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Fireside Chats: Cinemablend’s Eric Eisenberg Part 2

May 21, 2010 Leave a comment

We pick up with Cinemablend’s Eric Eisenberg for a summer movie blowout. Part 1 is here.
Note: There are very minor spoilers for Iron Man 2 discussed, if you haven’t seen that yet feel free to skip down to the picture of Terrence Howard.


TFTB
: Before we jump into this summer’s slate of blockbusters, I want to spend a minute on Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood for anyone who hasn’t seen those yet. I’ll start with Robin Hood actually. Why would anyone decide that making a prequel that excludes all the good stuff is at all interesting? I’m truly at a loss.

Eric: The tragedy of it is that it appears to be an attempt at creativity that just got out of hand. The Robin Hood story has been told a thousand times and I understand Ridley Scott not wanting to tell it again, but it doesn’t work if you make it as slow as molasses.

TFTB: I was so much more interested when this story was Nottingham and they were focusing on the Sheriff’s perspective. It’s the same type of ego-driven star rewrites that plagued Terminator: Salvation. Still, I suppose they do deserve some points for scope of vision if not execution.

Eric: Agreed, particularly with Russell Crowe in both roles. It would be interesting to map a timeline of where that movie went wrong. I just hope it doesn’t discourage studios or other writers to be creative. There is just way too much “same” in movies these days. I still hold the Disney movie in high regard though.

TFTB: Speaking of, what is your opinion on Iron Man 2, and particularly the criticisms that it sacrificed story in favor of setting up its larger Avengers storyline.

Eric: It’s weird to say, but I feel as though I have a bias in favor of the Avengers stuff. Most people went to go see Iron Man 2 to see just that: more Iron Man, but I went in to watch it as a bridge to the bigger picture and I think most comic fans/regular Marvel movie-goers are doing the same thing. I can totally understand the criticism.

TFTB: I think that’s the biggest problem. If you’re selling it as Tony Stark: Bigger, Badder and Uncut, then that’s what people want to see. From a personal level, I was able to appreciate a lot of the subtler touches they put in expanding the film’s larger universe, but as a stand-alone film the product that was on screen did suffer from those issues, particularly in the first half.

Eric: What they are doing is unprecedented in film, and it needs to be done. I also don’t think that the series has done itself any favors by sticking the fun stuff at the end of the credits. There were plenty of people I talked to in the theater that still had no idea that Samuel L. Jackson was in the first movie, so when he showed up, I would bet that thousands of people went “huh?”. This includes people who own the film on DVD mind you, but there really is no remedy for that unless they start putting it in the promotional materials.

TFTB: It’s just interesting that these films have done so much towards making comic books accessible to a larger public, but at the same time, the divisions in some ways are stronger than ever.

Eric: Exactly. Marvel knows its key audience, but doesn’t seem to know the people it needs to reach out to. Iron Man 2 is a lot more enjoyable if you are willing to put the time in. There’s only so many times that I can explain what a Skrull is.

TFTB: So that explains why War Machine looked different in this one!

Eric: Skrulls?

TFTB: Got to be.

Eric: Congrats, you just lost a huge chunk of your audience.

TFTB: Well that seemed to be more of a problem for Kick-Ass.

Eric: I still don’t understand what happened with Kick-Ass, and I don’t think I ever will.

TFTB: Just looking at this summer, there seem to be a lot of hit or miss projects this year.

Eric: This may put you off, but I think I have to put Inception in that category. I love Christopher Nolan’s films to death, but is everyone going to get that movie?

TFTB: I can’t disagree because I still couldn’t tell you what that movie is about, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to after it’s over, but I have faith in Nolan that it will be a great film even if it doesn’t live up to expectations financially.

Eric: And that comes even after the trailer that supposedly told us what it is about. They just need to put the words “dark” and “knight” in each tv trailer about 70 times  then maybe he can get people hooked.

TFTB: You mean like The Karate Kid? They’re just short of dragging Ralph Macchio out to China and letting him get kicked in the face by Jaden Smith.

Eric: I just hate the idea of Jackie Chan getting old; and I want a Billy Zabka cameo.

TFTB: That’s a must, that and cheesy 80s montage music.

Eric: That’s actually a nice segue into my true feelings about the film. You know an 80s movie when you see it, and The Karate Kid is most certainly an 80s movie, and that is a huge part of its charm. I don’t get any charm out of the new movie.

TFTB: And what about The A-Team? Read more…

You’re About To Enter Another Dimension

April 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Growing up, like most people I loved watching The Simpsons. Thursday nights (remember when?) were a highlight of my week waiting for the best show on television. It’s almost hard to remember now, but there were few shows that were ever as subversive, funny and as smart; and doing it while shattering people’s notion of what an animated show could be, was revolutionary. It should be no surprise then that The Simpsons had an impact on the way I look at the world of entertainment. What I didn’t expect was that one of those things would be movies in 3D.

The Simpsons episode ‘Treehouse of Horror VI’, the most anticipated episode of the season way back in 1995, ended with the animated Homer being sucked into the world of the third-dimension. For the creators of the show it was a fun way to needle the critics who never took their work seriously enough because ‘it wasn’t real’. Visually, working with a new dimension was a stark departure for the traditional 2D hand drawn cartoon. The disparity was even greater once Homer left animation all together and fell into the real world. While Homer being converted into 3D was certainly new, exciting and even kind of cool, it never felt quite right.

Today, I feel the same way about the use of stereoscopic 3D in Hollywood. With Iron Man 2 coming out next Friday and kicking off the summer movie season, you’ll be seeing a lot more of 3D. This is not at all a good thing. I will admit that I have been a 3D skeptic for a while now. Even when I was a kid and we had the red and blue 3D glasses from the 1950s, the effect got old pretty quick. I wrote an article last summer wondering aloud if 3D was just a gimmick by Hollywood studios and unfortunately the answer has come back a resounding yes.

I will be the first to admit that 3D worked great in Coraline, Avatar and How To Train Your Dragon. Unlike the bulk of movies being converted to chase James Cameron’s payday however, they each had two things working for them: First, they were all conceived and shot for a 3D presentation. Secondly, each feature was almost entirely created with computer rendered effects, from the sets to the characters. Even in Avatar, the industry standard for the technology, the scenes on base with primarily human actors and practical effects pale in comparison with the visual splendor that is Pandora.

Now I don’t begrudge a filmmaker the right to tell a story through whatever device and techniques they choose; I just ask that they tell it well. My problem with stereoscopic 3D is that for live-action movies it adds absolutely nothing to the story, and in some cases takes away from it. The very notion that the choice is between 3D and 2D is a false narrative to begin with. Stereoscopy just enhances the illusion of depth which is why there is that exaggerated spatial difference. For me, conventional films do a better job of creating realistic depth than stereoscopic 3D in live-action as it is. More and more however, even that distinction is muddled as films that are shot traditionally are being converted into substandard 3D.

Clash of the Titans rushed its print into 3D during post-production after watching Avatar break the bank, and those results were universally panned. Scratch that. Clash of the Titans in 3D was offensively, laughably, bad; and that’s not even talking about the script. The rushed and half-assed product actually ended up looking worse than the standard print, and in a movie with giant killer scorpions and Liam Neeson in unnecessarily glistening armor, that’s saying a lot.

Just last week it was announced thatM. Night Shamaladingdong’sThe Last Airbender would undergo post-conversion into 3D before its July 2nd release, and The Green Hornet is being pushed back to 2011 for conversion. Now I’ll admit to not having much faith in either of those movies, but it used to be that studios pushed back a movie to tighten up the story and not just visuals.Even James Cameron thinks studios going for the cheap money grab are diluting the market with an “inferior product,” when they jump on the conversion bandwagon.

We’re not talking about restoring color to The Wizard of Oz so we can see the film how it really would have looked. 3D Conversions are just going back to a finished film, slapping on a rushed, forced perspective and passing it off as something new. Unless you’re looking for a schlocky My Bloody Valentine-type experience, the supposed extra-dimension just doesn’t add up. I’ll save that extra $5 for the popcorn thank you very much.