25 March 2010

We Need to Talk About Timothy

Let's take a look at the film-making career of Tim Burton shall we?

I'd rather we didn't

This is the first in a series of waffles dedicated to the career of an individual director who I'd like to talk about. The focus will be on their directed features rather than any television, short films or producing work they may or may not have done.

So I thought I'd talk about the ups and downs of Tim Burton and the films he has made. This particular bit of waffle will focus mostly on his work as a feature director rather than his production work. Partially because it's the rules, and partially because The Nightmare Before Christmas is the best thing he's put his name to bar none and to compare his other work to it is a silly exercise so we won't.
Let's move on yes?

This guy likes it too

To begin...

Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

Now, I have to admit I didn't see this until very recently. Well, not entirely. I saw a chunk of it when I was younger but never really got around to sitting down and watching the full film so I finally did it. And guess what, I loved it!

Oh stawp

Pee Wee's Big Adventure by all accounts should not work. Or at least, should not have such wide appeal. It's very rare that a manchild character (especially one as giggly, energetic and gurning as Pee Wee) is not irritating and annoying to the core. Pee Wee manages to be fun and hilarious and silly in a completely enjoyable way. I don't know what the formula is but Burton and Reubens (Pee Wee) cracked it with this movie.

Thumbs up for Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

Beetle Juice (1988)

Funny, IMDB seems to insist this is called "Beetle Juice" but I've always thought it was "Beetlejuice". I usually tend to trust IMDB with stuff like this so I took a look at the cover:


Ok...hmm... well then. Still, I'll stick with IMDB on this. It's usually best to trust it as an authority.
Anyway, yes! I think this might actually be my favourite of Burton's works. Aside of course for the aforementioned Nighmare Before Christmas. I watched the animated series a lot when I was a kid. (I notice IMDB has gone with "Beetlejuice" for that! Hmmm.) This was the early 90s though, when everything seemed to have an animated series based on it. I really liked that show as a kid. I haven't seen it lately, I wonder if it holds up. Anyway, I was aware that there was a film version and one day the TV started advertising that it would be on. So of course we taped it and I watched it endless times.

I really like Beetle Juice! (That still looks wrong to me.) The signature Burton spooooky German expressionist influenced design feels very natural here. It's actually tied to the plot quite well. The atmosphere and music compliment each other perfectly, far more successfully than any of his other films I think, except perhaps Batman. And of course Michael Keaton is on fire as the title character. It's rare that a zaaany eccentric character like this makes a film as much as the producers would like to think. But here it really works. He's funny, hypnotic, intriguing and sinister. Completely lovable without ever losing his status as the villain. That isn't to say the film would survive without the rest of the cast. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are brilliant as the innocent leads. Winona Ryder gives a great mopey performance. Glenn Shaddix is hilarious, Jeffrey Jones is a great as the suffering husband and Catherine O'Hara is BRILLIANTLY obnoxious. This is a great cast!

Oh, and let's not forget...


Thumbs up for Beetle Juice.

Batman (1989)

Let me start with a metaphor:

If I take this image of Batman...
...and then lighten it...
...and then decide to darken it again...
...it is not the same image I started with.

This is how I see Tim Burton's version of Batman.
Hey, look. When I was young I did like it. I actually saw Batman Returns first believe it or not. Videos and TV and the like. I watched this film many times. But I've grown up now, and I've learned plenty since.

Looking at it now, I like a lot of the imagery. I like the music, I like some of the design. I think Jack Nicholson did a really good job and I quite like Michael Keaton's performance too. But guess what. It ain't Batman. I'm sorry, but it's not. You can argue preference, success, enjoyment etc. until your face turns blue. But if you tell me that is Batman up there you're wrong. There is one big reason for this. Batman doesn't kill people. Burton's Batman does. You could argue that I'm being picky here. That I'm not jumping on the difference of design from comic book to screen. I'm not against the origin stories changing, or the fact that the Joker's past is clearly defined. But I really think my problem is a fair one. I consider it to be a fundamental aspect of the character. When he's boiled down, this is what he's about. As fundamental as Superman flying or Spider-Man climbing walls. If you're not including them then why make the film?

For me it comes down to arrogance. It feels that Burton has not followed the two Rs of comic book adaptation: Research & Respect. (Yes I just made those up.) He seems to have followed some Rs of his own: Rudeness & Relentless getting Batman wrong. To me, it appears that Burton was never a reader of the comics. Which is fine, but upon being given the film to direct he made no effort to research and get to the bottom of the character and instead relied on his own experience which was the 60s Adam West TV series. Rather than exploring the darkness of the original source material, he opted to darken the lightened image from the TV show. No research of the character and no respect for the fans.

If you could fit a few
puns in here that'd be great

Thumbs down for Batman.

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

The one that started his relationship with Johnny Depp. A good start it was! Edward Scissorhands is top stuff. Frankenstein meets suburban America meets Cesare from The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari. A lot of Burton's work meets The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari though.

I think he likes this movie

While Edward Scissorhands does feature Tim Burton's story telling flaws. In that, he has trouble holding a story together. Think about it for a second. His films tend to be quite fragmented and don't have a strong story arc to them. Some of them flourish in this environment and some of them die. Edward Scissorhands doesn't flourish as much as some of his other work, but it certainly holds up.

Despite story problems, I really love this. The painted skies and pastel colours work really well against the inky black context of Edward. Depp's broken innocent performance is heartbreaking and again, everyone here is bringing their A game. I particularly like Dianne West as Peg and Vincent Price's brief part. The scene of his death and the ending of the film are both truly beautiful. Really great.

I was in it too

Thumbs up for Edward Scissorhands.

Batman Returns (1992)

Let me start with a metaphor:

If I take this image of Batman...
...and then lighten it...
...and then decide to darken it again...
...it is not the same image I started with.

Well, this may be the first Tim Burton film I ever saw. Possibly... who knows, I can't actually remember for sure. It's definitely one of the first. I borrowed the tape from my cousin and I liked it back then and there's elements I like now. It still contains (and magnifies) the big problem I have with his first Batman film. It's not Batman. You might say I'm being too harsh with this but really I don't think I am. Anyway, this movie is a weird one I think. I probably prefer it to the first one. Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman is very good and very close to the character. I like Danny DeVito's Penguin despite him being horrifying and twisted beyond belief. Most bizarre really is probably the inclusion of Christopher Walken playing a character named after this guy:

Wait... are you telling me
Tim Burton is a fan of
German Expressionist film?!

Now I like Christopher Walken a lot (who doesn't!?) but I find his character in this film a little bizarre. Mostly because his costume and hair are so unbelievably ridiculous he's impossible to take seriously as a scary villain.

I'll eat your fucking children

And this brings me to my main issue with this film. Burton's German expressionist film influences are far too overstated here. It's dizzying to watch. Also the whole penguin crap makes no bloody sense. There are things I like and things I don't. And also Batman jokes about killing people. Not cool.

Thumbs shaky for Batman Returns.

Ed Wood (1994)

Edward Woodenhands

Edward D. Wood Jr. Affectionately called the worst filmmaker of all time. His most famous work is the science-fiction horror Plan 9 from Outer Space. A classic in awful ridiculously bad cinema. But charming nonetheless.

Burton's tribute to his legacy is great. While it provides giggles (it's hard not to laugh at some of the crazy notions Wood had) it never looks down on its central character and depicts him as a character of pure optimism. Johnny Depp returns and does a good job as the strange man but the real star here is Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi. Some of Landau's scenes are genuinely moving and the film acts as a loving tribute to a true horror legend who was cast aside when Hollywood had no more use for him.

Bela Lugosi's Dead

Also Bill Murray's always a good idea.

Thumbs up for Ed Wood.

Mars Attacks! (1996)

Burton's love of Plan 9 from Outer Space is clearly influencing the design of this film. The Martian spaceships and gadgets are heavy with inspiration from 1950s and 1960s science-fiction. I find that people often don't like this film. Not really sure why. Sure it's got Burton's classic story problems. After the Martians arrive, the story stops. But hey, there's a lot to like. The Martians themselves are hilarious, as is Jack Nicholson. I love Michael J. Fox and Annette Bening and the fact that they're eventually destroyed by horrible country crooning is just the right amount of silly. Yes!

I had nothing to do with it

Interesting trivia. I read somewhere once. I can't guarantee it's true but I still like it. Supposedly the original plan for Mars Attacks! was to give it a Christmas release and this is why all the human skeletons are either green or red when they're killed. Adds a festive touch don't you think?

Thumbs up for Mars Attacks!

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

I saw this thing years ago and to be perfectly honest. I barely remember it. It's hard for me to tell you if it's good or not because of how little memory I have of it. Maybe the fact that I have such difficulty remembering anything says something about its entertainment value.

The main thing I remember is that Christopher Walken didn't look scary at all in the flashback sequences when he had a head. Christopher Walken is scary on his own. When he's done up to look like a monster that scariness is diminished. He just comes out looking silly.

I'll eat your fucking children

Thumbs uncertain for Sleepy Hollow.

Planet of the Apes (2001)

Or as I like to call it "Planet of the Terrible Fucking Film"
Seriously, I hate this. As far as I'm concerned this is Burton's worst film. I saw this before I saw the original film so no claim can be made that while watching it I was forever comparing it to the superior classic. I just felt the ball was dropped on every level. So much of this makes literally no sense. The story and characters are a complete mess, the dialogue is laughable and the ending is a supreme moment of pushing a mystery too far.

I found it offensive

Speaking of the ending actually, this video should be watched. I obviously don't think Burton stole the ending but it gives a good insight into his arrogance and foolishness (especially when it comes to Batman.) Watch:

Eh? Eh!?
But yeah, while I do like Mark Wahlberg and Helena Bonham Carter I do think they sucked in this. The only person not dropping the ball is probably Tim Roth but even still it's so badly written it doesn't make a difference. As well as all this, I think the amount of work put into teaching the actors move like real apes worked in detriment to the final piece as a lot of the characters just seem silly the way they move. It doesn't work. Maybe this time Burton did too much research. Who knows.

The worst part though, by a long shot, is the inclusion of this asshole:

Dammit Chuck!

Charlton Heston has a brief cameo in this film. Now, I'm not against giving him a cameo per se but it turned out to be one of the most offensive things in it. He plays the Tim Roth's old dying father whom Roth approaches for advice. What does Ol' Chuck suggest? Oh, take this amazing super tool that is brilliantly powerful and fantastic and will help you win:

It's a gun

This is wonderful considering at the time of filming, Charlton Heston was the president of the National Rifle Association of America.

Apparently so

Thanks Chuck. Thanks a bunch. I'm glad you're dead.

Thumbs down down down for Planet of the Apes.

Big Fish (2003)

More entertaining than this thing,
believe it or not!

First time I saw Big Fish was for an essay on utopia in college. I knew a little bit about the film and knew it had certain utopian themes so I gave it a rent. My essay was terrible but the film was great! I really like Ewan McGregor and the visuals were strangely reminiscent of Pee Wee's Big Adventure. This is a good thing.

What you get here is a prime example of Tim Burton using his weaknesses as well as his strengths well. His story telling problems are catered for by structuring the film in such a way that it doesn't matter and, in fact, helps the film breathe.

I honestly don't have a whole lot to say on this one except that I really like it and consider it an exception to my general view that Tim Burton's later work is not as interesting as his earlier work.

Thumbs up for Big Fish.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

As we're getting closer to the end I'm finding I have less and less to say. partially because I don't think these later films resonate nearly as much as the earlier ones, and as well as that I have far fewer personal stories to go with them. I went to the cinema. Wahey!!

And then I got popcorn!!!

Which brings me to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Earlier I said I don't remember Sleepy Hollow well. With Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I do remember most of it, it just doesn't interest me much. This film is very unremarkable. Oh look there's the Oompa Loompas. There's the bit with the blueberry. Oh he fell in the chocolate river I remember that. It's just a film that begs the question of its own existance. The book and the original adaptation are so much more exciting and interesting to experience, this just sits as a sub-par version of both.

Part of the problem is that Burton's design elements are too unwieldy. It makes sense that Wonka's factory is full of wonder and fantastical rooms and crazy goings on. So when the outside world is all quirky and bizarre and strange, Wonka's factory just feels like more of the same. Why are the characters so taken aback by it? Their lives are like this all the time.

Oh great, another
Oompa Loompa song

I both like and dislike Depp in this one. I see what he's doing but it gets old pretty fast I must say. Also there's the huge plothole of his teeth. If he ran away from hom when he was a small boy because he hated his father's dentistry then how come his teeth are so perfectly veneered? Surely he'd have avoided dentists since? Eh? Think about it!

Thumbs down for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Corpse Bride (2005)

So yeah I remember this one coming out and all. There was some buzz about it due to it being animated and as previously mentioned, The Nightmare Before Christmas is the best thing he's ever done. The difference is though, he didn't directe The Nightmare Before Christmas, and he was directing Corpse Bride... I guess that difference matters.

I don't think it matters

Now, I did enjoy it to some degree. There's some fun to be enjoyed and Richard E. Grant is perfectly pompous as the villain. The problem here is the charm seems to have been lost somewhere along the way. Yeah the animation is incredibly adept (apart from the running, I mean, man) but that's not enough. A rough edge goes a long way and the edges of this are smoothed to a fault. Not only that but the story is all over the place. A complete mess! At the end of the day I think the mark was admirable but was still missed.
Thumbs down for Corpse Bride.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

This one took me a while to see. When it came out all the advertising just made it seem so Tim Burton by numbers. You have your kooky haired lead (played by Johnny Depp). You have Helena Bonham Carter playing a spooky lady and you have darkness and fancy design. Bob Byrne once wrote a comic talking about how much he hates when pop-punk bands cover classic songs as the whole process is redundant. If you think to yourself "Green Day covering House of the Rising Sun" you automatically hear it in your head. You don't need them to make it, you know how it sounds. A friend of mine who saw Sweeney Todd before me used that comic to describe it. "Just think to yourself 'Tim Burton directing Sweeney Todd' and you know what it's like." So I watched it. And he was right.

That isn't to say it's a wholly bad thing. It's just, predictable. The only real surprise for me was Sacha Baron Cohen's performance as the rival barber. But only because he was far more comical and bizarre than I thought he would be. I expected Sacha Baron Cohen to defy expectations... but he didn't. It was unexpected.

Have you ever seen
Ali G Indahouse?

It holds together though and I wouldn't put it as a black mark on his career. Just not a particularly interesting mark.

Thumbs sideways for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

And finally we come to Tim Burton's adaptation remake reimagining version of Alice in Wonderland. This one I saw on the day of release and there was (and still is) a lot of buzz in the air (and on the sides of buses) about it. So of course I rushed to see it.

The only word to describe Burton's Alice in Wonderland is underwhelming. I found it overdesigned and lacking a necessary substance. It felt to me to be a showreel for costume designers and visual effects artists. But allow me to explain some other issues I had...

The biggest one is the title. If you've watched the film you'll know that the narrative takes place after the time of the original story. Whether it's referring to the book or original Disney film as canon is unexplained, but also unimportant. The film is essentially and adaptation of the poem Jabberwocky re-appropriated as a sequel to Alice in Wonderland. So, with that in mind, why is it called Alice in Wonderland?! It almost implies that the intent is to replace the original story and/or film and if that is the case it's just plain offensive. A different title is needed. Thanks.

The other small issue I had was toward the end when Alice prepares to face the mighty Jabberwocky (incorrectly named I might add) he flies towards her in a big scary way, ready for the epic battle that the entire film has been leading up to. And then... he speaks!? With Christopher Lee's voice...? This completely jarred me in the cinema, I burst out laughing because it felt completely out of place for the creature to suddenly show such clear consciousness and intelligence. Why is he fighting her physically? From the way he speaks it seems like he'd destroy her in chess. Ill-advised I must say. Although not as ill-advised as the dance the Mad Hatter performs right afterwards. What was that? That jarred me further.

But hey it's not all bad. The cast I quite liked, apart from Crispin Glover's poor English accent. I really like him but that accent was dire. All the voice cast were great especially Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat. In particular I liked Alice. I've been a fan of Mia Wasikowska ever since her role in the first season of In Treatment. She was darn good. I really liked her performance as Alice. She gave it just the right amount of distance to keep us intrigued but was engaging enough to keep our trust. Brillo.

But that's not enough to save it. All in all I felt the film never really justified itself to me.

Thumbs mostly down for Alice in Wonderland.

That's the last guy who
dissed him on the internet

So that's all the films he's already made. But what about the future. There's talk of a film called Dark Shadows, an adaptation of the gothic soap opera of the same name. There's also been mention of a feature length animated adaptation of his short film Frankenweenie that has been circulating for years. I began writing this believing that Burton was planning to make a new film of The Addams Family but these rumours have since been proven false. So never mind all that.

You can put those away

What needs to be said though is, when you look at this overview, Burton is clearly far stronger when working on either original screenplays or working with something that's not as well known/liked/loved. I don't think it's simply a case of the inevitable comparisons that arise when a remake or adaptation of a classic occurs. I truly feel Burton's skills have lacked at these projects. I look forward to Dark Shadows because it is his first film in a while that the audience isn't expected to have a certain amount of knowledge about the source material. I'm also interested in Frankenweenie but that could be just because I have a soft spot for animation (could be something to do with having a degree in it, I don't know.) It also helps when he's not so damn arrogant.

Burton, I haven't written you off completely yet... but be careful alright?

16 March 2010

Do Not Want

George Lucas needs to fucking stop.

Leave Star Wars alone!

Warning! This thing's full of Star Wars spoilers!

I recently read that George Lucas plans to re-release the Star Wars films in 3D format. Now, I realise that this article is far from new but I have no doubt that this project will eventually go ahead. This is the type of guy George Lucas is. This is irritating for a number of reasons.

Now, I'll start by explaining my own Star Wars history in hopes of giving some context to why I'm not happy about this.

Actually, before I do that I'll just give a very quick basic timeline of Star Wars for those not in the know:

The Original Trilogy
The story of Luke Skywalker and his quest along with the Rebel Alliance to destroy the evil Galactic Empire and the scary villain Darth Vader.

(Title later changed to Episode IV - A New Hope)
These films were re-released theatrically with new scenes, special effects tweaked and a lot of new CGI characters and backgrounds were added.
These films were released for the first time on DVD featuring even more changes including updates of the original CGI changes. 

The Prequel Trilogy
The story of Anakin Skywalker and how he began as a young slave child in the desert eventually growing up to be the scary villain Darth Vader.


So anyway...

I found Star Wars when I was about 9-10 years old. I don't remember ever hearing about it for the first time. Return of the Jedi was originally released theatrically 3 years before I was born. So obviously I'm not even close to being part of the original generation of fans nor do I claim to be. In fact, I feel that my love of the first 3 films only goes to show how great and important those films are as someone like me can plug into the excitement years later.

I am seriously into Chewbacca

Anyway, I remember a point in my life when I was about 9 or 10 when I started thinking "Hmmm, yeah actually. I should give that Star Wars thing a look." I remember knowing my older cousin was into them and one of my old VHS movies had a trailer for the home video release of the original saga on it. I must have seen that trailer a hundred times. Don't remember what film it preceded, funny that.

My brothers and I rented all three films from Xtra-Vision over a period of a few weeks. There wasn't much to surprise us in all honesty, by osmosis or whatever we knew most of the key plot points. But nevertheless we loved them. Now, this would have been around 1995-1996. I can't quite remember the exact time period, but I do know this, I did actually start with the original untouched trilogy. Without any of the controversial changes or dickery that have infamously peppered the movies since. (Yeah, I know there were some small changes, but nothing so serious and vast as was to come). But yes, I find it interesting that we just managed to catch them right at the end of their run. Of course I wasn't aware of this at the time and I'm not trying to say anyone who started with the 1997 re-releases is any less of a fan than I am. I just think it's interesting in retrospect.

I'm a real fan

Now, after viewing (or perhaps before) I saved up my pocket money and purchased an issue of Star Wars magazine from a local shop. I was genuinely fascinated. It had a big C-3PO head on the front and was filled with articles and interviews about the world of Star Wars. You may be thinking "but the movies were nearly 20 years old at this stage. How much could they possibly have to write about." Fair point, but this is just it. This particular issue was filled with information and speculation about the upcoming re-releases. Ooooh! These were exciting times for a new fan of the trilogy!

In 1997 me and my two bestest buds ventured to the cinema and saw the whole trilogy in all of their Special Edition glory. Now, we were 11-12. So, we didn't give a shit about the extra stuff. The changes. As far as we were concerned, more was good. I don't want to claim I hurled my popcorn at the screen and stormed out in disgust the moment Greedo shot first.

That's not fucking Mos Eisley!

After this my brother got his hands on the VHS boxset. We watched the shit out of those. Our preference usually lay on Return of the Jedi (we were idiots. Obviously The Empire Strikes Back is the superior film.) We owned the toys, we knew the music and characters, we played with our lightsabers. It was a beautiful time but an even more exciting horizon drew near...

Ok so, I can't remember the first time I heard about the Star Wars prequels going into production. Due to the nature of these things I may have heard about it before I ever saw a Star Wars film in a cinema but I really don't think it was before I ever saw a Star Wars film full stop. It is possible though. Anyway, hype levels were strong. I was caught up in all the buzz and build up. When I sat in that cinema when The Phantom Menace was (finally) released, I was ready to be fed some Star Wars. And it was great!

Jar Jar is cool!

Ok obviously it wasn't great. It was awful. But I didn't know that at the time. I loved it then. There's no point in pretending otherwise. But really for little 13 year old me it was more an exercise in being able to spot the references rather than actual merit of filmmaking. I didn't know shit. Now, you could argue "Ya but if a kid enjoys it surely that's all that matters?" And you'd have something resembling a point. Problem is though, it's a mess. It doesn't hold up to the longevity, quality or even continuity of the original films. Not only that but it's an insult to the intelligence of the fans.

If you want a properly detailed analysis of the nonsensical insanity of The Phantom Menace I suggest you spend 70 minutes watching this YouTube playlist. He sums it up better than I ever could. Go ahead, watch it... I'll wait:

Three years later, I was beginning to mature. The cracks began exposing themselves. I went to see Attack of the Clones and while I wasn't completely aware of the stream of rubbish being pedalled before me, one giant factor was apparant: Hayden Christensen was beyond a joke. This was the kind of bad acting that wasn't a matter of opinion. He was genuinely cringe-inducing. This was worrying.

Roll forward another 3 years and I'm graduating secondary school. A big ceremony, dinner and night out were enjoyed. We couldn't party too hard though, there was a new Star Wars film coming out the next day! A group of friends and I ventured to the cinema first thing in the morning to gaze at Revenge of the Sith.

This is me right after seeing it.
You can see it in my eyes probably.

At this stage the joke had worn off. None of us expected anything from this film.We knew that Wooden Christenwood was still in it so there was no way it could be genuinely good. But there was a point towards the end where a glimmer of hope arrived. After turning to the Dark Side, Anakin had been badly injured by Obi-Wan. He needed some sort of life support system. A cyborg suit... This was the moment we had been waiting for. The suit was on. The breathing echoed. James Earl Jones was in... and...

FUCK OFF!! There's almost some sort of argument defending this scene. The moment on screen was an accurate depiction of our emotions upon seeing the moment itself. George Lucas had created some sort of new type of meta-art. But obviously that's bollocks.

The epilogue of course is that a couple of years ago I went to see The Clone Wars film and it was a bucket of piss.

Not even worth a paragraph I'm afraid.

Now, that's done with. Let's get to the point shall we?

Firstly, the prequels were terrible. There was no need for them. Simply having them exist damages a lot of the mystery of the original films. But if you really have to make these films, at least make them good. Is that so much to ask?

More importantly, Lucas' changes to the original series. Now, these have been very controversial, a lot has been said and written about them. There's probably even more to say but I'm not here to give a scene by scene rant about what I hate about the new stuff. Fundamentally I have no real problem with them. Now that isn't to say I don't think each and every one of them is awful. But the idea of tweaking and adjusting your film is understandable. Ridley Scott has famously made various adjustments to Blade Runner over the years. Eventually releasing The Final Cut in 2007. Why am I not attacking Scott's new adjustments of his classic film? Well, partially because his changes aren't sickening. But mainly because (and here's my main beef) Scott has made every single version along the way available on DVD. This is a serious difference. If we want to watch the original untouched versions of Star Wars episodes IV, V and VI we're only given a low quality DVD transfer as a bonus disc on the Star Wars 2004 version DVDs. Clearly reluctantly placed there after the fact due to humongous fan insistance. (Those who want the 1997 versions are screwed. There's no DVD version at all!) What it comes down to is selfishness. Lucas has decided his way is the one way and no one should be allowed a different option. Why can't Lucas just give us, as fans, the choice to watch whichever version we want? Given that it is fan loyalty that has allowed him the freedom to make these adjustments over the years.

Because he's Bib Fortuna now.

The news of the 3D re-releases annoys me because it made me realise that this will never stop. The 3D versions will no doubt feature more changes, as well as the inevitable Blu-Ray release. Rather than create innovations with ever changing technology, George Lucas would rather clumsily update his old films forever in order to appear on the brink of technology. And he didn't even direct 2 of the films. George, you stopped being a Star Wars fan a long time ago, please leave us alone.

14 March 2010

Trailer Alert

Too many trailers reveal too much information.

I saw the trailer for this orange and it spoiled it.

Warning! By nature of the topic, this post will most likely contain spoilers for certain films mentioned. I'll do my best to flag all of them and keep them separate so you can still read the parts that don't involve the films you haven't seen yet.

Shutter Island

So I recently went to see Shutter Island (here's what I thought). While I certainly enjoyed it and found it to be well made, the end of the film was obvious. In fact, it was so obvious, I saw it coming from the trailer. Seriously you guys! I first saw the Shutter Island trailer about 6 years ago and as I watched I was thinking "ok cool, Scorsese, interesting, DiCaprio, good, Kingsley, spooky" but then once DiCaprio uttered the line "What she seems to be suggesting, is that you have a 67th patient" I immediately said to myself "DiCaprio is the 67th patient." This moment was followed by a montage of DiCaprio's character clearly hallucinating and experiencing high levels of stress, in case there was any doubt in our minds as to the ending of the film. I went into the cinema 2 days ago hoping I was wrong. I wasn't. What up with that?

Turns out he's Jesus

Sure it's not the most blatant example I can think of, in fact if I hadn't seen it coming from the trailer, I'd have picked up on it pretty fast while watching the film, but it's still irritating. The worst offender I think I've seen (and I invite you to show me worse) is Soylent Green...

Now, I've never actually seen Soylent Green. I admit it! But I've known the ending for a while due to its legendary nature and it's mentioning in various TV shows when I was growing up. Not least of which is the Simpsons.

I'm disappointed too

But it's not their fault! If any of them had seen a trailer for Soylent Green before it came out they'd have had it ruined too! Take a look at this damn thing:

Soylent Green

The trailer does a pretty great job of building up the suspense and intrigue. As an audience member you're sitting in the cinema thinking "ooooh, interesting. I wonder what the hell Soylent Green is! I'm definitely going to go see that, if only to find out the answer!" But hey folks, don't fret! We'll tell you now! At around the 2:40 mark, we know what Soylent Green is. Gee, thanks guys!

Dammit Chuck!

Here's another suck ass example:


Not only does it give away the opening twist, but if you're going to see this film for the scary tense scenes where the masked villain chases Christopher Guest's wife with a blade, do you really want all those scenes shown to you before you've seen the movie. If you went to see Halloween after seeing the trailer, everytime something happened you'd just say to yourself "Oh, here's that bit." If I were John Carpenter and I was shown this trailer in the editing room I'd have just said "Don't you show anyone this goddamn trailer"

Seriously, if anyone sees this, you're fired.

Now that trailer brings me to my next beef, trailers that don't so much give away a twist ending, but tell you the entire friggin story. Soylent Green and Halloween do tell us quite a lot considering they're 2-3 minute advertisements for the films. But hey, that's how they did it back in the seventies right? They don't do it like that anymore of course!

Oh wait...


Sure we don't see how it ends, but we know way too much.

Let me tell you why I've never seen Changeling. I first heard of this film whilst idly browsing Clint Eastwood's IMDB page. (We've all done it) And I see he had a new film coming out... 'Changeling'. "Hmmm," I thought "What's this about?" So, I read a brief plot synopsis, that said something along the lines of "A woman loses her son only to have him return to her but she starts to suspect that the person living in her house is not her real son." Now the image in my head was not that of the film, but of a boy who disappeared and say, 30 years later, returned as a grown man and moved in with his mother and then she starts to suspect him. I then read the first two names on the cast list: Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich. This gave me a really creepy chill down my spine as the image of John Malkovich pretending to be her son was so disturbing I was terrified.
So when I saw the actual trailer I was so dissappointed that the plot was not as I imagined I never got around to seeing it. True story!

Mom, I had a bad dream.
Can I sleep in your bed?

But hey, it's not all bad eh? There are some stunningly great examples of trailers. Old and new! Here are two of my favourites:


Our friend DiCaprio returns with the exact opposite of the Shutter Island trailer. This one for Inception tells us all we need to know if we're deciding whether to go see it or not. It's gripping, it's spooky and most importantly, it's intriguing. We want to know more. How will we find out more? Go see it!

All information can be found here

And finally my super favourite trailer I ever did see:

The Shining

If you knew nothing about this film or the story and this trailer came on the cinema screen, you'd either go away saying "What the fuck was that!!? I'm definitely seeing it!" or "What the fuck was that!!? I'm definitely not seeing it!"

Its audience is found immediately. No one is missed and no one is decieved. But would we really expect any less from Stanley Kubrick?

Where did he get all that blood?

Basically what I'm saying is, use a trailer to tell me if it's my kind of movie, not the entire friggin plot. I think filmmakers need to have more say over the release of their material and the presentation of their films in the advertising because I doubt anyone creatively involved in Soylent Green wanted the ending to be publically revealed in the marketing. It's a matter of control.

10 March 2010


I'm Oscar!

I recently got invited to a Facebook group called "Avatar - The People's Choice for Best Picture" and this annoyed me.

Recently The Hurt Locker won an Academy Award for Best Picture over the expected win Avatar.

The reasoning behind this group's existance was that they felt that Avatar was "one of the best films ever made" and that the winning picture The Hurt Locker was chosen not by merit but by political leanings and underhanded friend boosting. (Based on the fact that The Hurt Locker is based in Iraq during the conflict and that its director Kathryn Bigelow is in face Avatar director James Cameron's ex wife... jeez.)

Obviously this person barely knows me. Hey look, I liked Avatar. Really, I enjoyed it despite its flaws. To be perfectly honest, I've never been a huge fan of James Cameron. His films never really hit the right note for me. I've always felt Aliens was the dumbing down of one of my favourite horror films and one of my favourite science fiction (separately!). Although in fairness I'm lately starting to see the merit of Terminator 2. But despite all that, I did like Avatar. And no, I haven't seen The Hurt Locker yet and I realise that this bit may not be fair considering I haven't seen the protagonist of the story. (See what I did there, I used film terms to make an analogy that doesn't make sense.)

I'm Hurt...

But let's take a look at this situation. The group's reasoning was that the Best Picture Oscar should be chosen based on the entertainment value of the feature and they felt that Avatar was clearly the better film in this regard.

Well firstly, bullshit. Best Picture has never been purely about entertainment and you know it. Best Picture holds a mixture of meanings including but not limited to, originality, skill, resonance and representation of the time it was released. Not only that but the Oscars have never ever been a sound science and I doubt one member of the Academy would disagree with me there. Not only that but I'm sure many of them would agree that they've made some flagrant mistakes in the past. So why get knotted up over Avatar of all things? I won't go on a rant pointing out various examples of this because there's a thousand internet lists about that and I'm not in that business baby. All I will say is Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture the same year Do the Right Thing wasn't nominated.

Your film was worse!

Now let's take a look at the other nominees:
The Blind Side
District 9 *
An Education
Inglourious Basterds *
Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
A Serious Man *
Up *
Up in the Air

Full disclosure: I've only seen the films marked with a *. If you click said * it will take you to my review of the film. Ooh! That's clever eh?

Now, as you can see I've only seen half of the films that were nominated for Best Picture. In fairness, they doubled the nominations this year, so I'm on the level ok!

So, The Hurt Locker aside, Avatar would at least have to be better than these 8 other films yes? Ok, let's start from the top:

The Blind Side: Did not see it, as I said, but Sandra Bullock won Best Actress for it and her acceptance speech for her Worst Actress Razzie the night before makes her ok in my book. But that's not really a reason this should win Best Picture. So boo.

District 9: I loved this. Most criticism I've heard is focused on the lack of strength in the political aspect of the story. I never felt the film was about that. The apartheid backdrop was merely that, a backdrop. The film resonated for me due to the strong character emotions and the tension from scene to scene.

An Education: Didn't see it but Carey Mulligan was in it. So, if I was on the Oscar jury I'd give it all my votes in hopes that she looks at me. Nuff said.

Marry me!

Inglourious Basterds: Yeah, I mean. I really liked it but I can see where people's reservations come from. If arguments are made for people being 'due' Oscars it's hard to get past Tarantino's miss for Pulp Fiction but that's hardly a real reason. I still think it's amazing that a film with such a silly trash/cult based ending can make it to the nominations. But then we're getting worryingly close to my college thesis, so, moving on...

Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire: Awkward title aside, from what I can tell this is serious business. Heavy dramas = Oscars yes.

A Serious Man: Like, a lot of people hated this. But a lot of people also watch X-Factor. So really that's nothing to go by. It was really good. Just... yeah. I loved it.

Up: Pixar know how to make films. This is what it comes down to. They are fucking good at this. It's not my favourite of theirs but it's rock solid and it makes sense that it won Best Animated Feature.

Up in the Air: Haven't seen it but George Clooney is a king and while I haven't been overjoyed by Jason Reitman's previous efforts I still feel he's got some good stuff in him.

Don't mention my dad

What it comes down to is this. Avatar was fine. It's visual effects were absolutely something else, mind blowing on a technical level. But it won Best Visual Effects, deservedly. Other than that though it had almost nothing going for it. The design wasn't particularly interesting. The story was fiercely unoriginal, the dialogue so hackneyed and cliché it was almost taking the piss. I would pick any one of the four other nominees I saw as a better film. You could argue that James Cameron needs another Oscar...

But that's dead in the water. More likely is that the Academy don't like giving him these things because of how he behaves when they do.

Dammit James!

Yeah, it does come down to opinion and everyone is entitled to their blah blah blah. But look, starting groups and bloating on about how your favourite should clearly have won over the real winner is the real opinion pushing. I'm just trying to set the record straight. You lost, move on.

I've since seen An Education and it was definitely better than Avatar too. The list grows!