The importance of the story world


One of the often forgotten parts of storytelling is the story world, and it is one of the more important aspects. The world in which the story takes place can help shape a character into an infinite number of possibilities, much like our world can shape us. Other times, it can take on a life of its own and have a range of emotions and settings.


This is one aspect that can make film analysis so much fun. There are endless possibilities for a story world and what it can bring to the story. Will it be harsh and unforgiving, like in “Seven” or “Ikiru”? Will it be adventurous and exciting, like in the “Indiana Jones” films? Or will it be mysterious and unexpected, like with “The Maltese Falcon” or “North By Northwest”?


But this brings up a point that I’ve learned about story world over the years. Something that has helped me to appreciate certain films more than I normally would: That every single film takes place in its own little world.


That the film has its own custom-made world, with its own set of rules and boundaries. This is obvious for certain films that don’t take place on our earth, like “The Lord Of The Rings” or “Star Wars,” but even the ordinary films too, like “The Lady From Shanghai” or “The Birdman Of Alcatraz.”


No matter how close the film may seem to our reality, it is still different enough that it warrants its own unique world, separate from any other world.

The Mystery Of The King Of Monsters


So why do I do this? For starters, I use it to explain away certain gaps in logic and reality. Let’s use the Godzilla films as an example, or any other giant monster movie. If Godzilla were to attack Japan in our reality, nothing would come from it. A creature of Godzilla’s mass, size and strength could not even be able to stand up, let alone terrorize Tokyo.


But, if you substitute our world with a custom-made world, where the laws of gravity and physics don’t apply in the same way they do here, then you can have a 100-meter fire-breathing dinosaur destroy major cities.


Those problems fade away when you remove yourself from our reality and try to think about the film in terms of its own logic and laws. Thus, you are less distracted by nit-picky plot points and can focus on more important matters.



However, some films thrive on being related to certain events in history, like “The Manchurian Candidate,” “The Best Years Of Our Lives” and “Amadeus.” Part of the reason these films work as well as they do is because they speak to the world and tell them something that they need to hear or remember.


Suddenly, if you think about that film in its own little reality, it might lose some of its meaning.


But that’s the beauty of storytelling. There will always be their inherent trait within us to relate what we see with our own reality. Even though we may see “Godzilla” taking place in its own world, we still remember how it is reflected upon our universe and that its message of atomic testing and the advancement of weapons have an impact on us.


There is always going to be that shared point between the true reality and the film reality. That point where we can see how this world came to be and how it operates, but also how it was shaped by our world. It is why we can relate to characters like George Bailey, Atticus Finch and Marge Gunderson. They live in a world not so different from our own and have the same desires as us: To live our their lives freely, prosperously and happy.



If you remove that shared point, which so many bad films do, like “Battlefield Earth” or “Sharknado,” then you remove the humanity in your film, thus giving your audience no reason to care about your characters.


It is about finding that balance between the two worlds where the audience can understand both. Because film is a gateway into another reality, or at least another perspective. We see how certain beliefs, actions or events in history can have an impact on this new undiscovered world. It is up to you as the audience to explore this new territory and find what is worth bringing back home.


That is why it is fun to think every film takes place in its own little world. Not so different from ours, but at the same time, worth looking into.


Trailer Talk: “Fifty Shades Of Grey”


I have not read “Fifty Shades Of Grey.” I do not want to read “Fifty Shades Of Grey.” And I think a movie adaptation of “Fifty Shades Of Grey” that isn’t X-Rated is ridiculous.

While I may not have read the best-selling novel, I know enough about it. I know that the first draft of “Fifty Shades Of Grey” was just “Twilight” fan fiction. I know that “Fifty Shades Of Grey” is essentially soft core porn with a flimsy excuse for a story to only serve as a vehicle to get to the sexy stuff.

And it baffles me that this would get to become a best-selling novel and become a cultural phenomenon. Especially with the abundance of porn on the internet, you’d think that novels about sex would have taken a dip in sales.

But, maybe it is because some people prefer that kind of stuff in written form, thus leaving much of it to the imagination. If that’s the case, then what’s the point of turning it into a movie, where nothing is left to the imagination?

If it were a porno, then I’d understand. But by making it an R-rated film and giving it a Hollywood-sized budget, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Well, maybe not financial failure, but certainly a storytelling and filmmaking failure.

Starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, and directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, this is “Fifty Shades Of Grey.”

Let me make this clear: There is nothing wrong with liking “Fifty Shades Of Grey” or even soft core porn. But there is a time and place for that, and works like “Fifty Shades Of Grey” should show that time and place. If the most lasting reputation of your novel is the pornography, then the same should be reflected in your movie adaptation.

However, something like that cannot be done effectively without it becoming a porno. When you try to mix a young adult Hollywood relationship, like those seen in “The Faults In Our Stars,” “The Notebook” and even the “Twilight” films, with sexy time, I honestly don’t know what you get.

I can say that I do not know what to expect from this film. Is it going to be more about the relationship between the characters, or about the sex? Will it fall into many of the other romance clichés and tropes or will it give the audience exactly what they got in the book?

In any case, I have no interest in seeing this film. If I want a sappy romance, there are several landfills full of those types of movies. If I want soft core BDSM porn, though I can’t imagine why I would, that’s what the internet is for. Google can solve many life problems now.


I don’t see “Fifty Shades of Grey” offering anything new or interesting. Just an excuse to cash in on the popularity of the novels.

Excitement Level: Not interested


Movie Review: “The Great Race” (1965)


I mentioned this back in my “Duel Of The Sun” review, but I find the concept of the “epic” genre  fascinating. They don’t make movies like an epic anymore. There might be some films that have a grand scale, like “The Lord Of The Rings” films, but because it’s all a fantasy and not based on historical events, something just doesn’t quite feel right.

What makes an epic movie is not just the scale or the enormous cast of characters or cast of thousands, but that the film is also a depiction of our past. A point in history where the lives of millions of people are affected and the course of humanity is forever changed. It is why films like “Lawrence Of Arabia,” “The Ten Commandments” and “Ben-Hur” are the first movies often mentioned when thinking of an epic.

But what about epic films of a different genre? Can epics only be limited to action pieces or drama?

While it is rare to see an epic step outside of these boundaries, there are  a few that exist beyond that realm. One such film is Blake Edwards’ epic comedy, “The Great Race,” that chronicles the 1908 Great American Car Race from New York to Paris. While the film takes great liberties with historical events, it is all in the name of comedy, according to Edwards. Though the film does have some unbelievably funny moments, due to some wonderful comedic acting, there is part of me that feels a bit weirded out by the films perspective and way of conveying comedy.

The world is taken aback by the famous stuntman, the daring, dashing, smooth and proper, the Great Leslie (Tony Curtis), as he performs acts these amazing feats of bravery, always coming out clean and handsome. But it seems all the attention Leslie has garnered has attracted another person who wants the spotlight, the cold, calculating, uncaring, wise and incompetent, Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon). Their constant need to out-do one another has created a rivalry that promises to end in disaster, especially for Fate.

When Leslie offers to show the true power and strength of an American automobile by conducting a race around the world, Professor Fate vows to enter the competition with his own car and finally defeat Leslie once and for all. Things become even more complicated when a female driver enters the race, Maggie DuBois (Natalie Wood), to prove that a woman can do anything a man can do, and fights for the affection of the Great Leslie.


So, based on the plot description, could you tell what I might find strange about this film? If not, then let me describe Leslie and Professor Fate in more detail. Leslie is perfect in every conceivable way. He always wins, gets the last word, he is smooth with the ladies, always finds the easiest way to outsmart the villain and succeeds with flying colors. Fate is always scheming, trying to find a way to get rid of Leslie, wants the world to see how great he is, but is always outdone by his own stupidity.

Do you get it now? This is the same relationship between Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are, for all intents-and-purposes, playing live action versions of their Looney Tune counterparts.

I have no idea if this was intentional or not. I know that Blake Edwards was trying to pay homage to silent cinema, with all the slapstick, outrageous and over the top characters, parodies of other genres and the tribute to Laurel and Hardy. But I feel this film owes more to the Looney Tunes than it does silent cinema.

Professor Fate and his sidekick Max (Peter Falk) are able to survive a lot of outlandish crashes, explosions and mishaps with nothing more than a few scratches or bruises. They have their garage blow up on them twice and are ready for the race the next day. They are launched over a mile into the air by a rocket and come down in on a farm and just walk it off. If that isn’t cartoon logic, I don’t know what is.

During the famous pie fight sequence, Leslie is a spectator throughout the entire festive brawl, yet is able to avoid getting hit by a pie with just a simple turning of the body. Just like Bug Bunny, he never gets hurt and laughs off competition with little more than a smile.

If “The Great Race” were paying homage to the Looney Tunes, then I would see nothing wrong with this. But because Leslie and Fate’s personalities are so much like Bugs and Daffy, it is hard to imagine these characters as nothing more than their cartoon counterparts. Thus, they feel more like caricatures instead of characters.


The only time the film strays from this is when they take a break from the race and have the caricatures do something else, such as prevent a rebellion in a smile European nation ruled by a monarch who happens to look like Professor Fate (also played by Jack Lemmon).

These segments do not do the movie any favors. While they do add a variety of comedy and help build up the world of this film, these scenes are so far removed from the racing sequences that its hard to care about any of these new characters introduced two-thirds of the way through the film.

“The Great Race” is at its strongest when they focus on the racing and the continued rivalry between Leslie and Fate. When it tries to do anything else, like trying to replace the monarch with Professor Fate, the film loses my interests fast.

However, the film does contain many solid slapstick sequences, especially in the beginning when Professor Fate attempts to sabotage Leslie’s stunts. As much as his plans resemble that of Daffy Duck or Wile E. Coyote, they are still fun to watch as they backfire stupendous. To see his missile, designed to attack the loudest engine, go for Leslie’s speedboat, only to turn around when Fate starts up the engine of his broken down automobile, does get a good chuckle out of me.


Which is why I have such mixed feelings about “The Great Race.” While I am uncertain about the parallels between the films’ main characters and the Looney Tunes, there are plenty of well-timed jokes and some great comedic acting from Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

I will think of “The Great Race” as a two and a half-hour long episode of the Looney Tunes, only on a grander scale. From locations all across the world, to understanding the tension for women’s rights in the 1900s, to the constant struggle to find out which nation builds the best automobile, the sense of time and scope is massive.

Though the film may drag at points, “The Great Race” was an enjoyable ride that offers a different kind of epic that can be appreciated and respected for the size and absurdity of the comedy. Unlike its other epic counterparts, this film is about cramming as many laughs and pies as possible into the audiences’ face.

Final Grade: B-

Movie Review: “Life Itself” (2014)


What separates good writers from the generation-defining writers is how they are able to add their passion and personality through the simple use of words. That through the phrases and metaphors, there lies a person who has feelings and beliefs that touch the reader and set up a relationship between the two.

Roger Ebert was one such writer.

While I did not know Roger, I felt an instantaneous connection with him just by reading his reviews. Not just a shared love of cinema, but a passion to live life to the fullest and enjoy what really matters. His writing made me appreciate what this world had to offer and to narrow in on my own passions in life.

Whether or not you agreed with Roger Ebert’s reviews and opinions on movies, you could always admire and respect what he had to offer. His insights were intelligent, insightful, often funny and thought-provoking. He hit at the core of what film criticism should do: Be the beginning of a discussion on cinema, art and life itself.


Perhaps this is why Roger Ebert was my biggest idol while working on film criticism. Even while the man was being treated for thyroid cancer, losing the ability to speak, eat and drink, Roger never gave up on what he loved. He never lost his sense of humor, and continued to help fellow upcoming filmmakers see their full potential. Though he was mostly hospitalized, he still found ways to sneak out and go see a movie. You could never take that away from Roger.

It is also why I am having a difficult time writing this review on the documentary about Roger Ebert’s life, “Life Itself.” For one, documentaries about a person’s life are difficult to comment on, as they chronicle the ups, downs, side-splitting and tear-jerking moments of existing. There is not much to say without repeating exactly what the movie said, except that what I say probably wouldn’t be as insightful.

I am practically reviewing another human’s time on this planet.

Second, Roger Ebert shaped the film community and by making film criticism exciting to listen to. People would tune in on a weekly basis to see what Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert thought of the newest films out at the time, which is baffling considering that these two would talk about movies like “An American Tale,” “Crash” and “Porky’s.”

Third is what Roger meant to me. When I started getting into film criticism, I had opinions and ideas of what I thought was good cinema. But then I started to read some of Roger’s “Great Movies” reviews on films like “Rear Window” and “Ikiru.” And while I don’t necessarily think he taught me about what was good cinema, reading his reviews did teach me what I appreciated about cinema and to be passionate about my opinions and feelings. Roger understood that cinema, and art in general, is a subjective experience and will varying from person to person. So by embracing those differences and understanding why you like something, you have just gained a deeper appreciation of film and yourself.

One scene in particular that stood out to me in “Life Itself” was when, in the middle of a film conference, a young student stopped Roger to ask him a question about why he should be the big film critic. Why should he get to give us his opinions on movies and what makes him so high and mighty that he deserves this?

Roger said that, one, he is told by the editor-in-chief of the Chicago-Sun Times that he has the job title of “film critic” and his pay checks come from his film reviews, thus giving him the right to tell us about his opinions. The other was a simple question.

Would you want to listen to your own reviews? Is that something you’d like to read?


I couldn’t help but ask myself that same question the moment I heard it. Are my own reviews something I’d enjoying reading? But, more importantly, is that what separates a mediocre film critic from a good one? I’m not sure if I know the answer to that.

What I do know is that, even after Roger Ebert’s reviews have ceased, he still finds new ways to keep my mind intrigued and passion for cinema alive.

“Life Itself” is not just about what Roger Ebert brought to this world, but also how to appreciate life through a different lens. Roger once said that he was born in the film about his own life. He didn’t know how he got there, but he was always entertained by it.

Cinema offers a moral center that is often overlooked and goes unappreciated. But when you look at all the different types of movies out there, you realize its parallels to life are uncanny. Both can be beautiful, funny, heart-breaking, breath-taking, exciting, nerve-wracking, ugly, erotic, suspenseful, tragic, and most importantly, passionate.

Roger Ebert understood that more than most other people, and that’s why we loved him so much.


Movie Review: “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” (2014)


2011’s “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” was the pleasant summer blockbuster surprise of that year. I did not expect much from that movie, as the premise of a group of apes taking on the modern-day military in the heart of San Francisco seemed laughable at best. Yet, at its heart, the film was able to tell a wonderful story about overcoming inferiority and the downfall of man, with some touching performances by Andy Serkis and James Franco.

Part of the appeal of the “Planet Of The Apes” franchise, at least to me, is how much more clear our own flaws become when the tables are flipped. The original 1968 film was wonderful at doing just that, by having the apes be driven by keeping the image of their world in tact, even if that means destroying evidence that would jeopardize that image.

It also really helped that the 1968 film was co-written by Rod Serling, the creator and script writer for “The Twilight Zone.” When you put it in that perspective, suddenly the movie feels like an hour and half long episode of the show and with a bigger budget. Even down to the twist ending.


That ending makes “Planet Of The Apes” an anomaly in its own franchise, as every next film is built upon the twist that the planet “where apes evolved from men” was Earth all along. Sorry to spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it, but you probably knew that twist before you could talk.

The newest film in the franchise, “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes,” finds itself in a middle ground where humans are no longer in control of the planet, but apes have not fully risen to conquer it. While building off of the premise of the earlier ape film, this new one also adds depth and complexity of its characters, showing that the ape civilization is not that perfect.

Set ten years after the events of “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes,” the majority of the human population has been wiped out due to an airborne virus that also gave the apes their increased intelligence. Now a massive population of apes have amassed near San Francisco and have begun to live peacefully, with Caesar (Andy Serkis) as their leader, and believing that all humans are long gone.

Things change though when a hunting party stumbles across a small group of humans with guns, threatening to shoot every last ape. The humans flee when they realize how many apes there are, and Caesar finds out that a large group of humans have gathered in downtown San Francisco for refuge and are running out of power. A nearby dam, in ape territory, can give these humans a chance to survive, but Caesar and his followers are unwilling to let those damn dirty humans near it.


If there was one complaint I had with “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes,” it was that it tried far too hard to glorify the apes and make humans look terrible. It was to show that we weren’t as capable as we thought we were and that apes were caring creatures too, but the film really over sold that. It works better in more subtle ways and that film was about as subtle as a train wreck.

“Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” finds a nice middle ground where it shows the good and bad of both cultures. Both can be caring, nurturing, selfless and courageous, like fighting off a bear to protect your son or saving a dying ape with antibiotics. But each group can also jump to conclusions, be selfish, greedy and power-hungry, like Caesar’s second in command, Koba, constantly trying to overthrow him just to take his anger out on humans.

It makes both humans and apes easier when they’re shown to be sympathetic to others, but also be flawed and hasty when making tough decisions. It leaves Caesar at an cross-road where he can see the good in humans, but also the bad in his own kind, and thus the evil in himself. That his pride and arrogance blinded him to Koba’s need for revenge.


Like the previous film, the special effects work in this film is awe-inspiring. Rather than copy-and-pasting the same models of apes into the background, it has been said that each ape had its own human model pose for body movements and textures, which then had to be made to look like apes, gorillas and orangutans. That is quite impressive when you consider there are well over a thousand apes in this movie.

This also goes together with Andy Serkis’ performance. Most people will remember Serkis as Gollem from “The Lord Of The Rings” movies. Serkis has essentially created his own form of acting, where he will give the live action performance in a high-tech suit, complete with exaggerated movements and gestures, and then have a team of computer artists and designers create a non-human character around Serkis’ performance.

Think of it like a Ray Harryhausen stop-motion creation, only with an actor inside of the clay.

Caesar has a gentle kindness to him that makes others want to be around him and trust him, but also an intensity and fierceness that is unmatched, that makes him a born leader. It is because of Serkis’ performance and the rivalry between Caesar and Koba that makes this film exciting to watch.

The film does tend to drag at times though, especially near the end. It seems to retread the same ground of couple times when Koba has to ask for Caesar’s forgiveness or we get a speech from Gary Oldman’s character about how the apes are only animals.

Overall, “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” was a well crafted and respectable sequel to its predecessor. The characterizations of humans and apes in a time of doubt and violence was handled perfectly, the special effects were put to good use, and the journey of Caesar’s character makes the film worth watching again. It has pacing problems which hold it back from being as good as “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” but this was still a fun ride.

Final Grade: B

Trailer Talk: “Guardians Of The Galaxy”


Welcome to a new segment of my blog, entitled “Trailer Talk.” This segment will be relatively shorter than most of my other segments, but the jist of this will be that I will look at the newest trailer of an upcoming movie and give my thoughts and impression on what I see. I’ll try to understand what the trailer is saying about the film. At the end, I will say whether I want to see the movie when it comes to theaters.

Up first is the last trailer to Marvel’s latest superhero adventure, as they expand their universe beyond just Earth, but throughout the galaxy. Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper, this is “Guardians Of The Galaxy.”

What catches my interest even further in this trailer is the abundance of comedy and the tone that is so different from other Marvel films, like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “The Incredible Hulk” and “Thor.” While Marvel movies have been great at finding that balance between comedy and action in previous installments, like the “Iron Man” films and “The Avengers,” this one leans much more on it than ever before.

I think this is due, in large part, to the fact that these are superheroes that most people have not heard of. This is Marvel’s first attempt at making a movie about heroes that are not huge in pop culture, like Spider-Man or Wolverine.

This is a film about a talking raccoon who likes to use lots of guns and profanity, and whose best friend is a giant talking tree.


Marvel is taking a huge chance with this film, and for that reason alone, I really want to see this. I have little to no knowledge of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but from this trailer alone, it makes me want to see more of them.

Whether it is Chris Pratt’s attempt to get the other Guardians on his side by talking about what they’ve lost or the banter between Pratt and Rocket Raccoon, this trailer still manages to hit all the right notes of a good Marvel movie. There is humanity in there and a reason to fight evil, but also a light-hearted side that will take a break to joke about percentages.

My only complaint is that it seems like the comedy is only within two characters, Chris Pratt’s character and Rocket. Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista’s characters look like they might just be there to spout action one-liners and kick large amounts of buttocks, and not get involved in the hilarity.

And Groot is, well, just Groot. I think he makes that perfectly clear.

In any case, I’m excited to see where “Guardians Of The Galaxy” goes. It is new ground for Marvel, and considering the amount of comedy in some of their earlier entires, this one should have more than a fair share of it.

Excitement Level: Seeing this on opening weekend

Welcome to the new Seeing Is Believing!


Welcome to the new and improved Seeing Is Believing. If you take a look around the blog, you will find many changes and updates that make this more accessible and user-friendly. Not to mention a different design and layout.

So, to help users out, let’s go through what has changed about Seeing Is Believing and what can be expected in the future.


This is entirely the work of Seeing Is Believing’s new contributor, Jaime Williams. With experience in web design and being an online editor for a college newspaper, Jaime has worked hard to make this site more than just a place for me to give out my opinions.

At this point in time, Jaime is still working on the design of the blog, so things might change over the course of the next few weeks. Please be patient with us as we work things out.


As you can see, the site now has its own logo and banner, designed by Jaime. It is a combination of the many stills I’ve used over the course of my reviews and I feel it captures what I like about cinema in just a few images.

Now on WordPress

Blogger is not the only way to see my reviews now. I have now adopted another domain over on WordPress, by the same name, and have set up base there as well. Everything I’ve done on this site is also up there, so if you prefer to use WordPress over Blogger, feel free to head on over there and check the blog out.

The link can be found here:

Also, I don’t believe I’ve mentioned this before, but I also post the majority of my articles and editorials on another website called “World Of Entertainment,” a fun little site where we talk about anything movie or television related, or anything nerdy. It is helmed by fellow Eastern Washington University graduates, so give it a look:

Facebook and Twitter are go!

I have now set up a Facebook page dedicated solely to my website. All new articles, reviews and editorials will be posted there, as well as any more news about the blog, daily insights into my thought process, film knowledge and community questions. So head on over there and give that a like and let me know what you think.

I also have (reluctantly) set up a Twitter page for myself. Links to my articles will be posted there as well, and any news to keep you up to date on the blog. So if you’d like to discuss anything film related or just say hello, you can follow me on Twitter.

Both of these will be linked on both the WordPress and Blogger sites. Trust me, liking the Facebook page or following me on Twitter really does help me out. It lets me know what I’m doing right and lets me get in better contact with my readers. So if you have even the slightest interest in my articles, I’d be eternally grateful for a Facebook like.

I plan to get Google+ and Tumblr set up some time in the future, so stay tuned for that.

Google Ads have been activated

The last big change to the website is that I have turned on Google Ads. Meaning that every once in a while, an advertisement for Wal-Mart or Home Depot might pop up. It will never be anything that will give your computer a virus, I promise.

The reason I turned the ads on is because, with them on, I get paid a certain amount of money from Google, based on how many page views I get. The more people look at my articles, the more money I get.

I apologize if this seems greedy or like I’m selling out. Look at this way, if I get paid to write now, I’ll be even more inclined to do it. That means you’ll get even more content. It’s a win-win situation. Also know that I am not doing this solely for the money. I do this so that I can share my love and passion for cinema with you guys and hopefully give you a bit more clarity on the matter.

To me, the money is just a nice after thought. It’s not my main focus, and it never will be, but I won’t complain about getting it.

However, if my readers complain about the ads getting in the way or something to that extent, I’ll be more than happy to turn them off.

I am waiting for approval from Google to allow ads on the site, so you might not see ads around the site for a few more weeks.

That is about it for the new changes. Thanks for sticking with me through all of this and I hope that I can continue to keep you guys entertained. If you guys have something you’d like to tell me, suggest or criticize, please leave a comment below or like that Facebook page and send me a message there.

In the mean time, enjoy the many new reviews and articles that I just put out on the site. We have a few new reviews, including ones for “How To Train Your Dragon 2,” “Edge Of Tomorrow,” “Jason And The Argonauts” and “22 Jump Street,” a new mission statement about what I want to do with the blog and my top five films of 2014 thus far.

Catch you later guys, and remember to stay awesome.