Month: February 2016

Spotlight on Shorts: The Fly

No, not that Fly, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less dangerous.

On the surface, ‘The Fly’ is a British gangster flick in the vein of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, but with a twist. Directed by Ollie Williams, it won Best Comedy at the Plymouth Film Festival and garnered a Best Actor nomination for Jack Doolan at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.

The plot of ‘The Fly’ is easy enough to recognize from the very first line of dialogue. A group of bank robbers are attempting a heist while the lonely getaway driver awaits their return so they can make off with their score. Simple enough, but he finds an obstacle in the most insignificant of creatures.

We get that this particular fly is going to be a problem from the dire way the title of the film is introduced. Loud and in big, bold, seizure inducing red letters, the four-second title sequence might as well be introducing  fire breathing King Kong. At first the insect is but a mere nuisance, but as the film goes on it becomes much more; an antagonizing force hell bent on ruining this heist.

Jack Doolan’s performance is done well, but it’s the camera work that really stands out. Many of the shots gives us an almost voyeuristic view of the action, with some shots taking place outside of the car looking in and some that make you feel as if you’re sitting in the back seat. The cuts between these angles come frequently. As the driver becomes more irritated with the fly’s presence, the cuts come more and more rapidly giving the film a chaotic feel to accompany the mayhem going on inside the car.

It’s a one joke movie to be sure, but at a little under five minutes, it never overstays it’s welcome; a byproduct of keeping your shorts, you know, short. ‘The Fly’ shows what you can do with a short if you keep the idea simple and the running time low.

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Nicholas Sparks Movie Posters—Analyzed!

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At times, everyone needs a good old standby. That one piece of banality that we feel safe going back to. It’s why McDonalds has over 6 billion hamburgers sold. Although just barely satisfying the criteria of what we consider edible, they also come with a sense of safety. We know what to expect and we know it’s never going to change.

Nicholas Sparks has made Hollywood nearly $600 million off this strategy.

Much like the Big Mac, Nicolas Sparks has found the winning ingredients that audiences keep coming back to. Mix one part southern hospitality, add a relationship with the odds stacked against it, and make sure one of the characters is stricken with some form of terminal condition like Alzheimer’s or Leukemia. Oh and don’t forget—white meat only.

Any good marketing strategist knows that it’s not just about letting an audience know of your presence, but also to capture the essence of your product. As a result, the marketing teams behind Nicholas Sparks films know that it’s paramount to adhere to that conformity that makes his novels so popular.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the two types of Nicholas Sparks posters that draw hopeless romantics to the screens:

The “Within Safe Arms” Poster

We’ll start with the less popular style of Nicholas Sparks poster, but by no means less effective. This style of poster focuses on that sense of safety mentioned above, that kind of dependability you can only get from the familiar. Here it’s displayed by the type of security you find in the strong arms of a sensitive lover.

Also beaches.

 

Message in a Bottle

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Message in a Bottle was the first Nicolas Sparks movie and marks the first time “Within Safe Arms” was used. You really get a sense of where Nicholas Sparks posters were going artistically as Message in a Bottle sets the template for future ad campaigns. Here we find themes that would be used time and time again in the future, such as extensive use of white-as-fuck people in candid moments and large bodies of water.

 

A Walk to Remember

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We get the sense that Mandy Moore is certainly secure in Shane West’s capable embrace, but the camera is zoomed way in opting to focus on the reactions of our lovers rather than the cascading waves that are absolutely in the background. What this poster lacks in sea-foam and sand it makes up in star power as studios most likely figured, “Hey, it’s 2002 and we have Mandy Moore. This film will sell itself!”

 

Dear John

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After Dear John (2010), the “Within Safe Arms” poster wouldn’t be seen for another 5 years till it’s triumphant return in The Choice. No real explanation can be given as to why this was the case. It certainly has all the makings of a classic Nicholas Sparks poster. A beach is present, as well as Channing Tatum, an actor who’s, quite possibly, a Frankenstein-like creation begat from the DNA of Stockard Channing and Tatum O’Neill to produce a form of super-caucasian with acting prowess to boot.

 

The Choice 

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The Choice was just released this year and harkens back to a time where Nicholas Sparks movies had the appeal to pull in big names like Mandy Moore. Here we see a return to those times. Happy, smiling faces are the focus here, so the camera is pulled in close. Although a beach is not visible, their bathing suits, as well as the sunglasses they stole from the band LMFAO, say surf and sand aren’t far away.

 

The “Almost Kiss”

The most famous of these posters is the “Almost Kiss.” It involves a traditional, white, cis couple aged 18-55 coming damn close to locking lips, but not quite.

To better illustrate the yearning these people have for one another, it’s imperative they never actually kiss. It’s also necessary to point out that by staying but inches away from each others’ mouths, it retains that air of mystery that really doesn’t exist in the first place.

Are they ever going to kiss? Of course they are. But like that asshole at your BBQ that pretends to throw the ball to your dog for the sheer enjoyment of seeing the poor creature run 50 yards only to realize it’s still in his hand, this poster is only targeted at the most oblivious theatergoers on the planet. 

 

The Notebook

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The one that started it all! This poster is truly a masterpiece. The passion, the yearning. It’s no wonder this is the greatest film in the Nicholas Sparks series as reflected by Rotten Tomatoes’ 52% aggregate rating. Not only is this couple on a beach, but the body of water is seemingly falling on top of them; a torrential downpour despite the fact that there is barely a cloud in the sky.

 

Nights in Rodanthe

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Nights in Rodanthe came out in 2008, and could have been a kick ass fantasy novel had they just put a “K” in front of “Nights.”

Nights of Rodanthe hits all the marks necessary for a good “Almost Kiss” poster, but here we’re also given a ridiculously oversized beach house in the background.

Richard Gere doesn’t even bother to take of his sunglasses. It’s a move that says, “I’m mysterious!” or simply, “Who gives a fuck?”

In return, Diane Keaton gives a look to Gere that’s either saying, “You’re my everything.” or “Really? You’re not even going to try and take them off?”

 

The Last Song

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The Last Song came out in 2010 and stars a pre-twerking Miley Cyrus and that other Hemsworth that isn’t Thor. Unlike most “Almost Kiss” posters, Miley is actually smiling here. These kids are enjoying themselves! No mystery here. Much like the setting sun in the background, it gives us a warm, comforting feeling that we hope won’t disappear over that horizon anytime soon.

 

The Lucky One

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The Lucky One asks one simple question: Who’s the lucky one here? I mean look at these two. Zac Efron’s gaze is fixated, unflinching. You just know there’s no other woman for him. On the hand, the eyes of Piper from Orange is the New Black are facing down, yet just barely open. She has that look that says, “This guy smells SO FUCKING GOOD! Where is that coming from?” Whatever Zac Efron is wearing, it clearly has that musky-but-not-quite-a-musk smell. Is it cardamom? Who knows.

 

Safe Haven

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Safe Haven stars two people who are white and are on a beach, proving yet again that some classics never die.

Beach houses make a triumphant return.

 

The Best of Me

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The Best of Me amps up the Sparkiness by showing not one, but two white-as-fuck couples almost kissing!

 

The Longest Ride

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Finally, The Longest Ride came out in 2015 and marks the most recent “Almost Kiss” poster. Scott Eastwood (Somebody) and Britt Robertson (Someone else) star. This poster tries something new by moving our subjects further apart, yet still maintaining that certainty that they are totally about to make out.

Robertson’s hat also guarantees that at least one horse will be making a showing in this film.

Indie Intros: Tim Miller’s ‘Rockfish’

Before the recent success of Fox’s Deadpool, Tim Miller had only directed two animated short films. His debut ‘Aunt Luisa’ won him and co director Paul Taylor a Jury Award at the Ojai Film Festival. His second film, ‘Rockfish,’ won an honorable mention also at the Ojai Film Festival for Best Animation and came in second for Best Animation at the Palm Springs International Shortfest.

Since then, Miller worked his way into Hollywood, namely for visual effects, as an Assistant Director for Thor: The Dark World’s opening sequence and as a Creative Supervisor for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Miller’s career proves that just because you specialize in other areas of entertainment, such as animation, doesn’t mean you can’t transition those skills into live action film as well.

In ‘Rockfish,’ we follow what appears to a miner and the first incarnation of Puppy Monkey Baby from this year’s incredibly disturbing Super Bowl commercials. All of this takes place on Tatooine or maybe whatever world the video game Borderlands is set on.

Miner and Monkey-Alien are blue collar guys doing their blue collar thing, digging a large hole and running a long metal wire down it as space miners do. Everything seems to be going according to plan until the wire hits a snag and the entire crane contraption attached to it goes for an incredibly destructive ride.

‘Rockfish’ attracts audiences with this vagueness; luring audiences by their curiosity and slowly answering their questions through visuals rather than exposition. As we hope for our heroes to survive this dangerous predicament, we are also hoping the outcome will reveal a little more about their characters. In this case, we find that the miners aren’t actually miners at all, but hunters of a different sort. I won’t give away the ending, but all is made clear in the end.

Although the animation probably looks dated by today’s standards, the low-res shouldn’t undermine the way the story is revealed. For any of you that have seen Deadpool, this might have actually worked out in his favor, as the kind of bare bones animation used to make Colossus kind of works to reinforce the tongue in cheek feel the movie manages to create so well.