Week In Review… and quick update on my short film

Happy Monday everyone! Hope you had a great weekend. Spring has finally sprung here in the Upper Midwest… it actually felt nice enough I could forgo my jacket for part of the day Friday! Speaking of Friday, it was also one of the busiest day I’ve ever had… which I’ve shared on my FB below…

Well, it shouldn’t be surprising to most of you that my hours, days and weeks have been consumed by my short film project. I did see three films this past weekend however… including a rewatch of Captain America Civil War as it’s now on Netflix!

I rented SING earlier in the week and really enjoyed it! I really loved the trailer, but fortunately it lived up to it (unlike The Secret Life of Pets). So many fun characters, especially the Rosita the pig (and her brood of kids!) and Johnny the gorilla. The cover songs were great too and I thought the story was pretty moving and engaging throughout, and the ending managed to surprise me in a lovely way. I highly recommend it if you enjoy animated films that’s much more than just a visual treat.

I also finally saw Beauty & The Beast! Boy I had been SO excited about it for like a year but when it’s finally here three weeks ago I was so swamped I could barely got excited for any movie. But I needed a break after such a hectic and quite stressful week, and this movie did just the trick!

Now I will say that it still doesn’t beat the Disney animated classic, but I already knew that before I even saw it. With that in mind, I still found it to be pretty entertaining. I think Emma Watson did well as Belle, which is key in me liking the movie. I especially love the relationship between Belle and her dad, played by the venerable Kevin Kline.

Oh and the song… the songs!! Alan Menken is a musical genius who’ve made a bunch of my all time fave Disney songs, here he teamed up with Howard Ashman and added some new favorites!

I’ll do a music break of the movie at some point, but man, the three new songs How Does a Moment Last Forever (Montmartre), Days in the Sun and Evermore are absolutely lovely!! I initially cringed when I heard the Beast singing, but the emotional song literally made me sob. Yes I’m such a sap 😛


Ok so it’s just 15 days until my filming!

Things are changing rapidly every single day. The short script is officially ‘done’ and sent to my actors, though of course it’s not really final until filming wraps. After losing a director nearly month before filming, we’ve now pretty much got a full crew!

I knew indie filmmaking is fast and furious but it seems our pre-prod process is at lightning speed even by that standard! I gotta say though it’s been a ton of fun even with the stress… I’ve been running on adrenaline these days that I know I will miss the crazy rush of it all once the film is done.

Thankfully I’ve got a super talented & supportive hubby Ivan who did the photoshoot with my two stunning lead actors Sam Simmons & Peter Christian Hansen on Saturday 3/25. They’ll be used for various promos and even props for the film. Below are just a few of the shots he took over the course of just 3 hours!

Well, there’s still much to be done between now and April 17… it’s been quite a thrill ride for me and I’m learning so much every single day.

We’re now on Facebook!!

Check out BTS photos & videos from our pre-prod photoshoot, as well as other updates on the film. Please LIKE, comment & share. Thank you!


Well that’s the scoop on my life so far folks… hope you’ll support my project when the time comes 😉

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Guest Review: Beauty and The Beast (2017)

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Directed By: Bill Condon
Written By: Stephen Chbosky & Evan Spiliotopoulos
Runtime: 2 hours 9 minutes

I cannot begin to explain how excited I was to get to review this movie. If I hadn’t been in a theater with about twenty-five other reviewers, I might have burst into tears as soon as the title appeared on screen. Beauty and the Beast was the first movie I ever saw in theaters, and it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s still one of my favorite movies. It’s a beautiful film, has some of the most memorable songs of all time, and features a princess whose defining characteristic is her love of reading. When I heard about the live-action remake, I was both excited and nervous. I’m not the kind of person who worries that a bad adaptation of a beloved classic will destroy my childhood, but I still wanted to like the new version. Luckily for me, I was not disappointed.

If you’ve been living under a rock your entire life and don’t know the story, Beauty and the Beast is about a beautiful bookworm named Belle (Emma Watson), who lives in a small French village with her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), where her bookish ways are misunderstood by the other townspeople, including Belle’s brawny, brutish suitor, Gaston (Luke Evans). One night, when a traveling Maurice unwittingly trespasses in a castle in the middle of the forest, he is taken prisoner by the beast (Dan Stevens), a prince who was cursed (along with his servants, who were all turned into household objects) by an enchantress. The only way to break the curse is for the beast to find true love, and to be loved in return. Belle bravely offers to trade places with her father, and, over time, begins to see what kind of man the beast can be past his appearance.

As someone who is very sentimental about the original, I can safely say this is an incredibly faithful adaptation. Much of the dialogue from the original is included verbatim in the remake, and there are lots of little moments and details from the animated version that are featured in this one, making me feel wonderfully nostalgic. At the same time, the remake offers some much-needed updates. For example, Belle is a better-developed character in this version. Besides just being a bookworm mostly interested in fairy tales, she helps her father with his creations and shows her own innovation. She’s also more relatable, showing her self-consciousness about how the other villagers view her as “odd.” The romance between Belle and the Beast is better handled as well. The movie shows how their friendship develops first, which makes the transition to romance more believable. The fact that Emma Watson and Dan Stevens have excellent chemistry helps sell it as well.

Besides the actors behind the titular characters, the rest of the cast give wonderful performances as well. Luke Evans and Josh Gad were born to play Gaston and Le Fou. Kevin Kline is a less scatterbrained (but still dreamy) Maurice, and the chemistry between him and Emma is heartwarming. The household staff all gave solid performances, and Ewan McGregor as Lumiere and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth were especially entertaining.

Besides the adaptation in general, I was mostly nervous about how the singing would be. Emma Watson is a fantastic actress, but I wasn’t sure how she’d do as a singer, and she had some pretty big shoes to fill. Fortunately, she did not disappoint. Watson has a lovely, bright-toned voice, and while it’s not as full-sounding as Paige O’Hara’s was in the original, it was still an excellent fit for the character. Luke Evans gives a decent performance as well; while there isn’t as much bravado in his voice during Gaston as I would like, he really shines in Kill the Beast. Ewan McGregor nails Be Our Guest with his warm, sparkling voice, although something about the number overall feels kind of underwhelming; I’m not sure if the tempo is a little slower, or if the phrasing could be tighter, or there isn’t as much background chorus as there was in the original, but it doesn’t pack the same punch the Oscar-winning number did in the animated version, although it is still enjoyable. Emma Thompson’s rendition of Mrs. Potts’s titular song holds its own against Angela Lansbury’s, which is no small feat. Naturally, Broadway royalty Audra McDonald as Garderobe is the best singer out of the cast, and while her song at the beginning isn’t particularly memorable, she still makes it sound amazing; seriously, she could sing the dictionary and make it sound good. My last music-related critique is that the orchestra is pretty overpowering and tends to drown out the singing a bit.

Lastly, the movie is visually stunning, as anyone who has seen the trailers has probably already gathered. The big group scenes are beautifully shot and reminiscent of the original. The sets are lovely, and the castle is especially breathtaking. The CGI for the beast and the other enchanted characters is very impressive. Most memorable, though, are the costumes; they remain faithful to the animated version while still adding incredible detail. While Belle’s trademark yellow ball gown is gorgeous, my favorite is the one she wears in the final scene of the movie; if I ever get married, I will walk down the aisle in a replica of that dress. 
 While I’m sure I will continue to be skeptical of this wave of live-action remakes Disney has been churning out, Beauty and the Beast is excellent, both as an adaptation of an animated film and as a movie on its own. Whether you’re a hardcore, nostalgic Disney fan like I am or a casual movie-goer, I have no doubt you will enjoy this.

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Have you seen ‘Beauty & The Beast’? Well, what did you think? 

Five for the Fifth: November 2016 Edition

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Hello everyone! As I’m posting this, I’ve just finished packing for a quick trip to Zion National Park, UT and Las Vegas! I’m in desperate need for a break after a super busy October, so suffice to say I’m taking a bit of blogging break as well.

Well, I occasionally like to highlight my vacation destination on my blog, and there are tons of movies set in Las Vegas. Here are just a sampling of some of memorable movies set in Sin City:

So what’s your fave film(s) set in Vegas? 

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2. One of my most-anticipated movie of 2017 (if not THE most) is Wonder Woman. Well the second trailer just wet my appetite even more!! Seriously, it’s been over 120 years since the invention of the motion picture and FINALLY we get a feature film of a female superhero!

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I know this is just a trailer, but it’s enough to get me all verklempt on Thursday when I first saw it… thank you Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot, who looks phenomenal as the bad-ass Amazonian princess!! This movie is poised to be the BEST DC superhero movie to date… but not the worst part is the wait! The movie will be released in June, 2017.

 

Now, switching gear to a fun Honest Trailer on BBC’s Sherlock, which is perfect timing considering Benedict Cumberbatch‘s Doctor Strange opens this weekend.

I had a good chuckle watching this, it’s pretty spot on! Watson as the original cumberbitch, ahah! I used to like Benedict before he became ultra-famous, as you know I have a penchant for the more unknown, underrated actors. Not saying Benedict isn’t talented but really Hollywood, there are a plethora of equally talented Brits out there too [hint: Sam Riley] 😉

Anyhoo, thoughts about either one of these trailers?

3. We’re just about three months away from Oscar telecast on Feb. 26, 2017, and award season has pretty much started with TIFF, so it’s never too early to talk about Oscar contenders! Since I just came out of Twin Cities Film Fest, I’ve mentioned on my recap post that one of the films that resonated with me most is Moonlight. I had read several reviews as well as interviews with writer/director Barry Jenkins, particularly this one in Esquire.

… Moonlight is neither a black film nor a gay film. “We’re not reaching for this great statement about [race or] sexuality,” Jenkins said. “What we’re reaching for is a portrait of people who are just trying to get through life.”

It’s so refreshing that Moonlight isn’t a big political/social agenda, it feels grounded and personal and that’s why it resonates so much with me. I think anyone of all races who loves great storytelling should absolutely see this and THIS is the film I’ll be rooting for on Oscar night!

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Mahershala Ali in ‘Moonlight’

I’d be seriously miffed if this film wasn’t at least nominated, I mean if there is justice in this world, Barry Jenkins should be getting multiple noms for writing & directing, and it’d be a bonus to see Mahershala Ali up in the Best Supporting Actor category! I remember seeing him in the last Hunger Games movie and groaned to see an actor of his talent so wasted. It’s great to see him in a meaty role for once.

So guys, which film(s) are you rooting for this award season?
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4. I grew up watching Disney Princess animated films and lately we’ve got an endless supply of live-action versions. Well, out of those Princess movies, Beauty & The Beast is one I’d think would be challenging to film. But so far the casting and production stills have only made me anticipate it all the more. Behold…

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I was swooning hard looking at these pictures… surely on the visual front, it looks absolutely gorgeous and magical. I love how spot-on the casting are, esp. Belle, Beast and Gaston, which I’ve talked about here. Emma Watson looks like she’s born to play this role. Sounds like they’re going to be faithful to the animated version, and I sure hope they use the same music by Alan Menken!

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Images courtesy of EW.com

Updated 11/14: Now we’ve got its first full trailer!!

Are you as ready as I am to be swept away by this fairy tale?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Khalid from The Blazing Reel! His question couldn’t be more timely considering this coming Tuesday, November 8 is US election day and this has been, shall we say, a most unusual election year!

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So here’s Khalid’s question:

With the 2016 Presidential Election nearing close, what is in your opinion is the best election movie? Your choice doesn’t necessarily have to be about a film that focuses on a Presidential election.

Well, I’m sure you have an opinion on this topic, So let’s hear it!


Well, that’s it for the NOVEMBER edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Take part by picking a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 

Five for the Fifth: JUNE 2016 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Summer blockbuster is officially here folks! Some of the June screenings I’m going to be seeing are Finding Dory, Legend of Tarzan, Now You See Me 2, etc.

To be honest with you, I’m not super excited about any of the June releases. So I’m setting my sights on a movie that won’t even be here until March 2017, that is the live-action version of Beauty & The Beast!

Apparently the teaser trailer broke the viewing record, and beats even the latest Star Wars (91.8 million times in its first 24 hours compared to 88 million times for The Force Awakens). I have to admit I was rather meh when it was first announced, but since I’m quite looking forward to it. But man, the main cast was spot on! Emma Watson looks perfect as Belle, as well as Dan Stevens with his baby blues as the Beast/Prince and Luke Evans as Gaston. Heck, Evans looked like the splitting image the animated version of Gaston it’s uncanny! I wish Jean Dujardin had been cast as the French Casanova candelabra Lumière instead of Ewan McGregor though.

Are you excited about this live-action remake of ‘Beauty & The Beast’? 

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2. Last week the rumor mill went into overdrive with this report that Daniel Craig reportedly turned down nearly $100mil to play Bond in two more films. No, I’m not going to ask who you’d want to replace Craig as until there is an actual formal announcement from Barbara Broccoli herself that he’s no longer playing Bond, every actor mentioned is just speculation and wishful thinking. I posted on Twitter who I’d love to see as Bond as I think the Yorkshireman all the requirements for a definitive cinema super spy in my book 😉

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One thing for sure, Craig will follow up his Bond role with a TV series called Purity, a dramatic thriller based on Jonathan Franzen’s novel of the same name. Per THRthe story centers on a young woman named Purity (who is known by the name of Pip) who, in search of answers about herself and her family, winds up interning in South America at the Sunlight Project, a group which deals with all the secrets of the world. It’s described as a story about youthful idealism, fidelity and murder. Like Bond movies, the story is also set in multiple locations, Berlin, Bolivia, New York, California, etc. Craig is to play Andreas, a German provocateur who crosses paths with Pip who sounds a lot like Julian Assange.

Premium Cable TV Showtime has ordered 20 episodes of it and production will begin next year. This project sounds pretty intriguing actually. I’m curious to see who else will join the cast, especially in the role of Pip.

What do you think of the premise of ‘Purity’ series?

3. For some reason I missed this news from a while ago that Sandra Bullock will be leading an all female cast of Ocean’s Eleven movie. According to The Playlist, director Gary Ross (The Hunger GamesSeabiscuit) came up with the idea and brought the idea to the original ‘Ocean’s’ franchise director Steven Soderbergh. I certainly welcome the idea, and it certainly could be fun. We’ll see if this might spurn all kinds of controversy the way the all-female Ghostbuster movie had been (frankly I think all those haters have no life nor an iota of imagination), but heck, I’ll so watch it! Well, there’s now reports that another Oscar winner, Cate Blanchett, might join the cast. Wahoo!!!!

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Who else would you like to see join the cast of this movie?
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4. Speaking of on-screen pairings, this question is inspired by the latest buddy cop action comedy The Nice Guys in which we see the unlikely pairing of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. I haven’t seen it yet but lots of people praise the two actors’ on-screen chemistry. I guess it shouldn’t surprise us the fact that director Shane Black’s classic Lethal Weapon had one of the best on-screen pairings ever with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. I also like the pairing of Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Val Kilmer & Robert Downey Jr.

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There have been other great buddy cop duos, comedic or otherwise. Robert Downey Jr & Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes, Colin Farrell & Brendan Gleeson in In Bruges, and even the small screen pairing of Matthew McConnaughey & Woody Harrelson in True Detectives season 1 was an audience favorite.

I had asked this question six years ago and posted my dream picks of MALE on-screen duos. My absolute dream would be to see Timothy Dalton & Alan Rickman pairing, alas that’s never gonna happen now. In any case, right at the top of my head, I’d love to see the pairing of:

  • Sam Riley & Daniel Brühl (he’s actually played opposite Sam’s wife Alexandra Maria Lara in Rush)
  • Idris Elba & Christian Bale
  • Viggo Mortensen & Daniel Day Lewis

I could go on and on… boy it must be REALLY fun being a casting director!

So just for fun, which male on-screen duo would you like to see on either films or tv? 

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Eddie from Sidekick Reviews Blog & Jaccendo.com!

Movie reshoots are a standard practice. Recent examples are Star Wars: Rogue One and Suicide Squad which haven’t been released yet.

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Some reshoots mostly add extra footage like Lord of the Rings, some make significant changes to endings or even characters like turning Shredder in TMNT back into an Asian character. A lot of classic films like Blade Runner, Jaws, Back To The Future, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Apocalypse Now, etc. have undergone reshoots.

So which movie(s) do you think was made better or worse by major reshoots?


Well, that’s it for the JUNE edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Take part by picking a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 

Five for the Fifth: MARCH 2015 Edition

FiveForFifth2015_Spring

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. First things first… well, Twitter erupted with geekgasm yesterday when the third Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer dropped. I have to admit I dug it enough I watched it three times in a row during my lunch break. I’m lucky to have the 23-inch Apple Cinema HD Display at the office 😉

I wasn’t super excited about the first two trailers but now I’m slowly getting more enthusiastic about this sequel. Though I’m much more excited about Captain America 3 that opens May 2016.

For those who’re averse to comic-book stuff, no fret. Far from the Madding Crowd also opens on the same weekend (May 1).

In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.


I never read Thomas Hardy’s famous novel that the movie’s based on but I like the look of this one, sounds like something I’d enjoy. Carey Mulligan is lovely & talented, and this is from the director of The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg, which was one of my top 10 films of 2013.

So are you excited for either one of these?

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2. Check out the FIRST LOOK of Oliver Stone’s thriller SNOWDEN. The film is currently shooting in Munich, before moving to locations around the world.​ Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Snowden before he became the NSA whistle-blower – Edward was an ordinary man who unquestioningly served his country.

Levitt_SnowdenThe movie also stars Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, Timothy Olyphant … and Nicolas Cage! Hmmm, I wonder which role he’d play, and most importantly which hairdo he’ll be sporting 😉

In any case, I’m not convinced yet about Levitt as Snowden, here’s what my casting wish for the role:

I knew the chance of Richard being cast is slim to none, he’s just a big enough name yet for such a role. Now, I’m not exactly a big Oliver Stone fan as director, we’ll see how much creative liberties will be taken for this movie. I think if you want to see the real Snowden, just watch the excellent doc Citizenfour instead.

What’s your initial thoughts of SNOWDEN?

3. Well, Cinderella hasn’t even opened yet and the interweb has been abuzz with the casting of yet another live action Disney adaptation, Beauty & The Beast. Apparently it’ll be a musical, with Emma Watson as Belle, who was cast months ago. Well, this week we’ve got casting news of the Beast himself AND its villain, Gaston: Dan Stevens and Luke Evans respectively. Behold the gorgeous all-Brits main cast:

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I actually just rewatched some clips of the animated feature not that long ago and looking at the drawings below, I’d say the casting is pretty spot-on physically. Though Stevens would likely have to undergo long hours in the makeup chair to get all big and furry as Beast, which is too bad that they have to cover up that handsome face!

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I personally like this casting. These are impossibly beautiful actors but fortunately they can act and have charismatic screen presence. It’d have been horrid if they cast say, Alex Pettyfer and Liam Hemsworth for example. Not convinced with Bill Condon as director though, but I haven’t seen Dreamgirls yet, so I suppose he has experience directing a musical.

What do you think of this casting bit?

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4. Oh for the times they are a-changin. Nothing could be truer for media distribution landscape, as companies like Amazon and Netflix are entering the foray. Well, this is creating some interesting *shake-up* as four major theater chains are refusing to show Beasts of No Nation, the Cary Fukunaga drama starring Idris Elba that Netflix bought this week for $12 million, because the company is debuting the film simultaneously on its streaming service (per Variety).

Apparently the reason is that “… they do not want to provide screens to films that do not honor what is typically a 90-day delay between a theatrical debut and a home entertainment release.”

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A drama based on the experiences of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed African country.

NetflixLogoWell, since I have Netflix, it doesn’t bother me much, but this news certainly made me pause a bit. What if it’s the kind of movie I’d LOVE to see on the big screen? There’s only a handful of indie theaters near me, so there’s a likelihood none would even show such films. How big of a game changer this will become remains to be seen, but we might know sooner rather than later. Netflix also announced similar plans to the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that’s supposed to be out in August. It’s also partnering with a bunch of celebs on various projects, the latest is a partnership with Leonardo DiCaprio on documentaries that will premiere exclusively on Netflix.

What are your thoughts on this development?

5. The first 2015 Five for the Fifth’s guest is Natalie from Writer Loves Movies blog!

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We’re seeing some interesting Artificial Intelligence films lately (Her, Ex Machina). Chappie is out soon too. As a kid I loved Johnny 5 from Short Circuit! But as a grown up I’d have to pick Her‘s Samantha, such a clever film.

So, what’s your favorite cinematic AI?


Well, that’s it for the March 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Weekend Roundup: The Americans (FX series) and The Bling Ring reviews

Happy Weekend everybody! WOW, everything’s still very much awesome for The LEGO Movie, winning box office for the third straight weekend with $31 mil. It’s now made $183 mil domestically, and with a production budget on only $60 mil, that’s quite a huge hit for Warner Bros. The McG/Luc Besson’s spy thriller 3 Days to Kill (review coming later this week) is a distant second with $12 mil but with a low production budget of $28 mil, I’d think they’d still turn a profit. Pompeii on the other hand, lives up to its subject matter, being a major box office disaster as it only made a measly 10% of its $100 mil budget, ouch!

It’s home cinema this weekend for me, catching up on some older films and TV series I’ve been meaning to check out. Here are my thoughts:

The Americans (FX series)

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Two Soviet intelligence agents pose as a married couple to spy on the American government.

A few people have mentioned about this show, but finally my hubby and I had a chance to check out the pilot last Friday. We’re definitely gonna try to catch up with Season 1 as there are only 13 episodes.

I thought the concept of having two Russian protagonists in an American show is very intriguing. It certainly offers a fresh twist to an otherwise run-of-the-mill spy show. It’s set in the 80s during the Reagan-era Cold War, and according to IMDb, the show is based on a true story that broke in 2010 of Russian sleeper agents hiding in plain sites in the US for decades. So just like in the series, their children, coworkers, friends, and neighbors had no idea they were spies.

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Having just seen Austenland, it’s quite a change to see Keri Russell as a bad ass spy here, in the opening sequence she’s dressed like a hooker seducing an FBI agent. Welsh actor Matthew Rhys, with impeccable American accent, plays her *husband* aka spy partner. Both are excellent in the role of married couple Elizabeth & Phillip Jennings, who look like a typical suburban DC couple with a couple of kids posing as travel agents. The pilot presents quite a dilemma for the couple when their assignment involves kidnapping a defecting KGB agent whom Elizabeth had a personal vendetta. Their loyalties to Mother Russia is tested as the Jennings don’t always share the same feelings about their job. Of course things are about to get even more interesting when one of the FBI agent hot on the trail of the kidnapping suspects move in to their neighborhood! A strange twist of coincidence or is there more to it than that?? Well, I can’t wait to find out! Nice to see Noah Emmerich as FBI agent Stan Beeman, he’s one of those character actors I’m always impressed with every time I see him in a movie or TV series.

I think the most riveting of all is how the American audience are no doubt compelled to perceive the “enemy” of the states in a whole new light. I definitely sympathize with them more than I probably should. But really, are they really so different from our own agents working in a foreign country? The sharp script keeps me engrossed and in suspense. I love that this spy series is not about the cool action and gadget you’ll find in escapist fun like James Bond, but it’s more in the vein of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy that explores the tricky adventure of espionage and really get into the intricate psyche of a secret agent.

I refrain from giving a rating at this point as I’ve only seen the pilot. But I highly recommend this one if you’re a fan of the spy genre or if you’re looking for a quality show to get hooked to.

Now switching gear to Sofia Coppola’s latest effort from last year. 

The Bling Ring (2013)

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At first glance I really wasn’t all that enthused to watch this film. I mean I couldn’t be more disinterested in seeing materialistic and fame-obsessed teenagers robbing their favorite celebrities. I find the whole TMZ culture so loathsome, I don’t even care to read US magazine anymore even when I’m at the salon. It’s interesting why Coppola choose to do a film on them, but perhaps there’s some kind of message she’s trying to tell us with this story. Well, unfortunately this film is as shallow as protagonists depicted here.

The film basically shows us how these teens, led by its ringleader Rebecca (Katie Chang) and her new BFF Marc (Israel Broussard), rob one celebrity’s house after another. They’re mostly C-list celebs who are more famous for their shenanigans (Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton) or those famous for being in the fashion mags instead of actual work (Audrina Patridge, Rachel Bilson). So apparently none of these celebs have heard of home security as even Hilton’s mansion was so easy to break into, in fact, the group barely had to break anything to access their homes. I don’t know what is more repulsive than witnessing these kids stealing things left and right or seeing the excessive decadence on display.

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I have to admit I wasn’t as bored out of my wits watching this as I did watching her last film Somewhere, but I felt that even that movie perhaps had a bit more depth as at the very least Coppola tried to present some kind of redeeming quality for the disenchanted Hollywood actor. In this film, the characters only pass through time, living their incredibly shallow life in succession, simply motivated by the grand hedonistic lifestyle and self-indulgence. It’s stylishly shot but everything is so detached. Despite a few engaging and hilarious moments in a self-parody kind of way, I struggle to find a meaning – if any – that Coppola is trying to say here.

The only saving grace here seems to be Emma Watson, simply because it’s amusing to see her portray someone so different from Hermione Granger in Harry Potter. Her American accent is spot on and she certainly has the gift of comedy. It’s amusing to think that the young actress is surely as wealthy – if not more – as the victims that her character rob in this movie! But even she could barely save this vapid drivel. Even though it’s only 90-min long, it felt pretty tedious by the repetitive stealing-and-partying scenes displayed over and over. It’s darn near impossible to sympathize with any of the characters the way Coppola depicted them here. I think Marc was perhaps the most sympathetic character in the film as he seems to be the only one who has the slightest bit of remorse. But really, that’s not saying much.

This is the third film by Sofia Coppola I saw, but so far my favorite is by far still Lost in Translation. I might give her other earlier films a try, hopefully The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette fare much better than this one.

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So what did you watch this weekend? Thoughts on The Americans series and/or The Bling Ring? 

Double New Releases Reviews: Pain & Gain and This Is The End

One blogger can’t possibly watch every single film, so thanks to two of FC contributors today, I bring you double reviews of two movies currently in theaters. This is The End is actually just been released today.

Pain and Gain

PainandGainPoster

It may be hard to believe when you’re watching the sordid, outrageous crimes that take place in Pain and Gain, but this film is based on a true story. The movie stars Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson, and it’s about bodybuilders on a crime spree in mid-1990s Miami. Action director Michael Bay helmed this terrible low-budget film, which is more than two hours long and feels much longer.

The movie used as its source material a three-part crime series, written by reporter Pete Collins and published in Miami’s “New Times” newspaper. What happens over the course of the film, in brief, is that a weightlifter named Daniel Lugo, portrayed by Wahlberg, forms the Sun Gym Gang. This murderous group includes the fictional Paul Doyle, played by Johnson, a cocaine addict and religious fundamentalist. This stripper-loving, steroid-fueled gang needs money, and so they decide to kidnap, torture and ultimately murder Victor Kershaw, a local deli owner, and later the head of a telephone sex company and his girlfriend.

What makes these criminals, in real life and in the film, especially shocking is that they hold Kershaw hostage for roughly a month, continually torturing him in order to take control of his financial assets. And what makes the movie puzzling – not to mention offensive – is the approach it takes to the story. Instead of crafting a horrific drama, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the authors of the screenplay, decided that they would try to create a quasi-comedy. The key word in that last sentence is “try,” because nothing in the movie is remotely funny. Rather, the film is infested with all kinds of crude, sophomoric jokes, including gags about bodily functions and sex toys. As a result, inevitably, several relatives of the real victims in this case have publicly denounced the movie for trivializing events and presenting the killers in a somewhat positive light, and for attempting to get laughs in the process.

PainandGainStills

In recent years, Mark Wahlberg has proven himself a talented and versatile actor, adept in both comedic and dramatic roles. Think of films as different from one another as Ted (2012), about a grown man with a living teddy bear, and The Fighter (2010), a gripping true-life account of a working-class boxer. That Wahlberg would choose to be in Pain and Gain is truly shocking.

On the other hand, that Michael Bay would direct this garbage is not shocking. He’s best known for loud, witless movies such as the Transformers series. And Bay employs his entire arsenal of headache-inducing tricks throughout this picture, including super-fast edits, spinning camera moves and the objectification of his actresses’ bodies. Indeed, the only real difference between the bodybuilders in “Pain and Gain” and the bad robots in “Transformers” is that, once in a while, the giant robots actually seem kind of realistic. Oh, and the Transformers don’t curse or go to strip clubs.


3 out of 5 reels

Author: Eddie D. Shackleford is a writer and blogger for Cable.tv and loves to write about movies, entertainment, TV and more. You can follow Eddie @Eddie20Ford.


TedSaydalavongBanner

This is the End

ThisIsTheEndPoster

I have to admit, I’m not a big comedy fan. I rarely seek out comedies at the cinemas, it’s not that I don’t like the genre, I just think some of the comedy films have been either average or just boring within the last few years. I prefer my comedies on TV, I love shows like Parks & Recreation, The League and Arrested Development. But when I saw the trailer for This Is The End, I was kind of excited to see it. A disaster and comedy film with big named stars playing themselves, how can it not be funny.

The film opens with Seth Rogen picking up his friend Jay Baruchel at the airport. They stopped at Rogen’s house, drank alcohol, smoked a lot of weed and then decided to head to James Franco’s house for a party he’s throwing. Once there, they ran into who’s who of young comedians in Hollywood. Even Emma (Hermione) Watson and Rihanna were there partying. Everyone was having a great time except Jay, since he’s not as famous as the other actors at the party, he felt left out. So later he asked Seth to go to a convenient store with him to get some cigarettes. While there Jay said he wanted to leave the party and go hang out at Seth’s place, but Seth wanted to stay. Then suddenly there’s an earthquake and some people inside the store got sucked up to the sky by blue lights and some died; violently I have to say.

They ran back to Franco’s place and told everyone what was happening, of course no one believed them, even Seth started to doubt what he saw. Then the earthquake started again and this time there’s a giant sink hole in Franco’s front lawn, a bunch of people fell into it. So James Franco decided to go back into his house believing it’s safer there. The people who came with him were Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen. So most of the film took place inside Franco’s house and the bicker between these actors. Later on in the film, Danny McBride showed up and he and Franco got into a fight about masturbation that will make your stomach hurt from laughing so hard, it’s one of the funniest scenes in the movie. Then later on, a certain big named actor showed up and that also got a huge laugh from the audience.

ThisIsTheEndPics

I didn’t expect the movie to play it so straight, I mean it’s about the end of world and these actors are trying to survive it. I was hoping they would make fun of the movie industry in general, particularly the big budget tent poles that we see every summer. One thing they did do was to insult one another, a constant running gag was how Jay Baruchel is still unknown since he’s not as popular as the other actors within the group. The movie kind of lost me when it started talking about the rapture and then monsters showed up to hunt down the actors. I don’t want give away too much since I think a lot of people might get a kick out of the story.

Performance-wise everyone was pretty good, especially Jay Baruchel who’s basically the lead in the film. I’ve never seen him in anything before this movie and I thought he’s funny and I can see him becoming the new Jim Carrey. Franco, Rogen, McBride, Hill and Robinson were pretty much playing themselves and most of the time it worked.

All in all, this debut feature film by Evan Goldberg (who wrote Pineapple Express, Superbad) is a decent comedy. If you’re a fan of Goldberg’s previous films that he wrote, as well as Shawn of the Dead, you’re going to enjoy this. Just don’t take your young kids or nieces or nephews to see it, the film contains graphic language and violence.

– Post by Ted S.

2.5 out of 5 reels


Have you seen either one of these films? Let us know your thoughts below in the comments!

Musings on the final Harry Potter movie

Well, the 8+ months wait was finally over. Yep, that’s how far apart the two Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are and it was a bit frustrating after I saw Part I that I had to wait that long to see the conclusion.

I did my write-up about Part I in lieu of a straight-on review, so I’m going to do the same here. At the end of that post, I said that the best thing HP 7.1 did was make fans like me anticipate the FINAL movie all the more. On top of that, my friend Ted who’ve read all the books told me, “…nothing really happened much in the first half from the book and then on the second half, all hell broke loose.” So suffice to say, my expectation for HP 7.2 is quite up there… as in ‘It’s gonna be epic!!!’

Well, did it live up to my expectation?

Initially, I’d have said, ‘Not really.’ But I guess that’s because with an expectation THAT high, I’m bound to be disappointed. Now that it’s been a few days since I’ve seen it, here’s what I thought of the movie:

**SPOILER ALERT (some plot points might be discussed in this post)**

  • As in Part I, this movie opened with Severus Snape who is a crucial figure in the finale. Going in, I expected to see more of his compelling back story and in a way, the filmmaker delivered. As someone who didn’t read the books, I think it answered a lot of the questions about his complicated relationship with Harry.

    Alan Rickman is phenomenal as always, no wonder he is my favorite character in the whole HP supporting cast up until the very end. His inimitable voice and delivery is what I find fascinating about Rickman, though there was a part in this movie where it actually sounded a bit too over-the-top that I couldn’t help but chuckle as I watched it. My gripe is with his short screen time, I suppose if I had read the books I’d know about it, but I really was bummed to see the character’s demise in the first half hour. Yes he still appeared in flashback but it just wasn’t the same.
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  • The hunt for Voldemort‘s horcruxes continues for Harry, Hermione and Ron (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint). The first part was quite action-packed as the three broke into Gringott’s vault in disguise. Helena Bonham Carter did an excellent job showing a more nervous side of Bellatrix Lestrange (as it’s actually Hermione disguised as her), her character is obviously more fun to watch when she’s deranged but it’s still a funny scene nonetheless. I forgot that Ciaran Hinds is in this as Dumbledore’s brother, but his character is pretty forgettable. Not exactly his fault but that’s just the way it was written.
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  • Back in Hogwarts, I couldn’t help feeling a bit sad thinking what’s about to take place here. This poster and pretty much all the promo of the final movie promises that Hogwarts will burn! The events leading up to it are comprised of a few key scenes. The confrontation between Harry and Snape was an emotional one… “How dare you stand where he stood. Tell them how it happened that night. How you looked him in the eye, a man who trusted you, and killed him.” Harry told Snape, which led to a fight between him and Minerva (Maggie Smith). We all remembered that scene of Dumbledore falling to his death and that got me teared up a bit.
  • One of the highlights of the movie was when Minerva commanded the Stone Army to come to life to guard Hogwarts. “I’ve always wanted to use that spell,” She said giddily to Molly Weasly (Ron’s mom), and it was pretty darn cool to see her use it, too.

    Props for David Yates and the SFX folks for the cool effects in creating the shield around Hogwarts, overall the special effects is first rate (I saw it in 2D as I just don’t think most 3D movies are worthwhile).
    lll
  • The enemy gets stronger and inches closer and closer… Voldemort’s army moved in on Hogwarts from all sides, which is supposed to be all intense and scary but I was largely unmoved by it for some reason.

    I think the biggest beef I have with this final act is that the arch nemesis, the biggest, most bad-ass beast of all… the bald, nose-less, squinty-eyed Voldemort, in the end he didn’t seem all that intimidating to me. I mean, he seemed lot scarier throughout all the HP movies, even in the beginning when he was merely a tiny, deformed thing. I can’t explain it really and I’m not really criticizing Ralph Fiennes‘ performance or anything, but I just never felt the ‘shudder effect’ whenever he appeared like it used to… ok, perhaps one time when he said ‘Harry Potter… the boy who lived, come to die,’  as he summoned Harry to come closer. I kind of shuddered a little.
  • Btw, perhaps someone who’ve read the book can explain it to me. In the parts where Harry was supposedly dead in the forest, now why on earth would Voldemort ask someone else to check out if he was dead or not. I mean, if you’ve been trying to kill someone for a long time, searched long and hard for that person with all your might, wouldn’t you rather go over there yourself and make absolutely certain that the subject is actually dead?? Maybe there is a logical explanation to that (other than for plot device for Malfoy’s mom to find out if Draco is dead or not), but as of right now I’m scratching my head.

  • Ok, allow me to digress a bit. The ‘nyeaaaaaaaaaa’ squeals that were ubiquitous in every clip/trailer of HP 7.2 wasn’t that prevalent in the actual movie, thank goodness. Ironically, I actually was mildly disappointed that the V-man didn’t yell that when Harry yanked him to the bottom of the castle in their final battle 🙂
  • Speaking of the final face off between Voldemort and Harry, which is what every HP fan has been waiting for. One can’t help but feel the enormity of the circumstances, I mean, THIS IS IT, Harry finally has to fend for himself against the big evil dude. But at the same time, I wasn’t exactly transfixed by it if you will.

    Perhaps I’m all ‘spelled-out’ as in tired of seeing all those spell effects, I don’t know. There is quite a lot going on at the same time this scene is happening. Ron and Hermione are busy trying to kill, unsuccessfully I might add, the elusive Nagini, Voldemort’s pet snake which is also his horcrux. But Neville gets to show his heroic side, yay! Man look at how he (Matthew Lewis) has grown, no longer is he the dorky kid on the block 🙂

  • Glad to see Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) back, even in the form of a dream sequence in a Heaven-like setting. The scene seems rather long and overly sentimental for my taste however, and so was the scenes of Harry with all his dead family/relatives (though again, it’s nice to see Gary Oldman in it). I’m gonna give that a pass however, as this being the last movie, I guess they’re allowed to get a bit melodramatic.
  • Ok, lastly I just want to comment on Hermione’s character. I feel like she’s not as strong in this as she has been in previous movies. What I mean by that is that, the prettier and less bookish she gets, she seems to lose her assertiveness as well. She hesitated killing a horcrux until Ron encourages her, which I find a bit uncharacteristic of her usually brave self. I realize that she’s obviously anxious about what they are going through, but she appears a whole lot more melancholy with Harry, embracing him every five minutes it seems. That part doesn’t bother me, but I do feel it’s a bit jarring to see the ‘evolution’ of Hermione in this movie, which this Guardian article covered in details.

    “There’s almost a direct correlation with actress Emma Watson‘s growing prettiness through the course of the films and Hermione’s decreased bookishness and pragmatism.”
    The article said, and even went so far as saying that “When it comes to film, something about a smart, fearless woman who doesn’t care about her looks makes Hollywood leery; even if, in this instance, she commands a loyal and loving built-in audience before the film begins.”

    Now, whether that assessment is entirely accurate or not, I do see her point of view and I did miss the spunkier Hermione.

It’s definitely a challenging task of visualizing J.K. Rowling’s vision in the books (as in with most other literary adaptation). Dan from Top 10 Films assessment that splitting the movies into two serves a purely commercial reason than anything else, and perhaps it might’ve been better to keep it as one long film. It’s hard to say if that would’ve made it a better finale, but one thing for sure, it’d perhaps be more engaging and coherent as some people won’t feel ‘disconnected’ if they didn’t have time to see Part I right before seeing the second one. Making one long film would also force the filmmaker to be more efficient/prudent in choosing what scenes to include, which is quite a formidable task.

I wholeheartedly agree with Dan also in regards to the veteran supporting cast easily outshining the main ones. Don’t get me wrong, I think those three did a tremendous job (as do the other young cast like Tom Felton as Draco), but obviously they’re not as experienced as the more mature actors. I’ve dedicated a post a while ago to highlight my Top Ten Favorites HP cast, and having seen ALL of them now, I still stand by that list 😀

In conclusion, despite some quibbles and falling a bit short of the ‘epic’ quality I was hoping for, I still think it’s a worthy effort to close such a beloved franchise. Unlike most fans though, I’m not at all emotional that it’s the end of HP franchise (at least in cinematic form). I’m glad I’ve watched them all and they have been entertaining, but there are other films that I’m anticipating so yeah, I’m ready to move on 😀


Well, those of you who have seen this final Harry Potter movie. What did you think? Was it as epic as you had hoped?

Musings on Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part I

After months anticipating this, I wasn’t going to wait another week to check this out. Early Saturday afternoon, hubby and I made our way to the cinema to see an HP movie for the first time on the big screen.

The gist of the story of the last installment of the series center on how Harry and his two BFFs, Ron and Hermione on their quest to find the evil Voldemort’s horcruxes, which are objects in which the dark lord has hidden a fragment of his soul into for the purpose of attaining immortality. Obviously, if you have not seen any of the HP movies, the plot wouldn’t make any sense to you, but basically, finding these objects is the key for Harry to destroy his nemesis. The movie picks up where the 6th movie (HP & The Half-Blood Prince) left off, which ended with a terrible sadness of Dumbledore’s death, which led the three main characters to quit school and hunt for horcruxes instead.

  • Alan 'Snape' Rickman

    Though the movie starts out pretty comical—which explains what in the world is going on with these multiple harrys in various outfits—this movie is dark and brooding through and through. I mean, I can’t imagine little kiddies not being terrified of this even if they had been a fan of the books. The scenes of Voldemort and his cohorts and that humongous cobra is pretty hair-raising stuff, though it’s great to see many of the series’ top notch supporting cast in one room. And man, that Professor Snape certainly knows how to make an entrance 😀

  • It starts out pretty strong and action-packed, what with that intense aerial battle with the Death Eaters as Harry & crew fled his home. And then there’s the sudden attack at one of Ron’s brothers’ wedding, which leads to an exhilarating chase in downtown London. But then the movie sort fell into a lull as Harry, Hermione & Ron (I’ll just call them HHR for short) hides out in the forest for a long period of time.

    Harry & his BFFs

    Part of me wish there had been a bit more ‘action’ in the second act, but at the same time, the quieter scenes kind of allow me as the audience to get into the characters’ head so to speak, which help me relate a bit with what they’re going through. The bickering, jealousy and tension between these friends practically ricochet through the small tent they share, but isn’t that what real friendship is all about? Given the circumstances, things wouldn’t have always been so rosy even to the best of friends. The long, slow scenes really put the young cast’s acting chops to the test. I must say that in all of HP movies, the most intriguing sequences usually involve the more mature supporting cast members. Yet because I’ve grown to truly care for these three main characters, I still enjoy those slower scenes. If anything, you can take your time enjoying the beautiful cinematography of the lush British landscape.

  • Watching a group of kid actors grow up on-screen is definitely something I’ve never experienced before, which is fascinating. Most of HP fans have seen Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grow up in the span of 10 years, but as I just saw them as kiddies less than a half a year ago, it’s funny to see them now sporting scruff and dealing with grown-up issues such as sexuality. They’re definitely not kids anymore and that passionate kissing scene in one of the crucial scenes in the movie will definitely remind you of that 😉
  • The action sequences and special effects are top notch, which is what you’ve come to expect from a HP movie. Some of the tense scenes are also quite funny, which usually involve some form of disguise. I’ve mentioned the first one with the the multiple Harrys, and the second one was when HHR disguise themselves as adult civil servants of the Ministry of Magic. The three actors playing the real ministry bureaucrats did a smashing job capturing the nervous mannerism of the young cast, which makes for an amusing yet edgy scenes. For each of the comical scene though, there is a grim and melancholy one for good measure. The scene at Harry’s place of birth and parents’ graveyard really resonates with me and reminds me why the story of the orphaned Harry appeals to me in the first place.
  • Actor Rhys Ifans holding the Deathly Hallows symbol

    One of the most memorable sequence was the shadow-puppet animated sequence of “Tale of the Three Brothers” that explains the origins of the deathly hallows. It kind of reminds me a bit of Indonesian Wayang (which literally means shadow puppets). According to this site, apparently it’s created by a guy by the name of Ben Hibbon (there’s a video video featuring one of his work). The animation is stylish and beautiful, though it did take me away from the movie a little bit as I was transported into a world of its own.

  • If you ask me if I like this movie or not, I won’t hesitate to say yes. The fact that this is the first time we pay full price (and more for an IMAX viewing), I’d say the movie didn’t disappoint. Though it wasn’t thoroughly captivating, I did enjoy it for the most part. One thing though, as Andrew has pointed out in his review, the trailers might have been slightly misleading as they seem to promise a whole lot more, but most of them haven’t been shown in Part I. The despair and destruction of Hogwarts depicted in this poster is all to follow in Part II (to be released in July 2011), as there’s not one scene takes place in that Wizarding School here. But as my friend Ted who’ve read all the books told me, “…nothing really happened much in the first half from the book and then on the second half, all hell broke loose.” Well, in that case, the best really is yet to come. As of right now, what Part I does well is it makes me anticipate the FINAL movie all the more. The eight-month wait better be worth it!

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Those who’ve seen HP7, what do you think of the film?

Flix Posters of the Week: HP7 Character Posters

Is it just me or does anyone else think that seemingly every week we’ve got a new set of Harry Potter character posters. Even if you don’t read the books or watch their movies, it’s hard to deny HP is such a marketing juggernaut, a global business phenomenon with seemingly ‘magical’ powers when it comes to marketing their brand. There’s even a book dedicated to analyze and dissect the ginormous success of J.K. Rowling and her creation from a business perspective, which I’m sure is used as a curriculum in various marketing classes. The fact that AOL Time Warner own Warner Bros afford them such a wide, all-encompassing marketing opportunities to reach consumers through all kinds of medium: TV, magazines, social media, you name it.

In any case, the creative folks working for Warner Bros must be having a field day churning these out, especially if they’ve got a gazillion marketing dollars to burn! These three sets of character posters are from Impawards.com site.

These are probably my favorites of the three. The angles are interesting and I always like posters where the people aren’t looking into the camera. But they do remind me of those Inception banners a bit, maybe because of those building shots in the background and the cool, bluish tones.

I call these ones the duos character posters, I don’t see these type of ‘pairing’ style very often, but I quite dig ’em. It offers a nice variety from the usual trio versions, but the first one of Harry and Hermione kind of make me think of a romantic thriller for some reason. I mean, if I had never heard of the series and had no idea what HP7 stands for, I might deduce that this story involves this couple and perhaps takes place on some kind of a train 🙂

Ooooh, gritty, brooding… not to mention creepy. So simple yet perhaps the most striking. I mean, if you see this on a bus or an underground transit somewhere, it’d be hard to ignore these. And this one of Voldemort might actually give you nightmares if you come across it in a dark alley! These are decidedly darker and edgier and a not so subtle way to tell the world that Harry, Ron and Hermione aren’t kids any more! I mean, look, Harry and Ron are sporting the scruff now. And Hermione’s got that sinister look going on, piercing through your soul (ok, not really but she tries).

It’s less than a month before the first part of the final film is released on Nov. 19 and thank goodness they abandon the 3D version. I’m not against 3D technology of course, but I am against horribly-made 3D movies (i.e. Clash of the Titans). Why ruin a potentially good movie with something that probably add little or nothing to the overall enjoyment of watching it. Considering the crazy anticipation for this, you’d think the studios would want the series to end on a high note.

Anyway, back to the posters, what do you think of these sets? Any particular favorite?