The Zero Hour

Reviews, rants and oddities on video game and film culture.

Category Archives: Movies

Hollywood into Darkness: Star Trek, 3D and the potential default shift in cinema viewing

Today, I found out my local, erm.. “big corporate multiplex cinema chain” isn’t going to be showing the 2D print (oh, how archaic) of Star Trek into Darkness when it’s released in a couple of weeks and that 3D will be the only option they’re providing. I’d heard about other cinemas doing this a couple of weeks back, but I assumed “as release gets closer, more 2D showings will appear, Paramount just want to prioritise the 3D version for advance sales” Now, I’m finding this isn’t the case, and that priority has left any other version lost in the mud. Now, this worries me because there is absolutely no reason for them to do this.

See, Star Trek is a big name franchise, JJ Abrams is a big name director, and whilst the cast aren’t exactly “Tom Cruise” in terms of household names, they have at least some power in getting the audience to see it based on that, (esp. w/ the casting of Cumberbatch who is the actor of the moment). it’s impossible to predict the success of a movie, but Star Trek follows the “Hollywood formula” pretty closely that it’s a safe bet, so why are they essentially jeopardising their own movie?

So, what’s the problem with only doing 3D showings? Sure, they cost more to go see, therefore giving the studios a slightly bigger return, but Avatar aside, they are still not as popular 2D showings, which remain the default since that film of the train parking at a station that scared half the room of patrons in the 1800s (and ironically did a better job at showing depth then most 3D movies). Most movies still predominantely get their money from 2D screenings, although obviously 3D is still relatively popular and accesible to the casual cinema goer.

Which is fine, but there is still a large amount of people who find 3D uncomfortable, can’t see 3D, dislike or find the effect distracting or have to wear two pairs of glasses to watch the movie, which not only looks silly, but stops them fitting on your face and you have to constantly be distracted from the action by sliding them back up. Not to mention that most 3D movies are converted in post production gives it less of feeling of immersion and more of a feeling of a cash cow gimmick.

And allowing that cash cow gimmick be the default option is therefore alienating a good chunk of your potential audience. Star Trek is a film that inevitably will make money, but it will make considerably less because it’s not as accessible. Maybe that’s the plan though, and they’re hoping for a resurgence through home release in 5 or so months time.

A similar thing happened to Dredd, one of the more surprisingly solid movies of last year. Both movies were made with the ultimatum of “This has to be in 3D” (assuming because of the increased ticket prices?) and both movies have very limited 2D screenings (at least in Britain)  Dredd did not do well at the box office, performing lower than expected. It did make a lot more money on DVD/Blu-Ray though, and I think partly down to it being more accesible to people. I never saw it at the cinema because I have trouble with 3D movies, but I bought the DVD the day of release because I wanted to see it.

And Star Trek is doing a similar thing, as I’ve said a few times, it’s going to be successful in some capacity (whether it’ll be “Hollywood succesful” is anyones guess), but this is a huge gamble and one that could either kill the series, or shift the default towards 3D for films in the future, which as a fan of cinema, I do not think would be a positive move. 3D will make them money on opening weekend, but without the big 2D release to steady it, will it be enough?

It’s possible that this is just early worrying and by release date 2D screenings pop up all over the shop, but it just makes me think this is a trend that’s just going to get worse. I’m fortunate in that I’ve a cinema that is showing a 2D version (at double price to my usual haunt though??) but some won’t have that luxury and will be forced to wait till DVD release day, which to me, isn’t really fair.


Oscar Predictions 2013 edition

Ironically, the year I unintentionally put the site on the back burner is the one where I actually got off my ass and saw, to use actual maths, a shit-ton of movies, so for once I have actually seen the vast majority of Oscar nominees. This is kind of a big deal for me, I’m usually really far behind the Oscar zeitgeist, I still haven’t seen most of the nominees from the past few years), so to be able to go “Oh yeah, these are all pretty good, it’s definitely a contender” But if you’re interested in my opinion (which I hope you are because I assume that’s why you’re here) in a bit more depth, I’ll no doubt speak critically about the movies later.

So, like any person interested in movies or pop culture around awards season, I have opinions on what’s been nominated, what was snubbed, and who should win. So let’s see what’s in the running to win, and moan about how our favourite movies were snubbed.

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Do DVD’s…kind of suck?

So I was just watching the Nostalgia Chick’s look at the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and at one point, she brings up the Extended editions and how they were a great addition extending (duh) the story and fleshing out minor characters and contained many in-depth features on how the movies were made. This suddenly made me realise two things.

1.) I think the Extended Editions maybe my favourite DVD’s ever
2.) DVDs and Blu-ray’s are kind of terrible.

See, here’s the thing. The actual movie on any disc is for the most part fine no qualms about that unless you’ve been screwed over quality wise with a dodgy copy, I distinctly remember Warner Bros. made a hodge podge of Inception DVDs when it was first released that I had to get my copy replaced and there are obivously exceptions, but it’s more of a fault of a scratched disc or a general shoddy manufacturing error. It’s the stuff that goes around it; the cover, the menus, the extras, it’s all part of the presentation. It’s 2013, the Lord of the Rings extended editions came out about 10 years ago and this is the standard that we should be at by this point, and it’s at least the standard I judge all DVD and Blu-ray (especially Blu-ray considering you’re already paying more) formats, high standards? Maybe, because very little has actually reached that level. It’s not uncommon still to have DVD (we’ll refer to Blu-rays as this too unless specified) sets rushed out with very little than the movie poster as cover art, a blank disc with the movie name, and special features that are limited only to “deleted scenes”.

So why is this? Well, it’s most likely in most cases to be a lack of funds to do an audio commentary, going back to the original footage (or in some cases negatives, which then cost even more to develop into digital blahdy blahdy tech babble) to find “hilarious” bloopers, cast interviews and making of documenatries. But whilst with smaller films this is understandable, huge blockbusters (you know the films most people will buy) will pull this trick and give you the consumer a bare bones copy of the movie with little effort put into it. A good example of this is the Blu-ray of Marvel’s The Avengers (Nope, not calling it the UK name because no-one else does and it’s stupid), which is the third biggest movie of all time, and was clearly rushed out to capitalise on that fact. we get a rubbish cover art (One that for a big ensemble movie goes for the three most popular characters, leading to those unaware to think there are no women in the movie), no audio commentary (It’s on the US release though), deleted scenes and a one shot short film, which admittedly was nice, but felt out of place considering its little relevance.

It’s become increasingly common for studios to roll out the DVD release in a considerably shorter time frame than they used to, Skyfall comes out DVD in about 2-3 weeks (18th Feburary) and it’s cinema release was only 3 months prior to that. And this is why these releases are so barren with extras, the companies have to get everything done within a tight deadline in order to allow manufacturing and shipping, which is getting considerably smaller because studios are scared of a little something called The Internet

Movie companies are often pretty quick to demonise the internet, they regularly hound YouTube stopping any unauthorised use of their content and many were keen on SOPA when it was around, but most of all, they think piracy on the internet is killing their profits. (The fact that the second and third highest grossing movies ever were released within the last 3 years tells us that’s not true) and if they don’t officially release the movie soon after the end of the theatrical run, people will head to The Pirate Bay and download it. And whilst that is probably true, it’s still a minority.

Of course maybe this just leads us to consider the future, which is already out there; downloading through services like iTunes and streaming with Netflix/LoveFilm. Obviously there are benefits to this, you pay as much as you would for a DVD once a month and you get a large selection of movies that you can watch anywhere,  or you download a from iTunes for a lower price than a hard copy and again, watch anywhere.

But if this is the case, surely a DVD needs to do that extra something, like the Lord of the Rings extended edition, with their decorated art, tome style aesthetic and hours of extras on how they made Hobbit feel in order to sway people to spend that little bit extra on something that ultimately gives the product a bit of personality and charm and shows that they actually cared and put the effort into a product. Now, obviously what that extra something is depends on the movie and it really does suit big blockbuster movies better (I really can’t see something like This is 40 with steelbook packaging) and although it sounds like it, I’m not asking for every movie to have an hour of deleted scenes put back in (because that would ruin pacing, flow etc blahdy blah filmy stuff), or enough special features to keep you till your DVD player breaks of over-use. Films are an artform and I just want our DVD packaging and extras to reflect that and to stand out on your shelves. A good comparison to make is that of CD’s/Vinyl and downloads, sure you can download a copy of, say, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs for £7.99, but buying a copy on CD/Vinyl for a couple pounds more (The Vinyl cost me double that) gives you not only it’s wonderful artwork (AND A CHOICE OF BACKGROUNDS!!) but you get the liner notes with the lyrics and it’s just an extra bit of warmth and luxury that a download can’t provide (Some give you digital booklets, but it’s not the same). You don’t buy an album and expect nothing else but the record itself, why are DVD’s any different?

But this could all just be nostalgia and if people didn’t go out their way for this ten years ago, it’s not going to happen now. It was a good way of getting DVD owners to buy Blu-Ray copies, now it’s an excuse to just download/stream films (which no doubt costs movie companies less so more chance of profit to them), but with The Hobbit films expected to have extended editions, I can at least expect those to look fantastic on my shelf and filled with every teeny tiny detail in regards to the making of them, and if it’s the last hurrah for craft and care before the DVD dies to Netflix, least I’ll get my money’s worth.

Star Wars Episode 7 is announced, internet melts down and I try to make sense of my conflicted feelings towards it.

(I’m aware I haven’t really posted much here for a long while, but I kind of just wanted to get this out there)

Ok, so like everyone else on the internet tonight, I’m aware that Disney are buying Lucasfilm and pretty swiftly announced Star Wars Episode 7 (and 8 & 9 and possibly more, I’ll get to that later). Naturally I turned into a child and got all excited about the prospect because the idea of new films being only vaguely linked to the original trilogy (the actors are obviously to old/won’t want to reprise their roles to a degree that can make these direct sequels, plus Vaders dead) but set in that giant universe is kind of really, well limitless potential for story fodder. Also (this may change though) the fact that Lucas isn’t writing/directing will give different talent their take on  the universe (I’m sending in my application now). Lucas knows better than nearly anyone the effectiveness of film auteurship, having basically been at the forefront of that movement in the 70’s with Scorse and Coppola, so letting someone else loose in his playpen is a really interesting prospect.

The thing I’ve seen the most of in terms of negative response is that Disney are going to ruin it (lol) by making it more for a Jar Jar audience and less of an Empire Strikes Back situation, I don’t blame them, but I really can’t see them handling the material any differently to the live action movies they’ve already under their belt. I imagine Disney will handle more of the distribution end and production will still be predominately LucasFilms ballpit. Also, I’m pretty sure Pirates 3 began with a hanging, that sounds kid friendy…

I think it’s something to keep an eye on, Everyone has the right to be cynical, it’s a cash cow franchise that’s essentially not really relevant and is being wheeled out because it will make a ton of money even if it’s the worst thing under the sun (which it has been) andOf course I’m irritated that they’ve basically confirmed that it’ll be further milked beyond a new trilogy, but at the same time this is a franchise that has an Angry Birds spin-off, so like, there’s that…. Honestly, I would really like to see Disney and Lucasfilm (and pretty much every major Hollywood studio) work on finding the NEXT Star Wars and not rely on existing franchises, reboots and sequels. But then if we keep flocking to them in our millions then they keep happening, so I guess we have ourself to blame and the reaction to this news kind of ensures that the further movies beyond this trilogy will probably be made.

But then, if it’s the new lease of life this series desperately needs and it’s great, there’ll be a new generation of kids who’ll want to become film-makers because of Star Wars, and having been one of those kids, that’s a pretty cool thing to aspire to.

But you know, I guess if it’s really terrible, we can always, I dunno, not watch it.

Wrath of the Titans

You won't feel the wrath, you might feel boredom though...

Confession time. I’ve not seen Clash of The Titans, the 2010 poster-boy for post-production conversion 3D with Greek gods and that bloke from Avatar, usually that term’s reserved for absolute movie classics like Citizen Kane, but Clash Of The Titans was a classic…right? Oh, apparently it was a mess and was a pretty terrible movie, but clearly enough people didn’t get that message and a sequel was made. So, have the film-makers learned from their mistakes? Well, it’s kind of hard when Warner Bros replaces them for budgetary reasons…

Doing the research that I usually do for a review, I found out that a lot of the creative team behind the first one were sacked for cheaper alternatives, (it was developed with a smaller budget than the first) at the expense of quality. Louis Leteerier, the original director, was replaced by Jonathon Liebsman, who directed classics such as “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”, “Battle: LA” and he’s taking the helm of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot…so basically, judging on the quality of those, that movie’s screwed. The long and short of it is that I’m saying his track record isn’t particularly great, so will Wrath of the Titans join that list of “It’s not great”? Oh boy, does it…

The one thing I was worried about entering this movie was the fact that because I’d not seen the original, I’d miss out on perhaps plot and character development. The plus side is they sum up the first movie within about 3 cave paintings and a voice over from Qui-Gon-Jinn, in the opening 2 minutes and there’s a couple of references to the events of it, but it’s glossed over for a new tale, which in all honesty never feels like it begins or ends, within the first 5/10 minutes. We’re introduced to characters, given tons of clunky plot exposition and Zeus is betrayed and kidnapped by Voldemort. No seriously, Ralph Fiennes is in this movie, but he looks incredibly bored and doesn’t emote at all. I wanted pure grade ham, this is the man who literally danced over Harry Potter’s dead body in the last Harry Potter movie, but instead it was just a rotten pork chop from him and all involved. Not that the script gives anyone a lot of room to actually create memorable character, they just exist to either fuel the “plot” or just for the sake of having that type of character in there. For example, we have Rosamund Pike as Queen Andromeda, and you’d think “Female action queen who goes into battle” plus with Pike’s acting chops, we’d get some kind of strong female character that would probably make Katniss Everdeen look like a snivelling wimp, NOT IN THIS CRAPPY MOVIE! If you want strong female characters, go watch The Hunger Games, Andromeda literally does nothing in the whole movie. Actually, if you just want to watch an enjoyable movie, go watch The Hunger Games, I can’t recommend that movie enough. Andromeda’s personality is based around two things. First, she is a warrior. Second, she is a female. Neither of those things are really brought to any attention and she just tags along for no real reason, doing very little. Even Bella Swan had more personality and she was as interesting as a block of wood.

Also, why is Sam Worthington acting in his native Aussie accent? this is accent Greece, I can understand everyone else’s classic English, because that’s just default “fantasy accent” but god-damn was that out of place. Although he was just generally pretty dull and to probably busy chasing the almighty dollar to care (Has he done anything else outside this series and Avatar?). There are side characters that are at least slightly fun, but like a lot of things on show here, they feel out of place and just make the tone just loop around all over the place. It can’t decide whether to be a gritty action movie, character motivated piece, or an adventure movie, and it’s clear the writers don’t know either. Characters announce their motivation or clunkily (it’s a word…) announce who they are to people who know that. I don’t walk up to my brother and go “Hello my brother,” why does Zeus? And there’s another line that bugged me where an older woman is fixing Perseus up after an opening battle that makes no fucking sense and says, and I quote; “You said you wanted your son to grow up as a fisherman, not a swordsman” And I’m just sitting there thinking, why does she need to tell him this, he knows this. In fact, we’ve already seen the child out fishing and seeming like he enjoyed it, there is no need to announce what he wants for his son, because we’ve already established this through the visual act.

And then we move onto the “plot”, which is essentially just a 2 part television plot. It’s literally “Perseus goes to rescue Zeus, fights Kronos” THE END! And that’s literally the movie’s storyline in a nutshell. I don’t have a problem with simple plots, but in order for them to work, you need good characters to keep you interested and immersed in the world, but there’s none of that here and I was just bored. There’s interesting backstory in the Greek mythology regarding the titans that is just never gone into. The entire budget has gone on the CGI, which mind, you is pretty impressive, but as stated without characters, without a decent plot, it’s all mouth and no tunic, which isn’t a nice image, now that I think about it…


So Wrath Of The Titans is essentially a wasted effort, it’s confused, it’s clunky, it’s poorly paced, the acting is terrible and not given any time to develop, which is at its heart, a real shame when you see the cast involved in this, and It’s held together by a loose plot based entirely on spectacle that honestly makes little sense. It’s quickly trot to make a quick buck, it’s really apparent and it is not worth your money. Least we know Hollywood movies can’t get worse this month…

Oh wait, Battleships out next week? ****