Mr. Bill George Presents

Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

‘Up In The Air’ (And Other Movie Talk)

In Film on January 1, 2010 at 5:31 PM

I think it’s fair to say I see a lot of movies.

And to be honest, I like a lot of them. As I get older, I find myself liking what I see more and more and there are a few reasons for that. One, I’m starting more and more to look for value than for criticism. I feel no need to validate myself by pointing out flaws. Focusing on the positive is much more productive. A.K.A. I’m going soft in my old age.

Secondly, I select what I see based on what I’m interested in and what I’m predetermined to like. I used to see movies just for the sake of seeing them and being able to review them, which lead to a lot of wasted time and unnecessary aggravation.

Finally, I think movies are getting a bit better as well. It just feels like more things are coming out that I’m into than before. (Obviously I have no way to substantiate that claim or back it up, it just feels that way.)

With all that being said, only a few movies (out of the many hundreds that I really like or love) have truly spoken to me. Only a choice group have affected and actually changed me.

Don’t get me wrong, Casino Royale, Star Trek and Sherlock Holmes are entertainment of the highest caliber and I adore them, but I don’t think differently or live life differently because of them or their message.

But there are some movies that once you see them, you cannot picture a time before them. I can’t imagine what life was like when I hadn’t seen Batman Begins or Vanilla Sky. Those are just two examples and they may seem like odd choices but I’m sure you have your own. I’m not saying Vanilla Sky deserved Best Picture, I’m merely saying that I, Bill George, connected with it. There are some others (Apollo 13, A Few Good Men, About Schmidt, Cast Away) but today, I am adding another one to the list:

Up in the Air

I would write a straight review for it but I’ll spare you the pure gushing that would ensue. In a nutshell: not only was the movie technically sound, scratch that, flawless, but the script was astounding and Clooney’s performance was masterful. I hung on every word, every image, every sound, every cue.

But the best part is: I can’t really explain why. It just spoke to me. I’m sure it had to do with the brilliance of all the aspects listed above combined with my general personality and everything that has happened in my life leading up to the point of viewing. But it isn’t worth pinpointing, sufficed to say the film is now a part of me. A part of my life.

I don’t know how others have reacted to it or will react to it, and I certainly can’t guarantee the same results, but it earns my highest recommendation. See it as soon as possible.

A Tale Of Two Blockbusters

In Film on December 25, 2009 at 11:55 PM

Twice in recent weeks I’ve visited the cineplex to watch the latest blockbusters Hollywood has to offer. First, I witnessed James Cameron’s opus Avatar. (And yes, I did see it in 3D.) While moments ago I finished watching Sherlock Holmes, the latest Guy Ritchie film and Robert Downey Jr. vehicle.

While both are ‘big’ movies with not an insignificant amount of marketing power behind them (more so in the case of the former) they both left indelibly different tastes in my mouth and only one demands a subsequent viewing: Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes succeeds in a number of places that Avatar fails. Most importantly having a strong lead actor playing a mesmerizing character, coupled with a riveting and thought provoking narrative. Granted, Avatar is a visual marvel and is aesthetically stunning. The motion capture, the 3D, the amount of detail. There’s never been anything like it before. Period. (But Holmes is no slouch either, with Ritchie providing a nice stylization all his own.)

However, at the end of Holmes I felt fulfilled. While Avatar left me empty. The story was so dragged out and shallow that I’m convinced the film as a whole will not stand the test of time as anything more than a tech demo.

Where Avatar was a feast for the eyes, Holmes was a feast for the mind. It’s a smart movie with clever plotting and an unmistakable wit, all the while being carried by a leading man who is nothing short of riveting. Downey Jr. is an inspired choice to play the titular character, capturing Holmes’ essence in a way no other actor could. And his chemistry with Jude Law’s Dr. Watson is enthralling.

Every piece of Avatar‘s story has been done before in other movies and done better. So many of the subplots and twists are cliches and even the dialogue feels stale. Yet everything in Holmes feels fresh and adventurous.

I understand I’m being very vague and I apologize for it. Part of the reason is because I don’t want to delve into too much detail surrounding either film so has not to spoil any part of them. The other reason is that my feelings stretch far beyond words. I can’t adequately describe how amazing Sherlock Holmes made me feel, bizarre as it sounds, but I know it did move me. And let’s just say Avatar had no such effect.

What did everyone else think? Sound off in the comments.

A New Site For Film Aficionados

In Film on December 9, 2009 at 1:53 AM

Fun factoids about myself: I love movies and am currently pursuing a career in video production. I am immensely interested in the production of films and love reading interviews with writers/directors etcetera. So needless to say, when I found the website “makingof.com” via my stumbleupon button on Firefox I found it necessary to do a quick write-up on it as a heads up.

Makingof.com is a well crafted site that is regularly updated with videos featuring interviews with notable directors/writers/production-crew and behind-the-scenes bits on current and up-coming movies. All of the videos are very high quality and the site is updated surprisingly fast. As I perused the site I was a bit perplexed as to why the community section was so dead. The forum posts were few and far between. Which leads me to believe this site hasn’t exactly caught on yet and is also causing me to try to spread the word. I was even further perplexed when I found out that Natalie Portman co-founded the site and that I hadn’t heard of it through one of my film site avenues beforehand.

Sure you can find interviews and pieces on many films and directors out there on youtube and such but “makingof.com” consolidates the material in an easy to navigate fashion so you have a bit more direction if you are looking to gain insight into the world of film. So if you are an aspiring film-maker or just a movie-buff I think you might like this site and I recommend giving it a check-out.

http://makingof.com/

[Editors Note: Thanks Matt. Good find. Also on my (Bill George’s) radar as far as new movie sites go: http://movieclips.com/. It’s a neat way to view, embed, and share scenes and clips from popular films. Much easier and higher quality than YouTube.]

Odds And Ends #3

In Film, Music, Site on November 22, 2009 at 11:15 PM

TIAW is devoted to giving all of our readers thoughtful and interesting content. We do so in a fairly lengthy fashion (according to internet standards at least). These essays can be spaced out quite a bit because we put a lot into them, so I apologize for the lack of updates as of late. In the mean time, if you are interested in the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of TIAW founder Bill George (the person typing this) feel free to visit his/my tumblr blog at MrBillGeorge.com.

That being said, here are a few things I’ve been thinking about lately that aren’t quite worthy of their own TIAW posts. However, I still feel like sharing them and it’s a good way to get a post up to keep the site active.

2012 – Roland Emmerich’s latest disaster (of a) film is certainly a ‘visual effects extravaganza’… for an hour or so. But the hour and half following that is anything but. It’s, well, boring. Very boring. It’s supposed to be an action blockbuster but it clocks in at a staggering 158 minutes. The pacing is horrific. The action beats are so far apart you forget why you’re watching it.

There are countless subplots that simply do not need to exist. At all. For any reason. Nothing would be lost with the cutting of half the film’s cast. Nobody goes into this film expecting anything besides what the trailers promise: destruction. There were a couple breathtaking sequences but otherwise it felt totally flat.

Enjoyable at times? Sure. Do those times make up for the other two hours that must be endured? Not even close.

Phrazes For The Young – I’m not usually much of a music critic. I’ve written a handful of album reviews in my day but I always feel out of my element. Film has always been my bag and music is more of a hobby. I excel at picking music to use in movies but that’s the extent of my expertise. (Well, unless you count playing Rock Band on expert I suppose.)

But with music, just like everything else, I know what I like. And I love this album.

It’s a solo album from Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas. I don’t really know how to describe it or how to put into words why I love it so much, I just do. So I wanted to share it with everyone in case there are people out there like me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Where The Wild Hype Is

In Film on October 28, 2009 at 7:55 PM

I hated this movie.

Sorry to be so forward but I figured I’d get the ugly truth out of the way up front. Also, early on I’d like to acknowledge the things that weren’t terrible about the movie, so as to have a clear conscience when I proceed to ridicule it.

Spike Jonze is a visionary director, there’s no doubt about that. I consider Adaptation a masterpiece and he maintains his visual flair here too. The CGI animated faces on the real bodies of the wild things works extremely well. His casting choices, such as James Gandolfini as Carol, are also impressive.

But none of that changes the fact that this movie is nothing but noise.

Our protagonist, an insufferable brat named Max, runs around screaming in the opening of the film (foreshadowing!). As soon as he runs away from home and into the world of his imagination, where the wild things preside, he continues to run and scream. And after he and the wild things run around and scream, they proceed to run around and scream some more, whilst throwing things at each other. And finally he runs home.

The end.

If you’re thinking to yourself that in that synopsis I didn’t mention anything that remotely sounded like a plot, you’re exactly right. Nothing happens in this film.

The vast majority of the film is either, as mentioned, Max and the wild things running around, screaming and having a good time, or bickering with one another. Each wild thing has a distinct personality and each one could be viewed as a reflection of a different aspect of the psyche of a child. Meaning the wild things themselves act like children.

Newsflash: Children are annoying.

Hence, I was cringing throughout the duration of the film. In no way was this immature nonsense something I wanted to (or for that matter would willingly pay to) sit through.

Are there more layers to it? Is there depth and symbolism to be had here?

Perhaps. I didn’t read much into it right off the bat but if you have the patience to withstand the onslaught of noise that it is embedded in, maybe you’ll find something to appreciate that I simply could not.

And to answer the question you may be pondering: no, I haven’t read the book. I remember it from my childhood, the cover at least, but I don’t recall its content. But that is neither here nor there. The film must be able to stand on its own as an individual product. If I read the book it may have set my expectations differently but I still would have had a headache leaving the theater.

(For the record, I expected the kid to go through some actual tragedy and escape to where the wild things are. Then move back and forth between real and fake. The trailer sure made it look that way at least.)

What this movie needs is, well, a storyline. But even more importantly: profanity.

If this movie had some harsh language in it, then I’d be a little more interested in some of these fiery exchanges. Towards the tail end of the film, when I’ve already sat through an hour of pointless fighting and KW steps on Carol’s face and they bicker again I really needed to hear someone say, “Oh yea? Well Fuck you Carol! What have you done for me lately you prick?!”

I have to admit, I became so disinterested in the film toward the end that in between my constant thoughts of “Why am I watching this?” I began to fantasize about the American Military swooping in and carpet bombing the damn island and running a block-ops extraction mission to get the kid out safe. Seeing a laser-sight dot appear on Judith’s head would have made my night.

Okay, I’m exhausted from typing with such vitriol. I’ll sum up the movie by saying the execution was there but I found the content to be unwatchable. Unless of course you don’t mind being audibly assaulted for 1.5 hours.

Revisiting The Matrix

In Film on October 19, 2009 at 12:15 AM

In my mind no movie has been more marred by the sequels it spawned than The Matrix. While I do believe Reloaded has some merit in terms of worthwhile action sequences, Revolutions is a laughable mess.

Sadly, in the wake of the sequels, their hype and the endless parodies that have followed, the quality of the original Matrix and its status as a landmark action film have been lost. I am here to right this wrong.

Believe it or not, I remember March 31st, 1999 like it was yesterday. Those who know me know my memory (or lack thereof) is borderline clinical, but I’ll never forget the excitement I felt in the theater the opening day of The Matrix.

All I had seen going into the film was the teaser trailer, predominately featuring Keanu Reeves dodging bullets on the rooftop (using a filmmaking technique that would latter be dubbed ‘bullet time’). Not only that, but it featured a voice over of Laurence Fishburne saying that “no one can be told what the matrix is… you have to see it for yourself.” Not to mention using the web address http://www.whatisthematrix.com. If that doesn’t get you into the theater, I don’t know what will.

As you know, most films open on a Friday and this one was no exception. Yes, it was a school day, but being the student I was and having the parents I have, I was dismissed at lunch time for this particular occasion. Keep in mind that I was a 13 year old American male… A.K.A. one of the exact demographics I’m sure this film was aimed at. And by God did it deliver.

Until this time I had never seen an action movie with a legitimate, thought-provoking storyline. (With the exception of the Terminator series.) I was in total awe throughout the experience. Starting with the badassery of Agent Smith showing up to apprehend Trinity and informing the officer in charge that the men he sent up to do the job were ‘already dead.’ Her escape in that scene is as riveting as it comes for an opening set piece.

Looking back on it and adding it all up you realize just how iconic every scene in that film is and how much it has become a part of pop culture. Red pill vs. blue pill. The dojo. The rooftop. The subway. The construct. And of course: the lobby.

The lobby shootout scene was a watershed moment in my life. (Again, I was 13.) I had never seen anything like it before… ever. Think about it: almost every action movie released since has used slow motion, techno music and/or bullet time. The Matrix changed the way action sequences are filmed. Period.

The other thing about the film that makes it stand out in my mind on a personal level is the fact that I saw it in theaters. Granted, seeing something in theaters versus at home doesn’t have much of an affect on how much you’ll like it. A number of what I’d consider my favorite movies I didn’t discover until they were released on DVD. But still… there’s something special about seeing it in theaters, especially considering the fact that the majority of my peers did not have the pleasure. I’m guessing most of them were not as hip to the movie watching scene at age 13 as I was and they missed out. But now I talk to people who love it and hold it just as dear as I do… but I saw it in theaters. And frankly, that makes me feel special (regardless of whether it should).

So, now that I’ve revisited it in my mind, I’m going to revisit it on disc. I probably should have watched it prior to writing this (that would make this column make sense). But I just had it on my mind and wanted to let it out. Now that I’ve done that, I’m dying to watch it again. By the way, before I let you leave thinking that I think it’s a perfect movie, I readily admit it isn’t. The end is schmaltzy, some of the performances could be better and it could be a bit tighter lengthwise. But there is no doubt that it is a thinking man’s action flick and a landmark film for the genre.

How Do You Rent?

In Film on September 29, 2009 at 2:02 PM

I really feel like re-watching The Mist.

I’m not sure what it is that’s driving me. I saw it when it first came to DVD and it has stuck with me since. Now, Halloween is coming up (or so every store in the mall keeps telling me) and I’m in the mood for something on the scary side. Not to mention, I’ve finally connected the dots and realized that it stars Thomas Jane, the lead of one of my favorite new shows Hung. So I can’t wait to revisit his performance.

So the question becomes: how do I get it?

It isn’t the type of movie I see myself owning and re-watching frequently so I figured I’d rent it. But how should I do that? There’s so many possibilities now. I have my own favorite methods but I’m curious as to how my peers go about this process.

And thus, the following poll:

My issue with buying things outright is that I now limit myself to purchasing only Blu-Rays. So, while I could buy it on the cheap on DVD, I prefer not to continue to build an antiquated library. And Blu-Rays aren’t cheap enough to buy on a whim.

On a different note, it’s sad that all these news stories say Blockbuster and the like are on their way out. Even though my preferred method of rental nowadays is my PS3 and its Playstation Network, I still find myself in Blockbuster at least once a month. Not even necessarily to rent. Everytime I walk through those doors I spend a good hour there. Just wandering. Reminding myself of what’s out. Reading boxes. Seeing if there are any good deals on pre-owned discs. Renting video games.

(Because, let’s face it, Blockbuster is still the best way to rent video games, hands down. Demoes give you just enough to let you know if it’s worth playing more of, but not enough to convince you if it’s worth owning and replaying. That’s where the rental comes in.)

Like I said, I prefer my PS3 now for a number of reasons. The most important one being its convenience. I never need to leave the house. Not to mention leave the house twice. (Once to rent, once to return.) Also, the PSN fulfills my need for high definition. And I’ve always been satisfied with its download speeds, visual and audio fidelity, reliability, playback options etc.

But video stores will always hold a place in my heart. Growing up I used to dream of one day owning my own video store. I’d know everyone in town and make great recommendations and talk movies all day etc etc. But that dream lives on no more, not only for me but for just about everyone. There’s not much to say and not much can be done. Newer methods of rental are undeniably better. It’s just a shame to see such a big part of my/our past fade away.

Others thoughts? Either on the decline of rental outlets or the poll results?

Odds And Ends #2

In Film, Music, Video Games on September 23, 2009 at 10:28 AM

– Friend of TIAW and frequent commenter, ‘unofficialitguy’ is doing a site revamp over at http://www.unofficialitguy.com/ . Make sure to check it out this Friday, September 25th. When the time rolls around I’ll edit this post with updated details but I wanted to make sure you all were prepped and ready to go. He’s also been added to our links list on the bottom left of this page. Can’t wait to see it!

– The long awaited DS game Sribblenauts came out recently and I picked myself up a copy. It is unbelievably fun at times but can be frustrating at others. As a 5 minute demo to show off for friends, it’s unrivaled. But when you really sit down and starting putting time into it and slog through the hundreds of levels, it starts to wear. Sure, you can create any object you want and use it to help you solve puzzles, but often those objects don’t act the way you expect them to or hope they will.

If I create a construction worker and put him in a backhoe and place the whole thing above a dig-able surface, I expect results! Instead he sits idly by twiddling his virtual thumbs (essentially). In fact, whenever you create any other human characters they either act as a guardian for you, an enemy of you, or neither and just meander around.

The game’s database is a marvel to behold with no stone left unturned, and as an appetizer the game succeeds tremendously, but hopefully this will flourish into a franchise. Maybe then they’ll focus on adding depth to what happens on screen instead of just deepening their glossary.

– Speaking of games, I recently played The Beatles: Rock Band for the first time. I had about an hour and a half with the game and went through 3 or 4 sets with a handful of songs a piece. It is what I expected: a Rock Band game full of Beatles music. But it goes so far above and beyond in terms of detail and presentation that it really blows all other music games out of the water. The amount of effort that must have been poured into this game is palpable in the background videos, loading screens, menus etc. It’s truly a sight to behold, and I’m not even a huge Beatles fan. (Though I am becoming one. It’s so much easier to comprehend just how much they did when you see it all in one place. And it helps when that one place is a video game franchise I already know intimately and love.)

– Steven Soderbergh’s new film The Informant! came out last week and I had the pleasure of seeing it. It tells the unbelievable true story of Mark Whitacre and his work with the FBI as an informant in a price fixing scandal involving one of the biggest companies in the food industry in the early 90’s. Sounds like a snoozer, but Damon’s performance as Whitacre is inspired. It’s a fascinating story that’s told so well that it is nothing short of riveting. Worth a watch for sure.

– I downloaded the song from the new Nano commercial. It’s a good time. You can find it HERE, track number 9, “Bourgeois Shangri-La.”

Statistics, Lies, And Videotape

In Film on September 11, 2009 at 10:16 AM

I’ve always been fascinated with statistics. Especially everyday life statistics. Such as the amount of time every year the average person spends waiting in line. Or the number of times we blink. Or the amount of a certain food we eat. I love when we are able to take a step back from ourselves and view our habits through the prism of cold, hard, truth-telling numbers.

In fact, I wish I had a statistician. I think everyone should have a statistician assigned to them. Just to follow you around and keep track of what you’ve eaten, where you’ve gone, how much time you’ve spent doing something, how many times you’ve worn that outfit, how far you’ve walked, how many times you’ve yawned, how many bathroom visits you’ve made etc. etc.

And, as we all know, the knowledge of being observed changes behavior so the statistician would have to be invisible. Maybe God (if he/she/it exists) is doing just that. And when reach heaven he pulls up an Excel spreadsheet and says, “Alright, let’s take a look at the numbers here…”

But there is one statistic measuring my actions that I think I can recount accurately: Most Watched.

We all have a certain handful of movies that we watch much, much more frequently than others. Sick days, rainy days, you name it. The type movie we feel it is our mission in life to show to anyone who hasn’t seen it. The type of movie we not only know all the words to, but every single sound effect, music cue, cut, angle, facial expression etc.

Because of my affinity for film I have can think of many movies that fall into that category (The Blues Brothers, The ‘Burbs, Apollo 13, Tremors, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, A Few Good Men, almost all of M. Night and Spielberg’s work etc.)

But there is one film I know for fact I’ve spent more time watching than any other:

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

I’ve seen it countless times (well it would be counted if I had a damn statistician…).

For a span of two or three years I actually had a New Year’s Eve ritual that involved T2. I was never very big on New Year’s Eve as a holiday or the parties than resulted because of it. And often times I’d just as well stay home, watch the ball drop and hit the hay. But when I was in middle school (I think it was) I made it a habit that every New Year’s Eve, as soon as the ball dropped, I’d pop James Cameron’s masterpiece into my VHS, in order to ensure that the first film I watched of that new year would be non-other than T2.

Alright folks, now I want to hear from you. Shout out your most watched movies in the comments section. I’m really interested to see what kind of mix we get.

Duplicity

In Film on August 29, 2009 at 8:56 PM

Tony Gilroy’s film Duplicity was released this week on Blu-ray / DVD and I could not let the occasion pass without saying something. It is one of my favorite movies of the year as evidenced by the review I posted on my previous web endeavor (IAgreeWithTheMovieDude.com). Because that review came in the waning days of the site and because my love for this movie cannot be overstated, I submit to you my full review of Duplicity:

Tony Gilroy wrote and directed this spy comedy about two former espionage experts attempting to pull off a major con job in the private sector. Gilroy’s name may sound familiar because his directorial debut, Michael Clayton, garnered rave reviews and more than a couple Oscar nominations. Clayton was easily one of my favorite films in 2007 and Duplicity is now one of my favorite films of 2009.

Gilroy once again focuses his story on the cutthroat world of business and corporate moguls. In this case, the always fantastic Paul Giamatti and Clayton veteran Tom Wilkinson run rival corporations in the home pharmaceutical industry (think Johnson & Johnson). Meanwhile, stars Julia Roberts and Clive Owen play former spies (of the C.I.A. and MI6 respectively) with a complicated past who now find themselves reunited working counterintelligence for the companies.

Going too into depth summarizing the story would ruin the experience so I’ll leave it at that. Sufficed to say, Gilroy’s writing is as sharp as ever and the constantly twisting and turning story proves both smart and rewarding. Another part of the film’s success is its editing. Pieces of the present are intersected with moments from the past, blending together seamlessly like chapters in a novel. It’s not linear and that is to the film’s advantage. Gilroy tells us exactly what he wants us to know, when he wants us to know it. Trying to put the puzzle together keeps the film constantly engaging.

Owen gives a fantastic performance in a role that, just like the film itself, is smart, charming and always entertaining. Roberts is no slouch either but she does feel a tad more dispensable. She could have been replaced with someone a little younger, with a little more charisma and the movie may have been better served.

But as is, the film just works. When it is firing on all cylinders it is devilishly clever and thoroughly absorbing. By the end I found myself completely caught up in the action and on the edge of my seat waiting to see if my predictions were accurate. Now that’s a feeling every good thriller should evoke.

BOTTOM LINE: Pure enjoyment for the crime and/or spy movie buffs out there.