Nine Lives

Nine Lives, the new fantasy family comedy, has been getting a lot of bad press and I was unsure about seeing it, even though I was excited about seeing it when I first heard about it. I love cats and I thought this would be a hoot and a half!

The movie is directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, a name I haven’t heard attached to a film in a long time, and his trademark camera work is clearly identified. The story focuses on Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey) an egotistical billionaire poised to build the world’s largest skyscraper in New York. He’s a success, but it has come at a cost. He spends 23 hours a day working and his family with his second wife and their daughter, Rebecca, take a back seat. On the eve of Rebecca’s 11th birthday, she has a request. She wants a cat. Tom hates cats, but despite himself he sees the only way to make her happy is to get her a cat. He finds himself at a out of the way pet store that seems to only have cats. The shopkeeper (Christopher Walken) is ominous and seems to know more than he lets on as he sets Tom up with a new cat. Tom rushes off on a business call and after a tragic accident, he winds up in the hospital. At least his body does, his mind is instead transferred into the cat, Mr. Fuzzypants.

Tom’s adjustment to his new body takes some time, but he gets the hang soon enough and uses his diminutive stature to win back his family and save his company from a scheming CEO (Mark Consuelos). Spacey excels in his sarcasm as Tom. When he sounds pleased with anyone, you know the hammer is about to drop any moment. It seems to be his niche. Cheryl Hines shines as Tom’s first wife who comes into rather tepid material to add a little spice as best she can.

Most of the films humor comes from a few slapstick set pieces surrounding the cat and his activities and are amusing but nothing Earth shattering. I have to admit, the CGI for the cat in parts was quite good; or as good as I’ve seen since ‘Garfield’. The tone of the movie is rather boring and the humor falls flat most of the time. It’s clearly made for families/kids so I think they weren’t able to get very spicy with it. I think the harshest swear word I heard was ‘Jesus’. Jennifer Garner plays Lara, Tom’s second wife and she works her mom mojo very well. I wanted to like this movie much more, but as a comedy it wasn’t very good, but the story was very effective and I found it to be surprisingly touching and relevant to today’s busy lifestyles. Sometimes we can get our priorities mixed up. Watching Tom reconnect with his family through the cat was heartwarming and we can see how pets need families as much as families need pets. It also shows that while cats may not be people, some people aren’t people either. As a cat lover I liked the movie, but as a movie lover, I was disappointed.

Audience: The audience was made up of mostly children and they were quiet. It was the parents who were the problem. On and off their phones for the whole movie and rummaging through the plastic bags they smuggled their snacks in. Honestly. Show a little class.

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The BFG

I have never read the original book, ‘The BFG’, by Roald Dahl. In fact this has been the first time in my life I ever heard of the story. When I saw the trailer I was surprised to see the merger of Spielberg and Disney. I wasn’t even sure if I was ever going to see the movie, but I did and I was pleasantly surprised. The film opens on a quaint, visually rich London that exists only in books and movies. A London I would be happy to be an orphan in. We get a small glimpse into the life of our heroine, the orphan Sophie. She’s a smart girl who falls outside the lines of the others. I like her already. When the Friendly Giant makes his appearance, it’s almost surreal how seamless he fits into the world and it makes you really think this could be a thing. He cleverly hides in the shadows and between buildings. His skill with his subterfuge shows he’s been at this for a looooong time. When Sophie witnesses him, he snatches her away and whisks her to ‘Giant Country’ and a new world opens up before her. She, along with us, sees amazing things in this new world that feels as familiar as our own. It all seems great until the other, larger, giants make themselves known and they aren’t quite as friendly as The BFG. Now it’s up to Sophie and The BFG to figure out a way to get be free of their torment.

The visuals of this movie sets a new benchmark in CGI. The marriage of reality and effect is so seamless, it is impossible to be taken out of the story even when the most amazing things happen. I particularly enjoyed the scene when Sophie and The BFG go ‘dreamcatching’. It’s a magical, beautiful moment that you can lose yourself in and gives a strong and poetic visual to the concept of dreams. The film is heavily layered with compelling themes of loneliness and friendship. For adults, it could be hard to get into at first, but once you get past the funny words which seem to be a Dahl trademark and get into the story, you won’t be sorry.

 

The Audience: All right, nothing against the film, but we did see the presentation in what is called ‘Sensory Friendly’ mode. They keep the lights on about halfway which gave my friend a headache halfway through the film and it seemed to attract the worst kind of theater goers. A couple in particular sitting one seat away from me were very irksome. The husband was constantly checking his phone and despite the lights being on, the light from his cell phone was still quite distracting. They were also talking and he kept putting his feet up on the seat in front of him, which I find particularly loathsome.Come on! Were you raised in a barn? Thankfully they left after half an hour but there were others in the theater who seemed to think just because the lights were up gave them free reign to be as obnoxious as they could manage. I have to say avoid ‘Sensory Friendly’ shows because they may be friends to the senses, but not to the audience.

Black Human Torch

Okay, I’m dipping into sensitive waters here, I realize that, so let’s just agree that this post may contain some hard truths and in some parts might offend.

I’m sure many of you out there have seen the trailer for the new Fantastic Four movie. I know I have. Just to be clear, I think it looks awful and I have no intention of putting myself through it. It’s dark and gritty and that’s not how I have seen the Fantastic Four. It’s always been a fun, colorful kind of thing. That being said, one of the more hot topic issues with this iteration is casting. Johnny Storm is African American in this movie. Now, I fall on the side of the negative with this casting choice. I just feel the writers should have, as with all adaptations, stuck with the source material more closely. Johnny Storm is white. He was created white and has been white in every version of the character. I get the whole ‘the role should go to the best actor despite race’ argument, but are you telling me out of the millions of starving young actors out there today, this guy was the best of all of them? You could probably stuff a warehouse full of actors who could do the role and probably be able to pick out a Caucasian one.

I want to say race isn’t the issue here, but it is. I’m not racist, I just think a character that was conceived as being white should be represented as such in an adaptation. Now, if there was a legitimate, story-based reason for the change in race, fine. If you’re just doing it to satisfy some demographic or appeal to a certain segment of the population, not fine. That’s called whoring and I know Hollywood is no stranger at trying to satisfy everyone all at the same time, but there have to be some moments when integrity wins out. Call it optimistic, but I’m one of the few people in the world who still believe in integrity.

I’d even be okay with it if they had cast a big name African American actor to play Sue and Johnny’s father, but they didn’t. The guy they got is some character actor I remember from some educational show in the 90’s. I’ve seen him in some things, but he’s no Morgan Freeman or Sam L Jackson. He’s not the caliber of actor that you would make concessions for. He’s lucky he got this role. Biggest I’ve ever seen him in. So, they got him and he’s black, so we have to make one of the Storms black.

Now I realize some of you who are still reading this are just putting me in the ‘hater’ category right now. Fine. So be it. I just feel these characters were created by artists who had a vision. When they were hunched over their typewriters and drawing tables, they saw Johnny in their minds and they made him as they saw him. When that version was published the world accepted their vision and we all agreed that what they had given us was Johnny Storm. Fifty some years later, some slick studio execs slide in and decide something different and in casting an actor of a different race, they are saying that the creators were wrong. They’re saying that they can do better. As a writer, I am familiar with the process of creating a character and it’s not just coming up with a name and a visual concept. It’s much deeper and complex than that. You create their world. You create their childhood and their life up until the point where your story actually begins. You conceive them. You give birth to them. They are your children. I am offended when someone else’s children are treated so thoughtlessly. It’s not even like Marvel needs that much more diversity. They already have an impressive line up of heroes of other races. They have African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos. They’ve got the frickin’ United Nations of superheroes over there at the House Of Ideas. I am offended by a black Johnny Storm only because its clearly altering a character for the sake of a buck and a little promotion, which is working because here we are talking about it. I’ve fallen into the trap, but before I allow myself to go any deeper, let me get one last shot in by posing this question: What if it were reversed? What if an African American character were cast with a white actor? What if Falcon had been white in Captain America 2? War Machine? Hell, what if they switched Nick Fury back to white? Would people still be saying it’s cool and that it’s all about diversity? What if there was a JSA movie and Mr. Terrific got cast with a white guy? I think I would be less likely to make a stink about this issue if I saw the door swing both ways.

Need Funders NOW!!!

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/shelter–11

Hello all

I believe I spoke of this before, but it has come to my attention that my film project is still in dire need of funding and I am here begging (yes, begging) for your support in this. This project is very dear to me and basically was one of only two reasons to live for me right now. The challenge is I need at least fifteen people to donate at least $25 to the project. A link to the campaign is above and below. Now don’t think you’re just giving us this money. We have a large selection of perks to offer in exchange. It will be like buying a film on video, but not just any film. A film you made possible. And if we get this thing shot, I think it could be big. The script is solid (biased opinion, but still) and it contains a twist which I think will have people dropping their jaws. Help me achieve this dream. I realize it’s a lot to ask of people I’ve never met, but when something means this much to you, you’ll do just about anything to make it happen. Please consider this and thank you in advance.

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/shelter–11

Link

My Short Film “Shelter”

Just click on the title of this article to go to an Indiegogo page featuring my newest project. I conceived and wrote a script entitled “Shelter” and now we’ve gotten to the stage where we’re actually going to shoot this thing. Follow this link to donate money to help us reach our goal for funds. There are certain ‘extras’ we’re offering depending on the donation. Case in point, for $250 you can actually BE a zombie in our movie! Check it out and if you can help out in any way, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.

Movies Of The Future

Recently Spielberg and Lucas shared some of their thoughts on the future of the movie theater industry. They are predicting ticket prices could go up as high as $150. They foresee few movies being made with larger budgets and lasting longer in theaters. They see the movies becoming more like Broadway and its shows.

Is there a Baptist doing their accounting these days? If this prophecy comes to pass it will be like pressing the self-destruct button on the entire industry. How many ways can this go wrong? I can barely calculate. First, the studios will only make movies with at least a 300 million dollar price tag. They aren’t going to make a movies for less than that because theaters aren’t going to be able to sell a $150 ticket for a movie that cost $20 million to make. That means the only films that are going to be made are big budget, special FX blockbusters and that may appeal to a broad audience, it won’t be enough to make back the money it took to make the movie because most people will probably only watch it once and wait until it is released on video.

Maybe not even that since with the high ticket some theaters may give out extra perks, such as digital copies of the film you’re going in to see. So you watch it once and then get to take it home and watch it all you want for FREE.

Another point is the fact that when I go to see a movie, I go to see the movie. If they go ahead with this and give goodies away with the ticket, I have no idea what they could give you that would make a $150 movie ticket seem okay. I go to the movies to see the movie. I don’t want to take home a  bunch of crap.

This would also mean fewer films would be made and that would take a lot of paying gigs from the actors and crews. The reality of acting, as I’ve heard, is that only 1% of actors actually make a living at it. With fewer movies for them to star in (extras, character roles and the like) bring that down to .5%

Let’s now take a look at who’s paying to see these movies. An average family of 4 would be looking at quite a steep bill for a little fun. I’ve seen birthday parties at some theaters. Can imagine forking over $150 for seven people at once? Who has that kind of money? Not the average movie goer, I can assure you of that. These prices are going cut the audiences severely. Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Lucas better make sure all their rich friends go to see their movies about thirty or forty times a week.

So to break it down we have smaller audiences with fewer viewing options all so the AMC can charge $ 150 a head. Sounds suicide to me.

Remember the 80’s and 90’s? Back in a time when movies came out and could be in theater for months. Titanic was in theaters for a year or something like that. Three Men And A Baby was being promoted for over 6 months. Maybe longer. I saw the ad in the paper and remember it being altered for three or four different holidays. The reason the movies did so well back then was because tickets were cheaper, therefore more people  could afford to go to the movies. One of the reasons people don’t go to the movies anymore is because it’s getting so expensive. Seems to me the strategy would be to find a way to make movies more affordable to the average person.

I just hope these guys are wrong because I don’t see a pretty picture if this should come to pass. Theater chains closing down. More unemployed. The studios could start going under as well. If they give out copies of their movies when people go to see them in theaters, they will lose a fortune. No one will need to buy or rent the movie when it goes to video and there’s always the threat that some people may pirate the movie and that’ll undercut their theater profits severely.

The entertainment industry is on thin enough ice these days. This concept seems like it would be the  bullet in the head for everyone. I don’t want to see that happen. I like going to the movies. It’s fun. There’s nothing like the smell of the popcorn or the sensation of hearing those booming sounds and seeing that huge screen. If Spielberg and Lucas love movies as much as they have claimed in the past, they would be on the other side of this argument and try to preserve the purity of the movie going experience rather than siding with the greedy corporate side of Hollywood. I know it’s show business, but it’s also still an art that should be accessible to all. Whether you can cough up half a billion to make your movie or not.