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Ratings, Awards, and Scores

Recently I’ve spent a lot of thought on the idea of giving a score, or a number to represent the quality of a film. Obviously I understand the need, or want, to associate a numeric value to a film to understand a generic amount of value or scorn this may elicit, but we are all beasts of arbitrary association and we all (humans) like to know which subjects are the “winners” and which are the “losers” even when such a dichotomy is fruitless in the end. Everyone has films, music, paintings, architechture, etc etc that they prefer over others’ preferences. Recognizing skill and artistic expressions is great, and important culturally. However stating that one may be better or worse truly depends on who you are as a person, your own background, family’s impressions upon you, and essentially your taste.

Awards also fall under this category for they are ultimately arbitrary when it comes to art in my opinion. While I do love the fanfare and pizzazz that comes with the Oscars, it’s not the award that gives meaning to art, it is the celebration of the creation of art that has meaning here. Plus who doesn’t love a good show? It is part of being involved in film, in theatre, we love putting on a good show. The Oscars don’t always hold that notion close to their hearts, but it is there for better or worse. I’d like to entertain the notion that such an idea shouldn’t be about receiving an award, but of giving recognition to a piece of art that has enough of a consensus to have earned such notoriety.

My conclusion being that since this is such a meaningless task in the end my reviews from this point on will focus more on the merits and failures of any specific film as far as my perspective can facilitate such a conversation. In the wake of a score I will implement more of a whimsical idea in that my “Final Scores” will be as meaningless as any such label. An example of this might be “Fifty-two surfboards for Keanu Reeve’s ‘Point Break'” or “One Thousand and Eight Bullet casings for Mel Gibson’s ‘Hacksaw Ridge'”. Not only can this be a fun button to put at the end of each review, I believe it helps to cement the ideology of “One man’s trash being another’s treasure”. I know, as well as you do, that some people actively seek out films disregarded as “Trash” or simply “bad” intentionally or otherwise purely because of it’s perceived “badness”.

My intent is facilitate thought and discussion about film and the people involved in creating it. Losing the focus of scorekeeping levels the field and diverts thoughts back to what makes or breaks a production. Was the editing too fast and muddled? Or did the cinematography move and flow in a way that moved you? Were the performances impeccable? Or did it seem like the actor was holding back? Not pushing him or herself the distance? Maybe it was the atmosphere on set that created this? Or something in their personal lives that could be felt onscreen in some mystifying way? Obviously some of these unknowns will always be speculation, but that’s part of the fun isn’t it?

One final thought. If you find yourself disgusted, maddened, or simply unentertained by someone else’s art, then by all means express your opinion, it is our right after all, but there is no reason to spew misplaced and confused hatred into the world because you were bothered by a piece of art, film or otherwise. I’m not suggesting the silence of discussion by any means, this whole piece is about the broadening of thoughtful and engaging communication between others. I simply believe that you shouldn’t need, or feel the need, to go out of your way to spread vitriole and division. We here in the United States of America have enough of that going around as is, and in light of the holidays approaching: go forth and talk, write, or type about a film that you love. Show it to others. Have discussions about it with them and if you don’t particularly enjoy something that someone else loves, then let them have it. This is supposed to be entertainment after all.

 

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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!