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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

'Emojis' Rule

Slated for release in August of 2017 will be the first full-length feature of emoji. To be entitled 'The Emoji Movie', the animated film is being produced by Sony Pictures Animation and will feature the round-headed figures that have become a staple in social media across the world.

Emoji (Japanese for 'picture word') is a computer language created to send lots of information in a small amount of data space.  Started in 1999 to help Japanese cell phone companies address the problem of people sending photos vs. text messages - as one photo takes up as much data as hundreds or thousands of text messages - the emoji was conceived.

The emoji has now gone from Japanese icon to global phenomenon and July 17th is now dubbed 'World Emoji Day'. The most popular emoji is the "face with tears of joy".

Emoji complement language and the day of the emoji becoming a language unto itself is fast approaching.  A grammatical system has been developed whereby text can be converted to emoji figures (a la Egyptian hieroglyphics) that is universal and will be shared by the estimated 6.1 billion cell phone users by 2020. Emoji are here to stay and will become a larger part of our lives, they are already being used for commercial purposes by any number of companies from Taco Bell to Coke.  All of the U.S. Presidential candidates have emoji and eventually everyone in the world will have there own emoji if the wish.

The Sony film will be similar in make and form as the Minion movie. My guess is it will be a hit and there will be sequels - as everyone who uses a cell phone knows what emoji are and has used them in there text messaging.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

CGM's Holiday Post: In Defense of Scrooge

Ok, so Scrooge was a tight-waded, miser who had no friends, only one nephew for family, and was pretty much disliked by all he came in contact with.  But does that make him a bad person? In this era of inclusiveness Scrooge has to be accommodated.
There's  a lot of Scrooge in all of us

Dickens's character build of Scrooge is perhaps misunderstood by readers and movie-viewers alike. There have been many iterations of the Scrooge character in films - at least thirty going back to the 1940s and before that on radio and on-stage.  Basically, Scrooge wanted to be left alone and asked for nothing of anyone - a rarity in today's gimme world.

Christmas has gravitated to a giving/receiving fest. With news broadcasters reporting how much money the average family will spend and on what items.  Tech toys and gaming are big this year, as are drones. Apparel not so much. Gift cards are prevalent (easy to get and give) and lots of stuff is bought on-line.  Amazon is booming. Their ship-to time is fast but they want to get it faster (they are in negotiation to lease 20 Boeing 767 cargo planes) and skip the slower  UPS and FEDEX delivery services. But I digress, let's get back to Scrooge.

Not a soul in 'The Christmas Carol' gives Scrooge anything.  Those he comes in contact with are unpleasant and some contemplate his demise. They talk of taking his bed linens and curtains and divvying up his other belongings upon his death. What would Bob Cratchit and his family do without Scrooge? Simply put, Scrooge is thrifty - a valued trait in this age of spending and debt accumulation. The U.S. Government could take a lesson or two from Scrooge on the value of a dollar. Not only that but Scrooge is diligently working on behalf of his clients, while saving on energy and air pollution by conserving the use of coal.
C. Dickens at work

His nephew, Fred, is a job-less spend-thrift who is planning on getting married, go figure. His one employee is a day-dreamer, who shows up late for work and tries to sneak out early, has six children, and a stay-at-home wife. Is Scrooge responsible for Cratchit's misguided life decisions.

Let's face it. Ebenezer Scrooge is a victim of Christmas just as many of us are today.  No one asked Scrooge what he wanted for Christmas. Everyone likes getting gifts - they mean 'someone cares about me' and most people like giving gifts as well.  Charities abound year-round and the requests for donations are everywhere - from the supermarket line to utility bill, not to mention the incessant TV commercials for needy children, pets, and various diseases and afflictions.

Scrooge gets a raw deal
Remember good-hearted, lovable, generous, old Fezziwig who goes bankrupt because he couldn't compete on price. Scrooge, on the other hand, was a financially secure, self-sufficient entrepreneur who was well respected in his business/social circles.  He was very successful in his money-lending and trading businesses. He was fair, honest, and shrewd - traits we hold in esteem.

I believe, more and more people are becoming closet Scrooges.  Secretly they admire his steadfastness against the 'buy me' commercialization of Christmas - which now starts right after Halloween - and shun the false hype that 'giving' is the best gift.

Actually, Scrooge needs no defending. If anything he deserves admiration.  He is an example to all of us that Christmas is not about those giving and others taking but about being forthright, honest, and steadfast all of the time.  Sure the holidays should be a happy time spent with family, friends, and neighbors but keep in mind that the majority of the world's populace doesn't celebrate Christmas.

In the end, Dickens has Scrooge succumbing to social pressures (via three ghosts and a dead business partner) and loosing the fight against the onslaught of  'commercial' Christmas. I like old Scrooge and the 'born-again' Scrooge - why not, it's Christmas!    

Saturday, December 19, 2015

49 - 0

A biopic on Rocky Marciano, a sports legend, and the only undefeated heavy-weight boxer in history, is in the works and will star Jeremy Renner. Although you may say that Renner is too small to play the part of a heavy-weight, Marciano was only 5'11" and scaled-in at a mere 190 pounds. To be titled, 'Undefeated:The Rocky Marciano Story'  Marciano's story should make for a great sports film.
The 'great' Rocky Marciano

The film will be the first authorized biopic on Marciano's life and will follow him from childhood to his untimely death in a plane crash in 1969, at 46.  He retired from boxing in 1955 at the age of 31 and remains the only heavy-weight champion to retire undefeated with a record of 49 - 0 with 43 of his bouts ending in knockouts. Only Floyd Mayweather, a welter-weight boxer, has managed to match Marciano's 49 - 0 record with a 53% knockout record, Marciano's KO rate was 87% - the highest in boxing history.

Marciano was what is termed in boxing as a brawler. Given his small size for a heavy-weight his strategy was to get inside his opponents reach and than deliver his devastating punching power. He also had the ability to take a punch and was said to have an 'iron jaw'. In his career he was only knocked to the canvas twice, one time each in two separate fights.  Marciano's professional boxing career ran from 1947 to 1955 at which time he retired as world champ.
Jeremy Renner to play Marciano in biopic

As time passes there is a tendency to lose history. Ali, dubbed  'the Greatest', had a much longer career (from 1960 - 1981) than Marciano and amassed a record of 56 - 5 with 37 KOs.  Problem with Ali, he didn't know when to quit and decisively lost 3 of his last 5 fights.

It will be very hard to beat Marciano's boxing record and that's why it still stands. Better still is the fact that he knew when to exit the ring and retire as champ - you've got to admire that. I, for one, look forward to Jeremy Renner's portrayal of 'the great' Rocky Marciano.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Is The Cinema Aging?

Although you wouldn't notice from the throngs lined-up to see 'The Force Awakens' there appears to be a glint of aging at the cinema.  Could movies be entering an age dominated by elder folk? Could we be on the cusp of witnessing the age of  'geezer cinema'?

Sam Elliott (71) starred in 'Dreams' and 'Grandma'
A view of the films and stars that are up for the big awards this year (including the Oscars) may hint at this aging process. It's no surprise to anyone who follows entertainment trends that younger moviegoers are trending down, while - low and behold - older folks, especially those 60 and above, are flocking to the cinema.  What gives? Hollywood is all about youth, beauty, action, and sex - or at least that's what we thought.  It now appears that old fogies are in vogue.

Look at the roster of films that are the front-runners in the awards' races. 'Youth' with Michael Caine (82) and co-stars Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda. '45 Years' - Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, 'Creed'- Sylvester Stallone, 'Grandma' - Lily Tomlin and Sam Elliott, 'Woman in Gold' - Helen Mirren (who also stars in 'Trumbo', 'The Lady In The Van' - Maggie Smith, 'Mr. Holmes' - Ian McKellen, 'I'll See You In My Dreams' - Blythe Danner and again, Sam Elliott.  The average age of this group is about 75.  2015 is skewed with coming-of-age films about 'aging boomers'.
Fonda (77) and Keitel (76) star in 'Youth'

Will this be a trend with legs?  Make no mistake, geezer films won't replace the high-impact, action/fantasy genre, but as independent, low-budget marquee fodder they make a lot of since and for the most part are solid grossers. Older audiences can't, or perhaps don't want to, relate to the issues of a 20-something.  They have a myriad of issues to deal with and these issues make for a slew of good story-lines and acting roles (hell, they just need to play themselves).  Lily Tomlin picked up a Golden Globe nomination last week for her role in 'Grandma' and stated that, "People get it. They are more aware of the inevitability of aging and its issues then ever before. And want to see this reflected in movies and on TV."

In a recent interview, Ian McKellen (76) implored people to use the term "seasoned stars" and to "please don't say veteran". He won a lot of kudos for his portrayal of an aging Sherlock Holmes that is grappling with dementia.  Many of these new 'old age' films deal with dating and sex, drugs, financial issues and the impact of changing personal and family relationships for folks who are active and normal but just older. Casting these films with actors who are well known only enhances their appeal and believability.

I think the 'geezer' film trend will continue. Hollywood as found a new audience (their old audience) and it's an audience that is large and looking for meaningful stories they can relate to.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What's Up At The Movies? - by Seymour Flix

How 'Real' Can Movies Become
Ad for 4DX Experience

The cinema experience, by default, has got to move to a higher level - but the cinema exhibition industry, for the most part, isn't aware of that yet!

Like all businesses, cinema exhibition must embrace the tech revolution and will have to deploy the latest in audio and visual sensory devices to lure (and keep) audiences.  Going forward, cinemas will need to give consumers a very good reason to leave their ever expanding entertainment option at home (and elsewhere): streaming services, video games, 4k TV, digital/surround sound, and the upcoming and eye-popping virtual reality experiences which will redefine home entertainment.

At this time, all of the 40,000+ cinema screens within the U.S. have converted to digital projection allowing them the capability to not only exhibit movies but to stream live concerts, sporting events, and a huge array of alternative content.  But cinema will need to do more !

IMAX has proven that consumers are willing to pay a premium ticket price for an 'experience' but the enhanced experience must be for real and not a gimmick.  For example, the CJ Group, a Korean company, has introduced a system dubbed '4DX Cinema'.  4DX equipped auditoriums (several have been opened by the Regal Entertainment chain), on average, generate 3X the revenue of a regular cinema. The 4DX experience includes, moving/vibrating chairs, along with wind, strobe, fog, and scent-based effects synced to the on-screen action.  The upcharge for the 4DX 'experience' is $6-8 per admission - but sells out. The upgrade to 4DX cost from $1.5-2 million per  auditorium so it is iffy as to its mainstream acceptance: however the writing is on the wall that moviegoers will expect to have some sort of added experience when visiting a cinema. 

I believe that as time passes, exhibitors will have little choice but to improve their movie presentation experience - it's inevitable!

Brace Yourself For The Award Shows
This is how you accept an Oscar - who needs to talk.

Get ready for politically charged movie award shows.  The Emmys, Oscars, SAG, Golden Globe, Critics Choice etc. award shows will be politically-driven and all about the Presidency, global warming, and being socially inclusive. My guess is terrorism will not be talked about other than reference to gun control.  The theme of 'inclusiveness' however will be fully vetted (no pun intended).

It's not that I dislike discussion of the various views on the geo-political landscape so long as the facts are correct and the rhetoric doesn't degrade into a forum for spewing personal agendas.

Hollywood has a definite role to play regarding the world in which we live and the events taking place and a responsibility to address these events through well conceived and delivered films.  The average European, American, and Asian feel less secure than they did last year. An insecurity spawned by political terrorism, as well as, homegrown derangement.

Honest and constructive commentary is needed by those whose opinions matter to the public. Personal rants at award shows don't do anything to help and foster more resentment.

Seymour Flix

Monday, December 14, 2015

'Stars Wars' - Is It Becoming A 'Cliche'?
Emperor's Throne 

Has the 'Star Wars' theme gone too far? Are we all suffering from an overused 'Star Wars' craze. Look at the new 'Star Wars' themed cinema that Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas just opened in Omaha, Nebraska. The cinema features a 10ft. diameter Death Star hanging from the lobby ceiling, an Imperial space station for concession stand, and an Emperor's throne where the occupant controls the Death Star.

Space Station Concession Stand
The thought for Alamo was to build a themed cinema around an iconic film and to immerse moviegoers into the experience.  It just so happens that the cinema's opening coincided with the new 'Star Wars' film, the 'The Force Awakens'. Alamo management says, the installation is permanent but has the 'Star Wars' theme gone too far.  Has the whole idea become a cliche, an idea lacking any original thought or excitement.  What if the new films don't live up to expectations (which are huge) does the iconic notion become a 'has-been' and 'over-worked' construct?  We'll see - you know what they say about too much of a good thing.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

CinemaBuzz by Seymour Flix

Rambo Is Back

Stallone at 69
A spin-off of Vietnam's favorite vet is scheduled to appear on a new TV show.  The scuttlebutt is that Fox has been working with Sly Stallone on bringing Rambo to the small screen in a series entitled, 'Rambo: New Blood'. The series would follow the exploits of Rambo's son, JR - a retired Navy Seal on a quest for justice. It is not clear what Stallone's role, as Rambo Sr., would be, but it would be significant, according to Fox.

The Rambo franchise has been very successful. Four films were made: 'First Blood' (1982), 'Rambo:First Blood Part II (1985), 'Rambo III' (1988), and 'Rambo' (2008). A fifth Rambo is in the works. The first four films cost $171 million to make and market but grossed over $727 million.

As John Rambo in 'First Blood'
Stallone, 69, and has had a long and very successful movie career. He is currently starring in the now-in-release film 'Creed', a sequel to the 'Rocky' franchise. 'Creed' earned a very respectable $44 million on its opening weekend and has been met with critical acclaim. There were six previous Rocky films which have earned over $1.3 billion but cost only $119 million.

Stallone's latest franchise is the 'Expendables' series. Their have been three episodes in the series and a fourth is in the works.  Although these films met with limited success at the U.S. box office they did very well overseas - earning $785 million but costing only $202 to make and market.

CMG wishes Sly Stallone continued success. 'Rocky' is certainly on my top 25 film list - it's a great movie. It should be noted that Stallone has written virtually all of the movies he has starred in, including all of the Rocky, Rambo, and Expendable films.

"I Will Make No Cuts"

Micheal Moore is in a snit over the 'R' rating his new docu-drama, 'Where To Invade Next', received from the MPAA and in losing his appeal to have the rating changed to a 'PG-13'. The movie received the 'R' rating (one one under 17 admitted without an adult) due to "vial language, violent images, drug use, and graphic nudity".
Perhaps a docu on weight loss would be appropriate

'Where To Invade Next' is essentially a travelogue which (sort of) explains how countries deal with social and economic issues in comparison to the U.S. Needless to say, the U.S. comes up very short in all categories - as with all of Moore's films.

In his defense, Moore said of the MPAA ruling, "This film has been widely praised (he gave no names) for its warmth and humor and optimism.  I wish the MPAA would be honest".

The movie is set to open on December 23th in NYC and LA and go wide release on January 15th.  Moore was seeking the 'PG-13' rating (no one under 13 admitted without an adult) for the film.  The option is to release the film without a rating but that won't happen as the large cinema chains refuse to screen any film without a rating.

CMG thinks all the rating fuss may be for naught as the film will fall victim to 'Star Wars'. Teenagers aren't interested in Moore's political views or social opinions, they are interested in spending their cinema dollars on entertainment - and 'Star Wars' will provide that.


Friday, December 04, 2015

A New 'Star Wars' - Can It Get Any Better

Lucas, Happy With The Disney Deal
George Lucas, "I haven't seen a single frame of the new 'Star Wars' ".  In an interview with The Washington Post, Lucas described his selling of Lucas Films to Disney as a "divorce" from the franchise.  He confirmed that he had absolutely no involvement in the new movie adding that Disney "decided they didn't like the stories he had outlined for the sequels."

Toshiro Mifune
"I can look over someone's shoulders on this.  You're either the dictator or you're not. All I would do is make them miserable. I'd make myself miserable. It would have ruined the vision."  Having not seen a clip of the movie as yet, but definitely planning on viewing it, Lucas added, "Now I'm faced with this awkward reality, which is fine.  I gotta go to the wedding.  My ex will be there, my new wife will be there, I'm going to have to take a very deep breath and be a good person and sit through it and just enjoy the moment." Lucas sold out to Disney for $4 billion in 2012 and with it the greatest franchise in film history.

On another 'Star Wars' note .......  It was revealed recently that Toshiro Mifune, the great Japanese actor, turned down the chance to play one of two key roles in the 'Star Wars' saga.  In 1977, George Lucas approached Mifune and offered him the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Upon Mifune's refusal of the role, Lucas offered him the role of Darth Vader, but was turned down for that as well.

Kirosawa with devotees Lucas & Speilberg
Mifune starred in a number of films by the greatest director ever (in my opinion) Akira Kurosawa (who Lucas idolized). In fact, the whole 'Star Wars' plot is based upon a Kurosawa film entitled 'The Hidden Fortress' - a 1958 film that Mifune starred in.

Mifune is not alone in his turn-down of roles for the original 'Star Wars' films.  Others, included Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Burt Reynolds, Robert DeNiro, and James Caan.