Friday, May 29, 2009

Critics Against 3-D

Well seems I'm in good company with my complaint about Pixar's new movie Up.

Let's be clear, Up is another elegant, uplifting animated movie. A movie only Pixar could tell, with classic characters, sumptuous visuals and talking dogs flying biplanes. (Really!)

It's also Pixar's first film in 3-D. Which brings me to my point. If you love animation, the way I love animation I'm recommending you do not go see the film in 3-D.

Why? Because what you gain isn't worth what you lose.

3-D is better than it used to be. No more red and blue glasses. Now we use funky polarized sunglasses. And yes, Pixar takes a restrained approach to the 3-D effects. There's no Dr.Tongue moment, no stuff flying out of the screen.

In fact the effects are SO subtle, i don't feel they're worth the bother. Pixar make beautiful images. I could write an essay on the way they portray a flashlight glowing under a blanket. So I don't want anything to come between me and that picture. 3-D has come a long way, but the result is a slightly darker, fuzzier image. If you like your picture pristine...follow the advice of Roger Ebert and Village Voice critic Robert Wilonsky. Leave the funny glasses to the horror films.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Robots vs Funny Men (new podcast)

Since we're seeing a little burst of traffic here in GOFland I thought I'd take this opportunity to flog my CBC radio podcast.
The latest one is up, where I compare the charms of the newest Night at the Museum vs Terminator Salvation. Since Ben Stiller and Co. trounced Christian "Can You Hear Me Now" Bale soundly at the box office, you might wanna take a listen.

There's a direct mp3 link here. And you can click HERE to launch iTunes. Or search for "Glasner on Film." Enjoy.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Easy Virtue (Some Summer Smarts)

I wanted to write about Easy Virtue a snappy comedy I fear will get lost beneath the sea of summer blockbusters. (It begins rolling out across Canada May 29th.)

Easy Virtue is an adaptation of a Noel Coward play. It's not of one of his better known works and in fact was staged more as a melodrama rather than the comedy we see on screen.

To get there producers hired writer/director Stephan Elliot
and co-writer Sheridan Jobbins (a former development exec.)
Elliot if you don't recall was the man behind The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. After listening to the latest Creative Screenwriting Podcast I learned that the success of Priscilla nearly killed Elliot. He had a couple flops and then a skiing accident that did literately nearly kill him. After essentially dropping out of the industry, Easy Virtue was his way back.

Easy Virtue is a surprising film. It's a Coward comedy, so there are the things we except. The English comedy of manners. A family low on luck and funds, clinging to the upper class, knuckles bare. The clash of the classes gets even better when Larita, a modern 2oth century gal and a American to boot, hooks up with the heir to the family farm, John Whittaker. This sets the stage for a battle of wills, in one corner, the impeccable Mrs. Whittaker (Kristin Scott Thomas) as devious as she is polite, in the other Larita (Jessica Biel) a smart sassy can-do gal.
This is a fun, snappy film. I had a good feeling about it from the first couple scenes. It's obvious the director thought about what kind of film he wanted to make. He's being true to the original, but he's embellishing and improving on points. Throughout there's real sense of play there. The way characters are almost breaking into song. The way visuals poke and joke with us, just as the dialogue does. And it's all rounded out by some fine performances by Biel, Scott Thomas and Colin Firth as Mr. Whittaker(who gets to play an unstuffed shirt for once.)

Listening to the aforementioned podcast there were a couple other surprises about the creation of the film. I recommend you check it out for yourself but to list a few:
  • Colin Firth's speech about losing an entire village of men in the War, not quite in the original play, and also based on a true story.
  • Jessica Biel sings on the soundtrack. As do some other cast members. (Soundtrack is also what adds to the sense of fun, a kind of 1920's dixieland rag, which shouldn't work in an British context, but does.)
  • Speaking of the British, Elliot says Easy Virtue bombed when it opened there. He's an Aussie and thinks that with Britain's economy in tatters this is not a time to introduce a film that makes fun of the English.
  • To keep the sense of distance between their two characters, Kristin Scott Thomas and Jessica Biel kept away from each other when not filming.
  • Easy Virtue was filmed, as a Silent Alfred Hitchcock in 1928. (Get your head around that one.)
  • Noel Coward wrote the original when he was 22 (!)
  • SPOILERS AHOY!!!!!!!!!!!! The sfx of the crunching of a dog was done by sitting on a BBQ chicken.
  • BIG SPOILER The moment at the end of the film where Mr.Whittaker jumps into Larita's car is an original creation. What's interesting is, the two writers don't agree on what it means. Are they lovers , or merely comrades in arms? You'll have to see for yourself to decide.
*And yes that second poster is HORRID.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Of Stars and Arcs...

Well I hope by now you've all been to see the lens-flare awesomeness that is Star Trek.

I'm still savouring some moments and planning to see it again.

In the meantime a couple things to pass along.

I could twitter them, but some things deserve a blog posting.

1) Screenwriter and blogger John Rogers has great rumination on how Star Trek is different. In short, he talks about how the movie defies the typical screenwriting cliches. There is no "tranformational" moment. Instead Star Trek is about what Rogers coins as the "revelatory arc". Interesting stuff.

2) Spaceship Porn. Neat history of different versions of the Enterprise over at Slashfilm.

There you go. And in case we're all too happy now, don't worry, Hollywood is hard out work on new flavours of crap. Case in point....American Gladitators the movie. Really? Really.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dammit He Can Sing Too (Whedon on This American Life)

So there I am doing the dishes and listening to the recent live show from This American Life.
If you don't know what This American Life is then you simply just don't love radio. Recently This American Life did a live show in Chicago and beamed it to theatres across North American. They had special guests, John Savage told a moving story about his mother and faith. And fan fav, Joss Whedon appeared. (Creator of Buffy, Firefly, Dollhouse and more.)

Before Whedon took to the stage they set things up by showing a couple clips from Whedon's hilarious Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. A musical, about a super villain, told in the form of a video blog. Yes, that is three flavours of awesome right there. And it works. Check it out if you haven't.

Anyway, now that the musicial, which started as a web-based experiment during the writer's strike, has become a big hit, Whedon had to cough up some bonuses for the DVD. And because he's evidently exploding with creative output, Whedon decided to SING parts of the of the commentary.

Which is my very long way of setting up this song. Here is a song, where creator Whedon sings on a commentary track about the pitfalls of telling the audience too much. It's a song about the value of mystery to link back to my last post on JJ Abrams.

And it's a damn fine song and the man has a point. Certainly grabbed me, so please enjoy. And of course go listen to the whole show of This American Life, they do a lovely podcast.

The video is from some janky screen grab from the live show. The official version from the Dr.Horrible DVD is here. But I found i liked the live version better.

Friday, May 8, 2009

All About Abrams (and Star Trek)

It's offical.

I have a creator crush on JJ Abrams.

He's the director of the new fan-freaking-tastic Star Trek.

Preparing for my cbc radio reviews today I've been boning up on my Abrams.

I watched his interview on Charlie Rose where he talks about giving B-Movie ideas the A-Movie treatment. (ie Cloverfield.)

He also talks about his general disdain of the Trek cannon and how sequels rip off the wrong stuff.

Then I watched the TED talk he gave on his mystery box. It's a magic box he bought in a magic story. He's never opened it because the possibilities of what is contains are stronger than what could actually be inside. Abrams talks about Lost, Stars Wars and the Graduate, relating them all to the mystery box.

Finally, for bonus points there's this article from the Guardian that covers his roots as a young filmmaker fooling around with Super8.

All in all he strikes me as a smart entertainer, Michael Bay but better. It doesn't hurt that he started as a writer, all his creations show that devotion to character, even in the midst of all that action. (We'll just keep the fact that he wrote Armageddon to ourselves.)

Heck with all this Abrams action, I may have to start watching Lost.


Friday, May 1, 2009

First Photo from X-Men: First Class Revealed!

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

I'm on the radio* today talking about how the mutant muddle of a movie Wolverine sets up Marvel's next movie X-Men:First Class.

Hopefully the next movie will look a little more grown up.

Image via Topless Robot, who have a fun list of some of Wolverine's least-than-stellar moments.

(*You can catch me on morning or afternoon shosw for CBC Radio in St.John's, Cornerbrook, Thunder Bay, Regina, Whitehorse, Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Sudbury, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Montreal, Windsor and on Ontario Morning heard outside Toronto.)