Transformers: Redeeming the Franchise

July 5, 2011 at 10:29 am (movies, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third installment in the Transformers trilogy is much better than the second movie. In fact they glance over so much of Revenge of the Fallen that it’s like the movie never happened. Seeing as how Fallen was not a good movie, it might be best to forget its existence. Megan Fox is mentioned maybe twice in the new movie and her absence explained as a break up. The racistly stereotypical ghetto twins are passed over as if to erase them from the franchise. Beyond the holes in the thru line this movie actually followed a story and the fight scenes were kept to a tolerable length that don’t cause seizures and confusion like the second film.

The movie was good, not as good as the first, but a strong film for the genre. A few elements were added that I was not expecting. Civilians are actually shown being killed, and the transformers have a lot more fluids spewing from them like spit, and blood – or is that transmission fluid? Once again many of the characters that have been in the other movies have few, if any, speaking lines. Ratchet and Sideswipe barely speak and Barricade is only seen during a panning shot of one of the fight scenes.

I didn’t see the movie in 3D, but the 2D version was worth a look. I hear that the 3D was done well and not an afterthought like it has been in so many movies lately. If you are a Transformers fan or like action movies that have a plot go see this one. If you have yet to see the second one, don’t bother. Let that one sit in purgatory to think about how bad it was.

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District 9 – No Non-Humans Allowed

August 30, 2009 at 11:52 pm (movies, News, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

District 9 is a movie that unexpectedly brings together some of the best features of several movie genres. The premise of the movie is that 20+ years ago an alien spacecraft came to rest just above Johannesburg, South Africa. “It hovers above the city for three months without any contact; eventually humans take the initiative and cut into the ship. They discover a large group of aliens who are malnourished and sick.” Eventually these aliens, nicknamed “prawns” by the local human population, are forced to reside in a government controlled area-cum-slum named District 9. Multi-National United, a private company, takes control of the operation when it is decided to move the prawns to a new area, named District 10, 240 Km from Johannesburg.

The film is shot in a documentary style employing several camera techniques including: helicopter views, security cameras, first-person-shooter, and, of course, extensive shoulder mounted camera work. The image movement is kept well under control through most scenes, so there is no Blair Witch type of motion sickness. The only lock-off/tripod shots are those of interviews shown at the beginning and ending of the movie.

Like vintage sci-fi films, the audience forms an emotional connection with the monster, or aliens in this case. Sharlto Copley, who played the protagonist – Wikus Van De Merwe, actually adlibbed all his lines, a feat that may not have been done since Robert Altman’s 1970 movie, MASH (it won an Oscar for Best Writing – the script was barely used), which probably added to the uneasiness and awkward fluidity of Copley’s performance, and helped sell the documentary feel of the film. The CG of the aliens was done very nicely, but the alien mechanized battle suit reminded me too much of the ED-209 from Robocop.

Overall, I think the movie was very well done. The majority of the actors are either unknown, or have worked mostly in television instead of film. The camera positioning and technique helped to define the movie as a sci-fi mockumentary, and the storyline is laid out better than most action films. I can’t wait to get the DVD release and watch the special features.

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Buzz Marketing, What Made Twilight Sparkle

August 17, 2009 at 10:42 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

twilightcoverIn this world of fast paced real-time information how are books not only relevant, but still becoming cult phenomenons well before the movie is even in preproduction. We saw this meteoric rise with the Harry Potter series and now with the Twilight Saga.

Everything I saw about Twilight just reeked of teen and tween drivel about adolescent angst and insecurities mixed in with a love story and some vampires. Fast-forward to a few nights ago when I was having dinner with some friends, and the conversation shifted to who was on which book. Four out of the six adults, all in their 20s and 30s, were past the first book, excited about the next book, and talking about the saga with affinity.

How is it that book written for the teen and tween market jumped demographics into the realm of professional adults? Buzz Marketing. According to Advertising Age: One strategy that Summit Entertainment produced was to promote the books to moms. “We started trying to expand the mom base by offering it up as a portal to talk to their daughters,” said Nancy Kirkpatrick, president of Summit’s worldwide marketing. They even launched a blog called TwilightMoms. Many of these parents read the books, then got hooked themselves. They inevitably told other adults, who told other adults, etc expanding the demographic further. To help enlarge the fan base and talking points about the movie a nationwide mall tour was launched, and when the DVD was released it was done on a Friday instead of a Tuesday to avoid the school week, resulting in 3 million units sold on the first day.

To continue this buzz marketing strategy some DVD versions of the movie come with a free digital download from iTunes. In buzz marketing, seeding campaigns, where free or reduced price products are given away, can help boost cross pollination into other demographics. This is genius in the case of digital downloads for movies. Why? Consider this situation: Someone is going on a flight and taking their laptop with them. Instead of lugging DVDs around, they choose to use iTunes movies. Another flier is in close enough proximity to see parts of the movie that they otherwise never would have come into contact with, thus sparking their interest in watching the movie. After watching the movie he or she chooses to read the books and/or go see subsequent films, resulting in higher revenue.

While we’re talking about movies, here’s another fun tidbit: On August 28, 2008 Stephenie Meyer posted to her blog that “my partial draft of Midnight Sun was illegally posted on the Internet and has since been virally distributed without my knowledge or permission or the knowledge or permission of my publisher.” On November 21, 2008 the Twilight movie was released to theater going audiences. Talk about a happy accident! What better (free) promotion for a movie than scandal, not bad scandal – viral scandal. The kind of scandal that spreads faster than fingers can type on QWERTY keyboards, and news channels can broadcast the scoop.

In the wake of the Twilight Saga’s success there have been a multitude of branding opportunities including a make-up line, video games, conventions, comic books, and even an SAT prep book that uses vocabulary from Twilight. Will my eyes ever gaze upon the serifs of Twilight’s pages? Probably not, but I do know that it has entered an empirical piece of pop culture that few books ever have.

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