Still Bringing The Heat

This past Sunday, I went to NJPAC (New Jersey Performing Arts Center) to see a screening of Young Frankenstein, followed by a ‘conversation’ with Mel Brooks himself…all of 90 years young.

Watching the movie in a theater the size of NJPAC was fantastic. I’ve only watched Young Frankenstein (more times than I can count) at home on TV, so listening to an audience laughing and reacting to the movie was a unique experience. It made me appreciate even more the subltle nuances of Gene Wilder’s reactions, and the classic facial expressions of Cloris Leachman and Marty Feldman. You just don’t get that from watching the movie in your living room.

But the real joy came during the conversation with Mel Brooks after the show, where he shared stories and memories of filming Young Frankenstein: how Marty Feldman kept on switching the shoulder of Igor’s hump until someone on the set noticed, upon which Mel thought it funny enough to write it into the script; how in the grave digging scene, an off the cuff quip from Feldman (again) led to him writing in the downpour of rain as being the only thing that could make digging up a grave worse.

Near the end of the conversation, the host read some questions that the audience got to submit for Mel to answer and there were two interactions that illustrated how quick and brilliantly funny Mel Brooks still is:

The Underwear Question

Audience Question: Mel, boxers or briefs?
Mel (without missing a beat): I’m going to give you an honest answer. Depends.
Brought down the house.

Don’t Kiss And Tell Question

Initial Audience Question: Katie asks if you would consider marrying her?
Mel: I’ll think about it. I’ll definitely think about it
Next Audience Question: Jennifer says that she is a huge fan and was wondering if she could give you a kiss?
Mel (again, without missing a beat): Oh, I’m sorry Jennifer, I’m engaged to Katie now and I don’t think that would be appropriate.
Brings down the house again.

Of course, the most popular questions were: When are “Spaceballs II” and “History of the World, Part 2” coming out?

Save Tatooine

Mark Dermul, a big time Star Wars fan, has been taking the lead over the past few years in an effort to restore the Lars Homestead and other sites (including one of my favorites, the Moss Eisley Cantina) in Tunisia that were used to film the original Star Wars: A New Hope in 1979. Over the years, the sites have fallen into dis-repair so Mr. Dermul and other volunteers from around the world have baned together to fix these sites.

More about the project can be found at the Save Lars site.

via Green Prophet.

High Tech Hobbit

Bilbo Baggins
On top of the general buzz about Peter Jackson’s latest Middle Earth project The Hobbit, slated to be released in December, film geeks and insiders are chattering about the way Jackson is filming the legendary Tolkien story:

The four-day [CineEurope 2012] conference, aimed primarily at European theater operators, kicked off with exhibitors and distributors hearing that the filmmaker’s decision to shoot his fourth J.R.R. Tolkien adaptation using 48 frames per second rather than the current 24 fps (25 in some parts of Europe) will cost them more. Still, exhibitors have largely signaled that they want to show the hotly anticipated movie.

Filming at that quick a frame rate will bring out much richer detail and color to the movie, so long as your local theater has the proper equipment to show it at that frame rate. And it is in this “last mile” of the content delivery where things break down.

Many local theaters can’t handle this frame rate, although the big studios like Sony and Warner Bros are rapidly upgrading theaters they own. The movie studio will have to distribute multiple versions of the film to accommodate all theaters that can’t handle this. And while filmmaking at the higher FPS rate may be a big deal in Hollywood (i.e the movie industry) however I have to wonder how big a deal this really is to the general marketplace?

I would argue that today’s theater user experience is not materially better than watching it from your couch on your big screen TV. So will the opportunity to watch a movie like The Hobbit at a higher frame rate and quality of picture really drive a materially significant attendance lift in the general marketplace? I am skeptical.

But movie theaters and the studios will have to come up with something. The relevance of the movie theater is tied to their ability to deliver a far superior film consumption experience (and I don’t mean by the amazingly annoying and overpriced trend of delivering fried food to my seat). And as we all know, that is under intense pressure as the once exclusive distribution channels (i.e movie theaters) are no longer so, with so many folks consuming media in multiple form factors (HDTV, iPads, Netflix, Hulu, etc.).

Shaken And Stirred


Someone has taken the time to count the number of gunshots fired at James Bond (aka Agent 007) throughout all 22 Bond movies.

It turns out that there have been over 4,600 shots fired at him.

A static well-aimed shot would almost certainly have proved lethal, but assuming all 4662 were “on the run”, the probability of a single fatal shot is about 5 per cent. That is, the chance of a single shot missing is 0.95, and hence the probability of all shots missing is 0.954662 or 1.4 × 10-104, which is as close to zero as makes no difference

Now, about all of those Bond Girls he has gotten to know so well.

via New Scientiest by way of NextDraft.

Don’t Be A (Phantom) Menace

I went with my son to see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace yesterday on the big screen and in 3D.  And to no one’s surprise, the movie has not gotten any better with the new effects. Menace is easily the worst of the three “prequels” and wins by a nose over the whole Ewok thing from “Return of the Jedi”.

When movies are re-released with new bells and whistles, its always interesting to recollect about what people’s initial reaction was to the movie, to see if time has healed any wounds or opened new ones. With Menace, neither is the case. This release of Phantom Menace is, daresay, a little worse than the original because you have to watch the movie with the stupid 3D glasses on and cringe at the way a movie franchise that SHOULD have been built for 3D demonstrated no redeeming enhancements from the visual effect that felt like it was hacked into the master copy using iMovie.

As in 1999, the one element of awesomeness in this movie is Darth Maul. From an original review of Phantom Menace in 1999, this snippet from Eric Davis at Movies.com sums his presence up:

Darth Maul was — and still is — the greatest thing about Episode I. He’s scary and menacing, and you’re frightened by him. The dude rocks a duel lightsaber, which totally kicked my world’s ass when I first witnessed the ferociously-paced fight scene between Maul, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon — perhaps the film’s greatest sequence — and one of the best Star Wars lightsaber battles the series has to offer.

You are begging and pleading for more of him in this movie…maybe some “never before seen” fight sequences that look stunningly awesome in 3D…something, anything to expand his presence in the movie and make it worthy of the epic series it is part of. But alas, we are stuck with Nute Gunray and a Senatorial debate over taxes that apes those in this Galaxy.

I’ll just stick with the original Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back, thank you very much.

via Moviefone.

Movie Time On My Site

YouTube just jumped with both feet into the streaming movie market, releasing YouTube Movies. What’s interesting is that they allow you to embed these full length movies into your website.

For example, below is the classic “To Kill A Mockingbird“. I think this is really really great, but I’m also pretty surprised that the studio/content owner would be ok with this with their obsession over controlling distribution and piracy in their never ending quest to keep their industry from getting “napster-ed”.

The service has some pretty decent movies, but most seem to be ones “on the fringe”. As a Netflix subscriber, and now looking at YouTube Movies, I am completely stunned at the volume of low grade movies that at face value have no redeeming appeal whatsoever. But I guess the stars have to start somewhere.

But I digress. In any case, if you have a few hours to kill, sit back, relax and watch Gregory Peck in one of the all time great movies, right here. :)