Thursday, December 27, 2012

DVD & Blu-Ray Update Christmas 2012

Greetings! I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and that Old Saint Nick was kind to you all! This year I was fortunate enough to receive several films on DVD and Blu-Ray and I hope many of you cinema enthusiasts were just as lucky!

Welcome to the new format my DVD and Blu-Ray Collection Updates will take on!

1. Garfield Holiday Celebrations
For years I would anticipate the annual Garfield Christmas and Halloween holiday television specials While they ceased airing on television in the United States by the year 2000, Canadians were fortunate enough to have the specials continue to air on the youth-aimed channel YTV. However, this year I was sad to learn that neither the Garfield Halloween nor the Garfield Christmas specials would be airing this year. While it certainly was not the end of the world, part of what made both holidays so special to me were the TV specials, especially these two. Fortunately, the large gaping whole would not be there long as I received the DVD collection of the three Garfield Holidays cartoons. Now, no matter what the networks decide, I'll have these hilarious and heartwarming specials at my disposal to enjoy every year! Both the Halloween and Christmas specials are excellent and should be viewed at least once while the Thanksgiving special remains unseen by me...until Thanksgiving 2013!

2. Wall-E (Blu-Ray + DVD)
Pixar's Wall-E is nothing less than a masterpiece. Yes, people complain that the second half of the film is noticeably inferior to the first half, and yet I cannot bring myself to agree with that sentiment at all. Indeed the film takes on a completely different tone than it initially opened with, however in my view it was not in any way that even minimally changes the quality of the film. It is still just as endearing and well-crafted as the first hour. The animation is spectacular, the score is beautiful, and the story and characters are all engaging. What else can  be said? This one is beloved for a reason.

3. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Diamond Edition (Blu-Ray + DVD)
I'm not going to lie. As a child I was that boy who hated all 'girly' things and thought they were stupid. Fortunately I have grown up and realize that a lot of the things (films especially) that I loathed for being 'girly' are actually pretty good (especially the Disney princess films). Over the years I have gained a greater appreciation for most of the Disney princess films, however Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs remains the one Disney Princess film that I have not seen since childhood and thus have not been able to appreciate with the benefits of age and wisdom. The film is primarily known for its innovation in film animation as the first feature length animated film and for how it launched Walt Disney Animated Pictures into the realm of legends. Since then and to this day Disney has produced some of the greatest animated films of all time that endear us as children and only grow stronger as we get older. Disney has a great track of releasing Blu-Ray's with outstanding picture and sound quality, so I am eager to watch this film for the first time in ages.

4. 12 Angry Men Criterion Edition (Blu-Ray)
I first saw this film in a Canadian Law class I took back in high school and I have to admit that I was skeptical. That year I heard nothing but praise from fellow students for the Paul Haggis film Crash and found myself not only disappointed by the film once we watched it in class, but frankly I despised it for its mediocrity. So when 12 Angry Men became the subject of discussion, I was very wary of the positive buzz I had heard now that it was also coming from the same Crash loving crowd. Fortunately, I was proven wrong and could not have been happier. This film is outstanding. Easily one of the most gripping times I have spent watching a film and that is thanks to all the elements of film making. The direction, the performances, the all adds up to this masterpiece that deserves every amount of praise it gets.

5. Cars 2 Future Shop Exclusive Metal Case (3D Blu-Ray + Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Copy)
Yes, the Cars films are the lowest points for Pixar. You know, I know it. No need to dwell to much on that fact or why this may be. Why? Because frankly, while they may the studios worst films, neither of them are nearly as terrible as the public claims. Cars is odd, predictable, and unremarkable...but no more than a lot of other films. There is nothing about it that warrants absolute loathing. At best the film deserves apathetic reactions, but hate? There are far worse films out there. In fact while it is not a grand slam, I do think that some of the themes in the film are worth being explored. Cars has its heart in the right place. Cars 2 on the other hand? Well...once again I do not think it deserves the amount of hate it gets, but while Cars was underwhelming, the sequel is just baffling. Again, there is nothing downright awful or offensive about it, but for the first time Pixar produced a film where the humour, story, and message did not amount to anything more than fluff for very young children who need to be babysat by uncle TV for an hour or two. So why ask for the film on Blu-Ray? Well, I am a completest. Yeah.

6. Finding Nemo Future Shop Exclusive Metal Case (3D Blu-Ray + Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Copy)
I will not dwell on this for too long. Finding Nemo is beloved by just about everyone and for good reason. It has a great story with an important message for parents more than children, the humour is great with mature jokes, the characters are endearing, the score is beautiful, and the animation is spectacular. While it may not be my pick for the best Pixar film, it is certainly among their five best works in my estimation and it is actually one of the few Pixar films where my opinion of it never changes. It is an outstanding film for all. Not surprisingly, it looks stunning on Blu-Ray.

7. Ben-Hur Fiftieth Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (Blu-Ray)
I first saw Ben-Hur in a high school history class and surprisingly found myself engaged with it the whole way through. The story was fascinating and the journey Ben-Hur goes through was enticing in its danger and emotional turmoil. The film is grand in every way possible. From the locations, to the sets, to the score, to the costumes, to the performances and of course the famous chariot race...this film is the very definition of an epic and continues to immerse me into its world every time I watch it. It is a massive achievement and excels in all aspects of filmmaking. This set comes with a grand amount of goodies such as a replica of Charlton Heston's journal, a 64 page booklet filled with rare pictures from the films prodction, and of course the film itself along side hours of special features. This film comes highly recommended and if you like it than this set is one to own as well.

8. Casablanca 70th Anniversary Limited Edition Giftset (Blu-Ray)
What can I say about Casablanca that you have not heard already? Well let us start with this set in paticular. Alongside the film itself on a Blu-Ray transfer with a mountains worth of extra features, this set also contains some great goodies as well. Inside you will find some coasters, a mini-poster for the films french release, and a 60 page booklet with production notes, drawings, and photos from the set. If you are a fan of this film this set is a must own! As for the classic film itself? Once again, it deserves the place it holds in history. An endearing story, great characters, masterful performances. This films ranks among the best films of all time and deserves no less than such appreciation. I highly recommend  both this set and the film.

Does my family know me or what? My brother got me these replicas of Harvey Dent's 'lucky' coin from The Dark Knight. One piece is from his glory days as Gotham City's District Attorney and one from after his transformation into the villain Two-Face, complete with the ashes covering one side as depicted in the film. Rest assured I will be using the second coin to make all the unimportant decisions.

What are your thoughts on these films? What did you get for Christmas? Sound off below and thanks to everyone one who checked this post out!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Behold the Horror of Another Shitty Movie

All rational and level-headed human beings on earth have unanimously deemed the last decade or more of "spoof movies" to rank amongst the lowest levels film and perhaps any art form can sink to. In spite of the vocal and passionate hate for the "Insert Genre Here Movie" genre of movies, the films still manage to turn a profit and most manage to become the top grossing film of their respective opening weekends. In spite of the universal critical hate the ability of these films to be shot for a minimal amount of cost and return a relatively large amount of profit, thanks to audiences who no doubt offer evidence of human devolution, will ensure that these "spoof movies" will continue to be released without obstruction for a foreseeable amount time. Here is the latest entry into the genre...

What can I say? While I'll be the first and among the most vocal to defend the narrow minded notions of pretentious film snobs that Hollywood is a cesspool of artistic waste, when films like this are released I feel betrayed by the system when it is clear a mere certain cash-in is being produced when it MUST be evident to all involved that what it being distributed is without any merit.

Like every other waste of celluloid that are the previous spoof films, this one appears to have all the usual traits of the terrible films that precede it. Characters bumping into walls and getting hit by stuff? Racial stereotypes? Parodying of recent blockbuster films that have absolutely nothing to do with the horror genre? Vulgar humour akin to the comedy of teenage boys who just learned a new dirty word? Cameos by train-wreck Celebrities  who make fun of their own foibles? Characters getting hit in the balls? Yes my friends, all the comedy genius and hilarity that made the other spoof movies such brilliant works of art have clearly transitioned over to Scary Movie 5!

Honestly, if you are looking forward to this film then more power to you. However please refrain from doing anything influential or important such as running for public office or operating a vehicle. For the sake of everyone's safety. 

Side Note: I'll admit that for a split second I actually thought they somehow managed to blackmail Leonardo DiCaprio into starring in this piece of shit.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Man of Steel: Hope for Superhero Films?

I haven't exactly kept my disdain for Zack Snyder and most of his filmography a secret. 300 and Watchmen were mediocre at best, if I'm being generous, and Sucker Punch appears to encompass every single problem I have with Snyder in terms of style of content. I get that you can dismiss my lack of enthusiasm for the slow-motion, the all CGI worlds, and the horrendous use music/covers at inappropriate times...but you'd be wrong. You can disagree that those traits are even problems to begin with, but insisting they are traits unworthy of criticism is simply mistaken.

So naturally as a HUGE Superman fan whose watched and loved the Richard Donner Superman films, the Superman prequel television series Smallville, the Superman animated series, and countless other related media...I was not elated to hear Snyder would helm Warner Bros. latest attempt to revive the film franchise of the worlds most famous superhero.

Surprisingly, I was also wary of Christopher Nolan being the films guide and story writer. While his grim, gritty, and realistic style is PERFECT for Batman, Superman is a character designed to inspire hope, bring brightness, and clearly exhibit abilities beyond the realm of reality. So this didn't feel like a right fit for either Snyder or Nolan, much less the combination of both artists. However in recent months, since the success of The Avengers to be exact, I've come to appreciate this teaming up of Snyder and Nolan.

I have to get say out of the gate: I really love The Avengers. It's a fun, exciting, and humorous popcorn ride filled with visual awe and a great cast. It's entertaining without being stupid and delivers on the imagination we all shared when dreaming of a big superhero team-up. Having said is far from a perfect film. Some of the dialogue is pretty awful (The exchange between Loki and Fury about ants having quarrels with boots is laughably bad), the story is predictable and offers little sense of true suspense, dread, or surprise, and the first hour is oddly paced and rushed in terms of character relationships and individual development.

Yet somehow films like Brave, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises can share these exact same traits and be lambasted while The Avengers is praised as a groundbreaking new gold standard for superhero films. Sorry...but no. In terms of costume design...okay, I guess it is the only film with the balls to make them look exactly like the comic books designs......if you ignore films like Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy or The Fantastic Four films. It certainly isn't the only superhero film to be "light-hearted" and "fun" and I cannot fathom how anyone could consider it to have a better script than The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2, Iron Man, or Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Not good enough? Well maybe there is a superhero film that combined a great script with the courage to be all out silly and the very first big one- Superman: The Movie. The Avengers fine and fun film....but hardly the revolutionary, does things no superhero film has ever done before, gauntlet smashing film that some are making it out to be. 

Now in recent days the new Star Trek Into Darkness teaser and every other genre film that has the audacity to apparently take itself seriously has been criticized by some (idiots) for pursuing a 'Dark Knight' style in a post-Avengers world....because now apparently no matter what film you are, screw characters and story...being goofy and fun is all that matters! 

Suddenly this teaming up of a director with the skills to create engaging stories and characters with another director with an admittedly passionate flare for visual action is beginning to really excite me. Man of Steel needs to really hit the ground running for Superman fans and while the latest trailer doesn't entirely excite me, it does indicate that there is enough there to ensure the future of superhero films will continue on the path of a PRE-Avengers world.

So what stand out about this trailer?

1) The negatives first: I smiled a little when Kevin Costner's Jonathan Kent appeared in clothing similar to the Smallville Jonathan as played by John Schneider. However that joy quickly faded when Jonathan suggested that perhaps Clark should have let a bus full of children die in order to protect his secret powers. That really bugged me. In my experience Jonathan Kent has always warned Clark about the dangers of exposing himself, however it was never at the expense of the lives of others. This line just felt very un-Pa-Kent-Like and I very much hope that conversation take a different turn in the final film.

2) Overall the trailer didn't exactly excite me. As I shall explain there are aspects of it worthy of enthusiasm, however for the most part there wasn't much of a "Wow that was cool!" or "I need to see how this turns out!" moment.

3) Now for some positives...the mythic vibe of it all really impresses me. I'm not a fan of the music, but the overall feel of the trailer does emphasize that Superman is a character of epic and godlike stature in appearance and in terms of what the character represents. The shots of Superman in the arctic preparing for and eventually taking off into the sky truly felt like the stuff of legend. 

4) I love that we will appear to experience a story that is deeply personal for Clark Kent/Superman. Moments such as his mother and father comforting and teaching him in times of weakness or uncertainty really capture the important fact that Superman is who is because of the Kent's and how they raised Clark. These scene looks like they will provide some of the most emotional moments of the film.

5) Superman questioning his purpose in the world and whether or nor humanity is ready to accept him provides huge relief that the film will actually have an inner character journey that isn't simplified or easily dismissible. It gives Superman not only an arc for audiences to engage in, but possibly even a reason to rejoice beyond the typical 'hero saves the day' joy as Superman will now have something to prove to himself and the world. These are the types of stories that superhero films can and should aspire to.

Overall the trailer is fine. The aren't many awe inspiring moments but there are signs that the film will succeed in providing solid character and story depth, which frankly is the best sign the film could have given me. For some characters/franchises bright colors, gags every few moments, and fan service is not only fine, but required for a faithful adaptation. However in other cases, treating superhero films, their stories, and their characters like any other great film would, in other words taking them seriously, is more in line with what I hope to see in the future for the genre.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Kevin Smith Works on Third Clerks

Kevin Smith has become an easy punching bag as of late and while some of it has been warranted, most it feels like cheap shots. That isn't to say Kevin Smith is above criticism (Cop Out was pretty lousy, Zack and Miri Make a Porno did little for me and  Red State was a mostly successful departure from the norm for Smith in terms of directing style but didn't result in all too great film), however we seem to forget that as much as some of us may hate the toilet humour, constant Star Wars references, or Smiths own personal antics...he was the filmmaker behind Clerks.

Granted, like any film, there are bound to be those who feel little for Clerks, however like it or not, it is worth noting some points of importance regarding the mere existence of the film. First of all the film is a testament to the idea of the small time, hard for cash, student filmmaker scraping every penny together to create a film that ultimately lands them that big break into the big leagues of the Hollywood film industry. Shot almost exclusively in a location where he already worked, acquiring funds through maxed out credits cards and dipping into savings, and using friends and family as cast members, Kevin Smith has almost become the poster child for many struggling student filmmakers as an example of someone recent who launched their career from humble and modest means. Clerks was a critical hit and in turn contributed to 1990's rise of the independent film in both festival reception and box office returns. Independent films were quickly becoming a "thing" that studios found worth investing in and thus the subsequent mass distribution of these new, daring, and edgier films allowed audiences to watch what was, to them, a brand new type of cinema. Clerks is hardly the godfather of these indie films, however it is a part of what I consider to be the best period of the independent film.

Clerks II was received with noticeably more negative criticism than it's predecessor, but there were still many, myself included, who really did enjoy the film. As time goes on some of the toilet humour has transitioned from hilarious to juvenile, but if the film has any lasting strength it will be from the fact that it is a thesis statement on Kevin Smith's own career. Don't see it? Well the film is about a character constantly told to quit goofing off with his friends while working the same modest job and move on to bigger and more mature ventures, who ultimate decides that his simple work supports him, allows him to collaborate with friends, and while it may not land him in the history books, it is a damn fine living . Hmm...Kevin Smith may have well just said stood in front of the camera and told his critics "Yeah, I make films with my foul mouthed friends that may never get me an Academy Award, but it has gotten me this far and I have a damn good time doing it!" Say what you will about the man, I've got to give major credit to someone able to only own their criticism, but actually tell everyone he is more than content with his career.

Now, after the long planned hockey film Hit Somebody, which was to be Smiths last film before it took a direction down miniseries route, Kevin Smith has announced that his third installment in the Clerks film series will also be his final film.

There is something special about the fact that a filmmakers final film will also be the conclusion to a story which launched their career, but on the other hand I'm not to sure if this is a story that really needs any further resolution. The first film set up that main characters Dante and Randal are stuck in a customer service job while their peers move on to 'adult' careers and the second film established that this was actually just fine for both of them. Where do we really go from there? In fact, I think Jeff Anderson, the man who played Randall Graves and is apparently the only signature they need to get production of this third installment moving, said it best regarding a third Clerks film:

"You know, I don't think I want to see these guys back in a live action; Clerks II is a nice book-end to Clerks. It's a movie that stands on its own, I love the way it ends, back where they were. And it ends with Kevin's mom, doing the exact same part that she did. It ends with a Soul Asylum song; they were on the original soundtrack and the song fits so well. I don't think you go back to it and mess with it again." -Jeff Anderson (Source:
Now to Kevin Smiths credit he has stated that he would only make the film if he actually had something to say about himself or life in his 40's, so if we are taking his word for it, we can assume there is a continuation to the message conveyed in Clerks II.

I just hope that it doesn't conclude with messages of regret, because I applaud Clerks II for basically saying 'You know, many of us won't become CEO's, big shot lawyers, or world famous celebrities....but so what?'. Because in all honesty, as long as we have good friends, have means to support ourselves, and are good people....who cares?


I'll admit that I was never a Star Trek fan. I didn't hate it, I was just never exposed to it. Even to this day my knowledge on the Star Trek universe and the history of the show(s) is limited to character names, catchphrases, how Wrath of Kahn is supposedly the best film of the series, and anything else that can be learned from a quick wikipedia read-through.

Having said that, I was a fan of J.J. Abrams' reboot of the franchise. The reboot didn't entice me into the world of Star Trek any more than I already was (or wasn't) but the film did do its job as far as I'm concerned. It had great characters, a solid narrative, pathos, and it was an exciting popcorn flick. Now, after an unusual amount of time later, Star Trek Into Darkness is months away and the latest trailer has just made its debut.

There's something about this trailer that feels...ok. I get that this is a teaser and I'll be the first to admit that I complain when people whine about teasers not showing enough material, evidently failing to understand the definition of the word 'tease'. However what IS being presented here is still concrete enough to come to some conclusions. First, there isn't anything presented here that is bad or anywhere near worthy of being hated, in fact the film looks pretty solid and will probably be alright. However there isn't anything remotely noteworthy either.

Perhaps the problem lies in the style of the teaser, which opts for a The Dark Knight-esque vibe involving the villain spewing a monologue questioning the morals, safety, and societal structure of the heroes alongside the quickly getting irritating 'Inception horns'.

Now don't get me wrong, I do not agree AT ALL with this sudden ever growing idea of Christopher Nolan apparently being worst thing to happen not only to film, but just about every other medium as well. However this teasers style ultimately just leaves me with the impression that the film will be just like every other big summer blockbuster. Explosions? Got it. Villain giving ominous speech? Got it. Characters running and screaming in panic as chaos in unleashed amongst the public? Got it.

It also seems weird that with most of the films hype surrounded by the question of who Benedict Cumberbatch will be playing, they don't present him in any way to grab audience interest aside from suggesting he won't be much different than The Joker or Skyfall's Raoul Silva. Granted both aforementioned  characters are great villains, but with so much of this films buzz centered on this mystery, it'll be disappointing if they have little new to offer.

I get that this is a teaser and they may very well simply be going to the old familiar well of promotional techniques to get the average audiences excited for it, but as it stands, for a film that took this long to hit theaters, it doesn't exactly scream 'This is worth the wait!'

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Every Journey Has An End

This is it. Following my latest DVD & Blu-Ray Collection Update video (seen above) I revealed that it would also, in fact, be my last. This was a long time coming and there is little to no chance I will go back on this decision, but what does this mean for the future of my Youtube channel and my involvement in this Film Fan online community that I’ve become a part of? Well here’s the deal:

1) I’m Not Going Anywhere: My Youtube channel will remain open and all previous videos will still be available for viewing. I’ll still be watching and commenting on videos from the people I’m subscribed to, especially from those who were kind enough to take the time to regularly view my own, and I’ll still be present online where the DVD Collecting Community generally ‘hang out’ on social networking sites such as Twitter, Tumblr, Last.FM, DVD Aficionado, and Gomiso.

1) No More DVD/Blu-Ray Collection Update Videos: This is a final decision. The reasons come down to the basic fact that even when putting a minimal amount of effort into getting the update videos online and with at least some sense of quality, it still takes more time than the rewards are worth. I don’t want to come across as someone whining about a lack of comments or views on my videos recently, but facts are facts and there seems little point in putting work into something without an audience. Naturally I will still be collecting films on DVD and Blu-Ray, and I will still share my recent buys with the online community, however these new “updates” will either take the form of a simple image of recent hauls or a blog post featuring brief reviews of the films I’ve collected. This takes me to my next point…

3) The Thinking Lens Blog!: Considering I’m now in full-time University studies in a Film Studies program, I’ve more than decided that a career in film journalism is the path I’d love to pursue. While I’ve made blog posts in the past, I’ve generally done them sporadically and in moments of boredom. Now I’ve decided, for the time being at least, to focus on this blog first, foremost, and with greater frequency. While Tumblr is a great place to write, posts can easily get lost among the reblogged images, GIF’s, and works from others. This blogspot site will be devoted exclusively to whatever written posts I may conjure up. If nothing else the writing will be good practice for whatever future endeavors I may embark on. This blog will unsurprisingly focus on film, television, music, literature, politics, and everything else going on in the world worth discussing! Hopefully many of you will swing by and visit!

4) Future Youtube videos?: Does the end of DVD/Blu-Ray Updates mean the end of new videos? Not permanently…but probably for a while. While a traditional short Christmas related video will likely be up for the holidays, chances are it will be the last video of any sort for some time. So what’s planned for the future? Some of you may have watched two of my videos uploaded under the title The Thinking Lens (and to those who did, I thank you) which focused on analyzing various media related topics of my choosing. While the videos didn’t exactly turn out how I planned, I have learned from them and developed new ideas for the ‘series’ in the process. Therefore the future for my Youtube channel will consist of videos part of a series titled The Thinking Lens which will continue to explore and discuss all things media. The key difference this time is that I will be putting a lot more effort into these videos in terms of producing better quality work. Hence why it may be a while before you see new videos as it will take considerable time to get them to where I want them to be and I am still a full-time student with other responsibilities. Some would argue why quit making Collection Update videos due to low viewership only to begin making more ambitious ones? We’ll my logic is that if I’m going to put up videos at all, they may as well be ones I’m proud of putting up and hopefully the audience can grow from that. I’ll update you all on when you can expect to see these videos, however in the meantime this blog is where I will be most active. Hopefully you will stick around here now and in the future!

There you have it. I’ve enjoyed my time sharing the films I’ve collected with you all and will continue to share in the discussions with all of you. This is far from the end for me on Youtube or as a member of this great community. It’s a fun group which looks to be adding newer and greater members as time goes on and I look forward to future material from all of you. This is just a step in a new direction for me that I hope turns out well. Until then, thanks for the support and take care!