Dueling New Film Projects and the iPhone 4S for a Feature Film

I posted a few days ago about a new film project I’m working on.  You can read about that here.

I’m working on that with Dikran Ornekian and his involvement has freed me up to turn some attention towards a project I started in 2010, but was never able to find the voice for.  An off-beat little thriller called Penny Black.  The problem was the lead character, a female.  She just wasn’t interesting to me and it posed problems not only when sitting down to write, but in the outline.  So I went back to the drawing board and once I re-crafted her, it all sort of flowed.  I’ve found that a lot of times on projects I have trouble getting into, if I take some time off – whether it is weeks, months or sometimes years – it opens up a lot of doors and removes some roadblocks.

This is a project I started with the intention of doing ulta-low-budget.  But the way I want to do it now is even more so… I want to shoot it on the iPhone 4S with a seriously small crew. The 4S ships with an 8 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor that records 1080p video at 30 FPS, with an f/2.4 aperture and a gyro for video stabilization.  Word is that the automatic stabilization seems to work wonders, and gets rid of most the jello. 1080p resolution doesn’t mean 1080p quality, but if the sensor supports it, there’s no reason not to enable it.

I don’t think the image from the iPhone is ready for a film blow-up yet (it gets a bit muddy in low-light and the blacks aren’t that sharp), but the image is somewhat stunning and you can definitely shoot something you have smaller screen aspirations for.  There are more than a few apps that override the autofocus and controls on the camera, like Filmic Pro… as well as lens attachments (I’ll do a post on those in the future when I’ve sorted through them all).

Here are a few 5D and 7D comparisons with the iPhone 4S.






Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is fun, pulpy film-noir.  David Fincher brings us a slickly made thriller, but was it worth his time?

One of the biggest problems I had with the film is just a general lack of cohesion.  Ultimately, Harriet’s mystery is not linked to the mystery of who is killing these girls.  Finding out who is the serial killer it doesn’t lead to Harriet.  Rather, they are found out simultaneously.  And they don’t need to come at all to solve the other.  This was my problem with the Swedish film as well.

Also, I don’t understand why movies set in foreign countries do this thing where they speak in English, but also in a broken dialect.  They call each other Her instead of Mr.  Some of them with a Swedish accent. It doesn’t make sense.  If you’re going to transpose this to English for American audiences, because ostensibly international audiences have already seen the movie, then why on earth would you not go all the way?  Set it in America.  A setting such as New England, maybe on Nantucket or a similar island, would have been an intriguing choice and quite possibly forced them to modify the story a bit.

Also, one of the problems, and I think the Swedish film did this better, is a lack of red herrings.  Really, the only person who is at all a suspect is Martin. There’s never a hint that Cecilia is a possible suspect.  They try to point to the old uncle.  He actually seems like a nice guy (the whole Nazi thing aside).  In the Swedish version, they did a much better job of giving us a few possible suspects.  At the beginning Christopher Plummer says, ‘You’re going to meet my family, they’re all detestable.”  But we don’t. I would have liked to meet them all.  Give us a bunch of culprits.  I think that is one of the major short comings of the movie.

I do think Fincher is a much better director and all the little flourishes he brings make the movie more interesting to the eyes.  I like Daniel Craig, but I like the idea that this guy is more of a mook.  Unathletic and unassuming.  They say he’s a lady’s man, but this is only because he’s sleeping with his co-editor who happens to be attractive.  If he were sleeping with someone less attractive than Robin Wright (although she really doesn’t look that good here) would he be a ladies man?  Lisbeth Salander is hardly a cover model.  In this version, the only reason she falls for him is he is Daniel Craig and the co-editor just seems like a whore.  In the Swedish version, he was a man of conviction – working at the Millenium for a cause greater than him.  Here, he’s just a macho good-looking guy.

I do like Rooney Mara’s performance here.  She is a lot more vulnerable than Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth.  Which is good and bad in some ways, but I liked it.  It gave the character more depth.  I enjoyed the scene they added with her old guardian because it shows that she has some feelings.  The fact that she’s younger plays into this as well.

Ultimately this is Lisbeth’s movie and when she’s not on screen it’s not exciting. She’s only on screen for about 1/3 of the film.  The case is not hers, it is Bloomqvist’s.  We have all of this character setup with her, which is all fun and interesting, but it does not drive the story forward at all. It could be considered meandering for some.  I wish they tied that all in better. And that Steve Zaillion didn’t stay so close to the book, going out on a limb a bit.  Because this story has already been told.  And I don’t think this version, aside from Fincher’s technical abilities, brings much more to the table.

Top 5 Actor-Director Reunions I’d Like to See

This lists constitutes the Top 5 Actor-Director Reunions I would like to see.  The only stipulation is, they must be able to work together again (basically, one of them can’t be dead).

Top 5

  • Mark Wahlburg/Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Robert De Niro/Martin Scorcese
  • Danniel Day Lewis/Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Guy Pearce/Chris Nolan
  • John Cusack/Savage Steve Holland

Honorable Mention:

  • John Cuasck/Cameron Crowe
  • Kevin Spacey/Bryan Singer
  • Leonardo Dicaprio/Danny Boyle


Movie Review: Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol

I am a sucker for spy movies.  Whether it is the Bourne series, the revitalized Bond series or the Mission: Impossible series.  Although I have a love/hate relationship with the latter.  The first one was really good with a lot of double-crossing and excellent action, but the second one was a trainwreck.  From the script to John Woo’s awful directing.  And JJ Abrams third film got the train back on the tracks, with the best villain of them all (complete with some of the most inspired casting in Phillip Seymour Hoffman).  The fourth installment, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol might be the best of the bunch.

Fun and energetic, it moves at a breakneck pace. Brad Bird has made some of the best animated films of all time, but there were questions about him making the jump into live action.  He deftly answers any of those about the transition from animated to live action, and re-establishes Tom Cruise as a leading man.

I am a Tom Cruise apologist.  I don’t care what actors or actresses do in their personal lives.  But apparently the general public does, and he was bringing a lot of baggage around with him the last few years.  Even though Knight and Day was the biggest grosser for Fox that year, it wasn’t on par with other Cruise action films.  I think with Ghost Protocol he’s back.

And with him is Jeremy Renner.  His agent is a perfect counter-point to Cruise’s Ethan Hunt.  He’s stoic, reserved and although highly skilled he’s not a cowboy.  Joining him is Simon Pegg once again.  A lesser or more flamboyant actor could be overbearing in what is obviously the comedic role, but Pegg is rather enjoyable.  The female on this mission is Paula Patton, from Precious. I was a fan of her work in that film and although her performance isn’t as polished here, she is stunning. And almost more importantly, she’s athletic looking. It always bothers me in films when waif’s play badasses – there comes a point when all your technique isn’t worth anything because you don’t have the strength to open a can of pickles.  Patton has a full figure and makes this role believable, as if she can actually carry herself.  She does wind up giving what amounts to the same look the entire film, but at least her face is more than pleasant to look at.

The film isn’t without its flaws.  The villain is somewhat non-existent, as are the reasons for his end-game.  The hackneyed speech that Renner gives after what was a harrowing ten minute action scene fell flat for me and didn’t seem necessary.  If you think about it too hard, things may start to tear at the seams a bit (girl falls out building no one seems to notice, how do they get to dubai, who killed the secretary and why, how easy it is to hack into certain things, etc…).  However, the logic of the plot is sound and drives us forward at an unrelenting pace with some fantastic action set pieces.

This is definitely worthy of your time and money to see on the big screen.

Top 10 Most Anticipated Winter Films

To celebrate the start of winter yesterday, I put together a list of the 10 films I want to see the most from now until March 20 (the end of winter).  Some of these films may have come out in limited release, such as Shame or A Dangerous Method – but have not hit Long Island yet so I’m counting them as winter releases.

  • Haywire – Soderberg, Fassbender and Gina Carrano.  How would this not be #1?
  • Shame – more Fassbender… and my favorite young actress Carey Mulligan.
  • Coriolanus – I don’t know how this slipped past my radar, but it looks pretty awesome.
  • Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – a month ago this would have been #1, but I may have seen one too many promos for it and since I’ve seen the original it all feels old to me.
  • Act of Valor – this is right up my alley being that I dreamed of being a Navy SEAL one day.
  • A Dangerous Method – even more Fassbender.  Directed by David Cronenberg.
  • Chronicle – this looks like the really good version of what a found footage x-men rip-off should be.
  • John Carter – I am not so sure about this based on the trailer, but I’m in either way
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – the trailer was more moving than most films I’ve ever seen
  • Rampart – I was a big fan of The Messenger and the same creative team brings us this, including Woody Harrelson as a bad ass

Honorable Mention

  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – a month ago this may have been in the top 3, but word everywhere is that this is a snooze fest.  I still want to and will see it, but I’m not itching to do so.
  • The Devil Inside – besides looking good, my friend Brent Bell directed this.
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin – have been hearing really good things about this Lynne Ramsey film.
  • Tin Tin – not that interested, but Spielberg and that creative team?  Hard to not go see it.
  • Loosies – Vincent Gallo is in it.  That’s enough for me.
  • Underworld Awakening – if you know me, you know I put out a werewolf book, so yes – I am a fan of this type of stuff.
  • The Secret World of Arrietty – Miyazaki is the master.
  • Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – this sounds pretty awful, then you find out that Renner and Arterton are the stars and it changes my whole perspective.