Day Fifty-Six – Guaranteed to Lose

25 02 2010

Update: I guess this can fall under yesterday’s post about timing, but Odeon has a great sense of it. They will not be boycotting any longer. You can probably expect AMC to quit the threats as well.

Still, the post works in a hypothetical sense. Read on…

I completely understand why AMC and Odeon, in the UK, are upset. The shortened window for Alice in Wonderland not only takes their most profitable section of the theatrical run away, but also puts matters on a slippery slope towards even shorter release windows.

Let’s forget the fact that the “slippery slope” theory basically prevents anyone from ever doing anything of substance. Using that theory, making dinner is just one more step on the slippery slope to obesity. Driving your car to work is getting on the slippery slope towards green house gases burning the skin off our bodies. Making one more poorly conceived analogy about slippery slopes is on a slippery slope to never getting to the point.

The actual AMC, located at Yonge & Dundas in Toronto, I will likely see 'Alice in Wonderland' in if they don't boycott the film.

Odeon and, potentially, AMC’s answer to this is to boycott Alice in Wonderland all together.

I’m not sure what point this makes. If their problem was having to show Disney movies at all, I could see how this might be reasonable. I realize the goal is to make it completely clear to Disney that they are not fans of shortened windows, but by not showing the movies in their theaters, it does nothing to cut off the supply to the public. Sure, I won’t be able to collect my MovieWatcher points if I were to see Alice in Wonderland, but that doesn’t stop Disney from making money from me. It would just be going through Cineplex or Empire.

If they wanted to show their displeasure, they could have done something superficial that wouldn’t prevent them from making the money that the film is sure to make anyway. Maybe pulling the posters and cardboard stand-ups out of the lobby. Maybe putting it at the back of the theatre, rather than giving it the prime retail space.

Maybe not bringing more attention to the film, and the fact that it’ll be available sooner than later on Blu-ray and DVD, by proposing a boycott in the first place.

Sometimes the idea that any publicity is good publicity is true. Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton and the cast of Jersey Shore make a career from being clowns. Alice in Wonderland is being talked about and gaining interest, but AMC and Odeon are just coming off as the villains in this story. The average movie fan doesn’t like the window between the theatrical release and the DVD. The shorter, the better. AMC and Odeon are sounding like the music industry right about now. Instead of rolling with it, they’re trying to set things in stone.

I love the movie theater. The AMC, in particular, offers a great experience, but instead of worrying about the 200+ other movies that’ll be coming out this year, their name is out there for one they may not even be screening.


Day Fifty-Three – Finally, Something Jim and I Agree On

22 02 2010

I have a hard time reading anything about what James Cameron has to say. It usually rubs me the wrong way.

Recently, he said that he thinks Katherine Bigelow should win Best Director, which was noble enough, but then he ruined any sense of that by saying the following:

3D movies have their place if they're made with 3D in mind, but exploiting the novelty will bring its demise.

“Look, for myself, I have already got an Oscar. I’ve got a couple of them, you know… I don’t really need another one.”

He’d still like to win Best Picture though, you know, for the team. He’s already been King of the World. A couple times.

Though graciousness isn’t his strong suit, the man knows what he’s talking about when it comes to technology. Specifically talking about 3D, I would have expected him and I to be on opposing war fronts. I’ve made my feelings about the current take-over about 3D quite clear in the past, but Cameron managed to get to the root of the problem I’ve had with the entire concept without even meaning to.

When talking at the 3D Entertainment Summit, which given my “love” for the format, sounds like the meeting to schedule the End of Days, Cameron made his feelings clear about what’s wrong with 3D:

“If you want to make a movie in 3D, make the movie in 3D! And by the way, it should be a filmmaker driven process, not a studio driven process. I’ve been telling filmmakers for the last five years, [there’s] this whole new way to paint, a whole new set of colors, and they’ve all kind of hung back. Now it’s getting crammed down from above, and people are getting told to make movies in 3D, and it should’ve been the other way around, they should’ve been banging on the doors of the studio saying, ‘I want to make a movie in 3D, let me do it!’ And it didn’t happen.”

This point was directed more at films like Alice in Wonderland, that intended to be in 3D at the on-set, but was shot in 2D and transferred to 3D afterward. Still, I agree with the virtue of what Cameron is saying here. 3D films should almost be a genre in themselves. Right now, Hollywood smells the extra dollar and knows the key to getting it is throwing in an extra dimension. It’s going to make everything 3D, regardless of whether it should be or not.

Cameron hopes that studios will make 3D movies for the sake of making movies with a third-dimension, not just to make a buck.

The current process of turning everything 3D will eventually lead to another demise of 3D if it continues. Hollywood seems to forget about the concept of diminishing returns.

I think there’s a place for 3D and so does Jimmy Cameron. Though we may not agree on where that place is, I think it does deserve to be given the extra thought, rather than being passed around like a collection basket at Sunday mass. The reasons for the demise of 3D the first and second time around was that the technology wasn’t quite good enough. Now we have the technology, but it all has the potential of being over-saturated for the sake of a quick cash-in.

3D movies have their place. They bring a special spectacle that can only be appreciated in the movie theatre. We can all agree that if they are treated properly, they can co-exist with 2D movies in the multiplex. Cameron and I seem to agree as far as that goes, and I wouldn’t have expected that.

Though, where he and I still disagree is that good story-telling and character should always come first. I’m still looking at you, Avatar.

Day Fifty-Two – Forced to Endure in the Dark

21 02 2010

Though my movie experience can sometimes be ruined by people around me, I love to watch movies at the theatre. I’ve made a habit of late to go see at least one movie every weekend during AMC’s AM-Cinema, which allows me to see these movies without burning a gaping hole through my trousers. Whether I go alone or with a friend, I’m usually refreshed and happy when I walk out of the theatre.

Had I not been trapped in the theatre, I never would have subjected myself to the first half of Shutter Island.

That overall feeling definitely has an influence on the movies I see, and my opinion of them, as well.

Take today, for instance, when I watched Shutter Island with some friends. At home, I never would have made it to the ending of the film. I’m glad I stuck around, but with all of the other things I could have been doing, I wouldn’t have been able to sit through the constant shifts in tone and over-done style. But in a theatre, I endure.

I’m glad I did for Shutter Island, specifically, because the ending is what makes the movie. It may depend on it a little too much, but let’s not get sidetracked with that.

The point is that being trapped in the theatre, forced to stare at what the film-maker wants you to stare at does nothing but give the film the best possible chance to win you over. My attention at home is split a million different ways. Whether it’s the way I’m sitting on the couch. The incessant “click-click” coming from the PC at the other end of the room. The flicker coming from the elderly projector bulb, struggling to make full colors in the twilight of its life. My attention isn’t on the film alone.

Not to mention, the novelty of just getting out of the house. You’re bound to enjoy anything a little more if you’re not having it in surroundings that are too familiar. I dropped my brother off at university today and on the way home I got a Big Gulp. This carbonated cup of wasted money was much better than the exact same thing in a can at home. It’s the novelty of having something different that automatically works for it.

This is why I think, and I hope, the movie theatre isn’t going to disappear any time soon. Not to mention, Shutter Island, and every other movie coming out nowadays, seems to be breaking records.

Day Fourty-Nine – Yay, The Carlton is Saved!

18 02 2010

It’s nice to start your day with some good news.

I’m usually the type that’s quite happy to see things changing and moving on. I don’t really feel any attachment to buildings. If you can tear something down and put something even better on top – I’ll hand you the shovel.

Still, there’s something to be said for a building like the Carlton. It’s stood the test of time, under different names and management, but it’s been a mainstay of Toronto.

Though it needed a renovation, the Carlton Cinemas was a great place to watch limited releases.

But, given the choice between a movie at the AMC an intersection up the street and the Carlton, I’ll take my stadium seating in the AMC. That’s why it’s good news that Rainbow Cinemas is taking the time to renovate the building and try to bring it up to par of todays theatres.

I’m not expecting stadium seating or 200 seat screenings, but digital projection and surround sound are a start.

What made the Carlton last as long as it did was its identity to see those hard to find films. Where else could you watch The Cove and Food Inc.? Even with it’s 24 screens, the AMC would rather play Transformers 2 on twelve of them than a limited release picture.

It may not be the best business model, but since it closed down, it opened a hole in the market.

This feels like good news overall for the movie industry. People care enough to get a limited release theatre up and running again. They’re willing to go out on a Friday night to watch a movie that no one else has heard of, rather than just waiting for the DVD.

It’s also good news for Toronto. Or, at least, movie-goers in the Toronto area. Once again, we won’t have to worry about being completely left out. When the nominees for Best Documentary were named, I tried to look them up in Toronto. They were nowhere to be found. In the back of my mind, I knew that the Carlton would have these, but being closed, that wouldn’t be so easy.

Still, all it will take to have the Carlton close again is poor ticket sales. Whether there aren’t too many good films in limited release or the AMC decides to start playing them, it makes it a dangerous venture.

Nonetheless, I wish it the best and I’m excited to go back this summer.

Day Fourty-Five – Happy Chinese New Year!

14 02 2010

Boy, am I sick of hearing about Valentine’s Day.

For the past week, all the news has been about is Valentine’s Day and the Vancouver Winter Olympics. I’m tired of hearing about both.

Take that hand from over your heart and slip it into your wallet.

Valentine’s Day seems to be more about single people wishing they had someone to spend an arbitrary day in February with than about couples sharing their love for one another. The concept almost worries me, as if this is the only day that it’s acceptable to take my girlfriend out for a nice dinner and buy her flowers.

There’s nothing romantic about following orders.

For me and the girlfriend, tonight is Sunday. It’s just another day, made a little more special by the fact that she doesn’t have to go to work tomorrow. We’ll catch up on The Office, watch tonight’s episode of Big Love and I’ll take her home. It’s the same as every other day, and I don’t love her any more or less than any other part of the year.

Nor should I.

I seem to be in the minority though. Valentine’s Day – the movie, not the day this time – has taken over the box office. It’s projected to make $60 million by the end of the President’s/Family Day weekend. That’ll be a record for this long weekend, and it makes me ponder what factors led to its success.

The cast amounts to an all-star game of stars. Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway and a load of others all get together to cash in an easy pay day. It’s exactly like an all-star game. You’re not there to see them at their best, you’re just there to see them in the same spot.

The marketing has been everywhere. I’ve been told to get ready for Valentine’s Day since Christmas. And how perfect is it to watch a movie, based on the day where you spent all your money on flowers and chocolate, on the day where you spent all your money on flowers and chocolate.

In the end, Valentine’s Day, the movie, is much like Valentine’s Day, the ‘holiday’, in that it’s completely manufactured with promises of filling your heart while emptying out your wallet.

Day Forty-One – B-Movies: The Forgotten “Art”

10 02 2010

The main goal of this blog, other than keeping me sane through various bouts with unemployment, is to get me into the habit of writing everyday. The hope is that a by-product of me writing something new everyday would be that I’d have something written by the time this blog is done.

The charm of the original B-Movies is that they weren't aware that they were B-Movies.

I’ve been dabbling in a bunch of ideas and I have one now. Though I’m not quite at the point that I’m ready to share the concept, I’m willing to say that it would likely be in the realm of exploitation flicks. In the midst of doing research for such a film, it got me thinking if it’s even possible to sincerely do a B-Movie anymore.

Not that I go out of my way to look for them, but when they find me, they’re all homages to the  B-Movie. Black Dynamite, Planet Terror and Death Proof all happily claim to be B-Movies, but do so with a self-awareness that doesn’t actually make them B-Movies. These films were made to draw in a crowd that is educated about the genre. Sadly for Tarantino and Rodriguez, that crowd wasn’t too big when Grindhouse was released in theatres.

B-Movies, as they were in the days of the drive-in, don’t exist for the same purpose. These were quick, simple films that would get the crowd ready for the real picture to follow. An opening act for the people everyone came to see.

Jason Statham has the new-age B-Movie market cornered with Crank and The Transporter. Though as far as studios go, WWE Films seems to be at the top of the B-Movie mountain. The Marine, Behind Enemy Lines: Columbia, The Marine 2, The Condemned, 12 Rounds and more to come all ache to be good movies, but are really all just about watching things blow up good.

The term B-Movie is usually given to low budget movies, usually those sent straight to DVD. I don’t agree. I think the new B-Movie is one sold on one merit alone; be it explosions, violence or special effects.

Given that description, you can call most of 2009’s biggest box office movies B-Movies.

Avatar was all about cool graphics and awful dialogue, but left the story behind. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen was all about seeing Megan Fox skimping around as giant car-men rolled around in a giant indecipherable mess. Fast & Furious is Carsploitation for the new generation, in the vein of Vanishing Point and others. Zombieland, clearly enough, is a Zombie exploitation flick.

I think the B-Movie is alive and well, and will continue to be as long as studios don’t become aware of it.

Day Thirty-Eight – It Finally Happened

7 02 2010

Finally, Avatar has been displaced from its #1 spot.

Dear John took the #1 spot for the weekend with $32.4 million overtaking Avatar’s still impressive $23.6 million in its eight weekend.

I’ve only seen Avatar once, but I’m in the minority. Even friends of mine who weren’t into it in their first visit have seen it twice, allowing it to maintain the run it has. Not to mention, those who have a friend who hasn’t seen it are going to watch it again with their one friend. It’s just insane how such a medicore movie has had such support behind it.

'Dear John' got the ladies to the theatre to take the throne from 'Avatar'...finally.

Another factor you can contribute to Avatar‘s success is that this is the first 3D movie a lot of people have been to, at least with this generation of 3D. People are attracted to the spectacle of Avatar and not its merits as a film. I’ve heard “it’s beautiful” by so many people that I’m worried that good, complex screenplays will have to fight even harder to get attention.

From what I hear, Dear John is not much better. I haven’t seen it, so I’ll stop any criticism there.

It does bring up an interesting factor that movie studios have just begun exploiting in recent years – young female audiences. They managed to come out to stop the teenaged boys and potheads from winning Avatar another #1 weekend at the box office. Young females can expect to see a lot more pushed their way in coming years.

I’m completely okay with that. As much as I like my big, action blockbusters, I’d much rather see Dear John than Transformers 3. If they give me some sort of story, I’m all for it. Sadly, summer blockbusters aimed at me have forgotten to do this, but the young ladies get some kind of story, regardless of how sappy or silly it may be.

Still, this is all just distraction until the summer begins. My hands have been tied, as far as helping stop Avatar‘s dominance at the box office. There just hasn’t been anything worth putting my support behind. I’ve been going to the theatre to watch Oscar contenders, rather than the week’s new releases.

At least until Shutter Island and Cop Out come out.