The Business Of Movies
Jun 25 2012

Good movies provide such wonderful and safe escapes from our daily worlds into world’s dreamed up by others or into accelerated views of someone else’s “true events.”  They speed up the mundane and let you experience a gamut of emotions that people typically experience over decades in a couple of hours.  A friend of mine who has been writing scripts for years in Los Angeles recently sent out an explanation as to why the movie John Carter, which I didn’t see, flopped after much anticipation that it would do really well at the box office.  The reasons had a lot to do with marketing and business execution.  No matter what industry you are in, you can’t escape the fundamentals of business, timing, and a little luck.  Now for a quick review on some movies I’ve seen recently:

Rock of Ages.  It’s based on a Broadway musical, and I liked this more for the music than the actual storyline.  It was fun to see famous actors (Tom Cruise reinvents himself again) and actresses playing the parts of rock singers and their groupies.  The songs were from my teenage years. I knew all of them and they triggering an array of memories and feelings.

Hysteria. A really good, somewhat comedic take on the guys who invented the first electric vibrator for women after determining that manual stimulation was just too cumbersome to “cure” women of alleged hysteria.  It wasn’t until 1952 that the “hysterical” diagnoses for women was removed from the medical field.  It’s hilarious what they labeled as women’s symptoms of hysteria (i.e., wandering womb)!

Madagascar 3 – Europe’s Most Wanted. I love most animated movies.  This one was good, but still not as great as the first one.  Polka dot, afro, polka dot…

Brokeback Mountain. I rented this because I had never seen it during it’s big hype period.  I was expecting the relationship between the two cowboys to be more subtle but it was right there in your face.  It was an interesting story but mostly irritated me at how selfish they were given the other people in their lives.  I’m glad it lost to Crash for best picture that year.

New Year’s Eve.  I also rented this one and it was as I expected.  Full of stars.  Not great acting.  Sappy, unrealistic ending, but good for a few smirks.

Men in Black 3. Great movie.  Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and Josh Brolin are great actors.  Will Smith is one very talented dude.

The Raven. Named after one of Edgar Allen Poe’s poems.  This was a morbid and dark movie and very much like Poe’s poems and writings.  It was a bit too morbidly uncomfortable and depressing for my taste.

Casa de Mi Padre.  A Spanish cowboy movie starring Will Ferrell.  A strangely funny, yet awkward movie.  Very cheesy, but many scenes made me laugh out loud.

Sliding Doors.  I watched this on Netflix.  It stars Gwyneth Paltrow and shows two different timelines of her life based on whether she caught a certain subway train or not.  It reminded me of how gullible most of us women are when it comes to what men do, say, and don’t say.  It was a little Woody Allen-ish.

I’ve seen a few others this year and rented some more as well, but I can’t really recall what they are right now.  The next movie I want to see is Brave.  I think that one will be a box office hit…they have marketed it very well so far!

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The Book of Eli, Knight And Day, And Other Movies
Jul 17 2010

It’s time for another movie post. I rented The Book of Eli, Hot Tub Time Machine, Cold Souls, and saw Knight and Day in the theater.  A friend of mine made fun of me the other day because I still actually have a Blockbuster card and rent movies the ‘old fashioned’ way.  I know I can probably get them On Demand via Time Warner or some other high tech way, but it’s easier for me to get them from Blockbuster.  Plus I can pick up some sushi take out from a store nearby.  As long as I get them back in 5 days time, it works out well.  Anyway, here are some quick overviews:

The Book of Eli

Set in post apocalyptic earth, the main character, Eli, is played by Denzel Washington.  He is responsible for taking a book – The Book – across the devastated American continent to the west coast where it can be reproduced.  It was an interesting plot and of course Eli is virtually indestructible.  He relies on faith and keen insight to guide him to his destination.  Near the end of his journey a young woman helps him fulfill his destination.  I happened to meet the guy, Armando Kirwin, who led the special effects team for this movie at a monthly event called Nerd Nite.  He was presenting that night, and I chatted with him for a bit before he gave his entertaining talk.  Turns out that Armando might be able to help one of our companies at the Austin Technology Incubator (one of our interns came to the event too) so it was a good random coincidence that we met.  I thought the Book of Eli was a good movie.  Even though the plot was somewhat predictable, it had a surprise ending and of course the special effects were cool.

Hot Tube Time Machine

Your life will be just fine if you never see this movie.  A bunch of older dudes and a teenager travel back to the 80’s when some weird Russian beverage short circuits a hot tub at a hotel the older guys used to stay when they partied.  The 80’s hair styles, clothes, and music was interesting but otherwise this was a very cheesy movie with way too many weird things happening, putting down of women, and unnecessary cursing.

Cold Souls

This movie was a little bit depressing as it’s based on a premise that you can harvest and store your soul.  The main character, who is an actor, is tired of his soul.  It’s weighing him down so he gets it extracted and feels better but empty.  He rents another soul of a Russian poet who happens to be female and his performance as an actor improves.  His soul gets stolen and taken to Russia and is placed inside a woman who wants to be a better actor.  They try to insert some comedic moments (e.g., the way the souls look in the jars after extraction varies from chick peas to prunes, etc.) but it all seemed very serious.  I have often wondered about our souls and how it is that our souls come to be in our bodies or really what unique interaction of neurons in our brains/minds display our unique souls.  Anyway, that’s too existential a topic to go into here…

Knight and Day

This was an entertaining movie with neat special effects.  I heard that Tom Cruise did all of his own stunts in this movie.  The main characters were Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.  The film’s plot was fairly predictable with Tom being the good/bad guy and Cameron being the sometimes scared out of her mind, dim witted gal.  In the end, she’s the pro and saves him but in the beginning I sometimes wanted to wonder out loud why she just didn’t get her stuff together and act like a reasonable person.  Anyway, it was fun to watch.  Whenever I see a Tom Cruise movie, I wonder how they shoot the film to make him look as tall as the actresses he usually plays across.

I was reminded of a few other movies I had seen a while back when I saw the previews in in the beginning of the rentals.  My memory of them has mostly faded but a couple of really good ones were:

A Single Man – An intense movie about a man trying to cope with the loss of his longtime partner.  It seemed to be set in the 50’s or 60’s when being gay was not as accepted as it is now.  He tries to find the courage to live and comes close to killing himself several times until a student of his connects with him and gives him hope.  It has a tragic twist ending.  The movie has several flashbacks to the main actor’s time with his partner and does a good job of illustrating the pain/feelings he is struggling with.

Cheri (with Michelle Pfeiffer) – a French courtesan and a young man, who is the son of another courtesan, have an affair and subsequently realize they are in love.  The character played by Michelle has the advantage of age and experience on her side to help her mask her true pain and feelings when the young man gets married because that was what men his age were supposed to do.  He being less experienced in the tumultuous, often painful experience of forbidden, unrealistic love cannot cope and is miserable until he finally kills himself.  A powerful movie.

The Runaways – This movie is based on Joan Jett, famous female rock star, and her first band.  This was also an intense, bizarre movie with more than enough footage about her sexual preferences and drug use.  It’s a deep look inside the life of a rock star and how extra hard it was to make it as a female rock star in that day and age.  It’s impressive that she and her other band members lived, but then again it’s impressive that most members of rock bands live given their stereotypical hard running lifestyles.  I have to say this movie made me cringe a few times but at the same time I was proud of her and her female band members for having the guts to go all the way to fame-dom!

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