Chris Spicer, Fanbase Press Contributor

Chris Spicer, Fanbase Press Contributor

'Lincoln:' Film Review


LincolnReporting from AFI Fest 2012 Presented by Audi

Perhaps you’ve heard this already, but last week George Lucas sold his empire (no pun intended) to the Walt Disney Company for just a shade over $4 billion.  For those of us who self-identify with the geek community, Star Wars is probably one of the intellectual properties that most influenced us in terms of our consumption of popular culture.  If there’s one artist whose work has fueled our imaginations as much as Star Wars, then that artist is Steven Spielberg. 

As a kid of the '80s, Spielberg’s movies are an enormous cultural touchstone.  Just look at the list:  Jaws, Close Encounters, E.T., the Indiana Jones movies, Jurassic Park.  As a producer, he helped to bring us Poltergeist, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and the Back to the Future films.  As he matured as an artist, Spielberg would go on to make Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, and Munich.   Not a shabby collection of films.

Like any significant artist with a robust and sizeable body of work, Spielberg has his detractors.  Some of them are often quite vocal.  Yes, he can be sappy and sentimental at times.  Yes, he can sometimes hammer a point home when a gentler touch might be more effective.  But, there is no question that he is a technical master of the craft with an almost unmatched sense of visual storytelling.

Which is one of the things that is a bit peculiar about his latest film, the very long in production Lincoln.  


Room 237Reporting from AFI Fest 2012 presented by Audi

A few weeks back, I wrote a piece for the site about being an active consumer of culture, to open your eyes and your mind as you’re watching movies or reading comics, and really see all the subtle nuances the art forms can provide.  As geeks, we are prone to being obsessive with the things we love, and I really encourage all of us to be smarter viewers.

I was thinking about this a lot as I watched the enormously entertaining documentary Room 237 this weekend at AFI Fest.  


Kubrick Exhibiti“A director is a kind of idea and taste machine; a movie is a series of creative and technical decisions,
and it’s the director’s job to make the right decisions as frequently as possible.”
    - Stanley Kubrick

There’s a moment in the fantastic, new exhibit, Stanley Kubrick, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that will likely melt the brains of any bona fide film geeks.  The exhibit is arranged thematically, and as you enter the space dedicated to The Shining, you see it: the Adler typewriter on which Jack Torrance attempts to write his new novel.  Upon closer inspection, you’ll see there’s paper in the carriage with that chilling phrase, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” typed over and over again.   It’s thrilling to see.

And, it doesn’t stop there.

'Skyfall:' Film Review


SkyfallReporting from AFI Fest 2012 Presented by Audi

Let’s take a moment and thank Mike Myers.  And, Jason Bourne.

It was in 1997 that Myers unleashed Austin Powers onto the world.  A send-up of mod, '60s spy movies, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (as well as its sequels of diminishing returns) left no detail of the spy movie unmocked.  The James Bond movies were hit the hardest, but, then again, they were always the biggest targets.  Myers played the dual roles of Austin Powers (he of the Connery-like chest hair) and the Blofeld-like supervillain Dr. Evil.  Whether it was Roger Moore’s embarrassing use of the judo chop as a means of self-defense or the villains’ ridiculous plans for world domination or their inability to just shoot Bond in the head, Myers and company did an admirable job of pointing out for our amusement the more absurd aspects of the James Bond movies.


On the RoadReporting from AFI Fest 2012 presented by Audi

Not everything needs to be a movie.

As a lifelong film geek, I understand the desire to see a favorite piece of material play out on the big screen, but some things weren’t meant to translate as a movie.  Don’t get me wrong; I get the instinct to see your favorite stories or characters played out on beautiful CinemaScope.  I’ve been planning my sure to be ill-fated movie version of The Catcher in the Rye since I was 15 or 16.  (Young Leonardo DiCaprio would have made such an awesome Holden Caulfield!)  Some properties just aren’t going to translate well.

And yet, we plow right ahead.  Something’s a huge bestselling book?  Make a movie out of it.  A gigantic hit on Broadway?  Make a movie out of it.  A hugely popular video game?  Make a movie out of it.   A line of popular toys?  Make a movie out of it.  But, just because something works well in one medium doesn’t mean it will translate well to another.  (I’d go a step further and argue that there will never be a good feature film made from a video game, as a movie takes away the best part of the game - that you get to be the main character.)

Walter Salles’ film version of Jack Kerouac’s classic novel, On the Road, suffers from this syndrome.  Despite obvious care and attention, it just doesn’t work well as a movie.


Rise of the GuardiansReporting from AFI Fest 2012 presented by Audi

As a child of the '70s and '80s, I grew up on those classic, Rankin/Bass animated holiday specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.  In fact, one of my favorite Christmas songs is “I’m Mr. Heat Miser.”  So to me, Santa Claus is supposed to sound a lot like Mickey Rooney.  

Imagine my surprise to hear Santa talk with a thick Russian accent.  And, for him to have a forearm of tattoos that read “Naughty” on one arm and “Nice” on the other.  This is definitely a Santa for the 21st Century.  

This new twist on Santa Claus is a part of DreamWorks Animation’s new holiday-themed movie, Rise of the Guardians.  The Guardians in question are Santa (voiced by Alec Baldwin, sounding like Jack Donaghy by way of Vladimir Putin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman getting to sport his native Australian accent), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), and the Sandman (voiced by nobody, since the Sandman doesn’t speak).  These iconic characters are like the childhood Avengers, banding together to protect the children of the world.


Disney SW*Please note that this article is an opinion-editorial.

The Walt Disney Company purchased LucasFilm Ltd. this week for $4.05 billion.  Perhaps you heard about it?  It was the geek shot heard ‘round the world.  Disney paid in cash and stock options, which is sort of amazing when you think about it.  They were able to make a $4 billion deal with no outside financing; they essentially just gave George a big duffle bag stuffed with cash.

The other news that came out of this announcement was the greenlight given to new Star Wars movies, beginning with Episode 7, which will hit theaters in 2015.  If tradition holds and this comes out on Memorial Day weekend, Disney will be releasing Star Wars 7 within about three weeks of The Avengers 2.  Talk about an embarrassment of riches.  The Treasury Department should just give Bob Iger his own money printing press at that point.

It’s also pretty amazing that a deal this big was able to be negotiated over what must have been at least weeks and more likely months without it being leaked to the press.  If Star Wars 7 is going to be released in about two and a half years, they must be pretty far along in the planning process.  


Cloud Atlas*Please note that this article is an opinion-editorial.

This is a call to arms, and it might be very futile. But, I believe we, as people, who care about films are at a fairly critical juncture.

I’ve been writing for Fanboy Comics since March, and, in that time, one of the things I’ve enjoyed has been access to free movie screenings prior to a film’s release. It’s great. It helps our coverage to be much more up-to-the-minute and timely, and it’s also great because it saves me a lot of money. Like a lot of our readers and contributors, I am a struggling artist trying to find my way in the world. If he were still alive, I would take umbrage with Jonathon Larson whose musical Rent makes being a struggling artist seem, at times, a lot more fun that the reality of it is. There’s just something about bursting into song about burning your screenplays to keep warm in the winter that makes this sort of helpless poverty seem like a rollicking good time. If it weren’t for the hospitality of these screenings, I simply wouldn’t be able to pay to see most of the movies I’ve written about here.


Wreck-It RalphI made what I thought was an interesting connection in my head while sitting at the Disney El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, waiting for the press screening of Wreck-It Ralph to begin.

If you don’t live in Los Angles, El Capitan is a classic old movie house on Hollywood Boulevard (It’s literally right across the street from Grauman’s Chinese Theater.) that has in the past few years been completely refurbished and operated by Disney.  Built in 1926, El Cap hosted the world premiere of Citizen Cain.  After falling into a state of serious disrepair, Disney and Pacific Theaters reopened the newly fixed-up palace in 1991.  

One of the many treats in watching a film there is the great Wurlitzer organ, played by the great organist Rob Richards.  The pre-movie medley of Disney songs that Richards plays is kind of amazing to hear, especially when you consider the great pieces of music Disney films have given us over the years.

So, this is where my connection kicked in; most of the Disney songs Richards plays are in chronological order.  There is a massive gap in time between the great songs like “Bear Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book in the late 1960s and the Menken/Ashman modern classics that began to populate the Disneyverse in the late '80s and early '90s.  In short, there’s a pretty sizeable gap in Disney animation in the '70s and most of the '80s.


FlightHe’s back!

After 12 years of wandering in the wilderness of the Uncanny Valley, Oscar winner and film geek patron saint Robert Zemeckis has returned to live-action filmmaking.  I was never sure why the director of such modern classics as the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump would leave live-action filmmaking behind to devote himself to motion capture technology.  I mean, what’s the point of putting Tom Hanks in a motion capture suit just so you can reanimate him as a dead-eyed, super creepy character that more or less looks just like Tom Hanks?  Why not just shoot that as live action?  MoCap always makes a lot more sense to me when Andy Serkis is playing a chimp.

I suppose I can see the allure to an extent since Zemeckis has always been a director who pushed the visual effects envelope.  But, after his production company was defunded by Disney following the box office disaster that was Mars Needs Moms, Zemeckis has returned to us 12 years after his last live-action film, Cast Away.

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