The Amazing Spiderman 79… I mean, 2

We now arrive at the second “second” Spiderman film in 10 years.  It is going to make loads of money, though it will probably not match the opening of the very first Spiderman film 12 years ago, which according to TheWrap was the first film to open to a $100 million weekend.  This is the 5th Spiderman film since then, and I’m a little burned out.  I love the first trilogy, I even enjoy the 3rd film, and I liked the reboots as well, but the inspiration is obviously disappearing as they go.  The reboot is unnecessary and too soon after the first set of films, and I’m tired of movies being made just for the fans and their money. Whaaaat? What’s wrong with movies being made for fans?  Nothing has to be, but I want movies to be passion projects, without all the fan service, because it is wrecking this series and many others.  The Amazing Spiderman 2 was so jumbled and disjointed that I would have hated it if there weren’t parts in it that were so damn good.

Regardless, we are now living in a world of reboots.  I have no one to blame but Christopher Nolan who made Batman Begins in 2005, my favorite of these films ironically, but ever since then the list goes on: Star Trek, X-Men, Godzilla, Superman, Fantastic 4, Transformers, etc.  I like a lot of these movies, but it’s getting old.  Marvel has pretty much come out and said they are going to keep making movies regarding the Avengers until they stop making money.  Well, that logic requires them to make some really shitty movies (even though I’d argue maybe they already have) and that frustrates me.  My favorite film in the world is Star Wars V.  I’m not against blockbuster movies and I don’t think every movie has to be Tree of Life, but I worry for a future I am about to venture into.

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Channel Surfing Netflix

It used to be a service from the mail.  With the growing power of the internet, it became predominately streaming.  Now, a computer may not even be necessary.

“Netflix successfully made the transition from mailing red envelopes with DVDs to streaming directly to consumers. Now the company has made deals with three cable operators to launch on their services through an app on TiVO DVRs.

“Now, watching Netflix is as easy as changing the channel,” David Isenberg, Atlantic Broadband’s chief marketing and strategy officer, said in a statement. Atlantic Broadband is one of three small cable operators which made deals with Netflix. The others are RCN and Grande. Together, they serve around 700,000 consumers — but it’s a sign that Netflix is open and even eager for more of these kinds of pacts.

In its first-quarter earnings call on Monday, Netflix said it had plans to launch its first pay TV integration in the U.S. They’ve already made similar deals in Europe to provide Netflix to cable subscribers through TiVO set-tops.

Under the new arrangement, customers will be able to access Netflix as long as they subscribe to the TiVO DVR service and to Netflix.”

Does this mean anything on Netflix can be shown on TV?  They don’t have enough original content to have their own channel, but they have recently acquired a rather large group of high quality films.  Are the events related? I would suspect so.

The Lego Movie: February Blockbuster

The Lego Movie is a bit of an anomaly.  It is a children’s film and is doing incredibly well.  It is critically acclaimed and making millions upon millions of dollars in February, months before blockbuster season.  ALL while the country has been experiencing terrible snow attacks and the Winter Olympics are going on in Russia.  It has been years since Pixar released a movie that was so well received. The good ole days where everything they released was a pleasure died with the release of Cars and hasn’t quite recovered.  The Lego Movie is also an eye opener in many cases to what the future of Hollywood may or may not hold… and it’s a fine line between scary and exhilarating.

The movie contains a plethora of characters in the Warner Brothers catalogue, including DC Comics and takes advantage by putting them out there to interact with each other and be toyed with, no pun intended.  But it makes one think: what does this mean for the studios?  They have tried to base movies (notably blockbusters) on toy franchises before, and while plenty of them made tons and TONS of money, very few have been critically well-recieved until now.  Battleship, Transformers, GI Joe, etc.  The movie has already well surpassed it’s $60 million budget, and since that is much smaller than most of these films are made for, the profit margin is going to be massive in returns.  And that’s before taking into account it’s about LEGOs!  It sells itself!  They’re probably producing Legos about the Legos in the movie as we speak!  So there is a lot of money being made and possibly more to be made… What do studios notice?

It’s a two-edged sword: the last time a movie made this much money and was this well received was The Avengers.  Maybe by letting people who care about the material take control of the movie, there can be money and critical success?  The answer is yes, but I am not convinced that the studios have quite learned this yet:  There have been a few more Avengers movies out since then, and none of them have attempted to break away from set formula or have been as well received.  Yet, the money poured in, so I remain unconvinced that the studios are ready to take some groundbreaking bold steps.

Still, The Lego Movie stands out because it is so successful and doesn’t go for the traditional seen it before tropes.  The question is if the movie will encourage studios to make bold moves and movies, or does it enable them to keep re-trending what we’ve seen with immediate remakes, sequels, reboots, familiar material, etc.  Do we need a movie about Sharpies to come out?  What about an Etch-A-Sketch?  I’d ask them to take some of this money, as there will be a lot to go around, and pay some writers to really go for something new.  This movie did it’s job well, but depending on what it teaches the studios, maybe too well.

Anthology is Television Gold

Netflix changed the game for television.

It is rather apparent that Netflix isn’t really about the movies anymore: yes, there are many great films on there, especially obscure ones, but nowadays people use it for TV shows.  It provides them with a convenience that previously only existed with home movies: I can watch it when I want on my time.  And the recent phenomenon of binge-watching (probably popularized by Breaking Bad) allows for a more cinematic experience.  Instead of waiting week to week for small segments, larger chunks of a show can be knocked out with ease.  And now they are creating original material: with shows such as House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black and ressurecting Arrested Development, television’s days looked more and more limited with numbers substantially lower than anything playing in the early 90’s.

Netflix changed the game.  Television finally has somewhat of an answer: Anthology seasons.

Every season of a particular show is something else.  American Horror Story tells a frightening tell in a season of 10 or so episodes, and it’s done.  Over.  Season 2 brings about a completely new frightening tale for the viewer.  Same with HBO’s True Detective and the upcoming Fargo for example.  Much like The Twilight Zone (featuring standalone episodes) this gives the audience an experience television hasn’t touched in years.  Every season is something new to look forward to, and if one doesn’t work, the next one will be different.  Hopefully better.

Anthologies have shorter stories to tell and complete, which makes it perfect for those looking to binge-watch (10 episode commitment vs 170?) As major film stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson have pointed out, it gives them a chance to delve into television and not worry about a year after year commitment to fulfill, as they are both stars of the first anthology of True Detective.

Television may not be able to beat what Netflix has to offer, but for the first time it really seems to have come up with something that can be used along with it, because throwing hashtags on top of my Breaking Bad episodes wasn’t working for me.

Future of (Crowd)Funding

In recent years, crowd-funding on sites such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo has become a somewhat unexpected success.  I myself learned of it when a band I care for was asking for help with production costs: I gave. Later, I received.  The product was great and I was satisfied with my contribution.  Lately, there have been more and more films turning to such campaigns to raise funding of a sort.  Controversy aside, Zach Braff raised a few million dollars for his most recent film, Wish I Was Here and it debuted at Sundance on time.  Additionally, Steven James turned to Indiegogo for production support on the Ebert documentary Life Itself, also shown at Sundance, and being there personally, a lot of talk regarding crowd-funding was mentioned over the two week period.

Now, producer Michelle Manning has turned to Indiegogo to raise funds for Katherine Heigl’s next film, Jenny’s Wedding.  Here’s the kick: the movie is already made.  Production has finished and it was done for about $3 million.  However, Manning states that while the movie is finished, the potential still remains to continue making something even better, and they are asking for $150,000 for the sound, music, coloring and titles in post-production.  Like all these campaigns, they offer the perks such as behind the scenes looks and tickets to premieres, etc.  But this time, with the movie’s production being wrapped, there is a lot of material to be shown to try and gather support.

What does this say about the future of budgeting, crowd-funding and independent film?  A lot of talk (mostly negative) arose when Spike Lee and Zach Braff turned to such sources, raising questions like “Is it right for people who have higher connections and more wealth to use such options?”  Does it take away from the people who don’t have other connections/options? Does it matter? Should it?  I don’t know, but the resource has been gaining more and more publicity each year and like Manning’s team, more are starting to take advantage of what it could potentially provide.  Independent films still require money, and often have the hardest of times acquiring it.  If one could turn to these resources, great, but they have to make sure they have something to show to gather interest if they don’t have a name to capitalize on.

The Lords of Salem in Modern Horror

Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem was almost doomed to fail.

Like him or not, the musician/filmmaker does it his way, and his films display a very distinct style that are usually more compatible to the highest reaches of independent film.   Lords, however, is a step in a different direction, which I found myself very excited to see.  Putting aside the hand held spontaneous look, Zombie takes time to set up the camera and have it slowly crawl down a hallway, or take in the full space of a huge ballroom.

In doing this, Zombie has crafted his scariest movie so far, easily.  Not his best, that still belongs to 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects, but this film is branching out on so many levels in comparison to all of his previous work.

-Language:  I counted maybe 4 uses of the “f” word in this movie.  I very well could have missed them, but usually in the opening scene of a Zombie movie this number is shattered.

-Cinematography: I have already mentioned it but it deserves another, as I will challenge you to name a horror movie shot so well in recent memory. The Shining is too many years old to qualify.

-Gore:  I will get to the film’s content in a minute, but instead of being a bloody gore-fest as most of his films are, this one oddly has very little in it.  More things are implied and blood is rarely seen… I know, right?

However, this movie has some content in it that makes the viewer pray for the scene to end.  What is implied or not shown is something horrible and unsettling.  Additionally, the film takes the slow burn approach with moments of dread thrown in at unexpected moments.  I think the film will have a hard time finding an audience in the mainstream horror world.

WHY?

Lord of Salem does something most horror movies fail to do: present something “horrifying” to the viewers.  How is watching a bunch of annoying, whiny teenagers doing stupid shit and running from a killer scary?  It is not scary if you are waiting for these characters to be killed off.  That is not good horror.  That is poor writing and execution disguised as a scary movie.  The last movie to come out that was good horror was Insideous and despite it being “tame, PG-13” horror, it worked because it knows what makes moments suspenseful, be it darkness, timing, noises or lack-of, etc.  Granted, by the end of it, it was typical and kinda stupid.  But whatever.

Lords, on the other hand, does not have a typical ending, nor even a clear one, but that’s ok.  Without getting into the plot, the ending is faithful to the main character played by Sheri Moon Zombie, who I can only say has gotten better over the years and delivers her best performance yet.  The ending is psychological, it is what she is experiencing, at least to me.  You have to put your own version to it.

The movie was made at only 1.5 million dollars.  Even for Zombie movies, that is cheap.  It doesn’t look like an independent film though, and I wouldn’t expect it to.  By tackling subjects that are disturbing in thought and display, Zombie has made a film that challenges the most devoted horror fan.  Even if the mainstream horror filmmaking world isn’t ready to go into such grisly material, there is still much to be learned and they should be taking notes how to makes movies scary again past the first viewing.