A Closer Look At Pacific Rim

July 14, 2013 at 7:41 am

A Closer Look At Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim

MASSIVE MONSTERS ENDANGER WIDE SHOTS

Batman Begins was a phenomenal movie but the frantic fight sequences drew some criticism because they were difficult to follow. Ultimately, directing fights in this way is a choice and not all people disliked those scenes. I certainly learned to appreciate them over time.  Michael Bay’s original Tranformers suffered from similar complaints.  The action was filmed so close at times, it was difficult to discern which robot was which.

Guillermo Del Toro’s epic Pacific Rim is full of larger than life battles. Unfortunately, those battles are as frantic as Batman Begins and as difficult to follow as Transformers. Will I learn to appreciate these sequences more over time? I’m not so sure.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t like Pacific Rim.  On the contrary, I thought it was a refreshing change in a summer filled with established franchises and sequels.  The main reason I was so excited to see Pacific Rim was Guillermo Del Toro’s imagination.  The director puts so much talent and dedication into every creature he creates and you can see the effort on the screen.  The Kaiju & Jaegers are massive creations that feel real and when the camera does pull back, they are breathtaking to behold.

I just wish more of the film’s big fights took place during the day.  These giant monsters look their best during the day but the majority of the action takes place at night and it’s always raining.  This was the major reason why I found the fights a bit disorienting at times.  The shots are beautiful but edited so quickly, you barely have time to process what you’re seeing.  However, what I did process was pretty cool.

A Closer Look At Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim

In terms of story, the film does a pretty remarkable job overcoming an enormous amount of exposition in the first 25 minutes or so.  It’s a well put together opening that truly sets up all the action to come.  In terms of characters, I felt more connected to supporting roles rather than the two Hero pilots Raleigh and Mako.

Idris Elba steals the show here but leaves just enough for Charlie Day and Ron Pearlman to shine.  I don’t blame the screenwriters or the director for my lack of connection to the main characters.  It happens sometimes.  You can win over everybody.  In the end, it’s Elba’s Stacker Pentecost who truly drives Pacific Rim as an intimidating Marshall.  He’s the glue that pulls together many of the film’s pieces to allow for an emotionally satisfying end.

A Closer Look At Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim

Unfortunately, I don’t think it was enough as the film seems destined to be labelled a ‘bomb’ with it’s domestic numbers coming in lower than expected.  When the summer began, I expected Pacific Rim to perform more like Inception and less like John Carter or After Earth.  It’s a bit troubling because studios rarely bet on a new franchise.  They are tough to sell.  How do you introduce the world to a brand new world?  I think they did a good enough job to get at least a 60-70 million dollar opening weekend.  Hopefully it does well overseas.  I’d love to see a sequel to this some day.

Irony alert:  Isn’t it interesting that you praise a film for it’s originality in a world of sequels…  And then look forward to a sequel.  I suppose the film does wrap up it’s story pretty well.  Maybe this is a ‘one-and-done’ film.

A Closer Look At Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim

I had to see Pacific Rim.  I love big action movies in the summertime.  Every week, new heroes emerge to challenge for the coveted box office crown.  Pacific Rim is imaginative and entertaining.  It does a fantastic job creating a detailed world but doesn’t quite take full advantage of the huge assets that populate it.  A little less rain and a little more day light would have easily taken the film from a 6.5 to an 8 in my eyes.

Still, I signed up for giant monsters and robots and that’s exactly what I got so I think 7 is a fair number.

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A Closer Look At Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim

Man of Steel Is The Superman Movie We Wanted Right?

June 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Man of Steel Is The Superman Movie We Wanted Right? | Man of Steel Review

ZACK SNYDER’S SUPERMAN THROWS PUNCHES!

I had my tickets to see Man of Steel two weeks before the film’s release.  I’ve written many articles about the film and broken down just about every trailer.  The more I saw, the more excited I became.  Could THIS be the Superman movie I’ve always wanted to see?  To say I was pumped would be a gigantic understatement.

When Superman Returns was released, I was incredibly disappointed in the lack of action as well as Lex Luther’s ‘land’ scheme.  That movie focused on Clark Kent and his integration into society but failed to deliver a Superman worthy of the big screen.  Man of Steel is very much the opposite.  This reboot focuses almost entirely on Kal-El and his integration into society.  Would humanity accept a savior from another world?  What would happen if an alien revealed his/herself today?  It’s a fascinating theme that lays the foundation for a Superman movie unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

I’m going to start at the end and work my way backwards.  The final hour of this movie is as big (if not bigger) than the finale of last year’s smash The Avengers.  The destruction caused by Superman and General Zod’s Metropolis death match is gargantuan.  Buildings crumble, roads are shattered and Zack Snyder delivers some of the most exciting action I’ve ever seen on the big screen.  Finally, the Man of Steel is unleashed with a worthy opponent backed by some spectacular visual effects and direction.

When I woke up this morning and gathered my thoughts for this review, all I could think about was the final act.  I can’t wait to see it again but I don’t think I’ll see it in theaters twice.  Why?  Because it took over 2 hours to get to the explosive finale.

Man of Steel Is The Superman Movie We Wanted Right? | Man of Steel Review

THE DARK KNIGHT THIS IS NOT

I think comparing Man of Steel to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy isn’t entirely fair.  True, they share a similar real world approach but there can only be one Dark Knight.  The one glaring difference between the two is the time it takes to establish the hero’s origin.  With Batman Begins, Nolan created an effective and exciting back story while remaining economical with screen time.

XTRA | Batman Begins a screenwriting rewrite.

We don’t even see Earth for nearly 30 minutes in Man of Steel.  From there we follow a broken timeline that mixes in important events from Clark’s youth as we follow his journey as an adult.  All the usual Superman moments are included but several scenes felt better suited as deleted scenes on the Blu Ray.

It’s interesting for such a fast paced movie to feel slow.  Time crawls when you can’t wait to see super speed.

Man of Steel Is The Superman Movie We Wanted Right? | Man of Steel Review

Still, it’s hard to fault a movie for providing such detail as they built up the universe’s mythology.  I think my excitement to see Superman in action worked against me as I waited.  Regardless, this movie definitely feels long in addition to actually being long.

I went in to Man of Steel thinking there was no way the film would earn less than 8/10.  When the credits rolled I was blown away by the action but surprisingly found myself considering a 6.  Upon further review, I decided that Man of Steel is a worth a trip to the theater.  It’s worth it because THIS is the best Superman movie I’ve ever seen.  Years ago, I was angry because there wasn’t enough action in Superman Returns.  Many fans were.  People demanded a Superman that threw punches and the talented filmmakers behind this epic delivered exactly what we asked for.

Man of Steel Is The Superman Movie We Wanted Right? | Man of Steel Review

This is a Superman movie filled with iconic moments and massive action set pieces.  It features a truly stellar cast with scene stealing performances by Henry Cavill, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon and Amy Adams.  There are slower moments and an incredibly long build up to the enormous finale but in the end, it was entertaining.  A 7/10.

It may not redefine the superhero genre as many hoped but not all movies can be as big as The Avengers or as complex as The Dark Knight.

THIS IS THE SUPERMAN MOVIE I ASKED FOR

An action packed epic where Superman battles a worthy foe and holds nothing back.  Maybe I will catch it again on the big screen after all.

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Top 10 Moments: Game of Thrones Season 3

June 11, 2013 at 11:35 am

Top 10 Moments: Game of Thrones Season 3

Another spectacular season of Game of Thrones has come and gone.  The long wait for season 4 has begun but before we all hibernate for the winter, here is a recap of the best moments from season 3!

10. DAENERYS NEGOTIATES | The Bear and the Maiden Fair

9. CAT & JON HAVE HISTORY | Dark Wings, Dark Words

8. GO TO BED KING JOFFREY | Mhysa

7. THE VIEW ATOP THE WALL | The Climb

6. TYWIN VS TYRION | Valar Dohaeris

5. WHITE WALKERS! | Second Sons

4. THE KINGSLAYER’S HEART | Kissed by Fire

3.  NEED A HAND JAIME? | Walk of Punishment

2. DAENERYS CAN DEAL! | And now his watch is ended

1. THE RED WEDDING | The Rains of Castamere

CATCH UP:

Episode 1 Moment: Valar Dohaeris

Episode 2 Moment: Dark Wings, Dark Words

Episode 3 Moment: Walk of Punishment

Episode 4 Moment: And now his watch is ended

Episode 5 Moment: Kissed by fire

Episode 6 Moment: The Climb

Episode 7 Moment: The Bear and the Maiden Fair

Episode 8 Moment: Second Sons

Episode 9 Moment: The Rains of Castamere

Episode 10 Moment: Mhysa

Click here for more Movie Countdowns.

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Top 10 Moments: Game of Thrones Season 3

Screenwriting Spark: Where Screenwriters Inspire Screenwriters

June 4, 2013 at 7:26 pm

The Screenwriting Spark

One of my favorite features on The Screenwriting Spark is page dedicated to a very simple idea:

SCREENWRITERS INSPIRE SCREENWRITERS

When I was developing the site, I wanted to include personal stories. Not just my own but other screenwriters around the world. So I created a series of 6 questions about inspiration, motivation and the challenges every screenwriter must face and ultimately overcome.

The results were fantastic but YOU can still add your story by answering the 6 questions below and emailing them to jason@screenwritingspark.com.

1. How did you discover screenwriting?

2. What inspires your writing?

3. What do you love the most about screenwriting?

4. How do you cure writer’s block?

5. What is your biggest screenwriting weakness and how will you overcome it?

6. Describe your screenwriting experience in ONE word. (Ex: passion, creativity…)

Answers need only be a paragraph or two.

Click here to visit the page and don’t forget to subscribe for all the latest Sparks.  Check out The Screenwriting Spark for more.

Is After Earth Really THAT Bad?

June 3, 2013 at 10:57 am

Is After Earth Really THAT Bad? | After Earth Review 2013

I woke up this morning and wrote my review for Now You See Me. I saw it on Saturday night with a few friends. Choosing a film that night was a bit of a tough call as it came down to After Earth vs. Now You See Me. Ultimately, we chose the latter and it was disappointing to say the least. The problem is, I think it could have been lose/lose if the reviews for After Earth are any indication.

I almost wrote a post called “5 reasons why I’m skipping After Earth” today.  I had a change of heart when I dug up a post I wrote about a year ago called “After Earth Battle: Will Smith’s Hits vs M. Night’s Flops“.  I decided to find out the answer that question for myself.

Currently, the film has a 12% rating on rotten tomatoes. By my calculations, (read: not a actual statistic) there is an 88% chance After Earth may surprise me…  I’m writing this on the subway. The movie starts in about 30 minutes…

Will After Earth be as bad as critics say?

3 HOURS LATER

Well….. That wasn’t great but it was a lot better than I expected. I read a couple dismal reviews that tore the movie to shreds. Here are a couple quotes:

“From its opening montage to its closing shots, After Earth comes across as an extremely generic effort written by an elementary school student.” (Examiner)

“The characters are emotionally neutered.” (Reel Views)

“After Earth is a wasteland riddled with cinematic trash.” (Hollywood Chicago)

I don’t think it’s a total loss but I would have a better time agreeing with critics if the Tomatometer was around 40-50% instead of 12%.

After Earth is essentially a story about a boy, Kitai, trying to live up to his courageous and respected father, Cypher. It’s 1000 years after humans left the Earth. On their new home, Nova Prime, they are attacked by aliens who use fear smelling…. Alien… dogs to hunt humans down.

It’s a simple setup with a lot of promise but the film quickly morphs into something different.  At first, we are shown a fascinating world but then the movie forgets all that and takes us on a journey elsewhere. After an asteroid accident, we find the Will/Jaden Smith duo stranded on Earth.  (Those damn asteroids have kick started many science fiction stories don’t they?)

His father seriously wounded, the boy must venture into the world humanity left behind, find a beacon and avoid an Alien dog they brought along for the ride.

They don’t mention the aliens who want to exterminate humans again. They don’t delve deeper into why humans abandoned earth in the first place. We really don’t learn anything new once the lengthy, exposition heavy opening ends.

We simply follow Kitai as he dodges bad CG monkeys, birds and other carnivorous beasts like these:

Of course, at the center of the story is a boy trying to free himself from fear and be like his father. A talent known as ghosting. Why? Because it literally makes you invisible to the alien attack dogs… Who are conveniently blind.  I think a lot of people will compare this plot device to the water used in the finale of Signs.

Full disclosure: Signs is one of my favorite movies of all time. It came along at the right time and inspired me. I love that movie.

I did not love After Earth. The movie looks nice, aside from bad creature effects but manages to provide less answers than Prometheus.  Approaching Signs from the minimal perspective of a family on a farm worked. But shrinking such a grand mythology in order to focus on the father/son relationship backfired in my opinion.  I would have rather seen Will Smith in action more and wound him in the third act.  Then let the son rise up and make his father proud.  Of course, that’s my opinion.

What I did like was the tension Shyamalan created throughout the film.  A particularly strong moment occurs when Cypher can see & hear his son but cannot communicate with him. This leads to an emotional moment when he sees his son’s growth for the first time. It’s a great moment.  There just weren’t enough of them to make the film truly memorable. But that doesn’t mean that it’s as horrible as they say.

I think, realistically, After Earth should probably sit around 50% or slightly below. Some people will like it and some people won’t. I think the movie lost 10% because of bad CG. It lost another 15% percent because of the main characters distracting accents. (Something you learn to live with as the movie progresses) I think the final 10-15% is lost due to M. Night Shyamalan’s damaged reputation.

His movies started out amazing and I’m the first to admit I was a massive fan of his early work. I’m also the first to admit that I haven’t really liked a movie he’s made since The Village.  Still, After Earth is the closest I’ve come to liking a Shyamalan film in years. It’s not a come back but he still has a fantastic eye for filmmaking and I hope he matches that talent with a worthy story soon.

Prediction: Shyamalan will announce his return to the supernatural ghost genre soon. Or he will write Unbreakable 2. It will be an effort to remind people what he was once capable of. I’m still interested to see what he does next.

As for Will Smith, who is credited with After Earth’s story, it’s unfortunate that his attempt to do a big budget movie with his own son has seemingly failed. A summer movie starring Will Smith is SUPPOSED to open at #1. I’m willing to give him a pass on this as he did get to make this with his son and he spends most of the movie in a chair pressing buttons.

After Earth will probably be labeled as another Shyamalan flop in the history books but I still think there are people who will connect with the material. I certainly wanted to see more but I expected something a little different. I would still recommend it if you were curious before the reviews came out. You never know which movies will surprise you.  I certainly didn’t see Signs coming.

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