Introductions are in Order

Tarantino has hit his stride again with the Basterds

Hello all, I’m Grant and I’ll be doing occasional reviews on this site. This introduction should let you know what I like, and what you can expect from me.

Favorite Film Genre

From Double Indemnity to Brick I love a good Film Noir. I enjoy the expansive plots and confusing narratives that leave me as lost as the protagonist. I love the ambiguous intentions of the characters (be it the protagonist or one of those dangerous ladies). Also, over the years I may have become so disenchanted with the ‘Hollywood Endings’ that I see a pessimistic film with a downer ending as a breath of fresh air.

Thoughts on Quentin Tarantino

He is a huge dork, but this only enhances his craft. It is nice to have a writer/director who is more obsessed about the film than I am. Tarantino has an amazing ability to let his soundtracks guide his films. His interesting and comedic dialogs are thought provoking and very quotable. Tarantino is amazingly refreshing because he continually provides creative narratives and long tracking shots to improve his story telling. It won’t always be a success (Deathproof) but Tarantino sacrifices nothing during his filmmaking and I will gladly see anything written and directed by him.

The Last Time I was Surprised by a Film

Role Models

Role Models was much more than the shallow comedy it appeared to be. With lines that left me crying with laughter and a storyline that made me care about the characters I was left completely entertained. Much of the credit goes to Paul Rudd and the other great comedic actors.

The Last Time I was Disappointed by a Film

Public Enemies

Even a well made poster could not save this film

Public Enemies had such great potential with great actors, a great director, and a stylistic art direction. But I was never invested, and the blame must fall on Mann. Mann attempts to help us better relate to the characters by using ‘personalized’ camera work. Unfortunately, this hinders the narrative and isolates the viewers from the film’s action scenes. Mann also made poor judgment in the screenplay. Instead of allowing great actors to help the audience explore the dichotomy between Depp as a gangster and Bale as an FBI agent, the film provides us with the slow uninteresting fall of Dillinger. Depicting the rise and fall of a criminal is not a new cinematic plotline.

Out on a Limb

I will defend M Night Shyamalan, even after seeing The Happening. His ability to create suspense is second only to Hitchcock. Shyamalan does a fantastic job of adding relationship dilemmas to the larger plot of the movie. Does he occasionally make ridiculous decisions for his movies? Yes, but I have excuses all lined up for him. Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you about it.

Movies > Television

Television shows are weakened by the fact that they are splintered. One of the main goals of a television show is to incite you to ‘tune in next week.’ All plot devices and character development are built around this. Having to reestablish the context and relationships at the start of every 22 minute episode is usually redundant and awkward. Obviously not every television program makes these mistakes, but this is a time for generalization and I cannot call television a pure form of entertainment. Films are able to be more creative while presenting an uninterrupted message less tainted by marketing.

Why Sequels are Crap

Remember how I don’t like television shows because they are fragmented? Well the same applies for movies which have unplanned sequels. Filmmakers see this as an opportunity to cut corners and plug those old familiar characters in oddly similar situations. Very rarely does a writer or director use this opportunity to further explore a theme or take the series in a new and interesting direction. Occasionally these filmmakers don’t just go for the quick buck, but their sequel still suffers because their decisions were influenced by the praise of the original. Many sequels are vastly over-appreciated, and I think this happens because audience members are reconnected to movies that they love, by viewing the sequels. Because of the lack of creativity and the cinematic shortcuts in sequels, I can count the number of sequels I love on one hand.

7 thoughts on “Introductions are in Order

  1. List them off, the Sequels. Also there is a growing argument that TV is now the new place for true cinema where stories can grow and ferment over time and allowing for much greater character depth. Mad Men, Lost, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Friday Night Lights are all an excellent examples. Though I will give you that a million C.I.S.H.T shows or law and order procedurals are the bane of television creativity.

    Excellent first post buddy

  2. Regarding the sequels, I don’t consider the film a sequel if the films were made simultaneously, but split into different movies (Kill Bill for example). So without further delay, my all time favorite sequel has got to be Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer…wait that wasn’t it. Oh yeah it is The Empire Strikes Back. Dark Knight is also on my list. Turns out writer/director Christopher Nolan feels the way I do about sequels, so he was able to avoid what I hate about sequels. I love half of Bourne Supremacy and half of Bourne Ultimatum so together, they get one spot. And the great action films Terminator 2 and Aliens complete my five.

    After giving The Godfather Part II another viewing a few months ago, I had to take it off the list. The De Niro’s side story portraying the rise of Vito was the only aspect of the film that captivated me. Michael Corleone just isn’t compelling in the sequel and therefore most of the film is dull after you know the story.

    Regarding television, I don’t have much of a problem with HBO shows. They are an hour long with no commercials. Not really the fragmented programming I was talking about. Mad Men is unlike any other show on television, and they do a great job. However it is still annoying that every episode they have to include the intro “LAST TIME ON MAD MEN” to keep the narrative moving.

    Having a character “grow and ferment over time” sounds like a PR pitch to from a show trying to avoid being cancelled. I am glad that these shows that you love actually have developments instead of being the type of television program that maintains the status quo every episode for 5 seasons. But it seems to me that they are creating new dramatic developments as they go, without having a vision or plan for where things are headed. From what I have seen and heard it seems like Lost and Friday Night Lights might be guilty of this.

    Mostly what I am saying is that too much credit is given to the thousands of sitcoms and dramas which are shallow and repetitive.

    By the way, can I borrow the Wire?

  3. While very few TV shows are planned out over the course of thier whole shows running, a lot of creators at least have an ending in mind when they start. I don’t think someone should be penalized for enhancing their show as they go along as the learn more or come up with better ideas.

    When it comes to Lost, the show has known now what it was going to do since the beginning of the third season when they got the end date set and could plan accordingly and you can tell that the creators have planned meticulously a show working to its end over the next 4 years (from when they decided). The creators in this instance have had their last five scenes set in their heads now for years as well, and you can not watch that show over the last couple seasons, and especially now, and not see that these guys are working and have been working toward an end.

    Friday Night Lights does not have a overall branching story as much because they were expecting to get canceled every year and in respect to their filmmakers they made the most by creating great, well thought out seasons three of the four years, and you can tell that the 4th and 5th seasons are going to be more one story as they knew they were guaranteed a 4th and 5th final season and I fully expect the 5th season to be great. FNL has also been great at sending off its characters, most of the time, as obviously some will be leaving as they graduate. So who ever is bashing those shows needs to shut up.

    Also to agree/illuminate your main point about T.V. shows being weak, they are weak because no one ever knows when they are going to end and when they need to get to that final point. I mean I could rattle off shows that are simply meandering because they can’t work toward an end game, Heroes (though haven’t seen last two seasons), Dexter, The Office (though I still enjoy it) are all shows that are telling a story and aren’t simply just a week to week show that have had some serious issues at times/or currently because they don’t know when they will end; so the secret to television success is an end date in serial drama/comedy.

    And also, your complaint over Last Time on Mad Men, come on buddy. Is this neceesary, no, but do a lot of people really need this refresher, yeah. And as someone who does watch a show and keep a pretty good memory of what happened on it I can even be helped by this as it might hint at something from a couple season back that sparks your knowledge on that subject in the show and then allows you to have a better, more understanding experience when you come to the scene it is priming you for.

    And sequels, lets see if I can rattle off a couple more to shake your head at. Spiderman 2 was widely accepted as the best of that series, though I enjoyed the third film as well over the first, does that discredit my opinion, liking 3?. Though, I will say the first 45 minutes of the first Spiderman are quite good. Lets see…Star Wars Episode III if we are counting those as separate trilogies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 has always been held closer to my heart, Toy Story 2, the Harry Potters arguably got better from 3 to 4 to 5 and 6 was still better than half the films in the series. The 2nd Narnia film was leaps and bounds better than the first. I would argue all of the Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum was better than the first. X2 is the best in the X-Men franchise, yes I know I am poking the bear with that one. Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey? Serenity is a direct sequel to a TV show and is better than almost every episode. Hellboy 2 and Mission Impossible 3 (yes better than one, though they are different movie genres almost) I could both argue for. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers EE I go back and forth on with FOTR EE whenever I watch them again. And lastly, I would take the original Alien over Aliens, as great as the sequel is. Ok, that is enough food for thought, reply if you like.
    I might have to make this conversation its own post!

  4. “I don’t think someone should be penalized for enhancing their show as they go along as they learn more or come up with better ideas.”

    Obviously I wouldn’t have an issue with enhancing the show, but it is my opinion that they aren’t enhancing the show. They are milking it for all it is worth. To me, when a writer and director revisit material and try to make it better they almost always screw it up. And that may be the theme as to why I don’t like sequels or television.

    Regarding Mad Men, it is just a small complaint about a great show. If they want to remind viewers of important details from long ago then they should start each season with a montage of clips. But starting every show with a series of reminders is just not giving the viewers enough credit.

    As for Lost and Friday Night Lights, I don’t watch these shows so I can’t really have a discussion about them. But you say everyone who doesn’t enjoy the shows and how they are made needs to shut up? Seems a little harsh… Anywho, I mostly threw FNL in the mix because I heard an interview with Jason Katims and he had no idea where the story was heading and he seemed to be clinging to the two lead actors. But if you say they are doing a good job of sending off characters, then I’ll take your word for it.

    If I invest time in any Television show I will eventually start enjoying it. It doesn’t matter if it is the Kardashians or the WNBA, eventually I will see value in the program’s patterns and nuances. You must be familiar with the television program to truly enjoy it. But with movies, there is no prior time investment. A movie has to win you over without the benefit of a set viewer-ship.

    You definitely helped illuminate a problem that I have with television shows’ ambiguous final seasons. How could they create a comprehensive storyline or a character arc without knowing when the show will end? I can think of plenty of shows with a compelling storyline that were probably undermined for this very reason. I am on board with your ‘secret to television success.’ So, now it’s your job to let me know when a show successfully negotiates its end date, years in advance. Because who knows? It could actually be good.

    Sequels:
    Spiderman 2 – It’s preview was much better than the film. Unfortunately the film was filled with groan worthy lines and scenes, but most importantly the antagonist was much weaker in its sequel.

    Spiderman 3 – Are you kidding? Wasn’t this the one with a ½ hour of Peter Parker ‘acting cool’?

    Star Wars Episode III – It was a tough task to try and bridge the new Star Wars films with the classic trilogy. Although some interesting dark themes were explored, there were again too many groans for me to enjoy the film. There was just too much of what I hate about George Lucas and not enough of his old magic. But let me ask you: which do you prefer Episode III or Return of the Jedi?

    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 – This film removed all the intelligent humor and themes that the first film featured. Instead we were given gimmicks and annoying punch lines for and hour and a half. I did love it in 1991 though.

    Toy Story 2 – I haven’t watched it, but I have listened to the movie while driving to Florida. I think I will enjoy the film when I eventually watch it, but it didn’t seem like anything too interesting was being introduced to the franchise.

    Harry Potter – They all run together in my mind, and it is safe for me to say that I enjoyed the first more than any of the others. We were introduced to a well imagined and interesting world, I don’t think the series has been able to match that since. I also enjoyed it back when Malfoy was an actual threat.

    Narnia – I haven’t seen the second Narnia film, I guess I may check that one out on your recommendation. The first one was very…very decent.

    Bourne Trilogy – I am surprised you like the first Bourne the least. I love that film, I have a hard time finding flaws in it. But it has been a while since I’ve seen it. And as I’ve said I did like the next two a lot, they introduced new themes and cinematic techniques that kept the series exciting. But there were some narratives and decisions made in the sequels that I just didn’t enjoy as much.

    X men – Unless you are talking about the first 5 minutes of X2 (Nightcrawler in the White House) then I have no idea what you are talking about. X2 was not at all compelling, how could pairing up with your enemy to take out a mutual foe have been done with less intrigue? It was interesting that they killed off Jean Grey, oh wait she didn’t die it was just an excuse to make another sequel. And yes, with lowered expectations the third X men film was better than the second.

    Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey – This was a favorite of ours growing up. Sometimes I wonder why.

    Mission Impossible III – I have a pretty good memory for movies I have seen, but this movie was so forgettable. I enjoyed the lip reading scene, that was the only scene I remember liking. Probably Philip Seymour Hoffman’s worst performance of his career.

    Hellboy 2 – I’ve heard good things, hard to believe after watching the trailer. I’ll give it a chance someday.

    Lord of the Rings – Two Towers had the most amazing battles of the trilogy, but to me The Fellowship of the Ring was far superior. Fellowship was an extremely well made film in which Jackson used restraint, the sequels can’t match it.

    Alien – I totally agree, Alien is far better than the sequel. This is saying something considering that Aliens is one of my 5 favorite sequels. The amazing cinematography and messages of the film far outweigh the fun action of the Cameron sequel.

    Oh and for the record go ahead and pencil me in for not liking Hangover 2, Avatar 2, and Shrek 5.

    1. Can you admit that you don’t even give a sequel a chance? And also, how many moments or groans does a movie get before you write it off?

      A little more sequel talk. I like Quantum of Solace more than Casino Royale, though I think they can almost be viewed as one movie.
      Avatar 2 your already writing off? There is a giant star system to explore according to Cameron, and you already have two sequels by Cameron on your very, very, short list. I think it is far to soon to right off.
      Speaking of sequels, the summer season starts next week with Iron Man 2, a sequel that I think can surpass its predecessor and is one of a couple sequels that could do better this year. The Sex and the City sequel has to be better than the atrocious first and hopefully captures some of the charm of the series. And in the same column of can improve but might not be too good still is the next Twilight film Eclipse. Toy Story 3 is a possibility because Pixar is involved. The Predators movie has a decent cast and could be fun but that is actually about all the sequels worth mentioning this summer, odd.
      Anyways, I got nothing much else to say for now but what are you looking forward to most this summer?
      Also, OSS 117 has a sequel coming out this May. It is a French old school Bond homage/parody, I bet you and your family would love it. Line it up for a movie night, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0464913/

  5. First off, I was joking when I said to pencil me in for not liking Hangover 2, Avatar 2, and Shrek 5. I arbitrarily picked those three because they are films which had sequels planed before the original was even released to theaters. It seems like the studios should wait a little longer than that.

    I hadn’t really thought about it, but Cameron has made two great sequels. I guess I should get excited for Avatar 2. Especially considering the Colonel is dead and the character can’t ruin the sequel!

    How many groans before I quit on a movie? 10 and a half groans.

    Just kidding… These groan inducing lines and scenes may hinder my enjoyment of a film, but they are by no means my final judgment. Avatar had plenty of groans but there were also so many fantastic aspects to the film. I was able to look past the faults and I thoroughly enjoyed the film. But when I watched Transformers, halfway through the film I already was in the high teens for groans and there was nothing compelling enough to get me reinvested.

    It is possible that someday I will stop giving sequels a chance, but I’m not there yet. I only realized my distaste for sequels in the past year. In my childhood most of my favorite movies were sequels. But over the years as I’ve rewatched old favorites (TMNT 2, Mighty Ducks 2, The Last Crusade, Return of the Jedi, and Ace Ventura 2) I gradually noticed that the originals are far superior. The sequels seem to depend on the momentum of the first, and for me, they just didn’t hold up over time. The real kicker was when I revisited Godfather II this past summer, and I was amazingly under-whelmed. That’s when I started thinking about the lack of great sequels. But even if I do judge a movie before I see it, I am always willing to give it a chance if it is being recommended to me by enough people.

    You like Quantum of Solace more than Casino Royale?!? Man, you have really surprised me with some of these. What are your reasons? To me, Quantum of Solace has a weak plot and wasn’t well written, but maybe a second viewing is in order. That was almost my biggest disappointment in my intro instead of Public Enemies. I was very excited for Quantum of Solace. Which makes me think, maybe the reason I don’t like many of these films is because my expectations were too high.

    Yeah that summer sequel list is pretty drab this year. Probably the only one I will see in theaters is Ironman 2. I loved Ironman and it’s true that I don’t expect the sequel to be as good. But with the addition of Mickey Rooney I do think it could be pretty good.

    I don’t really research upcoming movies anymore. I’m trying to avoid learning too much about a film before I see it nowadays. Because I never saw the full Kick-Ass preview I didn’t even know Nicholas Cage was in it. Given his character, it was an awesome surprise.

    But anyway, some films that I am aware of and I am excited about are Inception, Despicable Me, and The Last Airbender. From what I know about those three, I think they could/should be great.

    OSS 117 looks fantastic, it is now on my queue (which means I’ll get around it in two years).

    Oh and you never answered my question: Return of the Jedi or Revenge of the Sith?

  6. I have read some of this post. I want to put my two cents in also :
    Alien > Aliens
    Bourne Identity > 2 & 3
    Firefly > Serenity
    Toy Story > Toy Story 2
    FOTR Spiderman 2 & 3 was absolute trash
    X-men > X-men 2 & 3 (origins was piss poor)
    Empire Strikes Back > I, II, III, IV, VI
    Terminator < T2
    Godfather Transporter 2
    Kill Bill > Kill Bill v. II
    Even Almighty > Bruce Almighty
    28 Days Later > 28 Weeks Later
    Fast and the Furious > 2 & 3 & 4
    Final Destination = 2 > 3
    Bad Boys > Bad Boys 2
    Predator > Predator 2
    AVP Be Cool

    There’s plenty more, what do you think?

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