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Cats in Movies

jonesyA few days ago I was trying to think of movies with cats in them (real ones, not some giant CG Garfield monstrosity), because (I think you’ll agree) cats are awesome. I could watch those cute little guys all day. But sadly, after ten minutes of deep thinking, all I could come up with was ALIEN, MILO & OTIS (which is in fact a horrible Japanese pet torture movie) and five seconds of TO CATCH A THIEF. This is not enough cat content. Seriously.

Luckily, my wife heard my call for help. A rapid Google search lead her to a great site with about a million cat movies – http://catsonfilm.wordpress.com. Now my to-watch list is filled with the likes of THAT DARN CAT, HARRY & TONTO and THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA. Oh god.

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Elysium

I saw ELYSIUM last night. As my most anticipated movie of 2013 I was pretty excited to get into a press screening at the Arclight Hollywood. We were literally the last people in line, got the last passes, were the last to have our phones taken and bagged, and the last to enter the theater seconds before the light dimmed for the screening. That’s when an usher opened up a reserved aisle, and we got seats together in a perfect spot. Don’t know what the moral of this story is. Sometimes it pays to be late?

Anyway, the movie is entertaining and goes faster than a dropship breaking through Earth’s stuffy atmosphere, but I my feelings are I only liked it rather than loved it. The style and the execution of the world is amazing, and every frame is recognizable as a Neil Blomkamp film, but a lot of stuff doesn’t land. It follows Matt Damon’s character, a downtrodden worker human on Earth, as he tries to get himself to the orbiting ringworld of Elysium for urgent medical attention. He has five days to do it before he dies, and a bunch of people on Earth, as well as up in space, do not want that to happen (because they hate poor people? It’s never explicitly explained).

The real problem I had is with the film’s antagonists – for a start there’s too many. It muddies the plot to have not one, but four different people against the lead for different reasons. Specifically, Sharlto Copley’s character is a kind of government-sanctioned bounty hunter straight out of a comic book, and he really is the film’s weak point. He has ludicrous action, barely any motive and just a weird performance that doesn’t work at all.

There’s a bunch of little plot holes that don’t really bother me, but the general switching of stakes kept the story from really building to a nice ending. There was a goal, quickly achieved, then another totally separate goal that needed attention, and so on.

It’s entertaining, but not the genre-defining kick to the balls I was hoping for. Lower your expectations, cause Neil Blomkamp is human after all.

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Thoughts on the MAN OF STEEL trailer

I’m not that crazy about the character of Superman. I like the Christopher Reeve films well enough, but they’ve been showing their age for a while, and SUPERMAN RETURNS bored me severely. Maybe it’s not the character, maybe it’s the execution, but in any case, we’re due for an update. Especially in this age of great comic adaptations. I think this latest trailer has won me over.

– The music is downright amazing. Hans Zimmer is certainly bringing something different to American film scores lately, and this is very far away from John Williams iconic work, which is surprising and awesome. I can’t wait for the full soundtrack.

– It looks like the action is turned up a notch, but I can already see there’s going to be some ‘too-quick-to-make-out-what’s-happening’ sequences. Kind of skeptical about some of the scenes in the trailer.

– I like the emotion of Kevin Costner talking to young Clark. That’s promising.

– The scene with Amy Adams calling him Super*something* was really weird and I kind of don’t get it.

– The trailer made me go from not interested to excited, so it’s done its job perfectly.

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This will be a day long remembered.

It’s a pretty stunning announcement – Disney to buy Lucasfilm for $4.1 billion. I’d heard a little inkling from a friend on Sunday, but I wasn’t expecting a bombshell of that magnitude. It’s awesome news. New films – Episode VII planned for May 2015, with VII and IX to follow. Kathleen Kennedy in the driving seat. Lucas out of harm’s way. The blueprint of the approach they took with Marvel. The might of Disney behind it all. It really is a good move for everyone involved.

A NEW STAR WARS MOVIE! I can hardly believe it. I will be watching this develop closely.

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The Dark Knight Rises

Quick thoughts on THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. True IMAX presentation is always worth the money. It’s stunning.

But this installment is a big drop off from THE DARK KNIGHT. There’s something wrong with the structure – Nolan seems to want to take things away from the Batman mythology so much, he cripples his own story (and hero) to do it. Alfred disappears. There’s no Batmobile. They never say the name ‘Catwoman’ once. And most importantly, Batman is out of action for the majority of the movie. I get why. Bruce Wayne is fighting an inner struggle with himself, and being in that jail is a reprise of being stuck at the bottom of the well in BATMAN BEGINS. Unfortunately, it means there’s no overt hero in your superhero story.

The other problem I had is with the ticking time-bomb at the end. This is so ridiculously literal, especially with the numbers counting down on the side. There had to be a better way to create urgency than that. Also, I really missed Heath Ledger’s Joker. I know that’s sadly out of anyone’s control, but he was noticeable by his absence. It highlighted how much Batman needs the The Joker to come alive, character-wise.

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SXSW: The Epilogue

I ate a bunch of unhealthy food, met some folks in the film industry, drank too much free beer and saw some movies. Did I mention the unhealthy food? It will take months to recover. That was my SXSW.

So what about the movies? It was an eclectic bunch. That’s the best part about festivals, the selections are so new no one has heard of most of them, so you have to take a chance on what you see. Missed a couple of things due to timing, but here’s what I did see.

CABIN IN THE WOODS

The ultrasecret Joss Whedon/Drew Goddard horror that sat on MGM’s shelf for two years. It’s mind-bogglingly fantastic. Knowing too much will ruin the experience – take my advice, go in cold and be prepared for awesomeness. If you weren’t feeling generous you could say it’s too silly (which it is), but I had so much fun with it I refuse to complain. Is it better than all other horror movies? No. It IS all other horror movies.

THE HUNTER

Willem Defoe hunting a thought-to-be extinct Tasmanian Tiger in the redneck backwaters of Tasmanian. This was a muddle. The central idea is pretty strong, but the writers added complexity with the introduction of some eco warriors, violent loggers, shadowy corporations, drug-addled mothers, hippy kids and a big conspiracy. Which all serves to dilute the point of the story, which was… I’m not sure. Not recommended.

21 JUMP STREET

Not a huge fan of Jonah Hill or Channing Tatum, but they killed it. It’s so well put together, it reminds me of THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, where the characters are feel real and there’s some heart/truth there. Surprisingly good.

[REC] 3: GENESIS

I’m a big fan of the original [REC], never saw the sequel, but was interested in the premise for this one. It’s set during a big wedding, so the found footage aspect makes a lot of sense, as well as the drama of such an important day and having a family of loved ones in peril. What I was not expecting was that they ditched the found footage conceit a quarter of the way though (in a rather nice way), so it becomes a straight up horror movie. It was bonkers, really over the top with ideas and situations and gore. Way goofier than I thought it would be, most of the scares and kills are played for laughs.

BROOKLYN CASTLE

Great documentary about an inner city school in Brooklyn with a killer chess team. It shows the huge impact of the recession on after school programs that are so important in the US. I have to say, these kids were amazing. They are smart as hell, funny and tireless in trying to get things done. One kid, Pobo, is nothing short of a legend and he’s only like twelve. I loved it.

TRASH DANCE

Another documentary. This one played to the Austin crowd because it focused on the city’s garbage collectors and one white lady’s attempt to get them to put on a public performance art piece. Obviously, they didn’t want to do it because it sounds stupid (and it was) but she convinces them anyway. It was kind of weak, apart from a couple of genuine characters, the thrust of the doc was contrived. These events would not have happened unless the filmmakers hadn’t invaded that world and made these people do things outside of their comfort zone, so it kind of rings false. But like I said, the local crowd ate it up. One person even said it was Oscar-worthy and made them proud to be a human, so what do I know?

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South by South West

This is my first time at SXSW. I’m here for the Film part of the festival, which seems like the red-headed stepchild of the bunch. The Interactive portion seems to have swallowed everything up and I now have a Pavlovian reaction whenever I see someone wearing an orange lanyard. I brace myself for a chat about UX and HTML5 frameworks or something.

Anyway, it’s been good so far. Saw CABIN IN THE WOODS and THE HUNTER, caught a bunch of panels and have been going to the Mentor Sessions, where you get to sit down one-on-one with some industry professionals. I’ve met a producer and an art director and I’m lined up to meet another producer and a writer. These are the best things about the conference so far.

And the worst thing? The weather. Holy shit. The heavens opened for three whole days. Try standing in that for an hour.

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Oscars Megasnub

The Oscars this year were pretty grim. The show is looking tired, Billy Crystal had cobwebs on him and there was a huge glitch with the sound. Not fun. I don’t know why an industry built on entertaining audiences can’t put on a show for one evening, but I’m sure there’s a very good reason. I mean, you have Muppets at your disposal – use them.

I know the Academy can’t control the winners, but there was some crazy shit going on this year. They completely snubbed THE TREE OF LIFE, which is an ambitious and rewarding piece of art/dinosaur footage that should be celebrated. So too should RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – with a monkey that looked so much like a monkey I couldn’t tell it wasn’t a monkey. Flawless. MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE GHOST PROTOCOL lived up to it’s name because the majority of voters don’t believe it exists. Same goes for SUBMARINE, ATTACK THE BLOCK and DRIVE, which were all exceptional, but completely forgotten about in favour of THE ARTIST, which in a few years will look like to stupidest choice for best picture since CRASH.

So I’m metaphorically joining Sacha Baron-Cohen by dumping Bisquik on to Ryan Seacrest (except in my version it’s hot burning oil), and I say boo to the Oscars in 2012. It was like a circus act crossed with a wake.

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New Universal logo

First Paramount update their logo, now Universal. Madness. It’s very blue and shiny, which is exactly what I think people from 1912 would expect from us a hundred years in the future.

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Back from LA, and not a scratch on me

The LA recon mission was a big success. It consisted of mainly drinking in different neighbourhoods and shopping for socks. I felt instantly at home. We are so moving there.

Man, I know I’m the seven billionth person on the planet to say this, but LA is BIG. I can’t even get my mind round it. In New York I’m so used to only being able to see about 20 feet ahead of me, my brain pretty much broke down at the sweeping arc of the Santa Monica and the mountains beyond. I had to be revived with a pint and a burger.

It was really good to catch up with friends who have moved out there and are doing so great. Everyone seems genuinely happy, they acknowledge the cities drawbacks, but one thing everyone has in common is they are here doing exactly what they love to do (ok, except the one guy who designs porn dvds). That unabashed enthusiasm to follow what you really want – and be able to make a successful living out of it – it what really draws me here.

We stayed at a place called the Farmer’s Daughter, a boutique converted motel in West Hollywood. Highly recommended. Tons of stuff to do around there and right next door to the Writer’s Guild of America. (Note: banging on the windows and shouting “LET ME IIIIIIIIIIN!” like Louis Tully, does not get you into the guild)

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