Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bombs of The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger didn't suck. I happened to like it very much. I consider myself a connoisseur of Lone Ranger and Westerns in general. I didn't have high expectations and didn't read reviews, so I was going in pretty "blank slate". It was original, and certainly a much better take on The Lone Ranger than previous attempts, AND waaaaaaaay better than what audiences think they want to see (a realistic version of a man in a mask and white hat with a follower Indian in the 1800's... which is pretty stupid). It is definitely NOT a 20% Rotten Tomatoes score-worthy movie.

Where'd the BOMB come from? 

It was marketing:
The previews set it up for failure by showing the fantastical stuff (horse jumping off a train car - in a tree - etc). People interested in Westerns were turned off and those not interested thought it looked stupid. Once the movie got to those scenes I thought it worked though.

Another problem is this INSANE idea that Tonto HAS to be played by an Indian. It was a genuine turn off for people and as much as I'd like to see someone like Jay Tavre play Tonto, Depp is still the better casting choice. And did the American Indian voice, look, and essence so well. Also, the crow thing: it somehow became a big deal because it was different. Even with historical evidence of medicine men wearing birds like that, people couldn't get over it and judged it as a bad film because Depp was so clearly hamming it up. Turns out, not only is there the historical evidence, it is also a strongly motivated character piece and something that worked VERY well in the film's world.

If people don't go see a movie, it really has nothing to do with it being a bad movie.... 

BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T SEE IT. And box office bombs are judged as such well before word of mouth has a chance to spread. Not enough people saw this opening weekend to kill the film by the time it did through word of mouth.

But what DOES kill a movie in the second weekend, every time? The critics, and the box office numbers. For some reason, audiences (who weren't excited about it in opening weekend) will read box office numbers from the first weekend like a score card, and judge the movie by that. Reviews of the film won't always keep people away, but when you add that to "no one saw the movie opening weekend" ... they tend to believe it's not worth their time.

It's very strange, this idea: "Well if no one saw it, I'm not going either." Or the fact that a movie will be advertised on TV with a preview and "The number one movie of the weekend" and it be based on the fact that everyone has seen it. And that ACTUALLY influences people to go to the film.

You want to see a terrible summer blockbuster? Go rent Battleship. I stopped talking to a girl after she texted "I saw Battleship yesterday, it was the best movie I've seen this year". You want to see a terribly acted, written, and directed film that people showed up for? See a real trainwreck, Transformers 3.

Here's a good review of The Lone Ranger, since they are so few and far between: http://okc.net/2013/07/09/review-lone-ranger/

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: One in the Chamber

Probably straight to DVD. And with good reason.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Dolf Lundren are assassins, and if that's not a great idea for a B-Movie then I don't know what is. And here's my real problem: Lundren brings his best performance since Rocky IV except that he has lines. So I'll call it the best I've seen of him. And Cuba, he's magnificent in this. He brings absolutely ZERO amount of his usual "on-the-verge-of-crying schtick". He is a haunted and deadpan cold assassin playing both sides of a Russian mafia war.

The problem here is Lundren is handled like a joke, and Gooding is handled like he's going to be up for an Oscar. The direction seems to be phoned in by two separate people that don't communicate.

I'm wondering if it was directed by a married couple. 

Lundren's action sequences are terrible, one opposer at a time type fights and gunplay. Cuba has to deliver some really cheesy over the top dialogue. The final sequence has Cuba taking the reigns on terrible stage direction and shooting up a club before the last badguy walks out with a girl Cuba has been protecting and says, "Enough! You are going to die. The question is, will she die with you."

And it actually takes 3 "Enough!"'s to get Cuba to turn around and find where the badguy is standing. Why this guy wouldn't just shoot Cuba in the head is beyond me... or rather beyond the married couple directing the movie. Clearly the wife wanted to see the emotional interplay of a damsel in distress and her protector (a smart, clever, cold deadon marksman) make the decision to drop his weapon. And the husband wanted the first part of the sequence where Cuba takes out an entire club of badguys without getting shot and without missing a single mark.

I do have to say, I really appreciate whichever one directed Dolf and Cuba's scenes together. There was  a real sense of weight of the battles the two had seen between the two.

This movie has a lot going for it and is worth a watch. But you'll ultimately be disappointed there wasn't more of the stuff you liked and how many little moments didn't make sense to the point you were dragged out of the story.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Collaborative Scheduling Tools for Free - Google Calendar

Keep your film's schedule on Google docs and you can do all sorts of fun things with it. Share the calendar with your cast and crew and they can set up notifications for scheduling changes. Set your AD up with text reminders for 10 minutes before each schedule break and keep the whole crew together! Tie in Google docs, and Google Maps and suddenly you have a dynamic producer's suite. Here's what our Agenda looks like:

(the calendar shows in realtime so scan to Sunday March 27th, 2011. Then click on the call time for 10am - notice the link to the map? That's our production locations so everyone can get specific directions from where they are and where everyone will be. Plus more features are included with the maps such as pictures. You could load in location scouting photos or even set photos for promotional use later.)

More to come with specific tutorials.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Something" *Clicked* Today

Some things come naturally to some people. For me, it is writing. Writing a screenplay - even more so. I just "get it". I "get" the "blueprint" aspect, I "get" the mechanics of how people read over a white piece of paper when they really just want to have the thing "read". I "get" how to represent a scene/action/emotion on a page with black courier font text. I "get" how annoying quotation marks are.

I "get" actors. I get how I often over explain their character to them, that I might have too many ideas to try. I get that they want need as little as possible from me in way of explanation. I "get" it.

I don't get cinematography.

Oh, I have the knowledge. I can relay the knowledge. I can have a conversation. I somewhat understand the math of electricity and bulbs. I know key/fill/back/kicker. I know you're supposed to paint with the light. But none of it ever added up. I didn't get lenses, I mean I know depth of field and composition, but when we start talking millimeters... uh-uh. I can't do it. Can not do it.

Anamorphic, widescreen, ratios... I know these terms, I still don't get why a TV will sometimes squish a widescreen recording and still cut off sides in a letterboxed dvd.

Until today.

I guess working around the lights recently, solving some problems here and there, talking bulbs and wattage and then immediately cutting the footage and seeing the results - a technical education if you will - made it click with me.

I get it.

I think I just stepped up my game folks.

For years, left alone in a world devoid of cinephilic friends and no money to buy those with a cinematographic green thumb, I was honestly terrified to experiment, knowing I had no chance of looking professional without lighting. If I couldn't get a DP on board on the day, I had no other choice but to shut a project down.

Then I thought, "If I just had the $500 it took to buy a light kit, then I could take my time and experiment on my own. Then I'd get it. Well I never had the practical need for lights. So I couldn't possibly spend the money.

So I cut my teeth on wedding and highlight videos. I experimented with framing and editing. With distance and movement. The only real thing I learned about lighting from that was what an ND filter did. And that stepped up my game. The ability to use real Cannon lenses on the XL1 was the first step in an evolutionary process. I learned the correlation between the clouds and F-stops and Frame Rates. Now I can do it in my head.

Then I suddenly needed a steady cam. I obviously can't afford that but there are so many fun looking tutorials online to build one for $10, I had to try.

It mildy works. But what I really gained was a true DIY attitude. What I previously thought was for amateurs, I now realize can actually be for a realists looking to keep working. I often run from "DIY" because my nose is in the air. Or rather, a chip is on my shoulder. I have a deep need to only make professional pieces, it's a problem that has kept me from directing more projects because of money concerns. Being in Oklahoma, people throw around terms like "barebones" and "Do It Yourself" and the dreaded "Independent Filmmaker" phrasing that is supposed to be some sort of excuse for shoddy work! And I'm too good for that!...

(okay... easy... I'm working this out guys - I'm admitting I may have a filmsnob problem - okay? I'm working it out.)

I looked at these lights I used on Player's Court. They were expensive. They were amazing for my project because we were just experimenting with shooting style and character work. The lights helped be something more than that - closer to a visually finished project - so it could now be used to be shown rather than just good pre-production. Kent (the DP) and I talked so much about bulbs that in cutting I now UNDERSTAND the relation between distance and watts and direction.

And I saw that the true value of the professional lighting kits were not the lights at all. It was the "brushes". The barn doors, the diffusion, the things that truly allow you to "paint with light" - or maybe now more accurately, "paint with shadow". And then not just those features - but the system. Want to splash light here? move the barndoor in. want to not be so bright? drop in another scrim.

I had a moment when I REALLY needed a "softbox". Then I doubled the diffusion over and it worked fine. I was proud of myself for that. So I admired my work and recognized for the first time that I understood what I did. *I slap my forehead*
But not just that, I was looking at a clothespin holding wax paper! That's not official film gear! In fact, the fill light was one of those $5 clamp lights from Walmart, except it was black instead of silver and had a really expensive bulb in it.

Then the $300 600 watt light started having problems after the $150 300 watt light's fuse blew.

Then I remembered a number from my last trip to Walmart buying a screw to fit through a pvc pipe cap and in to my camera for the steady-cam. I did some math.


500 watts.



Across the aisle from potential steady cam pieces in Wally-World - a pile of work lights. A variety of builds. Some built to hang, some with nifty stands and wires to keep your fingers out of the burn zone.

$30 will get me 2 lights and a six-foot tripod stand that detaches into this crazy handheld device... Options.

It dawns on me that video is not film. There's a problem with too much light when shooting with video, rather than the way my training with film taught me to see "painting" - a major difficulty with darkness. That means that if I could get a wide enough flashlight - I could probably light a movie with flashlights! Light kits are built from the knowledge of film - you need light. So do I need that if I'm shooting video where light is the problem and the paint is shadow?

TWO 500 watt lights I can point anywhere. PLENTY of light. Now on to the brushes.

Direction - where the light is not.
Diffusion - softening how much shadow falls from the light against objects.
Reflection - changing the quality of the light's direction.

Direction - I'll take ideas for barndoor solutions, but the worklights have lips on them, so thin black metal plates clamped on shouldn't be a problem. You can also use anything to block light.
Diffusion - needed an easy way to carry two lights and a tripod and extension cords. I bought a plastic tub. A white, non-see-through, plastic tub. If I set it in front of the light, the light will not pass directly through. It will be defused. Add layers of wax paper to taste(keeping in mind the potential of melting plastic though - 500watts is some fast heat).
Reflection - line that tub with foil, point the light the opposite way, and shine it into a box of foil. Line it with silk and get it close enough - you have an umbrella.
Color - line tub with color gel.


I don't have to pay to experiment any more. I can shoot a short as the inspiration comes to me and still look professional! It can still LOOK like a movie!

I spent $40 on a light kit.




Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Slow Motion in Final Cut Pro 7

Here's a quick tutorial on how to do slow motion, reverse frames, or even fast motion.

And why rehash everything when this tutorial explains in greater detail all the bells and whistles and effects you can do with "Change Speed" so well. It's not video, but now you can intake at your own speed. Check this one out:


Monday, June 14, 2010

Film Criticism

Being brief, there's a lot to explore here later:

One of the films I saw at Dead Center was For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism” . The following panel was about the state of film criticism as well.

The film turned into a film snob rant on blogging and the internet and how it is killing film criticism. It was easy to feel inadequate as I quickly flashed to my favorable review of Iron Man 2 and even claimed Pepper Potts to be one of the best written female roles in cinema. Yes, I said that. I'll back it up in a later blog.

I also thought about how I do not invoke the entire wealth of film knowledge in to my reviews. And I felt like the group of girls in the film history class that all said they liked Transformers 2.

But here is what I've processed so far. I do know film. I could easily reference any French film with popular culture and tell you why any film didn't work perfectly. I can also tell you the real reason why no one cares to see French films - it doesn't have anything to do with reading the screen - it's that French films have recently failed to expand on and evolve with film grammar. They still largely rely on the fact that they are French.

(I've digressed - imagine that). Anyway,
the reason I don't pull on my vast knowledge of cinema, and quite possibly the reason why critics are losing jobs... is because there is a very clear difference in a review and in film criticism!

Explain to me how you can really provide a powerful discussion and criticism of a film without giving away major plotpoints. And in doing so, changing how the movie is seen. And in doing so, changing the experience and possibly breaking the connections and contexts you created. And then what benefit did you provide a reader?

On top of that, it's commercialism, not the wide variety of morons on the web, that have given way to an attitude of watching only what is new. And that's just the way it is. Too many films are out there now and people want to see what's new.

So to "review" a film and invoke a context (what the director of the documentary claimed is what good critics give their review) that is not accessible by the audience you are writing for is simply the critic showing you how smart they are... intellectual masturbation. And I'm just saying, you are probably going to lose your job writing reviews for the paper.

When a critic pulls an attitude that downs "blogging" and other mass pop mediums and plays it off as silly, I have to take an issue as an Educational Technologist. And when they act as if they are better than mass culture because they enjoy French films and won't review new films because it's pop culture and "I am just going to hate them all anyway", it's hard to feel sorry for them for losing their job.

I enjoyed the film, I loved the panel discussion (as much as I got to see), and the director did say he wasn't anti-web or ageist, and that if he could re-edit he would change how that attitude was portrayed. But you couldn't help but feel the animosity directed toward anyone without a cane or nose in the air.

And so... I've regrettably defended pop culture... I need to take a break... I don't feel so well...

I walked into that film with an attitude that I was know-more-than-you auteur and walked out re-evaluating myself. And feeling the need to defend my reviews. More on this self-made dilemma to come.

Mark one up for DeadCenter Film Festival for making me think.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Iron Man 2 Review

Go see this in theaters. If you are able, go see this movie in IMAX (not the "IMAX Experience" - theater conversion thing - unless you're a sound connoisseur with money to spend, it's NOT a 7 story IMAX screen).

It's too much fun to miss.

Iron Man 2 is what a sequel should be. There's bigger action set pieces, but Favreau lets all that be motivated. There is an honesty to this movie that Michael Bay could really take a lesson from. Favreau's treatment of big action and sex appeal all comes from the characters, it hardly even comes from the plot. And that's what makes the action better.

RDJ is, once again, fantastic. Wait for a small moment Stark spends in the company of his father's memory, and you'll buy anything Stark will deal with or is capable of.

One of my only issues with the first movie was the writing for Pepper Potts. She was, at first, written as a strong woman who took nothing from anyone and did her job well. She later turned into one dimensional damsel in distress, running with flailing arms from the badguy. I thought Gweneth saved the movie by playing it with such great blankness to the script that she nearly pulled it off.

In this film I came to better understand Pepper Potts. And it has saved the character in the first film for me. Paltrow is given so much more to work with but her character stays very true to what my original issue was.

And honestly, I admit the "issue" with the character a bit sheepishly. Apparently I wanted a one dimensional character and thought Paltrow was infusing life and connection between two separate flat characters. After the second installment, I'm won over by Pepper. She is one of the better written women in cinema (I say it unapologetically). Women are traditionally treated to one dimension in movies, and Pepper Potts is far from it. And Paltrow gives us the perfect portrayal. She is a woman. She doesn't want physical fighting. She doesn't have training or the desire to get in to combat. But she DOES take care of business. And she isn't afraid of anyone when it comes to matching wits. Pepper Potts is essentially a normal, innocent human being in a world filled to the brim with one or the other - super power people or fleeing bystanders.

Even though Don Cheadle opens us back to Lt. Rhodes with a line meant as much for the audience as for Stark, "I'm here, let's get used to it, let's move on," you can't help but draw comparisons of Cheadle and his former embodiment, Terrance Howard.

I liked Terrance Howard better. Don't get me wrong, I love everything Cheadle does, and he was very good here. It's just that Howard has this constant sense of discovery and humility all over his face, but then he is unbelievably cool and in control at the same time. Howard's presence was the perfect play off of Downey, Jr.

But what are you gonna do? You got to hand it to Marvel for knowing their budget, giving their terms, and not getting bloated over their success with one film (like so many others, including a little Batman and DC debacle we still haven't recovered from). They're an exciting studio to watch because they are turning a lot of things in the business on its head.

Ultimately Cheadle is the only possible replacement, and he does well. I wonder if most of what I miss is just from the inescapable comparison, and not a real judgement of chemistry.

But, see the movie... Now.