06/07/2014

Editorial: Hating Things Because They're Popular

You ever sat down and muttered to yourself "Oh I hate this thing" when what you actually hate is the people enjoying it? If you answered no to that question then you are probably lying or the only person to be truly level headed about media around the web these days. It's become increasingly apparent that the era of globalization has brought a couple of personality faults with it, or maybe just brought them out into the open.

To illustrate my point, let's look at a popular example: The Halo series, created originally by Bungie and made exclusively for Microsoft systems like the Xbox or Windows. Though the PC version of Halo 1 would later be available to play on Mac systems. In Halo you play as the heroic, somewhat overpowered Master Chief (real identity unknown), together with the super advanced AI Cortana he battles numerous aliens in order to stop them from unleashing an ancient alien weapon known as The Flood and destroying the universe with it as part of their religious dogma. Though I've only played Halo 1-3 without any of the spin-offs I can safely say that it's solid action-science-fiction-first-person-shooter goodness and one of the few shooters that I actually enjoying playing with a controller. I'm not alone in thinking that, Halo is one of the best-selling video game franchises of the last decade or so and really there's nothing wrong with that.

However, then you take a look at youtube comments for any given video that mentions Halo and suddenly the flame war is on. "Damn I hate Halo" "Man, Halo is such an overrated series" - The list goes on. Really, it's not like the Halo series is the only one that encounters this much hate but in this case, as with a lot of other super popular series it seems like the hate is kinda unwarranted. It seems like people hate things because they're popular - or because they're liked by people they don't like. I'm guilty of this myself, I have not and will probably never watch James Cameron's Titanic from 1997 because I simply felt like I was overexposed to it as a kid. Titanic came out when my female cousins were just discovering a liking for "cute boys" and of course Leonardo Di Caprio was a public darling at the time. That meant I heard sighed comments about the film constantly, as well as I saw walls adjournedly filled with pictures of Mr. Di Caprio and of course a poster of the film itself. Honestly, way into my teenage years I barely had any respect for Di Caprio because of this experience. That's probably what happened to Halo, or My Little Pony, or Harry Potter, or Doctor Who, or any such popular series from the last three decades you can name which has just as large a base hating it as it has loving it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you've decided you hate something before even checking out the actual material - you need, nay we all need, to take a step back and examine the reasons for why. If the reason you hate something doesn't seem that levelheaded, give the stuff and actual look - you might actually find something you love.

06/06/2014

Godzilla (2014)

Film: Godzilla
Release: 2014, Theatrical
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: 15 years after a nuclear meltdown that tore his family apart, a homebound soldier is forced to go pay bail for his seemingly superstitious father. However when the fathers theories prove to be true, humanity is faced with a problem that has been resting beneath the earth for millenia.

Hans' thoughts:

In 1954, a Japanese film studio called Toho aped the success of the giant monster genre with their own take: Gojira! (or as it's known in the west, Godzilla! King of the Monsters!) The movie was a tremendous success and ushered in the kaiju genre as well as a long spanning movie series, a reboot in the 80's, and an American remake in 1998. The American remake starring Matthew Broderick and directed by disaster-movie master Roland Emmerich is widely regarded as one of the worst movies not only of the genre, but of that decade. When Hollywood announced they were coming out with a new take on the Godzilla characters, fans were (perhaps understandably) wary of what the west would make of their favorite big screen monster this time. 

Did I tune into a Simpsons live-action movie by accident?
So let's get the obvious stuff out of the way first, one of the biggest problems with most disaster movies is that the human parts are absolutely boring, not just by comparison with what is going on in the rest of the movie but by drama standards as well. The human actors who do the best job are Bryan Cranston as the Captain Ahab like Dr. Brody and whoever played that pleading guy trapped in a crane being dragged into the abyss. I'm sorry, I really am, but I felt little to no chemistry between any of the human characters - including up and comer superstar Aaron-Taylor Johnson whom I've previously enjoyed in his role as Kick-Ass. Most of the characters who spoke in the movie had little to nothing to say besides explaining to the audience what is going on on the screen when they weren't mugging at the camera to try and make us believe that what they were looking at was very tragic and very real. I did not believe the love between the main character and his wife, played by Elizabeth Olsen. As many flaws as the '98 Godzilla movie had, at least I cared a little more about the characters on screen - even if that care was whether they were stepped on or eaten. Frequently the movie would give us a two second shot of the action going on and then immediately cut back to a full scene with nothing but human characters - even long after the focus should've cut completely to just the rampage and the reactions by the human onlookers. A fun addition to the human roster however was Ken Watanabe as this movies version of Dr. Serizawa. However Watanabe got little to nothing to do in the entirety of the film and in the first 25 minutes I was honestly wondering whether his character was supposed to be mute.

All this is really a damn shame because once the movie actually kicks into gear there is a lot of good stuff there. The special effects are really cool, the spectacle-o-meter is going into the red with all the stuff happening - you get what you came for. Senseless meaningless and all encompassing destruction. Once all the key players of the movie are on set (and let's be honest nothing in that sentence includes something human) the destruction is great. A lot of critics has treated the fact that there's more than one monster in this movie as a spoiler, however there being a second monster in the film is clearly shown in the officially released trailer. The interaction between monsters and the animation of the monsters felt more real, than the actual human characters running around trying to survive the disaster. I got more attached to evil monsters in this film than I should've and that's for shame. Godzilla is also fortunately in this movie, as opposed to the '98 disaster that simply but a computer generated T-Rex on screen. He looks like his Japanese counter part, he has the power set of his Japanese counterpart and he actually acted like Godzilla would. It was awesome to see him and his enemies smash themselves through the screen time they got - even if the designs of the new monsters were kinda cliché. The human parts may not be all that good but the people tied to the creative process obviously treated this as a petproject that they really wanted to see succeed. They get what the genre is all about, they get why Godzilla is so awesome, all they really need to do for their next outing is work on their drama skills - or maybe motivate their actors a little better. 

After the success of Del Toro's 2013 kaiju love-letter Pacific Rim we may see more and more American kaiju attempts like this one. I'll be happy if the rest of them will at least hit this level of quality and dedication when it comes to the spectacle and special effects. If the sequel to this movie simply ups its game when it comes to the human parts, we may actually get the great western action blast that the king of monsters truly deserves. 

21/05/2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Film: X-Men: Days of Future Past
Release: 2014, Theatrical
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Peter Dinkleage, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Previous in the series: The Wolverine
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Years into the future, a race-based war between humans and mutants has thrown the would into chaos and the mutants on the border of extinction. As a last desperate measure, Wolverine is thrown into the mind of himself from 1973, to bring together the corner stones of the mutant civil war: Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier.

Hans' thoughts: 

After bringing the series back from the brink of extinction with X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine, Bryan Singer is bringing us the brink of mutant extinction on the silver screen. With imagery mimicking the footage of the second world war, Singer shows us a dark and twisted future where apparently not only did most of the major cities get nearly destroyed - The sun decided to tone down its shining and draw all the color from the world till everything was a mix of black, grey and blue. Kidding aside, the movie does have a bit of a problem during the first 10 minutes of the movie. No re-introductions are served to an audience that's not seen most of these characters since X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006 and that gives us little time to get comfortable before a heavy amount of science fiction talk is thrown in our faces. This movie is mostly for those who has been along for the entire ride. Indeed, the only movie you don't expressively need to have seen before viewing is The Wolverine from last year.

 To audiences who remembers that far back, there's a nice reunion with Storm (Halle Berry), Shadowcat (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and of course Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Unfortunately, while it's nice to see them all together again, they don't get to do much in the movie at all aside from a quick line of dialogue here and there and we just barely see them in action at all. Focus is instead on the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto - namely Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender). Thankfully, while the dark and grim future of the old actors doesn't have much going on - the movie picks up greatly once we actually have Wolverine in the 70's meeting the younger versions of both the aforementioned two gentlemen and also a certain supporting castmember we've not heard from since X-Men 2. Staying around from First Class we also have Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and as the big turning point of the movie we have the return of Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. 


In the past era which spins most of the movie, the pace is quickly picked up. References to the major lore of the X-Men franchise is thrown at the audience and Peter Dinkleage does a great job as the scientist Dr. Trask. Indeed the very color defined imagery of the future stands as a direct opposite to very alive world of the past. One of the things that's been discussed a lot about the movie is the inclusion of Quicksilver, here played by Evan Peters. The movie seems to have a lot of fun with the concept of an incredibly speedy character and at least one moment had most of the theater bursting with laughter - The ball is in your court Marvel Studios. However like most of the X-Men movies before, this movie doesn't do team focus very well and the main part of the movie is therefore bounced between McAvoy's Xavier and Lawrence's Mystique, with Jackmans' Wolverine serving as the audience point of view. 

On the other hand, something the X-Men movies have always done very well is special effects and once again the effects are in tip top shape to show us the spectacle of just what these characters are capable of. A character I've sadly been missing from the other movies has been Beast and Hoult gets to completely beast out in this movie and actually do some action scenes of his own. X-Men: Days of Future Past is not the greatest of the bunch by any means. Lawrence does not feel like she's particularly interested to be in the movie with most of the returning cast members from the original trilogy. Dinklage's Trask rarely speaks at all which is a major problem considering his status in the film. McAvoy and Fassbender and Hoult all do perfectly great in the movie with Fassbender once again bringing in the bacon with his menacing Magneto. McKellen and Stewart are criminally underused, with McKellen only uttering one or two lines in the entire film. Why they were brought in at all is a mystery. Jackman does as good as always with his portrayal of Wolverine; it's strange they decided to once again throw main focus on him because in the original comic Shadowcat was the one to go back in time. The one piece of expository dialogue we never got was how the time travel stuff actually came into the posession of our heroes but that's just kinda thrown to the wind. There's also focus on a cameo character who nobody who hasn't read the comics or watched X2 lately will actually recognizw due to him only being recognizable by his last name. However it does what it came to do - give us the big rewind so we're ready for the next full-cast action blast. As an action movie it has some spectacular effects to latch onto. It makes for some great entertainment value as well, as a reunion movie however it kinda fails in not letting the old folks have that much to say or do. Whether this was due to budgetary restraints is anyone's guess but it's still a shame.

Project Wonderful 3