Friday, August 14, 2015


Paddington is a shockingly sharp / smart little film.

I don't say "shockingly" to be dismissive of the genre, IP, or concept at all. This is a very underrated,  accessible family film, and I'm surprised more people aren't saying, "You should see Paddington."

Some of the cinematography is arrestingly subtle, I think Paul King directs brilliantly, it has more fantasy elements than I expected (yes, in addition to the talking bear) and the output from the entire cast and crew is great.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

So ... I've seen Guardians of the Galaxy four times. In the theater.

I don't think I've ever done that with any first-run movie.

By way of comparison, I'm a huge Captain America fan -- and not casually. Not casually at all.

I've been a fan and reader of all things Cap for thirty-plus years, and my love for the character and ideals and challenges wrapped in that mythos is deep and informed, well-considered, and oft-wrestled-with.

I liked Captain America: The Winter Soldier a lot. A lot a lot. And I saw it in the theater. One time.

I didn't plan on seeing GotG so many times. It just ... happened.

Sure, I'm a Guardians of the Galaxy franchise fan -- From the original crew, to the great great Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning stuff. *

The first time I saw the movie, it was with a fellow franchise fan on opening weekend.
(I like to see films with genre friends who will appreciate the awesome when the films are great, and weep with me when they're not.)

The second time I saw the flick, it was when I took my game studio to see it (it was a topical team-building opportunity, plus I wanted to do a big old "told-you-so" in response to nearly 2 years of derision for my bold summer of 2012 announcement that "Guardians is what 2014 is going to be about").

The third time I saw the film, I took my lovely wife. Because I love her. And because I wanted to share with her a recent pop culture offering that I love. She was skeptical -- and she loved it.

Fourth time? Took my brother, who doesn't get as much time as he'd like to see first-run movies (the dude's usually off working to find a cure for cancer.)

I'll probably even go a fifth time, and take my oldest daughter.

My daughter's maturing, and The Guardians of the Galaxy is a more mature film than other Marvel Studios films (this is different than offerings like Ang Lee's Hulk or Iron Man 3, where the young audience arguably had to be a little more mature to safely view them).

The criticism a comic colleague leveraged on the film was "it feels a bit like James Gunn was out to make a popular film."

Fair enough.


Do you know how hard it is to make a film that appeals to action fans and fantasy fans and sci-fi fans and space opera fans and comic book fans and introverts and extroverts and people who do/don't like animals and the non-genre masses and men and women and ... ?

You don't set out knowing you're going to make Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Empire Strikes Back or The Wrath of Khan or Ferris Bueller's Day Off or ...

Rant aside (and a bit because of it), this seeing-a-movie-four-times-going-on-five gives me pause.

What is going on here?

It was after the fourth viewing it started to make sense. And then it codified a bit after I wrote up some thoughts on the movie soundtrack, the "Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol.1". **

Guardians of the Galaxy fires on all cylinders (that makes sense when you see it; and if you don't, I can't make that real for you).

Aside from firing on all cylinders, the movie is "that thing I want to share with people."

It's like a mix tape.

I've made a lot of mix tapes. I made mix tapes that had and deep and poignant meaning to me; of course they did -- I made them to talk to and yell at and echo my euphoria or heartbreak or romanticism or unfathomable teen angst or whatever.

Did you ever get a mix tape from someone else? And it was amazing? And it resonated with you and it was more moving and refreshing because it was new -- You didn't have a hand in it, but it was hand-crafted and had meaning and it still hit you where you lived? And you were shocked that it was so amazing? And that made it more amazing?

And then you shared that unlooked-for mix tape with someone else, and they "got it", too, and you had this amazing, simpático conversation about why you both got it and you both got why it mattered and you both got why it was awesome?

Guardians of the Galaxy is like that. For me.

(Oh, and evidently for a ton of other folks, too.) ***

* (I've stayed reading even through the new stuff, but quite frankly, comparatively it's been a bit slow and hollow. It does seem to be picking up, though.)

** For those that know and love me, a vinyl version is being release this month. F***ing vinyl, man!

*** And that's after a shortened 4-week summer run. Ooga-chaka.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Pacific Rim

I've been raving about Pacific Rim since I saw it opening weekend, and didn't realize I hadn't yet written about it.

It's a fantastic, big-robots versus giant monster film, has the requisite Guillermo Del Toro visual panache, and is a needed film.


I avoid reviews before movies, but I remember after seeing them movie hearing a phrase from one reviewer who said, "This is exactly the kind of movie we need" -- And that resonated with me.

I don't know what his/her meaning was, but for me, movie going has changed for the (far) worse over the years. Theaters not being competitive (not running their establishments like a business), spoilers rampant and tough to avoid on social media streams before the movie even comes out, disrespect and distraction from audience members during a showing, etc.

(Thank goodness for Alamo Drafthouse.)

But then Pacific Rim comes out.

It's a movie meant to be seen in the theater, and it drove people to the theater. It's a genre film, and that genre is "anime mecha" (cartoon giant robots). And it delivered a live-action version of that genre in a brilliant way that pulled in the Neon Genesis Evangelion crowd, and the crowd for which that esoteric franchise isn't accessible or attractive.

It pulled off tropes from Japanese action cartoons in a live-action film, and did so not only believably, but in a way that made people cheer out loud in theaters.

Charlie Hunnam as the lead is solid. Charlie Day is engaging as not over-the-top comedy relief. Rinko Kikuchi is empathy-grabbing without being maudlin -- I would love love love to see a Breakfast at Tiffany's remake with her as Holly Golightly, or My Fair Lady with Ms. Kikuchi as Eliza Doolittle. (Give me a moment.)

And  Idris Elba? Totally sells cancelling the apocalypse. Every time.

It's a fun film to see in digital 2D. And IMAX. And D-Box. Multiple times.

(And I'm hopeful for a director's cut with tons of extras.)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The End of Love

I finally got to watch Mark Webber's The End of Love, which is one of the more beautiful, brutally painful things I've seen in a while.

It's such a delicate, raw film, and I don't want to give anything away. Think of it as a documentary-style, slice-of-life fictional vignette.

Here's the modified logline (since the full version I think gives too much away):
A struggling actor is forced to grapple with his inability to grow up as he tries to raise his two-year-old son alone.
It's a dramatic film -- But not full of drama. It's that real kind of living drama, where each of us are just surviving day in and day out, desperately trying to do a good job with the important stuff we're supposed to do a good job with and not mess up, but messing it up. And dealing with that.

It's a relational film between Mark and his in-movie (and real-life) toddler son, Isaac, and showcases single fatherhood in Los Angeles as Mark (as a working actor) tries to get gigs, pay the bills, and all the while spend time with Isaac.

To be fair, it may not resonate with people like it did with me. I'm an actor. I'm a dad of a toddler son. I desperately love my family (and love being with them). I don't want anything to happen to them. And I worked in an aquarium shop. (But that last one is a real minor thing. But it did ground it for me a bit.)

And, for a few moments in time, I lived through a horrible loss that was -- in those few moments -- permanent.

It's a really good movie. More indie than mainstream, though you might recognize talent like Michael CeraAmanda Seyfried, and Shannyn Sossamon, who I think make generous, authentic appearances as themselves in the film.

Personally, I'd count myself lucky to be a part of a quiet, emotionally important, sleeper film like this.

(As of this writing, it's also streaming for free if you're an Amazon Prime subscriber.)