Too Many Movies! (Part Four)

We’re into the summer months now as we continue onwards with the films I saw for the first time in 2012…

61) The Woman in Black

…I though this and The Awakening were fine returns to old-fashioned horror films, not perfect but certainly promising moves, a change from the busty teens/gory torture-porn stuff that we have been inflicted with of late.  While marketing/box-office wise the casting of Daniel Radcliffe clearly paid off, aesthetically he was miscast, surely. It hurt the film. He’s not a bad actor, just too young and innocent-looking. What worked handsomely for the Harry Potter series rather misfires here.

62) The Artist

63) The Rum Diary

64) Run For The Money

65) Abduction

… incredibly silly vehicle for Taylor Lautner who plays a Teenager in Danger when he finds out his parents aren’t really his parents, and is caught up in some absurd spy mystery. Like Red Riding Hood, it’s a very silly movie for teens starring accomplished actors (Sigourney Weaver and Alfred Molina) slumming for money. I know its not at all aimed for people like me but God I hate rubbish like this.

66) The Goonies

…I know, I know, its years old but I never got around to watching it until Lovefilm sent me a Blu-ray rental copy. Alas, maybe it was its age, but it just didn’t click- what on earth was all the fuss about?

67) Rampart

68) Perfect Sense

69) The Dark Knight Rises

DKR gave Prometheus a run in the disappointment stakes. As is becoming increasingly evident, Chris Nolan crafts movies as efficiently as Stanley Kubrick did, but likewise fails to engender any sense of involvement or empathy. All the films he makes have great ideas and are easily admired but impossible to really love. DKR’s finale should have had me punching the air but it just left me detached and almost bored. Considering the talent Nolan has employed in the Batman films, The Prestige and Inception, only for all of them to fail to engage emotionally, leaves me pointing the finger of blame solely at Nolan. The man needs to get a heart.

71) Killer Elite

71) Justice

…yet another bad Nicolas Cage movie. How does he do it? At least I’ll probably never see another now that my Lovefilm rentals are over.

72) Once Upon A Time In Anatolia

73) Machine Gun Preacher

74) Iron Sky

… worst film of the year?

75) Money Ball

76) Coriolanus

77) Another Earth

… I really liked this one. Very similar to Melancholia but far less pretentious without any of that self-important art house crap that makes my blood boil.

78)  The Texas Killing Fields

79) The Raven

80) From Paris With Love

…and that’s titles 61-80 of my list. Getting awfully close to the big 100. Twenty films to go but we’re into September now and the Lovefilm rentals stopped in early November. Its going to be tight, I think…

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Too Many Movies! (Part Three)

And off we go with part three of my list of the films I have watched for the first time in 2012.

41) Hugo

42) War Horse

…these were two films that, were cinema prices fairer/lower than they are, I would have seen theatrically, as they really had my interest. Both films turned out to be very good. Hugo was a very endearing and beautifully-shot film. I imagine War Horse will become a Christmas holidays/Sunday afternoon TV staple someday. I don’t mean that as a criticism, it just seems to be what Spielberg was aiming for.

43) Trespass

…yet another really bad Nicholas Cage film. I don’t know how he picks ’em. And what has Nicole Kidman, one of my favourite actresses,  done to her face?

44) Contagion

45) The Deep Blue Sea

46) Whisperer in the Darkness

Whisperer is one of those fan-made movies based on HPL stories (they did Call of Cthulhu a few years back).  Considering its amateur origins its a very rewarding film, and looks beautiful on Blu-ray; its shot in b&w in the style of the Universal horror classics. The second half of the film, which takes a detour/expansion from the original story, doesn’t live up to first half but still, its very good, and I’d love to see more of these. Its the kind of low-budget-but-ambitious movie Hollywood doesn’t even attempt, even though you’d think it’d be easy in this digital age.

47) 30 Minutes Or Less

48) John Carter

… and here we go; John Carter. My favourite film of 2012 so far. I won’t go into why, as I’ve written plenty of times before on my blog about this film.  Suffice to say, I think its a wonderful movie, and in much the same way as Super 8, a marvellous love-letter to the decade of films I loved during the late seventies-early eighties.

49) The Wicker Tree

50) A Lonely Place To Die

…Melissa George in a thriller in the Scottish Highlands filmed partly in the town of Dingwall, where my wife and I holiday every year. That’s two thumbs up before it even starts. If anybody reading this even knows where Dingwall is, let me know, I’ll owe you a drink!

51) Prometheus

…I know I cut this film too much slack, but I maintain its not as bad as people make out. Just badly flawed with some really stupid plot-holes that, frustratingly, could have and should have been fixed in post. I dearly hope that the mooted sequel will finally live up to the hopes we had for this film. As it is, Prometheus is in my top-ten movies of the year but is also, without doubt, the biggest disappointment of the year. Had such high hopes for this film. Of course it was going to look stunning, and yes it had great ideas, just not enough of them, and too many bad ideas thrown in. There’s a reason why some films take three years or more to make, and this one is an example of why- it was just too rushed.

52) Repo Man

… caught this bit late in the day on Lovefilm Instant, quite enjoyed it.

53) Columbiana

54) Cars 2

55) Tyrannosaur

56) The Guard

57) We Need To Talk About Kevin

58) The Awakening

…one of the better horror films I have seen this year.

59) The Lady

60) In Time

… and that, folks, is a few more months of 2012 gone by, and well on the way to the big 100.

 

Too Many Movies! (Part Two)

So here we go with the second part of my list of films I have seen for the first time in 2012. After a decidedly mixed and uninspiring start of the year, things picked up a little a few months in…

21) The Skin That I Live In

22) Apollo 18

23) Warrior

24) Cave of the Secret Paintings

25) TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn

26) Drive

Apollo 18 was another of those ‘found-footage’ movies, a genre that seems to be stumbling towards a long slow death. Warrior I quite enjoyed, and TinTin was better than I expected. But Drive was really a surprise, a decidedly ‘cool’ piece of film-making that hit me between the eyes and remains one of my favourite films of the year. The retro-synth, 80s-style soundtrack was wonderful and I soon bought the CD on import. I’d have bought a Blu-ray copy of the film itself (I saw it on a Lovefilm rental) but read that a special edition release was intended for later and even a possible directors cut was mooted. Neither has transpired, alas, so I might as well have bought the film anyway- just thought I could avoid the usual double-dip. Well, I’m still hanging on, as it will no doubt get announced soon as I buy a copy. Great film though.

27) The Ides of March

28) Red Riding Hood

….ah, Red Riding Hood; what a disastrous mess of a teen-oriented horror flick hellbent on becoming another Twilight. Shocking how much acting talent went for the paycheck on this one. Gary Oldman, I’m looking at you, sir- where was your self-respect?

29) Fright Night

…another ill-advised remake to join a long list of ill-advised remakes of the past few years. No original ideas anymore?

30) 5 Days of War

31) Bad Teacher

32) The Reptile

33) Anonymous

…now, Anonymous I really quite enjoyed, indeed, the film is  for me probably this years greatest guilty pleasure. The premise is pretty daft (deriving from the old conspiracy theory that Shakespeare never actually wrote any of his stories, the true author lost to history) but the execution is rather enchanting. Mostly shot in a studio in Germany in front of green screen, it’s a remarkable-looking attempt to bring a lost world of history back to life. The fact that it was made by Roland Emmerich, more infamous for such ‘disaster epics’ as 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day etc. is simply astonishing. Has a great soundtrack too, resulting in another CD-R purchase from Amazon.com.

34) The Grey

…aha, one of my top-ten films of the year, without a doubt. Great movie. A film about Death. And dying. In the snow. Wonderful film. Another very good soundtrack too.

35) Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

36) Stakeland

…another very good film, and possibly in my 2012 top-ten. Imagine a zombie movie made by Terrence Malick and you’ve got what this film is like. Really need to buy a Blu-ray copy of this someday. And yep, a very good soundtrack too.

37) Age of Heroes

38) The Three Musketeers

39) Avengers Assemble

40) MI4: Ghost Protocol

Avengers Assemble, one of my rare cinema outings, proved to be a very enjoyable film. Its just seemed to ‘click’, no doubt because a lot of the learning-curve stuff had been done on the earlier standalone Marvel movies that led up to it. A lot of Studios could learn much from how Marvel has treated its properties over the past few years, although I confess to feeling a little wearisome of there being too many Superhero films these days (to the extent I didn’t bother seeing The Amazing Spiderman at the flicks).

So there you go, another twenty films. There plenty more to come, including my favourite film of 2012…

Too Many Movies! (Part One)

With due respect to Richards excellent 100 Films In A Year blog, here’s the start of my list of films I have seen (for the first time- it’s not counting films re-watched) during 2012. I’ve not drawn up a list like this before but this would seem to be the best time for it- we are nearing the end of 2012 and it also marks the fact that I’ve now cancelled my Lovefilm subscription, so I shouldn’t be seeing quite so many films in future! I guess I have decided that I’m seeing too many movies these days- its becoming such that the films are blurring in my memory, that my brain just can’t take in so many films anymore. I’ve recounted before the feeling that films are too disposable these days, that access to films now is just too much like sensory overload.  As a movie fan it might seem tantamount to heresy to be writing this, but its just too many movies. Its overkill.

So anyway, here’s the start of the list. Its chronological, starting from January with films I had bought me for Christmas last year. Just missing the list are Super 8 and the awful Conan reboot, both of which were presents I saw pre-New Year (for the record, Super 8 was a lovely film and Conan one I wished I had never seen at all, but at least it was a freebie).

1) Rise of the Planet of the Apes

2) Point Blank

3) Captain America

4) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (the David Fincher one)

5) The Adjustment Bureau

6) Transformers 3

7) Cowboys & Aliens

8) The Princess of Montpessier

9) Melancholia

10) Red State

11) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

12) Troll Hunter

13) I Am Number Four

14) The Descendants

15) NEDS

16) Extremely Close & Incredibly Loud

17) Priest

18) Fair Game

19) The Man Who Could Cheat Death

20) Real Steel

Well, that’s the first twenty. Looking at the list its clear there’s not really any ‘classics’ in there and to be honest there’s a few of them that I drew a complete blank with- I had to check titles for some of them against their IMDB entry to figure out what the films even were, suffering  a complete disconnect with the titles. As for the more easily accounted for, ROTPA and Captain America were ‘okay’ genre flicks that teased at better sequels. I thought Adjustment Bureau wasn’t bad, Melancholia truly dire pretentious rubbish. The others were all pretty ‘meh’ – all pretty disposable really, fairly harmless and forgettable.  I remember Priest for its very good Christopher Young soundtrack more than anything else.

Time to Reboot Star Wars?

Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just asking the question.

Thinking about Disney’s recent acquisition of the Star Wars brand and movies etc. it just made me wonder. I love the Original Trilogy and pretty much despair at the prequels-  so I should of course be as much worried as I am excited at the very idea of seeing another Trilogy of films.  But I got to thinking, are the OT films old hat, dated, boring to new generations?  Does the idea of a guy with a laser sword make current audiences yawn? Rightly or wrongly, it got me thinking, is it time for a Star Wars reboot?

After all, we live in an age where the Spider-man films got a sudden reboot after three very successful (well, financially at least) entries. The original creative team was axed and all the parts recast, with even the origin story being retold. Ang Lee’s Hulk was followed by a complete reboot, with new creative team, the parts recast. Likewise the Superman Returns, itself a reboot, is being followed by another reboot via next year’s Man Of Steel. It could be argued that Prometheus was itself  more a reboot of the Alien franchise than a ‘proper’ prequel to the original Alien.  J.J.Abrams’ reboot of the original Star Trek reset the entire timeline of a forty-plus-year franchise continuity, competely wiping the slate clean of an entire mythology. The James Bond series has been given a slow-motion reboot over the course of three entire films. We have seen several people playing Batman culminating with a huge paradigm shift via Christopher Nolan’s reboot, and I have no doubt that now Nolan has left the franchise another reboot won’t be far behind.

We live in the age of the reboot. A time when intellectual properties are rebuilt for new generations, archetypes redesigned and shaped to the tastes and aesthetic of new audiences. Technologies have moved on. Disney’s John Carter was, in my mind, a very fine Star Wars-type pulp adventure fairly faithful to its roots but was utterly ignored by the public and panned by the critical establishment.

The fate of John Carter would never be shared by a new Star Wars film simply because of the power of the intellectual property- failing any negative fallout from the prequels, a new Star Wars film simply cannot, will not fail. Even  The Phantom Menace in its recent 3D makeover picked up a tidy sum (utterly baffling me, but what the hell do I know?). But the response to John Carter, which to me was everything the prequels should have been, must be some cause for concern. Disney didn’t buy Star Wars with some strange idea to make a fast buck with a new sure-thing Trilogy. Disney are surely in this for the long haul. Fifty years from now if physical media still exists, people might be buying a Star Wars box set as big as the new Bond 50 set.

So with Disney now relaunching Star Wars, is there a temptation to just go with a clean slate and reboot the whole thing? Now clearly that won’t be happening, as it seems the studio has story treatments from Lucas indicating a continuation of the saga post-Jedi. But would Disney be wiser just rebooting the whole thing rather than continuing it? Heresy for all fans like me, yes, but looking at how the industry has operated these past ten years with all the reboots etc, does it make sense to rebuild the saga for a new generation, as all those other franchises and intellectual properties have been? Is Star Wars too old, is there any life left in Sith and Jedi and droids and Ewoks and Wookies as they currently exist, when audiences have been wowed by Matrix films and Avatar?  Has Lucas wisely flogged off a tired franchise at the perfect time, at a price above what its worth?

Afterall, James Cameron is working on another two Avatar films, a franchise that might be cannily described as a Star Wars saga for the new generation. Just as Lucas cannibalised historical themes and characters and situations from earlier sci-fi like Flash Gordon and John Carter, as well as Dune and Lord of The Rings, so did James Cameron with Avatar. Neither franchise is particularly original, instead building on earlier works and genres. Many of the Star Wars archetypes and functions exist in Cameron’s universe (for instance the mooted return of Sigourney Weaver’s character in Avatar 2 is surely a nod to Ben Kenobi’s return in TESB). In a decade of two new Avatar films, will Star Wars still cut the mustard?

From an artistic and fanboy standpoint, the very idea of a Star Wars reboot must sound like heresy  but from a business standpoint, does it actually make more sense than simply going on with Episodes 7, 8 and 9?

Should a new, rebooted Star Wars start, pre- A New Hope, with Darth Vader kicking ass and hunting down Jedi post-Empire’s rise? Should a new generation of rebels challenge the evil Empire? Should the ‘classic’ story be retold with new technologies, new cast, newly designed worlds and cg-characters? Would that sell easier to a new generation with its smartphones, tablets and ipods and Facebook accounts?

Does that beloved Original Trilogy still have a place in this new world that feels so distant from the 1970s that gave it birth? Is Lucas stepping aside his own admission of that?

 

 

From VHS to Blu- progress?

Back in the bad old days of fuzzy VHS with its dodgy reds and pan and scan on SD cathode-ray tubes, I recall being quite happy with my lot. Just owning one of my favourite films on tape seemed a godsend, back then I seemed to enjoy the film for what it was. You’d buy a film on VHS and play it, and barring tracking issues and drop-outs would enjoy it. Of course there was this fragility thing going on- keep it away from damp or heat or magnetic fields and know that as you kept on re-watching it you were physically wearing the bloody thing out. I still own my first VHS copy of Blade Runner (the big-box version- and if you know what that means then kudos to you) though of course even if I still had a VHS player I’d think more than twice about risking playing it after so many years (if I get chance I’ll take a pic of it to post here sometime soon).

There was something about Blade Runner on pan and scan VHS, all those bright colours and odd reds and low contrast, low-res murkiness. It had a certain kind or organic ‘look’ that further editions perhaps lost. Of course not being widescreen it played a weird havoc with Ridley Scott’s original composition of the frame. But kinda cool as I remember through the rose-tinted glasses of my memory.

But anyway, what I’m getting at isn’t really to do with Blade Runner, its regards VHS tape and old formats compared to what we have now with HD movies on Blu-ray. I used to buy films without being too concerned about DNR, edge-enhancement, sample rates, etc. I just enjoyed the films for what they were. Nowadays though its getting to be a nightmare. Reviews online dissect aspect ratios, transfers, restoration, edge-enhancement, DNR… forums wild with personal opinions based on different audio-visual equipment and preferences, its something of a minefield. Its not just about the movies themselves anymore.

This week I finally cancelled my pre-order for the Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection on Blu-ray, which is due here in the UK in the next week or so. It wasn’t something I did lightly- I’d deliberated over it for several weeks. Originally set to be released in September, it was delayed at almost the last minute after someone reviewing check-discs highlighted picture quality problems and mistyped text on the redone titles for Frenzy (it makes you wonder what kind of quality-control Universal has, and how much care the project received at all). Well, the Frenzy titles got fixed but of course there was no time for the other issues to be addressed. Now that the set has seen release in foreign territories the problematic issues with the quality of titles in the set has been confirmed by various sources.

Now clearly this is all, partly at least, fan-boy hysteria- I’m open to the view that much of the negativity is overblown . Many people buying the set will be ignorant of many of the problems and will enjoy the films in HD- for the most part the films must surely look the best they ever have. Which is what I’m getting at when looking back on those VHS days. We’ve never had it so good as we have it now. Films look better, sound better and last forever (or as long a the format lasts, so maybe nothing there has really changed).  But with HD etc we are in a world where the films are analysed so much, and so much is expected.  For myself, I finally decided that £100 was too much to invest in a collection containing some (apparently) seriously dodgy transfers, shoddy or poorly-budgeted restoration work and half-hearted supplements. At the end of the day, I feel Hitchcock’s films deserved better and I’m voicing that with my wallet. Vertigo is one of my very favourite films and is one of the better-quality titles in the set, but the extras are pretty much what has been seen before and is even missing a (previously-released on DVD) commentary track. Buying it for a tenner on its own might have been ok, but as part of such an expensive set with so many issues it just seemed too much. It’s disappointing  as I was really looking forward to watching Vertigo and Rear Window in HD this Autumn. For some weeks now the limited-edition set was sold out on Amazon, but enough of us have recently cancelled pre-orders for the set to be available again for awhile. I see now that its sold out again. Maybe the issues don’t bother most people, maybe most people simply aren’t aware- in any case people  seem to be still buying it so I dare say Universal and Amazon are quite content.

So anyway, part of my decision, right or wrong, was the existence of the Bond 50 set- a Blu-ray collection of all 22 James Bond films. I’d already decided that, with Christmas expenses coming up and budgets tight, I’d only treat myself to one such boxset this Autumn. It came down between the Hitchcock and Bond sets as I’d put off the Indiana Jones set until the New Year and its inevitable discounting, and I’d originally picked the Hitchcock as I just prefer those films. So anyway, the isues with the Hitchcock sets transfers etc pretty much swung it, and the fact that the Bond set is actually cheaper rather helped too.

That said, forums have it that there are problems with the Bond set too- apparently not so drastic but it does make it all so bewildering and somewhat nostalgic for the days of VHS. I received the Bond set yesterday so haven’t watched any of the films yet, but the packaging certainly looks rather impressive, which helps to make me think I made the right decision. Well, watching all the Bond movies in HD over the next few weeks should be a fine way to spend the dark cold nights ahead.  Think I’ll watch them in chronological order. There’s a few of them I’ve never actually seen, and most others only maybe once or twice on TV many years ago.

But you know, back when I bought the various editions of Blade Runner or The Abyss or Heat or whatever, I just enjoyed the films. I didn’t pay too much attention to the picture quality, it was just what it was. Of course I’d prefer ( and pay extra for) widescreen versions, but the film was, finally, the thing. Nowadays it really isn’t just about the film. We have gained so much only to be confused by so much. Would I have really enjoyed the Hitchcock set?Would I have been aware of all the issues hadn’t I read of them online?  Will I notice anything particularly wrong with any of the Bond movies? You know, I don’t really know.