December 3, 2014

Who Cares About The HD Remaster Of The Wire?

I have a friend who once told me that he knew a guy who had every "conspiracy" episode of The X-Files recorded on a VHS tapes. My pal suggested this would be an ideal way to watch the show as watching "a guy's" recorded TV broadcasts from over 20 years ago complete with commercials and such would be in spirit with the vaguely creepy story of the show.  But the real appeal to this was the story, the characters, the conspiracy. I'm always more intrigued by THE STORY or if we want to get heady - THE SOURCE - than any other aspect of a piece of media.

Story or Source depending what you want to call always takes a back seat in conversations about film vs digital, 4:3 ratio to 16:19, and re-mastered vs original. This conversation is roaring again now that it has been announced that The Wire is returning in a HD, remastered, 16:9 format, which is amazing news not because it will look all pretty but because more people will watch the most important visual story of the modern era. Yeah that's right, I'm a "Wire" cultist, while not as deep as some other people I know - I am one of those people who consider David Simon's Baltimore saga pretty much THE GREATEST AND MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF MEDIA OF ALL TIME.

Am I being a little hyperbolic above, yeah probably, gawd knows I love me some "Bad Boys II", "Robin Hood Prince of Thieves," and some "LOST," but there isn't a single piece of media that I think about more than "The Wire." It has everything you'd want from a story: astounding characters who go on amazing journeys, a multi-layered plot, striking visual imagery, deep cultural commentary, highly quotable scenes, and well - the list goes on and on. 

I know there are many people out there to whom this announcement about the HD remaster is a huge deal, and that's OK. Let them come for the pretty visuals and have their souls shaken by the masterpiece, but seriously, the real headline here should be "More People Will Know Watch The Wire And That Is Good News." That's a blunt way to put it, so here's another more poetic way to put, straight from the show's creator himself:
We are always in it to tell people a story, first and foremost. If a new format brings a few more thirsty critters to the water’s edge, then so be it.

December 1, 2014

Running The Well Dry: Star Wars, Jurassic Park, & The Rest of The Reboots

I always thought the phrase "everything old is new again" was a phrase that probably had a bizarre history but people just used anyway without really knowing the history. But when I dug deeper I found out it is from a song from the 1975 broadway musical "Chicago." Actually maybe it was from the 2002 adaptation of the play. Perhaps it was actually from the 1979 movie "All That Jazz" which was a 70's cool retelling of the Chicago story. Or finally maybe it was from the original 1926 play, that the 1975 musical was based off, which inspired the 1979 movie, which impacted all the retellings, which impacted the 2002 adaptation, which then...whoah...hard to keep track. It's a never-ending loop of riffing and retelling the same story. Kind of like the movies these days, right?

I'm not betraying my hard core nerd tendencies I've combed over the most recent Star Wars and Jurassic World trailers like a kid sifting through the trash looking for his lost retainer. Every detail seems to lead to another clue, which starts an email chain I'm mildly embarrassed about (after all I'm 28 years old and cross light saber blades shouldn't have this much of an impact on me right?). But I also believe that part of my mega-nerd-geek-fanboy foundation is slowly getting chipped at with each new reboot/sequel/prequel/midquel (not even sure if that's word).

The business of these mega-franchises existing until the end of time is obvious. Now that the movie studios are run by HUGE corporations, there is a powerful incentive to maintain the flagship "brands,"you know the Jurassic Park, The Star Wars/Treks, The Harry Potters, etc, to keep the lights on for everyone not just the movie studios - but it makes you wonder - how long can this last? When we keep returning to the same nostalgia wells for more water they eventually go dry. How are we meant to survive -  dig new wells, that's how.

Imagine what it would be like if these bright young directors all had blank checks to make something original. J.J. Abrams might give us something better than "Super 8." "Jurassic World" director Colin Trevorrow's previous film "Safety Not Guaranteed" was a blast, imagine what he could cook up with a blank check. Gareth Edwards who showed great promise with "Monsters" is now just retelling our old stories with "Godzilla" and a new "Star Wars" spinoff. I understand that going back to the same wells of characters, worlds, and stories is tempting but don't you just yearn for something truly new? It's like if we just stopped exploring space after we landed on the moon, actually, not sure if I'm comfortable with that metaphor.

A shining example of the "dig new wells" style of storytelling is director Neil Blomkamp who has made two amazingly original movies of varying quality: "District 9" and "Elysium." Each of those two films could have started their own franchise and his new film "Chappie" looks to be equally original (trailer also kind of made my shed nerd tears). This is what we need more of. More Blomkamps, more Shane Carruths, and more Gareth Evans.

I want to make sure that future movies are creating new worlds and not just new stories in our existing imaginary playgrounds. While having our modern stories get re-told and expanded is cool, with each new piece of the "world building tale", we're just boxing ourselves into our own creative prison. Once we're at the point where we've run out of three sided sabers, mega dinosaurs, and towering monsters to impress us, we'll wish that everything is old is just old and that everything new is well... new. It will be awesome.

October 13, 2014

Iron Man Vs Captain America In The Summer of 2016!

For a post this big I had to dust off ye old time THIS LA LIFE a place where my nerd obsession runs deep. A place where I one wrote a gigantic poem about my hype for Iron Man 2 set to "The Night Before Christmas." I place I gushed over "The Avengers" and a place where I once proclaimed "Quantum Of Solace" was going to be at "Dark Knight Levels," - yikes. But anyway in case you haven't heard Iron Man will be in Captain America 3 and the word on the street is that this going to be the start of the "Civil War" storyline which will see Captain America fighting against Iron Man!

In case you didn't know "Civil War" was a big storyline in the comics back in 2006 which saw the two Avengers battle it out over civil liberties. I'll spare you the deep nerd shit but basically Iron Man was on the side of the Government who wanted all super-heroes to reveal their secret identities. Captain America though this was a violation of individual liberty and said that was bogus. So the two Avengers battled it out, with lots of other super-heroes at their sides. Them opposing each other will be the crux of Captain America 3! Am I more excited about this than I am for Avengers 2? Hmmm, that's a tough one, but it just may be the case.

It's worth noting that this bash n brawl flick comes out in 2016 - the same year Superman fights Batman on screen in Warner Brothers - "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice" which sounded cool but then you realize that Iron Man and Captain America is way cooler. DC must be kind of bummed. Tell you who isn't bummed - me.

May 16, 2014

Video Game Movies Coming Soon

One of the biggest upcoming trends to look out for in the movie industry is undoubtedly video game movies. While they have been around for a long time—and producers have attempted to reap money from the video gaming crowd by providing a motion picture of their favorite games—most films have had mediocre success. It is interesting, then, to see so many movies coming out in the next few years that are based on video games.

Anyone remember Doom? Probably not, but hey, I thought it was actually decent. It still failed clear its $60 million budget, making only 56 at the box office, and is a pretty big failure. Sure, the movie has very little plot and the characters are not very interesting, but that’s pretty much how the game was back in the early '90s. Considering the game pretty much popularized the first-person shooter genre by itself, I’m sure the producers thought the movie could be a hit as well. Doom, while full of cheap thrills, is a pretty generic action movie overall, and serves as proof that the adaptations of video games to the big screen is a risky venture at the very least.

That’s not to say all video game films are total failures, of course. Street Fighter is one of the most renown games from the dawn of console gaming and the series is a huge inspiration to the rest of the fighting game genre. It has become famous in the video game world and is everywhere in culture. It’s almost turned into its own meme, and who has not heard of Hadouken by now? It’s also turned into a comic series, and even became a slots game on Betfair's Arcade site. It’s no surprise that someone tried to make a hit film out of it, but unlike Doom, Street Fighter actually made a decent profit by bringing in nearly $100 million at the box office. Even still, reviews for it were not favorable and it is hardly a memorable movie by now.

While video game films have earned a reputation for being failures, it is amazing to see so many coming out in the next few years. Fans of Assassin’s Creed can enjoy a movie starring Michael Fassbender in 201, and can look forward to more information at E3 in June. Watchdogs is set to come out soon, and amazingly enough, a movie is already planned for this game before it has even been released. Ubisoft is really pushing video games movie lately it seems, and it won’t be long before we see how successful the new generation of video game films are. There is even a film based on World of Warcraft that is planned to release in 2016, so there is no shortage of talent or money in these new attempts at video game crossovers.

Of course, film technology has come a long way since the moderate failures of the '90s and early 2000s. Animation gets closer to being even more beautiful than reality every day, and films such as Frozen prove how amazingly successful animated films can be. This definitely opens up the door for a video game film that heavily features CGI and other animation, such as Warcraft. Of course, modern games like Assassin’s Creed have much more defined storylines that can be explored in a movie, and perhaps they will be more than cheap thrills for viewers.

Given the promising future of video game films, there is still no shortage of cash grabs. Other games planned to release in film format include Flappy Birds and Temple Run. Maybe there is more to these plans than it seems, but they seem quite likely to go the same direction as Doom. Whether or not this keeps video game films in a bad light remains to be seen, and we can only hope that the producers of great films get the credit and viewership they deserve. There is no shortage of talent in Hollywood, and there has never been a better time for video games to hit the big screen.

If you’re looking for an example of a video game movie done right, be sure to check out Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. While the animation is far behind what technology is capable of today, fans of the Final Fantasy series fell in love with this film upon release and it became a hit, selling millions in Japan alone. With modern CGI, it is easily possible for a video game film to be a worldwide phenomenon, and the next big film might be sooner than you think.

January 7, 2014

In Defense of Michael Bay Walking Off The Stage At CES

The internet is abuzz with Michael Bay "flaming" out during this presentation. This is an email I wrote to my pals about it and I thought it was worth sharing.

Regardless of all his glorious cinematic excess Michael Bay is a human being with strengths and weaknesses. It appears that like many people Bay is not the best public speaker. This is perfectly normal. When was the last time you spoke in front of more than 10 people? 100 people? 1000? Everyone seems to say that he flames out here, but the fact of the matter is he was expecting a teleprompter to work and provide him with his rehearsed lines and the people at Samsung couldn't get their shit together.

Let's use an example: if you were asked to do a DJ gig by some mega huge company  and were told that all equipment would be provided and then one minute in all the speakers shorted out and you couldn't execute as promised, I'm sure you potentially would some level of awkward reaction as well. Oft the cuff speaking is very hard to do, particularly when it's about a product you may not be that familiar with so I'm not surprised Bay decided "well these clowns can't figure out how to work a teleprompter, I'm going to probably do more harm to their brand/myself if I try to wing so fuck it."

On a more cultural note, why are we so happy to watch successful people like Michael Bay fail? Isn't failure what makes us the most human?

On a more cinematic note: Michael Bay is a fucking God of cinema who's given us multiple masterpieces of cinematic visual excess. Here's an analogy for all the haters.

Film: Food
Michael Bay : Birthday Cake Oreos

Yeah you know that they're bad for you and have no merit but they're good as fuck. Sure there may not be that much plot, characters, or substance in the Transformers movies and Bad Boys II is an hour too long but who gives a shit? NO ONE else is giving you badass VFX, babes, and insane explosions. Sorry if I like fun shit that is probably bad for me.