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Entries in James Cameron (19)


Stage Door: Toruk - The First Flight

Errisson Lawrence © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

Jose here. While worldwide audiences wait for the impending Avatar sequels, the folks at Cirque du Soleil are aiming to quench their thirst with a new spectacle called Toruk - The First Flight, which bills itself as being “inspired by” the James Cameron film, but feels more like just another chapter in what’s become a “universe”. Imagined for those who maybe don’t like video games, are too passive for amusement parks, and have deep admiration for the human body, the show is a two hour long arena extravaganza in which Pandora comes to life in “real life 3D”.

Avatar borrowed elements from films like Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, Fern Gully, and to an extent some of Cameron’s own oeuvre (Aliens star Sigourney Weaver was two seats away from me and was always the first to applaud, during a particularly complex sequence she held both her hands near her face and sighed in relief when the acrobats gracefully pulled it off...

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Screening Room Attempts to Recreate Theater Experience In Your Living Room By Subtracting Everything That Makes It A Theater Experience

Daniel Crooke, here. In one corner: art house cinemas, regional and independent theater chains, and the flickering hope that sitting in a dark room while watching strangers’ problems projected onto a screen will warm you from the inside out. In the other: Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, Justin Timberlake in The Social Network and the redheaded squirt from The Andy Griffith Show. Somewhere beyond the ropes, off in the stands, or wherever spectators chill in a sports metaphor: you, the audience, wondering how the hell you can just lean back and watch a damn movie. The fight: whether Sean Parker’s in-home moviegoing composite, Screening Room – which offers the chance to stream day-in-date releases of top shelf studio releases in the comfort of your own home – accessibly accessorizes or fundamentally destroys movies as we know, watch, and profit from them. Is it a forward thinking, easy-making application or Napster’s file sharing, older sister with a Friedkin poster on the wall? A brave new venture or a brave new world?

Doomsday scenarios and potential benefits after the jump...

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Eight Hateful Links

New Now Next Jesus. I can't believe we haven't mentioned this but the First Wives Club actresses are finally reuniting - Goldie, Bette, & Diane will star in a Netflix film called Divanation, as a former pop trio reuniting. I was going to shout "when can we buy tickets?" but it's Netflix so...
Salt Lake Tribune the Utah Film Critics took Fury Road to Best Picture but how's this for fun: They gave Rose Byrne in Spy their Best Supporting Actress prize.
Cinematic Corner Sati doesn't like Carol (wha!?!?!) but she still makes great lists so we'll pretend we hadn't just learned this about her. Anyway... this one is on her favorite things about Mad Max Fury Road

Forbes suggests that Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth etc... give you the most ROI at the box office given their salaries per film. The list is kind of interesting but bankability is so intangible since many of today's stars don't have colossal box office because they are selling tickets but because they are playing characters who sell tickets -- notice how many Marvel superheroes make this list.
• MNPP Colton Haynes and Luke Evans have something in common
/Film Star Wars may be the only franchise getting ink this month but James Cameron won't want to see his records destroyed. He is still promising Avatar 2 for 2017
• The Wrap has been experimenting with Oscar math for years trying to see if we'd ever get a 10 wide year under the new system. This year their experiment ended with 10 pictures. And this plays like sound reasoning on what type of year we'd need to get ten nominees:

A larger-than-usual number of films got votes, but a smaller-than-usual number of them had strong support.

So the question is: do you think it's that kind of year? Here's our current Best Picture Chart

and finally... 
I don't plan to review Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight since I've been slagging it off on Twitter and gave it the #2 spot in my Worst of 2015 list and who needs to be so toxic during the holidays? In short my review goes like this: "the best part was intermission". So to make amends to the Tarantino devotees among you, please enjoy Joe Reid's 50 Best Performance in Tarantino Movies list. I would naturally quibble with the order. Bridget Fonda's awesome "Melanie" in Jackie Brown and Amanda Plummer's hysterical "Honeybunny" from Pulp Fiction are among my favorites and neither even make the top 35! Both are lower than Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained which is puzzling as he gives the weakest of leading performance in the Tarantino filmography (think about it). The top three are all marvelous Oscar worthy choices and I'm pleased that most of the Kill Bill players rank highly. Over the years Kill Bill has sliced such a distinctive but clean and familiar path through the center of Tarantino's filmography that I now consider it his best work, hands down. Or limbs off as the case may be for so many of its unfortunate extras.

If you must know I'd rank the principle performances in The Hateful Eight like so: Samuel L Jackson ≥ Walton Goggins >>> Kurt Russell > Demian Bichir >> Jennifer Jason Leigh (sorry, she's never done much for me as an actor. I'm aware that this is an unpopular opinion amongst film critics) > Bruce Dern > Tim Roth >> Michael Madsen (who sadly is given very little to do). If you plan to see the sadist western over the Christmas break, we would be interested in hearing your opinion despite feeling hateful ourselves. 


Women's Pictures - Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days

On April 29th, 1992, the Rodney King verdict set Los Angeles on fire. Over 6 days, crowds rioted in South Central LA, protesting the acquittal of four LAPD officers who had been videotaped beating a black man. This was not LA's first race riot, but it came at a fraught time for the city, when the skyscrapers that were supposed to signal the start of a new era of prosperity loomed over widening economic and social gaps. By May 4th, it was clear that though the riots had "officially" ended, they had left a scar on the psyche of the city. Over the next few years, that scar would surface in one of Los Angeles's most prominent exports: film. After the Rodney King riots ended, a series of scifi blockbusters - including Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days - took to the streets of LA to predict the worst for the city's future.

Strange Days (another collaboration between Kathryn Bigelow and ex-husband James Cameron) is part of a group of dystopian action thrillers that cropped up in the wake of the Rodney King Riots. Escape from LADemolition Man, and Strange Days used their futuristic settings to do what science fiction does best: they created an allegory for contemporary fears about violence, inequity, and police brutality. 

Los Angeles is a good setting for a dystopia. Unlike New York City, America's Melting Pot, where people from different socioeconomic backgrounds intermingle on the street, Los Angeles is more a series of villages connected by highways. In LA, communities whose names are synonymous with wealth and prestige set their gates a handful of miles from infamously poor neighborhoods. But the two worlds never meet.

According to the movies, only three groups travel between these separate-but-unequal islands: cops, criminals, and entertainers. Lenny Nero, the protagonist of Strange Days, is all three: an ex-cop turned con-man who sells recorded memories and emotions via a "SQUID" machine - data discs that play directly in your cerebral cortex. When an anonymous donor leaves Nero a clip of his friend's rape and murder on New Year's Eve 1999, Nero and his friend Mace (Angela Bassett) get pulled into a plot that involves murdered rappers, police coverups, music producers, and Nero's lost love (Juliette Lewis). But bubbling under this detective story is a growing sense of unrest between police and the populace.

James Cameron's screenplay sets up a lot of ideas - drug allegory, the nature of memory, police militarization, the right to riot, institutional racism - and it is Kathryn Bigelow's very heavy duty to sort through these themes while also keeping the film on track. Miraculously, she is mostly successful. Though the structure of the script sometimes lags under the weight of its own ideas, Bigelow keeps the film moving at a clipped pace. Her fascination with point of view also becomes literal in Strange Days. the SQUID machines record from first person POV, which Bigelow uses to occasionally comic, often thrilling, and (in one incredibly intense murder scene) chilling effect. By virtue of its technical difficulties, First Person POV can look gimmicky on film, but Bigelow overcomes the difficulties to instead stage a series of fantastic action pieces.

The only failure of the film is not in its setup or its action, but in its conclusion. The complex problems of racism and violence which had occasionally bubbled to the surface - mostly in a B plot surrounding Angela Bassett's character - are neatly solved at the end of the film, though this denoument does give one intense image: a SWAT team beating an unarmed woman. It's probably too much to ask for moral complexity from an action thriller. Though insipred by riots that had proved there were still no easy answers in reality, Strange Days is still a product of its genre; commodified violence for the sake of box office. 

This month on Women's Pictures...

7/23 - K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) - Hands down the most requested film after Point Break, this film follows Harrison Ford racing to prevent a nuclear holocaust via submarine. (Amazon Prime) (Netflix)

7/30 - The Hurt Locker (2008) - The film that put Bigelow's name down in history as the first female director to win the Academy Award is a thriller about a bomb squad in the Iraq War. (Amazon Prime)


Beauty vs Beast: Motel Hell

JA from MNPP here, wishing you all a happy Monday and wishing what would have been a happy 88th birthday to the great, sadly passed Janet Leigh. She's been gone for over a decade but Janet's legacy still looms tall with several classics -- Touch of Evil and The Manchurian Candidate both come to mind -- but as it has been said we all go a little mad sometimes and color me mad when I realized that Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho has somehow never found itself "Beauty vs Beast"-itized. It's a prime pick whose time has come! Slap on your favorite wig and let's play!

PREVIOUSLY This weekend Terminator: Genisys flopped box-office-wise and according to your votes maybe they should've thought about bringing Linda Hamilton along for the ride since her Sarah Connor trounced Full Metal Arnold in our face-off taking just under 80% of the vote. Said SusanP:

"As far as I'm concerned no contest -- Sarah Connor in a walk. Plus, when you list her pros you are neglecting her most important/awesome assets: The Arms "


Beauty vs Beast: Mother Machine

Jason from MNPP here wishing everyone a happy Monday, and a happy July-4th-weekend-to-be - speaking of, hitting theaters this big holiday weekend is the latest movie in the unstoppable Terminator franchise... is anybody excited? I imagine it's hard for most of us to stir up a ton of enthusiasm five movies in and coming off of two entirely lackluster sequels, but I really love the cast that's been assembled so I will probably get suckered in one more time. Jason Clarke wouldn't steer us wrong... right? That said for this week's "Beauty vs Beast" let us look back at the last time the franchise was good with the movie every sequel since has been riding the fumes from, James Cameron's 1991 action classic Terminator 2: Judgement Day.You have one week to choose!

PREVIOUSLY Billy Wilder's birthday carried us up into the dark weird manors of the Hollywood Hills with a face-off between Sunset Boulevard's Norma Desmond and her post-dead boy-toy Joe, and Norma's stardust was too much for us to resist. She carried just under 80% of the vote! Said tom:

"While Joe seems to inspire those around him, Norma consumes them. She probably swallows them whole. You have to vote for someone with an appetite like that."


Q&A Part 1: Avatar the Musical (Not Really) & Instant Classics

For this week's "Ask Nathaniel" party, I asked people to be inspired by the theater (Tony season is upon us) or by the science fiction genre. I promised 10 questions. 10 answers but that's too long. So here's part one of two: 4 questions today. 6 tomorrow. here we go...

I started drawing myself as a Na'vi but got bored when I realized my lack of hair meant I couldn't ride dragons. Unfinished.STEVE: Do have fear that the million Avatar sequels that will happen will ruin the magic of the original for you?

NATHANIEL: I love Avatar but it will ruin itself. Technological breakthroughs rarely age well because there's always another technological breakthrough around the corner to make the previous one look antique. The exception is something like Star Wars because its success wasn't really about how "new" it looked. In fact, it was successful because it was so good at being an old thing (adventure serial) and using old techniques in improved new ways like models and matte paintings and whatnot. I think it's quite funny that the upgrades when they "fixed" the Star Wars trilogy later on actually made them seem less timeless. Computerized Jabba the Hut for example totally places you in the exact moment of when CGI looked like that. Puppet Jabba is forever.

Plus will those three Avatar sequels actually happen despite the current plans? James Cameron has only made two films in the past 20 years and he's already 60 years old. I realize he's planning to shoot them simultaneously but if he weren't he'd be wrap up a full Avatar quadrilogy in 2044 or so and then retire and/or die at 90.

JAMES: What witches do you think Meryl Streep was offered when she turned 40?

OMG I LOVE THIS QUESTION. I have ignorantly never questioned this  despite the fact that Meryl Streep has been quoted about this a few times. [More...]

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