Friday, October 14, 2011

Real Steel and Chinatown

I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for redemption stories. And really, who isn't?

Having missed the summer blockbuster rush (Captain America, X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, Transformers 3, Kung Fu Panda 2), I was excited for the late arrival of Real Steel. My wife and I finally managed to corner a few hours for a normal date night and snuck off to a late show. I chose Real Steel for the killer trailer/sci-fi elements. She chose it for Hugh Jackman (hey, I'm man enough to admit he's sexy).

[Click to watch the trailer on YouTube]
It's the story of a down and out boxer fighting a meaningless existence in the not so distant world of robot boxing. But it's not just his redemption that had me begging for more. There's also the story of his son, who just lost his mother and has no father. And Atom: a Gen Two sparring bot so worthless he doesn't even qualify as garbage. Throw in the romantic plot line of a woman who believes in a man that's lost his way and Real Steel had me cheering and crying. (Yeah. I cry in movies. But with the dark theater and my face in the popcorn bucket no one can see.)

I've been studying story structure recently and loved this one. The only reason I can see it garnered the PG-13 was maybe for robot violence, but the swears I caught were of the hell and damn variety, of which there was only one or two. Overall, I thought the acting was awesome, the animation/special effects were incredibly well done, and the story was very well written.

But emotionally, I was completely high coming out of that theater. I wanted more. I wanted to read the book. Buy the soundtrack. Get a figure of Atom for my desk. I'm going to be thinking about it for days. And isn't that what we like most about good stories? That we can chew on them for days and weeks at a time? Maybe it was just the IMAX experience, but I doubt it.

So if you have a chance, see Real Steel and let me know what you think.

[Click to watch the trailer on YouTube]
My other film recommendation is Chinatown starring Jack Nicholson. Its an older flick that came out in 1974. It's rated R for violence and brief nudity. It was discussed heavily in Robert McKee's book, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting.

Chinatown is a well written detective story with a killer cast (Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway are amazingly young). While the story kept me guessing, I have to say the quality of the writing and the actor's abilities to pull it off were what made the movie. There is so much sub-text that goes unsaid that you really have to watch the actors body language and expressions to get all of it. It was so good that I had to watch it a couple times just to see the emotional reactions on their faces.

So if you want to see a good look at dialog and sub-text, give Chinatown a try.

Oh, and one more thing about Chinatown...

*** Spoiler Alert *** Spoiler Alert ***

I can't believe the bad guy gets away with it! It's one of those movies that completely leaves you stunned at the end because it just has such a rough ending.

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