Category Archives: Movies

Iron Man 3 – Movie Review

Iron Man 3 is just short of being the best Marvel Comics Movie, just behind Marvel’s the Avengers. That said, it’s one of the best movies produced by Marvel Studios and you should go out and see it now.

Review by: Alan Ng
Release Date: May 3, 2013
Official Website: marvel.com/ironman3
Director: Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Writer; Iron Man 2, Writer)

Cast:
Robert Downey Jr – Tony Stark
Gwyneth Paltrow – Virginia “Pepper” Potts
Don Cheadle – James “Rhodey” Rhodes
Guy Pearce – Aldrich Killian
Rebecca Hall – Dr. Maya Hansen
Jon Favreau – Happy Hogan
Ben Kingsley – Mandarin

Iron Man 3 takes place after the events of Marvel’s the Avengers. Tony Stark finds himself suffering from panic attacks after saving the earth from alien takeover. He is unable to sleep and is constantly working to improve his Iron Man armor. In the Avengers, we saw the 7th version of the armor. At the beginning of Iron Man 3, it’s the 42nd, which shows how obsessive he’s become about never being able to protect the one person he loves, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).

Also Tony has to live with the damage his playboy lifestyle and the people he’s used and ignored in the past. The villain is Iron Man 3 is a terrorist named the Mandarin. He’s created human bombs and is hitting targets in the United States. When Happy Hogan is his latest victim, Tony dedicates himself to avenging the attack on his friends. The threat is met with force when Tony’s Malibu Mansion is attacked.

Robert Downey Jr. is the best thing about Iron Man 3. Only an actor of his caliber could literally carry this movie. He can drop his playful one-liners, pull off panic attacks and keep us interested in the development of his character. Ben Kingsley made the perfect Mandarin. He really pulled off the terror aspect of a terrorist.

Ty Simpkins

Special attention to the kid who played Harley (Ty Simpkins). He had some unbelievable banter with Tony Stark.

I also like the tone that Shane Black brought to this movie. It was all about Tony and everything on screen touched on his weaknesses. The action scenes were amazing and the famous Air Force One rescue had my heart racing.

Iron Man 3 is a triology. Is this the end for Iron Man? Ending of Iron Man 3 is the same as other 3 movies, i.e. Dark Knight and Toy Story. The ending is something I didn’t see coming and not in a way of cliffhanger surprises, but with the emotions that you feel for Tony Stark. This third movie ties things up in the end and makes you wonder how will Tony be brought back to the Avengers.

There were a few things that stuck out at me such as the inconsistent way the bio-enhanced soldiers. I never had the sense of this is how you kill them, this is how you destroy them. They just kept coming back.

The Dr. Maya Hansen character was not well developed and I didn’t know how I should feel about her safety.

There were also points that things bordered on the extreme to extreme silliness. The fate of Pepper is what I’m thinking about here.

Overall, I loved the story. I liked the reality of Tony Stark as a person and not as an alien superhero. You will have fun and finally the ending credits are awesome. Not so much the scene at the end of the movie.

Follow Friday – Movie Review – Newport Beach Film Festival

‘Follow Friday The Film’ is a documentary from filmmaker, Erin Faulk (@erinscafe). It premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival. After an expected layoff from her law firm job, Faulk embarks on a social experiment and travels to 11,000 miles around the United States in 45-days to meet in person – for the first time – her friends on Twitter.

Faulk’s cross country journey starts in Los Angeles and ends at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. This road trip consists of Faulk; her friends-cinematographer Matthew Sordello (@msordello), Evans Knight(@evansknight), Anna Schlegel (@annatschlegel), Hassan Khan (@hassankhan); a car donated by Audi; and stops in cities like Las Vegas, Austin, New Orleans, Newark, New York, Chicago and Denver. Her ultimate goal is to have her twitter followers sign a petition and present it at Twitter headquarters for a shot at her account being verified.

In ‘Follow Friday The Film,’ what starts off as a cross country road trip turns into an informative documentary on Twitter as a social media tool and its potential to do good in society. The film is divided into chapters about what Twitter is: community, politics, marketing a business, social causes and more.

There is a right way and a wrong way to use Twitter. Faulk shows that it is more than providing updates about your day and the food you eat. It should be a conversation between you and your followers. Her travels across the country are an attempt to meet her friends, even though she never met them in person. The danger is that her friends are not how they portray themselves on Twitter, and she finds that, for the most part, they are. She also takes us to Twitter gatherings of a circle of friends who occasionally meet at one another’s homes.

She also shows the amazing power of Twitter to raise money for a good cause. Along the way, Faulk knew that she wanted an interview with Newark Mayor Corey Booker. Because he personally runs his Twitter account, Faulk was able to ask him “personally.” Soon, one of her Twitter friends said that if Booker would do the interview, he would donate $250 to one of Booker’s charities being New Jersey charter school system, Uncommon Schools. Almost instantly Booker tweeted back and said he would match the donation. Soon, other friends of Faulk tweeted with their donations and Booker match their donations. Soon, Booker found himself committed to an interview with Faulk and committed to pay $17,000 to New Jersey Charter schools.

In a time of public tragedy, Twitter was a tool to bring the community together. Faulk’s crew arrives in Aurora just days after the shooting at a midnight screening of Batman in Aurora. The eerie tweets of the victims of the shooting leading up to the tragedy and the tweets of the victims’ friends and family leave a powerful impact on the timeline of events.

The movie ends at Twitter headquarters, where Faulk hopes to become verified by presenting her cross-country petition to the powers-that-be. As excited as she was about touring Twitter headquarters, Faulk learns the difference between the personable employees of Twitter and the cold, impersonal corporate gods of Twitter.

‘Follow Friday the Film’ is a great movie about Twitter and its potential in your life. It’s an inspiring tale about using Twitter to broaden your circle of friends and experience new things. It can be used to rally people around a cause such as support during hard times, to raise money in a Kickstarter campaign to complete your movie and show off the personal side of your business.

During a road trip portions of the movie, Erin Faulk comes off as funny and likable, and it shows as she meets with her friends for the first time. A problem with ‘Follow Friday the Film’ is that there is not much time spent with the actual interviews of friends along the way, which is the initial premise of the film. For example, the first friend she meets in Las Vegas, we are shown video footage of the meeting, but no interview. I get that maybe it’s the quality of the interviews and the difficult task of editing them in an interesting way may warrant its exclusion from the movie.

Also, this is a positive tale of the power of Twitter. Yes, Twitter has done amazing things in the world as a force for positive change. But Twitter has also been used as a tool for bullying and trolling. But I get that that’s not what this movie is about.

Erin Faulk’s ‘Follow Friday the Film’ is a great start of the Women and Film category of the Newport Beach Film Festival.

The End of Hand-Drawn Animation

During the 2013 Disney Stockholder meeting, Walt Disney Company President/CEO Bob Iger was asked if Walt Disney had any 2D/hand drawn animation in the pipeline. Here was his response:

”To my knowledge we’re not developing a 2D or hand-drawn feature animated film right now. We’re not necessarily ruling out the possibility [of] a feature but there isn’t any in development at the company at the moment.”

Does this mean that the age old tradition of hand drawn animation is dead? Probably or at best will take on some kind of hybrid form. Disney killed hand drawn animation before under the Eisner regime. When he was booted and the company was run by Iger and Lassister, Disney produced two traditional animated features: The Princess and the Frog (2009) and Winnie the Pooh (2011).

The other major studios have long since abandoned hand drawn animation. Disney appears to be the last.

Why abandon the age-old tradition? It’s easy money and effort. Money is always an issue when it some to movie making. Sadly it’s man-power that’s the issue. One computer animator now takes the place of a lead animator and several in-betweeners. Not to mention that a single animator can work with numerous characters in one scene as opposed to several lead animators working together to produce one scene.

Effort is easier in a few different aspects. In hand drawn animation, a scene is designed and drawn and changes even small elements are a large task. Computer animation allows you to tweak and perfect every scene. Also computer animators have the luxury of framing scenes and employing camera angles after the scene is animated.

But is computer animation able to achieve art. For the longest time, I preferred hand drawn to computer animated from an art standpoint. For some reason drawn art looked more real than anything a computer could generate. Even when Disney produced the photo realistic Dinosaur, it missed a lot of beauty because it replicated reality and could not develop it’s couldn’t render an artistic style.

The Incredibles is the first time an overall artistic style of how human characters are designed. As great as that film was, it was far from perfect in capturing human qualities. In other words, it still felt like a computerized version of 2D animation.

When Iger and Lassiter took over Disney, their first project was to bring back hand drawn animation. With great excitement the Princess and the Frog was announced as a project. As much as I loved the movie, it simply underperformed at the box office. Kids just don’t have an appreciation of tradition.

My sadness for the scarcity of hand drawn animation changed when Tangled came out. It was the first time I felt that a computer animated movie captured everything I loved about hand drawn animation. Watch the movie and you’ll discover that the backgrounds, landscapes and buildings all have a hand drawn feel to it. The bright and vibrant colors created a hyper real fantasy world. The character design looked very “Disney” in style.

To me it was tangled that told me that they finally got computer animation right. On top of that this year’s Oscar winning animated short, Paperman was an example of computer animation replicating hand drawn animation. It was a well produced short that told an amazing story and if you didn’t know better you’d swear it was a traditional movie.

Has hand drawn animation gone the way of the dinosaur? From a major motion picture standpoint, yes. The technology has proven itself successful and the intended audience, children, could care less whether it was drawn or computer generated. They just want you to tell a fun story.

How Disney Bought Lucasfilm – Bloomberg Businessweek

Bloomberg Businessweek ran a story today about how Disney bought Lucasfilm. Here are some highlights:

  • Part of Iger’s strategy is to acquire companies that could be described as mini-Disneys such as Pixar and Marvel—reservoirs of franchise-worthy characters that can drive all of Disney’s businesses, from movies and television shows to theme parks, toys, and beyond.
  • Lucas’s needs were more emotional. At 68, he was ready to retire and escape from the imaginary world he created—but he didn’t want anybody to desecrate it.
  • “I’ve never been that much of a money guy,” Lucas says. “I’m more of a film guy, and most of the money I’ve made is in defense of trying to keep creative control of my movies.”
  • Lucas pitched the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles to Bob Iger, Chairman of ABC in the early 90’s. “It struggled,” Lucas says of Chronicles. “But [Iger] was very supportive of the whole thing.”
  • Regarding the criticism of the prequels, it got to Lucas. He found it difficult to be creative when people were calling him a jerk. “It was fine before the Internet,” he says. “But now with the Internet, it’s gotten very vicious and very personal. You just say, ‘Why do I need to do this?’ ” At the same time, Lucas was reluctant to entrust his universe to anyone else.
  • In purchasing Pixar, Iger personally negotiated the deal with Steve Jobs, who was then Pixar’s CEO. As part of the deal, Iger kept the creative team, led by John Lasseter, in place and allowed them to continue to operate with a minimum of interference in their headquarters near San Francisco. “Steve and I spent more time negotiating the social issues than we did the economic issues,” Iger says. “He thought maintaining the culture of Pixar was a major ingredient of their creative success. He was right.”
  • In 2009, Iger negotiated a similar deal for Disney to buy Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. Once again, Iger kept the leadership intact: Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter and Marvel studio chief Kevin Feige.
  • On the morning of the Star Tours opening at Walt Disney World, Iger met Lucas for breakfast at the Hollywood Brown Derby, one of Disney World’s restaurants. Then Iger inquired whether Lucas would ever consider selling his company. Lucas replied that he’d recently celebrated his 67th birthday and was starting to think seriously about retiring. So perhaps the sale of his company was inevitable. “I’m not ready to pursue that now,” he told Iger. “But when I am, I’d love to talk.”
  • The pieces had to be put in place before the deal could be made, specifically maintain some creative control/influence on the future. Kathleen Kennedy was placed in charge of Lucas Films. Michael Arndt was hired as the screenwriter for Episode VII and Ford, Hamill and Fisher were notified of Lucas’ pending retirement. Now Lucas was ready to approach Disney.
  • Lucas was adamant that Lucas creative executive were in charge. Iger agreed in theory but the Walt Disney Company had to have the ultimate say on the final product.
  • Lucas needed to have assurances that Disney would tell his stories and he has treatments of the next three films already written. Iger wanted to see them, but Lucas said he would have to trust him or he’d sell to someone else.
  • Once the papers, were signed, Iger when trick or treating with his family dressed as Darth Vader.
  • Lucas felt comfortable with Disney based on the way they handled the acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel.
  • Before the deal closed in late December, [Kennedy] reached out to J.J. Abrams’s agent to see if he would direct Episode VII. “He was very quick to say, ‘No, I don’t think I want to step into that,’ ” Kennedy says.
  • Kennedy persisted. She visited Abrams at the Santa Monica headquarters of Bad Robot, his production company, with Arndt and Kasdan. “By the time we finished, which was a couple of hours later, he had really gone 180 degrees,” she says. “To be involved in this next iteration of the Star Wars series is more exciting than I can talk about,” says Abrams.

When Should I See A Movie in 3D?

More and more movies are being released in the 3D format. It’s more expensive to see a movie in 3D and it can be a big hassle having to wear glasses or glasses over your glasses for the experience. Question: is it worth the extra expense to see movies in 3D?

Shot in 3D or Converted Into 3D

First question, what are the differences in movies shot native in the 3D format, meaning filled using 3D cameras or movies converted into 3d? If you asked me two years ago, I would have told you that movies shot in 3D are var superior and the example I would have given you was The Last Airbender, aside from being a horrible movie, the 3D decreased the quality of the movie. There was a loss in clarity and a significant loss in brightness.

Today, I honestly can’t tell the difference between a movie shot native or in post-production. Men in Black 3 is a good example of this. Fun movie and great visual effects that exploited the 3D format. All done in post. One would argue the movies converted into 3D are better from an artistic standpoint.

MenInBlack3When Barry Sonnenfeld appear on Geektime to promote Men in Black 3, he preferred the conversion process because it gave him freedom to play with the depth of field after the fact. The decision of the placement of 3D items can be tinkered with until its perfect. When you shoot in native 3D, you lose this freedom.

Cheap 3D Tricks

3D became a big thing about 4 years ago. Disney began releasing Pixar movies in 3D beginning with the Toy Story movies. Soon all computer generated movies where being released in 3D since it was the easiest to produce compter animated film in that format. Soon live action movies got the same treatment with Thor and Captain America.

the-avengers-3d-glasses-imageWhen movies started coming out in 3D the fear was that filmmakers would distract us with cheap 3D tricks to exploit the new format. Tricks like objects floating in front of our faces and objects being thrown out of the screen and into our laps.

Filmmakers obliged and refused to pander to the technology with cheap tricks. The solution soon became the problem. I found that 20 minutes into watching a 3D movie, I forgot that I was watching a 3D movie. I no longer felt I was immersed into the world of the movie, but I was simply watching the movie as I always had. The only difference was I paid more and had to wear glasses on my face.

The problem with most 3D movies is that without the cheap tricks, there’s no point in the 3D. If I forget 20 minutes into a movie that it’s in 3D then why should I bother to watch in 3D. Otherwise it’s just a waste of a format and my money.

It’s an Economics Problem

For the most part, when I go to a 3D movie, there are usually 2 to 3 moments when the 3D is worth it. Those moments tend to be wide panoramic shots, such as the Rainbow Bridge in Thor and city of Asgard. It gives you that immersive feeling of being there.

amazing_spiderman_ver5The other moment tends to be one of flight, magic and depth. For example, a floating object that comes out of the screen. Men in Black 3 had a few moments like that. They often serve as that reminder that you’re watching this in 3D.

If you’re only getting 2 or 3 brief moments, where the 3D is amazing, then is worth the extra $7 to $10 you pay on top of an already expensive movie ticket. Honestly it depends on the film and you have to ask yourself if you think the 3D is worth it.

I saw only two movies in 2012 that was worth the extra expense of 3D and that was the Amazing Spider-Man and the Hobbit. The 3D in any scene that Spidey used webbing was great. Swinging across the city was also fantastic. The battle scenes in the Hobbit was perfect in 3D, but the jury is still out on the High Frame Rate feature.

On the other hand, Marvel’s the Avengers was fun in 3D but I didn’t really need to pay the extra. The only scene I noticed the 3D was Iron Man flying across New York.

What is the Criteria?

Here are some factors I consider whether or not to spend extra on 3D.

TTHRF3Dhobbit-207x3001Clarity. Is the movie an animated feature or relies heavily on green screen? 3D relies on superb image clarity in order to see the depth of field properly. The Hobbit is the perfect example. Everything was shot on set an on green screen and that helped give the immersive feeling.

Artistic Backdrop. Movies should also be visually amazing. Thor and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is my example of this and I suspect Oz The Great and Powerful will also look amazing in 3D. Bright, colorful visuals make the experience all worth it. The drab backdrops of Captain America did not help the 3D at all.

Moving Witch Poster

Moving Witch Poster

All this to say is that I no longer just see a movie in 3D because it’s offered. I actually have to think through consider if a movie will be worth seeing in 3D. Making smart choices is the key. What do you think? What movies have you seen that exploit the 3D format.