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Fair Game, the movie

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Fair Game, the movie

Post  Iago on Thu Nov 11, 2010 7:49 pm

I just took my father down to the Cities to go see Fair Game. It appears to be in limited release for the time being (it was only playing in one theatre in the Twin Cities metro area) but it is well worth tracking down. It was directed and photographed by Doug Liman (Go, The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, whose father Arthur was the chief counsel during the Senate's Iran-Contra investigation. It manages to make a familiar story very suspensful and entertaining. (Unless, of course, you do not know much about the Plame Affair, in which case you really need to see the movie!) It is hardly an unbiased portrait of the events involved, but frankly given the criminality involved, it is hard present certain individuals in a positive light.

Go see it!
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  PhotoOtaku on Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:20 pm

I forgot he directed Go, ...he directed Swingers too.

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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Iago on Fri Nov 12, 2010 3:48 am

Yup. I know that a lot of people love Swingers, but it is probably my least favorite of Liman's films (save perhaps for Jumpers, which I have not seen.) I think that it reminds me too much of some people that I have known who I would rather forget!

I really loved Go, which is the film that made me a fan of Liman. He can put a great deal of energy in a film without resorting to today's usual devices of the spastic shakey-cam and flash-cut editing. (I am thinking of you, Paul Greengrass -- Liman put just as much energy into the first Bourne film without resorting to those same devices that Greengrass did with the sequels.) He does use constant hand-held photography in Fair Game, but Liman -- who I am assuming was the camera operator as well as the cinematographer -- uses it in a more natural fashion. Instead of deliberately shaking the camera, he is trying to hold it steady but give the feel of someone who is following the action rather than leading it.

One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is a single lengthy take when a pair of Iraqis are trying to get through a checkpoint when gunfire erupts. The camera operator (Liman?) is in the back seat looking over their shoulders as they try to drive out of the situation, and the camera keeps panning from side to side as if the operator is trying to follow what is going on, but does not know what is going to happen. It gives a tremendous feeling of verisimilitude, and that feeling is aided by the fact that it all plays out in a single uninterrupted take.

NOTE TO HOLLYWOOD: YOU CAN GET JUST AS MUCH ENERGY AND EXCITEMENT IN WELL-DIRECTED SINGLE TAKE AS YOU CAN WITH ALL OF THE FRAGMENTED EDITING IN THE WORLD! STOP TURNING EVERY ACTION MOVIE INTO A FRAGMENTED, JUMBLED MESS AND REMEMBER THAT MORE CUTTING DOES NOT INHERENTLY MEAN BETTER CUTTING!



On that topic, I picked up the Alien Anthology Blu-Rays and was forcefully reminded of just what an amazing director Ridley Scott used to be. Alien is superbly edited by Terry Rawlings, and the film builds an amazing environment of fear and outright dread through more measured editing than Scott uses nowadays. Some of the scenes play out in very lengthy takes. There is an amazingly choreographed hand-held shot when Ian Holm is attacking Sigourney Weaver and throwing her around the room that plays in an uninterrupted shot. Scott was his own camera operator in those days, so I assume that he was guiding the camera in that scene.

The film does occasionally use quick cutting, but only in key moments to achieve specific effects, such as when the face hugger jumps out at John Hurt. Watch that in slow motion or frame-by-frame sometime -- there are precisely three shots of the facehugger as it leaps onto Hurt's helmet, and taken individually they have no effect, but cut together quickly they produce an amazingly disturbing image that is all the more powerful because it is so fleeting that you cannot quite make out what really happened. (The Anthology includes a breakdown of the three uninterrupted takes to show what they looked like before editing, and they almost look silly compared to how they look when edited together.)

It all started to fall apart for Scott when he first hired Pietro Scalia to edit Gladiator. His subsequent films have been blander and randomer. Ironically, I have always defended Scott against his detractors who compared him to his brother Tony, since Tony Scott's films contain random effects (glossy photography, slow motion, quick cutting, etc) that are not really used for thematic or dramatic purposes, unlike Ridley Scott's earlier films. In Ridley's earlier films, the photography and editing served to advance the story. However, in the latter decade his films have fallen into the all style/no substance trap that virtually every one of Tony's films have fallen.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Seamaster on Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:22 am

Fair Game noted. I have been looking for a good movie to go see.

In his earlier works, I actually saw a closer likeness between Ridley Scott and Carpenter than I did any other directors. That is back in the day when I felt people directed and edited films for feel and substance. Now, it seems, directors are intent to default to special effects. Heck, Predator is another example. I thought McTiernan did a fine job with the film, grossly outdoing all of the sequels in style and substance.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Iago on Fri Nov 12, 2010 6:19 pm

McTiernan is another highly underrated action director. Pity that Rollerball and Anthony Pellicano seem to have ended his career.

One of McTiernan's great strengths, especially in his earlier films such as Predator, Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October is how he makes the geography of an action scene clear to the viewer. My favorite shot in all of his films is the rooftop scene in Die Hard when Willis has been attempting to contact the police and he ends up getting into a firefight with the terrorists. McTiernan uses a lengthy uninterrupted master shot showing Willis being chased by two of the terrorists around the edge of the roof, and slowly pans over to the other side to show Alexander Gudenov methodically making his way to intercept Willis's path. (And, for the record, McTiernan used every inch of the Panavision frame to beautiful effect -- the panned and scanned version of Die Hard is an atrocity.) The beautiful part about that shot is how clearly it shows the viewer the exact layout of the roof, where Willis is headed and where Gudenov is going to cut him off. McTiernan then cuts back to closer shots of the chase with Willis and the other two terrorists, and never cuts back to Gudenov until he reaches him and opens fire -- yet the viewer knows what is coming, and even roughly when it is coming, so that one master shot builds a great amount of suspense without using any further cross-cutting.


Back to Liman, I picked up the Blu-Ray for Mr. and Mrs. Smith for $10 at WalMart, and really enjoyed it on a second viewing. The commentary track on the Blu is a port of the one(s) from the DVD, but I had never listened to it before. It is well worth the time. One hallmark of Liman's films is that they are a constant work-in-progress. He shoots, reshoots and reshapes on the fly and tends to keep tweaking as he goes. That can yield budget overages and frustrated producers (which is what happened with Smith), but he ends up with good results. In the commentary track (which he shares with the screenwriter Simon Kinberg) he points out how things were in the script, how they changed them when they were shooting, and how they often went back and reshot them in a different way, and gives the dramatic and thematic reasons why he thinks that the final version works the best. Most of the time, it sound like he made the right choice with the final version.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Seamaster on Mon Nov 15, 2010 9:09 am

Smith is a fantastic film. Liman does adopt an interesting approach to directing, but I like it, since it encourages an artistic edge to films and allows his films to avoid feeling overly scripted. It doesn't matter how well planned a scene is, sometimes things don't work out. Having the tenacity to rework scenes on the fly is one of the things that keeps his movies fresh and entertaining. And, let's face it, going over budget isn't that big of deal. Studios nearly always make their money back, especially if the film is decent.

Good example regarding McTiernan and Die Hard. Though not quite as effective, he did similar things in the Hunt for Red October, giving the audience an overall understanding of the situation before getting into details. He also did it in Predator, especially toward the end as Dutch navigates the cliff side, with the predator in pursuit.

I did not make it to Fair Game this weekend. Instead, Seajunior, my dad and I went to see Megamind. It's good fun and worth seeing.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Iago on Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:48 am

Megamind does look good, but I will probably go see Monsters this weekend:


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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Seamaster on Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:55 am

Unfortunately, I can't view youtube videos right now. I will have to investigate Monsters. I hadn't heard of the film.


Last edited by Seamaster on Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:50 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Iago on Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:38 pm

http://blog.moviefone.com/2010/03/16/sxsw-review-monsters

http://blog.moviefone.com/2010/08/18/is-monsters-this-years-district-9

http://www.dvdtalk.com/interviews/index.html
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Seamaster on Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:56 pm

Sounds pretty cool. I'm intrigued.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Iago on Wed Nov 17, 2010 3:50 am

I will let you know after Saturday.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Iago on Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:39 am

By the way, if you do not have Mr. and Mrs. Smith on Blu-Ray, I highly recommend that you pick it up. WalMart has it for $10. I know that you dislike commentaries, but give the track with Liman and Kinberg a listen. It really highlights Liman's creative process, right or wrong. It is interesting to hear him describe what did not make it into the final version of the film, and why.

That said, one of the more intersting things that he explains is how the fight between Pitt and Jolie in their house was choreographed months in advance, and they stuck precisely to that choreography. The reason is that they built the sets for the interior with all of the squibs and pyrotechnic charges in place and ready to be used. When you watch the earlier scenes in their home, everything has already been wired. Liman mentions that they caught producer Akiva Goldsman smoking on the set sometimes, much to everyone's chagrin.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Seamaster on Thu Nov 18, 2010 9:33 am

Love the smoking comment. I do not have Smith on Blu-ray, so I will be sure to pick up. At $10, it will be worth the cost to upgrade from standard-def DVD. Of course, in igloo land, that $10 will likely be $15, even $20, but I will hunt around.

I have actually taken to watching some commentaries. And I've quite enjoyed the ones I've watched. Change takes time, but I am coming around.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Iago on Thu Nov 18, 2010 3:01 pm

Well, as with all things there are good and bad ones. Ridley Scott and Michael Mann do particularly good commentaries. Kevin Smith's are very entertaining, needless to say. Joe Dante also does tremendous ones (the commentary track on The Howling featuring him, Dee Wallace Stone, Christopher Stone and Bob Picardo is one of the greatest commentary tracks ever.)
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Seamaster on Thu Nov 18, 2010 4:46 pm

I loved The Howling. Is that wrong?

No need to answer that, but I am surprised by how many people detest that film. C'mon, it's a film about wearwolves that's laced with satire. What's not to like?
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Iago on Thu Nov 18, 2010 5:34 pm

Nothing wrong with loving The Howling. I actually prefer it (slightly) to its better-regarded cousin, An American Werewolf in London. But I have always felt that Dante was a much more consistent filmmaker than John Landis. In Landis's case, for every Animal House he has at least one Oscar or Spies Like Us to offset it. Dante may not have a standout "classic" like Animal House in his canon (though I will still defend Gremlins 2 as his unabashed masterpiece,) but he has fewer dogs for balance. I even loved Matinee.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Seamaster on Fri Nov 19, 2010 12:03 pm

Ah, yes, Animal House. What a great film to watch as a pre-teen!

I also preferred The Howling to An American Werewolf in London. While the acting was a tad tighter in the latter, I found the overall tone to be less intense. Furthermore, I was never a big fan of how the American werewolf looked. The first time I saw the transformation, I thought I was witnessing David transforming into a bear, not a wolf.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Iago on Fri Nov 19, 2010 2:28 pm

Landis's decision to film the transformation scene in bright light did not do Rick Baker's effects any justice. Rob Bottin's effects in The Howling benefited from the low-key lighting. Of course, Bottin got his comeuppance when Paul Verhoeven and cinematographer Jan DeBont chose to shoot his effects in Total Recall under the brightest, harshest lighting possible, which made them look much worse than they really were. How you light and photograph makeup effects is at least as important as the effects themselves.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Seamaster on Mon Nov 22, 2010 2:27 pm

Quite true. Lighting and shading are effects unto themselves.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Iago on Mon Nov 22, 2010 5:58 pm

Monsters was quite good, though it helps to have the right expectations. Despite the title, the movie is not so much about the eponymous creatures as it is about the two primary characters and their journey (both literal and metaphorical.) The appearences by the aliens are rather few and far between. Still, the effects are really amazing considering that they were done on a home computer -- and there are more of them than the obvious scenes with the aliens. (Every tank, helicopter and other aircraft was added in post-production, as well as all of the various warning signage and scenes of destruction.)
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Seamaster on Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:46 am

I read that and was impressed that the effects were not only done on a computer, but that the skills needed to create the effects were also leared on the fly.

Monsters and aliens grow old when overdone, so it sounds fine that this is more a movie about people and a life journey. After all, we can sympathize with that and relate to the characters. It is difficult to relate to an alien.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Iago on Tue Nov 23, 2010 2:37 pm

Gotta love the internet -- anything that Gareth Edwards did not know how to do, he looked up on the internet and figured it out.


I mentioned the part about the journey because I can see some people being disappointed that there are not more "monster" scenes.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Seamaster on Tue Nov 23, 2010 3:34 pm

I enjoy a good monster flick like the next guy, but nuttin' wrong with a good drama either.
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Iago on Tue Nov 23, 2010 4:52 pm

As long as you are not expecting something like District 9, you are golden.

Speaking of that number, did you and SeaJunior see 9, and what did you think?
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Re: Fair Game, the movie

Post  Seamaster on Tue Nov 23, 2010 5:22 pm

You know, I have been meaning to pick that one up on Blu. Is it suitable for the little ones? If so, I'm picking it up for this weekend.
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