Random Factoid #535

14 01 2011

At the end of 2010, we heard plenty of prominent members of the filmmaking industry weighing in on the future of 3D.  I think James Cameron put it best when he said something along the lines of “it’s going to be a tool in the arsenal of filmmakers, much like color and sound.”  In my opinion, the sooner it becomes a serious filmmaking tool, the sooner it becomes eradicated as a marketing gimmick. And I think we are all ready for the 3D-conversion phase of Hollywood money-grubbing to end.

So, to quote Steven Zeitchick of The Los Angeles Times‘ title, “Why is everyone so on Baz Luhrmann for a 3D ‘Great Gatsby?’”  Here’s some of what he said:

“As the Aussie provocateur said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — at a panel moderated by our colleague Geoff Boucher; you can watch a video clip here — the director is debating shooting his F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation using that Z-axis. The logic, as recalled by Boucher (who spoke to Luhrmann at length about the issue), is that when we see a drama on the stage, we’re able to observe various levels of detail through the use of foreground and background. The 3-D format simply allows for the same experience on the screen.

Luhrmann is always shaking up the status quo, so it shouldn’t surprise us that he might try to marry a classic 20th century story with a 21st century format. He also seems to thrive on the negative reaction (which makes the irate, can-he-be-stopped reactions more than a little funny.)

And he clearly loves the grandiose; when we interviewed him about this project a few years ago he said (with appropriate grandiosity) that his ambition was nothing less than a movie that spoke for our gilded age. (‘People will need an explanation of where we are and where we’ve been, and “The Great Gatsby” can provide that explanation,’ he said.) What better way to make that kind of grand statement than to have Nick Carraway and Daisy Buchanan in three dimensions?”

Luhrmann is the perfect director to give the 3D tool on a movie that doesn’t particularly need the tweaking a trial run.  Audiences can see it done in his zany style and decide through their money whether or not it should continue to be done.  It’s pretty hypocritical for people to go crazy when Luhrmann suggested shooting “The Great Gatsby” in 3D because a similar risk was taken by James Cameron with “Avatar.”  3D was for animation and corny movies to throw things at an audience; it was not for serious filmmaking.  Now, thanks to his lead, directors like Martin Scorsese are shooting movies in 3D.

Filmmaking is about advancing the craft, and if we remain stagnant, it will die out and wind up like pottery.  I don’t want our great form of art and entertainment to become irrelevant, so YES, I am behind Baz Luhrmann.  (If he fails, we still have Fitzgerald’s book and the 1970s movie.)

Random Factoid #517

27 12 2010

In Random Factoid #464, I talked about an article that quoted James Cameron as saying that we are 8-10 years away from glasses-free 3D.  Today, I bring good news that we could be even closer.

Apple has reportedly patented glasses-free 3D technology that “will actually only produce ‘pseudo-holographic’ images, but according to the company’s newly granted patent for the technology, those images will be ‘virtually indistinguishable from viewing a true hologram.'”  So, in other words, it’s a new dimension in computers that will make the iPod and iPad’s cultural impact look like absolutely nothing.

The obvious first impact will come from Apple’s programs, like maps, weather, and all the stuff you can’t delete from your iPhone.  Then, the app developers will go wild with it.  Soon enough, filmmakers will rush to make the first holographic movie, a race that will probably be filled with James Cameron wannabes.

So, did we just hear the first shot of a revolution?  Or is this just another cool Apple innovation?

Random Factoid #464

4 11 2010

Whatever you say, James Cameron.

According to 3D’s biggest cheerleader, “Once we get to auto-stereoscopic, that’s watching 3D without glasses, it is going to be the way we watch all of our media. That’s probably eight to 10 years away.”  Apparently two dimensions haven’t been enough to satisfy moviegoers for over a century, so now we have to watch everything in an extra dimension from now on?

He predicts that just like color made black-and-white movies obsolete, the third dimension will make the second go the way of the dinosaur.  At the moment, I don’t think I’m ready to have every movie in 3D, mainly because I don’t feel like every movie needs it.  Even when the technology becomes available, it’s going to take several more decades for the technology to trickle down into the price ranges of independent filmmakers.

But until then, can you imagine a time when your movie theater is all 3D?  When there isn’t a 2D Best Picture nominee?  When you show your kids a 2D movie and tell them that all movies used to look like this?

So I’m calling it: as soon as everything is in 3D, James Cameron will be making “Avatar 4D,” a revolutionary experience in adding yet another dimension to your moviegoing experience.

Random Factoid #452

23 10 2010

If you really knew me (to steal a conversation starter from MTV), you’d know that I’m not big on fashion.  Especially at the movies.

Excuse me for not caring what I wear in front of a room full of strangers when we are going to be sitting in the dark for two hours staring at a screen.  I don’t think it’s an uncommon feeling; the only time I’ve ever heard of people dressing up to go see a movie is for “Sex and the City” when the women all get in some snazzy dresses (which is a HUGE waste).

Oakley is apparently convinced that everyone is like the hip “Sex and the City” crowd and has unveiled a special pair of 3D glasses to tie-in with the release of “Tron: Legacy.”  Priced at $150, the glasses are a perfect buy for all those who care about looking fashionable in the dark.  I’m sorry, but I’ll take the free pair of Wayfarers over these overpriced stylish shades any day.  Considering that I paid $50 less for a really nice pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses last year that give me infinitely more utility, there’s no way in hell you would catch me buying these things.

Now, if Oakley came out with 3D glasses that could transport me to Pandora or something for the release of “Avatar 2,” then I’d be more interested…

Random Factoid #439

10 10 2010

The score now stands at: moviegoers – 1, 3D – still too many conversions.

On Friday, Warner Bros. announced that they would abandon plans to release “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” in 3D because the conversion was not satisfactory.  All I can say is where was this logic when “Clash of the Titans” was being converted?  Here is the studio’s exact statement:

“Despite everyone’s best efforts, we were unable to convert the film in its entirety and meet the highest standards of quality.  We do not want to disappoint fans who have long-anticipated the conclusion of this extraordinary journey.”

There aren’t very many times that a studio makes me feel like I, the moviegoer, matter that much.  But with this kind of news, I definitely feel important.  Along with many other dedicated fans, I have protested being ripped off by these hasty conversions for four unwarranted dollars.  However, by acknowledging that a bad conversion isn’t worth the alienation of fans, I certainly feel like I count for something.

All those complaining 3D factoids really weren’t for nothing then, I guess.

UPDATE 10/11: /Film has the whole story.  Check it out.

Random Factoid #427

28 09 2010

WARNING: Today’s factoid is pretty much a rant in the style of “Really?” from SNL’s Weekend Update.

My opening statement comes from some wonderfully sardonic writer at Cinematical:

You may recall that many ‘Star Wars’ fans were unhappy with the prequels, and that as a consequence of the fans’ anger, Episodes I, II, and III are only the 7th, 30th, and 12th highest-grossing films of all time, with a combined worldwide gross of just $2.4 billion. Duly chastened by this catastrophic failure, George Lucas announced Tuesday that those prequels, along with the three original films, will be re-released in 3D. This will fix everything, since the main thing people didn’t like about the prequels was that watching them didn’t require special glasses.

Really, George Lucas?  You are rereleasing the “Star Wars” movies in 3D?  Your estimated worth is over $3 billion; isn’t it time to stop trying to make money off the “Star Wars” trilogies and just move on?  You haven’t directed anything other than that series since 1973, so maybe a new project could do you good!  When you are that rich, you aren’t allowed to shamelessly money grub like this!

And really, 3D conversions?  We still have to put up with you?  I thought you were going to DIE with M. Night Shamalamadingdong’s reputation.  I’m sorry, but I’m not so desperate to see a movie in 3D to see a movie that gets a cheap-o conversion, nor am I so desperate to see the original “Star Wars” movies like my parents saw them in a theater.

I don’t have the incredible wit and biting humor of Seth Meyers, but that’s my best stab at the ridiculous news emerging today.

REVIEW: The Final Destination

8 08 2010

It’s not easy to make death laughable, but “The Final Destination” does it with ease.  Never has death been so fun or bizarrely hilarious.  The movie doesn’t deliver on horror or thrills, largely because we know the end result: everyone is going to die, and the fact that the set-ups are so ridiculous doesn’t help to build any suspense.

The movie is another glorious entry into the “so bad it’s good” collection, all because it can successfully make entertainment out of the morbid.  I’m not sure if they intended it to be so comedic, but it’s not like these people are dying of heart attacks or cancer.  They die from being sucked into the bottom of a pool and being nailed by a rock ejected from a lawnmower. These are bloody, gruesome deaths being displayed in front of our eyes for amusement, which is actually kind of sick.  It’s able to bring out the sadist in all of us, a fairly impressive feat.

The deaths keep coming and coming for 75 minutes, which is probably what you want if you decided to watch “The Final Destination.”  You might be better off watching one of the first three entries in the series, which apparently have a little more originality on top of the predictable plot.  But if you’re looking for shameless, unabashed joy in watching people die and nothing else, the plotless fourth installment is the best bet.  C /

REVIEW: Step Up 3

4 08 2010

While base ticket prices at my favorite theater have slowly become more and more expensive, the 3D premium price has stayed at a constant $3.  Yet in the past few weeks, they have raised that price to $4 per ticket.  For some movies, I’m willing to pay that premium on top of the exorbitant ticket.  For movies like “Step Up 3,” however, I’d be willing to pay just that $4 premium.

This is a movie that falls perfectly into a category I like to call “bearably bad.”  It is a complete joke, something that should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen a trailer or realized it to be an ugly stepchild threequel to its legitimate predecessor.  Everything about the movie oozes corniness.  But what makes it bad is what makes it so terribly good.

There’s a certain mindset that you have to enter when you see a movie like “Step Up 3” – or at least that you should enter if you want to get any sort of enjoyment out of it.  You have to forget that actors are supposed to act.  For the movie, they just need to look good and dance well.  How else could a former Abercrombie model get a lead?

You will also need to forget how people talk in the real world.  Every other line offers you a chance to laugh at the ridiculousness of the movie.  Finally, you will have to forget what a real movie is like, having to accept the string of dialogue that passes for a plot, incoherently leading to dance competition after dance competition.  And why should you care?  If you watch this movie to be blown away by its narrative power, you need serious help.

As for the dancing, which is the movie’s main attraction, it’s entertaining enough.  There’s nothing particularly mind-blowing or much more special than videos you can find on YouTube.  But you have to see it in 3D, right?  Don’t bite the Hollywood marketing bait; see dancing in real 3D and go find them exhibiting their skills in studios or on the streets.  C /

Random Factoid #318

11 06 2010

Well, isn’t this disgusting.

Good Houskeeping tested 3D glasses at theaters in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut and found that NOT ONE PAIR was sterile.  How gross is that?!  The study reports:

“3D glasses given out at cinemas were found to be contaminated with bacteria that can cause conjunctivitis, skin infections, food poisoning, or even sepsis or pneumonia…”

That’s great, I really wanted a pneumonia when I went to see “Shrek Forever After” in 3D.  For those in need of comfort, listen to the end of the sentence above:

“…but docs say that the germs found are no more threatening than what you find on the arm rest, box of popcorn, or movie seats.”

So as much as I would love to use this as another point against 3D or an excuse to turn people away, I really can’t.  Because if I didn’t start bringing plastic covers for the seats or wearing plastic gloves to handle concession items, it would be incredibly hypocritical.  But there’s definitely something disconcerting about knowing the glasses that you put close to your eyes can have such disgusting bacteria on them when they could be clean!

Random Factoid #281

5 05 2010

Following a series of linked posts the other day, I wound up at this interesting USA Today article: “What happens to those 3D glasses after Avatar?”

Here’s an excerpt, featuring some pretty astounding statistics:

Laid end-to-end, the 3-D glasses worn by avid Avatar-goers since the blockbuster movie opened 46 days ago would reach from Los Angeles to Angmagssalik, Greenland — about 3,987 miles.

That’s a whole lot of plastic. With about 75% of people who see Avatar seeing it in 3-D, it works out to about 42.1 million pairs of glasses worn, or 935,834 a day.

Four companies provide 3-D systems for showing the wildly popular sci-fi epic in the USA: Dolby Laboratories, IMAX, Real-D and XpanD.

Each has a recycling program in place, for hygiene and to keep what would otherwise be a mountain of plastic out of landfill.

Real-D has the lion’s share of 3-D projection systems in the USA, accounting for at least 700,000 3-D glasses used a day. It distributes cardboard containers so movie-goers can recycle their glasses. According to Real-D’s Rick Heineman, the glasses are shipped to a cleaning facility near Los Angeles, where they’re sanitized, checked for defects, repackaged and shipped out.

Real-D provides the glasses for most of (if not all of) the 3D movies I see.  I must say, their cleaning facility is slacking.  When I went to see “How to Train Your Dragon,” there was a humongous scratch on my lens!  If you know me or have read any factoids, then you can probably guess this did not make me happy.  Eventually, I was able to get past the scratch and enjoy the movie.  But if that scratch had been on the lens during “Clash of the Titans,” I might not have been so kind.

I have a good pair of 3D glasses hanging from the karaoke machine in my room.  Maybe I ought to keep them in my car and take them to all 3D movies I see.  Can’t trust Real-D anymore.

FEATURE: More Reflections on “Avatar”

22 04 2010

With the release of “Avatar” on Blu-Ray and DVD today, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the impact and legacy of the biggest movie of our time.

First of all, let’s go back to the movie itself.  Back in December (after seeing it at the earliest IMAX 3D showing on opening day), I gave it a solid “A.” I saw it again at the end of March, and I still stand by that rating.  Here’s some of what I said then:

”Avatar” is breathtaking moviemaking at its finest, with astonishing visuals that are designed to do more than just floor you.  They engulf you and transport you to Pandora, a land of untold beauty complete with its own indigenous people, language, and wildlife, for an exhilarating ride and fascinating experience.

“Avatar” isn’t just a movie; it is a full-scale experience that your visual cortex will never forget.  If it is the future of cinema remains yet to be seen, but it will most certainly usher in a widespread acceptance of the motion capture technology.  The movie also secures its fearless helmer a place among cinema’s greatest pioneers, and it could even reinforce his self-bestowed “king of the world” title.

“Avatar” is one of very few movies of the past decades that deserves to be called an epic.  Everything is bigger and grander than we have ever experienced before in a science-fiction or action movie.  It is a tremendously ambitious movie, and director James Cameron gives his vision every tool to succeed.  Whether you like the final product is up to you, but it’s pretty hard to deny that the movie is of epic proportions.

I think that the mere size of the movie has led to some massive exaggerations of opinions.  Normal people who didn’t absolutely love “Avatar” immediately say they hated it, and if they did love the movie, it’s their all-time favorite.  The same kind of feelings spread into awards talk too; people were either completely behind “Avatar” winning Best picture or vehemently opposed.  Very few people seem to take moderate, or even less extreme, stances.  My two cents here: it’s fine to just like “Avatar” rather than love it or loathe it.  There is not a problem with just kicking back in your theater chair and being transported; you don’t have to be wowed or disenchanted.

I do have to share the most extreme reaction to the movie that I heard of – and this is not a joke.  There is a syndrome called “Avatar Blues” that psychologists are actually studying.  Large numbers of people flocked to the Internet to discuss the depression that they felt after seeing “Avatar.”  It may not be what you think, though.

Ever since I went to see “Avatar,” I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na’vi made me want to be one of them. I can’t stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it.  I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in “Avatar. (posted by “Mike” on an Internet forum)

You might not have been so blown away by the world of “Avatar” that you felt clinically depressed, but you had to have felt something.  Even if the story wasn’t your cup of tea, it’s hard not to have been struck by how intricately the movie was put together.  When I saw it a second time, I was floored by the impeccable attention to detail and just how thorough the world of Pandora was designed.

“Avatar” also brought consciousness of 3D and IMAX to a greater multitude, many of whom had never experienced either beforehand.  The movie absolutely blew away what we thought we could experience in the two mediums, and it has single-handedly been the catalyst for much of 2010’s discussions.  Because of the smashing success of “Avatar,” every theater owner is rushing to up his 3D theater count.  Our wallets have already begun to feel the pain from these additions with the soaring price of 3D tickets.  In addition, every studio is rushing to shoot their next big movie in 3D (acceptable) or convert their already complete movie into an extra dimension (unacceptable).  James Cameron has now become the wise owl in the tree on the matter, offering cautionary words to the future of the rapidly growing 3D market:

I draw a distinct line in the sand between films where you have no choice — “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Indiana Jones”, James Bond movies, “Terminator 2” — I would love to see all those films in 3-D and the only way to do that short of having a time machine, is to convert them. Now, on the other hand, if you’ve got a movie that’s coming out in seven weeks and you wake up one day with a wind bubble saying, I want to turn it into 3-D, that’s probably a bad idea. “Clash of the Titans,” even though it made some money, has set off this controversy that we’re going to piss in the soup of this growing 3-D market. If you want to charge a premium ticket price you have to give people a premium experience. So I’m against slapdash conversion. And I’m against anyone who’s making a major tentpole movie whether it’s a new Spider-Man film or a new Pirates of the Caribbean film and they want to release it in 3-D but they don’t want to take the time and the energy to shoot it in 3-D. Again, they’re charging the audience for something that they’re not delivering.

And what about all that money it made?  Simply put, “Avatar” is the highest-grossing movie ever because it was more than a movie; it was a true cinematic event.  It was a movie that returned the urgency to take the whole family to the theater, and people were willing to spend the extra money to enhance their experience.  Once everyone saw the movie, they knew that watching the DVD or Blu-Ray simply wasn’t going to thrill them in the same way.  So they went back to theater and saw it one or two times more.  How else do you explain the movie’s opening only counting for 10% percent of its total revenue?  How else do you explain the minuscule weekend attendance drops?  How else do you explain the fact that “Avatar” made more money in its second through seventh weekends than any other movie made in the same frames?  Perhaps most telling of all, how else do you explain that 124 days after its first day in release and the day it is released on video, it is STILL in the top 12 at the box office?  You can’t deny it; “Avatar” is simply a phenomenon.

And if you think I’m finished now, that was just the impact of “Avatar.”  Now moving on to the legacy…

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REVIEW: Clash of the Titans

3 04 2010

It’s a pretty rare feeling for me to walk out of a theater feeling scammed.  But as I pitched my 3D glasses in the eco-friendly disposal boxes outside my theater, that’s exactly how I felt.

After seeing the success of “Avatar” early this year, Warner Bros. decided to add an extra dimension to the release of “Clash of the Titans.”  Usually, 3D adds to the wow factor of a movie and enhances the experience.  This, as moviegoers are now beginning to learn, also enhances the ticket prices – and the more we go, the higher they climb.

But the only thing that 3D enhanced in my viewing of “Clash of the Titans” was my disappointment and indignation.  I like the technology, and I know that great filmmakers will utilize to create some truly incredible cinema.  But here, we see 3D at its worst.  When it is just arbitrarily added to any movie, then it truly becomes a boondoggle and a meaningless accessory.

It is now the responsibility of the American moviegoer to stop 3D from becoming an arbitrary embellishment, and it has to start here.  If studios and theater goers think that we are so smitten by 3D, then they will continue to take advantage of us.  Think a movie like “Clash of the Titans” being retooled for 3D is bad?  At this rate, we will have “Precious 2” playing in 3D in the coming years.  That idea doesn’t sound all that crazy to a studio executive with you $4 premium ticket price lining his pocket.

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Random Factoid #68

4 10 2009

3D glasses

3D glasses hurt my eyes.  I think its cool to watch a movie in 3D, but I have to take off the glasses every 20 minutes or so and rub my eyes.  Every once in a while, they will even give me a headache.

I sound like an old man with my health problems, I know.  But I actually have 20/20 vision according to my doctor, so there’s nothing wrong with my eyes.

Do you feel the same way?  Do the 3D glasses bring some unintended side effects of moviewatching?  Did they cause a particularly painful experience for you?  Or am I just a lone wolf here?  COMMENT and let me know!

(NOTE: This post was inspired by a feature I saw on Entertainment Weekly today.  It’s only a few short paragraphs long, so take the time to read it.  WordPress gives me the powers of Big Brother when it comes to monitoring your activity on this site, so I can see if you clicked it or not.  Please do.  I even went to the trouble of putting a picture on the factoid…that’s something I haven’t done since #15, if I recall correctly.)