Friday, March 30, 2012


WRATH OF THE TITANS is the sequel to CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010), which was a remake of the 1981 film of the same name. Considering the poor critical and financial performance of CLASH, it was a surprise that WRATH was given the green light. Director Jonathan Liebesman swore by the gods that he recognized the faults of CLASH, and knew how to correct them. Correct them he did (to an extent), while adding more to the mix. More of what is the real question.

Ten years after defeating the Kraken, Perseus (Sam Worthington) is attempting to raise his son while living the life of a fisherman. Meanwhile, weakened by humanity’s lack of devotion, the gods are losing control of the imprisoned Kronos, leader of the Titans and father of the gods Zeus (Liam Neeson), Hades (Ralph Fiennes), and Poseidon (Danny Huston). When Zeus is double-crossed and imprisoned, Perseus must pick up his sword and best gal Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) to rescue his father and prevent hell on Earth.

So WRATH starts off as a father-son drama set against the backdrop of Armageddon with an interesting sub-plot of humans having no use for prayer just for good measure. The storylines are good, and are established quickly, but are then unfortunately lost amidst spectacle and too many layers of useless plot. The pattern of WRATH follows CLASH to the same effect; a modern-video game adventure of our hero fighting his way to level after level, having to defeat some sort of creature before moving on. Also adding to the lack of focus is a poorly developed weave of plot-threads of having to merge broken spears to save the day. Our hero, Perseus, gets lost amidst the spectacle and it’s tough to remember him even being in the movie. With no hero, there is no connection.

From a technical standpoint, WRATH is a bit of a marvel. The CG creatures are excellent and fight and move and drool with great fun. Director Jonathan Leibesman pulls off some excellent tracking shots, and the sound-mix is outstanding. Leibesman unfortunately often falls for the crazy-ass shaky-cam one too many times, and it’s easy to lose track of what is where or even why.

The (goddamn) 3D is really excellent in some places. Similar to AVATAR, it uses the added dimension to enforce the feeling of great depth and geography, and breaths some serious life into the surroundings. It of course can’t help itself to get gimmicky now and then (be prepared to duck), and often feels like it vanishes in any intimate scenes. As with any other third-dimension film, the entire experience does have a dull color to it; which is a shame as the CG creatures and environments look like they would be full of vibrancy.

Sam Worthington seems to be improving with each film. Here he manages to hold on to his accent well enough, and the physical work he has to endure is impressive. He still feels miscast (or maybe misused) as Perseus, as he never really gets to show any heart or emotion. Again, no connection. Rosamund Pike is completely miscast as Andromeda; being neither beautiful or dangerous, and looking ridiculous when raising a sword and yelling. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes both seem to love playing gods, and they get to flex some god-like muscle and have some fun. The show is probably stolen by Bill Nighy’s Hephaestus character, which is great comic relief with some help from his little mechanical friend.

Whatever sort of message or lesson WRATH is trying to sell us gets completely lost by the time the (anti) climatic battle rolls around; whether it be Perseus’ destiny, fathers and sons, or man’s disrespect to the deities…none of it feels resolved or important by the time the credits roll. The title of the film also seems to be a gyp as only one goddamn Titan bothers to show up. WRATH OF THE TITANS has some fun moments and looks great, but beyond that there is nothing for anyone to get up in a wrath about.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reel Facts & Opinions: The Invasion of THE AVENGERS

FACT: Joss Whedon’s long-awaited, big-nuts superhero team-up film THE AVENGERS has been chosen to close the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival on April 28th.

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 and traditionally has a lineup of independent films, documentaries, narrative features and shorts, and a program of family-friendly films. Its main goal has been to bring independent filmmaking to a wide audience.

Last year’s festival was closed out by Edward Burns’ THE NEWLYWEDS, an independently produced film with a budget of $9,000. By comparison, THE AVENGERS is being produced by Marvel Studios with a budget of $220 million, and has a top-heavy cast in the form of Robert Downey Jr., Sam Jackson, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and Chris Hemsworth.

OPINION: Clearly, Marvel is looking to get out of the gate in a flash by invading the quaint confines of Tribeca. With the festival closing on April 28th and THE AVENGERS’ official release date May 4th, they are looking to generate early positive buzz which will hopefully bring in more asses to the theatres.

With movie attendance down every year, we can’t blame Marvel too much for looking to get out early. That, and with this year being the ultimate war between comic-book movies (DC Comics’ THE DARK KNIGHT RISES opens after THE AVENGERS), a few days really does mean a lot. And it’s probably good for Tribeca; they likely will be seeing a huge spike in attendance this year.

But at what expense?

With Tribeca being a quaint showcase with friendly competition, this very much feels like Barry Bonds hitting home runs in a little league park. The tiny films with their micro-budgets will be swallowed alive and whole by Iron Man and his millions. If this plan works out for all parties, then we can likely expect Tribeca to be invaded by big studios every year. That sort of end-game goes against everything the festival has stood for. As someone who has had some moderate success in indie-film, this Blogger would prefer Bonds to sit this one out.

What say you?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reel Facts & Opinions: End of an Era for Disney

FACT: In what may be one of the final nails in the coffin of the traditional 2D animated film genre, Mr. Glen Keane has announced that he is leaving Walt Disney Animation Studios after 38 years. Keane had worked on THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989), BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991), and ALADDIN (1992).

Keane, who is son of the late cartoonist Bil Keane (THE FAMILY CIRCUS), was largely responsible for the creation of Ariel, the Beast, and Aladdin characters, and the title characters in POCAHONTAS (1995) and TARZAN (1999). He also worked on THE RESCUERS (1977), PETE’S DRAGON (1977) , and THE FOX AND THE HOUND (1981). His last credit with Disney was TANGLED (2010), and is departing to pursue other interests.

OPINION: Here’s some Reel Speak trivia: THE RESCUERS was the first film this Blogger ever saw on the big screen, via a drive-in (remember those?), so it’s sad to know that the man responsible for that classic charmer of a film will no longer be bringing his touch to Disney productions.

Ever since the rising of Pixar as the undisputed king of animated films, the traditional 2D animated genre has become an endangered species. Computer-generated films are now widely accepted as the only way to go for an animated movie. Most kids may be entertained by an old 2D film for a short spell, only to raise their own bar once they see the eye-popping textures generated in TOY STORY 3 or RANGO.

Whether or not Pixar started out with the intention of obliterating decades of Disney’s animated-film history with the click of a mouse (pardon the pun) is debatable. This Blogger believes that Pixar intended not to radically change animated movies forever, but to offer new tools to make the process work better, and tools are only as good as the persons who are using them. Some of those old 2D animators made the conversion over to the digital age, some did not. It would be a sad thing to think that Glen Keane fell into the unfortunate position of the latter, for Disney hasn’t been able to figure out what to do with its old animators for the past twenty years. Maybe Keane made the decision for them.

Keane’s departure may very well mark the end of a long and magical era for Disney and the movies as a whole. It’s ironic that this would happen in this year, the 75th anniversary of SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS; arguably the film that really started it all. Out with the old and in with the new, as they say…but it will be exciting to see what Glen Keane manages to create for us next.

What say you?

Friday, March 23, 2012


Adapting a wildly popular novel for the big screen can be a tricky business; make too many alterations and deviations from the source material, and you’ve got a riot on your hands from the fans. Make too little changes, and you run the risk of alienating or confusing the broader audience who are unfamiliar with the book. It’s hard to tell which approach director Gary Ross took in his adaptation of THE HUNGER GAMES, but either way it’s a film that comes across as a mixed bag of light social commentary sprinkled with teen romance.

In the ruins of what was once North America, the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage (or younger) boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games; a twisted (and televised) punishment for a past uprising in which the teens must battle each other to the death. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers for the games in place of her chosen sister, and must compete against her friend (and love interest) Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).

The concept of a society keeping order by having children fight each other to a bloody death is an extreme one, and tough to wrap your head around. Seemingly aware of this, Ross spends the entire first hour of the film exploring and developing the world that THE HUNGER GAMES exists in. A LOT of time is spent preparing for the games, and despite so much time being spent, it doesn’t feel like a whole lot is explained. Yes, we know that the games exist as some sort of punishment, but to what end? Not much time is spent fleshing out the concept behind kids killing each other, and without a connection to that it’s difficult to buy into the film as a whole. The first act drags on and on without answering the important questions and borders upon boring, and if you don’t capture your audience in the first act (or the first 15 minutes for that matter), you never will.

Once the games finally (and mercifully) begin, things pick up a little bit, but not enough. Despite alliances and friendships being formed and broken, there just isn’t much reason to care whether or not these damned brats live or die. The entire run feels glossed over; a film that is all about children dying ought to draw out a lot more emotion (and this draws none). To inject some heart, Ross forces a romance between Katniss and Peeta, which comes off as cheesy and eyeball-rolling. Ross also uses way too much shaky-cam here, which adds nothing to the mix.

The acting isn’t anything to write home about. It’s unclear whether or not Jennifer Lawrence was directed to play so uptight and wooden, but her acting here is as likeable as a plank. Woody Harrelson’s role as a comedic drunk is completely underutilized, and a wasted character in Toby Jones might as well have been a mute. Stanley Tucci hams it up as the play-by-play announcer, while Donald Sutherland manages to offer some grace and legitimacy to things. The most difficult task seemed to belong to Elizabeth Banks, who had to (decently) act her way beyond the (intentionally) ridiculous-looking pixie-doll costume and makeup she had to wear; looking very much like Johnny Depp in a Tim Burton film.

Fans of the book will likely enjoy seeing their beloved world and characters come to life on the big screen, and for them this is likely a treat. This Blogger’s theatre-audience seemed to be split down the middle; half of them were full of oooh’s and aaah’s, while the other half sat quietly trying to figure out what they were missing. Either way, a movie must be judged upon its own merits, and while THE HUNGER GAMES offers a few interesting ideas, there is overall not much to give a rat’s ass about.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Reel 40

“I believe in America…”

This week marks the 40th anniversary of THE GODFATHER

In the late 1960’s, the movie industry was dying. Most of the major motion picture studios, including Paramount Pictures, were desperate for a big hit; a hit that would save their own assess while re-installing confidence in the American movie-going public.

Part of the problem in Hollywood those days dealt with a stale environment for filmmakers. Frustrated by such a stifling creative atmosphere, a group of experimental filmmakers which included Francis Ford Coppola and his friend George Lucas, founded their own independent studio which would inspire creative and unconventional approaches to filmmaking.

Approached by Paramount to direct an adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel, Coppola initially turned down the offer. With THE GODFATHER being a violent story of mafia crime bosses, Coppola, an Italian-American himself, did not want to paint his heritage in a negative light. However, Coppola was convinced by Lucas to take the plunge. Desperate for a money-making hit, Paramount put immense pressure on Coppola during casting and filming, and the director was nearly fired many times. However, Coppola eventually won out on many important decisions; including the casting of Marlon Brando and setting the film in the correct time period, 1945 to 1955.

With a now historic ensemble cast which included Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, and Abe Vigoda, THE GODFATHER was a hit and eventually became a milestone in movie history. It was nominated for eleven Oscars, winning three, including Best Picture. It was selected for preservation in the United States Film Registry in 1990, and is regarded as the second greatest film in American cinematic history; second only to CITIZEN KANE. THE GODFATHER brought greatness back into film, virtually saving the industry and serving as the model for all future crime dramas; GOODFELLAS, THE DEPARTED, and the TV series THE SOPRANOS can all trace their roots back to THE GODFATHER.


Having grown up in a whimsical movie world with thrilling adventures in the forms of STAR WARS and Indiana Jones, this Blogger did not catch up with THE GODFATHER until much later; the film always seemed too dark, too grown-up, and nearly too scary. It wasn’t until college and that Film 101 class where this Blogger was introduced to the film, which then began a new appreciation for movies and provided a method of film and story de-construction. More than a crime drama, THE GODFATHER presents strong themes of loyalty and family in ways that thousands of films have tried and failed to match. It is timeless and important, and always makes us believe in the movies.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Reel Opinion: Turtle Soup

FACT: Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes company is well into pre-production for the upcoming live-action adaptation of the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, which will serve as yet another reboot. This will be the third rendition of the mutated warrior turtles on the big screen, with the first being a live-action camp flick from the early 90’s (powered by Jim Henson’s puppet-wizardry) with two sequels, and then an animated film in 2007.

The Platinum Dunes production will be for Nickelodeon Movies and Paramount, and speaking at the Nickelodeon Upfront last week, Bay spoke about the direction the turtles will take this time around:

"When you see this movie, kids are going to believe one day these Turtles actually do exist when we are done with this movie. These turtles are from an alien race, and they are going to be tough, edgy, funny and completely loveable."

This approach is a departure from the “accepted” canon, in which the turtles are from Earth and mutate after encountering a radioactive toxic substance.

OPINION: As expected, bloggers and Bay-haters are already sharpening their pitchforks and spewing vile hate across the internet over this decision. For most, Bay and his company get automatic backlash no matter what they do, so the venom across the web thus far is not all unexpected. On the surface, the new idea seems a little hokey (although we are talking about talking turtles), but this Blogger can come up with a few good reasons why this deserves a fair shake, and why it can work:

1. It’s a new idea in an old world. Later this year, Spider-man gets a reboot in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and fans are groaning over having to sit through another goddamn origin story all over again (here comes wimpy Peter, here comes the spider, etc…). The film is not tracking well because of this alone. Bay and co. are clearly looking to avoid this. Why bore audiences with the same old concept they’ve already seen a billion times before?

2. Aren’t we sick of the radioactive shit already? The concept of radioactive material effecting people (and animals) goes back to the 1950’s and the birth of the atomic age. Stan Lee used it to empower most of his comic heroes (coughspideycough), and the TMNT films, comics and cartoons used it over and over again. It’s an old concept that is as dull as a doorknob. Yawn.

3. Kids are a lot smarter these days. Tech-savy kids these days are not as easily fooled as they once were. They nearly demand sharper and smarter entertainment than this Blogger’s era of pre-CGI films. If Bay and co. are setting out to capture a new generation of kids, then they have to do things differently.

4. Screw the “accepted” canon. Diverting from the source material is a necessity in filmmaking. Literal adaptations simply do not work (example: RED TAILS). Bay and co. are under no obligations to the angry nerds out there who want the same stories they grew up with 20 years ago repeated word-for-word on the big screen. Besides, the original live-action film made quite a few deviations from the source material (how quickly we choose to forget), and through all the variations of TMNT, comics, cartoons, and films…there was always a heavy element of science fiction; space-travel, time-travel, mutations, laser-guns, etc., so this new concept is not that far off the mark. Besides, its science-fiction; which means the sky is the limit.

What say you?

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Reel 25

"I'm too old for this shit"

This month marks the 25th anniversary of LETHAL WEAPON.

Directed by Richard Donner, LETHAL WEAPON became a benchmark and a new beginning for “buddy cop” films. By pairing Mel Gibson’s troubled and suicidal cop character with Danny Glover’s grounded family-man, the film had instant chemistry. Donner wisely saw the magic between the two actors and let the personal stories take center-stage and the action serve as a secondary concern.

To counter the chemistry between Gibson and Glover, Donner cast Gary Busey as a villain. An established star since his Oscar-nominated performance in THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY (1978), this was the first time Busey had been cast to play a bad guy. The film is credited with reviving his acting career.

Released in March of 1987, the film remained at No.1 for three weeks before eventually grossing $120 million worldwide. It was nominated for two Oscars (Best Sound and Sound Effects Editing), and is considered to be the starting point for a long line of “buddy cop” film franchises that would follow for the next two decades; films like TANGO & CASH, BAD BOYS and RUSH HOUR can trace their roots back to LETHAL WEAPON. Mel Gibson’s performance inspired Franco Zeffirelli to cast him as the lead role in HAMLET (1990), and in 2007 Entertainment Weekly magazine ranked the film #24 on their list of the greatest action movies of all time.


This Blogger missed the opportunity to see LETHAL WEAPON on the big screen (where’s that digital 2D, 4K release, dammit), and had to experience first-hand at home. But even on the small screen, the action was fun and the characters interesting. In viewing through older eyes it still holds up thanks to its timeless and important themes of friendship, family, old-age, and personal demons. Twenty-five years later, LETHAL WEAPON is not too old for this shit.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reel Facts & Opinions: Movie Math

FACT: Neal Moritz, the producer of last year’s critically drubbed stinker THE GREEN HORNET, has stated that there won’t be a GREEN HORNET 2; not because the film stunk, but because it didn’t make back enough money to justify another film. What’s interesting is that THE GREEN HORNET was made for a reported $120 million (which includes $10 million for making it in goddamn 3D), and made back $228 million worldwide.

OPINION: If you’re good with math (you nerd), right away you can see that THE GREEN HORNET made back nearly twice as much as it was made for. On the surface, that seems like a great thing, right? But there are hidden costs thanks to marketing (posters, trailers, billboards, etc.) which can easily tally up another $100 million. Tack on that extra cost, and HORNET just about breaks even.

While it is probably a good thing that we won’t be subject to another shitty HORNET film with Seth Rogen and his endless fart jokes, this is a bad sign looking ahead. Studios seem to want not just a money maker, but a HUGE money-maker before forging ahead with a sequel. Sure, a crappy movie that makes no money doesn’t deserve a follow-up, but HORNET’s intake last year was one of the top money-makers of the year. If $228 million wasn’t good enough, then the studios were likely hoping for a $500-ish million draw. That makes them idiots, for that type of number belongs to the likes of AVATAR, TITANIC, and THE DARK KNIGHT. Seth Rogen will never compete with that.

The studio itself is to blame. Not only could have they made a better film, but in watching HORNET you have to wonder where all the money went to. Over the past five years or so, there have been better films with great visuals which were made for nearly peanuts; DISTRICT 9 (which was Oscar nominated) was made for $30mil, SOURCE CODE was made for $40mil, and MOON was made for $5mil. All made their money back and then some.

With money being the bottom line over anything else, Hollywood will likely veer more towards established properties (which means plenty of remakes), and away from original projects. Either that or they need to learn how to spend their money more wisely.

Of course, they could just start making better movies.

What say you?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Leonardo Cimino 1917 - 2012

“For Victory! Go tell your friends!”

Leonardo Cimino, veteran actor of the stage, TV, and the silver screen, has died at the age of 94.

Leonardo was probably best known for his role as “Scary German Guy” in the cult-classic MONSTER SQUAD (1987). Sci-fi fans likely relate to him as the Baron’s doctor in DUNE (1984), and the elder in WATERWORLD (1995) . He starred opposite Marlon Brando in THE FRESHMAN (1990), and also appeared in MOONSTRUCK (1987). He also had a fantastic TV career with notable appearances in LAW AND ORDER, ROUTE 66, and KOJAK.

And it was on the small screen where he likely made his lasting impression, with his role as Abraham Bernstein in the 1983 mini-series V. He was the one who helped ignite humanity’s fight for survival by teaching a child how to deface alien propaganda properly, and his “v for victory” line was the most memorable of the entire series.


The infamous line delivered by Leonardo in V is this Blogger’s fondest memory of the man; not only because of the line, but because of the dead-on seriousness and weight that he put into the delivery. He made a simple line better, and that was probably his greatest gift; everything he appeared in immediately got better, more interesting, and more awesome.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Reel Review: JOHN CARTER

There has always been a fine line between science fiction and fantasy, and Disney’s JOHN CARTER adaptation dances on both sides, with a few extra steps on the fantasy side. CARTER endears to the kid in all of us; the kid who once dreamed of travelling to another planet to battle aliens with a sword and rescue the (hot) princess. CARTER has plenty of that to keep the geeks happy, but is that enough to stay buoyant?

War-weary Civil War veteran John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is battling his past and looking for meaning in his life when he is mysteriously transported to Mars. There, he becomes embroiled in another civil war of sorts amongst the planet’s inhabitants, including the neutral green-alien Thark race led by Tars Tarkas (voiced brilliantly by Willem Defoe), and the Princess Dejah (Lynn Collins).

CARTER is at its strongest when it focuses on its main character (and damn well it should) and his story. CARTER is a hurt and lost man, not even knowing if he wants to find his way back to his empty life on Earth. When the film drops him into situations where he has to make moral choices, things are really good and you can’t help but to root for Carter.

But where Carter gets a little lost is when the film needs to stop for a bit and does some heavy-lifting in the setup area. A lot of time is spent on explaining the world, its conflicts, and the solutions; so much time that the (awesome) action sequences, when they do roll around, are a huge welcome. By far, CARTER is not a mindless action flick as there is a lot of heart and meaning behind everything, but it is very thick on plot. The endgame is not A to Z and takes some attention to keep sorted. The various exposition scenes where things have to be fleshed out leads to an energy drain that is tough to deal with.

Still, there is a lot to love here. Andrew Stanton breathes a lot of life into a planet that is mostly desert. The design of the creatures, vehicles and weapons are great, and what he manages to do with them is even better. The action sequences are a lot of fun, and again, are far from brainless. As a graduate of Pixar, Stanton keeps things moving along, even when the pacing slows down a little too much.

Performances are very good. Kitsch seems to be directed to stay mostly gruff and tough, and he does that well enough. There was just never an opportunity for him to show any real emotion (heroes can cry, dammit). Lynn Collins does the most acting work, and certainly looks like a bona-fide Princess of Mars. The casting of Willem Dafoe as a green alien with four arms is a stroke of genius, and you can’t help but to smile every time you hear his voice.

True to his Pixar roots, Stanton edges the finale towards a heartbreaking Greek tragedy, only to change his mind and wrap things up happily and neatly. It’s a tad frustrating to see it veer away from the tragic ending, as the film would have felt a lot more serious; more adult. However, the way it eventually does wrap does manage to be clever and make you want more.

CARTER overall makes for a good time at the theatre. Aside from pacing issues and a plot thicker than a phone book, there is a lot more enjoyment than frustration, and everyone can connect to it. It’s difficult not to recommend CARTER for the big-screen; it’s made for it and belongs there.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Reel Opinion: Why JOHN CARTER Deserves a Fair Look

This weekend, Disney’s adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s century-old novels involving a certain John Carter character and his adventures on Mars comes to life in JOHN CARTER.

The marketing up to this point for this science-fiction flick has been underwhelming; coming off as a mish-mash of AVATAR and ATTACK OF THE CLONES with tons of action and CGI-created characters. Some forgiveness can be extended to Disney, as their main goal (other than making a good movie) is to get people’s arses into the theatre seats. This is a business after all, and No Buck$ means No Buck Rogers.

So the marketing is mindless and looks like there is nothing being offered that we have never seen before. But there is a lot to be excited about. This Blogger can come up with three (3) good reasons why JOHN CARTER deserves a fair look:

1. This was once an impossible project

Fifty years ago, Francis Ford Coppola turned down the opportunity to direct THE LORD OF THE RINGS, calling the book “unfilmable”. It is fair to say that the book, JOHN CARTER AND THE PRINCESS OF MARS, with its vast alien landscapes, epic battles and fantasy characters, was also considered to be too big and too difficult to be put to screen. It took fifty years for technology to catch up with author J.R.R. Tolkien’s vision of Middle-Earth, and once it did, the triumph of THE LORD OF THE RINGS films is now a shining moment in movie history. Now, JOHN CARTER may not be the next LOTR, but for any fans of movies and/or fantasy/sci-fi in general should be excited for a once “unfilmable” book to be coming to life on the big screen.

2. Andrew Stanton is in charge

Andrew Stanton is the creative genius who has given us WALL*E and FINDING NEMO. He directed and wrote both of those flicks, and he has also written MONSTERS INC., A BUG’S LIFE and all three TOY STORY films. On the surface, he seems an odd choice for JOHN CARTER, as this huge spectacle is his very first live-action film. But considering his background in (Pixar) animation, he really is the perfect fit. An adaptation of this magnitude requires a vast amount of visual imagination, and Stanton has proven he can do that in every Pixar film he has directed and written. He wrote the screenplay for JOHN CARTER, which is a great sign; no one has brought better characters to life in the world of animation over the past 17 years.

3. This is really the beginning of it all

Dismissing JOHN CARTER as a rip-off of AVATAR and STAR WARS is a natural thing for today’s short attention-spanned YouTube generation who can’t watch anything longer than five minutes. Let’s remember that Burrough’s John Carter novels were first written in 1911. 1911!!! It is unfair to say JOHN CARTER is ripping off AVATAR and ATTACK OF THE CLONES when it is CARTER’s source material which has inspired modern science fiction in the first place. Maybe we are all desensitized to huge CGI spectacle in today’s movies (it’s everywhere every year), but it deserves to be given a fair look as the great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of sci-fi and fantasy films.

JOHN CARTER opens this Friday.

What say you?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Robert G. Sherman 1925-2012


Robert B. Sherman, one half of the award-winning pair of brothers who wrote classic and memorable songs for MARY POPPINS, THE JUNGLE BOOK, and the classic tune “It’s a Small World (After All)", has died at the age of 86.
Sherman and his brother Richard won two Oscars in 1964 for Walt Disney’s MARY POPPINS, best score and best song, “Chim Chim Cher-ee”.

His long and amazing list of credits as joint lyricist and composer also includes the films WINNIE THE POOH, SNOOPY COME HOME, CHARLOTTE’S WEB and THE MAGIC OF LASSIE. The two brothers wrote over 150 songs for Disney, including soundtracks for THE SWORD AND THE STONE, BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS, THE TIGGER MOVIE, and THE ARISTOCRATS.


This Blogger has never been a fan of musicals on film (with a few exceptions), but can understand its magic and charm in the right situations. This Blogger may have been the first to get up for a snack when the songs started, but be assured that the tunes wound up being hummed for days like it or not. In the early days of Disney’s outstanding run of live-action musicals, they were not only the best at the genre, they were nearly the only ones doing it. Disney’s days of live-action musicals may sadly be a lost art, and Robert B. Sherman was one of the very last from a very magical time. EVERYONE knows his songs.

"It's a world of laughter, a world or tears
its a world of hopes, its a world of fear
theres so much that we share
that its time we're aware
its a small world after all"

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Reel 30

1982 was a significant year in movie history, with many films and events causing ripple effects that are felt to this day. Reel Speak will mark each film and event in the order that it occurred throughout the course of this year, with the first being today.

Thirty years ago today, actor/comedian John Belushi died.

Born in 1949, John Adam Belushi already had a flourishing career in television before making his short, albeit long-lasting mark in the movies. In between TV seasons, he filmed one of his best-known movies, ANIMAL HOUSE (1978). The film not only launched his film career, but it also started a new genre in the form of gross-out films; a genre that continues today in several forms. ANIMAL HOUSE, which had a simple plot of fraternity members challenging the administrators of their university, was selected for preservation by the U.S. Library of Congress in the National Film Registry for being culturally significant in 2001.

Belushi would leave TV land in 1979 to pursue a full-time film career, but would only live long enough to make five more films; 1941, NEIGHBORS, GOIN’ SOUTH, CONTINENTAL DIVIDE, and THE BLUES BROTHERS.

And it was in THE BLUES BROTHERS where Belushi and his former TV co-star, Dan Aykroyd arguably made the biggest splash. Packed with an all-star cast and musical numbers by legendary voices in blues and rock, the film’s stars became cultural icons; instantly recognizable in their dark glasses and suits.

Despite being drubbed by critics, this Blogger always had fun watching Steven Spielberg’s zany 1941 comedy, in which Belushi played drunken air force pilot Wild Bill Kelso. The character stole the show every time he was on screen, and every time his plane entered the picture, you knew something funny and crazy was about to happen. It’s a shame Wild Bill was never seen again on screen, but not nearly as regretful as Belushi himself being absent from the movies for the past 30 years. No one could do what he could do, and no one has since. What made him what he was remains a mystery, but maybe something can be hinted at in his Jake Blues character…

“Well me and the Lord, we have an understanding”

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ralph McQuarrie 1929-2012

Ralph McQuarrie, the visionary concept artist whose paintings were the basis for the STAR WARS landscape, has died at the age of 82.

McQuarrie had a storied career which included work at Boeing, and creating Apollo space flight animations for CBS News. He created the concept art which was crucial in winning 20th Century Fox’s approval to put George Lucas’ first STAR WARS film into production. He is widely credited as the man who designed the iconic Darth Vader.

The success of his work led to a marvelous film career that included designing such classics as ET: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, BACK TO THE FUTURE, COCOON, and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. That’s his drawing in Indiana Jones’ book in the first act of RAIDERS:


The concept-design stage of a film is the most vital and often overlooked aspect of film production. It is not just the foundation of a film, it is the design of the foundation that everything is built upon. Movies give us worlds that we wish to live in, and those worlds have to be created first. In the last 40 years no one has done that better than Ralph McQuarrie.

Much of his artwork can be found at

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Reel Opinion: Movies About Movies

In an age where Hollywood is stuck in a ditch knee-deep with remakes, adaptations, and the dreadful life-sucking farce that is (goddamn) 3D, true movie fans and film buffs have been desperate for a breath of fresh air; a light at the end of the tunnel that is not a hijacked freight train.

Such a light may be on the horizon. This week, Fox Searchlight announced an upcoming project entitled ALFRED HITCHCOCK AND THE MAKING OF PSYCHO; with James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins, Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, and Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock. Seemingly less of a biopic and more of a story about the making of Hitchcock’s classic PSYCHO, this will quite simply be a movie about a movie.

On the surface, it may seem a bit self-congratulatory for the industry to tell its own story, but such an approach has worked before. Tim Burton’s ED WOOD earned Oscar nominations for its revealing of what went into Wood’s PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, and SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE put together an excellent cast in its alternate-approach telling of the making of NOSFERATU. And in 2005, a independent short called COURAGE AND STUPIDITY told a clever story of the making of JAWS; young Steven Spielberg is panicked when his friend George (ahem) accidently breaks the mechanical shark. And on top of all that, the same theme was present in last year’s HUGO, THE ARTIST, and MY WEEK WITH MARILYN; three films which combined for 23 Oscar Nominations.

The concept can be fascinating. Fans of the PSYCHO film would have to be drooling over seeing their favorite settings (Bates motel, anyone?) in a new world. And that world of movies is loaded with so much lore; there is unlimited, untapped potential waiting to be sipped. What about a movie about the guys who had to make the rubber masks for the Mos Eisley Cantina? Or a film about the people who had to make the dresses for Scarlett O’Hara?

There is a story to be told behind every movie, and Hollywood would be foolish to forget that. Embrace your past, or suffer by forgetting.

What say you?