Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lowest common denominator

I'm sure by now we've all seen commercials for the movie Never Back Down. For those who haven’t, you are in for a treat. Check it out ...

So why are we being subjected to movies like this? From this two and a half minute or so trailer we are introduced to the hero, the villain, the problem, and the eye candy. I could sit her and do a humorous rendition of what the plot will be – but I am not here to insult your intelligence. I’m here to ask you to trust in it and do not see this film. I don’t care if you want to go to heckle it. It isn’t worth your time and money in any shape or form. Millions of dollars went into making this film when it could have went to funding independent directors who really have something to say. I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere in this movie’s laundry list of parasite producers we’d find something linking it to MTV. I feel as though the movie would play out like a two hour long mid 90’s music video. There’s another movie that comes to mind, The Lost Boys.

While this movie fails – The Lost Boys succeeded because for all its incoherent babble it still stood on two legs because it never took itself seriously. The last scene in the film is a testament to that fact. Never Back Down looks to be a film that knows it's fake and pretends to not be. I’m sure the main character will pull on his best Bruce Wayne – but in the end he will forget it’s the conflict from within – not from out. It’s Batman that wears the mask of Bruce Wayne, not the other way around.

There can be only one

I recently found out that Blu-Ray is more then likely going to be the next video medium that will replace DVDs in the coming years. All the major movie companies have sided with exclusize Blue-Ray distribution rights. This came after a brutal war between Song (along with Samsung) and Toshiba – HD-DVD vs. Blue-Ray. It’s a wonder Song pulled this win out of the hat considering all their attempts in the past to push a new medium. Betamax failed miserably and recently they took considerable loses when UMD’s, discs made specifically for their portable gaming system the PSP, failed to move movies to the consumer. Unlike these previous match ups where either A. Sony’s product was vastly inferior or B. Their marketing was off the mark completely (They were releasing movies like Pride and Prejudice on the PSP) Sony’s product not only stood up the competition but surpassed it in quality and marketing design.

The name “Blue-Ray” sounds cooler while HD-DVD sounds like more of the same. While both offer the same high quality definition and sound – the big difference is that Blue-Ray discs hold 50gigs of information – HD-DVDs can only hold 30 gigs ( while normal DVDs hold 7.3 gigs ). To put this size difference into perspective – any 4 minute song you rip from a CD is probably around 3-5 megabytes big. It takes 1000 megabytes in order to make 1 gigabyte. The sheer amount of volume the movie companies can put on the Blue-Ray discs just allows more flexibility when it comes to compression settings and extras.

I think I just found my reason to get a Playstation 3.

The format war put into WWII terms (NSFW!)

Monday, March 10, 2008

"We" are pissed

I think I must have been asleep when Spiderman 3 was released. On top of that, I must have had tape over my eyes; my fingers must have been shoved in my ears and I must have been in a cave. On Mars. Because there is no way I could have missed the storm of human idiocy that propelled this movie to the highest one day grossing film of all time. I mean, yea, fine, I am partially to blame. Much like the other mindless fan boys, I went rushing to the theater hoping to be treated to what would be the third film in a cancer curing trilogy. What we were met with was a worthless heap of wasted human potentional strung along on a string of false marketing, bad acting and writing. But we could not have possibly known how bad it was before we saw it. So the first day gross is to be expected. It did follow up two widely successful and acclaimed comic films that have been heralded as the best of the genre. But what worries me is that the movie kept on making money hand over fist. Why?

I trust in the power of word of mouth. It has saved my friends (and me) from many bad films but why was Spiderman 3 impervious to this form of preventative action? It could be people actually liked it. Now – I’m not going to sit here and judge people for liking or disliking something but I will scratch my head when people willingly accept blatant misleading advertising, shabby plot pacing and lazy story telling. Anyone who knows the basic layout for any story can see the glaring issues in how Spiderman 3 is structured. The events in the story are horribly disjointed and jarring. Towards the end of the film, in stead of trying to explain and film in a decent scene where James Franco’s character Harry finally accepts Peter/Spiderman – the film makers cop’d out and had this ridiculous scene where his butler tells him Spiderman didn’t kill Harry’s dad. He said he was waiting for the right time to say it. Apparently, the “right time” was AFTER Harry took a grenade to face and spent most of the movie with, wait for it, amnesia. This glaring plot hole exists to build an entire foundation for the third film. Without conflict – there is no story – and the entire conflict in this film is centered around lazy writing. Thanks for insulting our intelligence in thinking we wouldn’t notice this.

But most people won’t. Most people didn’t even notice the blitzkrieg commercial lie campaign that rammed it down our throats that Venom (Widely accepted in the comic world as Spiderman’s best villain and overall coolest Marvel character ever created) was going to be in the movie. In practice, Venom was only in the movie for the last 20 minuets and whatever this movie presented as Venom – most certainly was not Venom. To put it bluntly, the first sentence uttered by Venom in the movie – nay – the first WORD he said was so wrong I could hear it speak louder again in response to the silenced fans who were reeling in shock from the word. It says, “We didn’t care.”

To make a long story short – Venom is essentially two characters in one. One being the symbiote: an alien life form that merged with Spiderman and created a suit that made him 100 times stronger than he already was. The suit also made him much more aggressive so Spiderman removed the suit the only way he could: violently, by using intense sound waves from a church bell. The other half of Venom is Eddie Brock: the man the symbiote merged with after it separated from Spiderman. Eddie Brock hates Peter Parker (Spiderman’s secret identity) because Peter blew the whistle on a false news story Eddie was reporting and ruined his his life. When the symbiote and Eddie merged they created Venom – the most perfectly crafted villain.

All that is back story – what is important is that ever since the 80’s when Venom was introduced he has always referred to himself in a plural sense with “We”s and “Us”s. Every comic Venom ever appeared in – that was his calling card. When we first see Venom in Spiderman 3 he says a simple word that is an insult. A slap in the face. He referred to himself as “I”. Sadly to say, while part of me was blown away by this, I wasn’t surprised. By that point in the movie, I had seen every bad play in the book of bad movie shenanigans. I had already accepted it was a bad Spiderman 3 movie. Frankly, it had become a bad movie. With a complete lack of foresight in the handling of the Venom character, part of me believes it was a willful attempt on part of the film makers to destroy the character and give a big middle finger to the fans who carried the first two films. What else could explain such poor film making?

On a side note, I found out later that director Sam Rami hates the character Venom and was basically forced by Marvel to have him be put into the movie. Once again – whoever wins … we lose.


Most of the powers that govern my childhood memory are pretty much summed up with a simple statement. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. These two decade are marked with such different cultural norms and phenomena it is hard to believe the 70’s ever preceded them. Air metal bands, spandex, Legos, Rubix cubes, MTV, Saved by the Bell, stripped polo shirts; these are the things that come to my mind when I think about the time area of the mid 80’s to the early 90’s. Even more so then all of these aspects – I am reminded of the golden area of action films. Die Hard, Rambo, Conan,Terminator and other action films like these marked an age where macho heroics were the only reason for wanton destruction. But more importantly, the best thing about these films is that unlike action films today, I could believe them.

Far be it for me to attempt to explain my personal definition of verisimilitude. Ever since the Matrix, action films have become more and more ridiculous. I am more than willing to watch a movie like Superman or Spiderman and be 100% behind the main character. In the universe presented, super human feats are possible. Now – we can argue Spiderman does more since he has more physical limitations than Superman, thus his accomplishments are of more value but that is an argument for another time. My focus is on the believability of “real life” movies. I think no further study needs to be made than the comparison of the latest Die Hard film Live Free or Die Hard to the first one made in 1988. Bruce Willis as Officer John McClane is the quintessential 80’s hero. His swagger and charm are matched entirely with a spirit that can only be described as “American”. To put it short – he is a badass. He knows it. We know it. The only people who don’t know it are the bad guys whose collective asses he’s going to kick for two hours straight. We know he is going to win and the ride is marked with great laughs, well choreographed fight scenes and a satisfying ending when the final bad guy is vanquished. How can this same exact formula fail so horribly in the latest film?

I suppose since Stallone was able to resurrect his Rocky franchise with acclaimed results, Bruce Willis thought he could to. The only problem is, you can’t apply the current standard for film making to a movie franchise which established the 80’s way of doing things … you end up with what is essentially a living contradiction. Heck, there is a scene in the new Die Hard where Bruce Willis’ character ramps his car, hits a helicopter with it and destroys the helicopter. After, one character comments, “You just killed a helicopter with a car!” To which McClane responds, “I was out of bullets.” Does anyone else have a problem with this? Is this the kind of meat head bravado that defines our movies now? Yea, McClane performed some outlandish feats in the old Die Hard but it was believable. His actions embodied the indomitable strength of our wonder and we believed he was capable of these things. Why, 20 years later, does the action have to be so over the top – so highly technical that it seems TOO planned? Maybe it is just my personal taste but I miss those old movies. The only movie of recent memory that captured that same spirit was the recent remake of Walking Tall staring The Rock. No CGI. No crazy stunts. No wires. Just big guys beating the crap out of other big guys.

An alternate ending for Die Hard:
http://urkeldieshard.ytmnd.com/ (Need sound on for maximum enjoyment)

Paul W.S. Anderson is the devil. Uwe Boll isn't far behind either.

Paul W.S. Anderson, a 43 year old Hollywood director, has single handedly destroyed the hopes and dreams of video game fan boys around the world. If there is one thing any fan of a particular property asks of movie makers it is that they remain faithful to the source material. To this end, Anderson has succeeded in creating a movie making machine that continually raises the hopes of its potential audience only to end with inevitable failure.

Ask any fan of the widely acclaimed Resident Evil series how they feel about Anderson’s adoptions and you will be given a laundry list of everything wrong with the handling of the franchise in Anderson’s hands. Now, I could sit here and list every single thing wrong with the Resident Evil films in how they do not correlate to the story of the games at all but I don’t need to. Even in the eyes of someone who knows nothing about Resident Evil: They are still bad movies. And here is where we are presented with a problem.

Anderson’s two films that were not based on any previous property (Solider and Event Horizon) are actually rather decent. Event Horizon happens to be one of my favorite films in that it is a perfect blend of traditional horror and REAL science fiction. The film is even considered among some horror circles as one of the best horror films ever made – I am inclined to agree. The only problem is Anderson’s acclaimed endeavors seemed to be sandwiched by an avalanche of utter garbage. Mortal Kombat being before Soldier and Event Horizon and everything he’s done since then after. So do we pat Anderson on the back for making two movies (one of which is considered an excellent film) that are well liked while on the other hand appearing to be a director for hire who is willing to take the helm of any bought video game property? It’s a shame his name isn’t Paul Thomas Anderson or I’d be willing to let his transgressions slide.

Fan boy mentality aside, Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil and Dead or Alive should go down as humanity’s most awful crimes. A special place in Hell should be reserved for anyone involved in the creation of the movie Alien vs. Predator. For anyone who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s – making a film of this prestige and set up should have been an easy win. Six successful movies preceded AVP; it should have been the distilled culmination of the best qualities of the previous films and yet it failed miserably. My only thought is that the success of Freddy vs. Jason led some producers in a dark room to believe that mashing the two properties together to quell the cries of millions of fans would usher in money hand over fist. Thanks to the masses – i.e: Us – they won and we lose. It’s funny since that was basically the tagline for Alien vs. Predator.

“Whoever wins … we lose.”

Yea. Pretty much. Though, Anderson wins to and gets to sleep with Milla Jovovich everynight. God bless America.

The next big Hollywood hit:
(Sound needs to be on for the full effect)