Sunday, December 27, 2009

Entertainment: District 9

District 9 is a mind-blowing (no pun intended - you have to watch the movie to understand) action piece with social commentary. I almost regret not seeing this in theatres, but I wouldn't be me if I turned left instead of right, would I? The special effects are solid, and the realism of the documentary-style filming, and strong story and character development really drive this movie home. A co-worker pointed out how most of the cast was more or less composed of nobodies, and most of the budget went to special effects. A smart move...

Not to beat a dead horse, but this film is a good companion piece to the hit film Avatar (see previous blog entries), due to the strong social commentary. There's been a shortage of brilliant sci/fi movies - and these two come very close, if not being on the spot. I'm a sucker for solid story and character development in movies - I still hold that the deleted Queen Amidala scenes in the STAR WARS prequel trilogy would have made the films a little better than they were - and justify Anakin's virtually baseless switch to the Dark Side (I still need to see the STAR WARS prequel fan edits)...but I digress... District 9 is armrest-gripping as we watch the protagonist/hero delve into the atrocities of the alien concentration camp, and come to revelations about what's really going on - within the camp and without.

Now, my reviews have no intention of giving away plot details and spoilers - I have a notorious history of spoiling movies amongst my friends, and I dare say I have overcome this...shortcoming. Albeit, District 9 has enough action, story, character drama and special effects to keep any movie-goer's attention captivated.

Entertainment: Avatar Update

An old friend of mine/college room mate, and a guy that's got his finger on the pulse when it comes to computer generated special effects I'd say, pointed out a correction that needed to be made in my previous blog entry: ILM is indeed listed in the credits for the special effects work, but it seems that an FX house by the name of Weta
(also listed later in the credits) did a bulk of the effects. You don't usually hear about movies using multiple special effects companies - the media typically focuses on the big names like Pixar or ILM. But it is quite common for one film to use three or more FX companies for budgetary and timing/deadline reasons.

According to, Avatar is at $615M, and the Sunday totals for the weekend are of course not in yet. We'll see if Sherlock Holmes, which is in the #2 spot, will beat out Avatar - but I doubt it. Several friends/contacts on Facebook responded to my previous blog entry/review of Avatar, most of them admit that they are going to see the film a second (or more) time - in one instance to experience the film in IMAX 3D. This obviously is why Avatar will remain #1.

I wonder if Cameron will outdo himself compared to his last movie blockbuster...Titanic.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Entertainment: Avatar is Good

I don't know what all the resistance to Avatar has been. The movie is on record as being the most expensive ever filmed thus far - estimates ranging from $237 to $460 Million, but what else would you expect from James Cameron? Cameron, who is known for creating the Terminator franchise, directing the second Alien film - simply titled Aliens, and also the massive blockbuster Titanic, should be given credit for producing groundbreaking special effects films that do not sacrifice story and character development.

Avatar is spectacular, and is best experienced in IMAX 3D. George Lucas's special effects house Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) worked on this, and has definitely taken computer generated imagery to the next level. The flora and fauna of the alien world of Pandora literally jump out at you in brilliant and luscious color, excitement and wonder. The story, though at first glance painfully derivative, takes some interesting twists, gives us a solid message about our present and future, and actually allows the audience to invest in the characters as the 2 hour and 47 minute journey unfolds. It is indeed a tale indicative of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, as the main character evolves to stand for something by the end of the film.

Avatar's domestic opening weekend, however was not so spectacular - according to some sources, who compared Avatar's opening weekend numbers to those of New Moon (which made twice as much at $142 million). Bad weather and budget are the apparent culprits, but Avatar has moved on to more than make up for a slow weekend having already made $329 Million worldwide -making back most if not all of its colossal budget.

Indeed, one of the first people that ho-hummed the film was a good friend of mine that figured he'd just see it on DVD. Somewhere along the line, he changed his mind and was waiting in line with us on opening weekend Sunday. The line for the 7:30PM showing for Avatar at the Tampa, FL AMC Veterans 24 theaters was long - people were already there for an hour by the time we showed up, which was an hour before the show. By the end of the film, my friend was glad he came with us to see the film - this was something different, not necessarily new, but a fresh take on what's come before. I raved about the movie at work, and with other friends, and there's a lot of ho-hum out there.

I suspect a lot of that ho-hum is dying down, and the still-ho-hummers will re-nig their ho-humming once they go see what all the hoopla is about.