Question of the Week: Are you looking forward to AVATAR sequels?

AvatarQuadPoster

It just dawned on me that it’s been over four years since AVATAR was released. I remember it was quite a big deal back in 2009. I remember getting advanced screenings (this was before I was on the press list, mind you) and I was soooooo excited! I even had a countdown post like I did before Man of Steel came out. I had barely any blog followers back then either, so most of you probably never read my review of the movie. Yes, I actually loved it. Yes I know it’s basically the story of Pocahontas with blue people, but I couldn’t help being caught up in the spectacle of it all. Visually, it was a thrill that at the time, I hadn’t experienced before. My hubby and I even went to the Avatar exhibit at EMP Museum in Seattle, so yeah, I was obviously a fan :D

But it seems ages ago now. I haven’t even rewatched it in a couple of years though we did get the Blu-ray. It’s not as exhilarating visually when you didn’t see it on 3D or IMAX, and this is one of those movies where the visual does matter. In any case, I sort of have forgotten about this movie, but yesterday I saw a bunch of tweets about Arnold Schwarzenegger possibly joining Avatar 2 as a villain.

I’d think Arnie’s probably playing a general/leader role similar to Stephen Lang. It’s been a while since he collaborated with Cameron in those Terminator movies and True Lies (which I’ve been wanting to rewatch for some time!), though at this point I don’t really care. Heck, I used to actually like Sam Worthington, he was even on my list of 10 Notable Foreign Actors to Watch, but apart from maybe The Debt, I don’t really care for him as an actor anymore. Yeah, blame it on the abominable Clash of the Titans!

TheAbyss_pic

The Abyss

What I am curious about is if Avatar 2 would actually take place underwater as was reported early this year. This is what Cameron said to LA Times Hero Complex about what the setting of the sequel,

Part of my focus in the second film is in creating a different environment – a different setting within Pandora. And I’m going to be focusing on the ocean on Pandora, which will be equally rich and diverse and crazy and imaginative, but it just won’t be a rain forest. I’m not saying we won’t see what we’ve already seen; we’ll see more of that as well.

Of course they’d use the latest technology for the motion capture and stuff, that’d be interesting to see how that’d work underwater. The Abyss is one of my favorite sci-fi, which was filmed underwater. Surely the technology has improved tremendously since 1989 that we should expect something even more breathtaking.


So what do you guys think about AVATAR sequels, are you a fan of the first film? 

Random Question: Which movie did you watch most often in the theater?

Sometimes an idea of a post just presents itself when you least expect it. I was just chattin’ with one of the web programmers at work via email about a project, and somehow our conversation turned to movies. He candidly shared to me that he had seen James Cameron’s ALIENS 12 times! Yep, you read that right, TWELVE times! He said he probably saw it 4-5 times with friends/family, and then the rest was just on his own. I asked him what was so special about it that warrant such a high number of repeat viewing, and his reply was that the groundbreaking special effects at the time (in 1986), coupled with the fact that he was in his early twenties had something to do with it. I pressed him if he had a huge crush on Sigourney Weaver as Ripley and he said no, but her presence certainly didn’t hurt. Ha!

Interestingly enough, James Cameron’s other movies seem to prompt repeat theater viewings, I think Avatar‘s success benefits from repeat viewings and of course the biggest one of all being Titanic. According to its Wiki page, ‘The normal repeat viewing rate for a blockbuster theatrical film is about 5%. The repeat rate for TITANIC was over 20%.” No doubt the ‘Leo-mania’ at the time was the major factor (DiCaprio was certainly the Robert Pattinson of the late 90s). I think I saw Titanic twice in the theater and I’ve got to admit, I was a bit bitten by the Leo bug at the time as well ;)

In any case, I was quite flabbergasted that someone has seen ANY movie in the theater more than three times. I think that’s probably the most often I had gone to a cinema to see the same exact film (I’m not counting a re-release that happens years later), and that was Superman: The Movie. I was a wee kid and I was so fascinated by a man who could fly that I had to see it again and again. I’ve seen the VHS and DVD version countless times after that of course, but to this day, I still can’t fathom watching that, or any other of my favorite movies for that matter, more than three times in the theater. But I’m curious now if someone out there have actually beaten my friend’s record.


Well folks, do you share my sentiment or perhaps you have actually beaten my friend’s record or close to it? If the latter, please share which movie you’ve seen the most often in the cinema and what do you love most about it.

Which Oscar’s Best Picture winner(s) are great for repeat viewings?

Three more days until Oscar time! I was going to publish my Oscar chatter post on my winner picks vs. predictions on the major categories, but allow me to digress. I had an email conversation earlier today with a colleague/friend of mine and she confessed how The Hurt Locker is not something she’d enjoy watching because she finds war movies really depressing. Then another colleague who might be going to see Precious with her friends told me she was a bit reluctant about it after reading about how some scenes might be too painful to watch. This is the same colleague who couldn’t keep her eyes open during A Serious Man last weekend. All three of those movies I mentioned are up for Oscar this year, which begs the question: are the Academy Best Picture nominees the kind of films that are really enjoyable to watch? What I mean by ‘enjoyable’ is that they’re the kind of flix that don’t make your skin crawl or depress/bore the heck out of you that you actually don’t mind, or even look forward to, watching them again.

Looking back at some of the older movies that won Best Picture, the Academy is notorious for nominating ‘powerful’ movies that aren’t necessarily ‘entertaining.’ For me, there are only a handful of past winners that I actually enjoy watching them over and over again: Gone with the Wind (1939), Ben Hur (1959), My Fair Lady (1964), and The Sound of Music (1965).

But amongst the contemporary best picture winners (let’s just say those released in the 80s up until now), I only count Gladiator (2000) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) as those I can definitely re-watch again, in fact I have all of the dvds in my collection. I’m sure The Godfather (1972), Rocky (1976) or Titanic (1997) are popular picks in that category. As for the rest, either I don’t have interest in seeing them or they fall in the category of ‘great movies one would only watch once’ because they’re just too overwhelming, disturbing, emotional or a combination of all three. So for me, those would be something like Schindler’s List, The Last Emperor, Braveheart, and The Silence of the Lambs. They’re all worth-watching but I don’t think I can bear watching ‘em again.

Of the ten nominees this year, three of them I wouldn’t mind watching again: Inglourious Basterds, District 9 and Avatar (which in fact I have watched twice!). You know how I feel about The Hurt Locker, so suffice to say no repeat viewing on that one for me.

Anyway, how about you, readers? Please do share which previous Best Picture winners you could really watch over and over again, or which one(s) fall under the ‘great movies you’d watch only once’ category.

Five Favorite Movies of 2009 … and My Top 25 picks of the Decade

I realize I might be rather late in posting this kind of list, but I figure since it’s technically still the first month of the year, I think I can get away with it. No? Oh well, I don’t live by your rules! :)

I can’t judge whether 2009 is a good or bad year for movies, as I haven’t really been paying so close attention to previous years prior to this blog. However, I think it’s safe to say that though it’s not exactly the ‘most stellar’ year in movie history, quite a few movies released last year made 2009 a pretty memorable one.

Anyhoo, I titled this post ‘favorite’ because this kind of list is personal in nature, so I didn’t want to say ‘best of’ because these might not necessarily be the most excellent quality or ‘perfect’ cinematic pieces, but for one reason or another, they either made a big impression on me or were hugely entertaining despite their flaws.

So with that in mind, I give you my Top Five Favorites of 2009:

  1. Avatar
    The movie that dethroned Cameron’s previously unbeatable Titanic is still going strong in its seventh straight week. I’m in the camp that totally dig this movie, though when I first saw it at Avatar day, I wasn’t sure how successful it was going to be given the somewhat poor reactions to its first trailer. But Avatar lives up to the hype in a big way. Its visuals is so mind-blowing spectacular it gave me such an immersive cinematic ride like no other, and it’s one of those rare movies that’s still rewarding in its second viewing, which is really no small feat. As for the story? Well, it’s not as ‘original’ as one expect, but it’s quite an engaging one. As to those criticism that call the storyline ‘loathsome,’ MadHatter says it best: hogwash! I guess it’s easy to criticize other people’s work, but seriously, those naysayers should ask themselves, given the opportunity, would they actually be able to top this one?
    ….
  2. District 9
    Looking back, I’m still quite surprised how much I enjoyed this movie and the impression it left me days after. Truthfully, I wasn’t anticipating to see this movie, I only saw one trailer and didn’t know much about it, but the highly-favorable reviews intrigued me and so I went. Suffice to say, I was impressed by the innovative way this story was told, and especially by newcomer Sharlto Copley’s bravura performance. Despite being quite squeamish, I wasn’t too disturbed by the gritty and stomach-churning scenes as they served the story and the payoff was worthwhile. This was by far one of the most memorable movies I’ve seen in a while and the ending left me wanting more. As I said in my review, it’s such a distinctly moving, poignant and provocative film that makes you ponder long after the end credits roll.
  3. (500) Days of Summer
    This movie was embraced by critics and average moviegoers alike and it’s easy to see why. I’ve long believed that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a fantastic young actor, but his performance here again reached a pinnacle in his already impressive body of work. The credit doesn’t belong entirely to Gordon-Levitt though, as first-time director Marc Webb is also to be praised for making an anti rom-com with such an innovative and refreshing story-telling style. The clever and witty script, combined with memorably quirky and vividly surreal scenes, makes the love story of a regular guy so deeply affecting and real. Though I said in my review that I wasn’t as excited about Zooey Deschanel, I still have to commend her for portraying Summer with a certain depth and novelty that’s as far away from a caricature desirable ‘it’ girl that’s ubiquitous in Hollywood.
  4. Watchmen
    I’m a sucker for superhero movies and am a fan of Zack Snyder’s style ever since 300, but Watchmen is not your typical superhero ‘good guys’ with savior-complex. Sure they wear costumes, but these ‘heroes’ are as flawed as they are vulnerable (well except for Dr. Manhattan with his god-like powers), and definitely not the kind of characters kids should aspire to. Despite being too violent and raunchy for my taste — not to mention bizarre (or even retarded as one of my friends call it) — this movie is memorable for its spectacular visuals, as well as terrific performances from the cast, most notably Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s The Comedian, Patrick Wilson as Night Owl Jr. and Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. Snyder jam-packed it with breathtaking and edgy scenes, creative camera angles, and one of the coolest opening sequences ever. Beneath the wildly exhilarating madness though, the story is thought-provoking and surprisingly deep. As this article says, “Who watches the watchmen?  In this sense, this is less a theoretical pondering and more a deeply profound political philosophical question… [it] is not about the super heroes at all.  It is about us.  Can our self governance actually work?  Has it worked?  Does it work?” It perhaps raises more questions than it answers, especially for someone like me who isn’t familiar with Alan Moore’s graphic novel it’s based on, but it’s still a bold and inspired piece of work that makes for an extraordinary and riveting movie-going experience.
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  5. Up in the Air
    A gem of a movie, director Jason Reitman takes a subject so pertinent in today’s society and creates a story that’s deeply engaging and wonderful to watch. The movie’s ‘CGI’ comes in the form of kudos-worthy performances of his three main actors: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. I feel even more compelled to say that the two female characters are as instrumental in the movie’s success as Clooney’s was. The incredibly smart script spits out witty dialog that offers a perfect blend between tragic and humor, whilst the quieter moments still speak volumes. The opening scenes where we see Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham’s travel routine (packing, going through security, etc.) are fascinating and takes the audience in who this man is and what matters to him. I overheard someone explaining the plot of this movie recently where he said ‘it’s a movie about someone who goes on firing people‘ and I winced at such oversimplification. This movie is definitely much more than that, and much deeper than even its marketing campaign makes it out to be (as a romantic comedy of sorts). I like movies that make me ponder about them long after it’s over. Up in the Air unquestionably delivers in that regard, and then some.

Honorable mentions:

  • The Young Victoria
  • Law Abiding Citizen
  • The Blindside

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And looking back, here are Twenty-Five Favorites of the Decade (2000 – 20009, in order of release):

  1. Chicken Run (2000)
  2. Moulin Rouge (2001)
  3. Finding Nemo (2003)
  4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  5. Phantom of the Opera (2004)
  6. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  7. Unbreakable (2004)
  8. Batman Begins (2005)
  9. Casino Royale (2006)
  10. Dear Frankie (2005)
  11. Gladiator (2005)
  12. Children of Men (2006)
  13. The Painted Veil (2006)
  14. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  15. Stranger than Fiction (2006)
  16. 300 (2007)
  17. Atonement (2007)
  18. Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
  19. The Visitor (2007)
  20. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
  21. Bella (2008)
  22. The Dark Knight (2008)
  23. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  24. District 9 (2009)
  25. Avatar (2009)

Weekend Roundup: The Edge of Love, The Young Victoria and Avatar

Two indie flicks and a giant blockbuster, that’s the three movies I watched this weekend. It may seem absurd to you but I just finally signed up with Netflix again after 2+ yrs of terminating its membership. Vanessa wondered how I filled my time before that, and the answer is, well, the old-fashioned way. I’m probably the only movie blogger in the blogosphere who still go to the local Blockbuster to rent a flick. But now I’m gonna find out what’s the fuss about this ‘watch instantly’ feature Rockerdad kept raving about.

  • FRIDAY – The Edge of Love
    The first movie on my Netflix queue is the indie WW II period drama. I thought the movie was okay, its first hour was quite promising but overall it just felt neither cohesive nor memorable. Keira Knightley proves she not only has acting chops to go with her gorgeous face, she’s a pretty good singer, too. She played a torch singer Vera Phillips with uncommonly bright white British teeth, deep red lips and melancholy eyes, shot in almost surreal-like theatrics. Though billed as a movie about poet Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys), the movie is essentially about the unlikely friendship between the two women who loved him. Vera is his first love who happens to cross-path with him one fateful night, and Caitlin (Sienna Miller) is Thomas’ fiery wife. Knightley and Miller play off each other well and their bond amidst bouts of jealousy and adversity is convincing. The three of them formed a peculiar threesome (not in a sexual way, mind you), but as soon as trigger-happy soldier William Killick (the soulful Cillian Murphy) enters the picture, it’s apparent four is a crowd. The movie seemed to have a lot going for it, but the script (written by Keira’s own mother Sharman Macdonald) simply can’t decide what he wants to focus the story on, so it aimlessly shifts back and forth between the four characters. Not bad I guess for a Friday night, and at the very least least I get to enjoy the Welsh countryside scenery, Keira’s singing and the elegant 1940s costumes … oh, and Cillian’s mesmerizing blue eyes!
    sdffds….
  • SATURDAY afternoon – The Young Victoria (read my full review)
    I’ve been wanting to see this film for months, so I’m glad my friend Corinne and I finally find the time to catch this one. It’s late January and it’s pouring rain outside, few things on earth is as unpredictable as Minnesota weather. But at least it makes for a good time to go to the movies. For the first time in a long time, I actually see TWO movies at the theater in a single day, The Young Victoria at 2:00 and Avatar at 6:30. Set three centuries apart, the two movies can’t be even more different from each other, but hey, in a way the Na’vi is a monarchy, too. How about that for stretch :)
  • SATURDAY evening – Avatar IMAX 3D
    I don’t think there is any doubt by now that this movie will shatter James Cameron’s own box office record of Titanic. As of Sunday 1/24, THR reported that in its sixth week, Avatar‘s overseas box office has surpassed the shipwreck epic’s international cume by $46 million. But domestically, it’s got several hundred million to go to beat the Titanic‘s $600.8 million gross, which I don’t think they’ll have a problem with. I guess the Canadian über director has achieved his goal of bringing people back to the cinemas. We almost went to see The Book of Eli on Friday night when it was sold out, and Saturday, we got to the theater half an hour before it started and the place was packed! We had to sit all the way in the back by the handicapped section with the black railing right blocking part of my view!

    Thankfully, the movie itself is still impressive the second time around. Blogger Katie said in her Theory of Second Viewing post that she is of the belief that one cannot form a proper opinion about a movie until you’ve seen it twice. Well, I already loved this movie on first viewing but the second time confirmed my feelings about it. I was still in awe of the spectacular world of Pandora, and the plot, however simplistic, was still engaging. And the fact that I’m already familiar with the story kind of helps me pay more attention to things I missed. It’s interesting that I still marveled and laughed at the same scenes as I did before, i.e. when the phosphorous flying jellyfish landed on Jake, and the first time Jake had a wedgie in the Na’vi’s skimpy wardrobe. Sam Worthington’s endearing portrayal of Jake’s child-like naiveté really wins me over this time that I’m willing to overlook his strong Aussie accent.

    I know I sound like a broken record but even if this isn’t your kind of movie (I’m looking at you Prairiegirl :) ), Avatar simply has to be seen on the IMAX 3D theater. Even if you just see if for the special effects alone, it’s still worth your money. Btw, Yahoo! Movies released a 22-minute making-of featurette that shows what the techie mumbo-jumbo like ‘simul-cam’ and ‘motion capture’ really means. It’s cool to see that the actors still have to physically prepare for their role and the length Cameron went to create a ‘real’ environment and something tactile for them to react to. The motion-capture technology doesn’t replace the actor’s work, but I can see that makeup artists might be a bit worried if this becomes a trend in the near future. Anyway, I wish they had shown how they made Jake’s paralyzed leg so realistically skinny though, given that it’s been the subject of people’s curiosity all over the net.
    ….

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So how about you folks? Catch any good movie this past weekend?

Casting & Misc. News: FlixChatter’s Highlights

Happy Friday, folks! Let me start off with some updates to a couple of news items I’ve mentioned in the past, so let’s get on ‘em, shall we?

  • Back in November, I talked about Danny Boyle’s mountaineering-gone-wrong tale 127 Hours about an American adventurer who had to amputate his own arm stuck under a boulder in order to survive. James Franco is reportedly set to portray Aron Ralston (I still think Ryan Gosling would be a great fit in the role), and the film begins shooting sometime in March. The British director is re-teaming with his Slumdog Millionaire‘s writer Simon Beaufoy. Not sure how they’ll will handle the flick though, I imagine it’s pretty challenging to do a ‘one man show’ type a la Tom Hanks’ Castaway, and it remains to be seen if Franco can hold our interest being the only screen presence.
    ….
  • Contrary to circulating rumors amongst movie sites (according mine :)), James McAvoy apparently is NOT going going to be playing Ian Flemming after all. CinemaBlend recently interviewed the actor whilst promoting his new movie The Last Station, where he dispelled the rumor about his involvement in movies such as The Hobbit). The one project he is set to do is a cancer-themed drama formerly titled I’m With Cancer along with Seth Rogen about a young guy who finds out he has cancer. Fresh out of the positive buzz on Up in the Air, Anna Kendrick has joined the cast as well. Sounds like a decent project for McAvoy, not sure about Rogen though, what’s with him and cancer flick?? Back to the The Last Station, the movie centers on War and Peace author Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) and his wife Sophia (Helen Mirren). McAvoy’s real-life wife Anne-Marie Duff also has a small part in the movie.
  • Speaking of dame Helen, her upcoming movie Red recently nabbed John Malkovich to join the already eclectic cast that include Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Brian Cox, Julian McMahon, Mary Louis Parker and Richard Dreyfuss. According to EMPIRE, Malkovich replaced John C. Reilly in the retired CIA agent role. He and Bruce Willis are former black ops agent who discovers that a group of younger, better-equipped assassins are out to off them both.
  • Not to be outdone by The A-Team’s feature film adaptation, 21 Jump Street will soon get its own big-screen treatment. Jonah Hill is said in this EMPIRE article that the film is expected to start shooting this year yet. He also revealed that “.. this version won’t be a parody. It’s a John Hughes movie with Bad Boys style action. I really love the Back to the Future aspect of getting to relive a certain period of your life. But we’re not doing something serious like Miami Vice! It’s a funny movie, [but] with a real story. I wouldn’t make it if it wouldn’t be awesome.” He neither confirmed nor deny Johnny Depp’s involvement, as I mentioned a long while ago, director Edgar Wright has written a cameo role for the popular actor. But one thing for sure, Hill WON’T be playing Tom Hanson (thank goodness!)
  • Now, even if you haven’t seen the movie, some of you might’ve heard the racism debate surrounding Avatar that centers on its depiction of the Na’vi and how they are saved from extinction. You can read more about it here. Well, as a non-white person myself, I find that whole notion ridiculous. I mean, when you think about it, you can find faults in just about any movie, but since Avatar is such a massive success, it just becomes an easy target. I found this blog post through wordpress which I thought summed up my thoughts about the whole racism accusation better than I ever could. He looked at three other possible options to depict the two races in the movie, and basically concluded “… that whatever depiction Cameron chose, he would still have been skewered. The PC brigade would have been out to get him no matter what. So, unless he had made Avatar with robots as characters, or as an animated film with tigers and lambs, these people would have found it racist, no matter what.” My point exactly! Read the whole amusing article at the source.
  • Poster pic courtesy of FusedFilmIt seems like Hollywood movie news won’t be complete without a superhero-related project being announced. Besides Green Lantern‘s villain casting rumors (with the latest involving Peter Sarsgaard & Watchmen‘s Rorshach’s Jackie Earle Haley), the biggest ‘shocker’ to fanboys everywhere is Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 4‘s cancellation. But it doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing Peter Parker and his alter ego for a while, as Sony has already been planning a reboot to the franchise. Deadline Hollywood reported that the (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb just might be the man for the job, despite the studio’s wish list that include ‘king of the world’ James Cameron, David Fincher and Wes Anderson. But like the article mention, despite his lack of action hero experience, Webb might do just fine as Raimi had no prior experience in superhero stuff before Spiderman, and neither did Christopher Nolan before Batman Begins. It’s planned for a Summer 2012 release, which gives ample time for it to jump into the 3-D bandwagon.

Random Thoughts: The AVATAR effect

I was at the movies Saturday nite and boy was it busy. When the windchill went as low as double digits below zero, there’s really not much one can do outside. We were there a good forty-five minutes early, but thinking Up in the Air is a few weeks’ old, we decided to wait until 10 minutes prior to showtime before going in. Lo and behold, the place was packed! We’re able to snatch a couple of seats right smack dab in the center two rows from the back (as perfect seating as you can get) just seconds before a throng more people came in. As I sat there watching a bunch of people struggling to find a decent seat, I couldn’t help wondering how many folks tried to get into a couple of sold-out AVATAR showings but ended up seeing this one instead. I mean, you’re already at the cinema so might as well catch another flix even if it’s not the one you want. I guess being nominated for several awards usually means a boost in attendance, but I really didn’t expect this type of flick like Up in the Air to be THAT busy. A colleague of mine told me that’s the only reason he and his parents went to see Have you heard about the Morgans? over Christmas break, as that’s the showtime is the closest to AVATAR’s. Now, I hardly think the Hugh Grant rom-com is the only one benefiting from Avatar’s stellar business.

Zoe Saldana as Princess Neytiri

One thing for sure though, the James Cameron mega blockbuster definitely sparks the 3-D phenomenon on the movie biz. Times Online reported that the sci-fi flick inspires 3-D makeover for major action classics (thanks Mike for the article!), with The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Star Wars being the first ones to be ‘retro-fitted’ with 3-D technology. There’s even rumors that Ridley Scott’s asked Universal Film additional $8 million to “add an extra dimension” to the film, but looks like the studio itself rebuffed the idea. I guess it’s safe to say AVATAR is changing our movie-going experience, how far that is remains to be seen. The Times article went so far as saying:

Experts now predict that 3-D will become the new multiplex standard within five years. This will be as dramatic a shift as when the “talkies” killed off silent movies in the early 20th century.

Now, as much as I’m excited to see Frodo, Aragorn, and the gang battle it out with evil Sauron in a whole new magnitude, I’m kind of skeptical how good it’d look as it wasn’t originally captured with the motion capture technology like Avatar did. An exec from one of only half a dozen companies that can turn reels of celluloid into 3-D digital movies said the demand is definitely increasing rapidly to revive their past glories, but not all 3D is created equal. “We can turn an older film into 3-D in around 16 weeks. It mostly suits action films, such as Top Gun or The Matrix, but Avatar proved it’s best to use the technology to immerse the audience in the story rather than throw things at them. This is the new, more sophisticated era of 3-D.” (On a sidenote, check out this nifty anatomy of a motion capture scene from Avatar at motion capture society website).

I agree that Avatar really immersed you into their world that I sometimes forget about the extra dimension I’m watching. Now some might complain that the 3-D just wasn’t ‘in your face’ enough like in those special showings in Disneyland, but I see it as a good thing that I no longer notice the technology as I’m being whisked away to Pandora. It was a seamless experience where I’m not constantly in awe of the science of the movie that it becomes distracting. It’d be cool if we lose the giant glasses if this three dimensional thing catches on though, it’s still kind of a bother to have this thing on my face every time we go to the movies… or at home as 3-D TV sets are arriving as early as this Summer, which I presume comes with those special glasses. Oh, another thing I’m not prepared to do is shelling out an extra three or five extra bucks on every single movie. It’s fine every once in a while, but even at $10 a pop for a regular 2-D flick is not exactly cheap.

My hope is that the quality of the story isn’t lost in all this techie mumbo-jumbo, that with every leap in technology, originality and the art of storytelling remains a priority, instead of being shoved into a corner or thrown away altogether. That’s not too much to ask, is it Hollywood?

Anyhoo, on a lighter note, apparently Avatar also sparks a whole string of fan-vids inspired by the movie, as well as the groundbreaking movie-making process. Check this one out that chronicles the Making of a Bootleg. Awesome stick figures, guys! :D

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Back to the 3-D thing, as I just read this post on Cinematical after I hit publish. The question is: what movies should be re-released in 3-D next? My picks are LOTR, Nolan’s Batman flicks, 300, The Matrix, and the Superhero flicks such as Iron Man and Superman. Those would be cool to see popping out of the screens. So how about you folks? Any thoughts on this whole 3-D phenomenon?

FlixChatter’s AVATAR review


To say Avatar is like nothing you’ve seen before is a quite an understatement.

Back in June, I list Avatar as one of five must-see flix of the rest of 2009 and ever since then, the hype promised it to be something of an epic thrill ride. Well, I can confidently say that fifteen years after his still-unmatched blockbuster Titanic, James Cameron delivers on that promise. Really folks, it’s like NOTHING I’ve ever seen in my 30+ years of movie-going experience. I felt like a kid again being whisked to a cinematic ‘ride’ on a jaw-dropping-ly beautiful planet that is Pandora, a journey that never cease to amaze me for the full 2.5 hours of the movie running time. The movie doesn’t feel long at all, in fact, there wasn’t a dull moment from the time we put our 3D glasses on.

No wonder it took Cameron more than a decade to bring this project to light as according to Wikipedia, filming was supposed to take place after the completion of Titanic, and the film would have been released in 1999, but according to Cameron, “technology needed to catch up” with his vision of the film. That span of time also allowed the ambitious director to invent a new language (like Tolkien did in The Lord of the Rings) with the help of a linguistic expert. All that hard work and a whole lot of moolah (all $300+ million of ‘em) paid off. The first time a couple of the Avatar program participants’ took a tour of that distant planet, the female pilot (played by the fiery Michelle Rodriguez) snickered at their wide-eyed wonder, ‘you should see your faces.’  The same could be said for much of the moviegoers, as for much of the time, I too was blown away by the spectacular visuals. The world that is Pandora is so spellbinding words cannot do justice, you simply have to see and experience it for yourself. One critic said it’s as if Cameron took a trip to an real island somewhere and took his video camera out, they’re that lifelike. If it’s beyond gorgeous during daytime, it’s pure magical at night. The Pandora jungles are filled with luminous phosphorescent plants and creatures, the ethereal airborne jellyfish especially, they’re ever so graceful and downright mesmerizing. Then there’s the alien creatures themselves. Five years ago, The Polar Express used a similar motion-capture technology — where live actors’ motions are digitally recorded and then applied to 3D models — but the result was a cold, inhuman, even creepy computer-generated characters with inexpressive ‘dead’ eyes. In Avatar however, the cat-like eyes of these blue aliens actually have realistic, even emotive expressions, and their movements are seamless and graceful.

Lovebirds Neytiri and Jake Sully

Now, how about the plot? Well, I made this comment in response to ‘the five reasons to see Avatar’ posted on an unofficial movie fan site: “How about the story? All those special effects without a compelling story we can root for would be meaningless. Would I care for the Na’vi people? Empathize with Jake Sully’s journey and the predicament he finds himself in? I’m pumped to see this movie but am hopeful that there is a ‘heart’ underneath all the techie mumbo-jumbo to balance things out.” Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed.

The story takes place some 145 years into the future. The term ‘avatar’ in our computer lingo is used to describe an icon that represents a person in virtual reality or cyberspace. But in the movie, it refers to a manufactured body which is remotely controlled through brain waves generated by a human being. Because the air in the alien planet is toxic to human body, a group of scientists led by Dr. Grace (the fabulous Sigourney Weaver) develops a procedure that allows humans to ‘drive’ their avatar whilst they’re asleep, as they’re being transported to Pandora as a 10-foot-tall, blue indigenous people. Their job is to ‘study’ the Na’vi, not simply for cultural research sake however, but because this planet is ripe with a precious mineral called unobtanium (is that short for unobtainable plutonium?), that according to the corporate honcho Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) is worth twenty million a kilo. The goal is to figure out how to get these ‘savages’ to surrender their land peacefully before they do it the ‘hard way.’ Initially, it’s an appealing mission to the paraplegic ex-marine Jake Sully, who was initially on board as a replacement for his deceased scientist twin-brother. Instead of being wheelchair-bound, he gets to freely run around, jump, fly about, and perhaps find that ’single thing worth fighting for.’ Oh, did he ever.

It’s quite evident from the trailer that it’s not exactly cinematic groundbreaking. The similarities to Dances with Wolves or The Last Samurai are palpable, but it’s not a bad thing necessarily as Cameron chose to go the ‘safe’ route of the tried-and-true tale of a soldier going ‘rogue’ as he falls in love with the people he was sent to conquer. It’s no surprise that he does, as the Na’vi’s harmonious existence and deep, sacred connection with their planet is such a contrast with the world he lives in. It reminds me of the indigenous bush people from The Gods Must be Crazy, who live such a simplistic life yet they’re far more fulfilled and happy compared to those living in the modern world. Like Jake said in his video log, there’s nothing in our world that the Na’vis want, so there’s really no ‘carrot’ to entice them to leave their beloved home. It’s a familiar but still compelling story that doesn’t take away from the state-of-the-art way it’s delivered.

The love story between Jake and Neytiri might not be as feverishly passionate as Titanic‘s Jack and Rose, but their slow-burn romance felt genuine and moving. Jake was drawn to the graceful and alluring Na’vi princess (Zoë Saldana) almost instantly, but Neytiri takes her time before she finally trusts him. It’s a worthwhile journey and makes for a rewarding pivotal scene towards the end involving the princess and the ‘real’ Jake. Another key scene is when Jake learned how to ride a banshee, this colorful flying dragon-like creature (visible in the film poster) that could very well cost him his life. That’s pure movie magic that makes you go ooh and aah with wonder, as well as an emotionally gratifying one as it was a turning point for Jake to be ‘accepted’ by the Na’vi people. Both Sam Worthington and Saldana are convincing as leads, especially the first, as he’s in almost every scene as both human and Na’vi. If I have to nitpick though, it’s the inconsistency of Neytiri’s English. Sometimes she speaks in simplistic ESL English, other times she’s quite sophisticated. The same with Worthington’s on-and-off Aussie accent. But despite that, he’s definitely got that leading man confidence. He’s a strong and manly guy but with a certain earthy quality about him that’s relatable and endearing. No doubt he’ll have a fruitful career here in Hollywood.

One thing for sure, the movie boast one of the best villain we’ve seen since perhaps The Joker. Stephen Lang as Col. Quatrich is evil through and through, there’s not a shred of compassion in that massive body-builder-ish physique. During a heart-wrenching scene involving a destruction of something sacred to the Na’vi, some people in the corporation were shown lamenting the situation, except for Quatrich who praised the pilot for achieving his task. He has no regard for the Na’vi, or their home turf. In one of the most memorable quotes from the movie, he quipped, “If there’s a hell you might want to go there for some R ‘n R after a tour of Pandora.”

The central message of the movie is obviously aimed at corporate greed, though some people will make this out to be a political statement against a certain administration. Again, this flick was conceived back in the mid 90s just to give you some perspective. At the London premiere, Cameron said, “We have this tendency to just take what we want. And that’s how we treat the natural world as well. There’s this sense of we’re here, we’re big, we’ve got the guns, we’ve got the technology, therefore we’re entitled to every damn thing on this planet. That’s not how it works, and we’re going to find out the hard way if we don’t wise up and start seeking a life that’s in balance with the natural life on Earth.” It seems that the Na’vi is the poster child for the ‘green’ alien (as in environmental, not in skin color, natch). They’re also very spiritual people. So even if I find all the new-age-y and unknown-deity worship stuff unsettling, I consider it part of the fantasy and imaginary world created by the filmmaker, instead of an agenda they’re trying to promote.

I can say a whole lot more about this movie, but I feel that the less you know about what happens the better. I’d say even if you don’t normally like sci-fi, give this one a chance just to experience it and simply to find out what the fuss is about. When you do, I’d urge you to see it in the glory of 3D as it’s meant to be (trust me, you wouldn’t want it any other way). As this one reviewer puts it, “Immersion is, I think, the new standard being set here. Very few films so completely allow you to block out the rest of the world and mentally live in a fantasyland for several hours. I’d be hard-pressed to recall another movie, outside of ‘Star Wars,’ that so fully transported me to a world that doesn’t exist.” I’m not discounting George Lucas’ work, but I have to admit Avatar did that for me much more so than the last Star Wars film I saw in the theater. I feel that Avatar brought a whole new movie-watching sensation unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and for that reason Cameron has elevated the history of cinema up a notch. In fact, all my friends who went with me said that after watching everything ‘pop’ in 3D, watching stuff in 2D just wouldn’t cut it anymore. We’ve already made plans to see it again (and again) in an IMAX theater instead of the conventional 3D-enhanced theater. This is one of those movies that warrant repeated viewings just on the visual spectacle alone.

4 out of 5 reels

Well, what are your thoughts of AVATAR?

Counting down to James Cameron’s AVATAR

Less than a week to go until I get to see one of my most anticipated movies this year. Ever since Avatar Day back in August, I’ve been following all the buzz surrounding the James Cameron’s most ambitious project to date. Not all of it has been positive of course, lots of people have actually slammed the trailers and even dubbed it ‘Dances with Wolves with blue people.’ Cameron himself was tounge-in-cheek in his response about why the Na’vi people are blue: “… we were down to blue and green basically — and green had been taken by all those Martian movies with the little green men… So, we have big blue women, not little green men.” But one thing for sure, like the Rotten Tomatoes article said, no one can deny that the uber director sure knows how to make an entrance. The site begs the question if Avatar will live up to its hype, and ultimately make up for the reportedly $300+ million production budget, PLUS the $150 million more to market it.

So far though, the reviews have been positive. As of today (12/13), it’s earned 90% on Rotten Tomatoes with 39 reviews counted, and Cinematical also compiled some reactions coming from Twitter that’s also generally positive. For me, this is the kind of movie that would defy the critics. I will go see it regardless what they say. I liked what I saw on Avatar Day, and though I’ve resisted posting anything on the movie since the full trailer was released in October, I’m pretty darn excited to finally see this!

I’ve also resisted seeing any more movie clips as not to spoil the experience,  but I did check out this interview with the star Sam Worthington on making the film. It makes me respect Jim Cameron even more and hope his hard work pays off.

No doubt Worthington is on the brink of stardom and pretty soon lots of people (including journalists!) will know his name. Just earlier this week, Yahoo news printed his name as STEVE instead of Sam (see below). Tsk, tsk, tsk, I know he’s not a household name yet but come on, with all the hype around Avatar, you’d think they’d get the lead actor’s name right. In any case, I have not seen enough of his work to judge his acting ability, but one thing I can say is he reminds me a lot of fellow Aussie Russell Crowe in that he’s a no-nonsense dude who works hard professionally, but personally doesn’t care about being a ‘likable’ force in Tinseltown. If he plays his cards right — and makes the most of all the roles given to him — he just might be Hollywood’s hottest import working today.

US actor STEVE Worthington?? Great journalism, Yahoo!

Anyhoo, come Friday, you’ll find me & my hubby at the IMAX to see Avatar in its 3D glory. So, how about you, folks? Are you going to see this movie?

THIS JUST IN: AVATAR Full Theatrical Trailer

FINALLY! I’ve been waiting for this ever since a bunch of sites/blogs announced that the 3.5-minute trailer will be released in theaters. I wish they’d just circulate it online at the same time, alas the bootlegged version hit the web a few days ago but I refused to see it. I’d rather see the full glory of the HD version, without the Thai subtitle that some blogs have embedded.

I’ve been psyched about this James Cameron’s movie for quite a while. I’m probably one of the few people who actually dug the clips they showed on AVATAR Day last August (boy, has it been that long?). Ok so the teaser trailer was rather underwhelming, but the 3-D footage on the big screen truly blew my mind!

In any case, this new trailer definitely invigorates my interest in the movie BIG TIME. It sets up the storyline nicely, as well as reveal a bit more of the characters and the real issues brewing between humans and the Na’vi people they call ‘savages.’ The lead character Jake Sully really came into focus here. The wheelchair-bound marine gets a fresh start and finds that ‘single thing worth fighting for.’ Little did he know it would take place remote from earth, in a distant world called Pandora where he later commiserate with and eventually love. Worthington’s definitely got a screen presence in the vein of fellow Aussie Russell Crowe, no wonder he’s been offered so many high-profile roles including rumors he’d be in the 4th installment of Mad Max, the post-apocalyptic action saga.

The music by Titanic’s composer sounds rather familiar to Gladiator, but you know what, it fits the movie somehow so I’m not going to complain. This is the kind of fantastical, film spectacle escapism I go to the movies to experience. Even with some cliched bits here and there, overall the trailer fills me with a sense of wonder.

What do you think folks? Are you as psyched as I am on this one?