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Rant Time: Moments don’t make the movie

Over the last few years there has been a common concern between fellow filmgoing friends and myself. Mainly that while popular films might have incredible moments sparsed throughout their runtimes, those moments don’t represent quality storytelling overall and that spectacle drives ticket sales while cinematically speaking some films have been lacking. I know there comes a time to debate what type of film deserves what level of expectation, but this has happened enough, even discounting blockbuster carnage a la ‘Transformers’ aside, that it is a legitimate concern.

This was most recently brought back into the forefront of our minds upon an initial viewing of ‘The Amazing Spiderman 2’. Yes, a bit late, but none of us had been particularly enthused with the first outing with Andrew Garfield’s attempt at the character, so it took awhile before any of us were that excited to see the sequel that ruined Sony’s Spiderverse anyways. This film is a prime example of what I’m talking about. Many, but not all, of the Spiderman scenes in the film were fun and more accurate to the character than the initial film, bombastic, aerial, slow-mo fun. That being said, those were almost entirely the only points of the film that either made sense (When did Peter Parker become so whiny and quote “Edgy” anyways?) or were even all that engaging. I could probably cut twenty minutes of the film where Garfield is simply staring open mouthed like an idiot for no reason at all. Admittedly, I am biased here, this film is not my cup of tea, or my Spiderman to be honest. There are fleeting moments when Garfield pulls off aspects of the character wonderfully, but they are tarnished by its overlong runtime, questionable tonal shifts, and musical score throughout.

Godzilla was another hit that confounded me entirely. Let me say first however that I do have a love for monster movies, particularly for ‘The King of Monsters’ himself. Gareth Edwards adaption’s popularity is so very odd to me in that it A) killed off the only compelling character in the first twenty minutes, B) focused on easily the most useless and uninteresting protagonist I’ve seen onscreen in years, and C) ignored its title character for most of the movie. Don’t get me wrong, there are awesome moments here and there, but the film denies us several fight sequences, tries desperately to get us to care about a character that doesn’t even seem to want to be involved in the story much less lead us through the plot, and wastes the few good actors they do have in its ranks, namely Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, and Elizabeth Olsen. If only they had killed off Aaron-Taylor Johnson instead, the film would have been far better.

James Bond returned this year in ‘Spectre’ which brought Bond back to the Whiz-Bang adventure stylings that would be more fitting for Pierce Brosnan’s Bond than Daniel Craig’s. While there are indeed moments of excellence, that opening sequence alone was worth the price of admission, they cannot mend serious flaws that hurt the film otherwise. What’s particularly disapointing here though is that the last James Bond film ‘SkyFall’ had been a profound story for the character, questioning whether or not He is still needed, the film challenged the audience to rethink what Bond meant to them and his relevancy in the medium, ‘Spectre’, on the other hand, nestled back into the tired tropes of the double O agent and neglected to challenge the character, or audience, hardly at all. Relying on a formula that’s been done time and again can only do so much, especially when the shadow of the previous film stands as tall as ‘Skyfall’ does. Audiences’ memories aren’t that bad.

So, we should come to expect more from our films given how many we churn out each year, right? As an informed audience, we should want our art to challenge us, ask us the hard questions, show us the hard truths, and be better than we expect. Not all movies have to go through the gauntlet because of audience demands though, and I get that, but shouldn’t we want more substance out of our stories than just being entertained? Some films are simply pure entertainment, and that’s fine! However we shouldn’t let this permeate a majority of the movies being made. A variety throughout the cinematic landscape is certainly wanted, and needed! Personally, I want to see more films that inspire people, make emotional connections, and showcase ourselves onscreen in the best light.

It should also be noted that this is by no means to say that we don’t have nuanced and complex films solely relying on spectacle. This year alone has had many worthy additions, ‘Mad Max’, ‘Inside Out’, & ‘Creed’ are all magnificient in their own rights and are only a fraction of the quality content out there. So, my point is get out and see a film outside of your comfort zone, it might challenge you in a way you never thought possible! See something new!

 

 

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Top Five Directors That Marvel Studios Needs

Now that Marvel Studios’ resident miracle maker Kevin Feige doesn’t have to answer to a creative committee for major upcoming decisions regarding the properties at hand he has the option to court talent and crew like never before. Ike Perlmutter, the reportedly penny pinching CEO has been moved on to the Marvel Television department and Mr. Feige, along with Louis D’Esposito and Victoria Alonso, now answer only to Alan Horn, head of Disney Studios. This is excellent news for the throngs of Marvel Studios fans old and new as it allows the studio to freely fund their creative projects the way they want. This means previously considered “Untouchable” actors and filmmakers are now conceivably on the table. Below I’ve listed the five directors that I believe would most improve the Marvel comics properties and help bring not only their inherent audiences with them, but also new and refreshing perspectives to the anthology of films which is something that is beginning to become more needed as time goes on. Similarly to how Marvel fixed it’s third act issues with Captain America’s first flick I believe this new era of possibilities will only strengthen the stories and execution that come with the territory. Here are my thoughts on who should join the roster.

1 JJ Abrams

While JJ is currently off in a galaxy far far away he will need to make more films after his deep space sandbox days are over. It helps that he’s only committed himself to episode 7 so that he may return to original works, or other creative properties that he would like to immerse himself in. He’s seemingly become a master at jumping into established franchises and making magic out of them, ie Star Trek, Mission Impossible, & (hopefully) Star Wars. So I wouldn’t put it as too far a stretch of the imagination for him to take on a Marvel Comics property. I think, and this one might be a stretch, but hear me out, that Abrams would be an excellent choice for “Thor: Ragnarok”. Abrams has proven that he can be comfortable in the cosmic side of things while this project would offer that up in a fresh and exciting way. Personally I’ve quite enjoyed the “Thor” movies but there could easily be an argument made that out of all the main Avengers (save Hulk) that the Norse God’s trilogy has been the weakest overall. The series needs a shot in the arm for its biggest story yet and Ragnarok is HUGE, it will need a crew and director suited for the trials and tribulations that this story demands. JJ Abrams would be the best creative solution to Thor’s issues in my mind.

2 Christopher Nolan

The man that brought Batman back to life is no stranger to mind bending genre fair and he very well might be the dressing that the “Inhumans” movie will need. With his revered use of practical effects mixed with comprehensive CGI and the ability to pull real character depth out of traditionally ill fated on screen conceptions of villains a la Two Face then I see nothing but potential for this pairing. Nolan might be busy with a trilogy of “Akira” movies for Warner Brothers but if he ever wants to try the other side of the Superhero fence I firmly believe it should be with the fantastical Inhumans.

3 Kathryn Bigelow

There are multiple reasons Kathryn Bigelow would be a fine choice for a number of caped genre fair flicks but there’s really only one character in mind that I think would go hand in hand with her style and substance choices. Captain Marvel. The character is going to be a powerhouse of a force in the MCU and she needs to be handled with care,  remember, she’s the only leading lady in Marvel’s care as of right now. Bigelow’s style and direction would only benefit the subject matter but also the character of Carol Danvers as a person, the director has proven she can take great care in fostering strong female characters. And we can’t forget to mention that Ms Danvers herself comes from a military background, another checked box in Bigelow’s filmography. Bigelow is the obvious choice.

4 Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle is very good at taking a unique perspective and flexing it over odd creative choices. Case in point, “Trainspotting”, “Trance”, and “28 Days Later”, well, 28 days isn’t as weird as it was a new take on the age old Zombie flick that surpassed expectations. This entry is more of a theoretical choice when it comes to the specific film I think he would be best at, but if the MCU heads ever decide to make a “Moonknight” movie, they should remember Danny Boyle. Moonknight is such an unrecognized and underused title when compared to the big four (Avengers) he would be an excellent palette cleanser from what what came before. Marc Spector, the Moon Knight, is a vigilante that brutally delivers justice while receiving instruction on high from the Egyptian god Khonshu.. and he has multiple personalities… and Schizophrenia. So is he really hearing declarations from the God? That’s just part of the fun. There’s no doubt in my mind that Danny Boyle would have an absolute blast making this weird character come alive onscreen, and he should!

5 Steven Spielberg

Even with his recent comments about the Superhero genre eventually going the way of the western, who wouldn’t want the king of movie magic laying his fingerprints over one of the comic giant’s properties? I can think of no better option than Spiderman himself. Arguably the most well known Superhero the world over, Spiderman would the quintessential choice for this legend of filmmaking. Think about it, make Tom Hanks Uncle Ben, allowing for a brief cameo so as not to use up too much of his time and voila! Perfection. Can you think of a better pairing between director and character than this? The character with the most heart getting the director with the most human touch and magical whimsy ever to be involved together? Shoot me now because this is the end all be all of theoretical-but-totally-not-gonna-happen ideas. I can dream though..

Honorable Mentions

Quentin Tarantino

I wish I could say I’d feel comfortable with meshing Tarantino into the Marvel universe but other than the Punisher I see no real possibility for this one. I’m sure he’s do a fantastic revenge thriller for the character, but would the director even want to get involved?

Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

If we can’t get Spielberg then Lord and Miller would be excellent choices for the Spiderman character, maybe for one of his sequels? Their brand of humor and general favorability would mesh wonderfully with the quips and heart surrounding Spidey, which makes all the sense in the world as they are already working on some sort of animated Spiderman film, so I’m clearly not alone in this assumption.

So there you have it, those are the directors that I feel would be the best options for Marvel Studios to pursue in the coming years now that money isn’t as much of an obstacle as it had been. Hopefully we’ll see one of these visionaries take on a Marvel property, I’d love to see what they do with the boundless options this MCU sandbox has afforded us!

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Monday Movie Pitch [On a Tuesday]: Expendables 4

First of all apologies for the late Movie Pitch this week, occasionally life can take precedence, and this week it did just that. Enough with the speed bumps however because this week I have a tantalizing pitch that I’ve been stewing over for quite some time now: The next iteration of “The Expendables” Franchise.

On the whole I’ve enjoyed “The Expendables” movies but as they continue the movies have an increasingly cumbersome issue with each episodic adventure. Each movie feels like just like the other but with different palettes of actors or explosive situations. It could be said that Marvel Studios films are getting somewhat into this same issue of overly consistent tone, but that’s a whole other issue in itself. As far as I’m concerned Sly and the Gang need to up the ante and change things up big time in the next movie or the franchise will die, especially given the horrific box office of last year’s third entry in the action heavy series. Granted, the numbers were particularly low because of the movie being leaked online two weeks before the release date, but any way you slice it 6 million for an opening weekend with the amount of star power involved just doesn’t add up. That’s simply bad news for everyone involved.

What I would do to revitalize the series is to play to the crowd of the audience, pitting the older action stars up against impossible odds, odds of a particular magnitude. Introduce a superhero into the mix. It’s the perfect direction for the series to reassert itself among the crowded super-powered market with a unique perspective. The trick is to cast a powerhouse in this role, somebody that’s charismatic, able to do action/CGI sequences well, and bring audiences along with him. That man should be nobody other than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

I can already see the general outline of the plot. Act one has the Expendables sent to take out a young dictator on the world stage that has gotten unwisely bombastic with his nuclear weapon potential. North Korean assumptions can obviously be made here. Have Stallone and the team knock the palace doors down only to be out-staged by this new incredible force. They’re all out of the job after this sequence of events as the “hero” attempts to do as much as possible for humankind in eradicating war and instituting world peace. Eventually he must become either mad with power or deduce that he should be the earth’s sole leader because multiple sovereign nations will only ever result in war and discord. This is where the Expendables become important once more. After multiple countries attempt to nuke the Superman-like hero, and fail, the secret agencies that have been hiring the Expendables since day one step in and introduce some plot device or perceived weakness etc whatever they can do to trick, reason with, or kill the hero.

We could play into the otherworldly alien hero raised among humanity to save/destroy us storyline but that Superman “skin” has been used countless times as is. I prefer a “radiation/accidental act that transforms the everyday man” sort of event for this central character’s origin. For international appeal, and to make more sense for the global scale of the story, including new additions to the Expendables team from other nations would only help the formation of the group.

My top choices for additions to shake up the core team are as follows:

Jackie Chan: I’ve personally wanted JC in this franchise from the beginning since his contemporary Jet Li has had a spot on each film, small as they may have been. I shouldn’t have to explain why this would be a great deal of fun. Especially if he is against the use of guns.

Kurt Russell: Adding Kurt Russell to any movie is a wise decision in my opinion but he’s proven he’s ready to get back into the limelight with his “Furious 7” and “Hateful eight” roles and I’m sure any role they craft for him would be a blast.

Nicholas Cage: The franchise has gotten a bit ridiculous and if they want to be self aware and referential then adding in Nic Cage would be the just desserts. Especially if they need anyone to go crazy. He could be a conspiracy nut that knows everything on Dwayne Johnson’s character. Woody Harrelson would also fit this type of role… or Charlie Day, but that’s just because I love Charlie Day and will gladly advocate more roles for him.

Laurence Fishburne: The man that made Morpheus work has a certain gravitas to himself that would only help to bring balance to the team, plus he’s proven himself many times over the years for the type of work this film would likely entail.

Tom Cruise: Incredibly unlikely I know, but maybe they could squeeze an extended cameo sequence out of him similarly to how they utilized Chuck Norris in the second flick?

Charlie Hunnam: After “Pacific Rim” and “Sons of Anarchy” he could definitely be comfortable with a gun and growl, plus Stallone seems to enjoy the idea of “Young Blood” being added to the team.

Vin Diesel: Between saying “I am Groot” a hundred times and driving off of cliffs Diesel might be too busy to take on another franchise role anytime soon but no one can deny how much he could bring to the table in this sort of setting.

Idris Elba: Citing “Luther”, “Pacific Rim”, and his recurring “Thor” roles it comes to be seen that not only does Elba have a propensity for genre fair, but he’s a damn fine actor that can handle a one liner, or a monologue. Give that man a gun already!

Gerard Butler: “Shoot ’em up” alone has given this man enough action film cred to be involved in this series, let alone his glorious “300” role as King Leonidas. Give that man a sword, or a gun, or both- and let him have at it!

Chiwetel Ejiofor: I seriously doubt he would even want to take on this caliber of role, but his choice of the villain in the upcoming “Dr. Strange” film opens the conversation for more ridiculous options than the Oscar level work he’s currently being more associated with.

A few other recommendations for this film:

Make it a Hard “R” rating. All, or at least most of, the actors in the franchise come from action series where they are almost constantly killing hordes of bad guys in the process of achieving their goals, let them be who they want to be. Let the movie be what it wants to be too, going PG-13 for a wider audience only alienates the core audience that clamors for this type of movie anyways. Oh and cut the CGI blood splatter and terribly awful renderings of tanks and helicopters, we can all see how terrible it is and in the year 2015 we shouldn’t have to see blatant budget choices every time a bad guy bites the dust.

Put Stallone back in the director’s chair again. I stand by the fact that the original Expendables was the best in the series. While I enjoyed the second one there were clear losses of vision and expertise on several levels that Sly had covered in the first piece. Granted I know this series is not known for Oscar nominated performances or the world’s most stunning cinematography, but the first film excelled in areas where the sequels lacked. Having Stallone back in the saddle again might alleviate these issues and help to keep the tone and feel he wants consistent with what ends up being the wide release version.

Kill one of the main characters. They are called the Expendables after all, right? At this point in the game a death in the family, and I mean a meaningful death *SPOILERS* not what we got in two where a newcomer is introduced and killed two scenes later. It would be a good motivator for the team, but it only works emotionally for the audience if we’ve invested in the character. I nominate Dolph Lundgren’s character. He’s gone through a lot in the series and it would maker sense thematically to painfully cut that chord. Nothing against Lundgren though- he’s great.

All in all this could be a potentially huge game changer for this series if pulled off well. Obviously there needs to be a lot more thought put into Dwayne Johnson’s character to make sure he is overwhelming but not omnipotent as well as pacing issues, and having enough for the action guys to do what they do best, shoot, cut, blow up, and punches to the face! Hopefully Sly can make the next one work because I enjoy the series and love the talent involved, its because of this that I want each installment to be better than the last. That’s my movie pitch for this week!

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Movie-Pitch Mondays! Remake of “The Magnificent Seven”

Starting this week my goal is to keep pace with more weekly postings, Movie Pitch Mondays is that first step. This is where I imagine how I would approach the casting, the direction of plot, and crew that inhabit the production of this theoretical film. Description and vision of each film can vary from piece to piece.

For my first pitch I would love to see a remake of the old western classic “The Magnificent Seven”. Which itself was an Old-West style remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese-language film “Seven Samurai”. I know there’s a current remake of this property under way right now, set to be directed by Antoine Fuqua with Chris Pratt, Denzel Washington, & Vincent D’Onofrio among others signed to star. This is simply how I would arrange the property.

The Cast, with character descriptions:

Tom Hanks as the Sheriff with a heart of gold and wit of steel.

Aaron Paul as the Deputy, loyal and proud yet a shadowy past.

James McAvoy as the angry Scottish indentured Railroad worker.

Simon Pegg as the Neurotic Englishman that translates for McAvoy’s character, inventive.

Michael Pena as a wanted bank robber from south of the border seeking asylum.

Vin Diesel as the tough Miner that’s had enough and demands a call to action.

Robert Downey Jr. as the devilishly charming Southern Gentleman, in from the East.

Patrick Stewart as The face of bureaucratic, crushing, power. Joyless.

Tim Roth as Business partner to Stewart’s character, The Good Cop to Stewart’s bad.

The Crew:

Director: JJ Abrams

Writer: Christopher McQuarrie

I chose JJ for this piece not only because I personally want to see what he could do in this most classic of sandboxes, but also because I believe he would handle that territory of filmmaking well. I would trust his handling of the genre. After “Star Trek”, and now “Wars” a western will almost be akin to retiring if we’re scaling for box office numbers anyways. JJ has a unique visual style, and I’m assuming his cinematographers would come along with him on subsequent projects. He can handle a piece such as this, a big ensemble cast that has many moving parts while maintaining just the right slow burn pace that is representative of the genre as a whole, but respectful of its varied and long history. What I think JJ brings to this potential film that is most needed is his sense of “Magic” that he has somehow acquired, that almost unfathomable subtle touch of magic that makes the film feel impervious to negativity. If that makes any sense. He’s very Spielbergian in that way, which is why I also chose to add in Tom Hanks as the emotional anchor of the piece.

Christopher McQuarrie has a history of delivering knock out screenplays, and just wrote and directed the latest “Mission Impossible” installment, “Rogue Nation”. With “The Usual Suspects” in particular, and “Edge of Tomorrow” in a lesser way, McQuarrie has proven himself capable of multifaceted and complex screenplays. Though this film won’t be a mind blowing reveal like the ending of “The Usual Suspects” it will have multiple things going on all at once and I believe his style would only compliment it.

I see the plot essentially maintaining the general idea that a group of gunslingers ban together to save a small Mexican town overrun by bandits. However in my revision we would place the setting in America and the Sheriff is the initial push in banding together forces both local and afar to save the town from a crushing pair of British businessman that bought their way into the Oil business and need a railway to run their product through the town for high speed purposes. From there the film almost writes itself to be honest. First the threat is established by the foreign businessmen, then when they are turned down a terrible act of violence is carried out. Perhaps the child of Vin Diesel’s character? Dark, but a high character motivator. You’d have your traditional recruitment scenes wherein Hanks rounds up anyone who isn’t too scared of the threat aka Vin Diesel. Next up, the people that have great needs for which they will join up if reimbursed/helped, a la Pena, Pegg, and McAvoy. Lastly, the wild card, or Robert Downey Jr’s character, the charismatic big talker blown in from the east who is really a washed up legend and feels obliged to take up the cause.Lest the townspeople neglect him or worse, find out his true tale and exile him.

This could be a really fun throwback to Western and Samurai tales. I may have wandered too far from the original concept, but every remake has to have its own skin, it’s own purpose, otherwise why do it at all? Obviously the third Act has to have large numbers of muscle/militia bought by the businessmen that end up carrying out an onslaught on the town and its people. Maybe even have Aaron Paul’s young and nimble deputy fall in battle as in the initial Western remake? Like I said there’s a lot you could do with this, I love the idea of it and while this will look almost nothing like the actual remake that is being made right now, I can dream, and you should too! That’s my Movie Pitch for this week!

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Who is the most American Superhero?

When you think about American cinema lately you might conjure up images of a household name actor or director a la Bradley Cooper or the much maligned Micheal Bay. It probably won’t take the average person long to mention a superhero movie. The superhero movie in and of itself has taken over our culture’s attention for more than a decade now. Personally, I’m biased, I quite enjoy the genre as a fun escapist two hours to get away from the world and enjoy a little fantasy every now and then. The other day however, as I was considering just how popular Marvel and DC movies have become I came upon an interesting question. Who is the most American superhero?

There might be a fair amount of you that immediately spout off your “Superman”, your “Captain America”, maybe even a “Batman”. I believe it demands a bit more deliberation than that though. It can be argued that certain characters represent American ideals better than others, while others represent modern American society and our current culture’s mindset to a whole other degree. Now, to be fair, anyone that said Superman right off the bat does have a whole lot of points going for them already.

Superman was the first superhero, he began, and currently still perpetuates the comic book genre to this very day. Recently celebrating seventy-five years of publication he has some clout for the argument at hand, specifically the fact that he’s an immigrant, essentially the most American part of our own history. Clark Kent embodies the traditional “American Way” in too many ways to count, he’s resilient, his Kansas upbringing in a small town, he doesn’t want a fight- but won’t back down from one, and his handle on keeping his powers in check under stressful social situations proves that he is the better man (a point I believe the latest film iteration “Man of Steel” did well). Those are just a few examples, but I’ll move on just to speed things along.

Captain America. America is in his very pseudonym. However, Cap still falls into the same category as Superman. Half of the stories involving Captain America play off of him trying to relate to current American society, or referencing his traditional take on situations. He is a man stuck in tradition, and he, just as Mr. Kent, plays up the reserved, quiet, but strong and determined male model of masculinity. They both represent what most, but certainly not all, men strive to be at times in their lives, but it’s impossible to be at that level of responsible and level headed functioning all the time. Which is why Marvel wisely capitalized on the relatable superhero.

Spiderman is the quintessential icon of relatable superheroes. Peter Parker is a young, smart, and hard working individual that’s always rushing from crisis to crisis. A superhero that has trouble paying the rent but works tirelessly to help the average joe was a brilliant stroke of the evolution of the American superhero. The student with a secret always has far too many problems going on at once. From Doctor Octopus to getting to class on time, he is the epitome of a modern millennial, constantly juggling as much as possible just to get by and keep his loved ones safe and close. For every yin there is a yang however and the 1% must have a hero to call their own in this day and age, right? Why not, they’ve got everything else.

Tony Stark is the aged vintage wine of the elite superheroes. He not only represents America’s lust for consuming merchandise and wealth, but also our unrivaled American Ingenuity. He’s constantly renovating and rebuilding the world of technology around him. Tony has gone through changes that mirror in many ways what America has gone through in the last twenty-to-thirty years. They’re both now more invested in the green market, both have pretty shaky pasts at times, and both are working towards bettering their own images to transcend and excel. I believe The millennial generation is working hard to change the social stigma of our country across the globe to better represent ourselves in every field. I may be biased in this argument, but as an American, at least I can relate to Tony Stark in that way, confident enough to boldly make the changes we so desperately need, however I can’t snark like Stark, let’s leave the pros to do what they do best.

Speaking of professionals, I doubt there’s a more unprofessional professional than the Merc with a mouth himself, Deadpool. Now, I include Deadpool on this list because he represents a fervent and ever growing, ever changing, subculture. The internet. It has given us many things, but chiefly relevant here is the warped sense of humor and a desensitization to violence that oddly, yet successfully, merges cartoonish antics and adult content. This essentially is Deadpool, with his ridiculously short attention span and lust for silly violence, he vividly represents the “Call of Duty” modern subculture that is prevalent among a wide swath of American youth today. While Wade Wilson is void of the hard moral lines that make Captain America and Superman such icons for the values of American tradition, I say he is a much needed force to represent the balance of our culture. Deadpool represents the flip side of that coin and rightly so, The United States of America is a massively diverse place, with wildly different opinions driving everything we do.

Thus it stands to reason that there is no one supremely “American” superhero because it would defeat the purpose of our country in itself. Maybe the angle here isn’t that any one super powered individual best represents us because we are all so different. We’re akin to a gigantic machine with millions of different gears and cogs, coils and springs, all moving independently of each other, and at the same time, in unison with one another. It’s probably more accurate to say that simply the idea of superheroes by itself is a truly American invention because they’re beginning to represent more and more of the rest of us as time goes on. The New Ms. Marvel is a teenage Muslim American, the new Thor is be a woman, and Sam Wilson (The Falcon) has taken up the Mantle of Captain America himself proving that diversity is starting to reach the arenas of entertainment that has had a harder time changing decades old fan favorite characters. On DC’s behalf even Victor Stone, the African American superhero known as Cyborg, has become an unbridled force for good on the Justice League standing with the legends themselves, Batman and Superman.

When you really boil it down to its core the idea of someone imbued with a significant advantage in life that chooses to stand against the evil intentions of others, to protect those with less, is a truly human thing. Maybe it’s not about flags or borders, but just about the nature of good people that take action and stand as a symbol to others that injustice, lies, thievery, and rape (physical, emotional, or mental) will not, and should not, be acceptable in a community of decent human beings. To be human though, is to tell stories, its how we started recording history by oral traditions. Thousands of years later our imaginations could no longer be contained by a single medium and we grew in the world and in the way we tell our stories, by speech, on paper, in print, within our music, and even with film. So, to be a true American, to be more like a superhero, to be human really, go out there and tell a story, any story, it doesn’t even have to be yours. Get Vivid, and have fun.

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Practical Magic

This September brings the home video release of one of the biggest surprises of 2015, “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Without going through a typical movie review of the film I’ve come to the conclusion that having a conversation about what makes this movie so special would be more productive. Seriously though, if you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out, a solid 9/10. In my opinion the feminism portion of the story is all good and well for a modern movie, but what burned into my memory more so than the story of Furiosa and her gang of fiercely independent women was the mind bending practical effects utilized throughout the movie. That was, in my opinion, what made the movie stand tall above other CGI focused movies currently in the market.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed a fair amount of movies that rely heavily on computer generated content, but the balance between these two types of filmmaking is what matters most though. It’s what gives the movie it’s allure, it’s magic. Thinking back on it, the movies that inspired wonder and awe most for me were the movies that poured their hearts into every prop, car crash, prosthetic, and miniature set. “Back to the Future” “Indiana Jones” “Jaws” “The Nightmare on Elm Street” “Star Wars” All of these movies, and a great deal more, successfully merged reality with a flair of fantasy (not simply swords and magic for all you D&D’ers out there) that transcended whatever genre they existed in to create just the right amount of immersion.

Take “Raiders of the Lost Ark” for example. Remember that infamous Nazi face melting scene? They achieved it by making a mold of the actor’s face out of gelatin, meat, and liver among other things and had it set next to a heat lamp that slowly melted it. Afterword they sped up the footage and there you have it! C’est magnifique! I could go on for days detailing numerous effects over the last century of filmmaking, but more importantly, there was a time in the last decade or so when it seemed like practical effects had been thrown to the wayside by the new and shiny computer effects brought on by newer technologies in filmmaking.

Films like ”Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow”, a film that was entirely shot in green screen (They didn’t even use sets or locations, nothing at all except handheld props and costumes) were being lauded as the new way of modern filmmaking. This thinking held true for much of the 2000′s, some deviations being the wonderfully practical ”Lord of The Rings” trilogy among others, but for the most part CGI had seemingly taken over.

Recently however in the last five years of movie releases a peculiar thing began to happen. Slowly but surely people seemed to tire of overly fake sequences and practical effects began to creep back into the limelight. Now I’m not much a of a horror fan, but the recent “Evil Dead” remake heavily embraced such filmmaking, and knowing that they created a moment with practical filmmaking just baits the question of “How the hell did they do THAT?!” I’m still at a loss as to how they sawed a girl’s arm completely off onscreen. I would have assumed she might have just only had one arm and a prosthetic was sawed in half, but I’m also pretty sure they blatantly showed her utilizing that very real arm beforehand. However they did it, I was wowed. Mission accomplished.

More and more movies began to reincorporate on location shooting, heavily ornate and “lived in” setpieces, and all kinds of manmade visual tricks. Even more dramatic films like the brilliant “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” meshed palpable effects back into the light. “Predators” was one such film. It went back to the jungle, an actual jungle in Hawaii, utilized practical tricks for the Predators themselves, and props aplenty. Now the more you look around the more you see a real effort to wow audiences with a respective meld between both CGI and Practical effects. Even “Interstellar” was lauded for it’s use of special effects sequences, and that was about wormhole traveling through space and across galaxies! Hell, even the Muppets are back!

What George Miller did with this newest iteration of Mad Max was wonderfully brilliant because it lovingly crafted the look and feel of the film with equal parts practical effects and CGI. Just check out this excellent article that details the minutia of several key sequences! http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Mad-Max-Fury-Road-Blu-ray/74537/ In today’s world of filmmaking anything is possible. From Galaxies far far away to indie darlings that focus on more down to earth questions about love or death, there is room for both takes, and in many cases you need to embrace both. Sometimes the effects can be so good that you can’t tell which is which either. Anyone remember the scene late in “The Wolf of Wall Street” when DiCaprio and Hill are walking down the Italian boardwalk to their boat? Only the pier is real. Which is astounding when you think about it.

My point being that practical effects can be used to great effect in a multitude of ways, as can CGI. We shouldn’t be demonizing CGI either because when they are both used in tandem, the results are spectacular. Personally, I’m most looking forward to JJ Abrams entry into the “Star Wars” universe and he has seemed to be heavily utilizing both resources, as he should. So, I say to you Hollywood: Thank you. Thank you for realizing that movies can be made in many ways, and that using the best of all our abilities to wow audiences is the point. Necessity maybe the mother of invention, but when you have an abundance of skills and tricks, we all win.

http://www.raindance.org/7-practical-effects-in-films-you-probably-thought-were-cgi/

http://filmschoolrejects.com/cinematic-listology/7-surprisingly-low-budget-effects-in-big-budget-movies.php

http://mentalfloss.com/article/55963/21-things-you-might-not-have-known-about-raiders-lost-ark