July 3rd, 2012

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Mini Project: Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez

Hey there, kids, guess what? Looks like my summer is gonna be conducive to doing another mini project on the side, when I'm not at all those big blockbuster new releases. To make it an explosive season, we'll be looking at the works of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. These jacks-of-all-trades have written, directed, acted in, edited, scored, and worn many many hats for some of my favorite movies. I actually consider Tarantino to be my number one all time favorite director: Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction. All gold.

The reason I decided to do both of these guys together is that they collaborate so frequently, if I only did one and then decided to do the other, I'd be duplicating efforts across the board. Tarantino wrote From Dusk Til Dawn, which he stars in, directed by Rodriguez. Tarantino guest directed a scene in Rodriguez' Sin City. Each helm a vignette in Four Rooms. And of course, there's the whole Grindhouse thing. You really can't talk about one without mentioning the other, and I think it's gonna be really interesting to see how the most badass film bromance influences their work.

Now, the big question: Quinbert Tarandriguez? Robin Rotino? Maybe not.
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Tarantino/Rodriguez: El Mariachi

So it looks like it's Robert Rodriguez kicking us off with El Mariachi. I actually thought about starting with his short Bedhead, and I did just watch it, but at 8 minutes, writing it up was gonna take longer than the film's run time. I will say that one thing that's so interesting about Rodriguez's career is the way he bounces back and forth between family fare and well, not so much family movies. But when it is a family flick, the emphasis really is on family. Just watch the credits at the end of Bedhead and count the Rodriguez-es. True, half will start with Robert, but he really gets everyone in on it. It's a fun and impressive little film that's definitely worth a watch on YouTube.

I'll be honest. The first time I saw El Mariachi, it was a little bit of a disappointment. I'd already seen Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and with Sin City and some of his others I was quite the Rodriguez fan. So I was really psyched to see this little movie that started it all, that caught the attention of Hollywood and brought this little nobody from Texas into the big leagues. But then I watched it and I just didnt get it. The dialogue was bad, the acting worse, the effects silly. I couldnt understand how this jumpstarted a career.

Problem was, I didnt have the full story. Some time after that, I picked up Rodriguez' book Rebel Without a Crew. I dont typically go for non-fiction, but I idolize this man. How could I not read his story? This book is the whole behind the scenes story of El Mariachi: raising the money, filming the movie, and the wild ride afterwards. IMDB had already told me that Rodriguez subjected himself to drug trials to finance the film. The book gave all the gory details. Right from there, you can't help but admire the man's dedication and work ethic.

But that's not what impressed me. What truly truly impressed me was how low budget the film was, exactly what that means, and how me made the best of it. If you're thinking of El Mariachi in that context, it's mind boggling. The movie was shot for $7000. That's right. Only 3 zeros. The actors were all friends of his, including pals he found while enrolled in the aforementioned drug trials. About $6500 was used on film. While that sounds like a lot, it really isn't. For most of the shoot, he could only afford one take of everything. If someone messed up, he could not reshoot the whole scene, just backtrack slightly and continue from a different angle. The borrowed guns could only handle one shot at a time. There was one set of squibs (the thing that similuates someone getting shot), so only one person could get shot at a time, and they all looked fairly similar. Read thru the credits. Rodriguez wrote, directed, filmed, edited, did music, took care of special effects, produced, everything. So now, could you take those limited resources and put together a film that's half as good? Yeah, I didnt think so. For a film that was just meant to be a learning experience, it turned into so much more that he bargained for. And I for one am glad for it.
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The Amazing Spider-Man

One of the most anticipated movies of this summer is also the most hotly debated: The Amazing Spider-Man. Regardless of how you feel about the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire trilogy (or at least how you feel about where it ended up) you prolly agree that five years is ridiculously crazy too soon to reboot a franchise. Yeah, I've done my homework on it. The reasons for wanting to reboot all make sense. The Raimi/Maguire trilogy really had run its course. Spiderman 3 simply got too big for his spandex and there wasn't anywhere else to take the series. That's all well and good. But starting over after only five years? Rationalize it all you want, but a rush like that just screams "I'm doing this for money". My posse is discussing this in the car on the way over. Our driver comments "No matter how good the movie may be, it's still gonna feel dirty, no matter what". My thoughts exactly.

Oh that's right, I had a posse, and driving was involved. That can only mean one thing. IMAX, bitches!! I'd been watching the website for a month and a half in advance, waiting for tix to go on sale (for this and another superhero movie coming out later this month). The minute they did, I snatched up as many tickets as I could fit corresponding people into a car, and then found said people. Good times.

I dont know if I wanna go so far as to say this is how Spidey should have been done to begin with (the previous series does have its merits), but I certainly like the direction this one took. At the helm this time is Marc Webb, best known for (or really only known for) (500) Days of Summer. While it seems an odd choice, it was actually rather inspired. The film was put in the hands of someone who understands character development and quirk. Sounds like a winning combo for our favorite arachnid.

The first half of the movie, was backstory we all knew was coming (orphan > spider bite > Uncle Ben). The beauty was in the details. Things played out different, there was a whole new vibe (more grit, less camp), different players were introduced. You really didnt realize that we'd been told this story a mere ten years ago. Then the big bad came into play in the second half, and he was a fresh and new addition and direction to what we'd seen.

Wins for the cast as well. I've been an Andrew Garfield fan for a while. I first saw him in The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, and I paid more attention to him than to Heath. That's saying something. Garfield brought depth to Peter Parker. You felt his outcast pain and his desire to find his family. And this Parker seemed smarter than ever. They decided to go old school and actually have Parker create his own webshooters. But he still had such an adoraable charm. He flashed the doofiest smile a couple of times (like how one would use puppy eyes) and I need that to be my desktop wallpaper. I could have used a bit more of the quips and banter that I've come to love from Peter Parker, but I'm not complaining about what I got.

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, vast improvement over Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson. Stacey is smart, and confident, and so not whiny. She is that rare girl that I wanna hang out with, and Stone portrayed her so effortlessly. She has so much fun getting lost in her character, you dont know where Stone edns and Stacy begins.

Oh and y'know how I was saying I saw this at the IMAX? Totally \m/ worth it. The action shots are just so conducive to the larger than life screen, and the 3D was actually well utilized. Absolutely mesmorizing visual, and the technology has really come a long way in the past ten years.

Definitely Spidey done well, but to repeat earlier sentiments, only five years? I feel dirty.

The Amazing Spider-Man - \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/