Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Directors of the Third Star Wars Trilogy

It has now been confirmed that in fact JJ Abrams will direct Star Wars Episode VIII.
The original blog post follows:

So apparently a lot of film sites and blogs have it all but confirmed that JJ Abrams is to direct the seventh installment of the Star Wars series. This in contrast to what Abrams himself has said earlier:

 I am looking forward more then anyone to the next iterations of Star Wars, but I believe I will be going as a paying moviegoer!

Personally I am more disappointed than excited by this whole ordeal. JJ Abrams has made some good stuff, but I've never really been a fan of his work, and in particular his work on the 2011 Star Trek film, which would be the strongest parallel to draw to Star Wars. But I do see and understand why others really do like the Star Trek film, and would like to see him helm Star Wars as well. Do we really want to see one guy at the helm of both Star Trek and Star Wars, though? Aren't those two franchises supposed to be locked in an eternal war never revealing a superior victor? Imagine the complex arguments that will be made now when criticising the other franchise's horrible director when your franchise has the same one! The Internet will never be the same again.

Primary source: The Wrap

Now, let me talk about who I would like to direct a Star Wars sequel (which will now have to be Episode IIX and IX), ever since I first heard about the new Star Wars trilogy I had a name in mind, and that was Andrew Stanton. You will know him best as the director of Pixar's Finding Nemo and WALL-E, in the latter he proved that he could pull of big science fiction films, and make it about the characters rather than the action. But I think he really found his footing with the flop John Carter, a film that I really wish hadn't flopped. It can be compared to Star Wars in its variety of alien species, universal plot and the man who lead a rebellion, and won, against the evil lord with magical powers.
I strongly believe that Stanton would be able to bring Star Wars to a new audience in a magnificent way.

That is two films sorted out, Abrams for the first (seventh) and Stanton for a second (eight), but who should take the helm of the last film? Brad Bird (he said as if it was fact). Bird has said that he would not be doing episode seven because he was already busy making other films, but episode nine would be quite a while away compared to seven. If he were offered the role, I'm sure he could shuffle things around. Buzz around episode seven sure has shown that Bird is a people-favourite for directing, and just a short look at his résumé shows that he is more than capable of directing big, fantastical films.
And hey, his most recently released endeavour was Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, which had JJ Abrams involved as a producer. Perhaps it's a good thing after all that Abrams is directing episode seven, maybe he can convince Bird to step in and finish off the series with a bang. And personally I think that'd be pretty, darn neat.

For those of you asking why I've picked three directors for three Star Wars films instead of wanting one to do them all, to make sure the vision remains the same: The original trilogy was directed by three different people; the prequel trilogy was directed by the same man. Case closed.

Yes, I want most of Star Wars to be directed by Pixar veterans, deal with it.

My choice for a third (first) Star Wars director would be Kenneth Branagh. I like his style.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

First Bits of Cinema 2013

I've seen two films so far on this sixteenth day of twenty thirteen, and luckily for me they were two really good films.

- Also, let me just say right away, these are technically 2012 films, but not where I live, so there! -

First of all! On the ninth of January I watched Life of Pi directed by Ang Lee. I had rather high hopes for this one, it was a high contender for the Academy Awards's Best Picture at the time (and was nominated for it later) and it got high praise for many of my film related idols. I even watched it in 3-D (which I am not a fan of what so ever) because some had said it was the best 3-D to date, I can say right now that I didn't even really notice the 3-D, so it was alright. 
The film itself I found to be nothing too new, I had seen similar things before, things that I liked more. The visuals of the film were stunning at times, but seeing how most of the film is the exact same scenario, it actually got old quick. 
The acting by Suraj Sharma (Pi) I found remarkable, and I was rather surprised that he didn't earn an Oscar nod, he carried the entire film by himself. Even when there was a giant tiger right next to him, he owned every scene he was in. 
Overall, I left the cinema pleased, but not really having my expectations met. It was a good film, but it was not a great one.

I watched the second film on the fourteenth, the film by the famous name Les Misérables. I had never seen any iteration of the story beforehand, and therefore knew little of what to expect. The little of promotions I had seen intrigued me, and when it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards I knew I had to go watch it.
I was very wary, I had never seen a musical I had liked to any significant degree, and this was a close to three-hour musical about people living between two French revolutions. If you know me at all, you'll know that this is not exactly the formula for a Markus-film. 
I got into the theatre by myself, sat alone on a row in front of a group of elderly women with tissues on the ready. The film begun, and when the first song started roaring over a magnificent scene filled to the brink of singing slaves I was hooked. This was like nothing I had ever seen before, and I am still thinking about it two days later. 
There was not a single character I didn't immediately love, just one look at any of the characters and you know who they are. The costume designs perfectly compliments their wearers in the right ways. 
I won't go and say that the story is remarkable, but then again, which stories are these days? The point is, Les Misérables did its story fantastically. I am not ashamed to admit, that a few tears actually rolled down my cheek throughout (that's a first for me). 
And not to mention the songs, when I got home I bought the highlights album off of iTunes, and have been listening to it more or less non-stop as I've been working the past few days. 
If I could've seen Les Misérables before New Year's Eve it would've made fourth place on my Top 10 of 2012 list easily, hopefully it hasn't set my hopes for Cinema 2013 too high.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Story is Not King

"Story is king" is a quote that goes around a lot when it comes to film making. Pixar is the studio perhaps most connected to the quote, and they've been praised for it since their beginning. But what if I told you that story should in fact not be king, that it should abdicate?

I'm not saying that story isn't important, but the one thing that is truly important is characters. You can have a fantastic story on your hands, where the wildest things happen in the coolest way you can imagine, but no one will truly care if they don't care about the characters.

It's hard to find films as examples, as most are stand-alones where you go in not knowing the characters (at least they used to be), but in television it is clear. Did people really keep watching House M.D. because of the medical drama? No, they watched because they wanted to see what House would do next. What the episode itself was about wasn't really of any concern, most of the cases were exactly the same, and House came to the solution exactly the same way. It was a formula show when it came to story, but House was a fresh character when the show came around. He was outrageous, he did things no one expected a doctor to do, and people wanted to know why. They kept watching House because he was an interesting character.
It was the same with the Harry Potter books, no one sat around waiting to find out what stuff was going to happen next, people sat around waiting to find out what Harry was going to do next.

I would rather watch a film with "no" story, but with good characters than a film with a good story, but with flat characters. There's a film I like to bring up when discussing story versus character, The Man from Earth. It is eighty nine minutes of a group of people sitting around reacting to their common friend telling the incredible tale of his life. It's the sort of thing you see in Life of Pi to an extent, the main character shares extraordinary events from his life, but there is a big difference. In most films, like in Life of Pi, we get to see the story. In The Man from Earth all we see is the people in the room, the story is told in its entirety on camera from the character's mouth. I think it's impossible to make a film without a story, but this is pretty close. It relays completely on the characters, their faces, their questions, their answers and their ideas.
There is of course a story in the film, I'll grant you that, John Oldman (the main character) tells a story, that is the film. But the story isn't what is important, it's how his friends react, how you yourself react.
If this film didn't have well-planned out characters, with meaning, with thoughts, fully fleshed-out beings, I believe it would've just perished as one of the most boring films of the decade.

Now let's take a look at a film with little to no characters, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Sam has barely managed to gain characterhood through his two previous films, we know who he is, he's a quirky, lovable guy whose best friends are giant robots from space. But there is one character in this film who was so non-existing that I can barely remember any scenes she was in. Carly (as IMDb "reminded" me, not even when I hear that name does it ring a bell), the Fox-replacement, the new hottie for Sammy. I think I remember a scene where she was in distress, that some other giant robots from space tried to kill her, but I can't really remember. I cared so little about her that I couldn't care less if she died or not. I was never screaming: "Noooo! Save her, Sam!". I was never thinking: "How good for her that she made it out alright of that situation.". Whenever she was on screen I just wanted to fast-forward to a scene without her (which is hard to do at a cinema).
The thing is, though, this film had a pretty great story, but through the non-existence of some characters I was not able to enjoy it. I wanted it to be over with. Characters kill films.

I wanted to write something clever for a conclusion, but I can't really think of anything. All I want you to do, is think more about the characters if or when you write a story. Characters are hard to do, much harder than story, but if you manage to create not just a character, but a human being, you are much further along than if you write a hundred-page script about no one.
If you create the characters well enough, you won't write the story, you will witness them live it.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

My Favourites of 2012

As 2012 dwindles into the past and 2013 struts fourth like a rookie cop who fears nothing, I want to look back at yesteryear and tell you what my cinematic favourites were. Now, just to disclose this as soon as possible, I am counting all films that were released in 2012 where ever it was I was living at the time. So some of these films may be 2011 films where you live and, to a lesser extent, some may be 2013 films. But enough beating around the bush, let's get to the goodies.

I have two lists of Bests from 2012, one is a list of the films I enjoyed watching the most. The ones I found the most entertaining. The second list is of the films I found to be... The "best" films, and by that I mean the films that I found managed to bring me into them the most, more serious films perhaps, often more character driven. They may not have been the most entertaining, but the ones where I cared about the characters the most.

This week I will take you through the list of my favourite films of 2012:

10. Rise of the Guardians

I didn't know a lot about this film going into it, so my expectations were more or less none existing. I was blown away with how fun and exciting it was. Many will not agree with me here, but to me it was the best animated film of 2012. I think many Pixar fanboys and girls out there actually were rather threatened by Rise of the Guardians, the Pixar backlash against it has been pretty big, at least in the circles I frequent. I hear a lot about the film lacking in story, being mediocre and just generally a lackluster. But I must say, I cannot disagree more. Apart from the human kids, the story was magical and fantastical, with some of the coolest and most incredible fairy tale incarnations I've ever seen.

9. The Grey

This was another film I didn't know much about, I just knew that Liam Neeson was in it, which is good enough reason on its own to watch a film. Watching The Grey I was immediately attracted to the characters, all of them were fun to observe and I was on the edge of my seating wanting to know how everything turned out for them all.
I am a sucker for survival films, people stranded, having to find their own way home and fighting the elements. So I may not be trusted be trusted on this particular film, I sure haven't heard a lot about it before or after I saw it.

8. John Carter

Aah, John Carter was an amazing piece of cinema. Andrew Stanton did a fantastic job on this film, I'm still sad it did so poorly at the box office that we'll never see the many sequels Stanton has said he wants to make. The title of the film is horrible, and many have speculated that it's the sole reason John Carter did as bad as it did, I can't disagree. A film filled with awesome aliens, universe-sized plot and inter-planetary telegrams isn't really reflected in the title "John Carter".

7. Moonrise Kingdom

This is getting old fast, but I really didn't know anything about this film going in. I knew its title, and that many of my favourite filmmakers seemed to adore it. The film is one of the most charming I've ever seen, its quirks makes me smile to this day. The plot is so simple, but the characters are among the most interesting I saw this year.

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I saw the trailers of this film and fell in love with it right away. I love stories of teens in love, but not being able to fully communicate it to who matters. I've heard that people who had read the book found the film not living up to its potential, fortunately I had not read the book and managed to enjoy the film to the fullest. It's the nicest experience I've had at a cinema this year.

5. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

When I first saw the poster for this film I laughed harder than I had in ages, it sounds so incredibly boring. The title couldn't be more uninspired, and the story it tells isn't something that strikes me as interesting. It was so dull sounding that I just had to watch it, and when I did, all my expectations were shattered. It's hands down the films I've laughed the most out loud at in years. It's an incredible story, about ordinary characters you just can't help but love and loathe at the same time.

4. The Dark Knight Rises

Batman Begins was a completely fine film, not great, but nor horrible either. It was just okay. I did not like The Dark Knight at all, I found it uninteresting and couldn't engage with the characters on any meaningful level. Therefore I was extremely surprised of how much I loved The Dark Knight Rises. It was everything I had ever wanted in a Batman film. I almost can't explain why, but it was amazing.

3. The Avengers

Oooh, The Avengers. What an awesome film. I knew a lot about this film going in, I had seen all of the films leading up to it and I had followed all of the rumours leading up to the release.
From the logo first came up till the last words of the end credits rolled by I was in trance. It was fantastically fun, exciting, hilarious and just entertaining! I watched it in theatres six times, yeah, I liked it.

2. The Hunger Games

I heard a lot about the film leading up to its release, and I was intrigued. A few months before its release I bought the trilogy of books. I finished it in three days. The books were amazing, I've never had that kind of a relationship to a set of characters before. At some parts I was in love with Katniss, in others I hated her with all my might. The film did not disappoint in any way, which is a first for me when it comes to adaptations.

1. Iron Sky

If you've followed me on twitter the last few years you will have witnessed how much I've tweeted, retweeted and retweeted again information about Iron Sky. I followed its production from late pre-production till after its release. I was afraid I had far too high expectations for the film, that it would disappoint me so much that I'd never be able to even like it. But I was wrong, I loved it from beginning to end. I knew the backstory for almost every shot of the film, I could've given a commentary track lasting a tenfold of the film's length, but it was still exciting. From that first shot of the Earth, till the last shot of Mars I was in a trance. I couldn't believe it had been better than I had hoped, I went to see it again as soon as I could, the very next screening. It was still amazing. And it was still amazing the third, the fourth and the fifth time I went to see it in cinemas. It looks beautiful, it sounds gorgeous, if it had a smell I bet it would be delicious.


You may have noticed that this Tuesday's post hasn't been about Jeremiah Harm. That is because I've realised I was far too ahead of me starting a weekly thing on its production. The weeks there has been news, it's been little, and mostly there isn't anything that really is of any interest to most people. Therefore I am now only doing the Jerry Update when there actually are something to keep you up to date on.
There will still, however, be posts on Tuesdays. They will just be about other things film related, it could be reviews of new films, general opinions, news on other films, or just a simple list with short opinions like this week. But I promise you, unless there are special circumstances there will be a post every Tuesday.
Be sure to come back next week for my list on the films I thought the best of 2012.