Whats In A Name?

It is difficult to tell whether or not this is a recent trend, but I have noticed it recently.

I know branding is a major part of selling a movie, but this year I have seen three blockbusters, none of which I recognised as being legitimate parts of their respective franchises. By this I mean any of the three films could easily have been done with minor tweaks and no-one would have gone “that’s a blatant rip-off of <insert beloved franchise here>!”

The first time I noticed was with Star Trek Into Darkness. Now, I have a lot of problems with J. J. Abrams in general and the Star Trek reboot in particular. This latest film has completely removed all the things that made the series (and some of the films) really interesting. They dealt with issues and theology and morality. The reboot is just stuff blowing up really fast so as to distract you from the ridiculousness of the plot.

Then there was Iron Man 3, which admittedly due to the specific “suits of iron” make this a little harder to copy, but not by much. Despite this being the 3rd or 4th time I’d seen these characters I didn’t recognise any of them. The biggest problem seemed to be that they had drawn out this distinctly mid 1990s film structure and then forced the characters into it, rather than allowing the characters to develop naturally.

Then there was A Good Day To Die Hard. Boy, oh boy! Whilst the fourth edition had seen our favourite string vest wearing protagonist into some kind of bad ass action hero, rather than the everyday cop of the first three, the fifth one turned it up another notch. Aside from the stupid dialogue, the stupid, weak, stupid plot, and the boring characters, they made him immune to radiation poisoning! If this isn’t a Die Hard movie, it doesn’t get made.

All these films have completely abandoned everything that made them interesting and to make things worse, there will be sequels to all of them.

I am not against sequels and reboots, though there are probably too many, but these films hardly qualify. If you are going to change everything so that it barely resembles what came before, please use a different name.

Woody Allen Through The Decades

The Many Faces Of Woody Allen

There have been so many great Woody Allen films over the decade, I decided to have a look back through his catalouge and choose my favourite Allen frilm from each decade. Now, this might not necessarily correspend with the ones I think are the best, but these are my favourites.

1960s

This is an easy decade as he was beginning the transition from TV to film and so didn’t make that many movies.

Going right for the borderline, I’m going with his 1969 directorial debut Take The Money And Run.

Ridiculously comic affair, it is essentially a string of funny moments stuck together. But what funny moments! Allen takes the lead role as failed career criminal Virgil Starkwell in what is one of the biggest deviations from the traditional “Allen” role (ie not very).

1970s

OK, now things start to get a big tricky.

The 1970s were undoubtedly the Allen glory days. A great number of his most beloved and funniest movies are contained in this single decade. Annie Hall, Manhattan, Bananas, Sleeper and more could be chosen for this particular decade.

I was tempted to go for Play It Again, Sam which was the movie that got me into the world of Woody Allen, but as it wasn’t directed by him I’m going to go for something else.

Love and Death sees Allen play Boris, a Russian peasant reluctantly conscripted to fight the French invading forces. In love with his cousin, Sonja (played by Diane Keaton), he agrees to try and assassinate Napoleon.

This is a great film because it acts as a bridge between the goofball comedies of the early 70s, with the more considered films of the late 70s. Right after this he made Annie Hall. He also uses it to dive further into his intellectual interests, with references and themes from the greats of Russian literature placed with ease and hilarity.

1980s

Another brilliant decade.

Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Hannah and Her Sisters, Radio Days, finally culminating in Crimes and Misdemeanours. This was a great decade where Mia Farrow was a serious driving force and inspiration, starring in nine of the ten full-length movies he made in the 80s (not including the “Oedipus Wrecks” segment for New York Stories). All brilliant films, yet I’m going for the only one without her in.

Stardust Memories opens the decade and sees Allen in a somewhat more reflective mood. Mirroring his career, Allen plays Sandy Bates a film-maker who is having a film retrospective thrown in his honour. Yet all is not well. He has moved on to making deeply depressing, serious films, yet his audience still want the early, funnier films.

The whole piece is a homage to Fellini and shot in black and white. It mixes the real with the surreal and the serious with the comedic. It is both funny and meditative and a great mix of both worlds Allen inhabits.

Slated by critics taking it too personally at the time, it is one of Allen’s finest films and still unfairly overlooked and maligned.

1990s

This is a somewhat uneven decade, though not as bad as people would suggest.

Starting with the weakest Mia Farrow movie, the twee magical fantasy, Alice, and containing the largely pointless retread, Celebrity, it nevertheless has some great moments. Husbands and Wives is an excellent meditation on marriage and divorce, whilst the period pieces Bullets Over Broadway and Sweetdown and Low are particular highlights. There is even a musical, in Everyone Says I Love You.

Yet it is Deconstructing Harry which takes the top spot for me.

Whilst on the surface it is Allen playing another struggling writer, it takes a far more adult tone than any of his other pictures. In fact, this is one of three films to get an 18-certificate rating (the others being Crimes and Misdemeanours and Celebrity). It contains a number of vignettes and a hilarious main plot.

The Allen character in this film is far more unpleasant than any we have seen before, being essentially downright horrible.

2000s

This was a bit of a weak decade, at least initially. The first five films of the decade are disposable. Aside from The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (which would have benefitted from someone other than Allen playing the lead role) and Melinda and Melinda (which has a really interesting premise) there isn’t much to see here. Then Match Point came out and everyone loved him again as he began his tour across Europe.

Yet it is his late in the decade New York comedy that wins out here.

Whatever Works is a play from the 1970s brought up to date due to the restrictions of the writers strike. Larry David plays a crazy genius, Boris, who is obsessed with the pointlessness of existence.

This was again looked upon somewhat unfavourably, though personally I can’t imagine a better Allen stand-in than the utterly fantastic Larry David. I found this to be a very funny movie and hope the two can team up again sometime in the future.

2010s

This is the most difficult decade to choose from, not least because it hasn’t been a full decade.

It doesn’t help that of the three films of this decade, I’ve only seen two of them. Add to that the fact that You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is one of the weakest movies Allen has ever and there is really no choice at all.

Midnight In Paris is one of the most acclaimed and successful films he has made for a long time. It has an amusing idea and some the historical figures are performed in a hilarious manner. Yet this is still default for me, because whilst I like Owen Wilson in small does, having him front the entire movie was far too much to cope with.

I suspect I may prefer To Rome With Love, but can’t include it as I’ve not yet seen it.

Veronica Mars: The Movie – Kickstarted Update

Veronica Mars

About a month ago I posted about the Veronica Mars: The Movie Kickstarter project, which was an attempt to raise $2 million in 30 days to get the movie made.

It reached its initial target in a very short space of time and eventually went on to raise a whopping $5.7 million from 91,585 backers. At nearly three times the budget, hopefully the film will be three times as good. Continue reading

The Director Shot First!

Han Shot First

A trend started in the movies several years ago. DVDs started appearing proclaiming themselves to be “longer and uncut!” or “what they wouldn’t show you in the cinema!” Now, there is some truth is some of those claims, but certainly not in all of them.

Some of the stuff was cut simply because it wasn’t good enough and put back in because it increases DVD sales. Some seems to have been cut in order to reduce the cinema certificate rating and restored for the DVD release meaning some films can only be seen as they were meant to be seen on DVD. Continue reading

Being Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman has become an inspiration me of late. I have been a fan of his for a long time now and Adaptation is one of the two or three Nicholas Cage films I don’t hate. Yet it wasn’t until recently that I started to understand a bit more about Kaufman the person and how autobiographical his films tend to be.

It started with the screenplay for Being John Malkovich, bought for a penny on Amazon and which contained and introduction which the back cover promised “explains the genesis and gestation of this extraordinary, twisted and utterly hilarious fiction.”*

What it was instead appeared to be was a stream-of-consciousness ramble about his miserable life. There’s only one paragraph and a couple of lines spread against four pages that actually refer to the film or filmmaking in general. It is surreal, yet utterly compelling. Continue reading

Veronica Mars: The Movie – Kickstarted

Veronica Mars

Not normally on the ball with this sort of thing, but there is big news in (what I incorrectly consider to be) my part of the web.

As most of you are aware, Kickstarter is a website which allows you to pledge money to a specific project in order to help get it off the ground. You don’t get anything, other than the opportunity to help struggling projects in which you believe. Although, if you pledge significant amounts (usually $25+) you are given a limited edition t-shirt or what have you.

You might also know of a great show from a few years ago called Veronica Mars. It starred Kristen Bell as a sassy teenager who did part-time detective work for her father’s detective agency. Anyway, if you don’t, check it out as it is very good. Continue reading