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Gearing up for Prince Caspian

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Scanning through Evangelical Outpost, I came across this little gem over at BeliefNet highlighting 12 Spiritual Lessons from Prince Caspian, the novel as opposed to the film. 

I think I had started to feel a little lethargic in regard to Narnia lately.  After going through the list and getting a little refresher on the story, I’ve gotten amped again to see it.

The latest trailer did not really impress me – the film looks a little too much like a riff on The Lord of the Rings, something I think Tolkien and Lewis would be the first to agree that Narnia is most definitely not. 

Fans have nearly driven themselves ape over images from the trailers, most of which are merely quibbles.  Film is a different medium than a novel – an adaptation will sometimes involve embellishments, subtractions or additions, to make a literary story work visually.  Since Lewis left so much to the imagination in his narratives, such development is almost required. 

I make no predictions about this one.  The previous film hit more beats than it missed, but the ones it missed flew wide of the mark.  I would hate to see similar results this time around.  The strength of Caspian rests on the story.  The closer the filmmakers stick, the better the film will be. 

Written by taj

May 6, 2008 at 10:58 am

“I see now what I have to become to stop men like him.”

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The Dark KnightTheatrical trailer


My excitement for this picture grows every week. Each trailer has further revealed the many layers this story looks to cover, particularly Bruce Wayne’s struggle against a kind of criminal that more closely resembles the senseless malevolence of terrorism.

The more I see, the bigger the story looks, and the rumors that the filmmakers were working feverishly to trim the film down from three hours look less and less unfounded.

The inclusion of District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) adds a twist. Fans will recall his destiny as  Two-Face.  Since I learned of the character’s inclusion in the film, I’ve been curious how Christopher Nolan would handle it.

There’s much more to the character than what we saw in Tommy Lee Jones’s incarnation.  Dent’s arc, if handled properly, would add a great character-driven element to the mythos of this particular iteration.  I love the foreshadowing offered by the trailer as Dent pontificates, “You either die the hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Once the previous Batman films ventured into the realm of two villains per picture, things started to go a little awry. Begins handled the dual villainy of the Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul pretty well.  But, the Joker’s already larger than life, and there has to be a line to cross where things start to look bloated.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Various other sites are beginning to post pictures of Dent after his…”incident.”  I’ve avoided them, plan to until I see the film.  I want to be blown away by this picture.  I expect to be.  And I have had my hopes dashed before, so I remain a little guarded.  Sequels like Aliens, The Godfather Part II, or even Spider-Man 2, do not appear very often.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Written by taj

May 5, 2008 at 11:19 am

Posted in Movies, Pop Culture, stories

Time to do the math…

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OK.  As of today, there are 61 days to deadline to finish the screenplay.  In order to complete the second draft and get it into the hands of the people we’ve selected to give us feedback in time to complete the third draft, I’m looking at pumping out four pages a day until the current draft is complete. 

While this would normally mean I’m stepping back from the blog, I’ve decided to update my progress here as a kind of accountability.  A way to “put up or shut up” so to speak. 

So, as of this writing, two of the allotted four are complete.  Two more to go before sunset. 

As the work progresses, I’ll start to reveal details of the plot — something I’ve avoided doing thus far with some degree of intention.  So here’s the basic premise:

A dual adventure that touches two continents — A reporter searches for a lost treasure as he investigates incidents of murder and intrigue that took place in an Australian mining town in the early 20th century.  A surprise tip leads him to the untold story of an oft-ignored legend. 

That oft-ignored legend may change before submission, so for the time being, I have to keep mum.  When the second draft is completed, I’ll try to post the first ten pages, just so everyone can have a look at the work. 


Written by taj

April 29, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Subjective slants, and other things

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After posting the Cloverfield review, I looked around to see what others were saying, and I have since spoken to other friends who’ve seen the film, and I learned something interesting.

Not everyone agrees with my assessment of the film.

And that’s OK – I’m not so pretentious to believe my opinion is always the right one.  Opinions differ.  Christianity Today gave it 3 ½ starsLibertas only gave it one. I’d’ve probably given it two – on one or two levels, the film does succeed.  I shy away from rating films that way because it can be so subjective. 

The way I see it, a review is just my take, and in the case of Cloverfield, there was not a lot of time between watching the film and writing about it.  Sometimes art takes time to penetrate.  My opinion could change.  As of this writing, it still stands. 

One conversation at work this morning resembled an old Siskel and Ebert exchange.  My friend looked at the film as something in the vein of the old Gojira films – a simple concept running on simple execution. There’s a lot of merit to that perspective; the filmmakers themselves have said that was what they were shooting for. 

One of the challenges I have whenever I write a review is stepping outside of my own perspective and letting the work speak for itself.  Cloverfield tells a simple story set against a violent and gargantuan upheaval.  That the simpler aspects annoy me says more about me than the actual film, and perhaps I need to do a better job delineating the two when I write one of these. 

Reviews ought to dialog.  Disagreements will abound, and their validity or merit will depend on any number of factors.  Writing about art requires the writer to bring part of him(or her)self into the work.  So I’ve read, anyway.  My annoyance, then, does carry some weight.  The artists involved may have achieved the goal they set out to reach; it does not mean that I have to like it.  I do believe, however, that it warrants an acknowledgement at the very least. 

I still feel very green when it comes to writing reviews.  I look at some of the ones I wrote two, or even one, years ago, and I can see where I’ve grown.  I read Overstreet, Chattaway and Ebert, and I see I still have a long way to go. 

Written by taj

April 24, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Smash Cut – “Cloverfield”

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It’s not easy to admit this. But they say confession starts the process of healing, so I’m just going to lay it out there. I ignored the reviews. I ignored my friends’ advice. I even ignored my own good sense. I was duped, see — caught up in the enthusiasm that anyone who can set up film so spectacularly has to deliver a terrific pay off. My pride’s only recourse is that no one can count me among the hapless many that shelled out full price for a ticket to see the disastrous train wreck that is Cloverfield.

It’s Robert Hawkins’s last night in Manhattan. His friends have all gathered to wish him well while one compadre totes a video camera around to capture everyone’s goodbyes—and the entire film happens through its lens.

A jolting earthquake brings everything to a halt. Everyone heads to the roof of this posh Manhattan apartment complex to see all the action, just in time to witness a cataclysmic explosion erupt in the city, spewing debris. Hawkins and his buddies evacuate the building, just in time (you’ll find yourself repeating this phrase a lot) to see the head of the Statue of Liberty crash into the streets of New York. A monster has invaded the city!

It’s a near-flawless logline; the perfect set up to a 90 minute disaster flick, and difficult to screw up. Somehow, the filmmakers actually manage to do just that. Thankfully, it only lasts about 73 minutes.

The marketing for this film was brilliant, releasing a quick trailer six months ahead revealing the premise, the creative minds attached, and a release date. No title. Audiences went crazy with speculation. Everyone started hoping to relive the Blair Witch phenomenon. The downfall started once we learned the title — an enigmatic name various web sites had floated from the beginning; a name with no relevance to anything in the film, implied or imagined, at all. And that’s just a precursor.

This near-flawless premise comes polluted with cookie-cutter iterations of any number of shallow personalities found on the WB’s line up. There’s the jilted lover, the lover’s hip brother, the brother’s endearing girlfriend, and the token slacker/best friend who just can’t keep his mouth shut. And they all have to find Hawkins’s girlfriend, trapped in her apartment. Conveniently located at the epicenter of the monster’s inexplicable wrath. On the 39th floor.

They have no choice, you see. Remember all those rescue workers, those heroes, that gave themselves and often their lives on 9-11? They’re conspicuously missing from this picture. Perhaps there is no emergency responder for convoluted plotlines.

When the performances captured in the trailers look and sound more natural than those used in the final cut, something’s amiss. Running on the premise that everything you see was supposedly culled from home video footage, spontaneity becomes a key selling point. Everything about this picture feels forced or manufactured.

Critics have drawn numerous parallels between this movie and the other “home video” thriller – The Blair Witch Project – and comparisons should end with the inclusion of the video camera. The terror of Blair Witch was elemental; it played on base fears, building on that oft ignored rule that what you can’t see is much scarier than what you can. Where Blair Witch terrifies, Cloverfield only inspires guffaws. So many scares spurn utterances of “I-seen-that-one-coming” that you wonder why the movie bothers to take itself so seriously. One particular scene might have earned a place among the more chilling moments to come out of the genre in recent years, were it not so delimited by cliché.

I really wanted to like this picture, yet every time I find a compliment, a qualifier has to follow. For instance, the film possesses some amazing visuals, but nothing that surpasses anything seen all the other times Hollywood has blown up New York. The filmmakers involved in this project – Drew Goddard, J.J. Abrams, etc. – have earned numerous accolades for their work on television for years. Not quite sure what happened here, but for all its marketing innovation, Cloverfield falls well short of what should have been a slam dunk.

(photo (c) Paramount Pictures)

Written by taj

April 22, 2008 at 10:12 pm

Speaking of Indiana Jones…

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Appears whoever came up with 140 minutes didn’t know what they were talking about (HT Libertas).  Indy IV’s running time sits officially at 123 minutes.

So everyone who was actually worried about this can finally breathe. 

Written by taj

April 21, 2008 at 10:26 am

Posted in Movies

Kids just know

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The other day, I had the baby in my lap, and just for kicks, I played the trailer for the new Indiana Jones movie. 

His attention was rapt.  And I kid you not, when the trailer was over, he actually clapped his hands. 

Kids know, man.  They just…know.

Written by taj

April 21, 2008 at 9:21 am