Category Archives: 3D

The Great Gatsby 2013

The Great Gatsby ~ Every time I think of this Baz Luhrman flick, I can’t help thinking about the “Entourage” fictional version Gatsby. Maybe if I keep thinking that, I can also manifest another fake movie from the show, Aquaman, ’cause that one I really want to see.

At first, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to see this new version of Gatsby. I remember vaguely reading it as a teenager, and then being made to read it in college. I remember watching a TV version as an ABC movie of the week back in the seventies and being bored to tears.

The Great Gatsby is a lot of tell vs. show, along with subtext and metaphor that if you don’t get, your English teacher or professor will have a seizure. It’s also full of unlikable characters. It serves its purpose, like say Catcher in the Rye, don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Then there’s the problem of the director. Baz Luhrman, for me, is a creator of extremes. I think his Romeo + Juliet is a work of brilliance, yet his critically acclaimed Moulin Rouge! revels in the mud of my bottom five. I hated it. And because of it, I approach any further Luhrman work with contempt, derision, and caution. The Great Gatsby, seemingly in a similar vein to those two previously mentioned films, is definitely no exception.

I did not hate this version of Gatsby, but I didn’t love it either. It falls somewhere around my impression of the 1970s one, less than impressed, and bored. The leads are strong and perfect had this been in hands of any other director. Luhrman resorts to camera tricks, fast motion, modern music, and even 3-D trickery, and all any of it does is sour and dilute the classic story. Don’t waste your time, unless you’re a fan or morbidly curious.

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Epic

Epic ~ The previews for this flick made it look amazing, with a stunning sense of wonder and discovery. They showed a young girl suddenly discovering a whole new world right under her nose, a battle between good and evil fought by tiny leaf men two inches tall.

You see the leaf men immediately in the movie. I couldn’t help but think this movie might have fared better under a veil if secrecy, sort of like what Disney did with Brave. Let the audience experience the sense of wonder and discovery along with our protagonist, like The Wizard of Oz, allow the magic to be seen simultaneously through the heroine’s and audience’s eyes.

That aside, the film has a stunning voice cast, including Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Steven Tyler, Amanda Seyfried, Chris O’Dowd, Beyonce, and Pitbull, all putting in great performances. I was really blown away by the voice work, in some portions of the movie, keeping it afloat where the story was failing.

Speak of the devil, the story was horribly predictable and telegraphed early on. Again, this is something else that might have been helped by holding back some in the previews. I was also saddened by a less than memorable score by Danny Elfman, that made me wonder if the man has list his touch.

The Bride and I saw this opening night in 2D as opposed to 3D, hoping to save a few bucks. It appeared flat and fuzzy, and I was assured there were no projection problems. I thought it looked drab, compared to previews (in 3D) I had seen. Perhaps this is one of those films, like Life of Pi, that just needs to be seen in 3D.

All in all, this is a good flick for the little kids, although I wish there hadn’t been so many in the ten o’clock showing we were at. You’re better off waiting for the home release however.

Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful ~ Let’s see, what the rules again? Wait an hour after eating before swimming. Don’t get involved in a land war in Asia. You can’t put too much water in a nuclear reactor. Don’t pull on Superman’s cape. And never make sequels (or prequels) to beloved classic films.

I saw this movie weeks ago, weeks and weeks ago. I am still conflicted over whether I liked it or not. It was the second film I saw at the new Marlton 8 theater so the accommodations were fantastic, I couldn’t have been more comfortable had I been in my own home. But why did I have, still have such a problem with it?

Oz is a beautiful film. It takes full advantage of CGI and the 3D effects available to the cutting edge of that technology. Here, we have an Oz that both boggles the mind, but brings L. Frank Baum’s imagination to life. It is fantastic, and gorgeous. Props to director Sam Raimi for bringing the unimaginable to our eyes.

The casting, especially that of James Franco and Mila Kunis, while problematic, is fitting. Franco is smarmy, and perpetually playing (or maybe living) the part he played in “Freaks and Geeks.” He is a stoner, and even here, as the eventual wizard of Oz, if he took a second to take a toke, I don’t think anyone would bat an eye. This time, it works for the part, because his character is a slimy sort, not to say stoners are slimy, but Franco’s is. Bottom line, he’s believable.

Kunis, in my mind, has never grown from her role in “That ’70s Show.” Oh, she’s been good in stuff, and been quite believable, but like Keanu Reeves saying “Whoa,” she is always a second away from breaking character and waiting for the canned laughter after a sitcom punchline. I just can’t shake it. Here, she completely fits as pre- and post-Wicked Witch of the West, and is awesome in her passive-aggressive power hungry and clingy psycho ex-girlfriend role. Zach Braff, a traditionally sitcom actor on the other hand is equally awesome as the comedy relief flying monkey, a true highlight of the film.

Sounds like I liked the flick, doesn’t it? The problem comes with its prequel status. It tries so hard to emulate MGM’s classic The Wizard of Oz. All of the cues are there, except for the music of course. It begins in black and white and goes to color after the twister. There are numerous winks and nods to the original film. And every time it happens, I got a strong “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” vibe.

Remember the Rankin/Bass Christmas special “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”? Fred Astaire plays a mailman telling a group of children the secret origins of ol’ Kris Kringle. Every time he hits a prime power point of his origin, one of the kids says, “That’s why he comes on Christmas Eve” or “That’s where the flying reindeer came from.” That what happens in Oz, and every time we see the hints to the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the glowing head illusion, etc. it pulls us out of the story.

If it wasn’t for those little nudge-nudge-wink-wink moments, this would be a great flick, as great as the underrated sequel, Return to Oz of a few years back. And that’s why I’m so conflicted. I liked it, but then again, I didn’t. It’s still in theaters, so definitely give it a viewing for yourself, and see what you think.

The New AMC Marlton 8 Movie Theatre

I admit I was a bit hesitant when I heard the plan. The AMC Marlton Movie Theatre was going to jettison hundreds of seats in order to install new reclining loungers. I thought it was the last gasp of an already dying, perhaps on its last gasp, local theater. My friends and I called it literally ‘the dead theater.’ There was never anyone there, you always got a parking spot in front, and when the news came that they had finally closed, no one would be surprised. Not in the least.

Allow me to swallow those words.

Twenty, thirty years ago, the Marlton 8 as we called it, because it had a multiplex of eight theaters, a novelty at the time, was the happening place to be on the weekend. It was the place to be seen, and the place to see all the latest movies. Every date happened here. Welcome to the 1980s. Die Hard, The Breakfast Club, Amadeus, Batman, Weird Science, Robocop, Dirty Dancing, even Silence of the Lambs, I saw them here, and so did everyone else I knew.

There was a time, with the T.G.I.Fridays and the long forgotten ice cream parlor in the strip mall, every parking spot was taken and police had to direct traffic within the shopping center, sometimes blocking areas off to kids and other foot traffic. Three months ago, and as far back as maybe a decade ago however, the place was a ghost town. Business had moved elsewhere, into Voorhees with the Ritz, now Rave, and into Cherry Hill with the airport terminal sized and customer unfriendly AMC Loews with a whopping twenty-four theaters.

This weekend, The Bride and I had date night, On the Border for dinner and then Jack the Giant Slayer for movie. As this was the first week the Marlton renovation was complete, we chose there. I was stunned when we pulled into the nearly full parking lot. This was the Marlton 8 of old. Things got better as we went inside.

The lobby got a nice repaint and remodel as well. The refreshment area is a bit different too. Besides new menu items like chicken fingers, chicken sliders, pizza, and oh yes, French fries, there were also two Coca-Cola Freestyle machines. Color me impressed.

We did have to wait a while for them to clean the theater before we could go in and sit. I’m thinking it takes more time to clean individual seats than it did previously to just do a quick sweep. The line of impatient folks waiting to get in were not so understanding. I guess no matter how nice a theater is, there will still be jackasses who complain, and talk during the movie, use their cellphones, and bring toddlers to 10 PM showtimes – no way around it. Damn mankind, we’re doomed.

The new seats are incredible, reclining loungers that come in pairs where can pull up the arm between them and cuddle. They also come with three cup holders each and touch controls to go up and down. Sooo nice. I did notice the theater’s current occupancy was now 115 where it used to be between 200 and 300.

This is an incredible risk for the theater financially, especially when you consider we paid a very reasonable price for two prime time 3D tickets, nearly a third less than we would have paid at the Rave or Loews. I hope it succeeds.

I loved this movie experience. I have a new favorite theater. I can’t wait to go back.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi ~ Well, it may not be the live action version of Calvin and Hobbes, but the moral of the story is Don’t move to Canada.

I saw Life of Pi the day after I saw Skyfall, marking not only a return for me to seeing movies in theaters after a while, but also seeing two visually stunning films back to back. The visuals are amazing. This is notably the first film I have seen in 2D, that was available in 3D, that I have regretted not seeing in 3D. I spent a good amount of time saying, “Wow, that would have been incredible in 3D.”

Told in flashback, in the framing sequence of a man telling a writer of a life-changing event he experienced as a younger man, Life of Pi is about perception. Pi’s family, who owns a zoo in India, decides to move to Canada, with the animals, via a shady Japanese freighter. Shipwrecked, Pi finds himself alone with a tiger on a lifeboat at sea for months. His survival is at the core of the tale, and director Ang Lee makes it all worthwhile with this incredible piece of eye candy.

There’s a kicker at the end, that in the film disappointed me, but had I read the book the movie is based on, I might have hurled it across the room. Yeah, it’s like that. Good thing I didn’t read the book, I’m sure it would have infuriated me. It is the stunning visuals in the film that talk my anger in off the ledge.

Young Pi, played by Suraj Sharma, is fantastic in a role using primarily gestures and facial expressions – and acting for the most part alone, with and against a completely CGI tiger. Yeah, that blew me away. There’s no tiger, it’s all CGI. But that tiger is a hell of an actor too. The adult Pi is played by one of my favorite Indian actors, Irrfan Khan, who folks might know from The Amazing Spider-Man or Slumdog Millionaire, but who I loved in HBO’s “In Treatment.” His performance is both solid and subtlety brilliant.

Life of Pi must be seen, preferably on the big screen, and preferably in 3D. This film will be in contention for several Oscars this year. See it.

And oh yeah, don’t move to Canada, or at least not the way Pi did.

Dredd in 3D

Dredd ~ I wasn’t sure I was going to get to see this flick. It painfully underperformed at the box office, and I wasn’t sure it would last more than a week. Considering that most people only know the Judge Dredd character from that terrible Sylvester Stallone movie from 1995, it doesn’t seem that off of a chance that folks would give this new one a pass. Thankfully however, Dredd has little to do with the Sly film except for the source material. I’m not a big Judge Dredd fan myself, but I have read a handful of the Judge’s tales and know that very little of that movie was accurate.

I was excited about this new version after hearing interviews with its title star Karl Urban (known for his brilliant Bones in the latest Star Trek), director Peter Travis, and writer/producer Alex Garland. It seemed as though they both knew and loved the character, and were going to do Dredd right. The Judge was in the hands of true fans. I couldn’t wait, as far as I’m concerned, characters handled by those who love them are usually done well.

Two weeks out from release I was surprised to find the flick still playing and checked it out. The surprises kept coming. This was not a great film, but it was a damned good Judge Dredd film. I thought about it. I got everything I could possibly want in a Judge Dredd movie. I had no complaints. Besides that, the casting was terrific, the 3D was amongst the best I’ve seen, and the soundtrack by Paul Leonard-Morgan was purchased from iTunes when I got home. What more can I say?

Dredd is not a perfect movie, but I do think it’s the perfect Judge Dredd movie. Urban was on target, we got a story that fit both the standard action thriller genre (R-rated, mind you) and the future dystopian fantasy of Dredd’s world. Unlike most superhero movies, it was story-centric, not origin-centric, that’s a big plus for me. See it if you’re a fan, catch it in 3D if you can. Well worth seeing.

ParaNorman

ParaNorman ~ I wasn’t sure what to think of ParaNorman when I first saw previews for it. It kinda struck a comedic animated cross between The Sixth Sense and Hocus Pocus. It certainly had to be more than just a clever title, right? After seeing it, I’m still not sure. Maybe it’s a bullying parable gone wildly astray after too many trips through the Hollywood idea machine. Maybe not.

In a town founded on the legend of a particularly nasty witch trial, Norman is a horror obsessed little boy with a non understanding family, few to no friends, and the ability to see dead people. Yep, just like little Haley Joel Osmont, he sees ghosts, but most of them are harmless. Except for the ghost of the witch who cursed the town. And in the words of Remo Williams, the adventure begins.

The character designs are grotesque but interesting, and refreshingly don’t stink of Tim Burton’s mind. This is a world where everything is crooked, askew, making it a treat to view. I only wish there were more to the story. There is one neat twist but much of the rest is fairly predictable.

This might be a bit intense for the kids, unless they like horror and monsters. Good watch if you wait for cable or DVD, and if you go to the theatre, save your money and see it in 2D.

Deluxe Is Not Always Better

I used to play the original Elevator Action all the time. The concept had the player controlling secret agent Otto in a 2D vertical scroller as he went from the roof of a building dozens of floors down to escape from the basement in a cool car. Along the way you used elevators and escalators to descend while finding secret plans behind doors, jumping and shooting enemy spies. It was fairly simple but I loved it, and I was good at it. I could play for hours on just a few quarters, and always got through more than a few buildings.

I think there’s an NES version of this but I recall it was just not the same. There just certain tricks to the arcade game that just didn’t carry over. This seems to be by far the case with the PS3 version, called Elevator Action Deluxe. The deluxe in the title refers to better I guess, or at least it seems that’s what the creators want you to think. I think not. If PS3 made the old arcade game, just the way it was, I would be happy as a cat in a tuna factory, but that wasn’t the case.

In this case, the deluxe meant 3D rather than 2D, giving the game a whole new, and not necessarily better look. They also added in bombs and bigger guns, but when you can’t ride on top of the elevators and do other such tricks, what’s the point? This version is still fun to play, easy to beat, but if I’m being honest, I’d rather play the original. Anyone know where they still have an arcade machine of this one?

Bat-Pr0n

Okay, so my buddy Ray, in order to indoctrinate me into the highly addictive world of the PS3, lent me a stack of games he thought I might be into. There were a lot of comic book based games in that stack as we are both comic book fanboys. Of course those are the games I gravitated toward first.

I had tried Marvel Super Hero Squad first as I liked the cartoon and Ray had told me it was ridiculously easy. It wasn’t. So I placed a call to my friend to ask how it worked, how I could get through a certain sequence and to bitch at him for saying it was so easy – especially since I couldn’t figure it out. Ray was out, and I gave up quickly on the game.

By the time Ray got a chance to call me back, I had ejected MSHS and put in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Compared to the previous game, B:AA is very realistic, and add to that, it’s also rather frightening. The graphics and the characters are pretty scary here, as an Arkham game probably should be. I should mention that some of the game is also in 3-D so I’m sure it’s even scarier that way. This certainly isn’t the Lego game. The intro is totally crazy town, but exactly what you would expect every time the Batman returns the Joker to Arkham. We get an inside look at something rarely seen in the comics, but we know happens on a fairly regular basis.

This game, should I ever get farther than the intro (which seems unlikely honestly, I’m not too good at this), should be a treat for me as a fan of “Batman: The Animated Series.” This game features one of the last times those voice actors have worked together. Not only does Kevin Conroy reprise Batman, Mark Hamill is the Joker, and Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn in a story written by Paul Dini. A treat indeed.

The phone rings, and it’s Ray. Okay, now this is important, picture this: I have put the controller down, I’m chatting with Ray on the phone, and the Batman menu is on and running. The image on the television is a shot of Batman, a close-up shot of Batman, from the neck down, the camera slowly panning up from his boots. As the camera slowly pans up, Batman is breathing heavily and flexing his muscles. No face, only the same visual cruise up his flexing sinewy body, with a bit too much lingering at the groin area. Yeah. Got it?

I look up and notice this. All I can think is “Oh my God, what the hell am I watching?” and then the real hammer hits me, “Oh my God, I’m watching Bat-pr0n!” At least there aren’t any Bat-nipples in this game… that I know of…