterwards, there was a short Q&A with the filmmakers, followed by a poster signing.  I got a poster signed by everyone and pics signed by Jaclyn Hales (who played Marsha) and Clint Vanderlinden (who was Rhubarb.)  I also got a signed poster for The Last Eagle Scout, even though I knew nothing about it.  Then I went home.  It was a blast.

     Watch these:

     Unicorn City trailer
     Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed trailer
     The Last Eagle Scout trailer

     But that's just my opinion...

27 January 2012

Filmmaking Flowchart

          This is an interestingly humorous flowchart to help even the dumbest of aspiring filmmakers decide on which area is the best for them.

          It turns out that I'm a visually oriented individual who is cooler than Fonzie (but not baby-faced, female or a therapist), who can also fake excitement about other people's ideas and doesn't mind turds or money.

     But that's just my opinion...

26 January 2012

The Art of Cinema

          Do you know what one of the great things about taking film classes is (other than making movies?)  Watching them!!  My teachers are always showing us sweet movie clips or other videos.  Yesterday, my teacher showed us this music video:

          As I was watching this video, I was reminded as to why I love movies so much.  Movies are like a super art.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love literature, music, painting, etc, etc.  But a movie is like combining all of those into one single art form.  You take the narrative from literature, the image from painting, the acting from theatre and the music from music (yea, that makes sense); stick them all into a a shoe box; shake it around for 9 months and you end up with a movie.  Yes, literature and plays each have their own strengths:  you can get into a character's head easily in a book and theatre actors only have one chance (no retakes) and they can feed off of the audience.  I'll always have respect for the other arts.  But for me, cinema holds a special place.

          Another thing I really like about this music video was the creativity and idea behind it.  As I was watching it, I was thinking to myself:  How does someone come up with an idea like that?  Cuz the dad's stomach bursting out into an airbag is a pretty sweet idea.  I never would have thought of something cool like that.  This is a sweet music video.  (Yea, I usually think in italics, it helps my thoughts flow smoother.)  

          That is one of the things I love about music videos and shorts:  you can do things in them that you can get away with in a feature film.  I should probably watch more music videos.

     But that's just my opinion...

25 January 2012

Let the Right One In (2008)

          Last year I took a German and Scandinavian Cinema class.  And one of the assignments was to choose a movie we watched and write a review for it.  I chose Let the Right One In.  I love this movie.  It is in my top 5 favorite movies.  I also own the book (on which it was based) and the movie score.  I have also seen the American remake Let Me In.  I'll probably do a review about that later.  Well, enough of that.  Here is the review:

Giving Vampires A Second Chance

Tomas Alfredson’s 2008 film Let The Right One In is based on a novel of the same name published in 2004.  The novel’s author, John Ajvide Lindqvist, also worked on the screen play.  So fans of the book shouldn’t be too disappointed with the film adaptation.  With the transition from novel to screen play, Lindqvist removed most of the sub-plots and minor characters, essentially boiling the story down to its core:  the relationship between Oskar and Eli.

To call Let The Right One In a vampire, horror flick would be misleading.  It is more a coming-of-age tale about two pre-teens, one of which happens to live off of blood.  Sure, there are bloody moments, but these aren’t the driving force.  This movie came out during the heyday of vampire films, shortly before the release of Twilight.  However, Alfredson and Lindqvist treat the subject quite reverently and with respect.  There are no monstrous bat-creatures, seductive men, or UV based weapons here.  Only a lonely 12 year old girl trying to survive.  If vampires really existed, I’d imagine they’d be like this.

The story takes place in 1980s Sweden.  Oskar is a young boy, bullied at school, with violent fantasies of revenge.  He has no friends, that is until a mysterious girl, Eli, moves in next door.  They become friends, but Oskar notices that there is something different about her.  But he doesn’t let her strangeness stop him from forming a strong relationship because he also notices a kindred spirit.

With Eli’s support, Oskar is able to fight back against his tormentors.  “Hit back even harder,” she advises him.  Eli has a guardian (whose relationship is never explored in the film) who risks himself to procure blood for her.  After some mishaps, people catch on to something strange happening in their community.  Eli decides that she must move on to a different location.  However, their friendship continues to grow as they “go steady”.  This is an innocent relationship as both just need a friend.  They complement each other:  Oskar has the desire for violence, but not the capability; Eli has the strength to commit murder, but does so only to survive.

The casting for this was spot on.  Kåre Hedebrant (Oskar) and Lina Leandersson (Eli) both have their acting debut here.  And neither disappoint.  They get into character and make them believable:  Oskar as a socially awkward young boy and Eli as a person struggling to survive.  It is hard not to sympathize with them and cheer for them as they perform acts of violence.  I was proud of Oskar when he fought back against the bullies and I was anxiously hoping Eli would not be caught while hunting.  Even the bullies at school are more relate-able than one would assume.

Like I said, this is not a horror movie.  There are no jump scenes or gross-out moments.  However, this film is hauntingly beautiful, albeit a little disturbing.  (While they take second place to story, the bloody moments are done tastefully.  LTROI probably has the most stunning dismemberment scene in all of cinematic history.)  The cinematography is exceptional.  The snowy setting provides a scenic backdrop for the heartfelt story.  The whitewashed environment underscores the tone and feel of the movie so well that I can’t imagine the film being set during any other season.  The musical score is magical.  It is lonely and poignant, although with a sliver of hope.  The composer, Johan Soderqvist, does a wonderful job in capturing the essence of the movie in the music.

However, no matter how good a film is, there are always mistakes.  In this case, most of these come from the simple act of transcribing the book to a movie.  As mentioned before, Lindqvist cut away all minor characters and subplots; but these were not all clean cuts.  There are a few things left in the movie that can cause some head-scratching due to the explanation being removed.  Eli’s guardian is a good example.  In the book, he has a huge back-story and subplot.  In the film, he merely gets blood for Eli and dies halfway through.  Their relationship is ambiguous.  Another is Oskar’s father (who is simply an alcoholic).  But the biggest mistake is how Eli’s gender was handled.  There are a few subtle hints (“I’m not a girl” she says or the blink-and-you’ll-miss it shot of her changing).  But these can be interpreted in numerous ways; there is not enough explanation to warrant their inclusion.  That is one way (and probably the only way) that the American remake improved on this Swedish masterpiece.  They either removed these things completely or added more of an adequate explanation to avoid confusion.

As a whole, this is a great film.  The story is strong and believable.  It is a nice, new twist on an age-old tale.  Oskar and Eli are strongly developed.  The two young actors bring these characters to life and invite us into their world.  The snow covered suburb parallels the loneliness of the Oskar and Eli.  The score matches perfectly the mood of the film.  Yes, there were a few things that could have been transferred better from novel to screenplay.  However, these are relatively small compared to the grandness of this film.  Let The Right One In shouldn’t have to ask to come in, we should have already invited it.

But that's just my opinion...