Friday, May 28, 2010

Battle Royale (or the story about the worst field trip ever)

When it comes to film every country has a different style of storytelling. British films have a sophisticated sense of wit, Italy rely very realistic character with ordinary lives, and the U.S.A loves boobs and 3-D effects. While it may not be the best, the country with the most unique style is definitely Japan. Now when I say their films are unique, I mean their films are downright psychotic. Underneath the Godzilla films and the anime (especially by Hayao Miyazaki), there are these violent horror films that throws mercy right out the window. Among them is the unpredictable kill-fest, “Battle Royale”.

The film takes place in Japan in the near future where the adults fear the youth. So as a way to discipline them, the government sends one lucky 7th grade class to an island, where they are forced to kill each other until one person is left standing. The students have bomb collars on their necks that explode if they try to leave the island. Also there are transfer students, one is a former winner of the game, and the other volunteered for shit ’n’ giggles. And I thought my life sucked.

While this premise alone is shocking to make a decent thriller the filmmakers go two steps further by with a multi-story concept and a countdown. What happens throughout the film is that it switches from student to student to show how they react to their situation. For example, one group tries to hack into the island's security system and one boy makes the most of his time by finding the girl he has a crush on. This allows for each character to develop into more than just moving targets. Which makes it even more horrifying when they eventually die, and when someone does, the evil teacher reminds the students how many of them are alive.

Christ lets take a puppy brake

Sure some of the kids are violent (like the psycho who volunteers to play) but that’s because the adults are terrible role models. They are either sadistic monsters, spineless idiots or they are just not there when the kids need them the most. No wonder the nations youth are in anarchy, the adults never grew up at all.

This film is very deep, even by horror movie standards (yes there are standards) but its not heavy-handed. Every character is well written and relatable which is quite a feat with 40 students. The photography is not extravagant as most action film, it’s simplicity provides room for seamless editing. While its premise might make some people seasick, it is one of smartest horror films made in the 21 century. 5 exploding collars outta 5.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Avengers (because I forgot to watch a movie)

Two year ago the film” Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” played in movie theaters everywhere. They were fun to watch but what was interesting was at the end of the credits. After the credits, there is a small scene that involves S.H.I.E.L.D and The Avenger Initiative. It implies that there will be an Avengers film, which also means Captian America and Thor movies. While this is a nerdgasm for comic book fans, there are (3) people who are skeptical...

Plot:

Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and The Hulk are the Avengers. A team of superheroes that go around the world to beat the living $#!% out of every villain (within the Marvel Universe) who is dumb enough to build a death ray.

Development:

Joss Whedon will direct the film and Jon Favreau (yes that’s spelt correctly) will be the executive producer. Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Robert Downey Jr. and Edward Norton will reprise their roles as Black Widow, Nick Fury, War Machine, Iron Man and The Hulk respectively. Also Chris Evans will play Captain America and Chris Hemsworth will play Thor.

Why is it a good idea?

Because the only thing more patriotic than Captain America tea bagging the Nazis is The Hulk breaking their legs so that they can’t escape from Captain America’s wrath. Joss Whedon is a master of creating high quality science fiction (see Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer for more details) and screenplays that have sharp dialogue. Edward Norton was great as Bruce Banner (Hulk’s true identity) and Robert Downey Jr. has proven many times over that he is the best actor ever.

"Who wants to touch me?"

Since every Marvel character lives within the same universe, then could lead to installments with the X-men or Spiderman. Hell it could even to a mini-series inspired by the Civil War comic series. Seriously, Nerdgasm!

Why it is a bad idea?

Four words: Sensory Overload. The flaw of many of the bad superhero movies (i.e. “Spiderman 3” and every “Fantastic 4” movie) is that there too many characters, effects, subplots, and/or just too long. Also in the age of the serious hero, how can any filmmaker give each of these four heroes a balanced character arc? The answer is it’s not possible not matter how many rewrites are done on the script some characters will be one-dimensional. Then there are all of these supporting characters that have their own back-stories. In the end it will be a seizure of colorful explosions and spandex without a plot.

Verdict

While there is a fear that "The Avengers" will become ridiculous, oh wait it already is. I mean come on, since when was there not a over-the-top superhero movie... "Batman"? Really? He is dressed like a freaking winged rodent that eats bugs and has shitty eyesight.

Seriously, you look like an album cover to a bad Black Sabbath record.

Anyway, what makes these comics great that they throw realism out the window for the sake of a great story and characters. And since these filmmakers are trying to cautiously create this huge Universe just create an Avengers film, it shows that they really want to make high-quality product. Even if the premise is more like a 8th grade boy's dream, it will best dream since I teamed up with Mr. T and Natalie Portman to saved the world from giant ants that were spreading cancer.

Surprisingly, Mr. T didn't survive in this dream.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Heavy Metal (#$%@ yeah... \m/ )

A long time ago in a wussy country called France, a comic book artist named Moebius decided that his people needed something awesome. So Moebius, along with three other authors and artists, created the magazine "Metal Hurlant" a sci-fi/horror anthology full of blood, gore and naked ladies. Very classy. After a couple years of little French kids sneaking it out of many comic shop's "Mature" section, National Lampoon wanted to buy the magazine and sell it to an American audience. Of course the French surrendered to NL's checkbook and it became "Heavy Metal". And that is how the weirdest comic book partnership of all time was created.

Seriously how does this happen?

The magazine became really popular, so popular that an animated movie spin-off was created by some of the magazine's main illustrators and film producer Ivan Reitman. The final product is a series of stories that revolves around a giant green orb of evil that loves to talk. The stories include:
  • "Den": A nerd that transforms into a well-hung wizard killing strongman, who has a sexy girlfriend.
  • "Harry Canyon": A taxi driver with a cab thats better equipped than the %$#@ing Bat Mobile, who has a sexy girlfriend.
  • "So Beautiful and So Dangerous": Coke sniffing aliens and their robot assistant... who meets a sexy girl.
  • "Captain Sternn" The trial of an sexy space captain (think Zap Brannigan of Futurama), no ladies in this one.
  • And my personal favorite, "B-17": zombies in a plane.
The stories are very faithful to the style of the magazine, in that they are awesomely crass. Every unimportant character seems to die in the most violent way possible. The female characters have DDDDs and they seem to have an allergy to all clothing materials. Drugs are used so frequently that even the background was experiencing tie-die flashbacks at one point. While this film may offend the majority of old people, it becomes so ridiculous that it really starts to look like "Tom & Jerry".

While the stories are great nerd fantasies, the actual animation is a mixed bag. The plus is that the illustrations are amazing, the settings were written with great detail and the use of color (especially in "Den") is unbelievably dramatic. But once you see characters move, its pretty ugly. The majority of the film was shot in rotoscope, where human models were filmed and then traced in during production. While this makes for realistic pictures, the models motions were very slow and exaggerated. It's even worse during fights where these models clearly do not know what they are doing.

"This is why stunt men exist, now take me to a hospital!"

The worst part is near the end of the film. They filmed a scene where a house explodes into huge ball of fire. But according to Wikipedia the production was near the end of its deadline and the artist could not trace the explosion in time. They put the explosion in the film anyway... seriously, they did. Apparently extending the deadline by a month or using stock footage of was impossible to do. If there is a saving grace for this messy flick, it's the %$#@ing awesome soundtrack.

What happens when you have Grand Funk Railroad, Devo, Black Sabbath, Sammy Haggar, Don Felder, and Blue Oyster Cult? A cure for cancer. It even has a good songs by Cheap Trick and Journey, and they are legally obligated to suck. While most people will complain that doesn't sound like METAL then they really need to take a history lesson. Before the mid-80s #$%@ music in the ear, the blues/psychedelic rock genre known as Heavy Metal was actually awesome and listenable. Anyway, the music is badass without trying to overwhelm the picture.

In the end its a classic example of a really good concept and bad execution. It is still a fun film to see as a historical relic or a drinking game (1 shot every time you see boobs or genitals). Just don't take it seriously, like "Rocky Horror Picture Show", it's a pretty stupid film with a soundtrack that should in your mp3 player.

3 outta 5

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sergeant York (so I'm late shut up!)

Warning entire plot summarized

Alvin York was a down-and-out hillbilly from Tennessee who would rather get drunk out of his mind and shoot stuff than go to church. He claims that "A man can't find religion, it has to come to him." Then one day he was struck by lightning (according to the movie) and he thought it was a sign from God to stop being a prick.

God's alternative to spanking

He took this sign very seriously and started to go to church again. He also became a pacifist (remember this) and worked as the neighborhood handyman. Then with great irony WW1 breaks out and he gets drafted less than a week later. Even after he refuses to fight, it turns out that he's @#$%ing crack shot and winds up taking half of Germany prisoner. He becomes a war hero and lives happily ever after. The End.
The reason I wrote this summary is that when "Sergeant York" (1941) premiered, everybody knew who Alvin York was. See before Twitter destroyed the English language, people told stories about heros that make Rambo look like a #%$@&. And since Alvin York is a badass' badass, no one forgot about him. Then, when WW2 broke out, people needed inspiration. So it makes perfect sense to make a gun-hoe movie about York. But there is more to it than just making an inspiring flick.
When it comes to making movies out of stories like "Sergeant York", the common fear is that it will become preachy. If it is preachy, at best it's overbearing, self-righteous junk that uses the word "family" like a comma, or at worst it's "The Blindside". This is especially difficult for "Sergeant York" because the main themes are patriotism, guns and the Bible. Thankfully the director, Howard Hawks did not allow these themes to embrace each other, but rather have them oppose each other as long as possible. York is in a dilemma with his morals and the Army; his choices were to not fight and commit treason or fight and become a murdering sinner. It's separation of church and state, 40's style. Sure, the argument is resolved with a "having your cake and eat it too" statement but it's quick forgotten as soon as York starts kicking ass on the battlefield.
Alvin York is played by Gary Cooper who is known for playing heroic roles in such films like "High Noon" and "Pride of the Yankees". But before he did "Sergeant York" his best work was playing romantic comedies with Frank Capra and Jean Arthur. These days Hollywood would freak out about Adam Sandler playing a funny person let alone a war hero, so in this context it makes Gary's performance even more interesting because it work's. His experience in comedies helps bring out a lighthearted oafishness to York especially when his shows off his shooting skills. Instead playing up his awesomeness, he plays it down to he's almost apologizes to everyone who can't handle it.

"Oh... sorry that I blew yer mind there fella. I'll help you clean up"-York

It also helps that it was directed by Howard Hawks and written by John Huston. Why didn't they work together more often? Both prefer to not use overcooked melodrama and settle on actually telling the story. Huston wrote simple and broken dialogue that sounds very Southern and authentic. Hawks works behind the camera making sure nothing unnecessary is filmed and everything else is filmed with remarkable precision. It is professional filmmaking of a higher order, I could ramble on and on about but it would just make this review sound even more sloppy. 5 outta 5