Sunday, January 30, 2011

Directors to Trust with 3D

Earlier this week, reports rose of Keanu Reeves breaking news of two more films in The Matrix franchise which will be shot back to back, in 3D, and according to Reeves will “truly revolutionize the action genre like the first movie.” While this report was latter deemed inaccurate but still brings up a larger topic. Movie franchises are getting an unnecessary extra film from the technology’s prominence i.e. the latest Chronicles of Narnia film which followed a less than stellar performance from its predecessor.

There has also been a large amount of backlash for Baz Luhrman’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby which is also being filmed in the third dimension. The novel is almost everybody’s favorite book (one of mine too) because they first read it in High School (as did I) so invariably, people hold it very close to their hearts and the unavoidable mistreatment of even the smallest detail will cause distress amongst high school graduates everywhere.

Criticism aside, I would actually be excited for a 3D venture from both the Wachowski’s or Luhrman. James Cameron created an excellent movie experience unique to theaters with Avatar and there are a number of other directors who could play with the tech in unique ways. Here are a few other director I would trust in the third dimension.

Tim Burton – I’m sorry to all the fanboys out there but last years’ Alice in Wonderland doesn’t count. It wasn’t shot in or for 3D. While his more recent films are bogged down in visual effects, his imagination his still rightfully intact as seen in Big Fish, his last great film. Imagine a situation where viewers only put on their glasses during that film’s story sequences. The scene at the circus would be breathtaking.

Steven Spielberg – A bit of an obvious choice and his films are known for crumbling when they over-rely on effects but dammit when his movies work, they pay-off tenfold. Look at something like Minority Report, a film that combines excellent effects and action scenes with a compelling mystery and sci-fi themes. A similar movie may actually make me pay extra for the third dimension.

Christopher Nolan – Inception was a visual feast for the eyes. We’ll have to wait till after The Dark Knight Rises before we get a chance to see Nolan experiment in the third dimension (which is for the better!) but it will certainly be worth the wait.

Wes Anderson – A dark horse to be sure and a director who is certainly capable of causing apathy in his audience (Darjeeling Limited) and I don’t approve of his directing methods for the very good Fantastic Mr. Fox. However, his commitment to mis-en-scene and his film’s overall visual style is amazing. His first 3D film would definitely grab the attention of every hipster and film student in the country.

Are there other directors you would trust with 3D? Would you even want some of these directors to take on the tech? Leave your comments below and check out the poll to left of the screen.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Grown-up Movies #1: No Return allowed

Unlike many film lovers, my parents were surprisingly effective at keeping me away from films they deemed inappropriate. Even more surprising I honored their judgment and opinion. More than often, I picked age appropriate titles out at the video store. However, there were times when I’d bring my parents a video and was met with the phrase, “That’s a Grown-up movie.” I would then proceed to find a new choice.

I’ve decided to go back and watch or re-watch some of those films and offer my thoughts on if they were indeed worth the wait or if my parents were protecting me from more than violence, sex, and foul language.

Despite my parent’s stringent stance on films with a rating outside my age range, I experienced Tim Burton’s Batman for the first time at five years-old. This along with my biological alarm clock set for the daily airing of Batman: The Animated Series and the Dark Knight taking up the majority of my action figure collection, the caped crusader was easily my favorite of the comic book characters.

So when I first saw advertisements for the next Batman film in which he would battle The Penguin and Catwoman, I was stoked. I was Batman that year for Halloween, got the Happy Meal toys (before they were pulled) and got the Wayne Manor /Bat Cave play set for Christmas.

However when I wanted to go see Burton’s Batman sequel, I was met with a surprising “No,” which may have been due to stories of parents groups turning against the film, or just word of mouth from my mom’s friends who took their kids to see it opening weekend. All this hype and it surprises me that I never saw the film start to finish until a couple of years ago and just watched it again as I'm on a bit of an all things Batman binge.

It’s interesting to go back and watch the Burton Batman films having now experienced Nolan’s Gotham City. The current trend to favor gritty real-world action in lieu of theatrics definitely dates the Batman of the nineties, especially Burton’s. However since Batman Returns features characters not yet seen in Nolan’s films, this sequel holds up far better than its predecessor. The scope of the film is much tighter with the first films klunky handling of the mob eliminated and characters meant to deepen the universe like Billy Dee Williams’ Harvey Dent left out of the final script. Despite these positives there were still too many characters.

The first major Superhero sequel is also the first to suffer from “too many villains syndrome,” that is now a significant part of the superhero film lexicon. While The Penguin character was always a part of the film, it definitely feels like he character operates outside of the film’s most compelling threads. His master plan of murdering Gotham’s first born is over almost before it even begins. In the film’s best scene and final showdown, he’s nowhere to be found.

It’s funny to think of how The Dark Knight visits the same concept of Batman being no different than the crazy villains he fights and throws in Arkham Asylum, yet back then, everyone talked about the films dark atmosphere and the scary nature of the Penguin. Excluding the Penguin from the film would result in a much more mature film but also less theatrical and action oriented. No one in 1995 – Warners, Audiences or Burton – wanted a Batman film that was a deep meditation on who comprises of Gotham’s truly insane. This would result in a film that would bore more children than it would frighten, upset fewer parents and be an overall better film.

Finally there’s the films last scene – specifically the last shot – that is fresher in my mind than any other Batman moment. The scene marks a strong sense of hope, for both the characters and subsequent films that is truly beautiful. It’s too bad Burton wasn’t given another chance to bring Gotham alive.

Worth the wait or Worse than any inappropriate content: Worth the wait.

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