Month: March 2015

What makes a movie good?

What makes a movie good? This is a very loaded question, I know. But I’m going to attempt to tackle this, as I’ve seen it often come up in conversation among my friend group and everywhere on the internet. While of course there’s the obvious statistics of money a movie makes as well as the production value, what makes the movie actually good. Personally I don’t think there’s such a thing as a bad movie. Somebody, somewhere, likes that movie. Maybe this is a cop out, but without a doubt, I believe that personal preference constitutes quality in a movie. Obviously there are movies that are widely better viewed than others, perhaps this defines movie quality? Ratio of people who like the move to those who don’t. These results can be skewed however, which is why many movie review sites have moved away from that and onto something less manipulable.

Personally for me, I know that the movies I perceive as better are ones I grew up with. Maybe it’s the nostalgia? For instance, Star Wars is probably my favorite movie series ever, but going back and watching them now, I realize how bad some of the writing and acting actually was. I mean it wasn’t awful, but there were definitely moments I cringed because things were so bad.

However we rate movies, I think it comes down solely to personal preference. Perhaps the pretentiousness of the movie review world proves this, maybe it doesn’t. Whatever the answer is, I find some movies good, you find some movies good, if we don’t agree, whatever… It’s just a movie.

Those guys that do good things for people, or whatever…

The heroes, contrasting my last post, are the guys that do good stuff. The one to leap in front of a train to save the hog-tied damsel. These guys set the unreachable standards for males. No I don’t have a lightsaber and no I can’t stop that train. Deal with it.

Disclaimer: Again, first spot is personal bias. This is my list, don’t question it.

1. Obi-Wan Kenobi

The Jedi Knights purpose is to do good, hence why he’s on the do-gooders list. Through diplomacy and his skill with a lightsaber, Obi-Wan has saved the galaxy directly and indirectly through dozens of scenarios. Whether it be saving Chancellor Palpatine (Holy crap, The Emperor? Whaaat? So many connections) from the grasp of General Grievous, or sacrificing himself to allow Luke to escape from an Imperial ship, Obi-Wan is the biggest hero. What strikes me the most about Kenobi is not only his role as the hero, but also as the mentor. Obi-Wan uses his experiences in his life to shape Luke’s training further along the Star Wars timeline. Arguably, without Obi-Wan’s help, Luke never would have saved the galaxy and you wouldn’t be here reading this blog. (It’s a documentary, right?)2. Indiana Jones

Dr. Indiana Jones, university professor, lover of history, blockader of bad guys. When Dr. Jones isn’t watching some guy get his heart ripped out in some weird frat initiation, he’s grabbing gold stuff of pedestals for a museum or something. While it could be argued that Jones is just a glorified thief and scoundral, he still stops Nazi’s on multiple occasions. I mean, if that isn’t reason enough to claim the number 2 spot then what is? Saving the galaxy? Oh wait, that’s the number 1 spot…

3. Spider-Man

So, if you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you’ll know, I love Spider-Man. The origin is just enough in the realm of believably, I strongly identify with the character (can someone say marketing?), and web slinging just looks plain fun. However, Spider-Man stops thieves and murders in New York city alone, he doesn’t stop Nazis, and he doesn’t save galaxies. He’s just kind of there in the grand scheme of things. However I think Spider-Man deserves recognition, he provides that everyday hope outside of the realm of fantasy. That lands him high on my list, and high on my level of endearment.

This was just a short list, and doesn’t encompass all of my favorite movie heroes, but it’s a start to perhaps a recurring thing. Depending how I feel about it.

The worst of the bad… That’s how that saying goes, right?

No action movie would be complete without the iconic struggle between a hero and a villain. At times it may be blatantly obvious who the villain is and what their motivations are, but in some cases the villain and the villain’s plans are more obscure. Let’s quit lying here though, no one gives the slightest of a care to these obscure movie villains, so we’re going to stick to naming the most iconic, the worst of the bad.

Be advised: First two are probably personal bias, because I’m a huge nerd.

1. Emperor Palpatine (Darth Sidious)

I had long debated between Vader and Palpatine for the number one spot, but I decided that the fact that Palpatine obliterated an entire planet and reasons I dictate below secure The Emperor as number one baddie. If you thought Vader was that embodiment of evil, think again. This guy manipulates, kills, and schemes without mercy for the sole purpose of “ruling the galaxy” or whatever. I mean, what are you even going to do with that? It seems pointless. Whatever it’s his goal let’s let him have it. The path to his goal isn’t a glorious one though, it’s full of evils and atrocities only someone with the heart of pure evil could commit.

2. Darth Vader

The ultimate B.A, the first scene of Star Wars Episode IV begins with Darth Vader attacking a rebel star cruiser. This big ball of evil walks on camera and instantly owns the scene. The presence he carries captivated my young mind the first time I saw it. How could someone be that evil? When Vader isn’t slaughtering innocents on the former Republic homeworld of Coruscant, he likes to take long walks on the beach with the severed arms of his enemies. When it’s business time though, Vader knows how to control a crowd. Through intimidation of his subordinates and of his own son using the force, Vader cements himself as an evil force not to be reckoned with.

Side note here: One of the reasons I find Darth Vader so appealing is not just him as a villain, but his descent into villainy as well as his redemption. The ‘dreaded’ Star Wars prequels, I believe, solely exist to give meaning behind the character of Darth Vader. No longer was he this ultimate vision of evil, but was instead the victim of a long life of pain. The fleshing out of the character gave Vader’s redemption in Episode VI so much more meaning, but I believe Drastically reduced his villainy meter.

3. The Joker

If I wasn’t such a strong advocate for proper mental health treatment, this guy may have been up higher, but I just find the case of The Joker sad really. While we don’t get the whole origin story of The Joker we get that he was abused both mentally and physically by his father when he was younger, which essentially led to him growing up the way he did, pretty screwy. So now he preforms high stakes social experiments, steals just to steal, and provokes Batman. Granted The Joker is evil in his own right, just not a detriment to the galaxy like his predecessors. Sure he kills and steals, but I mean, in one city. He’s not much more than a glorified murderer with a background of mental illness, like, we have these in real life… Really DC?

 

 

These were just my top 3 bad villains. Sure most of them come from massively popular movies which makes them the most known, but hey, I think the motivations of the characters play a lot more into their evilness than just a guy who kills people because it’s a horror movie.

Product Placement in Film

While this is obviously  a radical example in the form of satire, product placement in actually film may as well be this ridiculously blatant. Granted that’s the point of product placement, to have an audience see your product. The question becomes though, to what extent is product placement taking from the actual content of a film. The purpose of product placement is essentially to provide film makers with funds to create a better movie, right? Film companies are totally not just pocketing the money, right? Please? Whatever, let’s assume the money goes to the actual production of the film. Great. We get a better movie, and are subconsciously directed to use Google over Bing because we see it in movies. No biggie, right? It adds to the movie or show.

Sometimes you’re wrong though. What’s the point of the Bing product placement? I don’t know! I don’t watch Hawaii Five-O (no one does, that’s why they’re sponsored by Bing), but the inclusion of that scene was completely to add the Bing placement in. This is what gets on my nerves. Directors adding pointless scenes in to add products in. It doesn’t bother me if a character is drinking a pepsi in a film, granted if it’s at an acceptable time and fits with the character. I don’t want to see a recovering alcoholic drinking a Corona simply because a company was slipped a few hundreds. Product placement, like any element in film needs to add to a character or to a scene.This placement in Castaway makes sense. Tom Hanks is stuck on an island and a washed up package is found on the shore. It makes little difference if the package is from FedEx or USPS, but the inclusion of an actual company adds to the immersion of the story. Essentially because the character is using a service many people use, it’s grounding itself in the realm of actuality. The story become more believable. I for one encourage this form of placement, it grounds the movie and also adds some funds for production, it makes sense over all. Whatever the purpose for product placement, as long as it makes sense in the context of the story or scene go for it, but to add shameless advertising just for some extra cash makes me sad.

Significance in Disney intro Variation?

Put on your tin foil hats boys, it’s time for some Disney conspiracies. Not really. Re-reading the title made me think of that for some reason, but no, we’re not doing that today.

Who can mistake it though? The beginning of a Disney movie marked by the signature castle and shooting star invokes more memories than driving down the street I grew up on. It’s completely unique. Want to learn product recognition? Talk to Disney, they’ve got that on lock-down. For a company with such a strong following and recognizable logo, why change the deliverance of it? Obviously with the exponential increase in videoing rendering technologies and crisper displays on modern televisions it’s bound to be updated, but why change them in such drastic ways? The video above highlights this. In the early years of Disney’s film production the logo was short and to the point. A castle, a shooting star, the word Disney. It’s fool proof and unoffensive. As time goes on we see the updates, simply to color and font effects at first, but then the addition and removing of certain characteristics. The shooting star disappears for a bit, the castle doors open up and the camera shoots in for the intro, until eventually we’re left with a fully 3-D shaded model of the Disney castle. Watch the end of the video. It’s a gorgeous castle. But why go through all the effort the make it look pretty? It seems that standards on movies have been steadily increasing (mostly) as the consumer is more often concerned with getting their money’s worth of entertainment. This may be one possible reason. It could be tied into this as well. Other studios are quickly gaining ground. Disney then has two options, buy them, or make better quality movies. Or both. That’s been the case with Marvel, they made a lot of money Disney bought them. Granted they allow for a large amount of creative direction, but still.

The fact of the matter is that movie studios are increasing the quality of the work they put into their movies. This is a good sign. Better movies breeds more competition breeds better movies. The cycle repeats itself until we have mega movie. We’re half way there right now. Have you seen movie run times? 3 hours? I have to pee twice throughout that time. It’s not healthy for a bladder to be forced into that kind of situation.

This show. So good.

Recently I jumped on the House of Cards hype train and I’m still not sure of the final destination. I finished the first two seasons, in three days. Three. At 13 episodes a season averaging 55 minutes a piece that is nearly 26 hours of House of Cards. Now some could say I could have used that time more wisely, who knows maybe I could have found the cure for a deadly disease in that time, but to be honest, it was so worth it. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and watch a TV show for more than 30 minutes and not be itching for something else to do. I’ve never before been pleading for an episode to end, just so I could start the next one. I spent nearly $15 on kettle corn (amazing) in those three days… I had a problem. You know how much homework I got done in those days? Zero. It was kind of amazing. In between episodes I only faintly heard the scorning words of my teachers. I was hooked. I received text messages that went unanswered for hours on end. I’m pretty sure someone thought I was dead at one point..

 

An accurate representation

 

After those euphoric three days of having my mind twisted and turned by the main character’s, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), almost devilish sense of determination, I was finally free from the grasp Netflix had hold of me with. I was free to be my own person and do productive things. That was for the next 23 days until season 3 dropped. Mind you, I’ve never done heroine before, nor do I plan to, however I think I felt withdrawal in those 23 days. Before I could get my life back on track though, season 3 dropped. 48 hours. It was over. I know, I slacked. It should have been done in 18 or less, but I have a valid excuse. That Saturday it dropped I worked for 12 hours. 10 A.M. to 10 P.M. Why is this relevant? Because I came home, I didn’t crash as soon as I hit my bed like I thought I would. I told myself I’d watch one episode. Ended up watching eight. Yup.

Okay, so some dorky kid (Me) stays up late watching a less than accurate political drama staring a sadistic Kevin Spacey and an equally sadistic Robin Wright, so what? It’s good. Just trust me, that’s what you should get out of this. Plan out a good week that you have no prior commitments in (Spring Break amirite?) and watch one episode. Just one. Take a break, go buy some kettle corn, you’ll need it. Then if you feel the urge to watch another, resist. It only gets better. If resisting fails and the gelatinous blob that is Netflix grabs you by the foot, just let it happen. It will be easier that way. You will emerge three days later a mess. You’ll forget what a shower feels like and what a toothbrush or deodorant feels like, but you’ll be better off for it. I equate my time with House of Cards similar to a week in a scorching deserted desert. The only difference being that I had a 2 liter of Mountain Dew, kettle corn, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing.

Watch it. I’ll pray for you.