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Tag: Star Wars

Film Critics: You’re Doing it Wrong

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I wonder how many decisions go into making a movie? A hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand …..more? Casting alone would present a thousand questions with multiple outcomes. Just to make it a little more complicated; let’s introduce a well established canon with a built in fan-base, but at the same time try to branch out and create something altogether new. Oh ya, and there is also potentially billions of dollars riding on the decisions you make. I think those last few factors may have some influence on the way you go about things. So what do you do?

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

You go out and make Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One a Star Wars story,……. then you market the crap out of all the decisions you made, then collectively hold your breath and see what the fans think, and then check your receipts, and then … maybe see what the critics are saying. So what are the critics saying? In the case of the two movies mentioned above: the consensus for both of them is that ‘they are both at home in the universes they inhabit with a welcome cast of new characters that create an enjoyable chapter to expand their canons but are not without their flaws’. Highly serviceable to borderline satisfactory. Wow brings a tear to the eye!

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As of this moment we have yet to create the perfect blockbuster movie that satisfies everyone. The reason being; there are too many specified factions to appease. How do you cater to the hardcore fans and the uninitiated simultaneously? They both require two different things that often run in direct opposition to one another. Now that we reaffirm all our own beliefs and opinions on social media, we can pick and choose the reviews that suit our experiences. If you want a nostalgia based Easter-egg laced review you’ll get it for the nod and wink crowd. If you’re more into the opportunity missed, what I would have done differently review, they’re multiplying like rabbits. If middle of the road, should I spend my money on this is more to your liking than just glance at the overall percentages or box office receipts.

A few things that need to be considered: what do you want to get out of the movie going experience? We all want to be entertained, ideally through our heads and our hearts but how high are our standards? Is anything short of (insert your favourite movie here) passable. Can a movie even come close to the character development and long range storytelling that we are spoiled with in the Golden Age of television? How much ownership do we have to these worlds and why do we take our entertainment so personally?

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Everyone’s a critic, myself included. I watched both films discussed and was happy with the results. The kid in me was tapping myself on the shoulder exclaiming “did you see what they did there?” more times than my inner critic poking me in the back saying”did you see what they did there?”.  I will probably get the DVD’s when they come out (because I’m a Philistine that loves dated technology) and watch them over and over high-fiving my inner child the whole time. Mission accomplished.

How’s that for a review?

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Star Wars The Force Awakens Review

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*Very Minor Spoilers*

This will be a brief review, with a more in depth one to follow after more people have had a chance to see the film and a real discussion can take place about the story and where our heroes (old and new) have found themselves.

I’ll start by saying; I am a huge fan of the franchise and love it warts and all. It’s partially because of those warts that I have such affection for it. In preparation for tonight’s screening, I went back and watched the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back this week, but ran out of time before I could see Jedi. I have to say nostalgia goggles do play tricks on the mind. In some ways the original movies play like a series of wonderful vignettes sloppily taped together with their slips showing the whole time. The longer you stare the larger the holes are, but the more times you watch, the more inconsequential the gaps become. We don’t care about the gaps because we just want to see Han’s ‘the cat that ate the canary’ grin or Luke whining about not being able ‘to go to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters’.

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There are a few moments in The Force Awakens that make you cringe slightly on your first watch, but that you know after repeated viewings will be little pieces of anticipated dialogue. An example that comes to mind is when Finn (Jon Boyega)  looks up at the sky and sees an X-Wing flown by Poe (Oscar Isaac) and says something like ‘That pilot sure can fly!’ Only in a Star Wars movie could a character say something so awkwardly obvious and some how come off kind of endearing. Daisy Ridly (Rey) and Harrison Ford (Han Solo) steal the show and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren delivers a villain with a back story worth watching.  This chapter is definitely a return to form warts and all, that will make you want to see it again and again.

You had me at “in a galaxy far far away…” .

Related: Star Wars in the Age of Social Media

 

Star Wars in the Age of Social Media

sw-tfa-teaser-2-02-700x292One of my earliest, most vivid memories of childhood: was exiting the 7 o’clock showing of Star Wars and being astounded that it was still light out as we left the theater. It felt like I had been away for a very long time and had traveled great distances and the harsh light of reality momentarily threw me. My six year old brain experienced total immersion and I was hooked. Another vivid memory I have of my childhood is when my father mistakenly took me to see Bladerunner when I was 11; he thought it was a new Star Wars movie because of the Harrison Ford connection. That threw me as well, but in a totally exciting (what did I just watch?) way – love you dad.

StarWarsMoviePoster1977I went to see Star Wars another 3 times that summer and felt transported every single time. The year was 1977 and there was nothing remotely similar to it in either tone or scope. When it was released, science fiction was a very niche market and Lucas himself believed it wouldn’t have much staying power. 2 years earlier Lucas’ friend Steven Speilberg had invented the summer blockbuster with Jaws but no one could have anticipated what Star Wars would become and that kids like me would go see this thing again and again. All said and told,over the course of my life; I’ve probably seen the film close to a 100 times, with the lion’s share occurring in my youth from an old VHS copy, taped from a television broadcast. The tape finally wore out but my fondness never did.

A70-2036A few years went by after the initial rush and along came The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and they did not disappoint. A few more years went by and Episodes 1-3 happened and they did disappoint. People were really upset; blaming George Lucas for ruining their childhoods. They criticized that the characters were one dimensional, the acting wooden and the dialogue -just terrible. On that last point, all dialogue in Star Wars movies is terrible, it’s kind of part of their appeal. Lucas would be the first to admit that. He revealed recently that he actually constructed them more like silent films; where the visuals heavily out-way the spoken words. Another huge sticking point with fans was; gone were the practical effects and in was the CGI. Episodes 1-3 didn’t feel real enough. I personally missed puppet Yoda (from Empire not Phantom Menace).

Star_Wars_Episode_1_The_Phantom_MenaceEpisodes 1-3 had no other course but to disappoint. The movie landscape had changed drastically since 1983 and nothing could live up to the hype. This was also pre-Facebook, pre-Youtube, pre-Twitter hype. The original trilogy worked best because it looked lived in. Things looked beaten up. Luke said it best in the original film when he first lays eyes on the Millenium Falcon: “What a piece of junk!” As a kid I was confused by this statement, because in my brain I was thinking that’s the coolest thing I’d ever seen. In Episode 1 everything was way too shiny. The other thing that really let people down was the design; the original three are full of really original cool looking things and characters. Stormtroopers just look good, the spacecraft look like hot rods, Darth Vader is iconic menace and so on. The newer films got a few things right like Darth Maul and the two sided lightsaber but all those CGI droids and  alien races -just lame. Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 had proven CGI could work in a film when used strategically but when the band is more focused on the the fireworks than the music, things start to breakdown. Lucas was too in love with the technology. All these things didn’t prevent these movies from making a ton of money and introducing a whole new generation to Star Wars.

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Fast forward to this past Thursday and the 2nd Force Awakens trailer hits the internet. Three days later and it has been viewed over 40 million times, tweeted countless times and added roughly 2 billion dollars to Disney stock value. Hey no pressure. Reading all the content that has been generated over these 119 seconds and two things are certain: people are excited and people are optimistic but nervous they’ll get burned again. Star Wars in the age of social media is an all together different beast than all its predecessors. We are eight months away from its release and the demand is relentless. We live in an instant gratification society where super heroes rule the cinema and our news cycle is 24 hours of instantaneous updates. We consume so much content on a daily basis from multiple sources that our tolerance for cultural pollution has eroded our critical filter. We’re so supersaturated, that things no longer move us. The sentiment that I’m picking up online is that people want to be moved again, feel like a kid again and feel the shock of the new again.  The funny thing is that the shock of the new will come by returning to the old: familiar characters, practical effects and hopefully an emotional core at the heart of it. No real information about the story has surfaced but so far they got the design right, things look cool again. Part of the movie going experience in the age of social media is the power of anticipation and conjecture. Entertaining theories and predictions is just as much fun as consuming the actual artifact. We get to participate in the process in a very minor way and in our hearts we hope our voices have some effect. The Force Awakens has been molded by the sins of our fathers. JJ Abrams is well aware of the tidal wave of fan criticism that was levied on Episodes 1-3 and that helped inform his vision for the new film. Is this how social media really works? Can it help preserve and alter our cultural sacred cows?

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One thing’s for sure, social media will dissect everything surrounding this film up to and after its release. Some will love it and some will be disappointed. Can it possibly live up to the nostalgia machine, or can it evolve and become something new again? I know personally I can’t wait for the lights to go down and hear that familiar John Williams score. Will it transport me back to my youth? Hard to say, my pre-internet brain says possibly, and my post-internet brain says -it’s not the destination, but the getting there, that’s half the fun.

Last Days of Summer

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This September 22nd marks the Fall Equinox and the official end of summer. I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here a cold wind has started to roll in and bring a chill to the evenings. Fall is upon us, which suits me find; I’m a sweater person. Winter is coming on the other hand and don’t get me started on Winter. Anyway I digress, we’re here to talk about summer, summer movies specifically. We didn’t go see a ton a movies this summer, in fact we even missed our annual Woody Allen summer ticket (Magic in the Moonlight will just have to suffer on our small screen at home when it comes out). Truth be told, not too many offerings this summer looked up to snuff; case in point, not 1 but 2 Michael Bay movies. The latest Transformers made an obscene amount of money around the world, but like an astute critic of the first film stated ‘ I’d rather have my head duck taped to a dryer full of pots and pans on full for two hours than sit through that again.’ It also feels like a lifetime ago since a comedy was actually funny. I found 21 Jump Street immediately forgettable and the sequel looked like it just offered up the same stuff: pass. The new Spiderman seemed to suffer from the ‘too many villains’ plight that brought the original trilogy down. Too many of the movies this summer were just aiming for the low hanging fruit.

Looking at the box office results, I feel many people shared my sentiments about our choices this summer. It was the lowest grossing summer since 2006, falling almost a billion dollars short of last year. We ultimately shape our movie culture with our pocketbooks. This is a very scary prospect, because only the movies that bring in the big numbers will get the green light regardless of how formulaically vacant they are, so that means  there are more TMNTs in our future. The reason we have so many super hero movies is that for the moment they make money. I fear audience fatigue will soon set in and burnout is eventual. We need more original ideas and intelligent scripts to fill those seats.

godz2I did actually make it to four flicks this summer; one made me question my humanity and the other three made me feel like a kid again. Godzilla kicked the summer off with a  stylish reboot of a monster movie  icon. When I was a child nothing felt more like winning the lottery than turning on the television to find a Godzilla movie. The kid in me smiles every time I hear his roar, so I was very pleased/relieved  to find his hallmark  sound was intact. The brilliance of this movie is we have to wait  a while before we get our first full glimpse of the big guy and for the rest of the movie you are left with the feeling of wanting more. It’s a satisfying slow burn. Brian Cranston is underutilized and the design of the other monster didn’t do it for me, but overall Godzilla satisfies.

 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes just left me confused. I didn’t know who I was supposed to root for: the apes or the humans?

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The first movie going experience I can clearly remember was going to see Star Wars when I was six years old. I went to see it another three times that summer and gauge every summer blockbuster that has come after it against it. Guardians of the Galaxy definitely had that sci-fi lived in vibe with plenty of Han Solo homage going on- which I liked. Guardians works best because we like the characters. They’re a funny dynamic group of lovable scoundrels and their throwback soundtrack was a nice touch. Where Star Wars leaves them in the dust however is; Guardians doesn’t have a strong enough villain to foil against our new favourite team. A super hero movie ultimately succeeds or fails by its choice of bad guys.

The movie highlight of the summer for me was definitely Richard Linklater’s BoyhoodFilmed over twelve years, we literally get to watch an entire cast grow and age over the span of the main character’s adolescence. It is both over the top ambitious and understated performance and drama in equal measures. It is like no movie you have ever seen and it is a great watch.

Overall, not really much to report on a pretty lackluster movie season but I would recommend all four of the films I saw this summer.

Dawn of the planet of the Apes    B

Godzilla    B+

Guardians of the Galaxy     A-

Boyhood    A