Thursday, October 16, 2014

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Autumn Evening

It's October 11th, but tonight is the first night that actually feels like October. Last night, as I took the train home from work, a light thumping was heard above, followed by drops streaking down the window I stared out of. At last, the cool front that the weather reports had been promising all week was arriving. It was a wonderful evening of moody rain as a faint chill began to fill the air. When I awoke this morning for work, the air was pleasantly brisk, the sky overcast, and-for the first time in months-the coffee was good because it was actually hot. 

Now I'm drinking coffee again as I sit at my desk in my apartment, the window open, the autumn air giving the room a distinct literal feel that in turn produces an actual emotional feeling. Normally I wouldn't drink too much coffee at night, but it is Saturday, I have the day off tomorrow, and in about an hour I'm heading out to see Gone Girl. I would like to think that no matter how long a day it's been, Fincher's images and the insanely exciting buzz the movie's been getting would be enough to keep me entranced. But I don't want to take any chances. For a film I've been excited about for months, it's a bit sad that I'm arriving at this a week late, but I've literally had no chance to see it until tonight. And In a strange way I'm sort of glad I've had to wait till tonight, because there's a mysterious but undeniable connection between weather and movies, and the way the right kind of weather puts one in the mood to go out to the theatre is, for me, one of the many pleasures of visiting the cinema. Thus, on this chilly evening, I feel more excited about seeing Gone Girl than if I were to have seen it last week when it was 20 degrees warmer. After ten days of October, I feel the best month of the year has truly arrived.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Blackhat Tralier Shots

Afternoon class was canceled, so what better way to take advantage of the free time than to take a shot by shot look at the awesome first trailer for Michael Mann's hotly anticipated Blackhat. In the words of Matt Zoller Seitz, happy to return to Mann's world, where one can stare at, and contemplate, beauty and horror.

A global thriller, a global first shot


                                     Now we get text completing the idea of the image


                            Stunning on its own terms, mountains background, city, lights, technology foreground


                                                  More text, moving from general to specific


                         Logically, next shot's going to be of a computer system room. Nice low angle, camera's in awe of the technology. Bright colors make for nice contrast of the white text with black backdrop


                            Again, from general to specific. Now we're dealing with the increasingly prevalent idea of cyber security and the fear that anyone can access our deepest information. 







          More text, but the backdrop is now a cable entering a computer port. Vulnerability creates anxiety as web access paves the way for personal access












Now we get a cool little CGI tracking shot through the inside of the computer. Works as a nice transition, and also suggests the eerie fact that all this metal and wires is producing the very human and personal fears stressed in the text above


                               Cut to another shot of the computer system, this time with some spooky bright lights


And one more for good measure, though this looks more like an image from Prometheus than anything else


This is actually pretty cool. Moving from the inside of the computer to the outside, we get the pixels of...


What looks like a stock market screen



                                  A random cut back inside the computer (though, entirely sure that's what that is)


                                                       Then to a wider shot of the same screen

 
And...people! Looks like a chaotic scene, in what will likely be a fairly chaotic movie


We were here earlier in the trailer, but now there's humans involved. Technology, humans, and stress. This image seems to represent some of the basic outlines for the film


                            We get our first good look at a human face, and he sure as hell doesn't look too happy


                                       People anxiously watching the screens, absorbed in technology


                       More stress. This series of shots is trying to establish a mood. It's setting the table for what's to come. It's the prologue to the trailer. It's been 38 seconds and we haven't really gotten much Mann per se, but there's still nearly two minutes of images left, so no worries



Now cut to the real start of the trailer with the Universal logo, ironically in black and white for a hyper-modern techno thriller.



                                  Followed by Legendary's log, a company that has only recently joined with Universal



Skyscrapers, presumably in Hong Kong. For Mann neophytes, the guy loves shooting skylines, but usually at night, when things are often more dramatic. 


Now we get the trailer's first lines of dialogue, just some basic exposition to set it in motion: Some hacker is hitting our financial markets, says John Ortiz, who has previously been in Mann's Miami Vice and Public Enemies. These guys are presumably in one of the buildings from the previous image


That's Leehom Dong he's talking to, and it looks Viola Davis is in the background


                                                       
                                                  Now we get the inevitable, a must in a trailer for a Mann film




       
                                    Two quick shots of a screen and some code, to set up the world Mann's dealing with





                    Now some more exposition, this time from Davis: Four major banks, and that's just what we know about
                                                          



Probably the best three to mention. Public Enemies is too period (though I feel like it's going to have more in common thematically with Blackhat than you might think), Miami Vice too average for anyone who's not a Mann aficionado 



If we want clues to the hackers identity, we need a man named Hathaway. If it's not obvious who that might be, you need not wait long:



And now get our first look at Chris Hemsworth, the latest male to become a macho star for Mann, though here he looks more like a thug. What we know about this guy? Ortiz asks. He's a convicted hacker serving fifteen years, Chen answers. Now we know why he doesn't look too flattering




Chen: MIT. He's also really good looking and works out a lot. Brawn and brains, never a bad combo


                                                Chen: Genius coder. Also looks like he's prone to putting up a fight




                                            Now we get Hathaway's proposition: I want you to commute my sentence... 




  Now that he's out of that green light, Hemmsworth looks a little more like the hunk he's known to be. Not to sound too demeaning about the popular Australian getting the starring role here. He's proven thus far in his young career that he's a pretty good actor, and in his most ambitious project yet he can show that he's an even better one. And let's not forget that Mann has a way of bringing out surprise performances from big Hollywood actors, ie. Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx.                            For the identification....




                                   And the apprehension... Now we see Hathaway, presumably out of prison, looking sharp, really bad ass, and a little like Colin Farrell from Miami Vice-only without the mustache. 



                                       Of the guy you're after... Now we see Hathaway's female companion, played by Chinese actress Tang Wei (on my count there are now two cast members from Ang Lee's Lust, Caution in the film). It's unclear yet what the extent of the their relationship will be, but knowing Mann it will likely involve some romance. 


                 Cut back to when Hathaway's technically still a prisoner as he conclude his wishes: those are the terms. 


                    Now the trailer really gets fun. We get this great overhead shot of a helicopter flying above the ocean


      Hathaway going down a hallway lit in Mann's favorite color as we hear his voiceover: is he political? (referring to the cyber terrorist).You see this image and you know it's a Mann film (note, this is shot by veteran DP Stuart Dryburgh, who previously worked with Mann on the pilot of Luck, and also with Mann's daughter for the mediocre Texas Killing Fields)


                            Reverse angle-trying to figure out what that is in the background. Someone at a computer? 


And just in case you still weren't convinced, a shot of a speedboat at night


             And then this absolutely glorious image combining the city and the sea, two of Mann's favorite visual motifs, and then a Miami Vice sky to boot. This is also a continuation from the previous shot. It's hard to see, but the boat's out there


Terrorist attack-any declaration? Hathaway asks


Hathaway and his team are chasing somebody, and the writing on the white building tells us we're in Hong Kong.


Over the next few shots we're going to hear Viola Davis saying The guy we're working with dropped the big hammer and not think twice about it. Note the green lighting-we've seen it already in the trailer and we're going to see it quite a bit more


Ambiguous shot of a man moving backward with a gun


Followed by this crisp image-complete with water ripples-of what's probably the good guys sneaking around


I'm still not entirely clear on what this is, but it looks like that shot from inside the computer from earlier in the trailer


Not quite sure who this is either, but it could very well be the first image of the villain who will be popping up at the end of the trailer. Either way, it's a cool shot.


Chris Hemsworth looking at a computer because he's a natural when it comes to staring at a screen with a really serious expression on his face-oh yeah, and because Hathaway's a techno-genius...


Unknown speaker: He's on the move again


Looks like another CGI shot inside a computer, as Tang Wei says Chicago...


Now China... This is going to be a full on international thriller


Hemsworth and Wei looking pretty cool as they track down the bad guys


And...another shot of Hemsworth looking serious at a screen


                                                           Hathaway: This is only the beginning


And I honestly don't know what this is, but there is green to be seen


Hathaway scrutinizing something, hard to tell what, but it looks important


Cut to new angle, doesn't clarify anything, but there's more green light


Green computer codes


Hathaway: He's still writing


Cue to cut to a guy typing


Hathaway says something here, but it's hard to hear what. Sounds like war four. More importantly, this is a pretty neat little cut to beneath the keyboard. The shadow are the fingers hitting keys


This shot's enigmatic. Starts out as a classic Mann nighttime composition before huge flashes of light and electricity starts falling from the ceiling


Now we get more color as a huge flame is about to burst from that liquid


Visual clarification. Looks like some sort of plant is in pretty bad shape


Insert text, cue start of Antony and the Johnson's moody version of the already moody Knockin on Heaven's Door. Not a bad song choice for this, and it suggests that the film is striving to be more than just another globe-trotting action movie


We get a slow-mo shot from behind of the team checking out that place where we just saw the explosion


Then reverse to the front. Yellow and red here, man this movie looks like it's going to have some crazy awesome lighting


We see what they see. Doctors helping those hurt from the explosion?


Once Hathaway and company arrive, they must get these safety suits as they investigate the site of the explosion


Hathaway voice over: the real hit is still to come. The slowness of the song captures the devastation caused by this mysterious terrorist, and this line really sets up what will likely be a driving force in the movie: the suspense and dread of waiting for a terrorist to strike


Closer shot of Hathaway


More text


The trailer's already pretty well established this, but nevertheless it doesn't hurt to remind us 


Viola Davis: You get discovered...


Cont. You're dead meat


                                                                           You have to run


Not only does Hathaway have to find this guy, but he has to keep himself from getting found, too


Hathaway following Wei through the night streets


Apparently they're walking into a restaurant, and the chef apparently likes cooking shirtless


Hathaway's in the restaurant, and the guy he's after seems to be that figure just above his right shoulder. More green light



Cut to the reverse angle, as we get a couple quick shots of Hathaway kicking some ass


The guy in white's about to take a huge hit to the face


While this other guy's about to get smashed by a table. Can't wait to see this sequence in full


The crew prepares to enter a Cessna


And then another glorious nighttime shot of the aircraft leaving the city


Here Hemsworth and Wei look a little more emotionally involved


And I hope to god Hemsworth's hair isn't doing that all the time in this movie



Now comes a bit of surprise, as we actually get a look at the perpetrator as he says, while talking on the phone: This isn't about money


Now we get a good look at the bottom half of his face. Mann's protagonists have often been villainous, I'll be curious to see who this character actually turns out to be. We may be dealing this time around with a more traditional hero-villain structure


Is this Chicago? I know some of the movie's set there. 


Slow tracking shot of officials as perpetrator continues: This isn't about politics. Hmmm, then what is it about? The bar for this guy is now set pretty high.


Chen talking to...


Some Chinese commander we haven't seen yet


Can't tell who this guy is, either, but his face has taken a beating and he's covered in tattoos-could mean he's a bad guy


Ultra low angle shot of Wei, really digging this green vibe Mann's working with


And, just for good measure, another shot of Hemsworth looking at a screen before he...


Knocks everything off his desk in extreme frustration


Bright lights in Hong Kong, and more voice over from our villain: I can target....


Anyone


More running. Expect a lot of running in this movie


Not sure where this is supposed to be, but it looks nice


Now we're in the final portion of the trailer. This seems to be some sort of parade or celebration, but it's hard to tell



Though this creepy green mask maybe suggests something more ominous. Villain continues: Anything...


Hathaway's at the scene, and he looks all work no play


This might be our man right here


Hathaway's not just searching, he's ready to kill


Classic Mann image: machoism defined, shallow depth of field, just look at this guy. Screen cuts to black and villain finishes his pronouncement: anywhere. So no one's safe, and if he's creating trouble for its own sake, then this could end up being one scary movie


So this parade, or protest, or weird cult ceremony, or whatever it is, apparently is turning into a full on gun battle. Expect great things from Mann here. It's hard to tell though. This could be a different scene all together


But we know there will be some action in that scene from this image, in which Hathaway fires away. The torches almost look like city lights. Mann's sticking with what he knows best but finding new ways to go about doing it


Wei in a mad dash


Here's a closer look at that shooter from a few shots ago. Guessing he's not one of the good guys


Because he's shooting at these guys, who look like cops


Not sure how this shot snuck in here, but Davis is looking pretty worried. More green.


Now for the last two shots of the trailer: Hathaway finally embracing Wei, but it's actually just for protection


We'll see what ends up happening with these two


Knockin on Heaven's Door had stopped for the last several seconds of the trailer, but it returns quietly as the title card appears, again suggesting a film that's not just bang bang, but that's got a lot on its mind




And that's that. This is a really strong trailer, fully emblematic of Mann both in terms of visual style and storytelling. Mark your calendars. The film arrives in mid January, and while that's normally a dumping ground for studios, I don't see much reason to panic. Universal probably didn't have room for it in late 2014, and saw a delay of a few weeks as a nice way to keep the box office going after the busy Holiday season. And maybe they also figured that Mann fans would be really pissed if it was delayed longer just for a more prestigious release date.