Friday, February 21, 2014

The "Boycott Remakes" Movement

#BoycottRemakes.  What does that mean?  I’ll explain later.

Okay, we all know the ever growing trend going on in Hollywood right now where almost half the movies being green lit are remakes or reboots.  Both terms refer to the same thing, where a stories made previously on film are being filmed again.  I love the labels these remakes get from the studios—obviously they see how tiring this is, hearing movie after movie is getting the remake treatment.  So, besides being called remakes or reboots, we hear terms like “reimagining” or “redux.”  It doesn’t matter how you slice it, as long as the prefix “re” is in the word, they’re all do-overs.

Let’s face it, the only reason studios are doing this is for the money.  It’s a guaranteed cash-grab because we, the audience, will go see the movie no matter how upset we are over the fact that it’s a remake.

But why is that?  Why do we go see the movie if we hate the idea a movie we loved from not-too-long-ago gets the reboot designation?  Why don’t we make a statement and refuse to see it?  Why?

Curiosity.  That’s the reason, pure and simple, it’s curiosity.

The biggest disappointment I’ve heard regarding remakes is when, in 2010 or 2011, I heard Spider-Man was going to be remade.  Spider-Man!  The film that was finally made in 2002 after years of court litigations for some studio to get the rights—which Sony Pictures was the winner—and garnered great admiration with three successful films under Sam Raimi’s direction gets the reboot route after a mere ten years!  You’re kidding me!

Boy, was I fit to be tied!  I was horrified!  I had sworn, at the time, that I would NOT watch that reboot!  How dare Sony start over after ten years and three successful (yes, even the third one) films!

But guess what?  Even though I waited a few weeks, I finally found myself in the movie theater watching that crap.  I’d even seen it in iMax in 3D!  Why???


Now we’re a few months away from The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  And guess what?  After watching the few trailers for this film…I’m intrigued.  The first one (of the reboot) was crap, changed up the costume to every fan boy’s disappointment and had this lifelong Spider-Man comic book fan take umbrage to the stupidity they permeated into that superhero’s myth, so why would I go see the sequel?


Curiosity is why I watched the Rob Zombie Halloween remakes, why I watched Fright Night, Total Recall, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc…and it’s why I’ll continue to see any upcoming remake.  It’s just pure curiosity.

So, as I had a conversation with a co-worker the other day, discussing the news about the confirmed cast for the Fantastic Four reboot, I came up with a solution to make our collective voices heard.

How can we satisfy our inquisitiveness for these repeats of films yet make our voices heard in our protest of this method of filmmaking?

Boycott them!

I propose to you all: The Boycott Remakes Movement!

It’s simple and will actually help out other lesser-known films of your choosing.  What you do—and what I’ve been doing—is when these remakes are released, I usually wait a week or so to see them and take a drive to the local movie house.  I walk up to the ticket window, pay to see another movie in their establishment, but walk into the theater that’s showing the remake in question.

Of course, this works best if the movie is playing at a multiplex and if they’re pretty casual about the entrance to the screening.  That’s why I wait at least a week, when the hype for the movie has died down a little and the ticket-taker is not being as vigilant as to who’s coming and going.

Now, I’m not sure if this will get me into any trouble for trying to spread this, but I feel it’s worth it to see if we can stop this trend.  Let’s face it, the movie studios don’t care about us and what kind of entertainment we get…they only care about making money.  To them, we’re idiots buying into this remake garbage as they laugh all the way to the bank.

Think of the good this will do, as the movies you do pay for will get the imbursement they deserve, especially if it’s an original story from an independent film company.

So, from now on, when I see a post on Facebook or Twitter regarding a remake, reboot, redux, reimagining, etc., I will repost with the link to this blog editorial, hashtagging #BoycottRemakes, and let social media do its thing.  Hell, even if it’s something I see online, I’ll share it the same way as well.

So…who’s with me?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Escape From Alcatraz

I’ve always been a Clint Eastwood fan, loving every single movie I’ve seen him in.  I admit, I haven’t seen every single one of his films, but I’m working on it.  A few months back, I watched Play Misty For Me for the first time and I thought it was pretty good.  I’ve seen nearly all the westerns he’s acted in, all the Dirty Harry films, the few comedies he’s been in, but there’s just a few more I need to see.  However, for me, the one film that’s my favorite, out of all the movies he’s ever done, is Escape From Alcatraz from 1979.

Back when my family first had gotten cable TV in 1980, one of the films that had received a lot of rotation on Showtime was this film.  I tell you, I must’ve watched every airing of it or damn near most of them.  Every single scene was watched by me intently, as I was scared out of mind about ever ending up in jail, seeing how violent it was as the guards beat you down or stuck you in a dark cell or other inmates wanting to stab you to death.  It was an eye-opener for my eleven-year-old self back then.

Well, the plot of the movie is actually based on the real life escape in June of 1962 by Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood), and his accomplices, from Alcatraz State Penitentiary.  The premise is pretty simple, about how he ends up in the prison and devises a plan to escape from the most escape-proof prison (at the time) with the help of a few other inmates.

Director, Don Siegel, had worked with Clint Eastwood a number of times before this film and it shows, as he knows how to work with Eastwood and get good performances out of him.  Siegel also does a great job at showing us the life these criminals had had living on “The Rock,” because it feels like we’re really watching criminals in an active prison.  The way he had this place filmed was amazing; he makes it look bigger than the place is in reality.

The beginning of the film is very impressive as it introduces us to Frank Morris as he’s brought to the prison and processed as an inmate, how he’s brought in, stripped of everything—including his
clothes—and escorted to his cell, naked as the day he was born.  It may be a little clichéd, but what really brings it home is the guard telling Morris, “Welcome to Alcatraz,” complete with the crack of thunder and flash of lightning.

Eastwood, as Morris, is pretty bad-ass, as he usually is in most of his character performances—saying just the right things, standing up to the prison guards, and being the guy the audience cheers for.  And as a child, I had no problem with that, seeing how much I loved this movie and didn’t really understand the background story to it all.  But as an adult, it’s weird, now, as I realize I was cheering for a hardened criminal.  Strange, how criminals get glorified in these types of movies, huh?

Rounding out the cast is Patrick McGoohan as the unnamed warden (I guess the film didn’t want to point out that it was Olin G. Blackwell who was running the penitentiary in 1962), Jack Thibeau and Fred Ward as the Anglin brothers, Roberts Blossom as Doc, Paul Benjamin as English, and Larry Hankin as Charley Butts.  All performances from this group of actors are outstanding.

There are many memorable scenes in this film, such as the scene when Morris approaches the African-Americans on their side of the yard, as well as the exchange between Morris and English.
 Also, I don’t think many will forget the scene in the wood shop, as Doc protests his loss of painting privileges in a very grisly way.

Yes, this film had an effect on me.  It had even got me into some trouble as a child.  For a few days after seeing the movie a handful of times, I sat outside one of the foundation vents outside of my parents’ garage, pretending I was a prisoner in Alcatraz.  I even borrowed one of my father’s screwdrivers (I didn’t want to mess up one of my mom’s spoons) and started chipping away at the vent, intent on being able to open it up big enough to get through it one day.  Man, I almost had that screen out of the stucco!  But, of course, my dad noticed it one day and I’d received a pretty good yelling at for my effort and he replaced the vent right away with a new screen and fresh
cement.  Also, it was years before I realized that I couldn’t perform the welding of two pieces of metal with coins that we have today.  The coins used in the film were represented as the coins available back in the 60s—silver—and it’s possible to do it with those types of coins.  You’ll see what I mean when you watch the film.  But if I learned anything from my mischief, is that I guess it was possible for them to break out of their cells by chipping away the concrete around the vent holes to enlarge them.

After watching this movie so many times over the years, I finally had gotten my wish to see the actual place—Alcatraz Island—a few years ago.  During an excursion with my wife, for our anniversary, we travelled to San Francisco for a couple of days.  One outing that was planned was to set out on the ferry that sets out to the island and took a tour of the facilities.  It was almost dreamlike to see the cafeteria, the shower area, the exercise yard, and, of course, the cells.  That part of the tour was the most surreal thing to see.  The cells that Morris and the Anglin brothers occupied have Plexiglas in place behind the bars with everything just as it was back in 1962—the bedding on the cot, the concrete around the vent all chipped away, the faux vent grill off to the side, and the dummy heads…very eerie.  I highly recommend anyone to take a tour of Alcatraz Island; it’s very enlightening and interesting.  Not only do you learn about the subject of this film, but you also hear about all the other escape attempts before Morris and the Anglins…pretty eye-opening.

Well, what’s my final “bit” on Escape From Alcatraz?

You can’t go wrong with Clint Eastwood.  He’s the man’s man, no doubt, but he puts on one hell of a performance.  The story, being somewhat true (there’s a lot of embellishment along the way), is awesome and makes you think long after the film is over.  This film is up there as one of his best—although I believe it’s the best in Eastwood’s collection of films, in my opinion—and you can’t go wrong with it.  I never get tired of watching it and it’s one of the few that I watch from the beginning to end no matter how tired I am.  In fact, it’s past due for me to have my annual Clint Eastwood movie marathon.

As an afterthought about how we see Frank Morris as a hero in this film, the story insinuates that he had close friendships with a number of inmates, some of which had had bad things done to them at the behest of the warden and/or carried out by the guards.  So when Eastwood plays out the character sticking up for his wronged friends, we, as the audience, are on his side.  Now, the real Frank Morris wasn’t a violent criminal, only ended up in Alcatraz because he was able to escape out of all other prisons he’s been incarcerated, so maybe he wasn’t such a bad guy after all.  But most of these subplots regarding friendships and incidents during his time there isn’t confirmed and is probably exaggerated.  Nevertheless, those thoughts don’t take anything away from this film—I’m just making an observation.  Because after watching Escape From Alcatraz, you can’t help but think about the real Frank Morris and Anglin brothers, thinking whether they made it or not.  I know you’ll be thinking what I was thinking: that you hope they did make it, that they made it to mainland and were able to get away and live the rest of their lives free.

Anyway you put it, the fabled escape will remain a mystery and probably will never be solved.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Thor: The Dark World

The Marvel Universe’s train is still trekking along, getting stronger and stronger as it cruises onward, gathering more and more steam as its studio—along with its owner, Disney—releases great movies and doing justice to the comic book source materials the films come from.

Who would’ve thought that the first film of this Avengers saga, Iron man, would’ve developed into this huge juggernaut of a franchise that crossed over so many beloved characters most of us comic book geeks know so well. From the moment that Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury shows up to talk about the Avengers Initiative, we all knew Marvel Comics took the cake and seized the comic-book-to-movie idea, improved upon it, and made dreams of many geeks and nerds come true. Not only have they created a one-of-a-kind multifaceted series of interrelated films, they’ve also perfected the little after credits scene that some films add as an Easter Egg of sorts, but made it important as it represents a cliffhanger of what’s to come next.

Well, the Marvel Universe is far from slowing down when it comes to these films we’ve been getting since 2008 and Thor: The Dark World is definitely keeping the train on the tracks.
The sequel to 2011’s Thor, Thor: The Dark World, directed by Alan Taylor, opens with a little history of a universal war between the Asgardians and beings called the Dark Elves. The Dark Elves try to obtain a powerful weapon called the Aether which will bring the universe into darkness, but the Asgard warriors put a stop to them, leaving the leader of the Dark Elves, Malekith
(Christopher Eccleston), to retreat and wait for another opportunity. The film moves to present day, where Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is seeing anomalies on Earth, similar to the ones present before Thor (Chris Hemsworth) came to Earth two years prior. Hoping it’s a sign of him coming back to see her, she goes to investigate and is drawn into some sort of wormhole. As Thor, back on Asgard, is told by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), to stay on their world in order to keep peace to the nine realms, he is told by Heimdall (Idris Elba), who is able to look into all the realms and observe everything, he can no longer see Jane on Earth, as if she has disappeared. Thor returns to Earth just as Jane reappears. However, he notices that when local authorities try to arrest Jane for trespassing onto property where she was trying to locate the anomaly, an energy source pulses out of her and blasts them away. Thor, then, takes Jane back to Asgard to find out what’s wrong with her, but this is the time that Maekith returns to seek out the Aether and try to bring the universe into darkness once and for all. Seeing that Thor is going to need help, he has no choice but to ask his imprisoned brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), for help. Thor doesn’t know if he can trust his brother. But does he have a choice?

Although we had Iron Man 3 to kick off what Marvel Studios called Phase Two of films leading into the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: The Dark World is what really feels like the start of it. As a fan of these series of films, knowing well what’s to come, it’s very exciting and still hard to grasp that it’s really going to happen. But once again, it’s a damned shame that more Marvel characters can’t be pulled into this world—which I’ll call the REAL Marvel world—because it’d be so awesome to get Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four involved into this. The bottom line, however, is that it’d be great, but Marvel doesn’t really need them. Because, as you can see, Sony is trying to create some sort of Spider-Man universe as they’ve announced spin-offs and hinted about an ongoing plotline (probably the “Sinister Six” saga) throughout multiple movies. Fox seems to be going that direction as well with the X-Men franchise and we all know about the Warner Bros. plans for a Justice League film.

But let’s stick to Thor: The Dark World for now.

As a stand-alone film, it was quite a spectacle, showcasing Thor as the mighty warrior he is and how he and his fellow Asgardian combatants are there to keep peace within the Nine Realms. Instead of keeping most of the film on Earth, as it was in the first movie, we get more of the Asgard landscape and scenery, looking as mesmerizing as ever. The funeral scene in the Asgard Ocean is quite beautiful, giving us a good balance between the splendor of the scenery and the depressing interval for the characters.

Chris Hemworth, returning as Thor, is really making this character his own, not hamming it up, but playing the part seriously. Because, how easy could it be to telephone the part in as you realize you’re playing a guy who runs around in a cape and beating up pretend monsters with a big hammer? He takes the mythology earnestly and gives us a Shakespearean-esque hero we can all cheer for, and I think he realizes what these superheroes mean to most of the fans who are devotees of the comic books these movies represent.

Tom Hiddleston, as Loki, pretty much takes over any scene he’s featured in. He undeniably provides the balance this film needs for the audience to step back and see a little flippancy in the story. We still understand he’s the villain that caused all the chaos in New York within the Avengers film, as we see reactions from each character he comes into contact with who was
affected by what Loki did. But Loki is still his impish self, not giving a care or feeling contrite, even when he’s called upon to help Thor out. Hiddleston still portrays that roguish part without cheating us into changing his character to some sort of compassionate hero. What he does, he does to get himself ahead, but there’s still love for his mother and brother, and Hiddleston nails that inner battle within Loki.

Once again, the supporting cast returns to move the plot along. Natalie Portman returns as Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, still studying the anomalies found on Earth. Jane’s assistant, Darcy (Kat Dennings), along with Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), both return for a little bit of comic relief, especially Skarsgård’s character who’s still dealing with what happened to him during the attack on New York in the Avengers film—his actions in this film are pretty funny. Not seen as much as they were in the first film is Jaimie Alexander as Sif, Ray Stevenson as Volstagg, Tadanobu Asano as Hogun, Rene Russo as Thor’s mother, Frigga, and taking over as Fandral is Zachary Levi.

Yes, overall, the film is grand in scale—especially all the scenes in Asgard—and the action is intense. The special effects are pretty spectacular with the ideas behind them well thought out. I love those grenades the villains throw around that create small black holes that suck their enemies in to implode or explode them—really cool. One cameo to look out for is a nice walk-on and sudden entrance of another hero (but it’s not really him) which is awesome, yet funny, as it takes place in Asgard and totally out of place. Another surprise appearance (well…maybe not a surprise), who is a staple in most Marvel films, is a cameo of Stan “The Man” Lee in a hilarious scene that made me giggle.

So, what’s my final “bit” on Thor: The Dark World?

The saga continues, giving us a sense of hope that the heroes will all be around and sharing the same space of the world and universe with one another! It’s an awesome display of how each movie works with the next, yet stands alone as a single superhero film! You do need a bit of knowledge from each subsequent film—or at least The Avengers—but I think if you’re jumping into this film, you’ve already invested yourself in the whole kit and caboodle. I think every generation needs a big fantasy world, like what Star Wars or The Matrix gave us, and Marvel is definitely giving us the 21st century equivalent of that. If you haven’t seen the three Iron Man movies, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America stand-alones, and, of course, 2012’s The Avengers…then what are you waiting for? Pick them up, watch them in order of release dates, and then finish it up with Thor: The Dark World. It’s a superhero world that will never be matched!

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday the 13th Part 2

Whenever I'm asked which movie is my favorite from the catalog of films within the Friday the 13th franchise, I usually say it's a tie between parts two and four.  But I tend to lean a little more towards part two.  The reason being is because of the look of Jason in this film.  Yeah, I know that the hockey mask is iconic and it was the best idea the filmmakers of part three ever came up with, but somehow the burlap sack over the head is more frightening to me.  Both films have their merits, but I'll go with 1981's Friday the 13th Part 2.

One big plus this sequel has is that it ties up loose ends with the survivor of the last film, Alice, as we are sort of introduced to Jason for the first time...well...his feet and hands anyway.  But at least we know what happened to Alice after her ordeal in the first movie.  And it's a rarity in this franchise.  Think about it.  Do we ever see Ginny again after this film?  How about Chris in part three?  None of the survivor girls are ever seen again and we're just supposed to just use our imagination as to what had happened to them.  I guess it's pretty easy to see that Chris went bonkers at the end of part three and probably spent the rest of her life in an institution, but how about the rest?  What ever happened to Trish from part four?  Reggie the Reckless and Pam from part five?  And even though we see Tommy Jarvis in parts four through six, what happened to him and Megan afterwards?  Did Tina Shepard from part seven ever use her telekinetic powers again?  From part eight, did Rennie and Jim get married?  All these survivors and the filmmakers who'd made sequels over the years never thought to bring them back for a sequel?  Oh well.

Back to Friday the 13th Part 2.

After the original movie, it looked like it would be impossible to have a sequel to it, seeing that Pamela Voorhees was beheaded.  It took a bit of cheating by saying Jason's body was never found after he drowned in the lake (I say cheating because if a young boy was able to swim to shore, wouldn't he seek out his mother? It's highly unlikely he'd decide to live on his own in the woods), but if you can overlook that, they had a great idea to have an adult Jason be the killer.  It made sense in a way and gave this franchise legs to stand up and run, creating an icon to go on and on for another eight sequels.

Now I've mentioned before how I like to play a marathon of all the Friday the 13th films in a row, but usually stop after the first four films.  One of the reasons is that Jason is just a normal guy who acts human, makes noises (albeit, grunts), gets hurt, and almost dies a few times (nobody, at the time, knew about the Zombieland "Double-Tap" rule).  With all the movies after part five, you knew no one had a chance against Jason because he was a supernatural force by then.  But in parts two, three and four, the victims had chances.

So, here we are in Friday the 13th Part 2, where the film opens up with Alice (Adrienne King) sleeping and having a bad dream; this was a clever way to recap what happened in part one.  She wakes up, talks to her mother, takes a shower, and is quickly killed by a mysterious man.  After going through the opening credits, the film then takes place within a counselor training center at Crystal Lake, led by Paul Holt (John Furey).  The condemned area of Camp Crystal Lake is adjacent to the training center and all the trainees have been told to avoid the area due to what had happened there five years before.  Of course, a couple of the trainees, Sandra and Jeffrey (Marta Kober and Bill Randolph), get their curiosity piqued and decide to wander off in that direction, only to get caught by the local sheriff.  But Jason is out there and the training center is too close, as Jason decides to pay the trainees a visit.

Steve Miner takes the directing reigns in this one and, in my opinion, made a better movie than the first.  The film has better cinematography and has much better performances from the actors and actresses.
Besides the prologue to this film, showing what happened to Alice, I love the campfire scene where Paul talks about what happened at Camp Crystal Lake and how Jason Voorhees is out waiting to get revenge.  It added the right touch to the film foreshadowing what was to come.  Also, the comic relief of Ted (Stuart Charno) is funny and adds a bit of levity to the film.

Also, the film has quite an array of different characters making us identify with them a little more.  The main character the film focuses on, Ginny (Amy Steel), is not as delicate and distressed as Alice in the first film.  Of course, as most 80s movies included, you've got to have a girl, Terry (Kirsten Baker), who walks around in skimpy outfits and performs in the gratuitous nude scene.  And the bravest casting decision in the Friday the 13th franchise was to include a wheelchair-confined character, Mark (Tom McBride), who is showcased in the most memorable kill in this flick.

Although Tom Savini wasn't involved in this project, the practical effects were pretty good, but just not up to Savini's standards.  But they brought the point home and actually had some cool gags.  As I mentioned above, Mark's death is most remembered for getting the machete to the face and falling down the stairs, backwards, in his wheelchair.  I really don't know how they did that, as it's very apparent he's a real person sitting there with a machete suddenly slamming into his face.  It's shot from behind, but to do that effect, he must've had some pad in front of his face or something...I don't know.  And the decapitated head of Mrs. Voorhees on the table of Jason's shrine is notable as well.  I remember watching the very end as a kid, thinking that Mrs. Voorhees's head looked so real that it looked like the eyes would open at any second.  Years later, to my amazement, I'd heard that that was what they had filmed.  There was actually an actress who sat underneath the table, face made up to look dead, and she was supposed to open her eyes at the very end for a little jump scare.  They actually filmed it and decided to cut it out before releasing the movie; that's why the scene freezes before fading out to credits.  I think the right decision was made, because that would've had an air of cheesiness to it.

I'd mentioned that the burlap-sack-headed Jason is the scariest, but there's a bit of controversy as to who actually played him in the movie.  IMDb has Warrington Gillette credited as playing him, but during interviews with Steve Dash, a stuntman, he says that he did most of the scenes as Jason.

My final "bit" on Friday the 13th Part 2?

The film is a superior sequel, giving life to this franchise, and sowing the seeds to make it grow to the monster it became.  Yes, as I think more and more about this film, I really believe that this is the best of the lot.  Better acting and a better idea makes this top the original.  But you couldn't have this, or the sequels, unless you had the first film, so I've got to give props to the first one.  As I'd mentioned, the first four films are the best, so do yourself a favor and have yourself a marathon tonight.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.