Wednesday, April 28, 2010


So anyone who knows me knows I attended an early screening of Iron Man 2 at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX, where I live, last night. Needless to say, the evening was AWESOME. So allow me to go into some details of what my night was like.
It all started over the weekend, when my friend and colleague, Audree, alerted me to this tweet from John Favreau, director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2.

"First fan screening of Iron Man 2 will be that the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX. RSVP here."

Needless to say, I jumped on that as soon as humanly possible. Luckily, I was able to get in, as only the first 200 people to RSVP actually got in. Got an informational email on Monday confirming that I had gotten into the RSVP list for the screening. Commence loud joyous "WOOT!"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On Avatar and Earth Day

With "Avatar" debuting on DVD and Blu-ray today, on Earth Day, I've been thinking a lot about what today really is all about. In a sense, I really appreciate that Cameron chose to release the film on Earth Day, because not only is it in keeping with the themes of the film itself, but it's also significant because in a way, it has helped raise awareness of Earth Day itself. One can't help but think this may have been Cameron's intention all along. I've had more people ask me why the film is coming out on a Thursday instead of a Tuesday, and every time I tell them it's because it's Earth Day, it gives me a little sense of accomplishment because that's just one more person who is aware of the event and it's meaning.

What strikes me most about the release is that in recent weeks, James Cameron has been multi-tasking between trips to the Amazon Rain forest to try and help put a stop to deforestation, doing interviews and press conferences regarding the DVD and Blu-ray release of Avatar, and launching a program to plant one million trees before the end of the year. Whatever your opinion of the man, he's doing some very good things and fighting for the good guys, putting his money where his mouth is. There's something really admirable about that.

What's also been on my mind is how "Avatar", the most successful film of all time, is, at it's core, a beautifully realized piece of metaphorical storytelling that has at once captured the imaginations of millions of people, while also being the most successful environmentally themed film of all time. The fact remains that no matter what anyone thinks of the quality of the film itself, it has something very important to say about how governments and corporations are raping the natural world. And if we don't do something to stop it soon, the damage we have done to our planet, and will do in the future, will be catastrophic. I fear for my own generation, as well as the generations of my children and their children. We are now responsible for this mess. We're responsible for it because all generations before us created it. And now it's our job to clean it up.

I love all of my readership and the support you've all given me. But in all honesty, the stuff I write about here, Oscars, films, etc., is all pretty insignificant at the end of the day when, in all seriousness, the fate of our planet is literally hanging in the balance based on what WE all do about it. So please, as you're all going about your day today, do something for the planet. Do something for Earth Day. And don't stop tomorrow. Keep doing it. Help plant a tree. Recycle your paper, aluminum, plastic, and glass. Use less energy. Drive less. Do SOMETHING. This planet is our home, and we've only got one shot at keeping it alive. Make it count.

P.S. Please be sure to visit this website. Watch the short video and sign up to be part of this important program!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon: Review 5/5

Once in a while a movie comes along that you hear good things about, and expect to like. But once you see it, you end up LOVING it. Dreamworks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon" is just that film.

For the longest time, I always felt that Pixar was the greatest animation house on earth. Generally speaking, Pixar was the studio creating animated films that played well for audiences of all ages because of the level of sophistication in the writing, heartfelt storytelling and gorgeous animation that didn't sacrifice artistry and creative storytelling to appear more kid-friendly. I also felt that after the first "Shrek" film, Dreamworks Animation was on a steady decline. They always seemed more interested in more young audience friendly stories that had unique animation, but little else.

That is, until I saw "How to Train Your Dragon". Simply put, this is one of the best films of the year so far, and will be a major contender for next year's Best Animated Film Oscar, a prize which has long eluded Dreamworks Animation.

So what makes "How to Train Your Dragon" so special? For one thing, the animation is breathtaking. There is so much detail in every aspect of the visuals, from the hair to the vikings' clothes, to the scales of the dragons, to the way the environments are rendered. Also, I'm not a huge fan of 3D, and the only live action film I've ever seen using 3D well was "Avatar". But the use of 3D in this film is spectacular. In fact, in terms of animated films' use of 3D, I think it bests Pixar's "Up". Also, the art direction in particular is very gorgeous and unique. There's just so much beauty in the film that the images will linger with you for a long time. There are two flight sequences in particular that were so beautiful I almost forgot it was an animated film.

I would be a fool not to mention John Powell's majestic score. Powell is best known for his work on the "Bourne" trilogy and "Shrek" films, but what he does here is some career best work worthy of Oscar consideration. It is at once as sweet and tender as it is majestic, epic, and soaring. The voice acting is also pretty top notch, with memorable turns from Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, and Craig Ferguson.

But what really stands out about the film is the writing, which is leaps and bounds beyond any other Dreamworks Animation film. There is a surprising amount of heart and thematic depth to the story, and the humor and dialogue is as sharp as any Pixar film. I won't lie, I teared up twice and cried hard once. There is a tenderness to the story that recalls films like "E.T." and other films of that ilk. However, what makes it so special is that it never once looses sight of the story in favor of some kind of heavy handed message. This is a family adventure film, first and foremost, and boy does it work. The film lives or dies on the believability of the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless, and not only is it totally believable, but it's one of the sweetest man and beast relationships I've ever seen in a film.

Simply put, "How to Train Your Dragon" is one of the best films of the year and a strong contender for Oscar consideration in several categories, especially in the Best Animated Film and Original Score. In fact, I may go so far as to say that this is finally going to be Dreamworks Animation's year to take home the gold, as "Toy Story 3" is looking weaker than Pixar's recent output like "WALL-E" and "Up" and more like "Cars". If this film does take home the gold, I would be ecstatic. It's just that good. From breathtaking animation to a heartfelt and magical story of love and understanding, "How to Train Your Dragon" not only rises to the occasion, but at the risk being cliche, it soars.