August’s Empire: For Realsies

So I am more than a day late and at least a few dollars short on posting a Pop! Culture Club discussion space for Empire Magazine’s August issue. But here’s my brain dump in any case. Let’s chat.

This might be the end all be all of geek magazines. I personally enjoy it because it is a U.K. mag, and being a silly yank, I like how our timelines are off. Some of their “coming soons” are things that have already come and gone in the theaters here and occasionally the opposite is true for them (Solomon Kane, why do you mock me?!). It’s like bizzaroland! The mag is broadly focused, written with my favorite blend of tea-soaked British wit, and packaged with geeky tender love and care. It’s also sprinkled with hilarious sidebars with gems like this:

“When he’s not saving the world, Kevin Costner endorses Turkish Airlines. We think that means every flight is an hour longer than it needs to be.”

Tids & Bits

Empire gives so many sneakity peaks that I can barely contain myself from one page to the next. The thought of impending hilarity from The Green Hornet. Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Timothy Dalton, and Paul Bettany in The Tourist?! Transformers meets real drama in Hugh Jackman’s Real Steel! Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy take on the dons of the X-Men universe (Magneto and Xavier)! Alexander Skarsgård is set to get his Battleship on?! Okay that last one is less than impressive, but you get where I’m going.

The most squee-inducing bit: Golden Eye Returns!!! Just as the mag noted, any gamer worth their salt would credit Golden Eye 007 from the N64 one of the best games ever. Fin. I played it a lot–in fact I am not ashamed to say how many times ZRose and I hunted each other down in the various settings only to have an epic hand-to-hand slap showdown. It was the good old days when unmitigated violence was still fun–before the rather perverse Grand Theft bitch slap showdowns were even a twinkle in a developer’s eye. Now the prodigal game returns as a Wii exclusive, featuring Daniel Craig as James Bond along with eight classic bond characters. Color me tickled pink! Pyew-pyew!

Then there’s that screwy timeline stuff I mentioned. Like the first looks at Despicable Me and a rather hopeful peek at the stars of The Last Airbender. Sidenote, Empire’s reviews (despite my general dislike of formal film critiques) are really well done. The September issue gives a very fair review of Airbender and rightly calls out the U.S. for the fit-pitched over Shyamalan’s flat fare.

I am also surprised at how much I’m into the Tron Legacy since, admittedly, I fell asleep during the original do to utter boredom (though I appreciate the artistry of the hand painted effects). The other piece of that surprise is related to the motion capture aspect. More on that later (below).

Strokes of Brilliance

Empire‘s standing features are always astute, occasionally irreverent, fun. Their celebrity interviews come to mind first. This month’s issue features random q & a with Sharlto Copely, who admits to Americans having a lot of trouble with his name (Sharltio, Sheldon, and Charlto being my personal favorites); a massive interview with powerhouse Angelica Huston; and one of my fave features: “My Movie Mastermind.” “Mastermind” is basically a 10 question quiz for actors/directors, and all of the questions are about their career/work. This month’s victim was Sean Bean, who earned a fairly average score of 6 (the highest scores belong to Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Lee, and Ben Kingsley; the lowest John Carpenter, Michael Keaton, and Steve Guttenberg). This month also had another installment of Olly Moss’ crazy cool poster designs, The A-Team, “as they should be.”

The Nitty Gritty

If I had to choose one thing to rant/discuss with my fellow Pop Culture Clubbers about this issue, it would definitely be the “Future of Movies” article. In it, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, and Robert Zemeckis are interviewed about their use and promotion of motion capture technology…and about how much they love each other (get a room). I have mixed feelings about it all. I am not an old fuddy duddy. I am intrigued by new media as much as the next film geek. My beef lies in the three giants discussing how people just don’t “get it.” It’s nothing to worry about. Actors shouldn’t be concerned about being replaced. It’s the same as a prosthesis–it’s “digital make-up.” All fair arguments until they get all giddy over the idea of Clint Eastwood making another Dirty Harry or Harrison Ford being Indy forever–even bringing people back from the dead.

If I worked in film, I’d be worried. It seems like in the not too distant future, it won’t be old actors worrying about aging into limited roles, it will be new actors worrying about missing their big break. Also, isn’t anyone else concerned about Hollywood’s ever-increasing lack of originality these days? Do you really want to watch Indiana Jones forever? Sequels can be fun, but why not spend time coming up with new heroes (or heroines for once, Hollywood)? Don’t you want to see people age? I want to see what a lifetime of experience does to an actor, what they elevate themselves to, not what they cling to from their youth. Is it just digital make-up? If so what does that mean for all the real make-up artists, costumers, art directors, puppeteers, etc.? How can we all really be so excited to move into a frontier that shuts out talented artists (including cinematographers). I watched District 9 last night, and you know what? That was a pretty bad-ass movie with amazing make-up and intelligent use of effects. It incorporated, not replaced.

New ideas, new techniques, and new talent. These are the things that I feel like motion capture freezes out. It makes me think of my Burton on Burton review. In the book, Burton talked about how they considered using effects to have Jack Nicholson play Edward Bloom in Big Fish, both young and old. I can’t be more happy that Burton pulled the plug on that one, because think about it. All CG means no opportunity to experience Ewan McGregor’s wide-eyed adventuring or Albert Finney’s breathtaking fade to black. Burton strives to use real objects and people to bring depth to his work. I loathed hearing that the Green Lantern would be wearing a CG suit. Didn’t you? Imagine Edward Scissorhands via a CG suit. Think about Inception. Christopher Nolan is another great example of a filmmaker interested in honing his craft rather than exploiting technology. There’s a mastery of skill that adds so much depth to a film–using the right lenses, building full sets, finding new talent, and celebrating the grace and perspective from aging professionals.

Spielberg says “Avatar is the perfect example of everything in service of the story…the story was master of everything…” Are you f-bomb kidding me, Spielbergo? Did Cameron have a gun to your head? “Perfect…Everything…Story?!”

Also, sue me if I don’t trust Cameron’s assurances that they don’t tweak any part of the performance (the facial expressions, posture, inflection, etc.) in the editing room. They say “clean up,” but what does that really mean? Sue me some more if I don’t buy the line these three are feeding us–three guys that basically own this technology. Three guys that have several motion capture releases slated for theaters near you. Three guys that are diving into piles of many they rake in by opening the door for $20 admission prices.

Weigh in, kids. What say you?

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4 thoughts on “August’s Empire: For Realsies

  1. zrose25 says:

    I have to say, a couple of years ago I was pretty excited to see a many of the sequels, prequels and remakes. But now I am a little put off by how many new releases are just regurgitated ideas. What happened to the creativity? Have we scraped the bottom of our collective idea barrels?

    I completely agree with you on the subject of motion capture. It is a new and innovative way to make films, and I am sure it will have its place in the movie business… but when they start talking about using it for regular movies I get worried. Why on earth do we need to replace actors with glorified animated versions of themselves?

    • Junkie2 says:

      I agree. What’s wrong with writing a trilogy and then letting the story stay a trilogy? I do not want to see another Indiana Jones after you botched your last attempt. It wasn’t Indy’s age that disappointed me, it was the lazy and unoriginal story line (ahem*the mummy*ahem).

      Take a cue from the Bond films and learn to pass the baton on if you like a certain idea or character so much!

  2. AnTiViRuS says:

    keep it real, iight

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