Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why I hate Disney

If you were used to watching Manga movies you may remember the old intro that those movies used to have:

It still gives me a boner...
And that is in essence why I hate Disney. If you look at this trailer that was made sometime in the late eighties, early nineties, you still get a sense of how awesome these Manga (japanese animated movies/series) are. Their understanding of animation is just a medium with which they can tell any fantastical story. Their genre isn't limited in any way which is why they still appeal to me today. I have watched my share of Manga's and though I'm far from being an expert on the issue I know what they are capable of.
This trailer made me always think as a teenager "wow, someday soon people in the West will understand the power of animation and begin a wave of awesome movies". Now, a decade later I look back and see that it never happened. Stories that couldn't have been told with a film because they were simply too fantastical were no problem for animated films. Animation gives you the ultimate freedom of telling a story. Now that the special effects (cgi) have reached a decent level, that becomes the solution. James Cameron told an interviewer that he waited for many years (10 years I believe it was) to make Avatar because the "technology" wasn't in place to make such a movie at the time. My point is, with animation it could have been done. That is what the Japanese realized a long time ago but still hasn't caught on here.

Our tradition with animation has been left to Disney. And they own everything that is related to animation (ok almost everything). The only genre we (in the West) still understand animation to be is - kids/comedy. Sure you have adults going to see these Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks movies, but they are made for kids (because then you cater to the full spectrum of age which equals more dineros). Animation is in such considered kid's stuff - and that just makes me mad. Plus, to me it doesn't get creepier than an adult telling me how much they just looooove the Lion King and have watched it more than 10 times... (get chills).
Sure, in the last few years these movies have had their humor sometimes more geared for adults and you see gentle first steps with subjects that are not the most common as stories for children.
But we are still sooooo far away from the possible mind-blowing awesomeness that could be achieved. For some time it was my goal to become an animator for that very reason.

That's why that old intro got so many memories flowing back.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Predators - Review

The long awaited movie event. Predators.
Small side-story - I was running late to the movie theater, so I was hurrying through the streets and as I got closer I began humming to myself "Long tall Sally, she's built sweet, she got everything Uncle John need -- gonna have me some fun, gonna have me some fun...". (small reference to the original Predator movie)

I'm not going to give anything away here and do encourage anyone who liked the original to see this one. By that I'm already giving away that I liked it.

It was a great fun ride throughout. As we knew from the trailer a group of people are kidnapped, put together in a jungle and hunted by the Predators.
All the chosen people were real "characters" and although I didn't like them all it still made for an interesting mix. They did an interesting turn of being similar to the original Predator movie in some ways, but then straying away from it to make this into its own movie. What I liked in particular were the WTF and ho-ly-shit moments because this movie has a lot of them. To be more precise, there are a bunch of reveals and surprises for this group of people as they move along in the jungle and you can somehow share that feeling of discovery and astonishment as they move along. That was the original's strong point. You didn't know what was going on until much later in the game. I won't go into the sequels (Predator 2, AvsP, AvsP-requiem) but suffice to say that they didn't have any of that mystery or charm (the AvsP movies actually didn't have anything to offer at all).
So while the story unfolded you never knew what would pop up next from the bushes.
They also avoided trying to "explain" the Predator-alien any further except that they added a little extra on top, which you will understand after seeing the movie.
It's funny because I was actually worried in the first three minutes of the movie, because I didn't like that they used two elements from the original right away (the music & minigun). But as the story went on it got much better.

I read a critique that was complaining about Adrien Brody as the main lead. I disagree.
First, he's a genuinely good actor, second, he wasn't what I would have expected, which is always nice as a little surprise, and third, to try to imitate Arnold with a muscle packed, macho-one-liner tossing hero would just look ridiculous. Those days are unfortunately over.

I won't be going into the small things that bothered me simply because in a long line of disappointing movie experiences, this one actually delivered and made for a really fun time to watch. And that is a lot to ask for in today's stream of sequels and remakes.

My conclusion is a pat on the back for Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal for recognizing what it was that made the original fun and unique and how to develop that into a separate new experience.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rewriting History

U-751 - it's time to rip this movie apart.
I'm only speaking from memory, but I do remember the points well that I am going to mention. The reason for why I want to tackle this movie is because I recently bumped into a list of "10-best submarine movies" which included this title. It really made me mad and I'll explain why.

During the movie it is noted that the following story is based on true events...
The story is about a US navy submarine that is sent out during the Second World War to capture a German submarine (
U-751) that is disabled. The reason that particular submarine is so important is a decoder that is on board which could decode all the German messages giving the Allied forces the upper hand in the War. Of course they succeed in the end to get the decoder and thus making the Americans the heroes of such a strategic advantage. Only, it wasn't the Americans who did that in reality. It was the British navy. At the time the British captured the so called enigma decoding machine the US wasn't even involved in WWII yet.

Such arrogance just makes me wonder. Is this an attempt to rewrite history for people who would buy into it? Movies are movies, but if based on actual events (real world war scenarios) you can't go changing things and claim it's "based on true events". I would accept it if they noted - "the following events are made-up". I mean, this was not a small fact that you could accept for the sake of making that event more interesting as a movie. This was a major war victory that cost lives of British soldiers and turned the tides of the war to a great degree. I later read that British Prime Minister at the time this movie came out, Tony Blair, said this movie to be an affront to British sailors.
Now consider that this movie won an Academy Award!

The other point I feel strongly about is how the movie portrayed the German submarine sailors as remorseless - they shoot helpless British (yep, now their British) sailors on a lifeboat that are trying to ask for asylum after the Germans sunk their ship. Such an event is said to never have happened (according to historians). The Navy of both countries had strict codes of honor in cases as such of surrendering. But again, let's ignore what history says and re-paint it with clear good and baaaaaad.

To conclude. This movie doesn't belong on any "best of" list and until the Academy Award goes to a movie about how the Allied forces invaded the beaches of Normandy without any American involvement I think this movie should be ignored.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


You notice these things, sometimes they smack you in the face with it, other times you just get a small itch of "uncorrectness" not really consciously taking it in. Racism.
I'm talking about Hollywood and how they have their set race-stereotypes which they seem unwilling to move away from. Since I moved to the USA I noticed how blatantly open racism is and how people treat it as an accepted, understandable element of a multi-racial/cultural society. This is then of course reflected in Hollywood movies. The following movies are all examples that I was able to list up from the top of my head, and I'm sure if I spent more time doing so I would come up with much more.

First example is the self sacrificing black man. Don't know how they came up with this character, but he can be found in many movies where he believes in dying for his white counter-parts.

Day of the Dead (2008) - in this remake we have a soldier who is black, and willing to sacrifice himself for the white woman officer whom he didn't seem to like most part of the movie. He tries to hold back a horde of zombies screaming back to her "run, get out of here". Note, in the original no such nonsense.

Starship Troopers - I liked this movie. It had an ironic view on the military regime and didn't take itself so seriously. But still, when it came to the scene where the "bugs" were about to overrun the barbie & ken-couple, it was the black man who got wounded and offered to stay behind with a grenade taking out as many of those damn bugs on his way out.

U-751 - (starring Bon Jovi? and Matthew McConaughey, both who I have a great dislike for (as actors-love Jovi's music --"shot through the heart"...who don't love that). in this sorry excuse of a movie which I have another bone to pick later, we have the first soldier to bravely sacrifice himself for his comrades, and yes, he's black.

Also, it's more obvious if the gangster in the movie is black, right?

Daredevil - this colossal failure is built on the comic-book character of the Daredevil. In the story he fights his nemesis, Kingpin, which by the way, is a villain also often appearing in the Spiderman comics. Both in Daredevil and Spiderman comicbooks the Kingpin character is basically a mob crime boss with no supernatural powers - a huge fat bold white guy. In the Daredevil movie they decided to make him a black guy. Then why not make Superman a black man? What? did I say something wrong? Fail to see the logic in that decision.

Being married to a beautiful woman from South Korea suddenly made me aware of the Asian stereotypes and has made me more sensitive about seeing how they are portrayed.

Very Bad Things - the story is similar to the Hangover but darker. A bachelor party to Las Vegas ends with a dead prostitute and the guys decide to chop her up, bury, and forget about it.
The prostitute that dies while having sex with one of them (bangs her head) is asian. To be more precise it's an Asian porn movie actress who plays her - Kobe Tai. The point that I'm trying to get at is that if women are to be shown in a really negative way ( prostitute + dead in freak sex-accident + chopped up & buried ) then it's better to have her be Asian. It's less unsettling.

Live Free or Die Hard - on that note: in the fourth Die Hard movies Bruce Willis fights an evil Asian woman. Of course she is good at martial arts... And although Bruce gets his ass kicked most of the time, he fights her as if fighting a guy - real dirty and brutal. I remember being shocked at how they showed that kind of violence against a woman. But again, it was an Asian woman, so not as bad. Oh, and here is one of the lines Bruce says in the movie about her: "Can I get another dead Asian hooker bitch over here right away?"

Another point that my wife made was that you very rarely see a really beautiful Asian woman in American movies - unless they are "Asian hooker bitches".

I hate Valentine's Day - not worth mentioning, but since I did the mistake of renting this with my wife: in the movie the asshole buddy of the male lead character brings one of his constantly changing dates to a party and totally ignores her. Even the main female character, who is supposed to be the "hero" character and sympathetic to the viewer, treats this poor girl, who is Asian, like dirt. But hey, again, it's ok because she looks like a nerdy Asian.

The Hangover - as already mentioned above, it's a bachelor party trip to Las Vegas movie. At one point they finally find their car, which had gotten lost during their drunken night out. In the trunk they find a tied up, naked Asian guy who turns out to be a gay gangster boss(?) of inconclusive Asian background: he uses a Korean word at some point but says "kiss my chinese ***". Love how much they don't care. As long as he acts Asian and has a thick accent. They had basically kidnapped and undressed this guy throwing him into the car-trunk because one of them thought he was like a funny mascot...
Another scene was when they got their kidnapped friend back from the Asian gangster, but found out it wasn't their friend. "Our guy is white, not black!" Yes, the person they got was a black guy. They even suggest the gangster taking him back. But the black guy doesn't even get upset by their remarks.
That being said, I laughed watching this movie, partly because it was incorrect in many ways, but it just becomes obviously one-sided who ends up in what stereo-typical role.

The Relic
- the female lead character is a professor working at a Museum. She is fighting to get a grant that will help fund her further research and without which she and her research team would be out of work. Oh, but that evil-nerdy-ass-kissing Asian Professor is trying to steal the grant away from her. He is portrayed as such an asshole, you just want him to get killed (it's a horror monster movie).

The only movie I ever recall having seen an Asian guy with a white female was in Dragon: the Bruce Lee Story - I guess Hollywood didn't decide to change the real story of Bruce Lee although I can really imagine one of the executives going: "Does she have to be white?"

Lastly I wanted to mention one story that I heard in a documentary. It was about horror movies and this older woman was telling how she had heard about this shocking new horror movie in 1968 called Night of the Living Dead. People had been buzzing about it and so many people were curious to see it and as was she. The real reason for that was that for the first time they had a black man in the main role. That was more shocking than the terror of walking dead people at that time. But that movie and it's remake are one of my favorite horror movies of all times because it doesn't follow cliches and treats the story just as something that is happening no matter what status the people may have had in their life previous to the horrors to follow.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

They travel in Pairs

I have often found it curious how movies sometimes seem to appear at the same time with great similarities in content. Here some examples just from the top of my head:

Antz - A Bug's Life

The Abyss - Leviathan - Deep Star Six

Finding Nemo - Shark Tale

Now again I found myself wondering if these two are another case of this. Judge for yourselves.

Black Death

Season of the Witch

I am actually excited about both (despite my unexplainable dislike of Nicolas Cage) as the theme is something that I am into.
As far as I understand it Black Death is a British production while Season of the Witch is American. Notice even the similarities in the opening scenes of both trailers - a wide shot of the landscape. I wonder which movie came first?