Are You Not Entertained?! (No, not really.)

So a few months ago I received a couple of emails from someone asking me to do a series of articles about the differences between foreign language films and their english language remakes. Sounds like a great idea, honestly! The problem is that I haven’t SEEN any and haven’t had a chance to. This sort of sums up my recent problems with entertainment in general lately. I don’t have TIME to be entertained these days. Entertainment is something you take in during your free time. I’m not sure I remember what that is.

That’s not to say I’m not watching some television. I stop whatever I’m doing when Steven Universe comes on. Until recently I was an avid viewer of Rick and Morty, but I haven’t had the chance to sit down with my friends to watch in a long while now. I actually got to see three episodes of The Flash the other night instead of sleeping. Loved it! Probably won’t get to see it again for another six months.

Honestly, unless I can take it in while working on a comic, I don’t get to do a lot of media. Night Vale is a favorite, audio books are great, and Far Land or Bust! is perfect because who wants to watch the world shake while Kurt walks? I’ve tried doing real TV shows before. Stargate: SG-1 was a great radio show for me. Babylon 5 as well. The problem is there’s not much compelling on TV for me any more.

So yeah. Maybe I can get back to doing some reviews, but for the time being I’m working and comicing.

One World, Two Futures, One Truth

Recently I’ve seen two films with very different views on the future. Tomorrowland and Mad Max: Fury Road. They couldn’t be more different in how they portray the future of humanity, but on some level they both have the same thing in common. Hope.

Tomorrowland, directed by Brad Bird, is a fun film but it’s heavy handed in its approaches subject matter. It wants to force you into being hopeful. It hits you over the head with the idea that we all need to be dreamers and hopeful and start being optimistic. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m saying it slaps you in the face trying to tell you we’re in a shopping cart shooting down a hill into a pit of lava. It wants you to pick yourself, dust yourself off, and work toward something better. That’s great. Just don’t be so blunt. Or insulting. It says that we crave our own destruction and only the elite can save us, but that we CAN be saved. . . by someone else.

Fury Road is a very different future. The world is destroyed. You’ve seen it in the other Mad Max films and by this point things are even worse. The few societies we see in the film are based on depraved cults of personality and the people follow blindly. But they can change. Max’s name may be in the title but the film is about Nux and Furiosa in their own ways. Nux begins to see a better world. Furiosa wants to create that better world. Max, as always, is an unwilling agent of change. He doesn’t want to be involved but once he is he does everything he can to help. They aren’t the elite. They’re damaged people with horrible pasts and they change the status quo. And they could be anybody.

In its own dirty, flaming way Fury Road is just as much about saving the future as Tomorrowland. It just doesn’t try to convince you it’s right. It just gets on with the business of being a great movie and hopes to God you can keep up.

Six-String Samurai

In the far distant days of 1999, a friend of mine brought a VHS tape over with a movie on it. I’d heard a little bit about the film and we were all excited to see it. It was “Six-String Samurai”. I remember at the time the film was a big deal on the indy film scene and big things were expected from it. I watched it that once and never watched it again. . .

Until a couple of months ago when Krishna suggested I watch it so I can write a review. I went in full expecting to be underwhelmed this time. I’m not sure if I was or not.

The general run down of the story is that in the 50’s, Russia conquered the US in a nuclear war and now controls the country. The only surviving free city is Lost Vegas, ruled by Elvis. The King has died and now every “Six-String Samurai” is trying to make their way to Vegas to take the throne. This is the story of Buddy, a sword and guitar wielding wanderer dressed like a post-apocalyptic Buddy Holly as he tries to make it to Vegas. His journey is complicated by a Kid that ends up following him. All the while he’s being pursued by Death himself and his men.

Needless to say, this film doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has what may be one of the slowest and goofiest car chase scenes I’ve ever seen. It’s got some very good fight scenes in it though and some great ideas. But that’s part of the problem with it, really. It’s great ideas done on a budget. It feels like a proof of concept to me. Sort of a “MAN! This’ll be GREAT when we do it as a real movie!” I don’t want to use the word half baked, but it definitely isn’t done. It should have been a seed and not an end unto itself.
Another problem is Buddy. For a large portion of the film, the protagonist is just plain unlikable. I’m not saying he should be a bit rough, but you need to get your audience connected early on and the film botches that pretty badly.

Honestly, I think the idea of the film should be revisited now. Not as a serious film, but as what it is. Maybe with someone like Ben Edlund, Jackson Public, or John Roiland at the helm. Maybe an animated series. It’s a fun world and with some tweeks to the character of Buddy and some better writing it would be a fun film, tv show, or animated series. Who knows. Get on that Hollywood. This concept has legs if you can find them.

The Hobbit: The Review of Smaug

filmandtvAll right. So a few weeks ago my friends, myself, and my girlfriend went to see the latest Hobbit movie in 3D and High Frame Rate (mentioned here) and I’ve spent those weeks trying to separate the film itself from the visual experience. I think I’ve finally managed it. So warning, spoilers ahead for book and film.

Let me start off by saying that it was a very enjoyable film. I enjoyed every single bit of it despite the major problems I have with the trilogy all ready. It was action packed, fast, and well paced. That pretty much means it’s not really The Hobbit any more. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about The Hobbit is that most of the book involves actual journeying. You know, being cold, wet, grumpy, and mildly terrified. It doesn’t, in fact, involve exciting chases all the time and exciting fights in barrels tumbling down a river. As much fun as that fight was, I still like the idea of the dwarves complaining and Bilbo having to take on the role of Moses a bit and doing all of the dirty work. The trilogy has excitement. The book had charm.

The other thing the trilogy has is one film too many. There’s this subplot involving an elven warrior maiden becoming smitten with Killi and Legolas being jealous and then this orc attack on Lake Town and Killi nearly dying and elves showing up at the last minute to help set everything right. Does it make interesting cinema? That’s debatable. What it does make is too much happening in the second film. You know what they could have had in there instead of that subplot? The end of the damned story, that’s what. The big chase with Smaug and the dwarfs through Erebor? Great fun and a direct confrontation between Thorin and the dragon, but did it need to be there? No. They could have had the great fight with Bard. Nope. Gotta wait a year for that.

The thing that Jackson has decided to ignore is the basic selfishness of the dwarfs and their increasing reliance on Bilbo, and in turn, Bilbo’s increased reliance on himself. Instead we get scenes of Bilbo all ready fighting the effects of the One Ring. Something that shouldn’t be a major threat for years to come. For Bilbo it should just be his invisibility ring. Not some great and frightening thing that he has to think about constantly. It’s too much.

The one thing that I am glad they’ve put into the film is the Necromancer subplot. I was actually hoping for more of this than we’re getting. In the book, Gandalf leaves the company on the edge of Mirkwood and that’s the last we see of him until The Battle of Five Armies. When questioned he basically says “What? Oh yes. We had this incredible battle with a horrible evil force that was full of excitement and adventure and things but it probably wasn’t worth mentioning in a narrative format.” It’s moments like that which really upset me in Tolkien’s writing. The film is a wonderful chance to actually show that exciting bit. Unfortunately, it has amounted to lone wizards entering the Necromancer’s fortress one at a time and getting very, very frightened or getting their asses handed to them. No grand coalition of the elves and wizards so far. Just, well, fluff really. I’m hoping the next film justifies that choice somehow, but honestly, I’m expecting a lot. Probably too much.

So yes. It was an enjoyable film. I just didn’t feel it was a satisfying film. It felt gutted. Like the innards of the book might be there somewhere but they’d been pushed out of the way for other stuff. And in closing and in answer to Bilbo’s question at the end of the film:
“What have we done?”
Stretched it out for a third film, Mr. Baggins. That’s what you’ve done.

New Project Idea

So some of the more popular things I’ve written of late have been film and television related. That being the case, I’m going to start going through my DVD/Blu Ray collection and start review films. Some of these I won’t have seen in quite some time. Some are annual events for me like “Scrooged”. I may tackle several remakes or adaptations of the same story. I don’t know. We’ll see how it unfolds. Of course, when I go to the movies every now and again I’ll post some reviews of those as well.

I don’t want you guys to think that will take over the blog. I’m going to continue posting my thoughts and feelings here, but I realized I’ve got shelves of material here I can write about and there’s no reason not to do it. That being said, I’ll see you all next week.

Specific Rim

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WARNING! POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!

This weekend saw the release of what may well be this generations Fifth Element. Pacific Rim is another one of those movies that actually feels like an a comic or a cartoon. Specifically anime. The science and physics are terrible, but if you set it aside and think of it as a live action anime it works. I’ll try and not post spoilers, but be warned that there may be some.

Going into the film I was expecting spectacle and flash with a tacked on human interest angle that I wouldn’t care about. Spectacle I got, along with an interesting group of characters that I actually got interested in. Admittedly, those characters were painted in broad strokes but when you have that much happening in a movie you don’t have time to paint all the details. I can also say that I saw a lot of the character arcs from a mile and a half off. Marshal’s back story and fate were telegraphed pretty far off. The father/son relationship of the two aussies was fairly typical. In fact, if I had a problem with the movie it was the sheer level of predictability from the characters. Also, I thought the father/son thing I mentioned before should have been more toward the center and possibly transferred to the main character.
The two scientists were my favorites though. They had a very interesting dynamic and a fun relationship with each other and they were in it just enough. Any more and it would have been a Jar Jar Binks sort of situation.

The fights made it especially worth it I thought. Let’s face it. There aren’t enough movies about giant robots beating the crap out of things. I, for one, am more than happy to have something American in the genre that isn’t Robot Jocks. It makes me want a Robotech movie all the more really. Unfortunately, the climactic underwater fight at the end of the movie is probably the weakest in the film and after the build up I really was hoping for something more. Something where they would pull out some kind of mega-weapon powered by Tex-Mexium or something.

Despite these complaints, the movie was a fun ride. It still managed to have heart and tell and human story in the middle of giant monster fights and left me feeling ok about having seen it. I’d say, if you liked Fifth Element, you’ll probably like this.

As a final thought, my favorite monster was the crab guy during the flashback. Why? Because he’s for the seafood lover in you.

No. I’ve never seen Goonies.

I realize that this statement alone puts me into a category just slightly less reviled than child molesters in some eyes. People have told me on a regular basis that it is THE eighties movie. I’m not arguing against that. It may be. The problem is that I didn’t see The Goonies when it was first released.

My friends all watched it and developed a love for it and now when they watch it it’s like seeing old friends I think. They see it as a classic.

When I watch it, I see the old woman from Throw Mama from the Train and a who’s who of people who don’t have careers any more. Not to mention the whole thing seems goofy as hell honestly. Sure it’s a Richard Donner film, but so is Lethal Weapon IV.

That brings me to the point of all this. I STILL haven’t seen Goonies. I probably will NEVER see Goonies. Before it was a matter of never having the opportunity. Now it’s a matter of pride. I plan to go to my grave without having seen the movie. My friends still give me crap about this but that’s ok. I am comfortable in my oddness. I’m cool with it. All this of course with apologies to Sean Astin.