QUADRIVIUM

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Posts Tagged ‘James Cameron’s Avatar

In keeping with the habit of only writing on Mondays…

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…here are a few random thoughts that have percolated over the last week:

–Been listening to the original cast recording of Les Miserables.  If Hollywood can produce big screen versions of Rent, Chicago and Nine, it’s time somebody brought Les Mis to the screen.  So long as they cast Timothy Spall as Thinardier. 

–ABC really ought to release The Path to 9/11 on DVD. 

Amerika could use a decent DVD package as well.  I’ve never seen it, and I’d like a chance to.

–I really wanted to do a write-up on Avatar (the more I think about it, the more I think conservative film critics have missed something), however, some paying writing gigs have come up, and paying the bills comes first.  For the time being, read this

Lost‘s final season begins tomorrow. 

The Killer Angles is one helluva novel.

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Written by taj

February 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Quick Review: Avatar

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Saw the movie.  I hope to expand my thoughts and deliver a real review, but here’s the gist: Avatar is a great B-movie, wrapped up in incredible special effects. 

The story is its biggest weakness; the narrative fails to challenge the audience on any level.  And that’s okay–there’s a lot left there to enjoy.  The problem is that there’s so much there Cameron never bothered to tap.

Hope to write more on this soon.  For now, Overstreet’s review pretty much nails it.

Written by taj

January 11, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Something to keep in mind regarding Avatar‘s cash haul

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UPDATE 1/7/2010: Just checked the updated numbers, and Avatar has sold an estimated 51,858,700 tickets.  That places it at # 87 in box office receipts adjusted for inflation.  Not too shabby. 

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[I]t helps that 75 percent of its domestic business is coming through higher priced 3-D ticket sales.

Box Office Mojo puts Titanic‘s est. ticket sales at 128,345,900.  So far, Avatar hasn’t made the list.     

Hope (and I do mean hope; plans these days just never seem to come together) to see it in 3-D this weekend.

Written by taj

January 4, 2010 at 8:10 pm

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Overstreet posts best review of Avatar I have read so far…

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I usually find film critic and author Jeffrey Overstreet’s insights invaluable.  And in regard to Avatar, he does not disappoint.

Most critics either gush over the film or dismiss its contrived plot, but others have managed a more balanced approach.  James Cameron has always delivered a feast for the eyes, and anyone familiar with his work would agree with Steven Greydanus–Cameron is a master manipulator adept as making his themes seem weightier than they really are.

I never suspected Avatar to be any different, but all the talk of its sermonizing has started to make me wonder if it was somehow weaker.  Overstreet’s reaction to the film has at least compelled me to take the time and go see it (maybe), but still manages to cut through the hyperbole.

The masterstroke of the original Star Wars‘ trilogy was its bold third-act subversion of audience hopes and expectations. Lucas made the villain we loved to hate into a redeemable human being, one who could be saved by grace. Avatar has nothing so bold or redeeming as that, nothing to discomfort audiences with the wild truth.

What begins as mythmaking devolves into political pulpit-pounding, a narrow-minded “war-for-oil” critique of recent and present-day American military interventions in the Middle East that sounds oh-so-2004.

[…]

So I’ll join the chorus in singing “I can’t believe my eyes.” But I cannot echo the recurring declaration that the movie is “mind-blowing” unless I mean that the movie short-circuited my intellect as I watched. The waves of toys spilling from Cameron’s toybox momentarily distracted me from the fact that what he’s built from them is flimsy and crude.

As an achievement in technical innovation, Avatar is phenomenal, a ride worth taking more than once, but as adventure movies go, it is impressively new in every way except the way that matters most. Its look will last. But its heart won’t go on.

After waiting 12 years for another Cameron film, I had hoped for better.  Sure, Cameron could never live up to the hype he generated.  Who could? After all, this was the film to which Titanic was a mere detour, right?

Riiight…

Written by taj

December 18, 2009 at 11:45 am

The New Avatar Trailer…

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…still fails to impress.  I get a real Attack of the Clones vibe from this movie the more I see of it and I don’t think I’m the first person to write that down.  Much of the production design looks like it was lifted from other films.  It still resembles a video game.  And from the looks of it, some of the CG looks just a tad unnatural. 

There are glimpses of the kind of movie-making at which Cameron typically excels.  “You get me what I need, I’ll see to it you get your legs back.  Your real legs.”

Some moments lack any hint of subtext.  “We’re going up against gunships with bows and arrows.”

Then there are glimpses of inspiring moments that fail to inspire.  “They’ve sent us a message that they can take whatever they want.  Well, we will send them a message: that this, this is our land!”

In 23 years we’ve come from “Get away from her you bitch!” to “this is our land!”

(shakes head)

Still…it’s a three-hour film and this is only a three-minute trailer.  Internet video often pales to an IMAX screen, and the greater resolution may improve the rendered CGI.  The only thing keeping this on the must-see radar, however, is the promise of stereoscopic 3-D. 

And that’s a real shame.

Written by taj

October 30, 2009 at 8:49 am

James Cameron’s Avatar Trailer Disappoints

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Last week, after 12 years of anticipation, the general public received its first look at James Cameron’s follow-up to TitanicAvatar

Given the sudden deluge of promotion after a long absence of any real PR for the film, high excitement just might plow over any inherent weaknesses the film may contain.  Granted, at this point, every observation is mere supposition.  That said, the trailer hints that trouble lies beneath the film’s glossy IMAX veneer. 

At just a hair over two minutes, the trailer crams in a collection of stunning imagery, almost no hint of plot, and barely a whisper of character.  Most of Avatar’s visuals thus far resemble other films.  We’ve seen giant mech-warriors wage bloody war; we’ve seen gargantuan creatures devour humans.  Even the floating rocks resemble a scene from a Final Fantasy game. 

Reaction, depending on who you read, is a little mixed at this point.  People coming out of the 16-minute “Avatar Day” IMAX preview last Friday have raved at the presentation.  Kyle Smith’s initial enthusiasm praises every taste of eye-candy, and seems hungry for more.  USA Today quotes one viewer in Alexandria, Va. who called it “mind blowing.” 

On the other hand, the two-minute trailer released last Thursday left many viewers doubtful.  The glimpse left film critic and author Jeffrey Overstreet underwhelmed.  Disappointment rounded discussion in an Ain’t it Cool News Talkback forum, one talkbacker even calling it a “blueman version of Last of the Mohicans.”

There’s no question the stereoscopic IMAX 3D rendition will amaze anyone with eyes.  The visuals, though tainted with unoriginal particulars, still look gorgeous.  Cameron has always shot his films with layer and depth; working his magic in 3D is the next logical step.  The film, however, should not have to depend on the way it’s viewed.  A CGI Gollum still managed to enthrall without the aid of 3D glasses, or a 50-foot screen. 

I’ve written before that Cameron’s films provide an experience more than a story.  Telling/selling a story at that level means ensuring that the experience serves the narrative.  Flip that notion, and you wind up with something more like The Phantom Menace

Avatar premieres December 18, 2009.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed. 

(also posted at Blogcritics)

Written by taj

August 24, 2009 at 2:27 pm