Tag Archives: IMAX

A Guide to Guardians of the Galaxy

4 Aug

I’ve expressed before that I do have a bias against comic book movies. So when I heard about the Guardians of the Galaxy movie a few months back I immediately diagnosed it as another desperate attempt to milk a forgotten comic book franchise. On the surface it looks like an Avengers rip off just with more corny gags. As more trailers came out I decided it was probably one of those movies that’s bad, but still entertaining, if you turn off parts of your brain. When I received a coupon good for Guardians of the Galaxy in IMAX 3D for free I remembered a quote from Roger Ebert “It’s hard to explain the fun to be found in seeing the right kind of bad movie.” (especially if its free). Since two bad movies came out this week, both wildly popular I thought I’d compare them and show the differences between a movie that is so bad it’s good (Guardians of the Galaxy) and a movie that’s just plain awfully bad (Sharknado 2). But you know what? I actually really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy and not because it was entertainingly bad, it’s a legitimately fun movie. So fuck Sharknado and its race to the bottom. I’m not going to waste time and energy analyzing Syfy’s recent attempt to reach the stupidest place on TV. Let’s see why Guardians of the Galaxy is the perfect end to the summer blockbuster season.

GoG

Guardians of the Galaxy is a comic book movie but to me its way more science fiction. Not that hard science fiction but more in the tone of an edgy cartoon with space ships and Star Trek type aliens. Its also an adventure movie and a comedy. Most movies who try to blend this many genres fail but this time it works great. Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t take itself too seriously so there’s no opening narration, drawn out origin stories, or long exposition scenes. It just kind of throws you in the deep end of this universe and takes off from there. This approach benefits the two types of audience members seeing this movie. If you’re someone who read the comic books you already know the setting and the cultures of the different characters and their backgrounds so you don’t need that information regurgitated again. If you are like me and have no idea what the deal is with Guardians of the Galaxy it forces you to pay attention to the characters and the action on the screen. This gets you more invested in the story than any information dump via voice over or flashbacks ever could.

Rocket the Raccoon

The ensemble cast creates a wacky comradery that’s very entertaining to watch. Chris Pratt whose known for being on Parks and Rec plays the main character Peter Quill codename Star Lord “It’s cool to have a codename, its not that weird”. I think that Peter Quill is so cocky and comfortable being inappropriate that you can’t play this character unless you’re naturally like that. Having never watched Parks and Rec I can still tell that Pratt is an authentic Quill, not counting the 60 pounds the filmmakers made him lose to get the role. Zoe Saldana is the go to girl if you’re making a sci-fi movie, this time playing the green skinned Gamora she’s right at home. The very strange walking, talking tree, Groot is voiced by Vin Diesel who I loathe, luckily all he ever says is “I am Groot”. Not since Matt Damon in Team America have I heard a better three syllable catch phrase. Rocket the Raccoon, the best one in the bunch is voiced by Bradley Cooper. The previews make the raccoon seem too over the top and silly but it works in the movie. It’s some of Bradley Cooper’s best work, I was really impressed, he should voice more animated characters. Then there’s Drax who doesn’t understand metaphors. These five round out the ragtag group of ne’re-do-wells that make up The Guardians of the Galaxy.

There’s two ways to approach the plot of this movie. The first is that there’s a big bad blue guy who I know is bad because he says so and we see him kill one person. He wants to destroy planet Nova for some reason and he’s working for an even bigger badder guy named Thanos. I know maybe four things about comics and one of them is that Thanos is bad. I don’t know why he’s bad or what he’s done or wants to do, this movie could’ve explained that but nope. Anyway it throws a bunch of comic book tropes at us about a collector, and a power crystal, and I wasn’t really paying attention. Because the second way to approach the plot is to appreciate how it is basically just setting up scenarios for our heroes to fight their way out of. This movie is about action, snappy dialog, and humor. Paying too much attention to the story reveals all the holes and you’ll miss the excitement.

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The real reason I loved this movie is because it’s chock full of delicious nutritious eye candy. Every shot is so richly detailed there’s; space ships, lasers, console displays, rocket thrusters, nebulae, tech, aliens, robots, shields, cybernetics and it keeps going. There’s also this retro style, like if science fiction of the 70’s and 80’s had better visual effects. Even the costumes, makeup, and hair is retro futuristic, you get to see Merle from Walking Dead as a gold toothed, aqua, space pirate and a quasi-futuristic Glenn Close (how’d they get her in this movie, oh right, gobs of money). The soundtrack of nostalgic pop songs you remember from the 80’s provides a wacky contrast to the spacey spectacle on the screen. It’s not perfect but this movie is so much fun and embraces the corny moments and Pratt falls (pun intended) knowing full well what it’s doing. See this movie for all the right reasons and be happy.

 

Carl Wells

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Much Needed Additinal Categories To The Oscars

18 Jan

Oscar nominations for 2014 are out and Oscar Buzz is in full gear these next couple months. With people rushing out to watch movies just because they’re nominated. We’re all going to talk about who and what got snubbed and how awesome we are because we saw (Insert movie) when it first came out before it got recognition. Now we know there’s problems with the Oscars, like how it’s just millionaires congratulating themselves. Or how they are all vying for the dollars of the average consumer. While at the same time are so out of touch with the general public, since nominations are mostly underdog movies that most people skipped. Also that they have categories 98% of people ignore. Seriously when was the last time anyone watched a “Documentary Short Subject”? I can’t even go into how many things are wrong with the Oscars, it would take all day, but in spite of that I still get caught up in the hysteria.

Oscars

If they made just a few small changes it would ripple out, ultimately leading to better movies or even just get the public interested in smaller movies before they’re nominated for anything. At the very least it would add variety to the show. Here are some additional categories I think the Oscars could easily adopt that aren’t also recognized by other award shows like The MTV Movies Awards or The Razzies.

Best Vocal Performance – This is long overdue and the need to honor the vital necessity of a human voice in a film is becoming more relevant in modern times. As computer graphics continue to become better and cheaper they’re being used more and more to generate entire characters visually. While there may come a point where computers can flawlessly replicate every visual detail of a character, they will never be able to replicate their voice, only an actor can provide that. This award doesn’t just nominate voice acting in animated movies (CG or otherwise) but anytime someone’s voice is the only presence they have in that movie, this includes narration in a movie or documentary, and cases like the movie Her. I find it ironic that a movie which asks “Can you date a conscience that isn’t really a person?” had the Academy asking “Can you nominate an person who isn’t ever on screen?”. Of course you can! and should’ve, Oscar people. But since you won’t,  just make a whole new category and award Scarlett Johansson Best Vocal Performance for her Role as the A.I. Samantha in the movie Her.

Best End Credits – They already award “Original Song” which most of the time isn’t heard in full until the end credits anyway, might as well award a movie for having good end credits too. It’s becoming more common for movies to have something other than a list as their end credits. Maybe honoring this extra effort will get more movies to elevate their end credits into something that’s more entertaining than a telephone book. Pixar has always been pretty good about this and it is catching on. Popular options are outtakes, additional scenes, great graphics and concept art, short films, epilogues, Argo even had Jimmy Carter talking about the Iranian escape operation over news photos. But this year best end credits goes to Saving Mr. Banks which played the actual 1964 audio recordings of author P.L. Travers dictating notes to Disney executives on what she expected from the Mary Poppins movie. It was cute, funny, and fascinating.

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Best Alternate Format – Increasingly movies are being released in IMAX and 3D formats this is partially due to technological advancement  and partially an attempt to combat online piracy. Most people are just fine watching a standard movie on a computer screen but you can’t pirate a movie and watch it in IMAX or 3D (3D TVs are stupid and irrelevant and I don’t acknowledge them). So Hollywood is trying to get less movies illegally downloaded and more money at the box office by using these high quality formats. However too many movies are just shitty upconverts, and look terrible. If we want better 3D/IMAX movies and want filmmakers to use these formats to their full potential, rather than just a gimmick, they need to get recognized for quality 3D or shooting in IMAX. I’d even nominate movies that were all in Black and White or very stylized like Sin City. The winner would be the movie that used the alternative format in the best narrative way it could, it can’t just be the best looking IMAX3D it has to be the movie that uses the advantages of IMAX 3D to communicate it’s story. This year It’d go to Gravity.

Best Trailer  – Even trailers are hyped now and online viewings of trailers get more views than some Oscar winning movies and there are multiple youtube channels devoted to trailers. The Best Trailer award has nothing to do with how good that movie is and this is why any movie has a chance to win it. I would judge a trailer, not by how it teased the plot, maybe how interested did it make you about the movie it was advertising. But what would trump everything is just if the trailer is entertaining on its own. I want to live in a universe where Gothic Lolita Battle Bear wins for Best Trailer.

Once seen you’ll never forget it…Enjoy.

 

Carl Wells

Gravity Isn’t Just a Good Idea, It’s The Law.

5 Oct

Here’s my no spoiler review of Gravity. I had to go see Gravity the first day it came out because all the previews made it look so different and gorgeous and suspenseful and I didn’t want to hear what anybody else thought about it before I saw it. I also had to see it in IMAX 3D because I am a sucker for the 3D gimmick but also because the director Alfonso Cuarón said he specifically designed this movie to be viewed that way. Of course that’s what all the movie people say in order to get customers to shell out the extra cash for IMAX 3D tickets, but I trust that when Alfonso Cuarón says something he means it. I decided to go to a matinee show at the only IMAX 3D screen nearby that also serves beer. Because I also felt this movie had been specifically designed to be enjoyed with a beer. So as to slightly mimic the light headed, disoriented feelings the characters experienced in space, even if the director hadn’t bothered to mention that part. (I should point out that I feel like 98% of movies are meant to be enjoyed with beer, at least that’s my excuse.) Anyway getting back to Gravity, in short; it is out of this world! Pun intended. Did you know that “Pun intended” is itself a pun on “unintended”? pretty dorky huh? Don’t worry no more puns in this post because as it was said on the Simpsons “Don’t use puns, that’s just lazy writing.”

Gravity

I loved Gravity and you should go see it, here are some of the reasons why. It is eyeball-burstingly beautiful, every frame is so crisp and clean and detailed. The background of the Earth and sky is dramatic I could just watch them by themselves. The Earth is HUGE and ever-changing; with hurricanes, cities at night speckling the surface, and Aurora borealis all drifting below. It continuously provides a dynamic backdrop for the character’s story. Another thing I like is that the movie takes it’s time to let you soak in all the visuals with very long static shots of the characters just floating by. In fact every shot in this movie is long, there were maybe less than a 100 cuts in the whole movie (most movies have well over 1,000). In Gravity the point of view is always tilting, panning, and smoothly moving in and around the action, it is a great story telling tool. By keeping cuts to a minimum you can really relate to the freedom and isolation of space and it also keeps it easy for the viewer to position where orbiting objects are in relation to each other. If it was just cut, cut, cut, it would be easy to lose the placement of everything. I hate that style of just cutting to add action, it is a relief to see a movie where suspense is built up in one continuous shot. The special effects it took to create these camera moves are unlink anything I’ve seen. You know that the Space shuttle and Space stations are a lot of computer graphics and stuff but everything looks so real. Technically speaking this film is magical.

But what about the story? The story is kept very basic and simple, which I like, and is mostly a survival story. The whole movie takes place in space and is told almost in real time. I can tell you that while the previews looked like they showed the best parts of the movie let me assure you they don’t. The collision sequences in space gave me goose bumps because they are utterly horrifying with surprises the previews left out. There are some equally troubling scenes that take place inside a spacecraft too, which just illustrates that you’re never out of danger in space. I’ve heard people criticize the preview’s  portrayal of Sandra Bullock’s character as the typical damsel in distress who can’t hold her shit together. While that may apply to the previews, Sandra Bullock’s character in the movie is her own hero and pulls her shit together in a big way. I’m as surprised as anyone I just complimented Sandra Bullock’s job in a movie, but she’s good in this. While it’s her story, George Clooney provides some great contrast as the veteran astronaut who knows exactly what to do and how to do it. He’s the only other character, so there’s a lot he has to do; provide exposition, humor, encouragement (not romance, thank god) and I can’t think of anyone else who would’ve been better cast.

Gravity 2

Summing up, you don’t have to have gone to space camp as a kid, like I did, to enjoy Gravity. It is a very relatable human story that takes place in space but isn’t so much about space as about the will to live. But in case you did go to Space Camp and/or just want to geek out, almost everything in this movie is accurate if you don’t nit-pick details. It is far out and intense, but if you want a beer check to see when the theater starts serving. I went to a Noon show and they wouldn’t serve beer until 3pm. What is this Nazi Germany? Shame on you for not taking more of my money. Proving even if you’re sober the movie is still great.

Carl Wells