Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Another Update!

Posted by Chad Van Alstin

The blog is officially on an indefinite hiatus. We're both too damn busy to make the current format work. Expect a rebirth -- a change to the format -- hopefully coming soon. Brad and I are getting together for a "peace beer" tomorrow night in hopes of figuring out what we want to do with the blog.

We both really enjoy writing about movies, but the alternating post format doesn't always work, especially when Brad and I agree on the films (which often happens).

We'll hopefully be back soon.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Chad's Take: Prometheus (2012) - 3.5 Stars

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is a bold film that sends its characters on a journey to find truth, only to leave them with as many questions as they have answers. This is one of the best science fiction films in modern memory, and it will leave you feeling completely mesmerized from beginning to end.

Prometheus is a Ridley Scott film, so it’s no surprise that it looks absolutely incredible. The visuals are dark, haunting, and truly original. This is the best looking movie I have seen this year, and it may very well be one of the best looking science fiction films of all time.

If you’re looking for scares, you will still find a lot of great horror moments in Prometheus, many of which will bring back memories of the original Alien (1979). One scene in particular, involving an emergency extraction surgery, is the modern equivalent of the famous 'chest burst' scene that shocked audiences more than 30 years ago.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Brad's Take: Prometheus - ***1/2

Hey! Remember when Ridley Scott used to direct great films? Neither do I, because I wasn't born yet. Okay, there was Matchstick Men, but even that was almost ten years ago now. For the last decade plus, Scott has been busy crafting lofty, "respectable" films, historical epics and quaint dramas about wineries. I realize that this all sounds incredibly negative, but I bring it up in this way only to communicate the excitement that I was certainly not alone in feeling now that Scott has shucked all of this shameless Oscar-bait and has returned to the genre he helped legitimize thirty years ago with the modern sci-fi epic/pseudo Alien prequel, Prometheus. And, while I'm guessing that some will be disappointed, maybe even dislike it intensely, I say Prometheus delivers... For the most part.

Prometheus follows a crew traveling through space to a distant planet where a duo of archaeologists, Holloway and Shaw (Logan Marshall Green and a brilliantly faux-frail, surprisingly survivalist Noomi Repace), believe human life originated. Hoping to find Life's Engineers, they've convinced Peter Weland (the "W" of Alien's Weyland Yutani Corp.) to fund an expensive mission, which enlists a cold, apathetic Charlize Theron (continuing her streak of appearing in "the best movie of the summer so far" (cameo in That's My Boy?)) as the ship's commander, Idris Elba as a goofy redneck-of-the-future, playing the ship's captain, and Michael Fasbender as the ship's android companion (an Alien staple), deceptively carrying out a secret agenda while modeling his mannerisms and speech patterns after Peter O'Toole from Lawrence of Arabia, which is quite good, and quite effectively unsettling. All, of course, are joined by a handful of other doomed souls who will demonstrate the horrors of the alien menace contained on the planet in the disguised exposition of act two... And I say that with the utmost adoration.

Amidst all of the body horror (which includes throat snakes and eyeball worms, among others I'll not mention here) and the steadily rising level of suspense and dread are some deeper, more existential questions, and this where the film gets really interesting, and also where it ultimately falls a bit short. A film about the search for the creation of life naturally poses an unanswerable question, and though the film posits an interesting theoretical answer early on, replacing it with a more disturbing question, asking why our creators wanted to destroy us. The film leaves this question unanswered as a tease for the sequel, a copout for sure, though I must admit one that absolutely piques my curiosity. Also running parallel to this issue of creation is that of religion vs. science, though I'm not exactly sure where the film falls on the topic. Though the film is essentially about curiosity itself, this unanswered thematic ambiguity mounts throughout the film, setting up an inevitable feeling of slight disappointment in the end.

But that's focusing on the negative, especially unfair considering it actually has the courage to ask grand philosophical questions, the closest to which we've had this summer being "How does Bruce not constantly turn into The Hulk?" And what's more important, at least in summer movie terms, is that its action and the scale of its spectacle are just as big as its unanswered questions. Scott and his cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski, create an darkly enchanting experience that is bleak and beautiful. Using real, wide-open landscapes, Prometheus is as overwhelmingly huge as Alien was cramped and claustrophobic. Combined with an elegant use of 3D, this film is visually unmatched, and is the first time I've been less impressed when seeing the 2D presentation the second time around. Scott also heeds the advice he received from effects master Douglas Trumbull on the set of Blade Runner: "If you can do it live, do it live," which makes for a (mostly) minimal use of CGI, and gives the world of the film that much more dimension.

Prometheus also deserves a lot of credit for its originality. Reboots, remakes, sequels, and the like are getting very stale, and Prometheus offers a new way to build on a franchise, (very refreshing if the practice must continue), for it is really only technically a prequel... That is more of an extra tidbit, for it is completely its own film with its own characters and mythology. It just so happens that it also sets up a previously established film series, and while its handling of this tie- in at the very end was a little ham-fisted, the idea is no less interesting for it. And while this may not have been the brilliant masterpiece we all hoped it would be, it'll certainly do for now, and I suspect it will endure. If nothing else it's a welcome return to sci-fi for Ridley Scott, and a strong case for the potential of 3D as a genuine cinematic device. Bravo.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Quick Update!

Posted by: Chad Van Alstin

Brad and I had settled on doing Ridley Scott's Prometheus for the movie this week. However, the reviews are delayed. Both of us have full time jobs, and are free time is becoming quite limited. While we loving having our friendship destroyed in this public forum, finding the time to throw our sticks and stones has been a little bit difficult.

We'll be getting the reviews up sometime later this week; just in time for some discussion.

Stay tuned.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Entry 9: RE: "Snow White" - Full Disclosure

Posted by: Bradley Redder

Well, since this will likely be the last word on Snow White (though with all of your pestering attempts to side-step the movie itself, it feels a bit like the first word), I'll admit that my rating of the film was bumped up when I saw your lax 2.5 stars, shocking after reading your post-screening texts describing it as "a waste of money" and "boring crap." So I took my modest 3 star rating and elevated it to bring out the ire in you.

That said, I changed nothing in my review, and still feel that it was a solid summer movie (easily the best to date). I have to admit that don't really understand your complaint about the CGI. Maybe I'm just a little thick in the head, but you're essentially criticizing something you say you liked. I'm far from the world's biggest fan of CGI, but I think Snow White's use of it was much more elegant than a typical movie; rather than pit a bunch of animated characters against each other, whether giant, super-powered, robotic, or beast-like, it used it more in its backgrounds to shape and fill out its world. You say it relies on it completely, and I say you're mistaken. The Avengers relies on it far more than this film, and at least this one does, as you say, make it look cool. While I would have loved to see an actual set with natural light that looked this beautiful and inviting, at least I got that beauty in some form... Visual appeal/beauty being another element lacking in the CGI-laced Avengers.

Not to simply bring back your words on other films, but given that my reaction to this particular film is heavily influenced by its position as the first gratifying film of the summer, I'll continue doing so anyway. You praised Tim Burton's visuals in Dark Shadows pretty highly, yet for some reason decry the same use of CGI backgrounds in Snow White? What up with that?

Again, I'm not saying that it's not a legitimate complaint, and also again, I am increasingly upset by the strong reliance on CGI in movies these days, but I can't complain too loudly when it is used to such a visually appealing end as it is in Snow White, and I think the thoroughness of its beauty softened me up and put me on tilt to accept and genuinely care about its admittedly stock characters. And if that sounds like a condescending comment, it's really not, but is really said with the utmost admiration. The film is far from perfect, but very far from "boring crap."

Entry 8: RE: "Snow White" - CGI all up in here!

Posted by Chad Van Alstin

Of course it has CGI. I'm not opposed to CGI; I'm even known to occasionally love it.

My point was that Snow White relies entirely on CGI to push the film forward. Every scene seems to be about creating a cool looking effect, and it only sometimes succeeds.

It sacrifices story just to create some cool looking images. Let's face it, this is a fairy tale you can read in three minutes, and they stretched that story into over two hours, adding very little in the process. There's so much filler in Snow White, and all of that filler is just CGI for the sake of CGI.

I just don't see the emotional element here that you talk about in your review. There's nothing about this movie that even pushes a human element -- even falsely. Who am I supposed to empathize with? These are incredibly fictional characters from an age old story, and they haven't changed a bit.

The dwarfs look fantastic. However, I wasn't able to relate to them, or care about them at all. Their presence in the story helped provide familiarity -- nothing more. They added absolutely nothing to the story, and I don't think they were a necessary addition to the film.

Entry 7: RE: "Snow White" - (Scratching Head)

Posted by: Bradley Redder


"There's a lot of CGI here."

"There's so much damn CGI here that at times it actually starts to bother me."

"What I saw was a film loaded with CGI in virtually every background and every scene."
Umm... ... ...Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

"If you're looking for a movie that's limited on the CGI and instead focuses more on set design and actors..."

"...I may have some examples (wink, wink)."


So let me get this straight... I ask for a legitimate complaint against something in Snow White, rather than an unnecessary comparison to Lord of the Rings, which you clearly see as a better film (I, again, may or may not), and you choose to attack it for having too much CGI? CGI that you find visually appealing, even! I am going to do something uncharacteristic here and not launch into a long-winded diatribe on the topic, because I'm confident that even your Lord of the Rings cosplay lackeys will see the absurdity in your approach. However, I will address your complaint against Snow White.

I never said that there was no CGI in the film. Of course there's CGI in it... it's a film produced in 2012! Isn't it contractually obligated to have CGI? What I did say was that it was used only when necessary, and that it elects smaller moments over huge, long, drawn-out, tireless CGI action spectacles. Instead it uses its CGI to create a world, and an atmosphere, which it does quite beautifully, as you say so yourself. How many times did someone get hit with a sword, only to shatter into glass?  We saw this maybe eight or ten times... Ravenna used those glass beings as misdirection, and that's exactly how the film treats them. There could have been a huge battle with them scaling walls on ladders while their buddies attack from behind with catapults and flaming arrows, but instead we get a few to give us an idea of what they are, and what Ravenna is capable of. And most of them are hit as background action to a more present, a more flesh-and-blood dramatic event: the showdown between Snow White and Ravenna. How many times did someone turn into butterflies? I don't remember seeing that, so I'll say once? How many times did someone turn into a flock of birds? Ravenna did this a few times, maybe three? Either way, I say CGI was used when needed, and more importantly, the real sets, the real costumes, make-up, props... The entirety of Snow White's production design were carefully created to seamlessly incorporate its CG elements... When something isn't real, it still looks good... I'm still drawn into the world of the film by whatever it is, be it glass soldier, flock of birds, or apple (though I don't remember that as CG, maybe when it decays over twelve years to show the passage of time and transformation of the landscape under Ravenna's evil, hopeless reign?).

Given that our time is running low, I'd like to hear what you have to say about the dwarves. I spent a good portion of my review raving about this, and am curious to know what you thought of them. I say they looked exquisite, and were also good characters. And boy, that list of adjectives must be getting pretty long if you're spending so much time on it. You can post it in installments if you want... It doesn't have to be all at once.