July 23, 2007

Ho Lilly Woo and the Order of the Phoenix

The world famous Hollywood Sign. It's delicious!

I live in Hollywood... well, okay, not really Hollywood. I live in the Valley.

As it originally appeared in 1920 to advertise the "Ho Lilly Woo",
a Chinese restaurant owned by silent film star Lilly Woo.
Woo, was Irish, not Chinese.

You couldn't pay me to live in Hollywood. It's a toilet. It's where every wannabe actor, musician, writer, and singer who are "trying to make it" are. It's where all the newbies fresh off the bus spill out, thinking that this is where they need to be - they don't. While I admire struggle, there's no reason to start in the quicksand. Begin on firm ground and hope you don't end up in the mire.

People who work in "Hollywood" don't live in Hollywood. It's like deciding you want to work at the zoo so you jump in the monkey cage and hope someone hires you. But instead, the other monkeys in the cage throw feces at you. That's Hollywood: Monkeys throwing crap at each other and hoping something sticks.

After "Ho Lilly Woo" failed, the sign was sold in 1923 to local developers
to advertise a new housing development, "Hollywoodland".

Successful people in "Hollywood" live in Beverly Hills, or Malibu, or Pacific Palisades - I live in "The Valley" which includes none of those places. The Valley is where most of the studios are: NBC, Warner Bros. Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Dreamworks, etc. Since I work in animation this is the place to be. Even though I'm at the bottom of the barrel, lowest of the low: a writer. And as I've been told on several occasions, not even a "real writer" I'm an "animation writer".

Despite this I still have some pride in what I do and a sense of what I like and don't like. One of the things that I like, are movies. And one of the things I don't like are current summer movies.

My fondness for movies stems from the films I saw as a kid in the late 70's (I'm a 1st generation Star Wars fan) and through the 80's (Raiders & Back to the Future). Summer to me meant having great, fun, action films that you can lose yourself in. Films that you'll go back as see again and again.

Okay, I'll admit that I'm no longer anywhere close to the target demo for what studios aim their films at now - I'm an old fart. However I am very forgiving when watching a film. I WANT to like it. I'll let stuff go and try to "come along for the ride". But in recent years so many of the summer films I find lacking.


I grew up reading Spiderman comic books. It was part of my childhood. And I love most of Sam Rami's films. While I wasn't a huge fan of the first Spiderman film, I was able to enjoy it. Spiderman II I liked a lot better... and then Spiderman III came out. I wanted to like it. But it was just a mess. It had the earmarks of executive meddling all over it - as do most films nowadays.

Oh, that's gonna leave a hole.

There were too many villains, the story was disjointed, Toby McGuire looked bored throughout. Venom was just crammed into the story in a hamfisted way. Thomas Haden Church was good in the film and should have been the only villain in the story. The effects were of course cool, the effects are ALWAYS cool in movies now - but effects don't equal story, not when a film's made by studio execs who have multiple agendas on how to "sell" the film to the public. And then there was the tired Green Goblin storyline that was played out yet again. And don't get me started on the embarrassing song n' dance scene in the bar --- oy!

I feel random... oh so random... I feel random, and pointless and gay!

There is one good thing about all the Spiderman flims: J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. Throughout the Spiderman trilogy he seems to be the one actor who "gets it" and is in the right movie.

Flathead?! You better be talkin'
about a screwdriver, buddy!

The first PoC movie was a pleasant surprise. Nobody expected that film to amount to anything. At the time it was in production I was working on the Disney lot. I was able to walk around the sound stages and sets. I got to see the treasure cave (before and after it burned down) and walk around blacksmith shop.

The second film "Dead Man's Chest" wasn't as strong as the first. I enjoyed it, but seriously, did it NEED to be that long?

Then "At World's End" came out this summer. I was really hoping for a little of the magic from the first movie. But no. The weenie cart had rolled into the street and into oncoming traffic. There was too much going on, too many characters. Even Davey Jone's Locker was a disappointment--- salt flats? SALT FLATS?!! Are you kidding me?! The rock-crabs okay... but SALT FLATS?! Again, the effects were cool.

All together now, "I'm a little teapot, short and stout..." hey,
there's no rum in my teapot!


I'll never make it through airport security with all this metal.

I'm not all about the hatin' in this post. Really I'm not. I actually thought Transformers was fun... well, the first half. I loved the Transformers cartoon... the Transformers movie looked great, but it just became another ho-hum CG fight-fest in the last half, which, of course, looked cool.

That guy? Oh he's just a semi-transformer.

It was nearly impossible to tell any of the autobots (or decepticons) apart, except for Optimus-prime, cus he had cool colors, and Bumble-bee because he was mostly yellow. Otherwise it was just morphing surfaces clicking and slamming around with no way to tell them apart. A barrel full of silverware shaken around in front of the camera would have been easier to follow. Also, by the end of the film, most of the humor and charm had been left behind.


Mmmm, bite-sized orchestra conductors...

I like Harry Potter. I'm not a fanatic though. I've only read the first book. I plan on reading the rest. Overall, I like the movies. I thought the first two were forgettable, but the last two, "The Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Goblet of Fire" I thought were really well done. "The Order of the Phoenix"...? Um, it was okay, but not great. And it really should have been so much better.


Films where characters are irrationally unreasonable, just in order to keep the plot moving. There's something that can be solved by a single conversation, and the two parties won't speak or act just because, if they do... then there's no more story. That's the sort of stuff that frustrates the hell out of me with Harry Potter.

Harry Potter, the precept is that all the good folk and evil folk, recognize the fact that Harry survived an attack by Voldemort - something no other wizard or witch (good or bad) could ever claim or hope to do. So right or wrong, there's something special about the kid. It comes as no surprise that the bad guys are trying to either destroy him, or get him to join them. Consequently you'd think that the established magical community would take great care to watch over Harry, and not just throw him in school and ignore him... then not listen to him when he tries to warn them when bad stuff is going on!

Spell of... Lightsaberium!

Also, if everyone is so terrified of Voldemort, then WHY, when Harry tells them that Voldemort has returned, do they not at least pay him some creedence? Why would they not at least follow through on some level? Except for the Order of the Phoenix, who act like the magic underground resistance.

I understand the dynamics created in the stories: Evil master returning, his minions gaining power... the good wizards & witches have to work underground because of the bureaucratic Ministry of Magic is immovable. I guess it's just the way it's executed in the films that I find clunky and frustrating. But that may be how it is in the books.

I guess my biggest beef with summer movies is what they're lacking: a sense of fun. They're not as much fun as they should (or could) be. Studio films, are rarely allowed to have the vision of a director. It's all marketing, focus testing, and trying to manufacture a "hit" without caring if it makes sense or is any good. It's just monkeys throwing crap and seeing what sticks.

Hollywood Execu-chimp.

Well, there's always next summer to see what's flying around at the cineplexes.

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