The Weta Effect

With the advancement of technology happening at an exponential rate, it seems like almost anything is possible, especially on the big screen. Special effects are more advanced than they’ve ever been, allowing entire cities and civilizations to be destroyed with the click of a mouse (all right, it’s a little more complicated than that). But is that a good thing?

A new video essay, called The Weta Effect, offers the hypothesis that the reason people seem to not be as impressed by blockbusters and their special effects over the past decade is that special effects look too polished now. Technology allows the creation of such unrealistic characters, creatures and locations in such a realistic way, that it’s become harder to suspend out disbelief to accept them as they are. Does that make sense?

Find out more by watching the Weta Effect video below! Read More »

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Jupiter

The Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending is a total mess. It’s plot is nearly incomprehensible. It feels like there’s a director’s cut out there with at least a half hour more of explanatory plot details and character development. It introduces various story lines and characters whose appear on the screen for minutes before they vanish and are never followed up on. It borrows heavily from The Wachowskis’ own film, The Matrix, yet is crammed full of ideas that have appeared in other, better fantasy and sci-fi films.

And yet, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. Hit the jump to see my video review of the movie.

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violentyear

A Most Violent Year is a slow burn of a film, primarily centered around a simple land deal that entrepreneur Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) is trying to put together to sustain and grow his young oil business. Yet somehow, writer/director J.C. Chandor is able to up the stakes until they are almost unbearably tense. What hangs in the balance is not merely Morales’ business and the future of his family, but also his sense of self, his moral center. If you extrapolate it further, the film becomes and indictment of American capitalism, in the same way that films like Nightcrawler did in 2014.

With some beautiful cinematography from Bradford Young and some dynamite performances from the leads, A Most Violent Year manages to be haunting, wistful, and unforgettable. Hit the jump to see my full video review of the film.

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blackhat

Michael Mann’s Blackhat is an early contender for one of the worst films of 2015. It plays out like a really bad, excruciatingly boring parody of Mann’s films. The plot is paper thin, the relationships are completely implausible, and the dialogue is laughable, to the extent that much of my audience found the film unintentionally hilarious.

Sure Blackhat has some of Mann’s trademark flourishes, including a couple thrilling shootouts and some gorgeous cinematography of exotic locales. But there are so many elements that are truly terrible that they overshadow anything good about the movie. Hit the jump to see my full video review of Blackhat.
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the interview set visit

Despite all the controversy around Sony’s handling of The Interview, I quite enjoyed the film and found it to be a worthy of Goldberg/Rogen’s growing body of work. But even more interesting to me was how certain elements of it resembled Total Recall. There are a few vague, surface similarities – both films feature relatively normal people drawn into a world of espionage and intrigue, who are compelled to assassinate people in power and trigger a rebellion against oppressive forces. But there was one other thing that caught my attention. See my latest video essay and learn what I found the two films have in common. Hit the jump to watch my The Interview Total Recall video essay.

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Video: Why You’re Wrong About ‘Top Gun’

wrong about top gun

Maverick was a phony.

So says Amy Nicholson in our latest video essay collaboration about Top Gun (See our previous discussion of Synecdoche, New YorkPart 1 and Part 2). Nicholson, who’s recently published an enjoyable and insightful biography of Tom Cruise, believes that Maverick wasn’t actually a tough guy – he was just a scared kid playing a tough guy.

Hit the jump to check out the Why You’re Wrong About Top Gun video essay and see if you’re convinced.
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Fury international trailer

David Ayer’s Fury is a solid film. If features great performances all around, the tank battles are legitimately thrilling, and there is some really unsettling imagery that lands the message of how war is hell. But the film, like many of Ayer’s other movies, glorifies the idea of being part of an unflinching brotherhood in the face of unspeakable odds. And that’s simply not the message I took away from watching it.

Hit the jump to see my full video review of Fury.
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Michael Bay Bayhem

Tony Zhou analyzes director Michael Bay‘s filmmaking style in great video essay titled “What is Bayhem?”. Zhou introduces his video as follows:

There are filmmakers we love and then there’s Michael Bay. Even if you dislike him (as I do), Bay has something valuable to teach us about visual perception. This is an exploration of “Bayhem” — his style of camera movement, composition and editing that creates something overblown, dynamic and distinct.

Many of you may easily discount Michael Bay’s filmmaking as blockbuster popcorn cinema, but Bay has an unmistakable style that others have not been able to easily replicate. Bay’s films are unmistakable. Show me a scene from a Brett Ratner film I’ve never seen and I wouldn’t be able to tell you the director, but show me a scene from a Michael Bay film and his style is instantly recognizable. James Cameron has famously stated that he “studied [Bay’s] films and reverse-engineered his shooting style.” Zhou takes an in-depth look at the vocabulary of Bay’s filmmaking style. Watch the “What is Bayhem?” video essay embedded after the jump.

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gameofthroneschildren

It’s been a pretty great season of Game of Thrones, with plenty of new characters (and plenty of killing off of old/new characters) to keep us busy on “A Cast of Kings.” As each season wraps up with several consequential episodes, it’s often easy to forget how much insane stuff happened during the earlier episodes.

Thus, I decided to revisit Season 4 and run down some of the moments that made a big impact on me. Find my Top 10 moments of Game of Thrones: Season 4 after the jump. Note: I ended up using the words “Most badass ____ imaginable” quite a bit. Let’s face it; there were some pretty amazing moments this season!

Feel free to list your own favorite moments in the comments. SPOILERS for the show are fine, but NO SPOILERS from future book developments (violators will have comments deleted and accounts banned).

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