Lisa’s Editorial Corner: On Tornadoes, Rango, social media, and Charlie Sheen


Well, it had to happen but did it have to happen so soon?

So, here we are.  Just two weeks into doing Lisa’s Editorial corner and already, I’m worrying that I may have nothing to talk about.  Of course, some of that is because I’m a little bit preoccupied.  Somehow — don’t ask how unless you really want the details — I managed to sprain my foot on Saturday morning.  I stayed on the couch for the weekend but then, foolishly, I attempted to both work and dance on Monday.  So, right now, I am home, my foot hurts, and I’m having a hard time focusing on anything else.

(At the same time, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve sprained my foot and/or my ankle.  It sucks right now but I’ll be okay soon.  I’m taking off work on Tuesday, which means that I’ll get to make even more progress in cleaning out the DVR!)

Plus, as I write this at 1:30 in the morning, we are currently under tornado watch!  If a tornado does decide to show up, I am not looking to forward to having to hop my way into the downstairs coat closet.  They say that, if you don’t have a storm bunker like the one Michael Shannon installed in Take Shelter, the downstairs closet is the safest place to get in case of a tornado.  I have never understood why.

This is why I sometime hate social media.

charlie-sheen-5240

Since Monday is always my crazy day, I was not on twitter when the whole “Charlie Sheen Has HIV” story broke.  In fact, I didn’t know a thing about it until someone mentioned it in passing that night and, at that time, I was so busy trying not faint from the pain of my sprained foot that it really didn’t register with me.

So really, it wasn’t until I got home, took a handful of Vicodin, and logged onto twitter that I was really aware of what’s been going on with Sheen.  Apparently, this Tuesday (i.e., today), Sheen is going to be on the Today Show and is going to reveal whether or not he has HIV.  There’s something really ghoulish about how much some people are anticipating Charlie Sheen announcing that he is HIV positive.

It’s also sad that, judging from many of the comments on twitter, a lot of people don’t understand that being HIV positive does not mean that Charlie Sheen has AIDS.  Check out a few of the comments:

Keep in mind that I’m writing this at 1:33 in the morning and Charlie Sheen has yet to officially announce anything.  By the time this post is published and you read it, Sheen will probably have announced whatever it is that he’s going to announce but, for now, nobody knows anything.  There’s just speculation.  For all we know, Sheen is going to announce that he’s HIV negative or that he wants to be Donald Trump’s running mate.

In fact, the only thing we know for sure is that a lot of people seem to be positively gleeful about the possibility of Charlie Sheen having HIV.  I’ve never been a fan of Charlie Sheen’s and I found his whole “winning” thing to be more pathetic than anything else.  But it has always disturbed me that his extremely self-destructive behavior has always been treated as a source of entertainment.  What’s particularly offensive is that many of the same people who loved to watch crazy old Charlie talk about “tiger blood,” are now gloating about how Sheen’s “lifestyle” has caught up with him.  It was a lifestyle that was largely dependent upon and made possible by American’s own twisted love/hate relationship with celebrity.

The blogger known as Jedadiah Leland and I have often debated whether or not social media is worth all the trouble.  Usually, I think I can make a pretty good case that twitter does enough good that it makes all the other bullshit worth it.  But, when I see thousands of strangers competing to come up with the best joke about someone being HIV-positive, I start to think that he may have a point.

And since I’ve just been critical of twitter, I’ll wrap this up with a tweet from my sister:

The best laid plans of Lisa…

Before I got caught up writing about Charlie Sheen, I was going to devote a bit of a space to talking about how much I hate it when people show up late for a movie.  I mean, seriously — we all know that, if a movie is listed as starting at 7:00, the movie isn’t really going to start until 7:20.  That’s a 20 minute grace period right there and there’s really no excuse for arriving at the theater after that grace period has ended.  If you’re going to be more than 20 minutes late, either go to a different showing or go back home.  But for God’s sake, don’t wander into the theater and go, “Oh, the movie’s started,” and then stumble around looking for a seat in the dark.

To be honest, I’d rather be stuck in a theater with a screaming baby than have to deal with people showing up 30 minutes late for the movie.

As long as we’re here, check this out!

The evil clown who pops up to sing ‘Get Yourself High‘ in the Chemical Brothers’ live show has his own Facebook page.  I am so happy right now!  Unfortunately, there’s not much information on the page about the clown but I liked it anyway.  You never know when the clown might decide to open up about his hopes and dreams.

Clown

FLASHBACK TIME!

You know what you should find time to do today?  You should take a trip into the past and read the very first review that Leonard Wilson ever wrote for this site.  I present to you … Leonard’s 2o11 review of Rango!

One Final Thought…

At any given time, I usually have about a week’s worth of blog posts scheduled to publish on the various sites that I write for.  So, if I died tomorrow, my writing would actually outlive me.  Think about it — I could be dead and still giving you my opinion.  And if I am dead and I tell you to see a movie, you better see it!

Ghost Critic

Have a great week!

Steve Jobs (Dir. by Danny Boyle)


imagesI don’t have much to say about Steve Jobs, which has been playing here in New York in a limited release. This is how I know I didn’t care for it.

When you look at the list of people who came together to make the new movie about Steve Jobs, it’s almost impossible to think that the end result could be bad. You’ve got Academy Award Winner Danny Boyle, whose work I’ve enjoyed since Trainspotting. With a track record like 28 Days Later, The Beach, Sunshine, and Slumdog Millionaire, he’s having a wonderful run. You also have Academy Award Winner Aaron Sorkin, fresh off both The Social Network, Moneyball and The Newsroom working the screenplay. With actors like Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, Slow West) and Kate Winslet (Divergent, A Little Chaos) on board , it’s almost like having the stars align.

And yet, I almost walked out on Steve Jobs. It just wasn’t for me. Maybe I was just tired.

The film focuses on three places in the Steve’s life:

– The launch of the original Macintosh just after the “1984” Super Bowl commercial.

– The launch of the NeXt system, which Jobs created after being fired by Apple.

– The launch of the first iMac, just after Jobs returned to Apple as the interim CEO.

The entire first part was really good, with arguments going back and forth over the ability to get the on stage Mac to say “Hello”. Steve also argues with Chrisann Brennan over the financial support for her daughter, Lisa Nicole. Steve simply won’t admit she is his. When asked about the name of his first computer, Jobs goes to great lengths to explain that the acronym (Local Integrated System Architecture) is just a coincidence. When Lisa amazes him with her computer usage, he decides to support her mom with a check.

Every segment after that felt like a repeat of the first one to me, almost like Run Lola Run. In the beginning, it feels fresh, witty, nice. By the end, I was fighting to simply stay awake and care. What I hoped to see was more interaction with Steve and Lisa. If they were so distanced then, and grew close later in life, what was the catalyst? Was it the cancer diagnosis Steve had in the early 2000’s? We’ll never know, because the movie stops just before that time period. Did he suddenly realize that his heart wasn’t as small as the Grinch? What about Jonny Ive, who was responsible for much of Apple’s design after Job’s return? Nope, not even so much a mention. And I think this is the overall problem I have with the film. Yes, Steve Jobs by himself was a visionary, and as the story points out, he conducts the Orchestra, but there’s no reverence whatsoever to any of the other people that helped get Apple where it is. It doesn’t make the movie terrible for not covering these angles, but there are a number of missed opportunities as a result of using such a narrow range.

Fassbender was wonderful to watch onscreen, as well as Winslet. One of the odd things is that from a performance standpoint, everyone in Steve Jobs is effective. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fassbender get some kind of recognition come awards season. Even Seth Rogen did a good job, though his version of Wozniak was limited to constantly arguing for credit like Morrie in Goodfellas looking for his cut of the Luftansa Heist. There are points, however, where the banter just becomes a little too much.

Mind you, I loved The Social Network. I enjoyed The Newsroom.  A Few Good Men is one of my favorite films. I’ve even seen the man in person once. He knows what he’s doing when it comes to having people talk. Here, it just seemed like Sorkin said…”What if I created a play about how Steve Jobs could be.” and rolled with it. Supposedly, he acknowledged that much of the writing here isn’t entirely accurate. I can accept that, but I think the structure of the film damaged it all for me. I would have preferred more of a straight A-B narrative than what I received. Is that too long to put to screen? Perhaps.

Here at the Shattered Lens, Lisa Marie and I have gone head to head regarding Aaron Sorkin, sometimes yelling from our respective offices. She’s not a fan, but I’ve liked his work. The argument is that for all of his abilities when it comes to writing, he doesn’t really handle women well. It’s true. Women haven’t always fared well in Sorkin’s world, and watching Winslet, I was almost sure I could come back here and say in his defense…”Hey, Sorkin wrote a good girl that doesn’t just exist to help the male hero to succeed or as a target for males to pick on. This isn’t Demi Moore in A Few Good Men. Aha!!” I wanted to say that. I really did…but I can’t. As good as Winslet is here, her character is almost Emily Mortimer’s from The Newsroom. She does have some great lines, and her screen time with Fassbender is nice.

I did enjoy Danny Boyle’s direction here. The approach with using the different film styles (old style camera work for the 1984 Macintosh launch, conventional film for the NeXt Launch, and HD optics for the iMac release) was interesting, and I liked how he used the environment to tell the story. I have little to complain about there.

Note that the audience did applaud the film. There were moments where a phrase or two yielded some laughs. In that sense, maybe the film accomplished something. You’ll have to see it and come to your own conclusions on how it works for you.

 It just wasn’t for me, and I was really looking forward to it.

Quick Review: Marvel’s Ant-Man (dir. by Peyton Reed)


Marvel's Ant-Man

*** Wait a minute! Before checking this out, be sure to read TrashFilmGuru’s thoughts on Ant-Man and then if you like, double back here. Two opinions are better than one! ***

I walked into Ant Man with a bias.

As a fan of Edgar Wright, his departure on the film due to creative differences left me wondering if it was worth seeing. Mix that with the idea that Marvel diverged from the character’s comic book origins for a better fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it all seemed like a recipe for failure. This was going to be the Cars 2 of the MCU, I was sure of it.

Ant-Man isn’t as large a tale as Captain America: The First Avenger or as star spanning as Guardians of the Galaxy. At times, it feels like it the story would be better suited for an extended Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Crossover or a Netflix one shot instead of a big screen event. It actually reminded me of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in many ways, back when all of this was so small that audiences weren’t searching for tie-ins to next film in the line up or homages to The Story So Far. Ant-Man comes with the MCU connections (and comic book ones too), but if you walk in expecting revelations as big as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the film may be a disappointment. It’s just a hero, and idea that even small actions can have big effects. It’s easily the film’s greatest strength, that it’s so personal. The film’s best components are it’s casting (particularly in House of Cards & The Strain’s Corey Stoll and Fury’s Michael Pena), and the effects themselves. It’s a movie that’s well worth the 3D treatment, if you can catch it that way.

Ant-Man focuses on Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a former thief who is just trying to spend more time with his daughter, or at least be a hero in her eyes. Scott ends up meeting with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) who brings him on board for a job that just happens to cover his particular skill set. The job comes with a special suit that allows Lang to shrink down to about the size of an Ant, while at the same time allowing him to be much stronger. When Pym’s protege and rival Cross (Stoll) discovers another way to possibly make the shrink ability work, it’s up to Lang to try to stop the progress.

The film had 4 writers during it’s creation. It had Edgar Wright, who many moviegoers know from the Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Adam McKay worked with Rudd in the past on the Anchorman films, and was responsible for Talladega Nights & Step Brothers. Both McKay and Rudd had a hand in writing Ant-Man. Finally, Attack the Block’s Joe Cornish was on board. The end result of all this is a film with a great deal of comedy influences in it, though not all of them hit the mark. I felt there were at least 2 moments in the film where Rudd’s character had a one liner that just didn’t hit the mark, or elicit a response from the audience. This isn’t a terrible thing, at most it’s just nitpicking. Overall, you could consider Ant-Man a comic caper with superhero moments.

Additionally, the writers had to also figure out how to make the character of Dr. Hank Pym useful in a storyline where one of his biggest arcs in the comics – creating Ultron – was already handled in a previous story. I like to think this was handled pretty well, as comic readers will already recognize Scott Lang as being the 2nd Ant-Man – or least this is what I learned from the Marvel Encyclopedia. They’ve managed to keep familiar storylines in place while still anchoring it to the larger tale at hand.

The performances in Ant-Man are good, though it’s the co-stars that potentially steal the film from the leads. Lang’s heist buddies, played by David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight), Cliff “T.I.” Harris (Takers), and Michael Pena (Fury) were indeed funny in this. Pena in particular stood out as someone who gets ahold of information through some pretty wild sources. Michael Douglas was a strange pick for me when I first heard about it, but he’s actually a fantastic fit for the whole story. Evangeline Lilly looked like she had a lot of fun with this, though her character served as a second mentor for Lang. I wanted to see her do a bit more in the film, actually. Bobby Canavale (Chef, Third Watch) and Judy Greer (Jurassic World) both have nice supporting roles in this.

Corey Stoll has played an ass so much on-screen that I’m not entirely sure he isn’t that way off camera. Between Non-Stop, House of Cards, Midnight in Paris and now Ant-Man, he’s plays the kind of characters that were historically set aside for character actors like Jeff Kober or Michael Ironside. Honestly, they couldn’t have made a better choice here. Cross comes off like a variant of Iron Man’s Odebiah Stane, resentful, evil, and maybe a little crazed. Rudd, on the other hand, handles the Hero’s Journey with ease, bringing his own sense of comedy that works almost as well as it did for Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s not perfect, but the character’s lighthearted nature is a good contrast from the serious gloom and doom that most of the Avengers are going through these days, and I feel Rudd did well here.

That’s another aspect of Ant-Man that needs to be recognized. The story in this may have a larger impact in things to come, but it felt really compact. Since the focus on the story involves Lang getting back to his daughter and stopping this one small thing, it takes a step back from the escalation we’ve been getting in previous MCU films. To me, since Phase Two started, every film’s been a stepping stone with at least one huge revelation somewhere that shows this is all much bigger than any one hero can take on. Discovery of the Infinity Stones, the big reveal of S.H.I.E.L.D. In the Winter Soldier and the events in Age of Ultron cover a large area. Maybe it’s better to say that they have an impact that’s covers a wide distance. With Ant-Man being the first film of Phase Three, it feels almost as if a step back it taken to something more personal. It’s not bad, but it’s different. It has the potential to leave viewers with a bad taste in their mouths if they were expecting something grand.

The effects in Ant-Man are good, really, really sweet. Quite honestly, it may be one of the first times where I haven’t found myself annoyed by what I call “The Zoic Effect” – that technique used in almost every film these days where you’re watching something and the director decides “Hey, let’s do a maximum level quick zoom on that target right there!”, because there’s a chance the audience might not see the subject. I believe Zoic Studios were the first to do that with Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, though I could be wrong. In Ant-Man, that rapid intense zoom is almost a welcome requirement when watching a little figure run and leap up and over objects. Add a 3D effect to all that, and I found myself enjoying that on the big screen. From a directing standpoint, it’s all very straightforward and you get an idea of the influences from all of the writers involved. Still, Peyton Reed (Down With Love) keeps from the film from straying too far away from it’s intended focus. Additionally, though the help of CGI, Disney/Marvel was able to digitize a younger Michael Douglas, and the look of this was even better than what they accomplished with Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy.

Overall, Ant-Man is a great addition to the MCU and on it’s own, it’s strong. I suppose Thor will still have to stay as the Cars 2 of that movie library. Note to viewers: If you’re planning to see this, be sure to stay until after the end credits. There’s a mid scene during the credits and one at the very end.

Scenes I Love: The Road Warrior


RoadWarriorHumongous

“…warrior of the wasteland, the Lord Humungus, [and] the ayatollah of rock-and-rollah.”

This past weekend saw George Miller release the fourth film in his classic Mad Max film series. Mad Max: Fury Road has been receiving critical-acclaim both from film critics and the general public. It’s a film that has shown the return of an action-film maestro to the forefront of a genre he helped create.

Leonard Wilson has made his thought’s known about Mad Max: Fury Road and all should check it out.

Yet, today I would like to share a favorite scene of mine from the second film in the series, Mad Max 2 aka The Road Warrior. This scene introduces the leader of the roving band of post-apocalyptic raiders who have besieged the small-community and it’s supply of precious oil and gasoline. Lord Humungus has become such an iconic figure in this series and in action-film lore.

The look of Humungus and his band of raiders would influence other post-apocalyptic films for years to come. It has even had a hand in creating the look for the Dr. Dre and Tupac music video “California Love.”

Brad Bird’s Interview at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival


Bird and Garofalo - Photo taken by L. Wilson.

Brad Bird and Janeane Garofalo have a sit down at the Tribeca Film Festival to discuss film, animation and the mediums in between.

This is going to be a long one, ladies and gents. My apologies if this becomes TL;DR material.

Here’s the short of it:

I was able to see Brad Bird speak at The Tribeca Film Festival. For the hour, he discussed the changes and challenges he faced with moving from animation to live action features. The audience was shown a set of clips – one from Ratatouille, one from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and one from his latest film, Tomorrowland. Near the last half of the interview, Bird fielded questions from the audience. I had a great time.

And here’s the Interstellar 3-Hour Neverending Edition:

When I was a kid, there used to be this show on network television called Amazing Stories. Produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, it ran for about 2 years or so between 1985 and 1987. It was kind of like a cross between Darkroom, Tales From the Darkside, and The Twilight Zone. One of my favorite episodes was “The Family Dog”. The big push with The Family Dog was that it was produced by Tim Burton and the animation style was the basis for his future films The Corpse Bride, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Frankenweenie. I loved it. It was weird and funny, about a family that adopts a dog only to find that their house is robbed, with the dog inside and failing to stop the intruders. The dog is sent to a canine boarding school, where he’s reforged into a “white hot ball of canine terror” by Miss LeStrange (voiced by The Exorcist’s Mercedes McCambridge). There’s more to it, but after recording the show and watching it a zillion times, I paid attention to who wrote it.

And that’s how I started following Brad Bird.

Bird would later go on work on Batteries Not Included, and spent some time on the Simpsons before directing and writing The Iron Giant for Warner Brothers. While the movie wasn’t the commercial hit everyone hoped, it put Bird on Disney / Pixar’s radar, who brought him on to do both The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Pixar would end up adding Bird to their Brain Trust,   that includes Pete Docter, John Lassiter and Andrew Stanton. Bird’s big jump from Animation to Live Action would come with 2011’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Next month (as of this writing), he’ll release Tomorrowland, which he shared writing responsibilities with Prometheus / Lost writer Damon Lindelof.

Bird was on hand at the Tribeca Film Festival’s Director Series in an interview hosted by his Ratatouille star, Janeane Garofalo. I was able to attend this, and took as many notes as I could. Some of this may be a little sketchy, based off of both what I wrote & how I interpreted it, to which I apologize beforehand. Although we were able to use phones for pictures, we couldn’t record anything. Assume that most of the questions and answers here are somewhat paraphrased.  More than likely, you can find recaps of the interview at the Tribeca Film Festival website.

At first, Janeane was a little curious about what she should ask, opening the floor with her humor, which had everyone laughing.

Question – So you said something about a tour taken as a child?

Bird spoke about a tour he took of Disney Studios, back when he was about 11. He saw the Jungle Book as a kid and just loved it. He also realized that there were all of these cool jobs in animation. According to Bird, he owned an album with some of actor Jonathan Winter’s voiceover work and would listen to that as well. Though his parents who knew a composer at Disney, they were able to meet with Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. Both Ollie and Frank were two of the original animators responsible for most of the Disney Classics, known as the Nine Old Men. Unexpectedly, Bird went home and ended up creating a 15 minute film for the animators. After that, they were eager to mentor him.

Garafolo praised Bird on how he’s taken Narrative storytelling to another level but asked about technical challenges in Animation.

Bird noted that from a tech standpoint, The Incredibles was a harder film to create because the design abilities were just being born. An example of this is the wet hair textures after the plane crash sequence. At the time, that was one of the latest things that Pixar learned to do. By the time Ratatouille came along, there were a number of improves, which made things easier. Bird went on to say that “People think there’s an easy “Make Movie” button that will produce work.” However, if you want imperfections, the computers had to be taught this. In Ratatouille, Bird described how working on the floors, the lighting needed to have a variant because tiles may be higher or lower than others or have damages. The computer would normally smooth out the surface, but they had to reprogram the system to support natural flaws. A later question that came up dealt with focus, where Bird found that CGI Cameras can act like real cameras. When you normally focus on something small with a regular camera, the depth of field becomes small. The computer would assume that the director wanted a high Depth of Field throughout, but again, Bird and Pixar had to train the machines to un-learn that.

At one point, Janeane started a question and asked about different genres in Animation to which Brad replied “Animation is a medium, not a genre.” There was a bit of back and forth chuckling between them, and their chemistry is just cool.

“With the actors you choose, how much control do you have in that?” Bird’s response was along the lines of it all being about actor interest. He had to “woo” Peter O’Toole for Ratatouille. Some actors thing that voice acting is easy, but it can be difficult. What takes an actor 5 minutes to say may take an animator weeks to come up (with regards to facial animations and the like, I’m guessing). Patton Oswalt would say sometimes that he was beat after a run. My personal speculation on this is that with animating, sometimes re-recording needs to happen to get a phrase sound right. I could be off here, but that was my interpretation of the statement. The audience was presented with a clip from Ratatouille where Linguini is introduced to Collette for the first time.

Janeane apologized for her French here. There was a bit of laughter as Bird shared a story of how with Janeane, she didn’t seem to take praise very well. He would have to pretty much tell her she sucked to motivate her, even though she did good. The conversation then moved on to Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

Ghost Protocol happened as Bird was working on a pet project he called 1906, the adaptation of James Dalessandro’s novel on the events surrounding the San Francisco earthquake during that year. He was very animated in discussing 1906. It was a rich project, but there were some problems getting all of the elements Bird needed into the story at the time. He didn’t want to make it a life project (without working on anything else), so he paused to jump onto Ghost Protocol. The audience was then shown the Hallway sequence from the movie, where Simon Pegg and Tom Cruise mask their entrance into a room in the Kremlin. The scene picked up some chuckles from the Audience with Pegg’s “face in the camera” moment.

A question came up on whether he was hindered in any way, working on a big project like Ghost Protocol. Bird wasn’t really hindered, but what attracted him to the film was that the franchise was willing to let him accommodate his individual style. The Brian DePalma version of the first Mission Impossible was different from John Woo’s work on the 2nd and J.J. Abrams work on the 3rd film. Bird added that he was given the chance to do “five out of six things” he wanted to do in a spy movie. Both Cruise and Abrahams were behind Bird on the film and he felt protected by them. On Cruise in particular, he praised his work ethic, pointing out that it was easy to have him climb the Burj Khalifa in Dubai because he keeps himself fit for every film. Garofalo took a moment to reference the HBO Documentary “Going Clear” with a “LRH” remark. “We could go on about that all day.” She said, though they moved on to their next topic.

Before continuing, Bird made a quick gesture to the screen and pointed out to the audience that he and Cruise talked about some Silent classic films and comedies. These were part of the influence for that particular hallway scene.

Janeane brought up a question on the toll with working on a big film (after doing animated features). Bird’s response was that it was like being thrown in the deep end of a shark infested pool. He jumped to work with Cruise and Abrams, and it was a lot of fun. “Big canvas stuff”, were the words used.

Control on Post Production came up (in terms of how much he had). So far, so good, was the reply. Bird stood up, leaned down to the floor of the stage and knocked on it. “Knock on wood.” He said as he sat back down with a smile before adding that he only had to bark a few times, if any.

With that, we were given a sneak peek at Bird’s latest project, Tomorrowland. In checking online, I found that it was an expanded version of the one showcased at Disney’s D23 Event last year. Unfortunately, the clip we were shown isn’t online in any form (at least I can’t find it online), so I’ll have to explain it here:


   The scene opens with a young child sitting on a bus, holding quite a large bag. Screeching to a halt, the bus driver opens the door and announces the stop. The driver tells everyone to “enjoy the future”. As the patrons go to leave the bus, they’re suddenly blocked by the boy’s bag, which falls into the main aisle. The passengers give him some weird looks, but he smiles, apologizes and  scoops up the bag, making his way off of the bus.

We’re given his perspective, a behind the character shot that showcases that he’s at the entrance of a festival. At the bottom of the screen, a caption appears, informing the audience that we’re at the 1964 World’s Fair, held in Queens, New York. We’re given a wider shot and it’s very much like Disneyworld, it’s bustling with people walking around and enjoying themselves. We focus on one area, with a name like The Hall of Invention. The boy enters and plops his bag on top a table where we find David Nix (Hugh Laurie) staring at him with a look of annoyance on his face. Note that his name isn’t given to the audience and that I’ve pulled it from the Internet Movie Database.

The boy unzips the bag, explaining that he had to partly disassemble it (it looking a lot like a vacuum cleaner) for transportation. As Nix looks on, he asks the boy who he is and what the contraption is supposed to be. The boy introduces himself as Frank Walker and states with pride that the device is a jetpack. He goes on to say that he’s still working on it, and as he says this, we’re given a quick cut to him standing in an open field. Wearing the jetpack, he dons a pair of goggles, a flight helmet and we see two sets of controls by each hand. The look is pretty much the whole James Bond Thunderball look.

The shot cuts back to the boy standing at the table, who adds…”though it doesn’t quite exactly….”

We’re back at the field, and the kid clicks the power button. Instead of shooting straight up high into the air, he is vaulted forward, bounces and taken through some cornfields about a good hundred yards out. The first thing I thought of was The Rocketeer (also a Disney Production).

“…Fly.” The boy says, finishing his pitch.

“And what would this be used for?” Nix asks, looking from the machine to Walker.

“It would be fun.” Walker responds.

Nix shoots him down, stating that fun isn’t what anyone’s looking for. Clearly, he seems to already be looking at the idea of monetizing or weaponizing it.

“If someone walked up to me and showed me a jetpack, I’d think that would be pretty fun.” Walker says something to this effect. A young girl in a dress comes into view just off of Nix’s left, who’s been watching this play out. She approaches Walker and asks him a few questions that leave him at loss for answers, which the audience seemed to really enjoy. After the stammering on Walker’s part, Nix interrupts the girl (who we find is named Athena) and sends Walker on his way. The girl watches on.

We find Walker sitting on a bench outside, clutching his bag. People walk back and forth around him. To his right, we see Athena take a seat next him on the bench, but facing the other direction. They talk for a bit without looking at each other.

“Look over there, at your five o’clock.” She says. Walker looks ahead and to his left and then to his right, a little unsure. She looks at him as if he’s little crazy and gestures to her left. “Don’t know what 5 O’Clock is, it’s that way.” Which brings more audience response of chuckles. Looking in the direction she points out, she sees Nix pass by with someone else. Athena asks him to follow them, “but not too close”. She then proceeds to put something in his hand and leaves. Opening it, it reveals one of the Tomorrowland pins before fading to black and cutting to a scene where he’s in his garage, arguing with his father (played by Chris Bauer, True Blood’s Andy Bellefleur).

“But I can make it work! I can figure it out!” Frank says. His father asks him to let it go and stop tinkering with these silly notions. There seemed to be a divide between the theme of Frank’s optimism and his father’s point of view before we fade to black again and the lights come up.


The audience loved it. On Tomorrowland, Bird pointed out that he and Lindelof asked “Why did the Future change?” The attitude of the world was “We can figure it out.”, Which seems missing today. The magic of World’s Fairs are dispersed. Janeane shot back that are a number of people out there that are changing things and used Elon Musk as an example. Bird added that the Zeitgeist is doom and gloom, and any hope of a bright future is somewhat stemmed. People seem resigned that we’re going down. “You have to do things, to change things.”, He said. On a personal note, there appears to be a lot of Optimism in Tomorrowland, something that Bird seems to carry with him.

Syndrome from The Incredibles

Brad Bird took questions like Syndrome – “You! Up there in the back with the red hat! Your question, give it to me!!”

After all that, a few questions from the audience were given. This was fun, with Janeane started the picking and then Brad targeting the hands that flew up. It was like watching Syndome use his wrist lasers in The Incredibles. They included the following:

What was the Sixth Thing (for the 5 out of 6 things he was able to do in a spy film)?

“That would be giving up the idea.” Bird laughed. Most of the ideas are reusable somewhere else. He had a concept for an animated version of Will Eisner’s The Spirit, but some of the ideas for that feature ended up becoming part of The Iron Giant.

How do you handle lighting in Animation vs. Live Action?

– When dealing with lighting, it’s almost the same way. A shorthand of cinematographer’s work was used to build setups. I can kind of see where Bird is coming from there. If you look at How to Train Your Dragon 2, the cinematography there was assisted by Roger Deakins. Lighting’s just as important in animation as it is in any medium. It’s just teaching the computer to handle it or drawing from that (at least, that’s my thought on it all).

How different is TV Work from movies?

“If you slow down, you can get eaten alive.” Bird said. He used the I Love Lucy chocolate assembly line as a reference here, stating that he learned a great deal on his time with the Simpsons. TV forces one to make very quick decisions. Iron Giant’s budget was different from Ratatouille’s and there was room to build more from that.

On creating genuine peril:

Bird loved that Disney wasn’t afraid of creating general fear in children, citing Pinocchio’s donkey transformation as something that terrified him. If animation should do anything, it should try a “balls out horror movie”. Dead Space: Downfall came to mind, personally.

Ever consider doing a live action / animated feature (like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)

– Some of those work and can play together. Others come out pretty bad, like the Pagemaster. Bird wouldn’t be entirely opposed to doing one, but he didn’t appear to be too enthralled about it.

What are your processes for generating Ideas?

Here, Bird said that it’s different for each film. As an example, he wanted to do a film called “Ray Gun”. The idea came from a song he heard on the radio that he thought sounded like the Peter Gunn theme. Janeane smiled and caught the song right away – “Planet Claire” by the B52’s. Basically, it’s coming up with answers that entertain you.

With that, he and Janeane thanked the audience to tons of applause, and a bit of optimism. Below is the song that Bird was referencing:

Song of the Day: Orphans of Doom/The Awakening (by Basil Poledouris)


Basil-Pictures-2

We’re closing out another year and it’s always time to reflect back on the events the we all experienced.

Here in Through the Shattered Lens we saw a new writer join the ranks with the arrival and addition of Alexandre Rothier. We also saw more and more of our writers grow in confidence with their writing. This didn’t just translate into more writing from them, but better as well. There’s Dazzling Erin with her constant surprise of finding new artists to share. Then leonth3duke who finally made the jump to truly appreciating horror. Leonard Wilson continued to find his voice with each new review he wrote.

I can’t forget necromoonyeti who continues to be my source of all things music and with each new band written I pick up something new to experience. Semtex Skittle showed the world his appreciation not just for the franchise of Final Fantasy but Sailor Moon as well and to that otaku are grateful. Speaking of otaku there’s the site’s own big bear of one with pantsukudasai56 who always brings in his choice recommendations in anime.

Then there’s Dork Geekus giving us his thoughts on things comic book. We also have trashfilmguru gracious enough to take time to share his unique take on horror, comic books both high and low-brow who also keeps the rest of us from drinking the Marvel Kool-Aid wholesale which makes for a better site.

Finally there’s my co-founder and partner-in-crime Lisa Marie Bowman who upped her game as she literally propped up the site at times with her voluminous, insightful and unique brand of writing. I will be forever grateful for her continued support and for becoming one of my closest friends.

I’ve chosen the latest “Song of the Day” as an analogue to what I saw myself and this site go through this year of 2014. I had just lost my father at the tail end of 2013 (it is a loss still felt even today) and then had fallen deathly ill around the holidays. Through it all I was thankful and proud of the work my fellow writers were able to do in my absence through my grief and sickness.

Basil Poledouris remains an artist I’ve admired from the moment I heard his music transform John Milius’ screen adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s Cimmerian barbarian from just your standard violent sword-and-sorcery matinee piece to something close to a perfect blend of epic fantasy and primal storytelling. Poledouris would go on to make other memorable film scores, but it’s his work in Conan the Barbarian that always remains his most iconic piece of work.

With the final denouement that follows the climax of the film we have a somber piece titled “Orphans of Doom/The Awakening” closing off the film. I chose this piece to symbolize the year Through the Shattered Lens went through. The piece begins on a somber note with the use of a choir adding a layer of the ethereal, but as the piece continues to it’s conclusion it gradually segues into something triumphant with hope for the future.

This song perfectly encapsulates Through the Shattered Lens circa 2014 and it’s my hope that brighter future awaits me and mine as the new year dawns.

Quick Review: Exodus: Gods & Kings (dir. by Ridley Scott)


Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Poster-Bale-and-EdgertonOkay, let’s face it.

After Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 epic “The Ten Commandments”, it’s pretty hard to come up with another story about Moses that comes as close to it. I’ll admit I have a personal love for 1998’s The Prince of Egypt.  Ridley Scott makes a great attempt in his new film “Exodus: Gods and Kings”, but it comes off feeling like the result of having one person relay a story to you through 3 other individuals. By the time the story reaches you, it’s no longer the same tale.

This is a hard review to write with regards to avoid spilling details.

Exodus follows the story of brothers Moses (Christian Bale – The Dark Knight Trilogy) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton – The Thing, The Great Gatsby), sons to the great Pharaoh of Egypt (John Turturro). Both brothers are seasoned warriors, but with the passing of Pharaoh, a truth is brought to light that forces Moses into exile. During his time away, he finds God and makes it his mission to free his people. Ramses refuses to listen to reason, and some drastic measures are taken to help convince him.

That sounds great on the surface, but it’s the execution that’s flawed. And this is Ridley Scott of all people. I loved Kingdom of Heaven and moderately enjoyed Robin Hood, but I just didn’t completely feel like I was invested in this film.

Biblical tales are tricky. Stick too close to the source material and you can have a heavy-handed story that says what it should, but could bore some audiences. Take too many liberties, and you can have audiences excited, but leave some upset or shocked at what’s presented (like with Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ). Here, the liberties are taken to a place where most of the movie doesn’t even require Moses to be in it. The argument could be made that the other films did this too – that the acts occurred with Moses as a harbinger of what was to come. Exodus makes it more of a difference of opinion on how to handle Ramses. Moses elects for a more battle hardened strategy – let the people fight for themselves. This left me wondering where they found the time and freedom away from the Egyptian Soldiers to learn what they did.

On the flip side of the coin, God decides to handle it Their own way. This leaves our Moses in a position where he’s at odds with the Almighty, a sharp contrast to the Moses that followed the Word to the letter. To an audience that can’t help but make comparisons, it’s way off, though it’s supported by the theme that one shouldn’t say things just to placate others and that they should follow what they believe. What came before basically said..”Okay, I don’t know what your plan is, but you’ve shown me your wonders, I believe in you and you’ll guide me right.” Exodus says..”Okay, you’ve got a plan I’m not too cool with, so…uh…just give me a chance to save / warn the people before your wrath comes down.”

There were four writers on board for Exodus. Both Adam Cooper and Bill Collage worked together on Brett Ratner’s “Tower Heist” and Jeffrey Caine is known for “The Constant Gardner” and “Goldeneye”. Steven Zallian (Moneyball, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, American Gangster) was the fourth. I’m thinking with all those fingers in the pie, the movie was bound to go in a different direction. Again, it’s not terrible, just different.

The casting for Exodus is okay. The strongest performances go to both Bale and Edgerton, and I’ll state here that I had more fun watching Edgerton on screen than I did with Bale. I haven’t seen him play the villain like this since The Guardians of Ga’Hoole and he does a decent job here. Bale does well, but it’s like watching Batman again. Not saying he’s typecast because of it, but seeing Christian Bale yell is almost expected in a movie these days. Reunited with her Aliens director, Sigourney Weaver has about 10 to 15 minutes total of screen time in the film, and Ben Kingsley might have the same amount. Aaron Paul spends most of his time making that stare he does when he see something incredible. There’s not a lot for any of these actors to chew on, but they try their best with it.  Both Indira Varma (Game of Thrones) and Ewan Bremer (Jack the Giant Slayer, Trainspotting) are on hand as Ramses’ advisors. They don’t really count too much in all this.

Visually, the effects for the Plagues are very good. I honestly think those segments were the best in the entire film. The rest, I’m not so sure. The Red Sea sequence, when it happens, it done in such a way that the mysticism is just about sucked out of it. I’m sitting there hoping for a big reveal and found myself asking if that was it. Perhaps it was the angle where I was sitting or the theatre I saw it in, but it wasn’t as clear as it could be. It seemed like I was watching a 3D version of the film (I went for the regular one). The fight sequences were also done very well, many of which were similar to Ridley’s Robin Hood or Gladiator. Also note that at 154 minutes, it’s a long film. I pulled my iPod Nano out of my pocket twice to check the time.

As for the kid factor, I would say that teens and older can see this. There’s quite a bit of violence early on, along with some bloodshed, but nothing too extreme. In terms of sexual situations, there really aren’t any.

I think overall, my expectations for what this could be were larger than the final product. Had I never known of any film prior to this, Exodus would have more of an impact for me. As it stands, I’d watch it again, but probably when it hits Cable.