Sunday, September 19, 2010

Resident Evil 4, 3D: 10, Plot: 0


So I caught Resident Evil: Afterlife at work the other night. I don't hate Paul W. S. Anderson as much as some people (Mortal Kombat and the first Resident Evil were fun, and Event Horizon was almost a masterpiece) so I went in with middle ground expectations. The film sure looked pretty, and the 3D was the best since Avatar. But the plot made zero sense. Of course, part of the confusion may be that I haven't seen the last two movies (endless Milla Jovovich clones? What the fuck?). But the film pretty much ignores every rule of filmmaking by offering a series of setpieces and end of level bosses that are barely connected to each other. If you want a genuinely entertaining slice of ultra-violence, I recommend Machete instead.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An open letter to Hollywood: Why most movies suck these days

So after a summer that's shown even movies aren't recession proof (if, like most people, the only movies you saw were Toy Story 3 and Inception, you didn't miss much), I thought I'd share my thoughts on how Hollywood can get out of the creative and financial rut it's in. I've experienced first hand the effects of a poor slate of movies on the business - the movie theater where I work has never seen attendance so low and we've been forced to cut to less than minimum staffing. I believe this is actually part of a much larger cultural malaise that's also plaguing music, literature and television. No one is breaking new ground anymore, at least not in the mainstream. There are still good movies being made, but in general they're not as fun as they used to be. I pity kids who are growing up on today's hollow entertainment (that's why my daughter's watching the classics). Are we simply out of ideas? Possibly, but I have some suggestions for how the movie studios can at least make things a little better.

1. Ban all remakes. If it takes a federal law to stop Hollywood regurgitating their classics (and not so classics) I'm all for it. When you think of every decade up until the 90's, the film that really connected with audiences were original projects. It's hard to think of any memorable blockbusters from the last decade that weren't remakes, sequels or adaptations. Which is not to say those films don't have their place. But what movies will the filmmakers of the future have to be inspired by if you continues this lazy and cynical cashing in on brand names? A movie should only be remade if it can be bettered. If not, just rent the original. Trust me, it'll still hold up. And while I'm on the subject, quit with the reboots, too. Just because the last Spider-Man sucked, doesn't mean we have to start all over again. If people are tired of a franchise, then at least wait ten years before bringing it back. The biggest insult is these bullshit PG-13 remakes of R rated horror movies.

2. Enough with the 3D boom! Yes, Avatar looked real pretty. That doesn't mean every damn movie has to be in 3D. It's distracting and the surcharge fee pisses people off. If you insist on churning them out, at least drop the extra ticket price. 3D conversion is expensive? Who cares. You don't charge people more to watch a movie that costs $200 million to make vs one that costs $1 million. And the last time there was a 3D fad in the 80's, people weren't charged an arm and a leg to watch them. 3D does not automatically make a movie better (except Piranha 3D - that movie was fucking awesome!)

3. Stop showing everything cool in the trailers. I know you're desperate to get people into the cinemas, but save something as a surprise so we don't feel like we've seen the whole movie before it comes out. If you want examples, look at the original trailers for Alien or Jurassic Park. They show you just enough to pique your interest without spoiling the plot or the money shots.

4. Bring back a sense of wonder. Aside from Lord of the Rings, I can't think of any movies since the aforementioned Jurassic Park that were genuinely jawdropping. I know we're a lot more jaded now as audiences, but how hard can it be to recapture the wonder and sheer fun that seemed so effortless in movies from the 70's and 80's?

5. Stop targeting movies at narrow demographics (i.e. the Hot Topic kids). This is more of a problem in the music industry, but it's happening more and more with movies. Titanic was probably the last movie to appeal to all ages and demographics. Even Cameron's Avatar appealed to a much narrower audience, if you compare the actual attendance figures. I miss the days when you had cultural events like Star Wars or Back to the Future - movies that everyone saw and loved. Of course, movies like Twilight still make billions despite only appealing to girls, housewives and people who love camp, so what do I know? While we're on the subject, can we have some horror movies where the average age of the actors is over 25? Kids will go see movies about old folks if you give them the chance.

6. Bring back opening titles! They're the perfect way to set the mood, especially for fantasy movies. Audiences are not going to walk out in disgust just because they have to read a few names at the beginning.

7. Quit stuffing animated movies with celebrity voices. Pixar seem to be the only studio that realises you don't need big names to get people to watch an animated movie if it has a good story. And non-star voice actors need work.

8. Ease up on the computer effects. Jurassic Park (notice how I keep returning to that) had less than seven minutes of CGI, but they had more impact than anything that's come since. CGI was supposed to bring special effects budgets down, but now studios just spend more and flood the screen with often subpar computer confetti.

9. No stars, just talent (now The Player was a great movie).

10. Finally, hire more hungry young screenwriters. This is partly selfish, of course, since I'm a writer. But do you really need to pay millions to people like Akiva Goldsman to churn out their latest script when there are tons of unproduced writers with great ideas? Movies are too expensive, but struggling writers will work cheap just to get their foot in the door.

You've got a lot of work to do to win people back, Hollywood. Better get started.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Richie Cuningham takes on The Dark Tower?

So I get back from Dragoncon (which was a blast, by the way - got to meet Brandon Routh, Brent Spiner, Marc Singer and Billy West) to find this news!

The good: Using the platform of movies and a TV series to tell the whole story of The Dark Tower is genius and may just be the only way to do the story justice.

The bad: if I read this right, then after the second TV series (which follows book 4 and the Marvel prequel comics) we get one movie to wrap up Roland's quest. One movie to adapt three long arse books? Unless the movie is 12 hours long, that ain't gonna cut it.
Ron Howard - I like him, and his early movies (Cocoon, Splash, etc.) are great. But nothing in his career has shown he can take on an epic that needs a Sergio Leone or Peter Jackson.
Akiva Goldsman - possibly the worst major screenwriter in Hollywood. And King trusts the writer of Batman & Robin with his opus?
NBC - the series would work on HBO or another cable network. But NBC? Bullshit.
And of course the major problem is that the perfect actor to play Roland (Clint Eastwood) is about 40 years too old. Finding a younger actor with the same gravitas will be one of the biggest casting challenges in history.

Maybe it'll work. But at this stage I have very little confidence.