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The New Serg Beret

Talking and Writing About Cinema Since 2012

Month

June 2013

Personal Ramblings: The Awkward Affect

I figured since this site has officially passed the 100 post mark, I can get a bit personal on here with weekly things plaguing my conscience. I have the category ‘Personal Ramblings’ for a reason, yet have not bothered to use it till now. With this post on want to focus on one thing about myself I need to finally open up about…

My awkwardness.

I understand personally that I am a pretty odd individual with moments that come off to strong or do not come off strong enough. I blame the personality trait of being awkward. It is not really a big deal, but lately, I have been feeling distraught over the fact that I am associated with the term in the negative light. To those who claim this and say it is a defect, I say to you all, you are absolutely right.

My awkwardness is not the best in the world. In fact, it probably pisses people off more often than not. This combined with my underlying anxiety issues is a constant struggle and I am aware of it. I tend to over-think a situation, get worked up about it and that damn pre-Scott Pilgrim Michael Cera side of me takes over to make sure I do not follow through on it. The awkward takes a hold and does not let me go.

Being compared to him in high school and freshman of college does not help

For example, I once had a goal and I was closed to obtaining it or at least having a mild form of success in it. Okay, I will be honest, it was a girl and I got really worked up about it and became kind of an idiot over it, over analyzing what she thought of me, if I was an annoyance and if my awkwardness got in the way. More recently, a friend of mine said I make everything awkward and to stop being that way as it intervenes with getting anything done. I understand were she is coming from and I would like to change that fact, yet it is still me and I probably would be changing for someone else’s benefits rather than mine.

The one upside I could think of is being called ‘adorkable’ on occasion. I personally would not describe myself in such a way because it sounds a bit to self-center to describe myself as such, but I can see were the person is coming from.

Pictured: A dork
Pictured: A dork

That term is nice to hear and I am aware that people do admire my dorkiness and passion for things probably outside of the norm. I am the only person I know who could probably give you a fact about every Disney Animated Feature and make references to the Harlem Renaissance. Yet, the awkwardness does weighs it down. I make it  hard on myself to accept myself, to accept a compliment or to pursue wanting to date someone. I once embraced the awkward to my advantage, but even then, it felt selfish, forced and unnecessary.

Maybe I am thinking too much about my own personality trait and just wish to fix it. I do understand I need to break out of my shell a bit, go out and get a experience. A new sense of wonder, as it were, to break from the chains of the awkward being. Maybe my awkwardness is a good thing and I just do not realize it because of my own idiocy in my mind is telling me not to accept who I am. Whatever it is, I intend to figure it out.

Till the next rambling.

Film A Week 25: Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (1988)

The ultimate pop culture icon of the 80’s was, without a doubt, Michael Jackson. In between the Cold War paranoia and the Reaganomics enforced during Regan’s run in office, Michael Jackson was inescapable. Being the self-proclaimed King of Pop is a hard job to tackle as Jackson ruled with classic records like Thriller and massive singles topping Top 40 radio that only current artist every dream of accomplishing. Of course, this was before Jackson was shunned by the media and dubbed ‘Wacko Jacko’ for abnormal behavior, which we personally will avoid getting into. Michael Jackson even had a film made after the success of his Bad album to cement his mark of all into film in the form of the ridiculous and over the top vanity project, 1988’s Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.

Moonwalker is just unbelievable with Michael Jackson strutting his stuff, singing his ass off, grabbing his crotch like he needs to run to the nearest restroom and filled with more stop motion that even the late Ray Harryhuesen would say is overdoing it. In order to understand the insanity of this film is to review each segment as its own separate entities, so ‘SHAMONE!’ and stay along for the ride.

The film starts off with Michael Jackson touring the globe singing his classic and his most personal song ‘Man in the Mirror’ with fans passing out, running onto the stage to get kicked out and possibly vomiting with happiness violently over the thought of the man. As this happens, images of great and humble peacemakers appear to further the statement that the man in the mirror can change the world, if he truly believes he cane. Remember, if one were Michael Jackson, all one  would have to do is go “I’m gonna change the world” and the world will say “Fuck it, let’s change for Michael.” That is how powerful he was at the time. This goes on for a good five minutes until we hit the ‘Retrospective’.

In this an entire tribute to Michael Jackson’s work up until bad is paid homage to with trinkets, classic songs and some creepy ass claymation with the Jackson 5 resembling the damn California Raisins. This segment last about eight minutes and seems pretty pointless, which is probably enough time to go stock up on booze at the local liquor because you might need it for the rest of the craziness that is to occur like the next segment entitled “Badder.”

Just look at the video above. Even without clicking it, one can already see it is the entire main segment of the “Bad” video remade with children. It’s pretty adorable if corny with a kid grabbing his gonads so hard in the vain of Michael, his face ends up looking like the ‘O’ face from Hell.

And because I am so kind, here is that ‘O’ face from Hell in its pure glory

Yea, so not much on that front except for a sly stab at the Prince vs. Michael Jackson dispute surrounding the 80’s. Was there really a debate? Their styles are so vastly different, there should not have been one. Yet, if there was, Michael won for not resorting to making a sequel to this movie unlike Prince’s godawful Under the Cherry Moon, the follow-up to Purple Rain. Anywho, I am getting off track. The next segment, “Speed Demon”, keeps the claymation trend that was popular at the time for reasons unknown.

Now this is were it gets really, for lack of a better word, fuckin’ weird. Michael is being hunted by insane claymation fans as he hides, turns into a claymation rabbit, becomes claymation celebrities and escapes to the the desert. In the desert, Michael takes off the rabbit disguise, but the disguise turns into its own entity and dances alongside Michael because, dammit, it’s Disney magic or something like that. Also, in true Michael Jackson fashion, it is about ten minutes long. Damn you Michael and your long videos. On the one hand, more Michael, the better. The other hand, he is responsible for Lady Gaga’s pretentious music videos like ‘Alejandro’ and ‘Marry the Night. It is not as great as his other video works, but the claymation blend with live action is pretty stellar.  The next video is one music video of his I really love.

“Leave Me Alone” is one hell of a music video combining live-action and animation alongside creative backgrounds, cutting footage of Elizabeth Taylor into this insane Michael Jackson amusement park and tackling the rumors of Jackson at the time head on with the tongue firmly in cheek. The video is essentially a photo collage on steroids and up there with Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” as one of the most innovative music videos of the 80’s. Designing this video and bringing it to life must have been a chore, but the devotion and effort put into it is something to admire. The song itself is just fantastic. A good break up song telling the other just to back off so Michael can move on with his life. Sadly, the next segment, the centerpiece, once again too damn long to start and tell its story, but the music video in the middle of it is utter brilliance.

Don’t get any wrong ideas, readers

Michael Jackson is getting out of his house in a nice white suit until he is attack by unknown mooks shooting from above. As this goes down, it cuts to a flashback of Michael in a field playing with his dog Skipper and his pal Katie as they stumble upon an underground drug ring compound run by Mr. Big, played by Joe Pesci. Yes, Joe Pesci who could barely catch Kevin McCallister but will out curse you is in a Michael Jackson film. They are seen by Mr. Big  and escape the compound with Mr. Big sending his men to find Michael with Michael’s child friends (stop making that face) witnessing the action. After this whole flashback, Michael Jackson outruns his foes, shapes shifts into a car (no bullshit, that happens), attacks them and escape to an abandoned club to hide out leading to his classic “Smooth Criminal”.

Now this segments kicks all kinds of ass. The song itself is a near perfect blend of thumping bass, simple electronic drums and mysterious synth pop styling alongside the voice of Michael Jackson driving the tale of finding the smooth criminal who attacked Annie. It makes since it would take place in a 1930’s club with Michael Jackson’s always terrific choreography and dancing taking the forefront. The video even has an odd breakdown section were the music comes to a halt with the dancers screaming out and moaning the lyrics. It is sexually provocative, which is something I normally would not say about Jackson’s work. Mr. Big’s men approach and what those Michael Jackson do? Guns them down with his Tommy gun that he pulled out of Hammerspace. This video is one of my favorite of Jackson’s and seeing it again with some context behind is quite a blast. After this badassery, Michael returns to Mr. Big’s compound after Big kidnaps Katie. Michael is ambushed and cannot seem to defeat his men. Maybe he should have saved his Tommy gun for this moment. Sadly, Michael is at a loss…until he turns into a goddamn robot.

Which looks more like Robot Lionel Richie, but I digress

Michael Jackson blasts his men away, saves Katie from utter destruction, transforms into a fighter jet because he can do that now and defeat Mr. Big’s giant laser cannon with the power of his famous orgasmic ‘OOOOH!’ and saves the day. Michael leaves his child friends and vows to return one day. The kids wish on a star for Michael to come back sooner and sure enough he does. Michael leads them to an underground basement (oh, goddammit) to a concert with Michael Jackson performing a cover of The Beatles’ classic, “Come Together”.

Michael’s take on the song fits right into the era and works with his imagining. It may not be on par with the original, but even then, it is nice to see Michael take on a Beatles song before stabbing Paul McCartney in the back to take half the rights to them.

Michael: “I WANT YOUR SOUL…I mean, SONGS!”

After, the film ends and Ladysmith Black Mabazo appear out of damn nowhere to perform “The Moon is Walking”, which is a neat number by them that wraps the whole experience of this vanity project nicely.

That was Moonwalker, a product of its time that is a sight for fans to behold, but not necessarily the casual audience to view. If you love the man’s work and what he does, this is a perfect watch. It is akin to the music films of the modern age such as Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and Katy Perry: Part of Me providing nothing but fan service and being solely for that audience. With that in mind, the film is a bit clunky at points and borders on ‘what the fuck were they thinking?’, but is all in all a good time to be had seeing the King of Pop back when he reigned and took the world by storm.

Next week, Film A Week takes a holiday…Film A Week 26 is taking a holiday…a ‘Roman Holiday’ that is. Join guest writer Veronica Hurtado on a whirlwind adventure alongside Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the romantic-comedy classic that is sure to delight with Hepburn making her ‘true’ film debut on a special earlier date, Wednesday, July 3rd.

Film A Week 26: Roman Holiday (1953)

Wednesday, July 3rd

Oh, and I forgot one thing.

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker the video game is crazy fun. The arcade version takes Jackson’s tunes in the 16-bit sound and the insanity that was the ‘Smooth Criminal’ segment and expands upon it taking on evil robots, 1930’s gangsters and zombies. The powerups including turning into a robot to eliminate enemies faster is beyond fun and the ‘dance move’ has your enemies mimic Jackson’s moves til they die instantly. They die with the Power of Pop. If you ever get a chance to play it, either on the Genesis or the arcade version, I suggest you grab a couple of friends and tackle Moonwalker.

CINEMA WORKER SELF-FUNDS FILM, AIMS FOR BIGGEST SCREEN IN UNITED KINGDOM

Humble cinema worker in central London Simon Horrocks shot his micro-budget debut film “Third Contact” in 2010.
“Third Contact” was produced with roughly £4000.
Shooting of the surreal thriller “Third Contact” took roughly a year with cast and crew volunteering time between their jobs.
The film premiered roughly two years later alongside “big” budget films, such as Peter Strickland’s “Berberian, at the Hofer Filmtage in Germany.

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“Quite the masterpiece and sensational debut,” Thomas Rothschild said, award-winning British-Austrian critic.
Hollywood’s elite, such as Tom Cruise, J. J. Abrams and Christopher Nolan, have all recently premiered their blockbuster films at the the British Film Institute, BFI, IMAX on London’s Sothbanks.

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Horrocks and company chose to self-distribute  “Third Contact,” the model most popular with the current generation of independent filmmakers. The goal is not only to self-distribute and bring the film to the big screen, but to bring the film to the biggest cinema screen in the United Kingdom, the BFI IMAX.

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Horrocks hopes to join the Hollywood Elite with his small budget film which does not compare with the budgets of other films shown at the BFI IMAX.
A campaign is running on kickstarter.com to raise the £15000 needed to fund a cinema relase for “Third Contact.”
Twenty percent of the £15000 is already funded.

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A reward offered to backers is a visit to the BFI IMAX premiere, should the campaign reach it’s target.
To help out with a donation visit the kickstarter.com ( http://kck.st/10rkuTh) site. Any donation would help propel self-distrusted film “Third Contact” to its goal.

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To learn more about how a cinema worker on £7.45 per hour wrote, directed and produced his acclaimed debut without funding and is now in with a chance of screening it beside films with budgets roughly 5000 times the size, visit the official website www.thirdcontactmovie.com

100 Posts: An Open Thank You Letter

Has it really been 100 posts? Seems like only yesterday my dunce mind came up with the crazy concept to move from my old Tumblr blog into the world of WordPress to start a personal blog. As time went on and one Limited Blog Series devoted to James Bond, the blog has turned into a combination of pop culture with Top of the Crop, tributes to cinema in Film A Week and personal lyrics and poetry. This post is celebrating the fact that this site is a hundred post in, but it would be nowhere without any of those who have contributed, inspired me or continue to make this blog go on.

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A big thank you to Jesus Figueroa of Thisfunktional.com & IWatchMike.com for inspiring me to continue on pursuing writing and to make this site become something more. He has contributed content and has been a mentor to me in my personal & educational life. Without his words of wisdom, I would be completely lost on making it this far. Jesus is a great man and an even greater friend. You, sir, are a gentlemen and a scholar.

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To my guest writers, I want to thank you all individually.

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To Jenni Chante, my darling sister, thank you for stepping in to share your thoughts on The Prince of Egypt. Since we have known each other practically our entire lives, it was nice to collaborate on a project together to share our love of animation. I cannot wait to start writing the new bi-weekly Back to the Drawing Board series which will start in September.

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To Erik Luna, you are a terrific man and wonderful writer on Coraline combining humor and critique in a refreshing way. In the newsroom (ELAC Campus News), you helped me remain focused and keep on track. You have told me to learn to calm myself and focus on what truly matters in this life. It will be an honor to serve on your staff next semester and I will work my damnedest to make you and our staff proud.

To Summer Gomez, thanks for providing insight on the classic (500) Days of Summer since it is always great to hear feedback from a real Summer on the film. You are a gifted young woman and a delight to have around

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To Megan Perry, you are a wonderful person with a big heart and know how to get it done when it is called for. Thanks for contributing to the site by writing Batman Begins and for leading me to realize what it takes to be a journalist and become a part of the Campus News staff (Even if I feel personally I need a couple of things to work on to truly fit in). It was a pleasure to know you and have in my life to teach me new values and lessons.

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To my ELAC Campus News staff, you are a remarkable group of people. We may bicker, argue, tease, pry and have some disputes, but in between that, we have a blast joking, getting to be a unique family and managed to bring a paper to life every week. I would be nowhere without each of you for letting me enter the newsroom and allowing me to see if I can truly succeed in my writing.

To my best friends in the world, Gerardo “Jerry” Monroy, Alejandra Carrillo, Jasmin Acosta, Alex Aguayo, Rosura Montes and Andrew Miramontes, I love each of you for sticking by my side and making sure I never give up even if the going gets tough. You guys keep me going and I would hate for any of you to stray away after all the moments we have made. To my other friends, you each have given a piece of your time and heart

To my Twitter pals, Ilse Torres and Marissa Roxanne Brown, you two keep my Twitter active and support this whole crazy site from going to complete waste. Ilse, you taught me what it takes to go exploring and getting out of my comfort zone to open up a new realm of possibilities to go onto. Marissa, you were there on my blog in the craziness that was Tumblr and have been following since those days. We are far apart, yet your influence is still felt.

To my family, I thank you the most of all and save you for last. Family is important to me and you guys are proof of that. It is wonderful to rely and come to you for help. You all have taught me the value of being a man, maturity and to be the individual I always wanted to be. I love you all and kindly thank you for it all.

Sincerely with love,

Sergio J. Berrueta aka Serg Beret

Universal Studios Hollywood puts King Kong head-to-head with Transformers in ‘Summer of Survival’

It’s “Transformers:  The Ride-3D” vs. “King Kong 360 3-D” as
Universal Studios Hollywood Unleashes Its High-Voltage ‘Summer of Survival’Campaign Challenging Guests to Brave Its Two Most Intense Thrill Rides and Live to Tell About It

                                   

Universal City, CAUniversal Studios Hollywood™ defies guests to unlock the beast within as its new campaign, “Summer of Survival,” takes on its two most intense…most explosive…most ferocious…most threatening thrill rides: “Transformers™:  The Ride-3D”and “King Kong 360 3D,” created by Peter Jackson.

​The impactful “Summer of Survival” campaign puts a suspenseful spin on the theme park’s most compelling, award-winning rides and challenges guests to muster the courage to face their fears when they encounter Megatron and his fleet of evil Decepticons, and a raging Silverback ape battling a pack of dangerous prehistoric dinosaurs in a fight for survival.

​With heightened primal instincts at play, “Summer of Survival” will also daretheme park guests to brace themselves for Universal Studios Hollywood’s slate of other action-packed thrill rides.  In the theme park’s dinosaur-laden jungle, fear and fate collide as guests take on giant Stegosauruses, Parasaurolophuses, Dilophosauruses and Velociraptors at “Jurassic Park®-The Ride” and ace impending doom in a close encounter with a terrifying 50-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex before plunging down a treacherous 84-foot water drop.

​More than a roller coaster, “Revenge of the Mummy SM -The Ride,” taps into guests’ inherent fears and phobias as they are swept into the cavernous Tomb of Imhotep, the final resting place of Egypt’s legendary Keeper of the Dead and thrust forwards and backwards along an indoor roller coaster track in utter darkness.

“Transformers: The Ride-3D” is Universal Studios Hollywood’s most ambitious ride ever.  This technologically advanced, motion-based, flight simulator thrill ride is designed to completely immerse guests in the 3D-HD action-packed world of the Transformers.  The storyline of this exciting theme park ride introduces guests to NEST,a top-secret, military bunker, where they become Autobot recruits engaged in a daunting mission to save Earth and protect the last remaining All-Spark shard from the Decepticons.

​As part of “Summer of Survival,” Universal Studios Hollywood will debut progressive voice technology empowering humanoid robots—Megatron and Optimus Prime—to interact and speak spontaneously with theme park guests in both tone and demeanor that are consistent with their characters.  This amazing new component to the guest experience adds a dynamic and new extension to the already immersive thrill ride.

Featuring pulse-pounding excitement, “Transformers:  The Ride—3D” propelsguests along 2,000 feet of ride track, where they are surrounded by 14 giant screens, many fully enveloping them at heights of 60 feet.  To bring this monumental achievement to life, Universal Studios Hollywood collaborated with director Michael Bay, Industrial Light & Magic and Hasbro, Inc.

Universal Studios Hollywood broke new ground in themed entertainment with the landmark introduction of “King Kong 360 3-D,” the world’s largest, most intense 3-D experience.  The attraction, based on Peter Jackson’s 2005 blockbuster, integrates spectacular three-dimensional visual media and the world’s largest 3-D projection installation ever produced with physical effects.

A signature ride on the world famous, behind-the-scenes Studio Tour, “King Kong 360 3-D” transports guests to Skull Island and catapults them into the middle of a terrifying struggle between a giant T-Rex and “the eighth wonder of the world” – King Kong.  Guests find themselves launched into the film, projected on the world’s largest wrap around, 3-D compound curved screens.

The “Summer of Survival” campaign will resonate through social media via #SummerOfSurvival and #SOS.

As families prepare for summertime fun, Universal Studios Hollywood’s popular “Buy A Day, Get 2013 Free” annual pass offers tremendous value and visits throughout 2013 for the price of a single day’s admission. Guests who purchase the “Buy A Day, Get 2013 Free” pass will be able to come back to experience first-hand Universal Studios Hollywood’s ‘Summer of Survival” thrill rides, including “TransformersTM: The Ride—3D” and King Kong 360 3-D” as well as receive savings on tickets purchased for visiting friends and family.

Universal Studios Hollywood SM, The Entertainment Capital of L.A.SM, includes a full-day, movie-based theme park and Studio Tour; the CityWalk entertainment, shopping and dining complex, the Universal CityWalk Cinemas, the “5 Towers” state-of-the-art outdoor concert venue, and the Gibson Amphitheatre concert and special event arena.  World-class rides and attractions include the intense, award-winning ride, “King Kong 360 3-D” on the famed behind-the-scenes Studio Tour, “The Simpsons Ride™,” “Revenge of the Mummy™—The Ride” indoor roller coaster and “Jurassic Park® —The Ride,” as well as the critically-acclaimed mega-attraction, “Transformers™:  The Ride—3D.”

                                                     

Film A Week 24: Sleeping Beauty (1959) Birthday Special

21 years ago, I was born. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been regarded as a bad move. With that hitchhiker’s reference out of the way, my film loving self is celebrating his 21st birthday this weekend and the 21st is seen as a celebration into the world of adulthood and being able to drink legally.

And being able to tell the world you are an organ donor from Hawaii

And because it is my birthday, I want to do a personal post about a movie I love.

In 1937, Walt Disney Productions released the first feature length animated feature Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, unleashing a new world of animated feature productions leading to over fifty animated features ranging from fantasy, adventure, comedy, and even science fiction. With a strong animated canon, it is fairly easy to find a film that suits you and your personal taste. As a kid growing up, I fell in love with two films from the canon, one more than the other.

One film was The Lion King, a typical film that any boy around my age in the late 90’s would have picked, thanks to the father-son dynamic. Yet as years went by, I grew to realize my second favorite would eventually became my true favorite. If I had said it as a young boy, I could just imagine the nitpicks and name calling that would occur upon just mentioning the title. That film was 1959’s Sleeping Beauty.

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Sleeping Beauty Poster by Eric Tan from The Art and Random Adventures) of Eric Tan (erictanart.blogspot.com)

 

Sleeping Beauty ranks up there with Fantasia and Snow White in my mind when I think of Walt Disney masterpieces. As a kid, when the first sequence started after the classic storybook opener, I knew I was in for a marvelous experience and it did not disappoint.

The story starts with the king and queen of a unnamed kingdom giving birth to the new princess, Aurora, named after the dawn. As the kingdom celebrates, three fairies by the name of Flora, Fauna, and Merriwhether bare gifts to the newborn with Flora baring the gift of beauty and Fauna baring the gift of song. During Merryweather preparation to give a gift, the evil fairy, Maleficent, interrupts to deliver death upon Aurora at age sixteen, if she should prick her hand on the spinning wheel. Merryweather counteracts by baring a gift of making the death become sleep that can be cured with the power of true love’s kiss. The rest a majority of people reading this probably already know.

BUT FOR THOSE NOT IN THE KNOW!

Girl pricks finger sixteen years later. Prince must saves her as the evil fairy turns into a dragon. Then, a big climatic showdown with badass music, prince stabs the dragon, defeated dragon screams in mercy and dies as the Pirnce kisses the the girl and cues the happily ever after.

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The film itself is a piece of art capturing the feel that you are watching a medieval tapestry come to life as it goes beyond the regular aspect ratio of previous films to a fully colored and fantastical Technirama widescreen presentation, adding more depth and detail to the various landscapes and locations. The colors are lush and vibrant and pop in every scene, even the dark scenes involving Maleficent.

The use of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet as the score bring the brilliance and wonderment of the simple story to life, even giving words to the Waltz with the gorgeous ‘Once Upon a Dream’. The characters are design with love and passion, from the beauty of love that is Aurora, the hilarious yet caring fairies, the handsome hero in Prince Phillip and the elegance and grace of evil of Maleficent.

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The film truly shines throughout from the forest sequence as the two lovers meet, the sleeping spell being placed upon the great kingdom, and the most climax with Prince Phillip racing on his gallant steed to defeat the wretched Maleficent as she unleashes the powers of hell in its full glory in the form of the mythical dragon in a battle of ultimate good versus evil.

Sleeping Beauty plays like a true cinematic experience, harnessing all the powers of animation and film to make the ultimate fairy tale film. Maybe I’m in the minority who thinks very highly of this film as if I was bringing it up alongside the greats of The Godfather, Citizen Kane and Casablanca, but to me, I feel it deserves to be seen as what it is: An absolute classic with all the majesty of a ballet and all the wonder only Disney animation can provide.

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Next week, the pop world takes over FIlm A Week with dance skills to kills, music that will run in your head for days, and plenty of crotch-grabbing to captivate your heart. SHAMONE! It’s Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker. HOOOOO!

Film A Week 25: Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (1988)

Saturday, June 29

THIS MONDAY

IN A GALAXY, FAR FAR AWAY: THE PHANTOM MENANCE
1. In A Galaxy Far, Far Away Phantom Teaser

Current Reviews: Synder’s ‘Man of Steel’ weaves a darker vision, fails in execution

Seven years after Bryan Singer attempted to bring Superman back in the aptly titled Superman Returns, Zack Synder brings his dark vision in the new reboot Man of Steel to reinvigorate interest in the character. Unfortunately, not every step to bring him back is for the better.

The film follows Clark Kent aka Kal-El, played by Henry Cavill, wandering on Earth after being sent by his father Jor-El, played by Russel Crowe, to help bridge the gap between that world and the dying world of Krypton. Clark finds his true purpose and becomes the Man of Steel, saving Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams, and having to deal with the nefarious General Zod, played by the always terrifying Michael Shannon, coming to Earth to find a mysterious codex that may lead to the future of Krypton.

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The film’s first act is nothing short of fantastic by re-imagining the origin of the titular character and focusing on the past that leads Clark to be the man he is in the future. His Earth parents, played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, help guide Clark on his way via flashbacks that may seem sporadic, but make sense in the context to the situation he is facing. This leads to some great moments between Cavill’s take on the role and Synder show Synder can try to tell straight forward origin story. When Lois gets close to Clark, she soon discovers what makes him great as well as they build a strong bond.

The prologue of the film on Krypton is spectacular. The drama surrounding the destruction of the planet is phenomenal giving a presence to General Zod’s betrayal of Jor-El with his right hand henchwoman Faora, played icy cold and brilliant by Antje Traue. It is a stunning sequence with some great action and gives more insight into the roots Kal-El comes from more than previous Superman features.

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Sadly, the second half of the film suffers from Synder’s weakness for weak action storytelling and relying too much on big set pieces and CGI to carry on a story that twist is unbelievably stupid and basically makes the smart man Clark grew to be a big dumb oaf. The action falls flat going over long with CGi that is blatant. Synder still has yet to realizes that a blockbuster films must not only rely on the spectacle, but a great story to let the audience connect to what is going on.

The twist brings the story down to ridiculous levels and abandons any potential this film had to be ranked above the mediocre Returns from 2006. The intelligence of Superman has been striped away from the first act in order to deliver a manic action sequence that destroys half of Metropolis, causes millions of deaths on his hands and has Superman do something Superman would not do without feeling any sort of remorse that he does in the comic canon doing the certain act. Another fault of Superman is hammering the point to the audience that Superman is a allegory for Jesus Christ that is so blatant, unintentional laughter may be heard in the distance.

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The acting of the film is quite good with some minor exceptions. Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel is good, not great, but can work with the bland material given to him with a cool wit and smile. Cavill does show human elements to the character, but loses it in the climax of the film. Michael Shannon and Russel Crowe do a terrific job being foils of one another with Shannon shining bright and deliciously evil as General Zod. Costner and Lane’s potrayal as Clark’s parents are great providing the backbone to the son of Jor-El.

Antje Traue as Faora is badass, plain and simple, by being as menacing as Zod and seems ready to kill Lois at any moment. Amy Adams as Lois Lane seems lost in the shuffle by not showing off her version of the character and becomes bland. The other characters at the Daily Planet and the US Army suffer the problem Amy Adams suffers by being put on the back burner and never given development beyond the shadow of themselves.

Man of Steel is half good, half a mess with a overall great start, but suffers to even finish as strong as it began. Maybe instead of focusing on getting a Justice League movie right, Synder and Warners Bros. should focus on what made Superman great and not fall under the dark shadow of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.

Film A Week 23: Gojira a.k.a. Godzilla (1954)

In 1954, science fiction in cinema was forever changed. Giant monsters and dastardly ghouls were no stranger to the silver screen and audience would flock to films about Dracula, The Wolf Man and The Creature of the Black Lagoon. Yet, no one expected something the likes of Ishiro Honda’s classic Gojira.

Gojira, also known as Godzilla, was a turning point in Japanese cinema and shaped a new sub-genre in pop culture. Before this feature, the first big monster film was all the way back in 1933 with King Kong which did help shape some influence into this film as well. The film itself has continued to inspire and create a legacy beyond what most would have thought.

Godzilla was inspired by the great paranoia and panic that swept the nation of Japan after the atomic bomb testing. The atom bomb destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki affected the region by devastating an entire city, killing thousands of people and leaving a wasteland behind. These are the only two known uses of the atomic bombs and delivered a terrifying message to the world that what they can do is cause ultimate apocalyptic devastation. Godzilla himself is born from the remnants of atomic bomb and nuclear testing. The film itself serves as the perfect allegory for the widespread confusion of the situation by using Godzilla to represent the disastrous device.

Starting off, a local fishing boat off the coast of Odo Island is attacked by an unseen force of nature. The island sends another boat to investigate only to get attacked as well. Luckily, Ned Land and a ragtag group of explorers discover the Nautilus…oh, dammit, it can’t be this easy to reference 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea can it? One of the locals exclaims that the legend known as Gojira (Godzilla) has been attacking the boats. A ship captain by the name of Hideto Ogata (Akira Takarada) gets involved after having to investigate the tragedies alongside Professor Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura). As this goes on, witnesses come forward to reveal their stories in Tokyo to convince the two to come and take a look at the damage done to the region. Upon investigation, they come across radioactive footprints and come face to face with our title character.

With the face only a Mothra could love

With the new information at hand, they realize Gojira was born from the use of nuclear weapons in the region and grew to be the Kaiju we know and love. A debate erupts whether to announce the existence of Gojira to the public or to keep it under wraps. If they keep it under wraps, civilians and the rest of the world will wonder what the hell it is. If they reveal it, panic would sink in, other nations would help fight it and Godzilla can be defeated. Luckily, they make the news public and, as it would, panic, paranoia and hope to kill Godzilla begin to go around.

But wait, this poster has a couple on it holding each other close? What about them? Yes , dear readers, this film has a romantic subplot because why the hell not. Emiko Yamane (Momoko Kochi), daughter of Prof. Yamane and owner of the most badass Japanese female first name, wants to cut off her arranged marriage to the possibly mad doctor Dr. Daisuka Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata) in order to be with her true love Ogata. Serizawa shows her the experiment he is working on in order to defeat Gojira causing her to freak the hell out and leave without calling off the engagement.

Remember: When showing the woman you love your experiment, go for the Snake Plissken eye patch look.

When Emiko gets back to Yamane and Ogata’s place in Tokyo, Gojira returns to do exactly what you’d expect…destory Tokyo as only Gojira would.

TOKYO IN FLAMES: A GODZILLA 1954 TRIBUTE by GojiraEiga on YouTube

Gojira uses his atomic fire breath to burn down buildings, crushes buildings with his tail, eats subway trains and cause as much damage as The Avengers did in the last half hour of that movie except more badass since it is one monster leveling a city. The next night, the Army builds a big electric fence to stop Gojira from its reign of terror, but that doesn’t work because the sucker is nuclear to the point he is resistant to it. Gojira returns to Tokyo again and, for lack of a better word, makes it his bitch once more. The next day, the destruction and damage is made clear as people are taken to the hospital and radiation poisoning has stricken some as the region hopes for peace with the haunting ‘Prayer for Peace.’

This causes Emiko to tell Ogata about the experiment Serizawa has been working on known as the Oxygen Destroyer that would disintegrate Gojira to nothing but bones. They try to convince him to help them out with Serizawa going full Kurt Rusell, refuses and proceeds to kick Ogata’s ass. After that is said is done, he agrees to help because that is how that works. Trust me, getting beaten the crap out of sometimes will make you have a clear mind.

Ogata and Serizawa head to find Godzilla’s location under the sea as Serizawa realizes that Emiko no longer has affection for him. As they find Gojira, he tells Ogata to go to the surface as he unleashes the Oxygen Destroyer so no one can ever make it as he sacrifices himself. Gojira dies roaring as Serizawa dies with him. To be honest with myself, Gojira’s death made me more sad than Serizawa. With Gojira dead, Prof. Yamane wonders if another Godzilla monster is out there somewhere to return for 27 sequels and one very shitty remake.

Known in Japan as “Bullshit”

Gojira‘s legacy is unmeasurable. It has been parodied, paid homage to and celebrated with Godzilla having a star on the Walk of Fame. Toho made a name for themselves by creating a collection of monsters further down the road with Rodan, Gigan, MechaGodzilla, Mothra and King Gidorah all going toe to toe with the King of the Monsters. America made it connect to themselves by adding Raymond Burr to the mix in 1956, which I have yet to see. The acting in the film is phenomenal with all the actors capturing the essence of paranoid nature and worry that Gojira caused. The effects work and use of the ‘man in the suit’ method is effective with realistic models being destroyed and set ablaze. Also, the undertones of the film are poignant and straight to the point showing the negatives of nuclear testing and giving the audience a reminder of what Japan went through in the wake of the atomic bomb. This film resonates even more today after the near destruction of the region by the recent earthquake and tsunami. Gojira captures this aspect beautifully and made me even think about the aftermath of disaster and what the people must do to prevent any mass devastation like the one cause to ever happen again. Gojira is just brilliant. How brilliant?

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Criterion Collection brilliant (and, yes, this is my personal copy)

Next week, Film A Week returns to Friday for a very special week celebrating my 21st birthday by covering my second favorite film of all time, 1959’s Sleeping Beauty. Get ready as we cover discover why this movie is a masterpiece of animation.

Film A Week 24: Sleeping Beauty (1959) 21st Birthday Special

Friday, June 21st

Thisfunktional Reviews: Dark tale of the “Man of Steel” falls short of being super

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Written By Jesus Figueroa of Thisfunktional.com & IWatchMike.com
The incredibly emotional dark tale of Superman changes the way audiences view the “Man of Steel.”  The film felt like it dragged as every detail of Supeman/Clark Kent, played by Hernry Cavill, was explained. The action scenes were awesome, the rescues were intense but the charismatic-colorful Superman of the past. Starting off on Krypton with Jor-El, played by Russell Crowe, and Lara Lor-Van, played by Ayelet Zurer, fighting to save their only son Kal-El, the first natural birth of Krypton in centuries, as the planet is set to implode.
To make things worse General Zod, played by Michael Shannon, Commander Faora-Ul, played by Antje Traue, and their followers are looking to over throw the government and save Krypton in their own way.  General Zod and his followers are stopped and imprisoned in the phantom zone for their crimes. Krypton collapses and there is nothing left of Krypton but rubble.
Kal-El gets sent to Earth on a spaceship and adopted by Martha Kent, played by Diane Lane, and Jonathan Kent, played by Kevin Costner.
From this point the film jumps back an forth showing how the Kent’s tried to raise Clark, Kal-El, as a normal boy who has to learn to control his powers and hide them from the world. The first rescue scene shows an older Clark rescuing a crew off an exploding oil rig. This scene is incredible and breathtaking. This scene is a highlight in the earth sequences.
Clark discovers his origin from a crashed spaceship invaded in ice somewhere in Canada. He gains his suit which bares the Superman “S” symbol which is his family crest, also representing hope.  Along for the ride in Canada are the US military and Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams. Lois discovers more than what she set out to. General Zod and his followers are no longer prisoners are there is no one to hold them captive. They figure out a way to find Kal-El and come hunting for him.
The man of steel has the look as Cavill is physically able to portray a strong hero, but he lacks the ability to portray an all-American country boy. His voice over everything took away from the feel of superman. He sounded like he forced his voice to be deeper. It just didn’t quite work.
The attitude needed by Adams to play a fantastic Lois did not come through enough. The attitude was lacking of the quick witted sneaky reporter. But on the bright side she was cute as Lois.
Crowe as Jor-El was valiant and smart. He portrayed a father figure worthy of fathering a superman. The quick thinking powerful Jor-El seems to always be one step ahead of his opponents and doesn’t seem to struggle much at all, maybe due to the brilliant mind he possesses.
As villains go Shannon cannot be matched as General Zod. His presence is magnificent and, although evil, self-righteous as well. Shannon is unrelenting and persistent and embodies the resilient nature that a warrior like Zod would be.
The ending bothered me as its not a typical Superman ending. It comes after so much struggle and grand fights between the group if superhuman warriors and Superman, who has the military against him and with him.
I give this film a 3 out of 5 Popcorns. The action was intense, the rescues were incredible and Zod was just mind-blowing. The story went too dark to be fitting of a Superman film. The charisma of Superman did not come through well. The best acting came from secondary characters like Jor-El, Lara Lor-Van, Commander Faora, and General Zod. For Superman fans it may be too much of a change in the character of superman.
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WatchinMike

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