Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Movie Review: Coup De Cinema

Official Website: http://coupdecinemamovie.com/

IMDb Page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1776137/

Trailer: http://vimeo.com/22768170

Before we get started with this review, I’d just like to take a moment to thank the co-director/co-writer/editor/storyboard artist of this film, and good friend of mine, Sean Parker; for allowing me the opportunity to write this review.

From the day I met him back in college, I always thought of him as perhaps the only young filmmaker I’d ever met that really seemed like he was going to “make it.”

If a single film must be cited to indicate a young filmmaker’s arrival into the realm of having “made it” in the indie scene, I can think of few films that better represent this transition than Coup De Cinema.

Beginning life as a college film project between co-directors and long time partners in crime, Sean Parker and Austin Hillebrecht, only to be completed several years after the matter; Coup De Cinema is a handsomely shot (on a Canon Mk. II if I recall correctly) comedy-heist film that benefits from also being a movie about making movies.

In the fine tradition of films such as Ed Wood and Bowfinger, the creators of Coup wears their love for film on their sleeves; presenting a story told amidst and adjacent to a film-within-a-film.

Shot in Portland, Oregon and Olympia, Washington; the basic plot of Coup De Cinema surrounds a struggling young wannabe filmmaker named Miles Smith, played by co-director and pretty much everything in between, Austin Hillebrecht.

Pictured: Austin Hillebrecht as Miles Smith, our protagonist.

Hard up for work in his chosen field, and frustrated in his “not quite” relationship with his lady friend Caitlyn; (Nomi Summa) Miles’ dilemma effectively reflects the plight of the modern recent college graduate.

Eventually, Miles has a chance encounter with a DVD sleeve cover that sets him on a path towards seeking employment at a local film studio, Bourgeois Pictures.

Finding their hiring process to be as exclusive as their namesake, Miles ducks through an open door and follows it to a screening room where he meets Bourgeois producer, Rick Steiner (David Loftus).

Pictured: Rick Steiner... Who bears no relation to the pro-wrestler of the same name.

Won over (well, slightly anyway…) by Miles’ pluck and ambition, Rick grants Miles a job as a production assistant on Bourgeois’ current production, “Marauders of the Door of Doom,” provided the director of the picture, Adrian Dreyfus (Corey Brunish); signs off on him.

Ecstatic with his success, Miles ducks into the Bourgeois restroom before his first day of work and muses, out loud mind you; about the wonderful possibilities that working at Bourgeois might offer him in the near future.

Unfortunately, as tends to be the case when we say stupid things out loud to ourselves, Miles discovers he is not alone.

Well, it tends to happen when I do it anyway…

Standing in the corner atop a tiny box, hijacking someone else’s wi-fi for use on his smart phone; the jaded (and more than a little shady) Bourgeois camera operator, Buster (Dennis Fitzpatrick) quietly eavesdrops on Miles’ conversation with himself, making the poor kid feel more than a little dumb in the process.

Pictured: Buster, doing like me in my college days and stealing wi-fi.

Despite the awkwardness of this initial meeting, the relationship between these 2 characters warms over time, and goes on to serve as the backbone of Coup De Cinema.

Following this, Miles has his first encounter with the film’s primary antagonist, the studio’s director Adrian.

Pictured: The wild-eyed control freak in all of his glory. No, I'm not talking about George Lucas.

Upon first meeting him, Miles is taken aback by Adrian’s manic intensity, but after a bizarre (and entirely one-sided) exchange; Miles gets the job.

Initially thrilled with his good fortune, Miles unfortunately makes the mistake of viewing some of Bourgeois Pictures previous films on his own time.

Shocked and despondent over the sheer craptacular-ness of Bourgeois’ track-record, Miles quickly becomes disillusioned with the studio and his future with it.

This of course leads to Miles arriving at the conclusion that, based on what he’s seen of the studio’s past efforts, as well as Adrian’s less than stellar conduct as a director; he could do better.

Thus sets in motion the “Coup” aspect of the film’s title, wherein Miles and Buster, with the aid of the crew and actors of “Marauders of the Door of Doom” AKA MOTDOD; attempt to rewrite, re-shoot, and re-edit the movie to a higher standard of quality under Miles’ direction.

The real difficulty (and indeed much of the fun) of this undertaking comes from the fact that in order for Miles’ coup to work, he and the crew must continue to perform their duties on Adrian’s production of MOTDOD, while keeping him and Rick unaware of their extracurricular filmmaking activities.

What results is an irresistibly cute film that dips into a lot of moods and textures, but never fails to provide fun on some level.

From the careful attention to detail in lighting, angles, and depth of field, to the delightfully whimsical soundtrack, to the way a select few characters in the story are drawn and acted in broader strokes than others, Coup De Cinema is a film that oozes a cartoony and hyper-real charm.

The film has a wonderful energy and “casually fast” pace that feels organic, never labors or drags, yet isn’t afraid to kick it into high gear whenever the story dictates it.

Pictured: One of the more exciting scenes in the movie.

Aside from the central plot device of the actual coup, which is refreshingly clever both in premise and execution; I think the real selling point for the film is the characters.

The film has a rather large cast, which of course results in some characters receiving more screen time than others; but to it’s credit, I found myself able to distinguish and keep track of the players with little difficulty.

In that sense, you could say the film was well cast, not only due to the quality of performances; but by the simple fact that every actor was visually distinctive regardless.

On that note, Austin Hillebrecht’s turn as the leading man was quite enjoyable, with his bright-eyed enthusiasm and not-quite-confident, half-cocked smile going a long way towards making him a character worth following for an hour and a half.

On a side note, I’m not sure if it was intended, but Miles’ “emo” wardrobe during the mid-way romantic crisis of the film had me snickering.

Pictured: What I like to call, "Emo Miles."

Speaking of romance, the one role in the film that stood out to me as being a little off, was that of Caitlyn, Miles’ “sort-of” romantic interest; not so much in terms of performance, but in writing.

In my opinion, it was wise to keep the Caitlyn character and the drama she brought to the table securely on the periphery; but in the end what we’re left with amounts to that of a cold fish romance.

Don’t get me wrong, the role was well-acted as it was written; but at the end of the day I couldn’t help but feel that the awkwardness in her and Miles’ relationship was pushed just an inch too far.

Another role that felt a little off to me, was that of Ren Fields (Tony Zilka), the studio editor and minor antagonist of the film.

Pictured: Ren Fields from Coup De Cinema. Technically Coup De Cinema did it before Toy Story 3 though...

From what I could tell, the character is meant to be a riff on the artsy-fartsy types of the experimental school of filmmaking.

He’s supposed to be socially awkward, and of the belief that he is a misunderstood artist rather than a film school reject.

I’m only assuming that last part, but I defy you to tell me he doesn’t seem like the type.

While the character is written this way, in all honesty I felt the performance was a little too restrained.

The verbal quirks were in place, and some of the body language was there, but unlike the romantic subplot; I felt the Ren Fields character would’ve benefited from being a little extravagant and outrageous.

Speaking of outrageous, Corey Brunish as Adrian seemed like he had a lot of fun chewing every last square inch of scenery in the movie.

If there was one role in the movie that really had no upper limit as to how over-the-top it could it be performed without damaging the integrity of the film; it’d have to be Adrian.

Coming across as some sort of demented, coked-out Dennis Hopper/James Cameron/George Lucas hybrid, I was impressed by the Adrian character both in writing and performance.

Behold! The Chimera of CGI and psychedelic drugs!

I realize I may have just described the single most terrifying and infuriating human being in all of existence; but trust me, it all comes together quite nicely.

While his story arc might get a little out of hand and far-fetched during the film’s climax, given the character’s personality up to that point; I didn’t find his actions to be the least bit jarring.

By the way, watching him casually suggest things like “We’ll fix it in post,” was a thing of beauty.

Before I continue my gushing any further, I feel I must address my last gripe about The Coup, and I do mean last; that has to do with the character of Wilhelm, played by Rhyan Schwartz.

No doubt named for the infamous Wilhelm Scream, the boom-operator character of Wilhelm had me scratching my head much of the time.

My guess is, the decision was made to give him a quirk, some sort of quickly identifiable trait; in this case a French accent, so as to make him more memorable as a character.

Given that the role was actually very small, this had the result of making the guy standout just a little too much, leading to me thinking of him as “that one French guy” as opposed to an actual personality.

Barrie Wild’s character of Tim, an Irishman; also had a noteworthy accent, but also had the benefit of more screen-time and lines in the script, resulting in him seeming quite a bit more fleshed out than Wilhelm.

Oh well, on the plus side Wilhelm’s reaction to a throwaway joke regarding the WWII invasion of his homeland is quite precious:

The face of a man who's just seen Santa's ding dong.

Moving on, while virtually every role in the film was performed ably, there are a few I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge, that of Dennis Fitzpatrick’s Buster, and David Loftus’ Rick Steiner.

Both of these characters had significant arcs in the film, and as such; felt pivotal to the film’s success.

The character of Buster was essentially the rock of the coup, (again, not the wrestler) unwavering in the face of adversity, and quick to rise to the occasion whenever necessary.

Watching him go from a jaded old-timer to an enthusiastic pillar of the group was a pleasant journey, arguably even more so than our sometimes troubled protagonist, Miles’.

While some could say Buster’s arc had him getting a little too warm and fuzzy by the end, personally; I found it refreshing.

Steiner’s character is one that I’d prefer not to spoil, but I will say this; the man is a joy to watch on a technical level.

I’m not sure if it was good editing or what, but some of Loftus’ minor inflections and stumbles in his speech really went a long way towards legitimizing the character in my eyes.

At the end of the day, I’d happily recommend Coup De Cinema to anyone with an appreciation for film.

As mentioned earlier, the film is handsomely shot, stupendously scored, and equally well written and acted.

I’ve always found myself in awe of the art of filmmaking, and as such, films that take it upon themselves to pay homage to the process; and actually show the audience what goes into it, will always have a special place in my heart.

Maybe it’s because I’m a friend of one of the directors, or because I’m actually in the film; (in the BEST 5 seconds of the film *wink wink*) but I really liked Coup De Cinema.

Pictured: THE BEST PART OF THE MOVIE.

Again, my opinion has nothing to do with the awesomely spectacular image above.

*ANYWAY* from what I’ve been told, the movie has done well in the local film festival circuits, and is in fact set to appear at the Action on Film Festival, where it was nominated for the best title sequence; sometime this week.

My greatest hope is that the film is received there half as well as it was when it was screened among my family and friends.

That being said, I’d like to take another opportunity to thank Sean Parker and Austin Hillebrecht for giving me the opportunity to view and review Coup De Cinema.

Thank you to all the actor’s and crew members involved in the process, I assure you, you did a wonderful job even if I didn’t mention you by name!

Be sure to look quick at 1:08:53 for a cameo of co-director Sean Parker!

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Technical Difficulties

Remember that one post I did about the malware that wouldn’t die?

Well, as you may have guessed, it’s still not dead.

About a week ago, something hijacked my primary e-mail account and used it’s address book to send out some truly retarded, and wholly obvious spam messages.

I sincerely apologize if any of you reading this happen to have been affected by this unfortunate incident.

I’ve had that e-mail account since I was 13, and it felt truly fuckin’ creepy to have someone or something violate it in such a way.

I’m hoping it was the latter, as I most likely have sensitive materials in that account that could fuck my life up pretty good if they were tampered with.

I swear man, I’ve always felt that the internet was an evil and terrifying place full of the sort of assholes that would pour sugar in your gas tank just for the thrill of it, but this is really the first time I’ve ever felt directly attacked by one of “those” people.

Pictured: One of "those" people. Wearing power armor no less.

Stupid internet peoples… Fuckin’ with my shit…

Anyway, back to the malware!

It’s as it’s powers grow and adapt in direct response to my rage levels.

When I’m peeved, it’s kind of a bother.

When I’m fuming, “gonna’ ram my fist through the monitor” angry, it takes total control of my computer.

It should be noted, that this particular post is being manufactured on a different computer, as I found myself growing impatient in wrestling with my laptop to type every word.

Despite this, I had a minor breakthrough this evening, in the form of my discovery of some oddly titled and highly suspect hardware devices in my device manager.

I guess the big ass yellow exclamation points hovering over them should’ve tipped me off sooner, but oh well.

Give me a break, I’m not exactly the most technical of badgers.

Anyway, my hope is that my discovery will serve as the breadcrumbs to lead to this sleazy bitch’s doorstep.

Just like Ripley in Aliens, (well, except for the whole girl-on-horribly-grotesque-girl aspect of it…) I intend to storm that bitch’s hive and burn every last trace of her progeny.

Then I’ll watch my android buddy get torn in half, and later throw the bitch herself out the airlock and into stop-motion animated space.

Now if only I use a power loader to fight malware...

Fuck Newt though, she was a waste of my motherfuckin’ time…

Anyway, off I go to do battle with malware once again.

Wish me luck.

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Motion Capture Is Cool…

I was watching my newly purchased Blu-Ray of Avatar tonight, when it suddenly hit me that I forgot to write my blog.

Nah, just kidding, I never forget…

While I’m on the subject of movies though, I figure now would be a good time for me to talk about my feelings on motion capture technology; something that Avatar couldn’t have been made without.

I’ve always been fascinated by the artistry of the human body in motion.

I’m a firm believer in the concept that much of how we communicate our image and demeanor to the the people around us, stems from our body language.

That being said, whether it be in stage acting, professional wrestling, dance, mime, sports, or fighting; a person’s character, both fictionalized or genuine; shines through in the manner in which the move their body.

For me, a person that doesn’t converse with new people often, or well for that matter; being able to understand gesticulations and body language goes a long way towards getting to know people.

Though I can’t pin down the first time I saw it in action, motion capture technology is an amazing tool that I’ve grown to love very much.

The basic concept of it alone is utterly intriguing to the point in which I found myself wanting to be involved with it at some point.

Seriously, if you know anyone with an “in” to the motion capture industry, let me know!

For those who are unaware, motion capture is a technology that uses a specialized camera and computerized tracking system to map out and record the movements of a subject’s form.

Using the data recorded through this process, said movements can then be transposed onto the anatomy of a digital character.

In the context of movie or videogame production, doing so allows CGI animators to save (some) time by using actual human actors to map out a performance for digital characters, which can then be finessed or tweaked further by the animators.

In many ways, it’s the heir apparent to the classic animation technique of rotoscoping.

In many ways, the largest benefit of motion capture technology, is that it grants directors and animators an incredible degree of control over their projects.

If George Lucas is any indication, control is something that is very important to filmmakers.

They say some of the best moments in film history have been the results of happy coincidences, or even mistakes.

While that may be true, CGI stands as a counter to that, as a tool that allows filmmakers a degree of control that makes the word “mistake” seem almost obsolete.

CGI allows directors to create and animate just about any imagery that pops into their head, but motion capture technology allows them the ability to continue to work with actors, while taking advantage of the technology to precisely extract the desired performance from said actors.

While I don’t see live-action movies going away at any point in human existence, the inherent possibilities of producing digital motion captured films are downright incredible.

Think of it this way:

When producing CGI films with motion captured performances, one gains the freedom to set their film anywhere they want, populated by whatever they want.

They also retain the ability to cast big-name actors that put asses in the seats, not to mention gain the capacity to modify the actor’s appearance to their liking.

Not only that, motion capture also allows for stunt actors to be inserted into scenes without having to be shot at distance or from behind, as the whole process would be seamless.

Come to think of it, the whole concept of “stunts” as a whole could potentially be removed when making a motion captured film.

After all, the whole thing is performed in a sound stage, not to mention the actor can be “removed” from scenes whenever necessary, thereby allowing the animators to take over for the dangerous or “un-performable” sequences.

Still, the idea of being able to slip Donnie Yen’s motion capture performance into Tom Cruise’s digitally de-aged body is something that I’m sure a lot of people would pay to see.

To me though, the most interesting aspect of motion capture in film, is it’s effect on the acting process.

Acting in a green room, surrounded by artifice, actors have to dig deep and use their imagination to summon strong performances.

In short, more stress is put on the actor to use their body to convincingly occupy the digital landscape their character inhabits.

From the audience’s perspective, I find it changes how we view these performances as well.

While I myself am normally attuned to the physical aspects of an actors performance, when I watch motion captured performances, I find myself drawn to dig a little deeper.

I can’t tell you how much fun it is to see a digital character walk around in a movie, only to find the tiniest little inkling of evidence of the fact that you are in fact seeing a familiar actor, give a performance in an unfamiliar shell.

In many ways it reminds me of my lifelong love of Godzilla, or any sort of “suit acting” for that matter.

When Haruo Nakajima stomped around in a Godzilla suit, you could instantly tell it was him by the “largeness” and sheer character of his movements.

When Kane Hodder killed bitches as Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th movies, we could always tell it was him by how savagely he went about killin’ bitches.

When Peter Weller was switched out in favor of Robert John Burke (the fattie from Thinner) in Robocop 3, we were all up in arms; not just because that movie sucked, but because Burke’s physical performance simply wasn’t Robocop.

While motion captured performances will never beat good ‘ole “man-in-suit” acting, the concept is similar enough that is brings me great joy to watch.

I look forward to seeing the day when Donnie Yen steps into the motion capture studio and shows us what motion capture pictures have been missing out on.

Seriously, why the fuck hasn’t anyone made a martial arts movie in mo-cap yet, huh?

That’s right Robert Zemeckis and James Cameron, I’m lookin’ at you two…

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New Story Idea

BEST. COVER. EVER.

Well, it’s been about 2 years overdue, but I think I finally came up with a new story idea to keep me occupied for the forseeable future.

Bear in mind, when I say “story idea,” I’m referring to something along the lines of a concept for a comic book, short story, or *GASP!*maybe even a novel!

Pictured: "Novelists."

Don’t worry, I promise I won’t go all counter-culture hipster on you guys.

Anyway, at this point in time, with my idea less than 6 hours old, the whole thing is more of a concept than anything else, but even so I think it has a lot going for it.

In interest of saving some time, namely my own, here’s a basic rundown of what I’m shooting for:

Basically, you take the setting of that movie The Village, (I haven’t seen it, but I’ve had the ending spoiled for me)

... Yeah, chances are I'll never sit down to watch this one.

marry it with the aesthetic and monster populated world of Capcom’s Monster Hunter game series,

Haven't played any of these, not sure if I could put up with the grind-fest gameplay. Even so, the art and music alone have got me tempted to pick one up sometime...

and then give it the Dances With Wolves/The Last Samurai/Avatar treatment.

This may as well be the title of said movies.

Actually, now that I think of it, that doesn’t reflect what I’m shooting for at all…

Here’s my idea, in my own words:

Our hero is a young man that comes from a small village of pre-Dark Ages technological status.

The village is surrounded by wilderness on all sides, and aside from a small water source and a single mountain peak visible from over the treeline, completely isolated.

Basically, the villagers live on the assumption that they are the only humans in their realm; that there is nothing for them beyond the forest.

The reason for this isolationist line of thinking is due to the presence of some truly ghastly and vicious man-eating beasts that live in the forest, thereby making travel through the wild all but impossible.

There is a very distinct border between the territory of the villagers and these creatures, crossing it by even the slightest amount agitates the monsters, yet they never cross this border.

These creatures, the wild landscape they inhabit, should be viewed as representing nature, or rather “the wild unknown.”

The real meat of the story, at least at this point, comes from the fact that sometime in the past, maybe a century or 2 ago, someone from the village in question looked upon his surroundings and found them inadequate.

He was disgusted by the sad state of his village and the fact that it’s inhabitants had begun to turn to inbreeding as a means to preserve their dwindling numbers.

He looked at the mountain in the distance and said to himself:

“I want to see the other side of that mountain.”

He was the first man in the history of the village to adopt this progressive line of thinking.

Think of him as sort of the Prometheus of this particular account of human history.

After rallying others to his cause for a time, this man eventually ended up leading a small but determined expedition into the wild.

Most were eaten by the monsters, several became lost in the woods never to be seen again, and that one man, the one that was responsible for it all, found a new life in a clearing at the opposite end of the wild.

He would be the first human to do so in the history of the realm.

This man would be the founder of a new, expansionist and progressive-minded civilization composed people who, like himself, migrated from their respective “island” villages.

Of course, this particular civilization exists without our hero’s knowledge.

The aforementioned people that became lost in the wild would become consumed by the very landscape around them, transformed into horrific and violent man-beasts.

The “wild” in this story is special in the sense that, to most of the characters in the story; it’s still unknown, it’s still dangerous.

In that sense, the wilderness in this story should be regarded as a truly hostile environment, one that not only presents danger to the humans that venture within, but does so willfully.

In this story, the natural world truly hates humanity, such that it produces horrible creatures specifically for the purpose of keeping man outside of it’s borders.

Think of it as a sort of Gaia-like Earth-spirit that exists to keep man in his place, to keep man from discovering the true depths of his insatiable lust to consume and destroy.

Huh, now that I think of it, it’s kind of like Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

With monsters, lots and lots of monster…

Anyway, that’s where our Prometheus throws a monkey wrench into the mix by surviving what was supposed to be an impossible endeavor.

In a symbolic sense, I guess Prometheus’ victory is supposed to signify the power and mystery of nature beginning to wilt under the tenacity, determination, and ingenuity of man.

The man-beast population don’t exactly represent both parties, humanity and nature, as one would expect.

Rather, they are a doomed element in the story, a group of survivors that have grown powerful and ugly due to the harshness of their environment.

No longer fully human, they are nevertheless still regarded by the wild as intruders, thusly making them targets for the monsters, as well as complete outcasts to whatever human elements they may encounter.

They are physically powerful, but inbred and prone to illness and early death.

At some point in the story, they will probably engage in violence with the Promethean settlement, as that is simply the only way the 2 civilizations can encounter one another.

I think the angle I’m trying to play with the man-beasts, is to posit to the reader/audience the possibility that perhaps the various creatures inhabiting the realm this particular story takes place in are all actually cut from the same fiber.

That is to say, perhaps the vicious man-eating creatures of the wild are in fact mutated humans that were trapped in the forest for too long, or perhaps man is result of some of the monsters stepping out of said enviroment.

The world of this story is meant to have some subtle magical elements, (no spells though, I fuckin’ hate that shit…) so such transformations could easily happen over a reasonable period of time as opposed to through genetic/evolutionary means.

I’m rambling, I’m sorry.

Anyway, the story is basically about a young man, a hunter raised in a small tradition-oriented society, discovering the true breadth of the world around him.

At this point in time, the only background I have established for him, is that he is hunter who lost a friend to one of the monsters in the woods, thusly resulting in him seeking revenge on said monster years later.

Near as I can tell, it’s his quest to slay this beast that takes him into the wilderness and beyond.

What happens from there, and why, I have no fucking clue.

Anyway, that’s about all I’ve got for now.

Don’t steal my ideas.

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