Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TRAILERS: The Bling Ring, Thor Notes, Clip 2 Star Trek Into Darkness, Hercules 3D, 300: Rise Of An Empire, The Amazing Spider Man

The Bling Ring, starring Emma Watson, is based on a true story, rather like Pain and Gain. Here is trailer #2:
As we have discussed previously, like Spring Breakers and Project X, even The Campaign and Neighborhood Watch, films such as The Bling Ring are targeted to a specific demographic who probably do not care much about politics nor the direction the country is headed, but can be influenced with the right message. In other words, seeing the shallowness of the characters being portrayed will communicate to them how not to act so they don't end up that way, which leads us to our next point we have touched upon briefly elsewhere: Ms. Watson. Watson's loyal fanbase knows her as the sweet little girl from Harry Potter--so this is a rather big risk for her in terms of her career--but this is probably the main reason she was cast in The Bling Ring: to illustrate a "good girl gone bad," and the badness will  be accentuated by her good image; why bother with this? 
The Bling Ring is due out in June. This group of films, Spring Breakers, Pain and Gain, The Bling Ring (to some degree, Project X) and Now You See Me, re-invent the films of Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Wild Bunch: you can live it up for awhile, but there's going to be hell to pay at the end (at about 1:05, the trailer above says this movie title: "America has this sick fascination with the Bonnie and Clyde kind of thing."  No, it's called common sense. These films depicting the consequences of our actions do two things: first, they re-affirm that we have free will, the characters we see make their own choices, they are not made for them; secondly, the films show the logical conclusion of the choices the characters have made, namely, that the abuse of free will results in losing your free will (either because you go to jail or you die). Granted, this might be a lesson missed by a general viewer, but what art does--especially film--is to provide us with a alternate world view, a way the world can be or a way in which--at least for a moment--we should look at the world. These scenarios the narratives present are meant to sway our emotions into "liking" what we see or "not liking" what we see, but it forces an engagement, and that's a positive for people who probably don't like engaging with reality very often.
Since the young always symbolize the future (remember, at 1:20 Nicki says to interviewers, "I want to lead the country one day for all I know"), audience members will unconsciously be faced with the choice: do we want an America like the loyal, hard-working Hermione, or the shallow Nicki in The Bling Ring? Such a stark dichotomy between Watson's "two faces" deepens the sense of "loss" over Hermione's virtues that otherwise might be taken for granted, however, like Spring Breakers, Now You See Me, and Pain and Gain, I am confident the film will contain an important message, which leads us to our next point,... 
The eyes are the window of the soul, so what do the sunglasses as the main poster reveal about the characters in the film? We see the girls acting like the women they have seen on TV, which prompts the question, were are the girls' real parents? The kids in this film have "adopted" celebrities to be their parents, in every sense of the world, including to "provide for them" as a parent should provide for their child (the kids go in and take what they want). When Sam asks the lawyer if he has contacted any of the victims, and he replies he has talked to all of them, she wants to know, "What did Lindsey say?" and this isn't much different than a child acting out to force its parent to acknowledge them and get some kind of response from them. Regardless of what you and I think of "celebrity culture," how we interact or don't interact with it is part of our free will; claims made that celebrities have "too much influence" are deliberately intended to undermine that free will exists at all (this is a major platform in socialism, the control capitalists have over our appetites which takes away our free will) and if we pass the blame onto Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian, we have also forsaken our free will when we forsake our responsibility for abusing it, which the film seems to be fully aware of.
What's really going on here is the re-distribution of wealth. We've discussed this before: with the class war-fare Obama has waged about the upper-class "paying their fair share," what is being exposed in a film like The Bling Ring is stealing. This is a bit more of an extended clip of the kids in Paris' closet:
Is the real problem the film presents about how much Paris Hilton has, which is what the Democrats want you to focus on, or is the real problem The Bling Ring wants to direct our attention to an inherent deficit in the characters of the kids, and--if that is the real problem--how is taking away the wealth of the rich going to solve that? It's not, because its not intended to, but the Democrats don't think we are smart enough to figure that out, namely, that taking away wealth from one doesn't make me richer, it just makes the government more powerful to take away from its citizens.  
Chris Hemsworth as Thor. An interesting conflict the film is setting up is between Jane (Natalie Portman) and Sif (Jamie Alexander). In mythology, Sif is Thor's wife, and while she didn't get a lot of time in the last film, some rumors have suggested Thor's relationship with her will be expanded in this installment even as he has brought Jane to Asgard. On another note, there was a strange bit of the new Thor trailer, at the start, when a young boy touches a work truck and it begins to levitate, the area around the truck going into zero-gravity as we see a wrench floating around in the truck cab; why? The truck is being turned around, and--at least for me--it might be invoking a phrase we have heard in another trailer: "vehicular warfare" from Fast and Furious 6. Is the "turning upside-down" of the auto industry a part of using cars and public transportation as a means of war? We have all ready seen the groundwork of these arguments in both Expendables II and The Dark Knight Rises and--because cars play such an important role in the story line--it will probably be picked up by The Great Gatsby as well (see below in the next caption for more, if you will, please).
I'm not quite sure what to make of this, but thinking on the trailer released for Thor the Dark World yesterday, I realized a pattern among villains: an emphasis on the beginning. For example, in yesterday's trailer, Loki says, "When do we start?" and in trailer 3 for Star Trek Into Darkness, Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) asks Kirk, "Now, shall we begin?" and  Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) tells Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, "Today is the first day of what's left of your life." Even though I am not quite sure of what to make of this pattern, a beginning or start with them is definitely an emerging pattern we will have to explore. In the meantime, Star Trek has released a second clip; we don't know where in the narrative's timeline this clip is situated, but the polar opposition between Kirk's and Spock's character is apparent, and so are the consequences:
To begin with the obvious,...
What would have happened to the crew if--Spock being in charge--they didn't try to make the ship fit through the crack? They would be captured or destroyed. The film wants us to know this, one more example how the bond between the audience and the character of Kirk is being strengthened. One of the techniques Alfred Hitchcock utilized to become the "master of suspense," was his understanding of audience identification with the character on the screen (it doesn't even have to be the main character, we can even identify with the villain!); Hitchcock understood our psychological transference from our self into the story so well, he could take us anywhere in a film, and the same is being done in this clip: it's not just the crew of the Enterprise on board this ship with Kirk, we the audience are on board that ship, fleeing the enemy just as Kirk is, and when he saves the crew, he's saving us as well.  Don't get me wrong: I'm not labeling this propaganda or anything; this is the way art works, especially film, because art is cathartic, and we don't get to enjoy the cleansing quality of catharsis unless we have experienced the danger; but there is a reason the film is doing this,...
The not-so-obvious reference this second clip makes is in the first two words said: "fuel cells." Where else have we heard that phrase recently? Oblivion, when the "Scavs" have been collecting fuel cells from the drones to create a bomb to blow up the Tet. Why would "fuel cells" be included in both these films? If we expand the topic of "fuel cells" to the realm of discussion on energy in general in films, we can include two other important films to add some perspective: The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. In those two films, billionaires Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne had both invested in green energy only to have it used as a weapon of terror against the people.  It may or may NOT be the case--we will have to see--if rising gas prices are part of "vehicular warfare" since higher gas prices drain households of expendable income and purchasing power, forcing which modes of transportation we choose and limiting our travel freedom.
Ultimately, in showing these forms of leadership in Tony Stark, Captain Kirk and Thor, we are being shown what a leader is, and that is clearly not how Obama leads, is it? While North Korea has been threatening a nuke attack on us, Obama has been shooting baskets. Does that sound like a US President to you? After Americans were killed in the Benghazi attacks, Obama went to Las Vegas the next day and had his picture taken by slot machines in a casino, then partied with Beyonce and Jay-Z all day. Would we go see a film where the "hero" acted like Obama? All the qualities we see exhibited by these heroes are meant to remind us of what leaders actually do and how they do it and why those are heroic qualities.
In other film news,...
"Man. God. Hero." For Christians, we are offered the chance to fulfill all three of these roles by God if we apply our free will correctly, to build up our characters rather than destroying them. Our humanity is the gift of life that comes from God, so that we can be born into the Life of Grace and then, having cleansed ourselves of all that is weak and sinful within our natures, we can then become the servants of our fellow humans, also known as heroes or saints. That's the standard progression of the soul in Christianity (you cannot tend to the soul of someone else until you have tended to your own soul). The poster actually reveals more than it seems to. Again, we see Hercules, but he's not a mammoth of a man; he has the traditional "club" from ancient depictions of the hero, suggesting this film adaptation of his will try to stick to what we know of him. In the lower part of the poster, we see Athens (even though Hercules is the Roman demi-god, it appears he will be in Athens rather than Rome, but I could be wrong about that, the point is, the capitol is there and Hercules has a relationship to the capital--like Katniss in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). There are storm clouds, but we can't tell if the storm clouds are gathering to block out the sun, or dissipating to reveal the sun and, it's possible, that in the upper-right corner where sunlight shines through the dark clouds, are the outlines of Olympus (but maybe not). In the center of the poster, commanding most of our attention, is Hercules' club, which symbolically relates to Thor's hammer. In his famous 12 Labors, Hercules has to kill as many beings as he must capture or aide them, and we should be prepared for a highly symbolic film.
A film I am getting really excited about is Hercules 3D. Why? The heroes we see in films this year--Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Man Of Steel, Thor the Dark World, 300: Rise Of An Empire, etc.--decide who the heroes are next year and what will make them a hero to the audience (Captain America, The Amazing Spider Man 2, Godzilla, Hercules, even The Penguins from the Madagascar series). Kellan Lutz (pictured below) has been cast to play strong-man Hercules; why Lutz? Why not cast a really strong man like Dwayne The Rock Johnson? Without a doubt, Lutz will be physically peaked to play Hercules, but casting Lutz gives us an idea that it's not the physical strength of Hercules, rather, his moral and emotional strength the film makers will focus on as the mythic hero performs his 12 labors. Why is this important?
Kellan Lutz has been cast as Hercules while Liam McIntyre from Spartacus will be his trusted friend. It appears at this point that there is a second Hercules film in the works (?) with The Rock Dwayne Johnson but I haven't seen any definite news I can pass along with accuracy.
I have not read the book nor have I any intention whatsoever of reading the "story" of a kinky billionaire and his sexual affair with some young girl in Fifty Shades of Grey, which is being made into a film. I am sure there is a moral lesson in the film, there is a cultural message the film will pass along to viewers--and I am sure there will be a lot of viewers--but I am not going to be one of them. I am hoping, and of course, I am often wrong, but perhaps Hercules will be a counter-cultural hero to what will be offered in Fifty Shades of Grey. With Wrath Of the Titans (Sam Worthington), Immortals (Henry Cavill), 300: Rise Of An EmpirePercy Jackson & the Olympians: the Lightening Thief and Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters (and the title of Olympus Has Fallen), the themes of classical history--and how those themes pertain to our current affairs today--is a hot item, and we would do well to keep it in mind, because we chose who we are and how to think of ourselves; some film makers, like those putting out The Great Gatsby, want to control how we think of ourselves and view our history, and if we give them that, they will control it and we will be lost.
In his Histories, Herodotus writes of Themistokles:  "He is a man who, when making his plans, fears and reflects on everything that can happen to him, but in the moment of action, is bold."  From what I understand, some of the most expensive special effects of the original 300 were the water scenes when the storm destroys a number of Xerxes' boats and we see dead soldiers floating from a water shot; if that's the case,... this might be a really expensive film, it also might pave the way for an Oscar nom for best visual effects.
300: Rise Of An Empire is,... still filming? With a August 2 release date, it seems like Warner Brothers is really cutting it close but a few more images have been released so it appears the Immortals will be slugging it out on the sea battle as well. Here is an interesting quote from director Noam Murro (Zack Snyder is just producing):  “Themistokles (Sullivan Stapelton) is battle-scarred and a warrior, but at the same time he’s a politician. He’s not the king. He has to rule in a democracy. It’s a different complexity of character. These people don’t want to fight, they even say that they are not Spartans,” says Murro. “They are common people who have to do this to not be in under the rule of a dictator. This is not a duplicate movie or a cookie-cutter. It’s a very different story to tell in keeping with the original flavor of 300.”
Why is this important?
Like the Hercules figure we see above, Themistokles is not a big guy--compared to Gerard Butler's Leonides in the original 300--and that's going to be an important, on-going theme: what makes a hero strong? What makes a man a "man?" Themistokles will be highly contrasted with Xerxes' appearance and sexuality, and this will intentionally be meant to influence viewers of what is masculine, all-American behavior and what is not.
We have all ready seen Captain Kirk and Thor talking about out and out war, and we see real war in 300: Rise Of An Empire as a sea battle,... are we being prepped to go to war? Just saying. They didn't have to take this film in the direction they have taken it, for example, most of us thought it was a pre-quel, the story of Leonides growing up and the Spartan kingdom that made him, not a sea battle; so why a sea battle? Think of it this way: hasn't the Pacific and Atlantic oceans always insulated America from the kind of wars that plague European and African countries? As the "smaller world" of our century meant that our oceans don't protect us anymore, rather, we are just as open to attack as anyone else? With the recent events in the news, it certainly appears this way, and make no mistake: film makers make their movies, but they stop to listen to the news and see the images, and these things make their way into the films. But there is another hero we need to discuss: Spider Man.
You probably recall Dane DeHaan from Chronicle and Lawless and, in The Amazing Spider Man, he plays Peter Parker's (Andrew Garfield) friend Harry Osborn. Note, if you will, two details. First, the high reflection of Osborn's face on the car; reflections like these aren't accidents but intentional, so we will have to ask, what is Osborn reflection on or about? Secondly, please note the "swept" hairstyle he wears revealing a part of his forehead; does this style suggest what Osborn covers up, or what he reveals?  
The official synopsis for The Amazing Spider Man 2 is: "[F]or Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), life is busy – between taking out the bad guys as Spider-Man and spending time with the person he loves, Gwen (Emma Stone), high school graduation can’t come quickly enough. Peter hasn’t forgotten about the promise he made to Gwen’s father to protect her by staying away – but that’s a promise he just can’t keep. Things will change for Peter when a new villain, Electro (Jamie Foxx), emerges, an old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns, and Peter uncovers new clues about his past." There is also the character of reporter Mary Jane being played by Shailene Wooley (The Descendants) which shall add an interesting mix to this plot.
Jamie Foxx as the Amazing Spider Man villain, Electro. That's some hair he's sporting, eh? It reflects the "web" of red string we see to his left, and we have seen that before, in both A Beautiful Mind (Russell Crowe) and Sherlock Holmes A Game Of Shadows. The background on Electro is that he never talks to anyone, but thinks he's Spider Man's partner,... please note, at this point, the reflection being made on his eyeglasses and how the web he seems to have pinned up back there "connects" him to things he's not connected to. Electro wears a blue suit and appears to be kept at a mental institute for the criminally insane.
I am working on the post for Oblivion, it's really detailed; again, if you plan on seeing Iron Man 3 next weekend, you probably want to buy your tickets NOW, because those are going to go fast, especially if you plan on viewing it in 3D/IMAX. By the way, if you are in Los Angeles, do you know anything about a nuclear testing taking place? Some nasty rumors are going around about how FEMA just happened to be doing exercises nearby the Sandy Hook shooting, and police just happened to be doing a bomb drill at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and now, this weekend, drills are going to be done of a nuclear attack in Los Angeles, Oakland and Berkley; also a zombie and UFO drill in Moscow, Idaho. Hope you have a back-up flashlight ready,...
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