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Roger Ebert, R.I.P.

Probably the world’s best known film critic, Roger Ebert, has passed at the age of 70 after a long battle with Cancer.

Follow the link to read what his paper, the Chicago Sun-Times had to say about him:

http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/17320958-418/roger-ebert-dies-at-70-after-battle-with-cancer.html

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Movies to look forward to in 2013

What are you looking forward to in 2013?

Here is my list!

Django Unchained (Jan 24)

It’s Tarantino … Do I need to say more?

The Silver Linings Playbook (Jan 24)

Already up for a slew of awards including best picture, this looks both funny and meaningful.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Mar 14)

Like the comedy stylings of Steve Carrell? Well throw in Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey, Steve Buscemi, Alan Arkin and this comedy should be a hoot!

Oblivion (Apr 11)

I know it’s Tom Cruise, but this looks really interesting, and I am a sucker for Sci-Fi (2013 is the year for Sci-Fi)!

Star Trek Into Darkness (May 16)

JJ Abrams has not put a foot wrong in the film department. His first Star Trek was fantastic, no reason to doubt he won’t deliver again!

Man of Steel (Jun 27)

You might be tired of Superhero flicks, but this seems to be a genuine attempt to reinvent Superman in the mould of The Dark Knight. I hope it works!

Kick-Ass 2 (Aug 8)

Kick-Ass is easily one of my favorite movies, and I really hope they capture the same sense of the unbelievable in the sequel.

Elysium (Aug 15)

This is my Dark Horse for film of the year. From the Director of the surprise hit District 9, starring Matt Damon, I am really interested!

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Nov 21)

One of the more tolerable teen movies was The Hunger Games. Based on a decent set of books and with more than enough to enjoy I have high hopes for the sequel.

Anchorman: The Legend Continues (Dec 19)

If you didn’t enjoy Anchorman then I don’t want to know you … Simple! Can’t wait …

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (Dec 26)

Loved the first installment, although it was long. If this follows the books there will be many many spiders and a host of merrymaking woodelves!

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Don’t like my list? Did I miss something? Tell me!

Now here’s a few possibly good movies, or movies I think people will enjoy!

The Impossible (Jan 24)

It’s already been reviewed well and I’m sure it will find a decent audience. A film about the tidal wave in Thailand, sure to tug on the heart strings.

Zero Dark Thirty (Jan 31)

For the record, The Hurt Locker is an amateurs work! If this is as inaccurate and nonsensical as that (same writer/director) then I see no hope for this. However, it seems to be popular so it makes the list.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (Feb 7)

Sometimes these kinds of movies work, sometimes. I hold no hopes, but maybe …

Lincoln (Feb 7)

Oh does Daniel Day-Lewis want an Oscar does he? I’m sure this will be a classy film, I’m not that excited by it but still.

Anna Karenina (Feb 14)

The source material is much loved, will this do it justice?

The Last Stand (Feb 21)

Arnie returns, and so does the 80’s action film too it appears!

Cloud Atlas (Feb 28)

Yes it’s taken this long for this to come to Australia. About time! Will I like it? Probably not… Will you? Maybe.

Oz The Great and Powerful (Mar 7)

A prequel to the Wizard of Oz … It could work, or it could be another 3D cash-in!

A Good Day To Die Hard (Mar 21)

Die Hard 4.0 was not a Die Hard movie, plain and simple! I hope they have learnt their lesson.

Iron Man 3 (Apr 18)

Loved Iron Man, didn’t care much for the sequel. The trailer for this looks silly, but who knows… Robert Downey Junior is still on a role!

Evil Dead (May 2)

For the Horror fans! This remake looks faithful and shockingly disturbing.

The Hangover Part III (May 23)

People will see this, even though part II was the exact same movie as part I.

The Great Gatsby (May 30)

I hope it’s good. I don’t think it will be.

After Earth (Jun 6)

M. Night. Shyamalan ruined The Last Airbender, and he’s had a steady fall from grace since The Sixth Sense surprised us all. Can he redeem himself with this interesting sci-fi flick starring Will Smith and his son? Maybe … The trailer looks mighty interesting.

World War Z (Jun 20)

Great book! Unfortunately the trailer looks nothing like the book at all… Nothing!

Monsters University (Jun 20)

A sequel to Monsters Inc! Yes please!

The Wolverine (Jul 15)

Do we need more? Apparently. My patience wears thing for X-Men movies. Each movie is either worse, or not good enough to counter the fatigue of another one of these.

300: Rise of An Emipire (Aug 1)

Umm, what? A sequel to 300? How? I am interested, but? Really?

Riddick (Sep 12)

I don’t mind the Riddick movies, this has potential!

Thor: The Dark World (Oct 31)

I really enjoyed Thor! I hope they continue with the Shakespearean vibe!

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Questions Will Be Answered

It would have been hard to miss the advertising blitz for the DVD and BluRay release of Prometheus.  If you watched a television or looked up anything entertainment related on the internet in the last month you would know what I mean. It’s only been four months since its cinematic release. The usual wait is roughly around six months, so someone clearly felt that movie needed to be out sooner. A hint of the reason why can probably be found in the advertising blitz. Questions Will Be Answered.

The loudest criticism of the film was that it raised many questions and answered almost none of them, even though that isn’t the films biggest problem. Obviously, before human nature took over and you stopped caring, the DVD had to come along and try to get you interested. The advertisers had their tag line without having to think too hard about it.

The release promised over seven hours of extra features that would, indeed, answer questions. So does it?

The very short answer is No!

The short answer is, well kind of …

The “reading between the lines” answer for me is, they don’t know how to tell a good story.

What the Prometheus extras reveal is that the answers on the whole are stupid. Why did the Engineers want to destroy us? Well… Are you prepared? Space Jesus. Yes, that’s right! Jesus was an alien and we killed him. I’m sure there is an even dumber answer to this question, but right now I can’t think of one.

The rest of the answers are either that symbolism trumped narrative, they kept the material for the sequel, or the brains behind the production didn’t really know themselves. In these cases, along with the stupidity of the direct answers  it’s a complete and utter cop-out. To understand why, you need to understand how the script came about.

A guy named Jon Spaihts wrote a script called Alien Zero. This is the script that Director Ridley Scott started with and convinced him to return to the genre he helped define. I have not seen this script, although from all accounts it sounds like it would be a good read. Essentially this script was a direct prequel to Scott’s 1979 Alien.

Damon Lindelof was then asked to look over Spaihts script. This was done either because Spaihts was an untested writer and someone wanted to be sure they were backing  a winner, or someone wasn’t yet sold on the script and felt Spaihts couldn’t improve it himself. Essentially Lindelof said that while it was a good script, it was basically nothing new. He proposed to focus on more of the unique elements of the script to make a new branching story that was separate from but related to Alien.

This appears to have excited Scott who hired Lindelof to rewrite the movie. It’s unclear how the dynamic worked however. Spaihts comes across as a genuinely decent guy who was a bit shocked his movie was being rewritten but took it on the chin. However Lindelof rarely even mentions Spaihts and talks only about working with Scott. I sense tension. Regardless since the movies release Lindelof has publicly distanced himself from the movies mistakes. He often refers to the movie as Scotts vision, a vision he helped him realise.

For those of you unfamiliar with Lindelof, he is the man responsible for the writing the majority of Lost including its highly criticised finale. Lindelof eventually explained to fans that the story was about people who were “lost” in terms of their lives, not literally lost on an island. He went on to say that the finale was about these people finding themselves, not about explaining many of the shows unanswered questions. My reaction to this? Lindelof didn’t watch his own show.

Lost put forward many ideas that are almost never resolved in its seven seasons. It borders on ridiculous the number of plot points or questions raised that never ever find a decent explanation. Is this starting to sound familiar? It seems Lindelof puts more weight into everything other than narrative. That is everything other than telling you what the hell is going on.

To be fair, the extras reveal that Scott played a very decent hand in denying the audience any kind of explanation. However if Lindelof can’t start to acknowledge that he has a significant weakness in his writing then I don’t think it will be long before he’s cast into the M. Night Shyamalan category.

The essential component of entertainment is the suspension of disbelief. Almost every story has to at some point craft its narrative around something that isn’t exactly true in the real world. Even stories based on true events fabricate elements to create drama. If your disbelief can be suspended, you don’t care and you enjoy the ride.

The human mind is willing to ignore plot holes and the like if it’s being sufficiently distracted. Prometheus fails to do this because it’s entire premise is built on elements that are never explained or appear completely ridiculous. If you want to tell a good story, something unique, then you need to have a narrative that is satisfying. It’s only then that people can look past the unanswered questions.

The issue with Prometheus isn’t that is didn’t answer any of the questions it raised. It’s that it built everything around those questions. It was so focused on those questions it forgot about narrative, its characters, and even basic logic. It’s a real shame because the movie is gorgeous, and there are a number of scenes that when taken out of their context are excellent.

We go to the movies for a variety of reasons, but the common thread is that we need some kind of satisfaction. Questions Will Be Answered is a cop-out because it doesn’t acknowledge that even if you answer those questions the film still doesn’t make sense.

It seems to me through the whole process of writing Prometheus no one really understood the story.

What about you? Do you know of a movie where you felt the film makers didn’t even understand it themselves?

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Don’t ruin my Movie with Reality!

When it boils down to it, all cinema with very few exceptions contain some sort of Fantasy, even some of the most realistic drama’s will contain some sort of factually incorrect element. In a recent film my wife pointed out that the several machines surrounding a character’s bed in a hospital had nothing to do with what the character was actually suffering. It’s a small point, and not one many people will pick up on, but how far is too far before suspension of disbelief becomes absolute absurdity?

Most would argue that a strong story with strong characters can push the boundaries of reality purely because the rest of the film has sucked you in. A good example of this is probably the original Matrix movie (not the sequels), a movie that contains ships and machines that defy gravity. The core concept of the film at the time was so unique and so captivating that audiences dismissed this fantasy without so much as a second thought. Hey, if this film can make a concept like the Matrix feel possible, who am I to say that the technology to defy gravity doesn’t exist? You get the idea.

Here’s a noodle bender for you … How many of you realised that the time travel depicted in such films as Back to the Future comes with a seriously inherent danger? When Marty gets the DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour and goes back in time, technically he’d end up in outer space. Here’s a lovely picture I saw today that inspired this post to demonstrate:

You see, for Marty to truly go back in time the DeLorean would have to be a time and space machine teleporting him not just backwards in time but moving his location in space to be at the appropriate location. It’s something that seems pretty obvious now that someone has pointed it out, but when you watched that movie, did you really care?

It’s best now to think of a movie when you did care that something wasn’t believable. I can find some recent examples but how about Prometheus where (sorry, spoilers) a character performs a cesarean on herself. The act of performing the operation is actually handled quite nicely, the problem however is that many people know someone who has had this operation, or they’ve had one themselves. Anyone who has will tell you that you aren’t going to be getting up and walking around anytime soon, let alone doing any heavy lifting. It’s a complete fail, for most of the films final moments the audience can’t get past this glaring plot hole and all of a sudden all the other smaller “fantasies” in the film become far more obvious and the veil that held back our disbelief comes shattering down.

It’s not just playing games with concepts audiences are already familiar with however that causes this problem, it can be a film that tries to be too clever. For an example of this, lets take the recent Total Recall remake. In this film a Train goes through the centre of the Earth, complete with windows that let you see the molten lava outside. This Train must “switch gravity” as it passes by the centre where you experience a brief moment of no gravity. Choking yet? You see, having a Train that goes through the Earth is not going to be met with disbelief in a film (although it should be) but adding the extras bits does. Could you imagine if Doc Brown from Back to the Future also had to explain to us that the DeLorean travelled through space as well? It’s just a step too far into the required information to suspend disbelief, it would have been better if this Train just didn’t attempt to address the Gravity issue (amongst others) at all.

Audiences want to forget about reality for the most part and will often only complain if something they generally know to be true is somehow altered without either reasonable explanation or a really good payoff. By this I mean, everyone knows what punching something does, but in an action movie everyone shelves this if the fight itself is enjoyable. What really gets me however is when a movies wants to try to be realistic and completely gets it wrong.  What’s the difference between Bruce Wayne having his back broken in The Dark Knight Rises only to be up and fighting a few months later than the two examples in this article so far? It’s simple … Batman didn’t let reality get in the way of a good story!

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When is a Sequel not a Sequel?

Sequels make for big business when it comes to movies. You might think to yourself “I want something original, not another sequel” … But box office takings prove you really do love those sequels. Hollywood doesn’t just make sequels however, they can remake entire movies or franchises, or better yet, go back to the beginning in a prequel. It’s all about taking something audiences spend up big on and trying to milk it for a lot more.

The latest in this bankable product conga line is Prometheus which isn’t just a prequel, it potentially has new sequels. Yes, you heard correctly … They can have sequels to prequels now … It’s happened with Star Trek, which was a remake as well as a prequel which had a plot that explains why all the current Trek movies are no longer valid allowing for all new Sequels. But Promtetheus goes one step further than that, the movie itself isn’t complete, it’s a prequel to a movie you haven’t seen yet, yes it will have a sequel (well at least it needs one).

The movie was marketed as a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 Alien. One look at the trailer for Prometheus and there is no way you couldn’t see the similarities between the two films. It even looks to have some answers to some of the mysteries of Alien. However, for anyone who has seen the movie, they would know it wasn’t a prequel at all. In fact the ending of Promtetheus is so far removed from the start of Alien that it raises even more questions instead of answering anything at all.

Before Prometheus was released its scriptwriter was talking about the idea of not just one but two sequels to the film. Yes you heard correctly, it seems when they wrote the script they had a larger plot arc in mind that they wanted to explore. So, for those who have seen the movie, you now know that last twenty minutes which answered nothing and raised even more questions was really just about laying the ground work for a second, and maybe third movie. Do you feel like a chump yet?

I don’t mind sequels, even though I prefer original stories, a good sequel (or prequel) is worth watching. What I don’t like is seeing a movie that isn’t a complete story. I don’t mind some sub-plots being unresolved, or an open ending that paves the way for more story, but I do mind the major story arc explored in a singular movie not even remotely coming to a conclusion.

The climax in Prometheus is a bit silly, you get to the moment where you expect the “why” to be explained and instead of answers, the stories mysterious Alien decides he’s rather punch someone in the head. It would be like getting to the end of The Empire Strikes Back and instead of Vadar revealing he’s Luke’s father, he just kicks him off that platform instead. It would have ruined that movie, it would have left you without that major revelation that gave the story some real weight.

Audiences shouldn’t have to wait for a sequel, or sequels of prequels, or remakes to explain the basics of a movie’s plot. Every film should be able to stand alone on a central story arc even if other elements remain unresolved and fodder for a sequel. Of course, this is a moot point really … We all know we’re going to fork out for Prometheus 2: Want to know what Prometheus was all about?

 

 

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The films of 2012

Critics like to have their top tens to look out for in the year to come. This is in some ways my top ten without being a top ten, because it’s not even the films I think will be the top films of 2012. Anyway it’s my thoughts on the films you should look out for this year.

The Hunger Games – 22 March

Based on a book, The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian future where a lottery selects 24 young citizens to complete to a fight to the death. If I didn’t know about the book I would probably stay clear given the plot description, but it is a very popular book and it should make a very decent movie at least.

 

Prometheus – 7 June

This is my first absolutely must see film for this year. The Ridley Scott Alien prequel that’s not strictly a prequel is the dark horse for film of the year! Set before the events of the first original Alien film, the crew of the Prometheus are searching for clues to our beginning, except what they find might be our end. The return of true Sci-Fi Horror is greatly anticipated!

 

The Dictator – 7 June

Sacha Baron Cohen is back! There really is no point telling you about this movie, just look up the trailer and watch. If you don’t like Sacha, you won’t like this. It remains to be seen if Sacha has still got it, because his last film wasn’t all that.

The Dark Knight Rises – 19 July

Well this is it. The film just about everyone will want to see. Can Christopher Nolan finish his Batman trilogy on a high? Was Bain the right choice as a villain? Will audiences even understand what he says? Regardless Nolan is the biggest name in Hollywood right now. Every actor wants to be in his movies and there is a very good reason for that. He delivers blockbusters with more depth and character than most films could ever hope to conjure, lets hope it continues.

 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 26 December

Part one of two, this is the prequel to Lord of the Rings, based on the book of the same name. It’s a wonderful story, and being split into two movies means they have likely kept most of the content. Will it be a good movie? Well, if Lord of the Rings is anything to go by it might just be the biggest movie of the year.

There are definitely more films to look out for this year, and I have no doubt that a number of unknown movies will surprise. It is by its nature a fact that only very well advertised films make a year-long list because usually smaller budget movies stay under the radar until close to release. Regardless, I have high hopes for the above.

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Prometheus trailer lands!

For anyone following the news on Ridley Scott’s new film Prometheus you will be very glad to know the trailer is finally here … and yes it is a Prequal to Alien, no doubt about it.

Scott still claims there are no actual Aliens in the movie, and that it is not specifically a Prequal but a new story. I’ll let you make up your own mind, but I cannot wait for it!

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