The State of the Movies: Are the Frozen Films Really Worth all the Trouble?

Frozen is one of the most culturally significant movies to have been released this decade. With Frozen II now out in theaters, is this film able to retain the magic the first one had or does it “Let it Go”?

I remember when Frozen was released into theaters. I was a freshman in high school and was going through a bizarre “Disney fandom” phase. It was my favorite film I saw in theaters that year due to its songs, characters, animation, and magical sense of adventure present through every frame. To my shock at the time, the film would go on to be the highest grossing animated film of all time, before being overthrown by 2019’s remake of the Lion King, and a cultural phenomenon. Audiences simply could not get enough of Frozen and they too fell in love particularly with the songs and characters. In fact, Elsa’s main song in the film “Let it Go” was played so many times on the radio and any kid’s talent show you went to, people who weren’t fans became sick of it fast.

Further, once Disney saw the financial incentive that came with promoting Frozen as a franchise, it went onto become of the most recognizable brands and one many audience members, including myself as a fan of the original, became sick of. Naturally, Disney sought to expand the market of Frozen with a brand new original film made for theaters. This is a first for Disney as generally whenever a sequel to an animated Disney princess film is made, it is released under the now defunct “Disney Toon Studios” brand and sent straight to home video. This film is brought to you by the same animators who created the original film six years ago and sent to theaters as well. But with that being said, let’s go ahead and look at both Frozen 1 and 2. Are either of these films actually any good?

Frozen is a film that is by no means flawless, but it still is incredibly enjoyable years later.

I’m not sure if I need to explain the plot of the original film, but just in case it tells the story of two sisters named Anna and Elsa who live in the kingdom of Arendelle. It is revealed that Elsa was born with “magical ice powers” in which she can summon ice at will using her hands. She uses the magic at first to play with her sister Anna, but things turn ugly after Anna is struck in the head by Anna’s ice powers. The two are then separated for the rest of their childhood as Elsa is forced to live within the confines of her bedroom while Anna talks to her from the door. With Anna’s memory of the incident having been wiped by “rock trolls” in the forest in order to treat her injury, she lives the rest of her childhood unaware of Elsa’s powers and what she is capable of.

By the time Anna and Elsa are all grown up, the parents have now passed on and Elsa is crowned the new queen. But after Elsa refuses to bless a marriage between Anna and a prince she met that day, her powers are accidentally revealed to not only her sister, but everyone in the kingdom. This then forces Elsa to run off into the mountains where she brings an eternal winter onto the sunny kingdom and it’s up to Anna to get Elsa to bring back the summer.

I re-watched Frozen again before I went out and saw its sequel, and although I do not love this movie as much as I did when I was in high school, I still think it’s pretty good. Frozen is a very fun and delightful adventure that has some fantastic songs, great animation, and fun characters. The film follows the formula we’ve all grown used to from these classic Disney fairy tale movies, but it also modernizes it and does something new with it. It’s a shame the songs were as overplayed as they were because they are admittedly really good songs. Say what you will about “Let it Go,” when you listen to it as its own song, it really is empowering and Idina Menzel’s performance as Elsa is spectacular. She is an extremely talented singer and I have been hooked to whatever project she has decided to take ever since I saw her in this film for the first time.

All the other voice actors do a good job too. Kristen Bell as Anna is really strong, Jonathan Groff as Kristoff isn’t bad, Santino Fontana (who would later play Greg in the television series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) has a fun role as Hans, and Josh Gad is surprisingly funny as Olaf. In fact, Olaf, a talking snowman created by Anna and Elsa as children, is not annoying as you would expect a comic relief snowman character in a kids film to be. He whispers a lot of his line and much of his humor comes from sarcasm rather than stupidity or annoyance. I remember the 3D presentation of this film being particularly strong as well when I saw in in theaters for the first time.

Although it is annoying to see a children’s film like this be as over hyped as it was, it’s not hard to see why it was. The film is very well crafted and further a very fun enjoyable adventure for the whole family. And I suppose if Disney were to annoyingly shove one of their films onto all its products it releases, this isn’t a bad choice. It’s a very strong movie, I just wish it was not as exposed to the mainstream which therefore ruined its magic for me.

As for Frozen II, it’s hard to see the potential the creators see with this flick, and it’s clear that the only incentive for this blockbuster was to make a few extra dollars.

Despite me being critical of some of the business decisions Disney has taken within the last few years (decision to launch their own streaming service, decision to purchase the entirety of 20th Century Fox, and their reliance on releasing mainly animated sequels and live action remakes being some of the examples of questionable business practices), I was still very excited for Frozen II. I did not go into this movie expecting to dislike it, I was merely hoping for and expecting a fun adventure with the characters I’ve grown to love. The good news is that despite being a vastly inferior film to the original, this does make some attempts at creating a fun adventure. The animation is still spectacular and Elsa performs many creative “tricks” and “spells” with her powers.

Although I feel like everything in this movie is fine, it is all inferior to the original and even feels hastily rushed. The songs aren’t as good, the story is nowhere near as good, and the characters have gotten less interesting as well. The only aspect that I feel has gotten improvement was the animation. It’s spectacular to see what they have accomplished with the animation and think it looks gorgeous. The 3D this time around was good too. To discuss my issues with this movie though I will need to go into spoilers. If you do not want this movie spoiled for you, click away now. The overall recommendation I have for this movie is if you want to see this movie because you are a fan of the original and are excited to see these characters again, you may find some enjoyment in this. If you are skeptical about this film and was never a fan of the original anyways, you can easily skip this one.

*****SPOILERS AHEAD******

The first notable issue I can pin point about Frozen II is that it’s very complicated and at times hard to follow. This is especially concerning given that this is an animated adventure dedicated to families. I watched this entire movie and at times struggled to comprehend and make sense of the narrative. The reason for this is that so much lore is introduced and not all of it receives the amount of screen time it should. With the amount of conflicts set up in this film, they could have almost made this an over two hour movie. Everything in the film though is so rushed since they cannot make this movie over 100 minutes given that it is made for children. But what is this movie about exactly? Well here’s the best way I can describe it.

Frozen II takes place three years after the first film ended. The gates of the palace are now wide open and civilians get to enjoy Elsa’s ice powers while still feeling secure under her rule. Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven meanwhile are all living happy lives together with Elsa at Arendelle and Kristoff is even hoping to propose to Anna soon. Problems start to arise though when events from the kingdom’s past start to affect them in bad ways. Elsa feels compelled to follow a mysterious voice which accidentally awakens elemental spirits which leaves the kingdom without resources and forces them to evacuate. It is now up to Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf to go north towards a mysterious forest and find out how to bring Arendelle to its once prosperous state.

They enter into the forest, that apparently no one is able to escape from (this movie kinda rips off Annihilation), and find soldiers from Arendelle still in conflict with the Northuldra tribe, which shocks the team given that they had always believed there was a treaty set in the form of the building of a dam. They then are forced to call for a truce as they discover Anna and Elsa’s mother is of Northuldran descent while the father is of Arendellian, a marriage it is assumed would bring the two warring states at peace. You can already start to tell how jam-packed with detail this plot is. You would expect this much lore and background from a Lord of the Rings or Star Wars movie that’s well above two hours, but to see it in a Frozen movie that’s a little over an hour and a half long is so bizarre to me.

Kristoff and Sven then stay with the tribe as Elsa continues north with Anna and Olaf. She ditches them, however, after she discovers a map to an island known as Ahtohollan which apparently holds the answers to how to end this conflict and how it began in the first place. Elsa goes on her own hoping she can also find the answer to how she got her powers in the first place. It is also in this moment that the ship their mother and father drowned in was found as it turns out they were traveling to this island so they too could help their daughter understand why she has her powers in the first place. Anyone who hoped that they were going to Rapunzel’s wedding is going to be very disappointed when they see that.

Once Elsa reaches the island, though, she finds that the dam was actually built to block resources and halt the growth of the Northuldran civilization. She becomes a sculpture while on the island and Olaf vanishes as Anna is given a sign that the dam is what started the conflict and without much thought, fully acknowledging that Arendelle will perish, she leads a bunch of giant rock trolls to the dam to destroy it. They’re successful in doing so, but Elsa is able to unfreeze at the very last second to stop the water flow from hitting the kingdom and putting it underwater. Elsa then decides Anna is now queen and she decides to live with the Northuldran people forever away from Arendelle. And I didn’t even get to mention that there are five “elemental spirits” that being earth, water, fire, and air and the fifth is Elsa and her powers which were granted to her as a peacemaker and gift to others after her mother married an Arendellian prince to bring the two nations together.

Wow, this is clearly too much lore for a kid’s film. Where do we begin in dissecting all this?

Whenever the film focuses on being an adventure with these characters we’ve all grown to love, the movie is fine. Whenever it takes itself as seriously as it does and decides to delve into its complex lore, the film falls flat. I just don’t understand why the filmmakers felt the need to jam pack as much information about this world’s universe as they did in this movie. Although I respect the filmmakers’ intent to invest its audience into the world and respect their intelligence, it is all information that isn’t necessary in furthering the narrative of this film along. It just feels like “fluff” to make this movie more confusing for children and even adults. It’s also unlikely that any children or even adults are going to be compelled to discuss the politics of the Frozen universe. Children are smart, but they certainly are not smart enough to understand treaties, governmental relations, and the complications of war.

I understand and respect the filmmakers who take their audience seriously, but I think if they want to have this much lore in this universe, it either needs to be saved for a television show or built up and discussed in future movies. Maybe the filmmakers introducing as much lore as they did gives them an excuse to make more movies in the future (which would be a bad idea probably), but even if they want to simply set up this lore, the film should still probably be over two hours. And again, if they’re concerned about the film being too long for kids, take out some lore and don’t make it so complex, because the end result is that this film feels incredibly rushed and convoluted.

The rest of the film and its elements (aside from the animation) are average.

Every other element in this film feels like a downgrade from the first. The songs are good but nowhere near the quality of the songs from the original. One of the worst songs in the whole movie is a song Kristoff gets about how he’s afraid to propose to Anna. The sequence is accompanied with singing reindeer and an early 2000’s boy band style music video. That’s not to say I did not like any of the songs. “Into the Unknown” was an nice song that I hope the radio stations can have remain unknown to the mainstream.

As for the characters, Kristoff does not have much of a character aside from the fact that he wants to propose to Anna but can’t find the right time to do so. So many other movies, especially animated flicks, have done this before and I’m sick of it. It’s not cute or quirky anymore, it’s just annoying. Olaf is annoying this time which is super unfortunate because he was not in the original. His humor is now comprised of how annoying he can be and how much of a bumbling idiot he is, which is odd because they specifically did not do that in the original movie. In fact, they recreate the bit from Shrek 2 where Donkey annoys Shrek and Fiona on their way to the city of Far Far Away. It’s not clever, it’s not funny, it’s just annoying and cringe-worthy. Anna and Elsa are still alright characters though. I really liked the relationship they had with one another, and if anything is to be explored in future films, it should be that. Other than that, though, everything feels rushed and as if not much care was given to its production.

Frozen II is one of the most disappointing movies I’ve seen in a while.

It represents the corporate commercial nature that many grew to hate about the first film and doesn’t actually feel like a film but rather a product made by a large company like Disney. Had this film been funnier or more engaging (had a simpler narrative that still took its audience seriously), it probably would have been better. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Disney is on a downward spiral and bad movies like this do not help its case. With the exception of Toy Story 4 and some of the Marvel movies, I have not liked a single Disney film I’ve seen released this year and that is a shame. Yeah, all of their movies have made money, so I guess this was a successful year for them, but I really wish they would focus on art and creativity rather than profit. There’s no soul in any of these movies. This is polished garbage released by a company that we’ve all been brainwashed to trust.

The thing is if they were to focus on the creative aspect of their films, they would still do well. People love going to see a new Disney movie whether it’s a reboot or an original concept. Don’t believe me, how did Zootopia, Coco, and Moana all go onto be successful? I trust Disney so little lately that I still am reluctant about subscribing to Disney+ because I specifically do not want to promote the idea that a single studio can just release their own streaming service.

Disney is a company, not a corporate empire, the idea that they care about you or your enjoyment about any of their products or your approval of their actions is crazy. As long as we continue to give money to them, they are only going to continue to grow. They have money to burn, they can make whatever movies they want. I swear Lars Von Trier could create a disturbing surrealist film under their name that completely abandons their image and likeness and their profits would barely be impacted. If you care at all about Disney and want them to take more risks with their projects, show that to them. Don’t support the crappy movies they put out and don’t give them money to encourage them to continue doing so. Only give them money if you feel them releasing this project in question is beneficial for the industry.

So my final thoughts on this movie though are that if you still really want to see this movie and want to see where these characters end up, you can see it. Just don’t expect the movie to be a masterpiece. If you’re on the fence about this one, skip it. The movie isn’t awful and I understand I’m treating it as if it is awful, I just wish Disney would make good movies again because they are on a downward spiral once again and it depresses me to see.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

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The State of the Movies: Ford v. Ferrari – Your Dad Will Like This One

Ford v. Ferrari is a true “dad movie” with wholesome values, goofy moments, and intense racing scenes that will keep you and your pops entertained.

Ford v. Ferrari comes to us from James Mangold, the director behind Logan and Walk the Line. It stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale and tells the story of two men, Carroll Shelby (Damon) and Ken Miles (Bale) who are hired by the Ford Motor Company to build a car that can defeat Ferrari in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The film highlights the struggles the men went through not only to defy physics and build a car capable of reaching the speeds necessary to beat Ferrari but also deal with the corporate control of the Ford Motor Company.

I really did not know what to expect going into this movie. I really liked Logan so I knew at the very least this would be a well-directed movie. I had heard some mostly positive buzz coming out of festivals like TIFF, but I was concerned the movie would be “Oscar bait.” If you don’t know what “Oscar bait” is it refers to a movie that is overly sentimental and created as a “crowd-pleaser” in order to win over the voters of the Academy Awards. Famous YouTube film critic Adum from YMS had called the movie “oscar bait” in his review so I was concerned that it would be too overly sentimental. I still wanted to see it though, so I got my ticket for a showing at a Regal theater for 9:30 at the Thursday night IMAX showing.

The only thing was that when I got to the theater, the IMAX projector was broken and there were no other showings in any other formats. Any other night I would go home and simply see it another time, but I had a rental car for the night, and what the hell else was I to do with it from 9 PM-1 AM. I quickly saw that an AMC was also showing the movie in IMAX at 9:30 in IMAX, and next thing you know I got in my car and had my own little race down the I-8 West towards Mission Valley to get to the theater. Fortunately, I was able to get my ticket and get settled into the movie with only two more trailers left before the showing. It was overwhelming because I was not sure if I would make the movie in time, but the fast drive I was forced to make down the highway got me in the mood to see a fun racing movie.

Despite Ford V. Ferrari being a somewhat cheesy movie, it is overall still a lot of fun and worth seeing on the big screen.

Ford V. Ferrari is a fun movie with some very well constructed racing scenes and really great acting from both Bale and Damon. I don’t think it’s the best movie of the year but I don’t think it’s bad either. This really is a “dad movie” at heart which isn’t necessarily an insult as you may think. I think that simply means this movie has more wholesome values than the other selection of movies you have currently in theaters. Despite being a tense sports movie, it’s very wholesome which was definitely welcomed. There’s no larger force causing significant physical or psychological harm onto a person or group of people, it’s just simply a movie about two guys who love building and racing cars butting heads against other people who are also passionate about cars.

As expected the filmmaking in this movie is very good! From the directing to the cinematography to the editing, everyone in the crew was on their A-Game while making this movie. I loved the cinematography and sound design in particular and thought they made the racing scenes a lot of fun. As a filmmaker myself, the prospect of trying to get these racing scenes right makes me incredibly anxious. I can only imagine the issues they faced with the placement of the cameras onto the cars and the continuity of each shot. There’s so much that goes down in many of the scenes; cars are not only passing each other but they’ll often times crash into the track and explode, and it is important that if you are going to get multiple takes of these sequences from different angles, they match each other identically.

What they were able to accomplish was incredible and I, once again, have to commend all the crew involved in this production. The acting, as expected, is also fantastic! Matt Damon and Christian Bale work very well together and you see their friendship develop over the course of the movie. One of my favorite scenes is when they fight each other in front of Ken’s (Bale) house, but rather than have it be an intense dramatic sequence, it is very funny. They tumble on each other and Christian Bale throws groceries at Damon, it’s one of the funniest scenes in Ford v. Ferrari. There are a couple of moments like that where they will give each other a hard time in the most loving and goofy way they can and it’s always enjoyable to watch.

In regards to issues I have with this movie, it’s mostly in the script. The villains of the movie (the people at Ferrari and the corporate folks over at Ford) are so “cartoony” and one dimensional. It was clear they were trying to go for a more goofy approach to these villains, but it comes across really cheesy. In fact, all the other characters that aren’t Carroll and Ken are all cookie cutter and boring characters. Also, although this movie is still funny every once in a while there will be a joke that won’t work very well for me. It’s not common this happens, but it does happen every once in a while. Also, the movie is 2-1/2 hours long and for the first 45-60 minutes or so you can feel it. Once the racing is underway the movie mostly flies by but with trailers, prepare to be at the theater for almost three hours.

Despite Ford v. Ferrari being a pretty cheesy movie, I still had a lot of fun with it and would recommend you see this one too. I like that this movie is not a prequel, reboot, sequel, or anything else but rather a true story that a team of filmmakers decided to adapt into their own screenplay and production. I say the whole “take your dad to this movie” thing as a joke, but I do actually think this is a good movie to go see with your family when and if you go visit them for Thanksgiving next week. Don’t expect this to be the best movie of the year, but expect a good time!

Written by Christian Scognamillo
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The State of the Movies: What Premium Format Should You Choose?

Do you ever check the local listings for the next big movie and are stunned to find a catalog of viewing options such as standard format, 3D, IMAX, Dolby Cinema, and D-Box?

There are so many options to view movies in, where do you even start? An average consumer may be under the impression that although many of these options may provide more immersive entertainment, they also acknowledge that they are also more expensive. Today we’re going to be taking a deep dive into a few premium format options that will regularly be available. I will not only go into what makes some of these formats special, but I will also go into the average additional surcharge you’ll pay for each ticket and offer a review of the experience if I have been through it before.

3D

I probably do not need to get into what makes a 3D experience in a movie theater unique as more than likely you have been at some point to a 3D movie yourself. You all likely know it can be anywhere from $2-$4 extra per ticket, depending on the theater, for a 3D movie. The intention of 3D movies is to create a movie-going experience to make you feel as if you are actually a part of the movie. Essentially, once you place on a pair of glasses given to you before a presentation, you begin to notice the image may have more depth and will notice that images seem to be “popping out of the screen”. The way this effect is achieved is that the projector projects two of the same moving images slightly next to each other that come together when you place the glasses on and provide a more immersive but strange effect.

The relationship people tend to have with 3D movies is generally you either love or hate them. Some people can’t get enough of that theme park type of experience, but for many people, they become easily nauseous and will notice that there were not even that many effects on the screen to begin with. There was a time not too long ago where it seemed every new movie being released was in 3D, which many people really did not like. And although I liked 3D as a kid, I knew realistically it was not possible to see every movie out there in 3D. At the time though, when I did, the experience of watching a movie felt more special.

My relationship with 3D today is similar yet different. 3D is not nearly as common as it once was so not that many movies are released in the format anymore. Therefore, I really don’t find myself seeing as many 3D movies as I used to. With that being said, it is fun every once in a while getting to see a 3D movie just because it is still an uncommon movie viewing format for me. However, I am glad 3D movies are not as common because the viewing experience is much more special, and I know, given the number of movies I watch now, I would probably get sick of 3D pretty quickly.

The truth is, 3D is not suitable for every movie that is released. Studios tried to place it in every movie so they could ramp in a few extra dollars which, ultimately, caused the downfall of 3D. In reality, only select movies are made for the format.

The last 3D movie I saw was Gemini Man which also had the added bonus of being in HFR (60 fps). The results were not as bad as expected but also not ideal. I think with a bigger screen and brighter projector I would have enjoyed myself more (and I still mostly did). But the small screen and shaky cam the movie implemented made many scenes of the movie distracting in the format. Some really great recent 3D flicks I watched include Ready Player One, Alita: Battle Angel, and Aquaman. These were all films intentionally designed for the 3D experience and having the bonus of seeing all these flicks in IMAX 3D, meaning a bigger screen, made the experience even more special.

Similarly, I’ve seen some awful 3D movies recently like Venom, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and The Mummy. These movies were trying to hastily rush the 3D format onto them so they could get a few quick bucks out of unsuspecting paying customers. I think that’s the other problem I have today with 3D too; you never really know what type of movie experience you are going to get. Because of this, the consumer relationship with the format can become rocky. I think if 3D is going to have a chance to survive in the industry it needs to be shown in select films that are designed for the format. A lot of big blockbusters still look great in the format, but not every movie needs to be or should be in 3D. It seems as if Hollywood is now beginning to understand the risk that comes with showing a movie in 3D and the format is now diminishing as a result.

Even IMAX (which we will discuss soon) has decided to no longer primarily show 3D movies but rather, only do it when the quality of the presentation is good enough to justify it being presented in the format. Although I wish IMAX would play more 3D movies every once in a while, this is a smart move on their end for the sake of business. I am in the minority when it comes to 3D as I like to give it a chance but know that this is a format everyone will have a different experience with. It’s really going to come down, at the end of the day, to personal preference and mainly how your body and eyes can respond to the presentation.

IMAX

IMAX 2D or 3D is usually one of my favorite ways to go see a movie. IMAX provides an experience in which the speakers are louder than normal, and the screen in question fills the entire wall of the auditorium the movie is being projected on from wall to wall and ceiling to floor. The average surcharge for an IMAX movie is going to be anywhere from $5-6. I really love seeing movies in IMAX and have been fortunate enough to see many movies I’d like to in the format because of programs like AMC A-List and Regal Unlimited (check my blog out on subscription services), however, it may be hard to know what movie you should see in IMAX and which one you can skip if you must pay for the format. Unlike 3D, any movie you see can look good in IMAX, but some movies will look better than others. This is going to be really tough to explain why so bear with me as I go through the terminology.

The first thing to note about IMAX auditoriums is that not all auditoriums are going to have the same size screen. Some IMAX screens are significantly larger than others. These bigger screens are known as “real IMAX” and they can go on average to be about 76×97 feet which is insane. The regular IMAX screens that you may come across in your local malls (and the only ones available in San Diego at the moment, unfortunately) are only about 28×58 feet and known as “Liemax” screens. The reason for this is because they are trying to advertise the same IMAX experience without letting you know which screen is the real deal and which one is not. If you want to know if your local IMAX screen is real or not, click thislink where you can look at a list of IMAX locations. If the theater is listed as 1570/D or some other variant of that, it’s the real deal, just D means that it’s not. You may be surprised just to find how little of these screens are actually considered true IMAX screens.

With all that being said, not every movie is necessarily going to look better on a real IMAX screen anyways. Most movies that are shown in the format are merely blown up for the screen meaning that if a movie is presented in 2.39:1 aspect ratio, you’re going to get those black bars at the top and bottom of the screen as seen below. When this happens in a movie, it is known to be “letter-boxed”.

Notice the black bars on the top and bottom of this still from It: Chapter Two. This tends to happen when you see a movie shot in 2.39:1 on an IMAX screen which may be a problem for some.

If you are limited in the movies you can see in IMAX due to money and don’t know what aspect ratio a movie is presented in, here’s a neat trick to try. Open up the trailer for the movie you want to see on your phone or computer. If there are black bars at the top and bottom of the screen, it’s going to appear that way on an IMAX screen as well. When a movie is not “letter-boxed” and is instead being presented in 1.85:1, the full screen is going to be filled up when you watch a movie in the format. It is important to note though that some movies are “specially formatted for the IMAX experience.” This means that the picture size will expand from 2.39:1 to 1.90:1. That means when you see a movie in the format you’re going to have more information available to you, the viewer, on the screen. Here’s a clip from Alita: Battle Angel (which was specially formatted in IMAX) so you can see what this means.

I will clarify that many times it’s only going to be select scenes that are presented in this format but I still think it’s fun to watch. To know if a movie is formatted for IMAX or not, check the IMAX social media profiles (Twitter, Instagram, etc). The company will let you know if a movie is specially formatted for IMAX or not and will advertise for it. On a regular “LieMax” screen, these films will fill the entire screen. However, on a real IMAX screen, a movie in the 1.90:1 aspect ratio will still not fit the entire screen.

So what will fill a real IMAX screen then? To know if you should make the trip to see a movie in a real IMAX screen, again, check the IMAX social media and see if the movie is being shot and shown in IMAX 70mm film. If it is, see it in a real IMAX theater because you are going to at least get select scenes that fill the entire screen. These films were shot on IMAX’s specialty giant 70mm that specifically cater to the format and present movies in the 1.43:1 aspect ratio. This is also the reason why you might notice that the IMAX screens at science centers like Ruben H. Fleet Science Center are much larger and provide a different experience than the ones at your local malls. Those IMAX documentaries are typically presented in the 1.43:1 aspect ratio which is ideal for a real IMAX screen. It is usually rare that a Hollywood movie is shot and shown in IMAX 70mm but it does happen every once in a while in movies like Interstellar, Dunkirk, and First Man. I can give you, though, three movies to look out for that will be presented in this real IMAX format: No Time to Die, Wonder Woman 1984, and Tenet. Here’s an example from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (which also used the special cameras) of what the picture now looks like.

In conclusion, is IMAX worth your time? I enjoy the format but every movie is going to be a different experience. I know I had to explain a lot of this using hard to understand film terminology, but I would recommend, if you are considering seeing a movie in IMAX, either do the test on your computer or phone to see if you notice black bars on the top and bottom of the image or check IMAX’s social media to see if they will be expanding the aspect ratio for a certain movie. Do know that every movie is going to be a different experience so make sure if you’re limited on the amount of IMAX movies you can watch to choose the right one. When you pick the right movie, IMAX can provide a really special and, I’d even argue, unforgettable movie-going experience.

Dolby Cinema

Dolby Cinema is a similar but different experience to IMAX. The biggest difference to note is that MOST screens you are going to find are not going to be tall like IMAX but instead super wide. There are some exceptions to this but most Dolby Cinema screens I’ve been to have had a wide screen instead of a tall one. Also unlike in IMAX, there are recliner seats at Dolby Cinema auditoriums. Basically, the best way I can describe the experience of watching a movie in Dolby Cinema is that you get a 4K image and reclining seats that rumble during loud scenes. The theater is also equipped with Dolby Atmos, meaning there are speakers that basically surround the entire auditorium.

It’s weird going into an auditorium and looking up above your seat to notice that it has its own set of speakers. I’m not very good at explaining this since I’m not a sound engineer, but know that the goal of Dolby Atmos is to provide 3D surround sound to give the impression that sound can potentially come from every direction of the auditorium. The only reason I don’t go to more movies in this format is that it is hard to get tickets to Dolby Cinema showings at the theater I like to go to (AMC Mission Valley). The surcharge is about $5 and I think it’s a pretty cool experience every once in a while.

I really have not had a bad experience with a showing in Dolby Cinema and I am confident you will more than likely enjoy it too. Really just about any movie you go see in this format is going to look good so I guess if you’re curious, you should check it out. The speakers are really loud, the recliners are comfortable, and the image quality is very good which makes for a very enjoyable movie-going experience. I wish there was more information I could give to you but there’s not much else to say, it’s pretty luxurious.

D-Box/4DX

I’ve never seen a movie in either of these formats but from what I understand they are very similar experiences. They both provide movie-going experiences that are complemented by moving seats and 4DX special effects (water, air, scents, etc). This has never been an ideal movie-going experience for me, even as a kid, so I never felt compelled to see a movie in this format. I also know it’s very expensive to see a movie in this format as the surcharge may be as much as $8 extra which is crazy and excessive.

I think the idea of seeing a movie with extra special 4D effects is “too immersive” for me; I think the idea is too gimmicky for my liking. I can handle 3D as it provides an interesting experience every once in a while but I feel like 4DX and D-Box may take things too far for my liking. Again though, this is coming from someone who has not even had the opportunity to see a movie in this format so maybe it’s okay. I don’t mind going on a theme park ride which has moving seats and effects because that is the expectation I have for those experiences, but in a feature film, this is going to become distracting. I guess if that sounds like your cup of tea, have at it.

Which Premium Format is Best For You?

Everyone’s preference in premium formats in movies is going to be different depending on what type of movie-going experience you are looking for. Usually, if I am going to see a movie in a premium format, I will opt to see a movie in either Dolby Cinema or IMAX because I enjoy those experiences the most. I like that Dolby Cinema offers recliner seats and 4K video quality, but I also like it when a film shown in IMAX is specially formatted for the experience allowing for more information on the screen.

If I have to recommend trying any premium format it would be IMAX and Dolby Cinema, but I would also recommend doing your own research on these formats and the movies being shown in the format to find out which one is right for you. You may want to expand your horizons and try 3D or D-Box/4DX, but just keep in mind that they may be too gimmicky for some viewers. Either way, if you’re at all curious about a format you’ve never tried, I’d say go at least one time to try it. Even if you, at the end of the day, do not enjoy the premium format that has been provided to you, it will be something unique and out of the ordinary. And sometimes something unexpected makes for the best types of adventures.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo
More info on Digital 3D:
http://www.reald.com/#/home
More info on IMAX:
https://www.imax.com/
More info on Dolby Cinema:
https://www.dolby.com/us/en/platforms/dolby-cinema.html?utm_content=buffer2298f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
More info on D-Box:
https://www.d-box.com/en
More info on 4DX:
https://www.cj4dx.com/
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Joker: Is it Really Worth all the Trouble?

Joker is a new comic book movie that recounts the origin of renowned comic book villain Joker. It stars Joaquin Pheonix as the titular character and is directed by Todd Phillips, the director of the Hangover Trilogy.

If you roam social media at all you’ll know that many are almost afraid of this movie. They argue that this will inspire more mass shootings from disgruntled individuals which is something nobody obviously wants to have happened. When I first heard these arguments made though, I shrugged them off and thought we would stop talking about this once the movie actually comes out. I never was one to believe that media will cause violence, and I still hold that stance to this day. But then more users started weighing in on the discussion and they started getting intense about it too. This is something that tends to happen whenever you browse a social media platform, especially Twitter. A person with extreme opinions will usually be rewarded with clout and it makes for an incredibly toxic place to have a public discussion. I for the most part never chose to comment until I actually saw the movie but I still held my argument that media does not and will not cause violence.

The MSM began to almost slander the movie in any way they could in an effort to make film-goers “beware the joker movie”. Article after article was released with varying headlines some of which included a report that the US Military issued a warning for Joker screenings and that NYPD officers would be going undercover attending screenings of the movie to stop anyone who has any tricks up their sleeves. They reported on it so much they were almost subliminally begging for someone to shoot up a screening of Joker just so they could get those “I told ya so” clicks. It felt really uncomfortable to browse and even a little scummy.

The movie finally premiered last Thursday and the 70mm screening I attended at the Grossmont Center was equipped with more security than normal. Before the film started, employees went up to several audience members and asked to inspect their bags on the spot. It was safe to say for theaters, safety was a number one priority, which is great. I just question the media’s rampant reporting of the film in such a way.

An example of a headline warning its viewers about the “dangers” of Joker.
This one came out after the movie was released, likely because people had now seen the movie and they were no longer able to frame this movie as a dangerous one. This is clearly reaching for any amount of outrage to be generated and is extremely meaningless at that (just so we’re clear, statutory rape is bad, but this is not relevant to the movie in question).
The most accurate way to describe the way the MSM is treating Joker at the moment.

Having seen the movie now I can understand why critics do not like this movie. I don’t agree with them at all, but it is understandable. The movie is very critical of modern SOCIETY (as the meme goes) and even the media and the facade of wholesome values they try to display. The film was shocking for me not because I found its message controversial but because I was surprised a major film distributor like Warner Bros. went ahead and released a film with this message. I’m really glad they did though because I think this is a movie that will be talked about for a long time.

This is a bold and daring picture that asks its audience harsh questions about the way we treat others and the effects those actions have on our modern world. It also highlights the dangers of what can happen when one disgruntled person feels as if they’ve been abandoned by society and even what we can do to prevent this from happening. I would say this film promotes mental health care and the coming together of classes more than it does violence.

In order to make a case in point as to why I believe this is not only a phenomenal but important as well, I once again will want to discuss this movie with SPOILERS. If you’re at all curious about this movie, you should definitely rush out and see this movie. It has a brilliant and even at times challenging message that is complimented by gorgeous cinematography, great acting, and extremely tense and uncomfortable moments. It may be challenging to watch for some viewers, but it’s definitely worth your time and attention.

*****SPOILERS*****

Joker is a movie about a man who slowly discovers who he is and how the world truly feels about people like him.

From the first few moments of Joker we’re told that Gotham City is in its worst state yet. The city is run by loads of trash and super rats (Google pictures of them, they’re disgusting), and the working class are struggling to live and survive in such horrible conditions. We are then introduced to Arthur Fleck, a clown for hire, who lives with his mother in a disgusting dilapidated apartment in the middle of the most trash-filled areas of Gotham. We also are told that he regularly attends his therapist sessions in which we find out that he has a mental condition in which he laughs hysterically whenever he gets nervous. The therapist asks to see his journal and she finds the statement, “I just hope my death makes more cents than my life”. This suggests that Arthur possibly suffers from frequent suicidal thoughts as well.

From the first moment Arthur arrives home, we see his mother ask him if they have received a written response to her letter from Thomas Wayne, a very wealthy businessman running for mayor who she once worked as a maid for in their manor. We find she writes to him in hopes that they can get them out of the old apartment and maybe into a newer cleaner place to live. The mother, Penny, insists to Arthur that Mr. Wayne and her have a “very special connection” that she simply cannot explain.

Things start to turn worse for Arthur though after he’s fired from his job as a clown after he accidentally drops a gun a co-worker gave to him for protection during a performance (the opening scene of the film involves Arthur being jumped by a group of street kids). The first moment of “grace” comes for Arthur while on the way home on the subway when a group of wall street boys harasses Arthur which leads him to use the gun he was fired over to shoot and murder them on the spot. He also finds out that Gotham has cut funding for mental health, meaning he will no longer be able to talk to any doctors or receive his medication.

Arthur also finds a new letter that Penny writes to Thomas Wayne that reveals that he possibly is in fact Arthur’s father. Arthur becomes understandably distraught that his mother never told him about this and he takes action into his own hands and visits Mr. Wayne himself. He is sent away by Alfred after he performs magic tricks for a young Bruce Wayne but Arthur is able to eventually track Mr. Wayne down in the bathroom of an old movie theater. This is when Mr. Wayne reveals to Arthur that Penny is actually mentally insane and adopted Arthur.

This leads him down an even deeper rabbit hole as he gains access to Penny’s personal medical files while she was incarcerated at Arkham Asylum. This is when he realizes that his adopted mother abused him as a child as he was tied to a radiator and beaten over the head. To make things worse, after Arthur finally has the courage to go on stage at a comedy club and pursue his dream of stand up comedy, the clip of him bombing on stage is found by famed talk show host “Murray Franklin” who mocks Arthur for his uncontrollable laughter and unfunny jokes. The stage is now set for Arthur as he slowly begins to realize that nobody actually cares about him and that his life has been a lie.

Arthur finding out the way he has been mistreated is ultimately what causes him to snap and seek revenge.

The more information Arthur receives about his life and the world around him, the more he boils and eventually reaches a breaking point. He first seeks revenge on his mother who is in the hospital as a result of a heart attack and suffocates her with a pillow. He then shortly after receives a phone call from a representative for “The Murray Franklin Show” who mentions that Murray wants to invite him to the show. As he’s getting ready for the show, a few former co-workers come by and visit Arthur just to check in on him to see how he was doing during these times. One of these co-workers, the man who gave the gun to Arthur, also framed him as he told their boss he asked him for the gun which was never the case. He gets revenge on this man and stabs him in the eye and throat with a pair of scissors, and the other co-worker, who happens to be a little person, runs away in fear.

In one of my favorite moments of the film, Arthur dismisses the man as he “had always been nice to him” and as he tries to leave, he realizes he can’t reach the lock on the door to open it. This is an incredibly suspenseful scene and one that seems accurate to the persona of the Joker. You never know what he wants to do next or how he’s going to treat his victims right before he ultimately does his worst onto them.

Arthur finally arrives on the set of the show afterward in his clown get up and he admits to everyone on national television that he was the one that in fact murdered the boys on the subway, a moment which this movie earlier explains has started a riot in the city of Gotham. Rioters wear clown masks and cause chaos on the streets as they finally begin to protest the horrible conditions they have been forced to suffer for so long.

Once Arthur admits to every one of his crimes, he challenges the audience’s horror as he says “if it were me being killed you’d walk right over me and no one would bat an eye”. He then shoots Murray Franklin in the face on national television and everyone runs away in horror. The movie ends with rioters lifting the Joker in celebration of everything he’s done for the common man and he is eventually incarcerated (likely at Arkham Asylum as well) where he murders a therapist there who only seeks to help Arthur.

Joker is a film that teaches you to love and respect others rather than incite pain and suffering onto them.

One of my favorite aspects of this movie is its themes about the actions we inflict on each other and the possible consequences of those actions. The truth is in this movie there are no good guys. Obviously Arthur Fleck is not a good person, but neither is Thomas Wayne, Penny Fleck, or even Murray Franklin. They all represent a form of evil that really shapes the chaos that is society in Gotham City. Thomas Wayne and Murray Franklin act as the rich elite who put on their own masks as they pretend to care about the working class below them in an effort to win the sympathy and respect of society. Penny and Arthur Fleck both represent the evil that rises as a result of a society that seemingly abandons those who need help the most.

One of the biggest messages I personally picked up from this movie is no matter who you are or where you stand in the world, always show love and respect to all your brothers and sisters around you. Your actions towards others really could mean more than you possibly realize. The film forces you to consider if looking down upon those less fortunate than ourselves leaves us responsible for the madness and chaos we bring onto others even if we aren’t the ones pulling the trigger. It’s understandable if some may find that idea abhorrent as that is admittedly a very controversial concept to promote.

I loved though that this movie actually had the balls to give this harsh reality check to its audience. It’s especially a different and even harsh take on the ongoing debate of what our government needs to do to prevent more mass shootings from occurring. I truly think we need a movie like this to really highlight what really causes a monster to rise and what we, the average person, can do to prevent it if the government refuses to get involved.

This film is very controversial but I would argue that Director Todd Phillips intentionally designed the movie to be this way.

Without delving too much into modern politics, this film widely ignores and even rebuts talking points that the MSM today chooses to continually regurgitate onto its viewers. The film is mostly anti-rich liberal elite and anti-media. One argument some commentators have pointed out is that the movie possibly argues against cancel culture when Murray Franklin mocks Arthur for his bad jokes on stage.

Although this is possible given that the director Todd Phillips did come out recently criticizing the sensitivity of “woke leftists” (as he puts it) when it comes to humor, I would argue this moment more serves as a way to express that big elite personalities really only care about the common man when they can benefit in viewership and profits. I think this is a bigger blow to obnoxious late-night talk show hosts like Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert who really only seem to discuss politics and issues in American society as a way to generate more viewership rather than toxic cancel culture that celebrities and random internet users love to promote.

Thomas Wayne too represents every fake politician who claims to serve the public but instead only really cares about themselves. Some may argue this is a blow to Donald Trump, and while that is the easy go-to person to compare Thomas Wayne to, I think it more accurately reflects the fake nature of any politician and even the MSM. The media similarly seems to only care about issues, just like late-night talk show hosts, to generate clicks and traffic onto their outlets.

The people of Gotham City are suffering from trash and rat infestation and all anyone can think about is how three white wall street boys were murdered on the subway. This hit home for me too because as someone who is from Los Angeles, I see the growing amount of trash on the streets due to homelessness and even the growing number of rats in the city. I just wished politicians did more to help these people and that the media reported on these issues more.

Los Angeles is a complete disaster at the moment and nobody really seems to be doing anything about it. In that way, I think Gotham City is very similar to Los Angeles and Phillips perhaps even developed this metaphor intentionally to criticize the current state of the city. This film is very timely and relevant to today’s world but it never feels like it’s pandering to you. You feel like a smarter person after you’ve watched it and truthfully it will get you to think about its themes long after you finished viewing the film. I’m still thinking about it now and I saw the movie a week ago. It will be interesting to see if this film holds up with time but I’m really happy that this movie has been an eye-opener for some.

Only time will tell if this movie holds up but as of now, I believe this movie is, in fact, a masterpiece.

I recently saw Ad Astra and thought that was my favorite movie of the year due to its visuals and complex characters, but this instead takes the cake for me. I will go so far as to say I believe at the moment that Joker is one of the best movies not only of the year, but the decade as well. I haven’t even mentioned yet that Joaquin Phoenix gave a phenomenal performance! He really understood the nature of Arthur Fleck’s character and embodies him so well. I forgot I was watching Joaquin Pheonix on the screen and believed I was seeing a character who is truly going mad. This film is powerful, intense, beautifully shot and at times challenging to watch. I think the fact that it is controversial and so divisive among critics is what makes this movie more special for me. I think movies that are masterpieces are going to be ones that really challenge the viewer to think in new ways while being presented in a beautiful and interesting way.

What may stop this movie from being a masterpiece in the future is that although this movie looks gorgeous as the colors are vibrant and vivid and the production design is lively and intricate, the film is admittedly somewhat basic when it comes to the cinematography. There were never any intricate or complex shots that I found myself really admiring, it mostly relies on its colors and the actors surrounding the environment to give it beauty. At that point, though this is me really reaching to find a flaw with it, but I still think this movie is wonderful. If you’ve made it to this point and still have not seen the movie yet, well what are you waiting for? Rush out and see this movie as soon as you can if you find yourself intrigued even in the slightest.

Also for all San Diegans and SDSU students, I want to personally recommend that you see this film at the Reading Cinemas at the Grossmont Center as I did in 70mm film. It’s only $10 for a ticket and there’s so much beauty to each and every one of these shots when presented on film that you simply are not going to get out of a digital showing. This blog is NOT sponsored by the cinema, it merely is a recommendation for film buffs in San Diego.

I know I said the word “society” a lot in this blog post, and I know it’s become such a meme to say “we live in a society” at this point I would feel embarrassed not to acknowledge it. So here you go, enjoy this meme:
Written by Christian Scognamillo
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