Finding Money in Hollywood Just Got Easier

SFinding Money in Hollywood Just Got Easier

For the past several years (depending on who you ask, anywhere between 10 and 30), film and TV productions have been trickling out of the Movie Capital of World and into other states and even other countries. The exodus has been blamed mainly on the tax and other financial breaks and incentives other cities — like New York, Baltimore, and even Albuquerque — have offered to productions in search of filming locations. Hollywood, on the other hand has not updated its tax incentive program for six years instead, it seems, relying on the rich history of the locations they have and the allure of the cities widely regarded name.

In that time, Hollywood’s program has become hopelessly outstripped by other cities. To make the difference clear, compare the 100 million dollar pool of incentives (doled out by a mystifying lottery system) to the 423 million offered in New York. Offered those financial choices and armed with the ability to greenscreen actors anywhere in the world afforded by modern technology, it’s no wonder even big name movies are taking their business elsewhere.

Faced with the very real potential of losing its reputation as the place to film, Hollywood is finally wising up! At the Chinese Theatre (a classic theatre in Hollywood associated with many great film premieres throughout history, including, among others, Star Wars and famed for the handprints and footprints of famous stars that line it’s forecourt) Governor Jerry Brown will sign the “California Film and Television Job Retention and Promotion Act” and officially turn the bill into a law. This bill will more than triple the amount in the incentive pool, increasing the amount from 100 million all the way to 330 million. It will also change the way those incentives are distributed, giving the boot to the blind lottery system and enacting a process that will give funds based on how many jobs a production will generate.

Hollywood may be down, but it is certainly not out thanks to this bill. And it may have come just in time with TV really starting to generate critical acclaim and momentum in the entertainment industry there are going to be more productions and more hours of filming than ever this coming season. Dust off the cameras, Tinseltown is back!


justin perich neighborsNeighbors – As both a writer and director, Nicholas Stoller has proved himself capable of delivering highly enjoyable comedies which gently subvert expectations and tropes. In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Jason Segal’s Peter Bretter failed to win the Hawaiian girl back with the speech and had to return back to the mainland and get his life together before she’d consider taking him back. In The Five Year Engagement, the story begins where most movies end, the man proposing to the woman, and we get to see what happens when the butterflies fade and reality settles in. Neighbors has a similarly subtle uniqueness in its comedic approach to married life and generational struggles. The story finds Mac and Kelly Radner (played with heart and charm by Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) living next door to a frat house in a college town, run by Teddy and Pete (Zac Efron and Dave Franco, respectively). What begins as a mutual respect between two “families” turns into all out war between the old and the young, the so-called mature and immature. This is a movie largely made by and for men, but writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien are to be commended for creating a major female character who is just as fun and complex as her male counterpart. Gone is the tired dumb dad and nagging wife routine–here Rogen and Byrne split the laughs and hijinks equally. While not as groundbreaking as the success of Bridesmaids a few years ago, the fact that male artists in showbiz are getting the hint and rising to the modest challenge of the Bechdel test is a good sign for the future of Hollywood. And on a basic level, Neighbors is just plain funny. 4/5 stars.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

justin perich captain americaCaptain America: The Winter Soldier – The latest Marvel movie is a nonstop action ride that will hold your attention from start to finish and not a second longer. Chris Evans, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, and Scarlett Johansson all turn in solid if somewhat stiff performances in this flick conventionally directed by Anthony Russo, a newcomer to the superhero genre who spends his allotted two hours attempting to build his bonafides by playing it safe and following his predecessors. As a result, the film never reaches the heights of The Avengers, Joss Whedon’s clever and inventive smash hit from a few years ago. Following the events of that movie, The Winter Soldier gives us a Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) living a quiet life in DC, attempting to adapt to modern life until another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is put in danger. The Captain teams up with the Black Widow and the Falcon to kick some ass, uncover an enormous global conspiracy, and save the day. It’s a formula we pay for and formula we get with this one–fortunately and surprisingly, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely pen their best script yet, and the resulting films includes enough comedy, tension and pathos that we find ourselves caring about the characters the way you might care about an action figure toy–it may be lifeless and a dime a dozen, but there’s undoubtably a connection there. 4/5 stars.


justin perich herHer – My personal favorite for the Best Picture Oscar, Spike Jonze’s Her tells the story of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely man living in a slightly futuristic Los Angeles who earns his living writing intimate, handwritten letters for other people. By now, those who haven’t seen the movie have already heard what happens next–Theodore falls in love with an artificially intelligent operating system (played pitch-perfectly by Scarlett Johansson). But the strength of the movie is that it succeeds not only in its novel premise, but in its uniquely satisfying execution. Her is a movie that never stops building on its own ideas. It makes you think not only about technology’s ever-growing role in society, but about human relationships in general. The romance is played perfectly straight, like any other movie about two individuals negotiating the delicate dance of falling in love. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema’s LA of the near future is brilliant in its simplicity, in its warm, glowing, colorful nostalgia for a past that never quite was (art direction, sets, and costumes by Austin Gorg, Gene Serdena, and Casey Storm, respectively). Lastly, supporting performances by Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde, and Rooney Mara, as well as a dynamic score by Arcade Fire, make Her the leader of the pack in a year of terrific films. 5/5 stars.

The Wolf of Wall Street

justin perich wolfThe Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest venture is earning a fair amount of praise and a fair amount of criticism. Based on the bestselling memoir by Jordan Belfort, the film tells the story of one corrupt stockbroker and potential sociopath’s rise to wealth and power, as well as his inevitable decline–though many would say he never fell quite as far as he deserved. Critics an audiences alike are charging the film with glorifying immoral behavior and endorsing Belfort specifically (the now motivational speaker made $1 million on movie rights), but for me this is besides the point. The real problem with Wolf is not that it glorifies bad behavior, but that it actually partakes in bad behavior, cinematically speaking. The movie attempts to match Mr. Belfort’s excessive, obnoxious, and hollow story by being excessive, obnoxious, and hollow in its writing and editing, making for an exceedingly dull story thinly veiled in the shocking spectacle of yachts, nude women, and copious drug mounds. It is impossible to care about any of these characters or their situation, and one walks out of the cinema feeling conned. Jonah Hill’s presence only serves to the muddle the tone–as soon as he’s on screen, the scenes devolve into awkward, reality-breaking adlib which comes off as overly smug, as though the film is laughing too hard at its own jokes. While it’s true that Wolf condemns the lifestyle it depicts, it doesn’t really do so until the very last shot, as Belfort confounds an audience at a sales seminar and they look on in hapless wonder. “Look at you, sitting there,” the movie is saying. “Something in you is charmed by behavior, and because of that you’re the problem.” The moment is heavy-handed and frankly unearned, as the film is not nearly so charming as it thinks it is. 3/5 stars.


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

justin perich hobbitThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – The best thing that can be said about Peter Jackson’s second stab at Bilbo’s tale, and fifth stab at Middle Earth, is that it has more in common with what The Lord of the Rings did right than it has in common with what An Unexpected Journey did wrong. Pretty much everyone agrees that the first Hobbit movie was too long, too bloated, and too slow–we watched with dropped jaws as the dwarves washed dishes for fifteen minutes–and this second installment at least does not seem to suffer as much from Peter Jackson’s overly abundant love for his source material. This film charges forward from the very start with all the drive and purpose it’s predecessor lacked, and it finds almost enough pure popcorny, blockbustery charm, wonder, and suspense to justify its near three-hour length. In the film, Bilbo (played by the always impeccable Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen obviously, what hobbit hole have you been living under if you don’t know that?), and thirteen dwarves make their way into the Kingdom of Erebor, past Orcs and Giant Spiders to eventually battle the terrifically CGI-ed Smaug (Freeman’s Sherlock co-star and notable sea otter Benedict Cumberbatch), and there’s plenty of subplots involving Elves, Wizards, and bear-men. As always, Jackson proves capable at creating more and more worlds within Middle Earth, each more aesthetically pleasing and/or terrifying than the last. But when it comes right down to it, he’s still taking nine hours to tell a story J.R.R. Tolkien told in less than 300 pages. It’s still butter scraped over too much bread. In order to pad the material, Jackson makes every event important, and if everything’s important then nothing’s important. And he still hasn’t got a handle on his biggest flaw as a filmmaker and story teller–too much action divorced from character. 3/5 stars.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

justin perich catching fireThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire – The second installment of the bestselling Suzanne Collins series was made with almost twice the budget, and for once a sequel has twice as much to recommend it. For starters, there’s the new director Francis Lawrence, a vast improvement over the talented but somewhat ill-fitting Gary Ross, who helmed the first of the franchise. Not that the original was bad, no not at all, but every book in the series was practically written for a film adaptation, and The Hunger Games (2012) only succeeded in that it didn’t mess up a good thing. On the other hand, Catching Fire takes its source material, honors it, but actually improves upon it, finding subtle levels of human condition and cultural relevance that just aren’t there in the written word. This is in part thanks to the widely accomplished screenwriters, Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 HoursThe Full Monty) and Michael Arndt (Oblivion, Brave, Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3), and partly thanks to the special effects team, but mostly due to the movie’s star, Jennifer Lawrence. In her second time embodying Katniss Everdeen, Lawrence expands out into the role and recreates the character in even more detail, even more honesty, and even more strength. The rest of the film’s elements amount to very effectively collected and very carefully placed tinder, but her performance is the flame that keeps the film alight the full 140 minutes. 5/5 stars.

Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips

Justin Perich Captain PhillipsCaptain Phillips – It’s always a pleasant surprise to see an actor who’s been an A-lister for 25 years hit notes you didn’t know they had, and Tom Hanks hits a whole slew of them in Paul Greengrass’s latest true-life piracy thriller. While the accent is reminiscent of his turn as Carl Hanratty in Catch Me If You Can, Hanks brings to life the character of Captain Richard Phillips with stunning power, depth, and authenticity that helped keep me on the edge of my seat the whole 134 minutes. The other knockout performance in this piece that won’t get nearly enough hype is Barkhad Abdi’s portrayal of the pirate leader Abduwali Muse. It’s his screen debut, and he’s managed to create one of the most captivating villains I’ve seen on film. I also give top marks to the writing, directing, and cinematography–rarely does a Hollywood blockbuster make me care so much about the characters, and and unfold their story with so much detail and nuance. Unlike Gravity, I missed the IMAX experience so I can’t say whether or not the extra ten bucks is worth it, but I can say with certainly that Captain Phillips will blow you away on the average big screen. 5/5 stars.