Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Reanimated

*Be advised, this blog is dark and full of spoilers.*

Against my better judgement, I rented this movie on OnDemand last weekend. I wanted to give this movie another chance, just like I did with Spider-Man 3.  And like S-M3, it just reaffirmed my dislike.  Two minutes in all I could think was “oh well, there goes my 5 bucks renting this thing” and “I picked a hell of a week to quit sniffing glue”.

Before I delve too deeply into the many negatives, let me start with what was right about this movie and TASM1 - casting Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man.  

Andrew Garfield has the look**, the wit, and the emotional range to play Peter Parker & Spider-Man.  He's at his best in the full costume taunting bad guys and encouraging the good guys.  His talk with the kid at the end of the movie almost made me forget about the rest of the movie.  Almost.  It did make me forget about emo Peter in S-M3.

The rest of the cast was very good too.  Emma Stone is great in every role she plays. Jamie Foxx did his best Jim Carrey impression at the beginning of the movie, and I enjoyed Dane DeHaan’s version of the Green Goblin.  I even enjoyed Paul Giamatti’s overacting and wacky accent as Rhino.

They nailed casting these main characters, which unfortunately made this movie even more frustrating.  If the casting was as poor as the editing, then Amazing Spidey 2 would be a funny/enjoyable bad movie.  Instead, I’m left with what could have been.

I mentioned editing because I think this movie could be saved, and maybe a fan *coughDanPoolecough* might want to officially take a crack at it one day.  Let see what needs to go.

First, what is this plane crash opening doing in a Spider-Man movie? It’s a thematic foreshadowing of the film we’re about to watch, so get rid of it.  There! I saved us at least 5 minutes of runtime too.  In fact, pretend his parents never existed in this movie.  Cut out the scrapbooking project on his bedroom wall and the trip to the subway.  There goes another 10 minutes. Now we’re closer to a bearable runtime that’s more focused on our hero.

Yeah I know the Parkers had this backstory in one of the comic storylines, but I paid money to see Spider-Man!  I don’t care about his folks, and in fact neither does Peter by the end of the movie. That story arc ended with a whimpering climax before Act 2 was even over.  If I wanted to see a superhero spy movie that’s actually good, I’ll watch The Winter Soldier Again.

Ok now we need a new opening. On that note, riddle me this- how in their right mind did Marc Webb and *shudder* Transformer boys Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman think starting the movie with Peter and Gwen back together was a good thing?  Especially since in their second scene together they’re breaking up again!  It’s complete nonsense!  We just now got semi-accustomed to seeing them together in an incredibly awkward graduation scene, and now they’re split again.

So here’s what we’re doing.  Our new opening shows Spider-Man, not inexplicably skydiving, but modestly perched on top of a building. He’s looking down at Gwen visiting friends at that Korean meatball or whatever-the-hell-it-was place.

Without one line of dialogue we see he still cares for her and is trying to keep his distance while being protective.  Then what happens, he hears the same police call as he did in his existing intro, and he’s off to the races to take down Rhino.  How would this not work?!?  Her phone call and their subsequent meeting later in the movie will be just as random, and we pick up where we left off from TASM1.

Alright, we have a tighter opening, but what about the rest of the movie? I think we can fix it, but we’ll have to completely remove yet another talented actor.  

The whole Harry Osborn illness thing, and needing Peter’s blood, to the recycle bin with you!  Let Harry’s motivation for becoming the Goblin be the fact he just lost Oscorp after his father’s death. Spider-Man foils Harry's plans, with the use a scene or two I’ll pretend were shot, and now Harry wants Spider-Man and Gwen dead.  Chris Cooper is now relieved of his acting duties for this project.  We can probably ditch the whole walk in the park, rock skipping scene too.   Hey, now we might be down to a lean and mean 100 minutes of runtime!

I know this is turning into a reboot of either S-M1 or S-M3, but it’s still better than the existing film.

We can keep Electro’s stuff as is, even his get-out-of-jail-free scene.  Now without his illness, Harry suddenly morphing into Jason Bourne and breaking into Ravencroft to release Electro makes a little more sense.  It’s a simple deal- Electro gets Harry into Oscorp, and Harry gets the Goblin gear.  

The rest of the movie, I think we can keep.  It’s now paced fast enough that we’re more focused on what comes next, as opposed to wondering what happened 3 scenes ago.

What else do you think could be fixed with this movie, if it’s even fixable?  If you’re at the Baltimore Comic Con this Friday, come find us and let us know.  We’ll post a picture from our twitter handle @thephotoneffect so you know who you’re looking for!

**Community actor Donald Glover campaigned for this role and I think he would’ve been great as well.  More on superhero origins and race in a future blog entry.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Real Superheroes Are Everywhere. (More Behind the Scenes)

Since our post from yesterday is becoming popular, here's another behind the scenes story.  This one is from the last day of principal photography in May 2007, and the moral of the story is that there really are people in this world with the superhero mentality.

We were shooting the first chase scene of The Photon Effect where our main characters begin to butt heads, but that gets put on hold so they can save the day.  

They chase a motorcycle riding criminal who steals from another principal character we get to know better later on. It was shot in downtown Baltimore, on a Friday, during the day.  Not exactly a secluded setting.  

The cops never tried stopping us, but I guess they thought we were part of the crew shooting the tv show The Wire a few blocks away.  Thanks big time production!  This was not the only time people from that show helped us out.  More on that in future blogs.

While the cops gave us no trouble, a regular citizen made one take very interesting.

During this shot, the motorcyclist  would steal the woman’s purse, turn the corner, go up an alley, then turn around to reset.  The guy in the car must not have seen what we were up to because when he saw the purse “stolen”, he took off after the bike!  When our rider tried to turn around, the guy blocked him in with his car and yelled “HAND OVER THE PURSE!”  

While our would-be thief was taken aback, our AD Matt Holder was sprinting up the alley frantically screaming “IT’S A MOVIE! IT’S!… A!….MOVIE!!!”  The hero was unconvinced and we had to show him the camera and production truck before he finally stood down!  If we had the time we should’ve interviewed him.  

If you want to hear more stories like this, come hear them in person next week at Baltimore Comic Con 2014  where we'll be roaming the aisles with free DVDs of The Photon Effect!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Da Da Da Da…DaDa DaDa!

Tonight is my fantasy football draft, and in honor of the upcoming football season, here's a rerun of a blog entry I wrote back in 2011.  It details one day of pickup shots that happened to be on opening day of the NFL season.

The ending of the NFL lockout was a huge relief to all the football fans out there, including this one.  Since the league is so rich it almost prints money I knew a deal would get done, but it’s good to know that the season really is around the corner.  During this time, a fan can’t help but think about the beginning of previous seasons, how they felt about their team at that time, and how that team changes during each season.
The most memorable opening game for me was for the 2008 Baltimore Ravens.  I’ll always remember it because it’s the only opening game I haven’t watched.  Why didn’t I watch? It was because we were shooting outdoor footage for TPE, which A.) happened to be so close to M&T Bank Stadium we could hear the crowd and 2.) we had our one brush with Maryland law enforcement.
The shooting schedule for the day was in parallel to Derek Powers’ evolution from “guy who can’t control his super speed” to honest to goodness superhero.  We also got bolder in our selection of roads we used for shots- starting off on small side streets, then a four lane road passing the Baltimore Sun warehouse, and finally darting through traffic on Interstate I-95.  In that scene, Derek/Photon is chasing the motorcyclist who has been his crime fighting target in acts one and two.  Mr. Cyclist has pissed off enough people to the point where the police are chasing him as well.
That’s how Dan wrote it in the script, but we didn’t have the money for fake police cars so we were resigned to selling the police action with sound effects.  However, through either a coincidence or fate intervening, when we started shooting a real police car happened to be in the passing lane of 95!  I’ve never seen a police car with that jurisdiction emblem before, so I’m going to call fate on that one.  So when shooting our motorcycle rider we widened out the angle a smidge and presto, our police chase!
That was our last road shot for the day, so we headed over to a side road, parked, and patted each other on the back for a job well done.  Little did we know, but that cop of unknown origin must’ve gotten in touch with the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, who sniffed us out like a bloodhound.  I was fearing the worst, that he was going to throw us in jail and take the camera setup we had latched in the bed of the pickup truck. Thankfully my worry wort tendencies proved untrue, as the officer told us to film what we wanted on the side streets, but stay off the interstate. Since we just finished, no problem there!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back To School!

I hated school growing up.  

I hated getting up early.

I hated walking to school.

I hated writing the term papers.  

And once I was done, I was convinced I'd never go back.  I thought I learned all I could from school, and didn't need any more to succeed in life.   I couldn't have been more wrong.

So after 15 years, the party's over.  I'm going "back to school" starting this week, with an online class from Distilled U .  This is to learn more about marketing via the internet.  I wanted to take this class for the very selfish reason of getting more eyeballs on The Photon Effect webpage, and have those eyeballs convince their owners to buy the movie. 

And as a benefit to current and prospective filmmakers, I'll give reviews of the class to see how relevant it may be to film marketing.

Baltimore Comic Con 2014

I will still be taking a break to attend the Baltimore Comic Con on Friday, September 5th.  Remember, your money is no good to us there.  If you find me or Dan The Man in the flesh at the Con, you're getting a free The Photon Effect DVD.  All we'll ask is if you choose to join our mailing list with your email address. 

Ok enough slacking off, time to study!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Random Movie Thoughts

Here's a list of random movie, superhero, and filmmaking things I've been thinking about lately.  I might write full blogs on these in the future, and maybe not.

Indie filmmaking is becoming more and more like a regular business.  This is actually a good thing.  

I have no desire whatsoever to watch "Boyhood".  If I want to see child, pre adolescent, and teenage angst, I'll visit my cousins, nieces, and nephews.

DC should make the next Green Lantern movie with John Stewart, not Hal Jordan (and definitely not Ryan Reynolds again).

Don't post your indiegogo/kickstarter campaigns in your local filmmaking Facebook page.  Everybody else there is trying to get their own project off the ground. Figure out who your audience is and get them to donate. 

After a second viewing, I still think Guardians of the Galaxy is the best Marvel movie yet.

What crazy stunt is Tom Cruise going to pull off in Mission Impossible 5?  My money's on parachuting out of a space shuttle.

Overheard shots of someone screaming has become unintentionally funny to me (see X-Men Origins:  Wolverine).

A good movie with no marketing will never be as successful as a bad movie with lots of marketing.

Due to Robin Williams' passing, "Hook" will be included in my personal 25 days of Christmas movie rotation.

I watched Watchmen again last week.  Making Dr. Manhattan the "enemy" is 10x better than the monster in the book.  

I'm really looking forward to Dead Snow 2

As Above, So Below?  Not so much.   Found footage movies need to die a quick, but painful death.

If you have to "settle" for a location that wasn't part of your vision, don't sweat it.  Do a rewrite that makes the story sync with the new setting.

The Expendables 3 really shot itself in the foot by being PG-13.  It's the biggest reason I haven't watched it yet.

When is Neill Blomkamp going to make District 10?

I'm still nervous about Age of Ultron.  

I see more actors in commercials than ever before.  The reason?  In my opinion, youtube. Back in the 80's, actors would get millions acting in stupid commercials in Asia.  It wouldn't hurt their image here since no one could see them.  Not anymore.  Might as well avoid the long plane ride and get the easy check here in the states.

Don't pitch your courtroom drama to a small time production company that makes action and sci fi movies.  We have different audiences.

Do offer to help other filmmakers with their projects, no matter the genre.  The good ones return the favor.

I wonder what details Agents of Shield will "borrow" from The Photon Effect this season?  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

If A Movie Is Made And No One Knows About It, Is It Any Good?

One of my old hobbies was to browse the selection at the local video store.  Most of the time I'd run to the back and see if at least one copy of the new release I wanted was out.  When none were available, which happened a lot, it was the perfect time to look around for something a little different.  

It was during these times that I found new personal favorites such as My Name Is Bruce and Green Street Hooligans .   Sure I found a lemon or two (ok maybe more than that), but that risk was part of the fun. 

Nowadays, we really don't have that experience anymore. Physically touching the art and reading the paper cover of that unknown movie is gone.  Walmart usually just has the big hit movies, so there's no new discovery there.  You can still do it at genre conventions, but those are at best few and far between. At worst, there aren't any near where you live.

That leaves us with the internet, where that tactile connection is long gone.  With the loss of touch, I've lost that sense of adventure.  I'm much less inclined to take a gamble on a movie I haven't heard of, and will only do so if it's gotten more peer reviews than a heart disease study endorsed by the American Medical Association. 

What doesn't help is the amount of content out there.  It's ridiculous!  It's virtually walking into a video store the size of an entire city.  I always have that feeling where if I pick a movie with no reviews and that no one talks about, I might miss out on one that's better.

So what must they do…what must we promoting Photon do…to get people to take a chance on our movie?  From what I've been reading, the consensus is to just be available online.  Pump out social media content like crazy and always let fans know what you're up to. 

We haven't been great at this in the past, but we changing our tune.  And frankly, we're seeing too many movies that outright suck get more attention.  So we have to do it. 

Oh, and for those that want that experience of reading the cover of  The Photon Effect in person, I'll be at the Baltimore Comic Con on Friday Sept 5th with copies to give away!  To get a free copy though, you're going to need 2 things.  Your email address so we can keep you up to date on our webisodes.  Don't worry, we won't flood your inbox or sell your address. You'll also need the code word.  Keep tuning in to our Facebook page and twitter handle @thephotoneffect to get the code word!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Photon Effect Webisodes: Meeting Minutes Debrief #1

It's tough for DP and I to get together and have face to face meetings.  Between day jobs and family obligations, we both just run out of time most days.  BUT, when we do have face time, you're getting an inside scoop on what we talk about.

The Story

First, there's going to be a slight tweaking of our storyline.  The ideas we came up with for episodes are great and we're going to use them, but the timeline will be backed up a tad.  

Instead of Photon being on top of the world with everyone loving him, we're starting in a time where he's not doing so hot.  To get his mojo back, he needs to rebuild his business and relationships with his friends.  And stopping a criminal or two won't hurt either.  

The Props

We're in contact with a couple very talented artists to help us out with the construction of Photon's helmet and gloves.  They might not be ready for the first webisode, but Photon will finally be fully geared up, fulfilling Dan's vision of the character.

The Website

Our website is getting migrated from html to Word Press.  This will make it easier for us to update it with, you know, promotions for free stuff!  If you have any ideas for other stuff we should have on the site, now's the perfect time to let us know!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Filmmaking Tip- Budget Your Time

Thanks again for checking out the blog!  

To help out the prospective filmmakers out there,
I'm going to share some tips and tricks I've discovered
while promoting The Photon Effect and developing
our upcoming webisodes. If you have any questions about 
marketing your project, let me know in the comments.  

When inspiration strikes, it's always easy to spend time
creating content or interacting with fans.  One problem
I've found is, how much time should I spend coming 
up with new webisode ideas?  How much time should
I spend writing webisodes?  How much time should I spend 
talking to you about the upcoming webisodes?

Fortunately I just read an article on LinkedIn that's
a big help.

The 60:30:10 Rule

Author Jeremy Waite explains the principles behind
the rule and how different businesses and people
have successfully used it.   Two of the best examples
are Steve Jobs' announcement for the iPhone and Rovio
releasing that somewhat successful Angry Birds franchise.
Give that a read in a new browser window and come on back.
I'll wait.

*Playing Angry Birds on my iPhone.  This leaning tower of Pisa level is too easy.*

Welcome back!

So, how can we apply this to our filmmaking project?  

Like this:

Spend 10% of our time thinking up with 
new film/tv show/webisode content

Spend 30% of our time creating that content, 
be it writing, shooting, and/or editing

Spend 60% of our time talking to you guys about
the content, seeing how much you liked it or 
what you want us to make next.

This can also apply to money.  Over half your budget seems
like a lot for getting the word out about your movie.  But hey,
it doesn't matter how awesome it is. If no one knows about it,
they're not going to watch.

Written by Douglas S. Adams, producer of The Photon Effect

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy: Best Marvel Movie Yet

So far, all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies have had at least one positive trait that immediately comes to mind. Iron Man has the over-the-top charismatic, quick witted lead. Thor and Captain America can both take a break from saving the universe for a comedic break or two. The Avengers were at their heroic best when they overcome their differences and work together. And Hulk? Well, nevermind.

Marvel studios and director James Gunn have taken all of these high points, fit them together perfectly, and added a few more in Guardians of the Galaxy. While a few several more viewings will need to confirm it, right now this movie is up there with Star Wars as a peronal all time favorite.

Some filmmakers try to fit their movies into different genres, and ultimately don't fit in any. Their movie isn't funny enough to be a comedy, not dramatic enough to be a drama, and not actiony enough to be action. They end up just being...there. James Gunn doesn't have that problem. Like he did with "Super", James made a movie that's a hysterical comedy, a thrilling action movie, and a heartwarming drama all rolled into one.

Save for one or two scenes that were a few beats slow for my taste, the pacing was perfect. What was even better were all the little comedic setups and payoffs. They took a funny joke, then waited awhile, put a little twist on it, and told it again for an even bigger laugh. There was even a dramatic setup, a scene where I was left scratching my head a bit. Then when the payoff happened, and subsequent exposition, I was completely taken off guard. For the football fans out there, a perfect comparison would be that they knew how to use short running plays to set up the 50 yard bomb for a touchdown.

Personally I think a younger Nathan Fillion would've been a slightly better fit for the serious side of Peter Quill, Christ Pratt still does a remarkable job. Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista had their moments, but Bradley Copper's voice and the animators who created Rocket stole the show. And Groot was Vin Diesel's best work since Iron Giant!

While thinking about this film, it makes me a bit sad about the upcoming Ant Man project. Edgar Wright is right there with James Gunn in terms of talent and style, so I fear I'll be comparing Ant Man to a version of the movie that doesn't exist. Oh well, if that isn't a first world problem I don't know what is.

Even though there's a couple scenes for more mature audiences, I highly recommend taking kids to see this movie. For people in my age range, we had Star Wars. Guardians of the Galaxy can be that experience for the kids today.

Written by Douglas S. Adams, producer of The Photon Effect

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Might "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" End Up Being Crap?

Since I didn't feel like getting in line for Hall H at 1 in the morning last Saturday, I didn't get in and I'm not privy to any of the footage released at Marvel's Comic Con panel.  This is only based off the few pictures and plot points released on the Avengers: Age of Ultron imdb page.  If I'm clearly incorrect about something, please speak up!

Gotta say,  I'm concerned we might have a "Hangover Part II" situation on our hands.  Based on the images I'm seeing (more in a sec), the film looks like it might be reusing the same plot points as the original.  The only difference this time being there's even more heroes in it, potentially making the inevitable 3rd act battle bloated beyond excess.  If this keeps going, by the 3rd Avengers movie they might be out of Galaxies/Dimensions/Universes to blow up.  Sometimes a rehash of the old movie can be fun, but not in this universe.  At least not yet! 

Exhibit A: The Poster Unveiled at Comic Con  

Really, another horde for our heroes to battle?  I mean, it's fun to have A sequence where the Avengers smack down common henchmen, but where's the "boss" type characters?  The Leviathans in the first one don't count - once Cap wrapped his mind around the scenario and gave everyone orders, those flying lizards got taken out as easily as the rest of the Chitauri.   Leave those minions to either the military, the new S.H.I.E.L.D., or Asgardian soldiers, and let our heroes stick to foes more on their level.  One of the bright moments of Thor: Dark World was Loki and Thor having to sort of work together in taking out the Kursed.  Who's that going to be in this movie with 5 times the heroes?

Exhibit B: Hulk Vs. Hulkbuster Image

All I saw there is Hulkbuster taking Thor's place in a 2nd act conflict amongst the team.  How's Hulk going to unintentionally get angry this time, another infinity stone just happens to fall into their lap again? Come on, pick another avenger to cause the internal conflict.  

Still Optimistic

It kills me to write this stuff, and I want nothing more than to be wrong.  Maybe the horde battle is somewhere in the second act.  Maybe the Hulk vs Hulkbuster scene is right at the beginning - another training exercise if you will.  These were just the first thoughts running through my head after seeing the pictures.  Instead of a jaw drop, I winced.

Hopefully an after-credits scene in Guardians of the Galaxy will put my mind at ease.  Can't wait for tomorrow night!

Written by Douglas S. Adams, producer of The Photon Effect

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Photon Effect, A Web Series

It's been a while, ok a long while since we've updated the blog.  It's been so long we even forgot the login credentials!  But to everyone who has kept the faith and not given up on us, you WILL be rewarded with some hot, fresh, tasty content.  And it won't just be some blog updates. That's right, we're taking about a web series featuring Photon!    Here's a summary.

With RCI a smoldering pile of rubble, and The Black Hole in Parts  Dimension Unknown, Photon starts cracking down on crime in his hometown of Baltimore.  He's also keeping up with his day job with Powers Towers, now the biggest antenna service company in the region.     He even shacked up with Kelly Hammond, leaving his bachelor days behind.

Everything seems to be breaking Photon's way, right?  It is, for now (because how boring would that web series be).

With fewer and fewer crises to take advantage of, the Baltimore government and police force aren't too happy with Photon on the streets.  Government leaders work with a local corporate CEO to form a task force to capture Photon, and coincidentally take all of Kelly's Biolabs research for their personal gain.  Photon must battle these new enemies, and some old ones, to save himself and his friends.   

So that's what we've been up to.  On the blog we'll also have some random updates, including tips for filmmakers and a movie review or two.  Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely getting one!  So stay tuned and if there's anything you want to know about The Photon Effect, the new series, or indie filmmaking in general, let us know!

Oh, and just in case you haven't already…….

Buy the DVD!

Rent or buy the download!

Written by Douglas S. Adams, producer of The Photon Effect