Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Commentary: Movie Trailers and their evil existence

Trailers are supposed to entice the public to see the movie. Have you ever noticed that trailers are always uncredited? Often, it's not the moviemaker who creates the trailers. Sometimes they don't even have a say as to what goes in it. Yet the success, financially at least, of a movie rests in part on trailers and the buzz they generate. So the reason for a trailer's existence is to make people want to see the movie, regardless of anything else. Even if it means including scenes that never make it into the movie. Even it it means showing scene from the ending. Whatever it takes to make moviegoers want to see the move and go to see the movie. Given this nature of which trailers are born and the controversy it stirs up with the moviemakers, the trailer-makers would probably prefer to remain anonymous.

From the various DVD commentaries and interviews I've heard, what usually happens is that after principal shooting is over and the editing process begins, the marketing people look over all the raw footage and choose what "works" or what might interest people. Damn story or any sense. That's why in trailers you'd see things that either do not make it into the final cut (nor in some cases even the extended cuts) and things that are right at the end of the movie, giving it away.

Not all trailers are like that. There are teasers. These just give glimpses of what the movie will be. It may not even contain any actual part of the move. Just look at the Harry Potter movie teasers or the Terminator 3's teaser's. The best of these are Pixar's. Their teasers tell something about the movie but doesn't contain any scenes from the movies. In fact, it is accepted fact that Pixar's teaser scenes will not make it into the movie. Yet, it does what it's supposed to do: make people want to watch the movie.

I think that there is a hidden code in trailers put in by trailer-makers that goes something like this, "If the movie is bad or I don't like it, the trailer will include a scene from the end of the movie or close to it or include something that'll give the movie away." Maybe it's a way of telling other trailer makers what they think about the movie without breaking confidentiality agreements. Perhaps some trailer-makers think they are doing a public service by doing so. That way, when you get close to the ending, you go, "Hey, I've seen this already. He'll do this and she'll do this. What the..? The ending is given away in the trailers". Those who understand this will pass it along... and the result is the movie not liked and watched by few.

But this has become a trend in trailers that even good movies suffer. I have watched movies and liked it while watching it only to be disappointed to see that the ending was shown already in the trailers. I understand it if the movie was a 'ride' movie, something that you get on and know what the end of the ride is going to be. However, this 'format' of trailer making is the norm now. It has come to a point that I don't even watch trailers anymore, fearing it might spoil my movie-going experience.

So the thing that was created to garner interest has done exactly the opposite. What a shame. I used to really enjoy trailers. The movie might be months away but by the time it comes, I really want to watch it, having watched the trailer for the upteenth time. Now, I don't bother. And I am not alone. If those marketing types have detected this trend, they are not flinching. They keep on following the same format. Doing otherwise would be an admission of guilt.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Commentary: Changing Screens

I realise that I've been watching more TV than movies recently. So from I'm adding my comments on those. A lot of real TV, cable and when I can Internet TV. Nothing is as hilarious as watching Angel in some other language... with sub-titles in English!
I'm not particular but not not too much reality TV. Enjoyed Bo Bice on American Idol. Should have won but we'll see what happens in the real world. He reminds me of Joshua Kadison and Curtis Stigers. Bo should cover "I wonder why", it's a good mix of soul and blues and suits his voice.
Like my movies, I love a good story. Not in any particular order, I've been watching Gilmore Girls, Joan of Arcadia, CSI (all of them), wonderfully, Friends, even some Buffy. Reruns don't turn me off. Then there are the rare gems, like Cupid. Eight series only. Shame on those TV execs.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

If Only: Lost Opportunity

Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Paul Nicholls
Category: Drama, Romance

Another movie about second chances? Do you think you've seen this before in movies like 'Groundhog Day'? Ready to dismiss this as a failed Jennifer Love Hewitt vehicle? If so, don't read on because if there is one thing I can't do, I can't convert the jaded.
First off, this is not a easy movie to find. Not the opposite of "an easy movie to watch". I mean this literally. If you've seen it, most likely it's on DVD. A Korean DVD. But true fans will find it and it's worth the hunt.
Like it says above, this movie is about romance. Ian, a corporate ladder-climbing Englishman is living with his American girlfriend. She studying music in London, finds him attractive and falls in love. He, however, is past the love-dovey stage too quickly and is settling into a routine, putting her in a special place in his life but not necessarily the center. She loves him regardless because she simply does. He plods on with life, taking her for granted. Until, of course, he finds himself without her. Then a magical second chance is offered. He decides to take it and try to fix his relationship with her. But is it really the relationship that needs fixing?
Rather than focusing on the second chance as a gimmick, the 'previous day' is quickly dismissed as a dream. Then the movie shows it's true colors. There are surprises and nothing goes along as expected because the events in the 'dream' don't happen the same way in real life. It confuses Ian, but he has already come to the realization of how much she really loves him. He find that although he wants to love her back the same way, he first has change, to go to a different place, a place where he can love her back in the same way, the same intensity. Because only then he will be ready to make the decision to stay or to go on and realize how that decision will mean for her.

Friday, July 08, 2005

A Walk to Remember: Movie and Book Comparison

A Walk To Remember book vs. Movie. My review of the movie Walk to Remember.
I decided to read the book after watching the movie. I had no expectations, knowing well that the book's storylines could be mutually exclusive.
All I can say is that the movie carries the spirit of the book superbly.  A lot can be said about  the decision to make the story contemporary rather than historically like in the book. But I think it was both for the better and it really didn't matter too much. Looking at the movie, only tell-tale signs were put in, somewhat as a reminder that movie is set today. Landon's CD player, the music from the radio, the high school kid's clothes, the cars. Other than that, the movie seemed set in a timeless period.
Now to the big question: What was really different?
Some of the characters changed from the book to the movie. In some cases, they were in appearances mostly. Ms. Garber isn't fat or wear glasses like in the book. But the book does go into her character a bit which sorta explains the way she was in the movie. And in the movie, nobody never mentions the reverand's name, Hegbert. But you listen to the DVD commentary track, the author, Nicholas Sparks, calls him only by that name.
Some events went missing and they weren't replaced. A lot was summarized. In the book Jamie shows kindness to even those that look down on her. That was, I think replaced by her 'thank you' reply when the cool kids commented on her only sweater.
I think eveyone who loves this movie should read the book. Reading the book brings new light to the stroy while being an experience on it's own.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Walk to Remember: Not Your Average Teen Romance

Starring: Mandy Moore, Shane West
Category: Romance For the movie and book comparison, click here.

For some reason or the other, this is one of those movies that I have been putting off seeing for some reason or the other. Maybe because I thought it was just a shallow vehicle for pop star Mandy Moore. Maybe because I didn't like Shane West's acting, having sufferred through his performance in Get Over It. Maybe because I thought it was just another teen movie.
Apparently, I was wrong (again). A Walk To Remember is a heartfelt, emotional movie about growing up, finding yourself and finding that special someone. And dealing with the notion that time here on Earth is limited and that time should be used wisely.
Jamie Sullivan and Landon Carter are like in most teen movies, worlds apart. While serving his sentence for getting into trouble, he crosses paths with her. In two ways, while teaching under privelidged kids and in the school play. I think what struck him about her was that she didn't care who he was. She was determined to treat him the same as everyone else. Which means that she will be kind and compassiontate with him regardless of how he treats her.
Jamie does have a slight mean streak when it came to dealing with Landon and his friends as evident in her comebacks / retorts and when she taught Landon about how to ask help from her. On second thought, it may have been her self-defense mechanism, to keep everyone or just boys, at bay. She seemed to be friendly to everyone but has no circle of friends of her own.
Suffice to say, the school play draws them together. Landons is struck by how beautiful she is at the play and impromptu kiss from him awakens something in her. She hides it at first but a series of events brings them closer and leads to a full-blown romance. An adult romance, where it is not about infatuation but accepting the reality of one another. And reality soon hits home hard. I don't want to spoil things just in case you are like me and have put off seeing this. But it is pretty safe to say, as in any Nicholas Sparks books/movies, someone dies in the end.
".. an adult romance.. accepting the reality of one another."

The movie tends to drift into a mellowdrama at times but I guess only when necessary. I mean you can't face death without being mellowdramatic. Watching it a couple times, I found the plot holes quite gaping and that some dialogue didn't make sense. Some of it is explained in the commentary with the director, Adam Sullivan and the two leads and most are legitimate due to cutting and time restrictions.
But some are quite serious. Like we know that the flyer incident brought Landon and Jamie closer, especially when he stood up for her. But before that when he approaches her at school after the play and says that he misses being with her, I went 'Huh?'. All we see is Landon going to her house once to read their lines. And then all the rehersal scenes are with someone else or those that he has little direct contact. We don't see them connect. We don't see them share moments together. We don't see them communicate. There were several things that alluded to it, like Landon listening to songs given by Jamie and the other kids referencing to how close they were getting. But we never see it. It was all sorta left out or glossed over. A scene showing them reading lines together could have done the trick.
Alright. When he said that he missed being with her, it could have been just a line. After all it was Landon that went after her. And he totally called on her about her attitude of keeping people at a distance. I'm just saying that I didn't see what made Landon had feelings for Jamie to begin with. Maybe he was stunned by how good she looked at the play, thus the kiss. But that was it.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Commentary: A second time around

Watching a movie again
My significant other doesn't understand why I watch movies the second time. Once it's over, it's over. Myself, on the other hand, have lots of reasons to do so.
Most of the time, I watch the movie again to 'feel' the movie. Movies have a way of changing the way I feel. Some movies make you feel sad, others ars uplifting but the best ones make you feel all of them. Watching them again and having those feelings played back is both fulfilling and nostalgic. It's taking a journey again. Seeing the same sights, meeting the same people. Sometimes, you might see things you missed before. What a nice surprise that'll be.
Sometimes, you might even take a different route. Things you saw the last time now seem different. They might take on a different meaning.
There used to be a time when watching a movie again was something hard to do. But with 100-channel cable, more if you have sattellite, the chances of seeing a movie again is an inevitability. So why not enjoy it.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

Category: Action Adventure

I finally took time off to see this. And boy I sure wasn't disappointed.

What is interesting to me is that if George Lucas did actually tried to make the Star Wars movies in sequence (e.g. The Phantom Meanace first in later 70s), he would have gotten at most to Attack of the Clones. Even if he was lucky, by the time he got to Revenge of the Sith, the budget would be so low, it would have been a direct to video release or worse, a TV movie. Fortunately for us, he didn't.
Revenge of the Sith is what a StarWars movie should be. Full action punctured with comedy and poignant moments aka character development. From the get go (which for those watching the Clone Wars animated series is a pleasant surprise), the action is piled high and furious. We know all the players already from the past two movies and now the game is afoot. From Coruscant the plot moves between action, intrigue and drama. We know what is going to happen. So everything is spectacle. George Lucas knew that and what a spectacle he delivered.
It is enough for me to say that even if you are not interested in StarWars, Revenge of the Sith will be a great action movie with enough drama for the date.

Jersey Girl

Starring: Ben Affleck, Geogre Carlin, Liv Tyler, Raquel Castro
Category: Humor, Drama, Feel-good

This movie suffered from the fallout of both Gigli and Benniffer Affair. But it really is a good movie. Think of it as a Father's Day movie for adults of this generation. It has all the ingredients of a standard Father's Day movie: a sympathetic father, a precocious kid / daughter, a grandfather, a tragedy, generational conflict. But it's a Kevin Smith movie; unconventional most of the time, strong characters, interesting bit players, dick and fart jokes, cameos by people who have appeared in other ViewAskew movies and so on. So how does it mix? Very well, thank you.
A Father's Day movie for adults of this generation
Ben Affleck plays the father who looses the mother and ends up with the first daughter. First-time father looses his job in process of not being able to handle being a father and lands him back the at his grandfather's place. Taking it all in, he decides to put his daughter number one on his list and life, even if it means working in lower paying jobs, away from what he was used to. And then the movie begins. Or where a normal movie would begin. You see, OtherDirectors would cram all that up in 15 minutes, pausing only long enough to drag the melodrama of losing the deified wife. But this not about that. What director Kevin Smith does it put a character for each of those faces. Everyone is a human not a caricature. I was taken aback at first but showing that the mother was an actual person created more of an impact than just showing flashbacks or adding more "fun, romantic moments" in the first part. But then OtherDirectors, would reach up to that point too quickly and end having to pad the remainder of the movie.
At this point, I fee like I am going to expose more plot and ruin the experience of anybody thinking of watching it. There is nothing more to think about. Just go out and rent or buy it and watch it. Fresh, with no expectation other than to enjoy a story. Plus it has George Carlin as an grumpy father figure. Who would have thunk?
As with most of Kevin Smith's movies, if you do get the DVD, the commentary tracks are great. Listen for a good time not only about the movie but about the people themselves. Interesting conversation to listen to.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Team America

Starring: Puppets
Category: Humor, Satire

This is definitely not for everyone. At one level, it is very offensive. But at least it's an equal opportunity offender. This movie satires the perception of the left-wing and right-wing politics about each other's fringes or at least each other's publicly visible figures. It not only screws the right-wing "why-use-a-gun-when-you-can-use-a-rocket-launcher" attitude but also the left-wing "celebrity-who-think-they-can-change-the-world" figures. A lot of it is hilarious on the surface. Take for example, the use of Arabic. The movie makers didn't even bother getting it anywhere near to sounding like Arabic and just uses repetitive gibberish. And the cheesy notion of getting Broadway musical actor to play a spy because he it the best actor they can find is simply great.
But it is really hard seeing what you believe getting shafted. Perhaps the idea was to offend every one in every conceivable way so that all of us can see how ridiculous all our stands are, the resulting actions and results of those conviction-driven actions. That we just should stop fighting each other and get on with our daily lives. That is fine and dandy when you are in a cocoon in the middle of Texas. But in the real world, people are dying, and duped into dying, for and over greed. In a way, the movie cheapens all causes from each side, alienating the audience. And that is not what a movie should be about.
If you do catch it, laugh at it's over-the-top ridiculousness (and cringe at the sex scene) but don't be surprised if it leaves a bad taste in the mouth at the end. Don't watch if possible. 

Friday, February 25, 2005


Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Wiesz
Category: Horror, Action

Spiderman and X-Men set the standard for comics to movie conversions. Before Spiderman and X-Men, a movie conversion meant death to the comic's storyline, characters and all that was sacred to comic readers. They were sacrificed by Hollywood execs who claim to know what sells a movie, what we want see. The comic license was just another face, another costume to wrap over a formula which sold 10 million tickets.
But they don't GET IT. If the comic is successful, surely somebody did something right. Is it too hard to focus on that and make that the same ingredient that will make the movie successful? People buy it, it is popular = a lot of people like it. That is what got their attention anyway. Why change or strip out the very thing that makes it popular? Spell C-O-U-N-T-E-R-I-N-T-U-I-T-I-V-E. Or do these people think that they can actually make it better? I agree that comics and movies are two different mediums. Make the adjustments for that but no more than that. We need to go no further than Punisher to see what went wrong. Twice.
Of course there will be comics that will be harder to be accepted by the mainstream. Get a clue. These comics fill a niche. These comics are different. These stories are probably comics because they are not mainstream. Well, not when they were first conceived. But as people change, these comics too, become closer to the mainstream.
Fortunately, I haven't read Hellblazer. So, I didn't come in with an expectation. But I came out of it realizing that whatever made the comic into what it is, that was there. Of course, the Hollywood touches were there. There was a gadget supplying guy (a Q, as in James Bond's) and the emotional puller (someone who dies in the end but spends the whole movie gaining your sympathies). But it had the right touches and didn't treat the viewer with kid gloves. I hate it when the pace pauses to explain things to the viewer (actually it does at times in this movie too). In Constantine, things just happen that you need to figure out yourself. It forced you to think while watching, which is not easy to do or to create either. Maybe the whole point is to get you in to the theater a second time.
A lot of people complain on-line about John Constantine, about how unlikeable he is, or how contradictory he was. There is a point to whole unlikeable-ness. He was mean. He was skeptic. He was condescending. Despite all this, he still wanted to go to heaven. Problem was, he is technically destined for hell. The problem with John was that unlike the rest of us, he knew how things work. Or at least the heaven and hell part of it. And like most people who know how the system works, he wants to exploit it. To use it for his own end. And what is that? To get into heaven. The whole 'buying your way into heaven' sub-plot.
Another thing is that I thought John being contradictory only made him more believable. As humans we can be contradictory. A lot of people question why isn't he pious because he has seen Hell. Ok, so he knows that he is going there. He need to not go to hell, that is go to heaven. So how do you get into heaven? Like everybody else? Not when all those half-breeds keep pointing out to him that he is going to hell regardless. That is when he realizes that what put him in that position is just a system. So the only way out he saw was to work that system. Find a loop hole somewhere. John sees piety has nothing to do with getting into heaven. Thus his vocation.
Another contradiction is the way John abuses himself like he doesn't care about himself but at the same time spends all his efforts in the chance of redemption. Wouldn't you want to live long enough to get the redemption, the ticket into heaven? Why is he cutting his own fuse? That is a contradiction worth thinking about. And I love movies that make me think.
The other actors were great. While I very much enjoyed their performances, the main beef I have with this movie is the main plot. The spear and what it is supposed to do. Totally unbelievable. Of course, there is probably a story of how the spear got to Mexico but at the beginning it was a chance that brought it back to light. To have such a coordinated plot be triggered by chance is just bad. What if it wasn't found?
All in all a good movie to watch. Enjoy the ride once but if you get to watch it again, put yourself in John's shoes. It may just be scarier than the movie itself.