Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Are writers running out of ideas?

Take a look at a list of all the films that are playing in the theatres today.  Look at them in the past 2 to 4 years.  A good majority of them are based on one of these categories:

  • A sequel
  • A sequel to a sequel (and beyond)
  • A prequel
  • A remake (of the original version of that movie)
  • An adaptation (from a TV show, novel or other medium)
  • An original screenplay

Only one of these categories took some imagination.  Ouch!  Don’t yell at me yet.  I’m not saying it doesn’t take skill, creativity or raw talent to create from the other categories, but a lot of the work has been done for you.  I’m definitely not saying there isn’t a place for these types of films, I’m just saying that most of the time they are unnecessary.  I’m the biggest fan of sequels, adaptations and even serials, when warranted.

The Remake

As for remakes, if a film has done well in the past, especially if it has become a classic, it doesn’t need our help to try and make it better and as filmmakers, you will not make it any better.  That is why it’s called a “classic”.  (Side Note:  How about filmmakers try and remake movies that didn’t do well.  They already know what mistakes were made and can improve upon them.)

Remake Examples:

Great The Italian Job Original Remake

I haven’t seen the original yet, but from what I’ve heard, this was a good example of taking a relatively unknown film (to today's audience) and remaking it into a fun film.

Unnecessary 12 Angry Men Original Remake

I haven't seen the remake of this film, but I do know that after watching the original, it quickly became one of my favorite films.  I was almost upset when I even found out there was a more modern version.  It’s a near perfect film and doesn't need to be remade.

It seems like film companies are going down the list of films that they have made over the past few decades and are signing up all the same films to be remade.  Their past films are becoming a checklist of films to be made.  It’s really sad.  Now, how about making a re-release?  I think it would be great for the film industry and for fans to re release old prints of films from yesteryear.  Wouldn’t it be great to see the classics from decades ago on the big screen?  Sigh…

The Sequel

If a movie made a certain amount of money, then a sequel is a sure thing.  It doesn’t matter how bad it is, because the same audience who saw the first one, is sure to see it again…right?

Sequel Examples:

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen:  The first film wasn’t great, but they did an okay job at adapting from the original.  Was a sequel warranted?  I think so.  It had so much potential, but followed the same poor formula, relying on special effects to cover up a lackluster story and as a result, didn’t get great reviews.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides:  This is one of the most unnecessary remake/prequel/adaptations around.  The first Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a great film.  It was adapted well from the Disney ride, it was funny, it had a great cast and was just a really good movie.  The second two had a lot of potential and although were not necessary, they were something to look forward to.  They turned out to be less than good because of the horrible story towards the end of the third film.  It actually felt like the writers needed an ending so badly that they rushed it out with whatever first came to mind.

Spider-Man 4:  I’m torn on this one.  As long as filmmakers follow the direction I left in my Superhero Movie post, I think everything would be okay.  The Spider-Man franchise has many years of good stories to adapt, they don’t need us messing them up.  As long as the filmmakers crank out good films, they should continue to make them (like James Bond?).  This was going well for the first two films, then the writers wavered too far from the original content and threw in their own ideas.  Big mistake.  Redeem yourselves with another well written sequel.  No, wait!  Let’s reboot the series!  What?  It’s way too soon for a reboot.  Okay fine, reboot it, but do it well.  The Spider-Man franchise deserves it.

Tron Legacy:  This film has the potential to be the greats sequel ever!  It also could be a horrible flop.  I’m definitely looking forward to this sequel and from hearing what the director, Joseph Kosinski had to say (Interview), I think it will be in good hands.  The movie was largely based on technology at the time.  Technology has progressed so much (in film and in the story) that this film almost had to be made.  We’ll see how they do.

The Adaptation

Adaptations are great and necessary.  Few people knew that Jaws, was a book before it became Stephen Spielberg's hit film.  Today though, adaptations seem more and more like an excuse to not think of anything original.

Adaptation Examples:

Starsky & Hutch, The Dukes of Hazzard, Sherlock Holmes, Jaws

I can just imagine what a conversation might be like in one of the big studios.

One executive says to another, “Okay, get two comedians that work well together and put them in another film.  It’s a winning combination and we need another film!”

“But we don’t have any ideas.”, said the other executive.

The first executive suggests, “Just use <insert popular 70s/80s TV show here> as the basis for your story.”

“Ha, perfect!”, he shouted.

Alright, I’m not too sure where I was going with that one, but it sounded funny at the time. 

Good Writing Is Necessary

Everything is a formula these days, and I hope we as an audience and filmmakers wise up and get creative again.  Not all these movies are bad, but for the most part, they are mostly unnecessary.  It’s been a while since I have actually been excited to go see a film, and this year finally some movies are coming out that I really can’t wait to see (sequels, remakes and all).  The majority of the movies out today fit into one of the first five categories and people are hard pressed to find an original screenplay that has made it to the big screen.  When there is one that does make it, about half the time you find one that is any good.  Is that because there are no original screenplays out there, or is it because the large companies refuse to take a risk on them?  I think it’s both.  First, I think that writers today are getting lazy.  I know it’s a tough business, but people are taking the easy way out and it’s losing it’s place as an art form and becoming something entirely different.  Secondly, the production companies are scared.  They think they have found a formula that works and as a business, it’s a smart move.  The problem is that the scales are tipping too far in one direction between the film industry being an art form and it being a business.  As always, balance is essential.  We need writers to write good, well thought out stories, executives to take a chance on them and an audience who cares enough to be entertained.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I’m pretty sure most of the worlds population doesn’t know what the term “literally” means.  I like’s explanation.  It literally means:

Pronunciation: [lit-er-uh-lee]
IPA: /ˈlɪt ər ə li/


    1. in the literal or strict sense: What does the word mean literally?
    2. in a literal manner; word for word: to translate literally.
    3. actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy: The city was literally destroyed.
    4. in effect; in substance; very nearly; virtually

    Notice it says “without exaggeration”, but most people use

    it for exaggeration.  This is especially embarrassing when TV personalities or talk show hosts (rhymes with “Goprah”) abuse this word.  Just some examples I have heard were:

    • “It literally took forever…” –There is no way to know that about anything.  If it literally took forever, you would still be waiting for it to happen.
    • “It literally turned the world upside down.” –No, it didn’t.  The world did not physically move or shift one bit as a result.
    • “I was literally blown away, it was so good!” –This needs some interpretation, but it either means you are dead right now or a wind was so strong it actually moved you from one location to another.

    I hope people are getting this.  In a time when exaggeration no longer has any effect, people go above and beyond and abuse this buzzword, which it turns makes them look ignorant.

    Monday, January 25, 2010

    Slower Traffic Keep Right

    Driving down the highway, is something I have to do everyday to get to work.  It’s not a long distance but about 8 minutes of highway driving.  As I drive, I can see a very large sign that reads “Slower Traffic Keep Right”.  I see so many drivers not obeying this rule.  Not only is it a good rule to live by, but it actually tells you to do that on the side of the road.  I guess people don’t understand what this statement means, or I guess they just haven't learned to read.  There are valid reasons for this, including the most important one, giving emergency vehicles the ability to pass when needed.

    A lot of people are driving the speed limit or faster in the left lane and some people think that is not right either, but it is not our job to slow them down by driving there.  Let the cops, deal with them.  That is not the issue.  We don’t know their circumstances and it’s their choice if they want to drive fast and deal with the consequences, as long as they also get into the right lane after passing.

    I understand that “slower” is suggestive.  Who is slower?  “That guy is driving pretty fast so he can go in the left lane.”  No, there is always someone faster.  A good rule is to be sure you are always in the right lane unless you are passing someone.  There is nothing worse (well there is) than two cars going the same “slow” speed, side by side on a two lane highway.  That’s common driving courtesy and etiquette.

    Sunday, January 24, 2010

    CGI: The Bane of a Good Story

    It seems like movies today are flooded with CGI effects.  Some movies are entirely made on the computer, while others use subtle elements of computer generated imagery.  Now without the miracle of computers, it would be quite impossible to have a lot of the movies that we have today, superhero films especially, but sometimes it seems that filmmakers go out of their way to use effects whenever possible, even when they are unnecessary, either because it is ‘the thing to do’ or because of cost/time restrictions.

    I’m a huge fan of traditional techniques whenever possible, not because I can’t create computer effects, but because it simply looks more real to me.  As subtle as some CGI effects are, you can always point them out (Yes as good as Avatar is, it still ‘looks’ computer generated).  There is always something wrong with the physics or texturing that never looks quite right.  It looks good, but not quite natural.  Now, hang a guy from a trapeze wire or get a stuntman to jump from a building and it looks real, why because it is!  Real things have no choice but to follow the laws of physics weather you want them to or not.

    Good examples of this are the new Spider-Man films.  Below is a great clip of Spider-Man swinging.

    Even with Spider-Man super strength it’s hard to believe that he could swing so fast and so high.  Swinging from web to web probably wouldn’t look quite like that, but I understand it would be a little hard to get a stuntman to do what Spidey can do.  Other other hand, look at The Dark Knight.  Whenever possible Christopher Nolan would use real explosions, real stuntmen and traditional effects.  It’s flawless and one of the best looking modern films I have seen.  Below is a great clip on one of the hardest stunts performed in the film.  they talk about how easy it would be to use CG effects, but they stuck to traditional techniques.

    When so many computer effects are being used in every film, it’s hard for the spectacle to leave an impression anymore.  I’m not surprised when the 50 foot whatever comes out and attacks because you can model anything on a computer workstation and spit it out on the screen with virtually the same ease as any other creature.  It comes down to how you use the creatures, models, effects.  Do they progress the film forward or do they distract the viewer?  The topic of this post is not “Bashing CGI Effects”, but it will be interesting to see when the average moviegoer catches on and gets bored of such effects, will there be an underlying story there to keep them entertained?

    Saturday, January 23, 2010

    Avatar: Progression Not Revolution

    Avatar was one of the better movies of the year.  The 3D CGI and motion capture was extremely well done and the story was okay.  Overall it was a thoroughly entertaining film and I want to give it the credit that it deserves.  James Cameron did a great job utilizing the latest technology to see his dream come to the screen as best as possible and I want to commend him for that.

    I keep hearing the word “revolutionary” attached to this film however, I don’t see anything revolutionary about it.  I have heard quotes such as “It will change the way filmmaking is done forever”, but I’m not so sure anything will change as a result of this film.  Film is progressing like it always has.  There are two, maybe three recent films that I can think of that warrant quotes like that and changed the way films were done forever.  They were pioneers in the industry and took big risks on the technology they were using.

    The first one being Jurassic Park.  I have never seen an audience more surprised when they saw “live” dinosaurs walking around.  This was done by using a combination of “revolutionary” computer generated effects and model dinosaurs.  This film helped start the CGI revolution and inspired many films after it’s release.  That film has some of the best looking effects, even with today’s standards.  That was back in 1993.

    The second film being Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.  This was the first film I can think of that used computer generated effects and motion capture to model “life-like” human characters and sci-fi landscapes for the entire film.  People were saying that this technology would replace live actors one day.  That was in 2001.

    Well, they were sort of right.  This technology had advanced and was then used in the epic trilogy Lord of the Rings.  The character of Gollum really utilized facial recognition technology.  That was from 2001-2003.

    Since all these movies have come out, I have learned what the computer can do.  It has been an invaluable resources for editing as well as post production special effects and since I have seen movies like these, I have learned never to be surprised at what Computer Generated Imagery can do.  As technology gets better, it just makes sense that the effects will get better and easier to implement over time.  Movie goers have come to be surprised at these effects and have forgotten that the backbone of a film is the storyline.  Filmmakers have forgotten about this as well and have learned to cover up poor writing with spectacle and special effects, but I’ll save that for another article.

    Having said all that, James Cameron gave credit in interviews to films like these as his inspiration (specifically Lord of the Rings and King Kong).  Most of the thanks for Avatar has to go out to the wonderful effects artists at WETA Digital, and I was pleasantly surprised with James Cameron at The Golden Globes for thanking them throughout his speech.  They are the geniuses behind the movie and they brought Mr. Cameron's vision to the screen nicely.

    So, when people start throwing bold phrases around like “revolutionary” and “changing the face of film forever”, they should think about what they are saying and not just doing it for promotional purposes.  If they don’t explain what they mean, it makes them look ill-informed.  I’m not saying what Cameron did wasn’t good for film and I’m not even saying that this isn’t the best display of CGI effects to date, but it is a progression that will keep getting better in time and will be outdone in years to come.

    On one hand, maybe I’m the ill-informed one, and movies will never be the same after Avatar’s release, but I don’t want people to be fooled by spectacle over story.  On the other hand, Avatar may not change the way films will be made, but I know for sure that CGI/Motion capture movies of the past changed the way Avatar was made.  Revolutionary or not, future movies will be inspired by Avatar.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

    Friday, January 22, 2010

    Fono – Free Music For Everyone

    I’m a big fan of giving artists recognition when it is deserved, especially when they offer their services for free.  Years ago I discovered a band called Fono.  They are an extremely talented band.  They virtually have no ‘skip-worthy’ songs on any of their albums.  You know you are dealing with a good artist when everything you hear from them sounds great and gets better with every listen.  It’s hard not to be impressed with the fast, hard hitting drumming and raw vocals as well as their female bassist which is refreshing to see and a nice touch to the band’s lineup.

    So why am I writing about them?  Well they go above and beyond in my opinion and not only have they performed some of my favorite music, they are giving away their latest album for free!  Yes, please sample this band out and see for yourself.  Go visit and just download the Mp3s.  I think this is probably their best album yet, and one of my favorite complete albums from any band.  I love every song on it and this is someone who is very critical of today’s saturated music market.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    4 Way Stop

    This morning I was at a 4 way stop.  To bad someone met me there around the same time and went right through the intersection.   So, when did people start thinking a rolling stop was the same as a legal full stop?  I guess since the dawn of automobiles.  Even though you should do a full stop every time, you think people would have the decency to make a full stop when other people are around, or even more so at the same intersection.  This is a regular occurrence here, and a rolling stop saves about zero seconds on your travel time.

    Regardless, I let him know how I felt with a huge piece of my horn.  That’ll learn ‘em.

    Oh yeah, another thing.  I was driving at lunch beside a stop sign, the guy was going to blow right through it and he saw me coming so he slammed on the breaks.  Good thing he saw me and not the person trying to cross in front of him.  “Shudder”.  Good thing they saw him.  They had to walk around his truck to cross the street.  Oh yeah, the driver was on his cell phone.

    Should we all go back to driver training?  Should we have to get retested every five years?  It might not be a bad idea.

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    Coffee Shop – A New Short Film

    Hello everyone! This past year we premiered our short film Coffee Shop on Facebook (

    We recently posted it on YouTube as well for everyone to enjoy. Please take a look and pass it on to whoever you think would like it. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.

    We have gotten a lot of great feedback on the picture. Most of the funnier scenes were not even written in the script. It turned out to be a really fun project.

    Directed by: Jonathan Lantz
    Written by: Jonathan Lantz
    Tristin Deveau
    Cast: Kyle Thulien
    Laura Giles
    Sarah Korzan
    Michael Voll
    Dean Hopkinson
    Brent Parkins
    Original music by: Kyle Thulien
    Camera: Sony EX3
    Post Software: Sony Vegas

    Turn Signals

    I can only say this about Alberta because it’s the place I drive on a daily basis.  We have to be the worst drivers…ever!  It’s pretty sad when people get so ignorant, they forget something as simple as a turn signal, something that can be so important and takes next to no effort to perform.  I don’t care if there is no one (and I literally mean not one person) around on some back road, but as soon as there is one or more people driving, or walking, in the same area as you, use it, regardless of how far they are away.

    The worst, is when drivers fail to use their signaling device while trying changing to get into a turning only lane, then they finally decide to signal when making a turn in which they have to choice to make anyways.  It’s unbelievable, and I see this on a daily basis.

    Don’t even get me started on people going through an intersection using a turning only lane.  It happens here all the time.  So, fellow drivers, if ever visiting Alberta, Canada, drivers beware.  Welcome to redneck Alberta.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Superhero Movies

    I have never posted to a blog, but hearing about the release of Spider-Man 4, or a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise made me want to start one.  First of all, it is completely unnecessary and definitely too soon for a franchise reboot.  Just because the 3rd movie wasn't any good and even if the main actors do not return to the series, does not mean you have to “reboot” the entire series.  They have a good ground work to go on and no one wants to relive the origin story again.

    The problem with this franchise and all other superhero movie adaptations, is the production companies try to milk these movies for all they are worth.  I am perfectly aware that they are in it for the money and that the film industry is a business, but if you don’t please the fans, these movies will fail.

    The Director

    Whatever director you assign to a superhero franchise has to love the source material.  I don’t think it’s enough to be familiar with the comics.  You need to have a vast knowledge of them as well as wanting to see them succeed for what they are.  These comics have had success for 10 to 60+ years; decades before a lot of these filmmakers were even born, and they don’t need any of us to rewrite them or change them.  They have a working model and we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.  The directors job is to convey that story to the screen as best as possible and for the most part these guys have done a great job.

    Who am I?

    Who am I to speak to this topic anyways?  Well, first of all I am a comic fan.  I probably have over 3000 comics and have collected them since I was very young.  I am also a lover of good films, and an aspiring filmmaker myself.  I think the matchup of comics & film in this day and age is the best thing to happen to both industries in a long time.  I don’t want to see anyone mess it up.  Comics are the perfect “treatments” for filmmakers to work from.  They have tried and tested stories and I can’t wait to see what comes out next.  I have a lot to say on this topic, but let’s leave it here for now.