Graduation Day! Now Filmhash.com

So we’ve graduated to a “real” website! WordPress is a great way to start a blog, but we’re now using Squarespace, which is pretty awesome.

There’s a lot of new things about the site, but we were able to bring over all of our old content (including comments)! And if you were one of our subscribers on here, you can do the same thing on the new site!

We hope you come over and read the new site, as this will be the last update on this version of Filmhash.

If you have any suggestions, feel free to comment here, we’d love to hear them!

Oh, and please update all your bookmarks to Filmhash.com!

Review: Seven Days in Utopia

This review originally appeared on Cinedelphia.com

Seven Days in Utopia is perhaps the most blatant piece of propaganda I have recently come across in mainstream cinema. The new “inspirational” sports drama based on the novel Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia follows young pro golfer Luke Chisholm (Lucas Black) as he learns zen and the art of proper putting technique under the tutelage of reformed drunk and retired PGA golfer Johnny Crawford (Robert Duvall) in Utopia, Texas.

This film treads entirely on the surface and how Luke ends up in Utopia is inconsequential. Suffice it to say that after a dismal performance at the previous year’s Texas Open complete with grown man temper tantrums, the relationship between Luke and his overbearing father and caddy implodes on national television. Still haunted by the event, Luke drives off in a huff towards Utopia, narrowly misses hitting a cow in the middle of the road, and instead crashes into Johnny’s fence. Just like God’s green earth, the car will take seven days to make new again, which is perfect because that’s exactly how long it takes for Luke to get back his game face under Johnny’s ever watchful eye.

What follows is a bland sequence of formulaic events spanning the titular seven days and the following PGA Texas Open. By divine grace, Johnny  just happens to have built a golf course in this town of less than 500 people and each day Luke learns a different lesson about life and golf in an unorthodox way. “[Blank] is a lot like golf,” says Johnny, and like a white southern Mr. Miyagi he proceeds to tutor Luke in the ways of fly fishing, painting, and even aviation, all the while insisting that these activities have connections to “the game.” And as any good man with daddy issues can do, Luke rolls his eyes and obeys.

It isn’t until the third act that Seven Days clumsily morphs from a run-of-the-mill inspiration film into one of outright evangelical Christian recruitment. I was not entirely prepared to find Luke on his knees crying in prayer, or see Johnny stride into a church on Easter morning with a country-rock song repeating the words “born again” playing in the background. The Christian angle even includes a chaste romantic relationship between Luke and Sarah, a drink of sweet southern tea played by Deborah Ann Woll (ironically of True Blood fame). There’s nothing more awkward then watching adults stumble through a conversation like they’re at a 5th grade dance. They get to hug!

Recruitment of any kind requires action and that’s precisely what we get as Seven Days presents the audience with probably the most random ending I have ever seen. Per the sports film formula, Luke is in the showdown of his life to determine the winner of the Texas Open. He takes out his secret weapon, a club bestowed to him by Johnny, and takes his shot. Freeze! The camera then pans upward towards the heavens before we are able to see if in fact fly fishing is the secret to sinking a putt. I sat through this movie, even resisted a bathroom break to see this guy get his mandatory redemption and instead I was met with a black screen and the phrase,  “to continue the journey…go to http://www.didhemaketheputt.com.”; Yes, a website. Needless to say, this was met with laughs at our screening. If the website (which launches today) is anything like the one for the book, it is a direct call for church membership.

Religious browbeating aside, Seven Days is at its core a poorly made film. Director Matthew Dean Russell cuts hard and fast in an attempt to create moments of drama and emotion where, quite frankly, there are none to be had. Four screenwriters are credited for this film and it shows with dialogue that is stilted, hokey, and devoid of the very conviction the movie is trying to impress upon viewers. And for a film that probably didn’t need any, Seven Days also features some of the worst effects shots I’ve seen all year which is disappointing given Russell’s background as an effects supervisor.

This film is obviously made for a subculture I don’t understand, and I want to respect it as such. I could actually forgive its self-righteousness if the film was able to tell a good story in an interesting way. But it doesn’t. Ultimately, Seven Days in Utopia is an advertisement that treats its audience like sheep in every way imaginable.

Rehash: Oscars, Green Lantern, Raiders, Voldemort

Each Friday we bring you the biggest film news and a smattering of the more interesting movie-related bits around the web! We call it Rehash! To get our thoughts on film news throughout the week, follow Jill on Twitter!

Comics artist Stuart Immonen and his wife Kathryn bring you the first installment of Voldemort’s One Hour Service:

Movieline posted their first Oscar race analysis! It’s on!


Dan Meth made a great video compilation about the Twin Towers’ appearance in films.

Parks and Recreation Showrunner Michael Schur gives a master class on his favorite comedy, Cheers.

The Art of the Title looks at the retro propaganda Captain America credits.

Charlie Jane Anders at ion wrote a great piece on adapting source material, specifically focused on the success of Iron Man and the failure of Green Lantern. Here’s an excerpt:

The lesson of Green Lantern is, pandering to vocal fans of a property almost never pays off. And taking liberties often does. Look at J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, which outraged a huge segment of old-school Trek fans and yet managed to tell a strong story that delighted audiences everywhere. Look at Russell T. Davies’ Doctor Who relaunch, which did away with the Time Lords and recast the Doctor as a scarred war veteran. And yeah, look at Iron Man.

The fans will go see the movie anyway — even if they complain bitterly afterwards. Pulling in the mass audience, though, requires taking some risks with the material and crafting something that is going to look character-focused and fun to a casual watcher. And this is doubly true with a property like Green Lantern, which has almost no popular recognition.

Read the whole article here.

Netflix pricing changes went into effect on September 1st. Read the details!

George Lucas continues his quest for the perfect Star Wars Trilogy, little does he know he already made it 30+ years ago. It was confirmed this week that the latest Blu-ray edition will feature loads of new additions including Jawas that blink (because that’s crucial), and even new dialogue. There’s no shortage of coverage for this news but here’s one article to get you started. I also rant about it here.

The Coen brothers continue to make movie magic with the announcement of their latest project about the 1960s folk music scene in Greewich Village.

Lastly, Cinedelphia takes a look back at TLA Video in Philadelphia, a video rental store chain that will be closing its doors after almost thirty years in the area. Coverage includes personal memories from former and current employees, and the legacy that video rental stores leave behind.

Have a great weekend, and as always, we’ll be back on Monday!

Netflix Instant Pick: Disney’s “New” Princesses

Every week we recommend something we love that is available via Netflix instant view, the greatest thing ever created! Enjoy!

Sorry gentlemen, I had the gals in mind when I decided on today’s Netflix Instant Picks. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the magic of “classic” Disney! This is especially the case with our first film based on the Rapunzel fairy tale but marketed to both girls and boys as the gender neutral Tangled (2010). Originally titled Rapunzel, filmmakers decided to change the title to Tangled after The Princess and the Frog (2009) failed to draw in crowds a year before. For whatever reason frilly dresses and the word ‘princess’ scare away young male viewers. So they beefed up the male lead role of Flynn Rider (voice, Zachary Levi) to accompany Rapunzel (voice, Mandy Moore).

The film is by all accounts a literal translation of the classic fairy tale, but I can’t remember the last time I fell in love with a non-Pixar, Disney produced animated film. Needless to say it’s been awhile. Mandy Moore is excellent as Rapunzel, a sheltered young girl attempting to break free from her stepmother’s clutches for the first time in her life. The adventure she embarks on with Flynn as her guide is nothing short of pure fun. The music is also something to be treasured, and although it was the song “I See the Light” that earned an Oscar nomination, my favorite song and performance of the film has to be “Mother Knows Best” sung by Donna Murphy as evil stepmother Gothel. Also, artists schooled in the Pre-Raphaelite style will notice its influence in the visuals and color palettes throughout the film. It’s just one of the many ways Tangled blends traditional animation styling with sleek and modern CGI effects.

The Princess and the Frog was released just a year before Tangled and while it earned critical praise, it failed to be the financial success everyone had hoped it would be. The financial failure has little to do with the quality of the film and more to do with the difficulties of marketing an animated film without the Pixar seal. And as stated before, there’s that pesky word ‘princess’ in the title. It’s actually a shame because I did enjoy the film, although I can understand why it actually may have gone over kids heads a little.

Instead of setting the story in a “fairy tale” land, The Princess and the Frog is set in Jazz-era New Orleans in the 1930s. As fascinating a time as this era was, it encompasses very complex social, economic, and societal overtones that are difficult to fully articulate in a film aimed at children, although I was impressed that they existed at all. In the end, I think parents will get more out of a film like this, but the heart behind the character of “Princess” Tiana (voice, Anika Noni Rose) is hard to ignore. The film also boasts the voice talents of Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, and John Goodman. Never a bad thing!

Again the tale is quite straightforward but instead of a helpless ‘princess’ character, Tiana has her sights set on opening her own restaurant. She ends up getting sidetracked when a fateful kiss with a frog prince takes her down an unexpected road. Again, it’s not so much the story that appeals to me as my love for classic animation. The Princess and the Frog possesses some very memorable jazz-infused numbers that incorporate the traditional fantasy montage sequences we know and love from Disney. The artistry is something to be admired amidst the sea of 3D and CGI animated films.

Both Tangled and The Princess and the Frog are solid entries in Disney’s “Animated Classics” line, and proof that there are other viable studios besides Pixar producing quality family entertainment.

Watch Tangled

Watch The Princess and the Frog

Netflix Instant Pick runs every Thursday on Filmhash. Past picks are here.


The Cry Heard ‘Round the World

I think it’s safe to say that the rumors circulating around the internet the last few days are sadly true: George Lucas has again mucked with perfection. The new Blu-ray edition of the Star Wars Trilogy set to be released on September 16 will have a couple new additions to the beloved series, and this time one of them is audio.

In an attempt to further sync Episodes 4, 5, and 6 with the blasphemies known as Episodes 1, 2, and 3, Darth Vader can now be heard yelling “NOOOOOOOO” as he stops the Emperor from killing Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi. You’ll remember the same Vader cry at the end of Revenge of the Sith when his transformation to evil is complete. At least that’s the point of all this hoopla. To integrate a trilogy everyone loves with a trilogy we would all love to forget.

My anger towards this move by Lucas has little to do with money. He and everyone else can try to take my money, but at the end of the day the choice is up to me as to whether I fork it over. It’s really a non-issue at this point. My confusion instead lies with why this man feels the need to mess with a masterpiece. At the time of its release, Star Wars was on the cutting edge of technology, translating the available visual effects resources into a world beyond imagination. It’s proven to be a game-changer of a movie, a source of inspiration for all. So why all the changes?

Obviously a lot has changed in movies in the past thirty years. Special effects are more brilliant and gorgeously rendered then ever. So maybe I can understand why Lucas, devoid of these advancements the first time around, would want to use them to create a “bigger, better” Star Wars experience, perhaps closer to the picture he had/has in his head. Maybe the idea of Star Wars was so ahead of it’s time in the late 70s, early 80s that Lucas did what he could and was merely waiting for the technology to catch up. The problem is, when the technology has matched Lucas’ vision and he makes his changes, he’s met with criticism every time.

The last additions to the Star Wars Trilogy included among other things a digitally rendered Jabba the Hutt, a prolonged music segment at Jabba’s palace, Hayden Christensen replacing Sebastian Shaw as Anakin, and digitally rendered celebrations around the galaxy when the Empire is defeated at the end of Return of the Jedi (I will admit, I didn’t mind that addition so much). What results is a patchwork quilt of new and old technology that takes away the endearing aspects of Star Wars. I remember the outcry following these changes, and it sounds a bit familiar this time around, only more bitter than before.

By adding a battle cry to Return of the Jedi, Lucas is changing the emotion, the tension, and the flow of the original scene. I can understand the want of symmetry between films. In the “new” scene, Vader recalls his own destruction at the hands of the Emperor, and refuses to see his son endure the same future. So with a resounding “NOOOOOOOO” we are taken back to Episode 3 and a light goes off and everything gets tied up in a nice bow. But what about viewers seeing Return of the Jedi in 1983? With no Episode 3 to recall, how did they understand what was happening? Believe me, it’s not a far leap. The original silence on the part of Vader as his son is slowly being killed takes the viewer inside the character to the battle waging in his head. I don’t need a verbal indication that Vader is now battling his own demon as well as Luke’s. The slow panning of the camera into Vader’s face as he looks from Luke to the Emperor and then finally moves in for the kill is enough for me. The scene is still full of tension, and quite frankly, is a lot less lame.

Maybe the verdict is still out on these most recent changes. After all, the only clip available isn’t even from the Blu-ray. Maybe this ranting has been for naught. No one would be happier then me. But for future reference, coming from a historical/preservationist mindset that at times is resistant to change, sometimes it’s best to just let a masterpiece rest in peace.

From the List of Shame, File #14: From Dusk Till Dawn

While we have seen many films, there are many films that are held in high regard that we haven’t seen yet. As we cross them off our List of Shame, we’ll write about them here!

As a fan of Tarantino (though not an apologist), I have been meaning to go through and watch films made from other screenplays he’s written. With the current vampire craze still undead and kickin’, I decided to dive in and watch From Dusk Till Dawn, his take on the Horror/Vamp genre, directed by his friend Robert Rodriguez.

I’m not a huge fan of Rodriguez’s sensibilities, but it seems like Tarantino wrote the script with him in mind. From Dusk Till Dawn is really two films, the first half comprising of the Gecko brothers, Seth and Richard, (played by George Clooney and Tarantino) en route to Mexico after a bloody robbery in Texas. The second half of the film has them attempting to survive a massive vampire attack along with their family of hostages while waiting in a strip club/bar. The tone of each half is wildly different. The first half really does feel like a gritty crime escape film with Tarantino dialogue rhythms, while the second half retains the dialogue but abandons all semblance of being anything but an adrenaline-fueled B-movie.

Many people will love one half of the film, but may not enjoy the other. I actually enjoyed both halves equally, though for different reasons. In the beginning, we see the tension and comedy that we know and love from Tarantino, while the second half of the film shows off the twisted exploration shlock he and Rodriguez love (remember, this movie predates Grindhouse).

As far as vampire flicks go, this is definitely on the low end. Although the creatures in the film resemble monsters with vampire-like attributes, they aren’t developed all that much in terms of mythology. I guess they at least start out sexy, if you’re into strippers. There’s no glamouring, or much bloodsucking, really.  For the purposes of the film, they may as well be zombies with a love of bats and an aversion to crosses.

I think it’s interesting that Tarantino is so willing to cast himself in the role of the unhinged pervert Richard Gecko, next to George Clooney’s more level-headed Seth Gecko (To my knowledge it’s the second time Tarantino has done this). It’s good to know he isn’t playing roles attempting to glamorize himself (God, I hope not), and this is also the most overt exhibition of his infamous foot fetishizing.

It’s hard for me to deny the fun appeal of this movie, but there were a lot of “Of course!” moments during the film for me. “Of course” the strippers are vampires! “Of course” Clooney builds a pneumatic auto-stake weapon! “Of course” the sun comes up just in time!

I’m not saying this is a great film, but if you like Tarantino and/or Rodriquez, there are worse ways to spend a lazy weekend afternoon.

List of Shame Files normally appears on Wednesdays. Previous entries are here.

First Look: Hunger Games Trailer

The world got its first look at the new Hunger Games teaser trailer at, of all places, this year’s MTV Video Music Awards last night (a ploy to attract viewers may haps?). While I didn’t subject myself to the telecast, I received an ample play-by-play via twitter that kept me up to speed with Beyonce’s baby bump, Gaga’s gender bending, and of course, the debut of the trailer and first reactions.

The trailer is very short, not even clocking in at one minute, but it manages to tell us many things about how the story, and the movie as a whole, are being handled by director Gary Ross. Some of the footage appears shaky in the beginning, suggesting a guerrilla style filmmaking that may actually work considering the subject matter. There’s also a voiceover by Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss’ closest friend back at District 12. For non-readers of the book series, Gale doesn’t have a major role in the first book, but it appears they are beefing up his role in the first film to firmly establish his existing relationship with Katniss, and emphasize the beginnings of the love triangle between Katniss, Gale, and fellow District 12 Tribute Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).

I love the idea of a voiceover to bring Gale’s character into the film, and I’m curious if he will have a running presence throughout the film. I’m also happy to report that it looks like Jennifer Lawrence has successfully mastered the bow and arrow. But, I didn’t expect anything less from someone who can filet a squirrel.

All in all, my curiosity is pretty piqued by the trailer. However, I am growing slightly wary of this film overexposing itself; building up so much hype that it slowly crashes in on itself like a dying star (ten points to the person that can name that reference). I have tremendous hopes for this film, my biggest hope being that it manages to develop itself into a film series that treats its audience like adults, despite its source material. Love triangles are juicy, but I want to see this gal kick some ass!