Sunday, November 19, 2017

Movie Review: Thor Ragnarok

Paul G Newton's Review of Thor Ragnarok

I finally gave in and went to see the heralded Thor Ragnarok last night.  I did not want to see it, really, but many of the screen writing podcasts I have been listening to, like The Curious about Screenwriting Podcast, seem to love the story. While I felt it had some relative fun aspects to the movie, I did not feel that it left me wanting to see more or other films.

The story structure seems sound, its flow was not interrupted with randomness or unnecessary scenes that failed to complete the mission of furthering the story. It did have redeeming character traits that made the characters somewhat like-able and, on first watch, the story seemed succinct. That did not spur my imagination and left me with a feeling of emptiness when leaving the theater. It was not a bad movie and it did everything right in the way that movies are doing them today but it didn't do what I want a movie to do and create a lasting impression upon my psyche that I can carry with me on my travels through my own life.

I do have to applaud the movie for trying to stay true to its roots in the 1970's, 1980's motif that the first one had with its cheesy subtitles and crummy music but even that left me rolling my eyes because of the recent phenomena of the Netflix Stranger Things. It actually cheapened it for me because I hate pandering, especially in film where the movie has to hold its own for the sake of itself. Even though, I must admit that no movie seems to do that these days. A practice that I believe should still be first and foremost in the minds of the creators of any film yet has seemed to fall out of favor.

The film opens with Thor being trapped by a Devil looking creature that makes no honest sense to anyone like myself... but there is a reason for the creature as is blatantly and needed for the movie to have an ending. Unfortunately for this film I knew exactly what this characters purpose was at about three minutes in. Ultimately telling me the ending of the movie and leaving no suspense or tension to make me WANT to keep watching. Then it did it again and again... Every new character that was introduced strengthened my guess and eventually left me with two hours of my time taken from me while draining my pockets of the money it took to purchase the ticket. At the end of the film I found myself ultimately disappointed in the plot and story because at no point did anything task my senses or make me second guess the ending that was already completed in my mind. In fact, the only other movie that was more blatant about its ending at the very beginning was a terrible film that had so much potential but the worst story ever called "The Others" starring Nichole Kidman. This movie is about a mother and her children whom are haunted by ghosts but it turns out that they are actually the ghosts. Something that was very thinly veiled at the beginning leaving nothing to the imagination and thus ruining the story.

One thing that immediately set off my alarms is when Thor losses his hammer just shortly after his father dies.  The only recourse for the character is to take the throne from the bad bad lady in the Maleficent outfit and kill her with the thing holding Thor prisoner at the beginning of the movie. I mean they didn't even try. The fact that her horns and the horns of what could be mistaken as the devil from "Pick of Destiny" look exactly the same are just some of the dead give aways. Needless to say, any entertainment value from this movie could only come from the crude and silly jokes, insider trading of the Avengers prior films and fighting. None of which actually advance the story or make any sort of coherent point that might stimulate anyone other than fan boys who would watch any Marvel movie with exuberance just because it is a Marvel movie, regardless of its content or quality.

I tried to enjoy the movie, I truly did. The laments of Thor as he tries to be cool but just isn't are humorous and normally might make him more human but fail miserably and only serve to throw us out of the film and remind us that we are in a theater and not somewhere else. Then there is the CGI. It is supposed to be the state of the art but it looks horrendous. None of the places looked real to me at any point other than the short scene on earth where they are talking to their father. Everything else was half baked and cheap. I know what it takes to make stuff in computer land look real and have done it myself and I assure you, it could have been done much better for an extra couple of hours worth of work. Not only do the locations look very fake and seem to make us want to believe that outer space exists in the land of Roger Rabbit all of the animated characters look equally bad. At no point did I ever believe Hulk was in the same room as Thor and not just some cartoon skillfully drawn but poorly colored.

I would say this movie is worth a watch on Netflix or Amazon Prime but that is about as far as I would go. It isn't a terrible movie but it's not that great either. Movies should challenge us, make us want to be right next to the character on the screen and endear themselves into our psyche when we are done watching them. True cinematic gold must contain something of lasting value that stays with you. Thor, Ragnarok doesn't even come close to doing this on any level and it is a waste of time. If you want pure entertainment for the sake of entertainment, watch something else because this doesn't even accomplish that. Terminator 2 is better at just tantalizing your brain, probably because it's endearing and leaves you different than you were before you saw it the first time. Something this movie and most of its contemporaries fail to do.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Making Films on Zero Money. WE CAN DO IT!

We all have it in us, a story that needs to be told.  Some act upon it, some aren't aware of it and some, well... some are like me and consumed by it.  I have always been able to come up with a story just by looking at an object, observing people or just sitting on my couch doing nothing.  These stories have consumed me and have bored me.   Some have made me pace around the house looking for the right words to transpose upon paper or type into a document.  It is these stories that have driven me to make films.  I admit, I tried writing a book or two in my life, but the training that I needed to make them coherent I just didn't have.  On the other hand, making them into a visual story has always been something I inherently have a talent for.

I began making films a very long time ago. Ok, not that long ago, but far enough in the past that I did not have access to the tools to even attempt to do it right. Even 10 years ago the cost of making a film was too high for a first timer. Now the time is right. Filming has become accessible to the lowest on the totem pole for a small amount of money.

In 1991 Richard Linklater made a movie called "Slacker". It was arguably a film that made history. The film was done for around twenty five thousand dollars and was shot with actors that were less than trained, with a few that were. It was mostly incoherent prose and conspiracy theory mixed with nonsensical dialogue. With all of that, it still won film festivals and even played at Sundance, ushering an "independent film" sub genre.

After "Slacker" we saw another indie film that rose to stardom and launched many careers of Pop Culture Icons. Kevin Smith's cult classic "Clerks" makes many of the same arguments and has conspiracy theory throughout but in the form of Comic Book references and crassness (of which I love tremendously). It's success spun off many movies, TV show pilots and even a Saturday morning cartoon. This film is as eerily the same as slacker as it is different.

A phenomenal success and a very cheap film to make, "Clerks" was shot in black and white in a world of color only because they didn't have enough cash on hand to buy the color film stock.

Even though these films were made for "nothing" in comparison to even the cheapest of the movies in the 1990's, they still cost the equivalent of Fifty and Thirty thousand dollars in today's money, respectively.  For the average man or woman in even the middle class of American society, these amounts are pipe dreams. Who in their right mind would spend an entire years salary or max out a bunch of credit cards to make a movie that might possibly never be seen by anyone? I would, if I had it to spend, but that's just me and I don't.

Since it has been deemed financially unattainable to pay for a film out of my own pocket I work very hard at making them for FREE.  Yes, I said FREE. Well, they aren't technically free, I suppose.  I did buy the camera and the lenses as well as the computer and other nefarious items that I probably don't need to tell an effective story.  But lets not ponder on that too long, right now.

Everyone with a modern smart phone can make a film for free.  All you need is dedicated people to surround you. If you want to make a movie that doesn't look too bad and it sounds good you can definitely do it for a few thousand dollars in equipment and about a hundred hours of you tube learning about lighting and camera composition. Get a boom mic, a pole to put it on a DSLR and about three lights. You probably wont make the next Hollywood Blockbuster but you WILL make something special to you and the people that helped create it.

So now, It's up to you... and me, I guess.