Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fox can go F*CK themselves: RIP Prison Break

Fox announced today that after its Spring run, Prison Break will be done. Its a shame this decision has to come late into what myself, and others think is its best season since season 1. Hopefully the show will provide closure, since most shows that are cancelled leave us with brilliant cliff hangers we will never know about (Invasion, DRIVE). So long Scolfields! May your eternal resting place next to every other canceled Fox show be a comfortable one. RIP.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jack is back! After an excurciatingly long break, 24 returns, bringing with it change, change we need

Last year, 24 got off to a strong start. Jack was brought back from China and ready to die. The latter never happened. Soon after, he killed a former co-worker and friend and then watched as a nuclear bomb exploded in downtown LA. It was all downhill from there. Plot line riddled the season that were contrived or tired or both. The show was in serious critical down spiral. Enter the writers strike. 24 took an extra long break to allow all 24 episodes to be shown without interruption. The wait was worth it. Showcasing a sprawling new location and an array of new characters, 24 kicked off to a strong start this past sunday. The first two hours were great, but the 3rd and 4th hours, which aired tonight, were FANTASTIC. 24 took a big twist, the likes of which haven't been seen since season 5, where President Logan was the key figure in a giant Government conspiracy. I won't say anymore about the new twist, as I do not wish to ruin it, but its good! i have a feeling this year is going to be a big return to form for 24. The show has implemented a big change. In a time where our country is welcoming change wit open arms, it is a good omen. WELCOME BACK JACK!

The Golden Globes: Some Thoughts On The Night

Unless you live under a rock, you should know that every year the Hollywood Foreign Press throws one of the biggest Award shows/parties in Hollywood. The show is The Golden Globes and its open bar, so look out for drunk celebrities! Last night, some very big things happened. Slumdog Millionaire won Best Picture as well as Best Director, Screenplay, and Soundtrack. Anna Paquin won Best Actress in a TV Drama; and Kate Winslet finally won, not one, but two awards for her acting. She made history as the only actor to ever win twice at the Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actress(The Reader) and Best Actress(Revolutionary Road). Her acceptance speech was wonderful. She was genuinely shocked and in tears. She professed her undying (sisterly) love for Leonardo Dicaprio and her undying love for her husband, and Director, Same Mendes. Finally, the other amazing thing that happened...MICKEY ROURKE WON BEST ACTOR FOR THE WRESTLER! This was a truly incredible thing. Mickey had been out of the business for a long time. If you had told me last year if I thought that this year, Mickey Rourke would be in such an amazing movie and that he'd win the best actor Golden Globe, I'd have told you that you were nuts! In his acceptance speech, he kept alive his bad-ass image and at the same time, showed a sentimental side that has never really been associated with him. He thanked his dogs saying that when you're all alone, they can be what keeps you going. So that basically sums up what I thought of the Golden Globes. But I wasn't really watching them, and you will find out why in my next post...

Classic Film Commentary: White Heat

Not long ago, Cody Jarrett robbed a train, and was responsible for the death of four railway men--two of whom he personally killed in cold blood-- but right now, none of that matters; his mom needs help with dinner. In White Heat, James Cagney shows the world a new kind of gangster: an epileptic, capable of the most ruthless things and is every bit as extreme as his behavior suggests; but at the end of the day, he’s also just a guy who loves his mother.
Plagued with epileptic seizures, Cody always keeps his mother by his side. When seizures strike, she cares for him in private, holding him, comforting him and rubbing his head. But, it’s when he sits in her lap that Cody’s Oedipal complex really emerges. It’s his mother alone, whom he permits to see him suffering and vulnerable. Not even his wife is granted access at such times. In fact, his wife often competes with his mother for his attention. Cody doesn’t treat her as well as he should, but that only helps to strengthen his image as a tough man. His Ma is another matter. She functions as his mentor and advisor, and encourages her son never to let anyone but her see him in a diminished state. After one such attack, Cody re-emerges from his room and barks: "What're ya all gapin' at?" All his life, his Ma preached to him about making his mark on the world. This attitude and goal is captured in her mantra to him: “Top of the world, son.” Ma always looks out for him, dotes on him and keeps him out of trouble. For instance, she risks everyone’s safety to go to the market to get his “favorite” fruit: strawberries. On her way home, she realizes she is being tailed, so she evades the Feds to the best of her ability. Also, when Cody and his crew were preparing to leave their hideout after a train robbery, it’s Ma, who reminds Cody that Zuckie, an injured gang member might talk, if left behind. Cody has him shot. Cody’s mother is his lifeline, his protection. So, when she dies, everything changes.
While serving a short jail sentence, arranged with the help of a concocted alibi to avoid charges for the more serious crime he actually committed, Cody learns of his mother’s death. Hundreds of prisoners file into the prison mess hall (in a long shot from an upper tier high above where armed guards patrol the perimeter) - it's a prelude to one of the best scenes in the picture. After they reach their seats, a whistle is blown to signal them to sit. Prisoners are forbidden to speak to each other, although Pardo whispers "tonight" to Cody - the expected time for their planned breakout. One of the new prisoners seated at the end of Cody's table is Nat Lefeld "from the coast mob." Cody relays a message to him from inmate to inmate: "Ask him how my mother is." We watch the message relayed down the row and back, with the camera moving as if it were the message itself. Cody finally gets the news from Reilly, a prisoner seated next to him. It’s as if a fuse had been lit and we’ve traveled with it as it spent its way to the dynamite. When Cody gets the word, he explodes with rage. The guards soon apprehend him and take him away. From this point on, everything changes.
Fueled by anger and a desire for revenge, Cody breaks out of prison. His first order of business is: taking out the trash. He returns home, reunites with his wife (the actual killer of his mother). He then kills Big Ed putting “two in his back” just as his wife has told him Big Ed did to his mother. Cody is done talking. Just as the painful “white heat” of his seizures temporarily blinds and weakens him, so does his rage over his mother’s death. But without her, he also loses his bearings and his judgment. He is unable to see that he has a cop in his crew. He makes the fateful decision not to shoot Fallon when he has the chance, allowing Fallon eventually to deliver the fatal shots that end his life.
White Heat presents Cody’s downfall as a direct consequence of his world becoming destabilized and collapsing around him. In his final seconds, as he stands upon a giant refinery storage tank, Cody looks skyward and triumphantly calls out to his mom, the same mantra repeated to him all his life: “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” Cody then dies as he lived: in extreme defiance. He ignites and dies in the tremendous ‘white heat’ of a refinery explosion -- a mushroom cloud, apocalyptic blast that shakes the earth. White Heat was, appropriately, one of the last of Warner Bros’ gritty crime film era offerings, and it made a lasting impression. Afterwards, gangsters were rarely dramatized as one-dimensional, ruthless killers. Cagney’s portrayal of Cody Jarrett paves the way for more complicated character development of anti-heroes. In this way, White Heat helped to put gangster pictures back on “top of the world.”

I'd take that "coffee talk" scene to the grave if I had known this was coming out...

One would think that, with such a good cast and the writer of Inside Man, that Righteous Kill would be a really good movie; unfortunately that couldn't be further from the truth. The producers seemed more concerned about getting the two screen legends together than putting together a solid story. It has even been reported that the script was written around Deniro and Pacino and they signed on before the script was written. The film is so chock full of cliches it makes me wonder if, rather than using an idea as a jumpoff point for the script, they simply decided to see how many cop drama cliches they could cram into a movie. Now I want to be fair in this review so I will say, the acting was solid, but was that not to be expected with such a talented cast? Righteous Kill plays out like a tired, crummy magic trick. The audience is led to believe certain things throughout the film that are beat into our skulls as if the filmmaker is overcompensating for his bad film and at the very end, the twist is revealed so suddenly and so randomly it asks the audience to surrender their intelligence and just accept it. The bottom line is, the two greatest actors alive today deserve so much better.

Some Film Review Blurbs: The Spirit, Valkyrie, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Slumdog Millionaire

The Spirit
After about 10 minutes of this lifeless film, i walked out. I could not take any more of the atrocious acting or mind-numbingly bad dialogue. Even the trailers before it were terrible. The Spirit is accurate as far as titles go though. The movie serves a remnants, or rather, "the spirit" of what once could have possibly, maybe, hopefully, been a good movie.

Iwas very disappointed. The whole point of character development is to show how characters change in huge ways throughout a film and to add depth to it. In Valkyrie, the film starts after the peak of Tom Cruise's character's development. The movie was bland. Pacing was slow, and i wanted it to be over. Also, how can a director like Bryan singer underuse his best asset?! Kenneth Branagh is the best actor in this movie and yet he is given 2 minutes of screentime.

The Day The Earth Stood Still
Once again, I am amazed at Hollywood's ability to take a perfectly good movie and remake it, and desecrate its memory. Looked good on IMAX. Product placement was headache inducing. IT ACTUALLY PUT ME TO SLEEP! Plot was nonexistent. Acting was bad. Keanu phoned it in. EVERYONE PHONED IT IN. Save your money, skip this piece of crap film, go rent the original for $4.99 at blockbusters, its a million times more enjoyable than this.

Slumdog Millionaire
This is the best film of 2008. In a year of so many great films, Slumdog Millionaire rises above the rest. Amazing cinematography and editing as well as score. The actors entrance and act as thought they are seasoned pros. The script is also excellent. The movie is so enthralling and exhiliarating. A+. 4 Stars. Go see it!

You Might Not Get It, But My Film Professor Will...

Hello and welcome to the blog. My name is Zach and I am a film student in Columbia, MD. I'm sure most of you are wondering what "Mis En Scene" means and as the title of this post says, you might not get it, but my film professor will. Mis En Scene literally means "placing on stage." It refers to the arrangement of all the visual elements of a theatrical production within a given playing area- the stage. And has 4 formal elements:
1. The physical setting and d├ęcor,
2. The staging of the action,
3. The manner in which these elements are framed.
4. The manner in which they are photographed
A filmmaker can manipulate the viewer’s attention by using contrasts, movement, narrative emphasis, and visual patterns. Using the illusion of three dimensional space, a director can position figures to suggest relative strength or weakness. The screen may be viewed as a window (open form) or as a framing proscenium arch (closed form).

Basically through this blog, my goal is to shed light on various aspects of filmmaking and to hopefully open your mind to films you probably never thought to rent at your local blockbusters. I want to be able to give my opinions on current films in release and give commentaries on the classics. Hopefully, after reading my posts, you will know what movies are good, and what to see on Friday nights when you head to your local movie theatre.