Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

The Avengers Trailer Looks Like They Need To Fix It In Post.

It’s funny, as the release date for The Avengers slowly draws nearer, I’m starting to realize more and more the fact that there’s very little chance of it being shitty.

I have a great deal of love for Marvel comics, so just getting a chance to see the characters of that universe being brought to life in 200 million dollar budgeted films is enough to make me happy.

It doesn’t matter so much if the acting is great, or the plot deeply layered, as long I get to see the spirit and energy of the characters brought to life, there’s very little chance I’ll walk away from an Avengers movie wanting my money back.

Then again, I would’ve said the same about Transformers, that is, until Michael Bay dumped ass all over my childhood and raped my wallet…

TWICE.

"I swear I will not kill anyone... But I WILL shit on all of your childhood heroes."

That being said, while it’s a bit difficult to determine exactly what the plot of the movie is based on the trailer, (as should be the case, given that it’s only the first theatrical trailer) in many ways I applaud the marketing folks over at Marvel/Disney for cramming in screen time for virtually all of the heavy hitters that have been confirmed to be appearing in the film.

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki appears to be the central villain of the film, though based on the uncertain events at the conclusion of Captain America, in my mind it’s entirely possible that Red Skull could have a hand in things as well.

My bet is, he does.

Given the Hulk’s unstable nature, as well as the plot of the first Avengers comic, I’m guessing he’s going to end up being manipulated by Loki at some point; resulting in a heel/face turn at some point in the film.

I don't think I'm alone in saying I'd like to see a bit of THIS somewhere in there though.

Speaking of the Hulk, his reveal at the end of the trailer was well utilized, as he’s the one confirmed Avenger we really haven’t seen up to this point.

Despite no shortage of explosions and FX shots though, I can’t help but feel that this first trailer was cut from footage of a yet unfinished product.

At least I hope that’s the case.

There are numerous shots that feel very “static,” lacking in energy and purpose to a degree that they feel almost amateurish.

Seriously man, count how many shots there are of single characters, standing in boring and vacant locations.

"DURRR!!! I'M THE BLACK WIDOW AND I JUST FARTED A BUS EXPLOSION! DURRR!!!"

Chances are you’ll run out of fingers and toes on that one.

At the same time, many of the FX shots, particularly some of the exploding cars, look to me as if they are meant to be templates for CGI compositing.

It’s rare to see explosions in Hollywood films these days where the detonation source and materials seem plainly visible, and as such; I wouldn’t be surprised if the aforementioned exploding car shots are awaiting some sort of energy beam effects to cover all that up.

It’s funny, as I write this nitpicky article, I can’t help but be reminded of the early trailers for Iron Man.

I remember seeing the early TV spots for Iron Man, and being largely unimpressed.

I don’t know if you recall, but the pacing of these commercials was very weak, and some of the effects shots were not quite finished, resulting in advertisements that didn’t at all reflect the awesomeness of the final product.

Compare this early TV spot:

To the later released full trailer here:

Not only is the composition better, the special effects, particularly in the “tank shot” sequence, are rendered with more detail and smoother animation.

When you’re dealing with effects heavy films like this, it’s entirely possible that the computer effects crew will end up working on the project up until the release date.

While I could be wrong, I’m really hoping this is the case with The Avengers, as while it looks totally acceptable at this point, it doesn’t look at all exceptional.

What else can I say about this?:

Captain America’s costume looks a little bit too stretchy and “pajama-y” for me to give it a thumbs up.

Am I wrong in thinking it looks kind of like the live-action Kick-Ass costume?

Hank Pym should get a nod or a cameo, as I’d love to see The Vision or Ultron show up in a movie someday.

Kudos to the marketing department for excluding any and all shots of the Avengers working together or “assembling,” as that’s one of those oh-so-important fanboy moments that’s probably best left for the theaters.

Here’s hoping Agent Coulson gets an action beat somewhere in there, ’cause he’s been consistently fun over the years.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that the always solid Jeremy Renner won’t suck as Hawkeye… ‘Cause let’s face it: he’s Hawkeye.

"Who? Me?"

For once I’m actually hoping Joss Whedon decides to “George Lucas” his movie with distracting lights and colors in every shot.

Seriously man, this is the fuckin’ Avengers movie.

It’s only gonna’ premiere once, and you’ve been hyping it for like 4-5 years now.

Go balls out, or don’t waste my motherfuckin’ time.

No Avengers film, or any film for that matter, should have boring-ass shots of The Black Widow standing ever so casually in front of pitiful exploding buses, or for that matter; Nick Fury firing rocket launchers while standing in front of my dad’s garage.

BOH-RRRRRIIIIING.

Anyway, that’s about all I’ve got to say on this one, hopefully it turns out fun for everyone, ’cause at this point if any one film this coming year could hope make good on that promise, it’d have to be The Avengers.

If it does in fact start to suck when I’m in the theater though, I know exactly the phrase that’s going to come to mind:

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Lucas Stuck His Chubby Fingers In The Star Wars Pie… AGAIN.

Damn George, lay off the pie...

George Lucas was, at one point in time; a visionary.

Said “point” in time lasted about 5 minutes.

Through films like THX 1138, the man demonstrated his eye for visuals; as well as his weakness in the areas of narrative and storytelling.

Films like American Graffiti, as well as some of the later entries in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series made clear the man’s love for hot rod/car culture.

Given the ludicrous number of references to pre-existing films that are featured in the Star Wars films, it’s tough to say just how legit the man’s creativity was, but that’s not the subject of today’s article and I’d prefer not to get into to it for the sake of avoiding the inevitable case of carpal tunnel that would likely emerge if I were to attempt to address such an issue at length.

*AHEM!* That being said, despite all the wonderful franchises and stories that George Lucas has given us over the years, ever since the release of the Star Wars Special Edition series in the late 90’s, there’s been a recurring theme of “control freak-ery” regarding Mr. Lucas.

With seemingly every successive release of the Star Wars series (of which there have been many) numerous tweaks have been made, ranging from the major to the infinitesimal in regards to their impact on the overall package.

With the impending release of the Star Wars series on blu ray, (as well as the upcoming 3-D theatrical re-re-releases) it has been confirmed that more minor tweaks are on the horizon.

An article at Topless Robot covering each of these changes in detail can be found here.

Aside from R2-D2 hiding behind rocks that are physically impassible given his proportions, and Yoda being changed to a CGI character in Episode I, (a change I think is actually for the better) the one of these changes that stuck out the most to me, was that of the audio for Obi-Wan’s Krayt Dragon cry that he used to scare off the Tusken Raiders in Episode IV.

In my mind, the original audio had him sounding like a high pitched fire alarm mixed with a Dewback call.

Given, that’s just me going by memory, as it’s been a few years since I’ve seen A New Hope.

Anyway, this new version of Obi-Wan’s scream, sounds just plain weird to me:

I guess Lucas wanted to change it because, let’s face it; despite the series’ unbelievable sound design, Obi-Wan’s yell did indeed sound like a mish-mash of familiar elements, but even so; this sounds just plain odd to me.

It’s like the audio sounds too crisp for the video or some shit.

Oh yeah, and don’t pretend for a minute that it doesn’t remind you of this:

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Movie Review: Coup De Cinema

Official Website: http://coupdecinemamovie.com/

IMDb Page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1776137/

Trailer: http://vimeo.com/22768170

Before we get started with this review, I’d just like to take a moment to thank the co-director/co-writer/editor/storyboard artist of this film, and good friend of mine, Sean Parker; for allowing me the opportunity to write this review.

From the day I met him back in college, I always thought of him as perhaps the only young filmmaker I’d ever met that really seemed like he was going to “make it.”

If a single film must be cited to indicate a young filmmaker’s arrival into the realm of having “made it” in the indie scene, I can think of few films that better represent this transition than Coup De Cinema.

Beginning life as a college film project between co-directors and long time partners in crime, Sean Parker and Austin Hillebrecht, only to be completed several years after the matter; Coup De Cinema is a handsomely shot (on a Canon Mk. II if I recall correctly) comedy-heist film that benefits from also being a movie about making movies.

In the fine tradition of films such as Ed Wood and Bowfinger, the creators of Coup wears their love for film on their sleeves; presenting a story told amidst and adjacent to a film-within-a-film.

Shot in Portland, Oregon and Olympia, Washington; the basic plot of Coup De Cinema surrounds a struggling young wannabe filmmaker named Miles Smith, played by co-director and pretty much everything in between, Austin Hillebrecht.

Pictured: Austin Hillebrecht as Miles Smith, our protagonist.

Hard up for work in his chosen field, and frustrated in his “not quite” relationship with his lady friend Caitlyn; (Nomi Summa) Miles’ dilemma effectively reflects the plight of the modern recent college graduate.

Eventually, Miles has a chance encounter with a DVD sleeve cover that sets him on a path towards seeking employment at a local film studio, Bourgeois Pictures.

Finding their hiring process to be as exclusive as their namesake, Miles ducks through an open door and follows it to a screening room where he meets Bourgeois producer, Rick Steiner (David Loftus).

Pictured: Rick Steiner... Who bears no relation to the pro-wrestler of the same name.

Won over (well, slightly anyway…) by Miles’ pluck and ambition, Rick grants Miles a job as a production assistant on Bourgeois’ current production, “Marauders of the Door of Doom,” provided the director of the picture, Adrian Dreyfus (Corey Brunish); signs off on him.

Ecstatic with his success, Miles ducks into the Bourgeois restroom before his first day of work and muses, out loud mind you; about the wonderful possibilities that working at Bourgeois might offer him in the near future.

Unfortunately, as tends to be the case when we say stupid things out loud to ourselves, Miles discovers he is not alone.

Well, it tends to happen when I do it anyway…

Standing in the corner atop a tiny box, hijacking someone else’s wi-fi for use on his smart phone; the jaded (and more than a little shady) Bourgeois camera operator, Buster (Dennis Fitzpatrick) quietly eavesdrops on Miles’ conversation with himself, making the poor kid feel more than a little dumb in the process.

Pictured: Buster, doing like me in my college days and stealing wi-fi.

Despite the awkwardness of this initial meeting, the relationship between these 2 characters warms over time, and goes on to serve as the backbone of Coup De Cinema.

Following this, Miles has his first encounter with the film’s primary antagonist, the studio’s director Adrian.

Pictured: The wild-eyed control freak in all of his glory. No, I'm not talking about George Lucas.

Upon first meeting him, Miles is taken aback by Adrian’s manic intensity, but after a bizarre (and entirely one-sided) exchange; Miles gets the job.

Initially thrilled with his good fortune, Miles unfortunately makes the mistake of viewing some of Bourgeois Pictures previous films on his own time.

Shocked and despondent over the sheer craptacular-ness of Bourgeois’ track-record, Miles quickly becomes disillusioned with the studio and his future with it.

This of course leads to Miles arriving at the conclusion that, based on what he’s seen of the studio’s past efforts, as well as Adrian’s less than stellar conduct as a director; he could do better.

Thus sets in motion the “Coup” aspect of the film’s title, wherein Miles and Buster, with the aid of the crew and actors of “Marauders of the Door of Doom” AKA MOTDOD; attempt to rewrite, re-shoot, and re-edit the movie to a higher standard of quality under Miles’ direction.

The real difficulty (and indeed much of the fun) of this undertaking comes from the fact that in order for Miles’ coup to work, he and the crew must continue to perform their duties on Adrian’s production of MOTDOD, while keeping him and Rick unaware of their extracurricular filmmaking activities.

What results is an irresistibly cute film that dips into a lot of moods and textures, but never fails to provide fun on some level.

From the careful attention to detail in lighting, angles, and depth of field, to the delightfully whimsical soundtrack, to the way a select few characters in the story are drawn and acted in broader strokes than others, Coup De Cinema is a film that oozes a cartoony and hyper-real charm.

The film has a wonderful energy and “casually fast” pace that feels organic, never labors or drags, yet isn’t afraid to kick it into high gear whenever the story dictates it.

Pictured: One of the more exciting scenes in the movie.

Aside from the central plot device of the actual coup, which is refreshingly clever both in premise and execution; I think the real selling point for the film is the characters.

The film has a rather large cast, which of course results in some characters receiving more screen time than others; but to it’s credit, I found myself able to distinguish and keep track of the players with little difficulty.

In that sense, you could say the film was well cast, not only due to the quality of performances; but by the simple fact that every actor was visually distinctive regardless.

On that note, Austin Hillebrecht’s turn as the leading man was quite enjoyable, with his bright-eyed enthusiasm and not-quite-confident, half-cocked smile going a long way towards making him a character worth following for an hour and a half.

On a side note, I’m not sure if it was intended, but Miles’ “emo” wardrobe during the mid-way romantic crisis of the film had me snickering.

Pictured: What I like to call, "Emo Miles."

Speaking of romance, the one role in the film that stood out to me as being a little off, was that of Caitlyn, Miles’ “sort-of” romantic interest; not so much in terms of performance, but in writing.

In my opinion, it was wise to keep the Caitlyn character and the drama she brought to the table securely on the periphery; but in the end what we’re left with amounts to that of a cold fish romance.

Don’t get me wrong, the role was well-acted as it was written; but at the end of the day I couldn’t help but feel that the awkwardness in her and Miles’ relationship was pushed just an inch too far.

Another role that felt a little off to me, was that of Ren Fields (Tony Zilka), the studio editor and minor antagonist of the film.

Pictured: Ren Fields from Coup De Cinema. Technically Coup De Cinema did it before Toy Story 3 though...

From what I could tell, the character is meant to be a riff on the artsy-fartsy types of the experimental school of filmmaking.

He’s supposed to be socially awkward, and of the belief that he is a misunderstood artist rather than a film school reject.

I’m only assuming that last part, but I defy you to tell me he doesn’t seem like the type.

While the character is written this way, in all honesty I felt the performance was a little too restrained.

The verbal quirks were in place, and some of the body language was there, but unlike the romantic subplot; I felt the Ren Fields character would’ve benefited from being a little extravagant and outrageous.

Speaking of outrageous, Corey Brunish as Adrian seemed like he had a lot of fun chewing every last square inch of scenery in the movie.

If there was one role in the movie that really had no upper limit as to how over-the-top it could it be performed without damaging the integrity of the film; it’d have to be Adrian.

Coming across as some sort of demented, coked-out Dennis Hopper/James Cameron/George Lucas hybrid, I was impressed by the Adrian character both in writing and performance.

Behold! The Chimera of CGI and psychedelic drugs!

I realize I may have just described the single most terrifying and infuriating human being in all of existence; but trust me, it all comes together quite nicely.

While his story arc might get a little out of hand and far-fetched during the film’s climax, given the character’s personality up to that point; I didn’t find his actions to be the least bit jarring.

By the way, watching him casually suggest things like “We’ll fix it in post,” was a thing of beauty.

Before I continue my gushing any further, I feel I must address my last gripe about The Coup, and I do mean last; that has to do with the character of Wilhelm, played by Rhyan Schwartz.

No doubt named for the infamous Wilhelm Scream, the boom-operator character of Wilhelm had me scratching my head much of the time.

My guess is, the decision was made to give him a quirk, some sort of quickly identifiable trait; in this case a French accent, so as to make him more memorable as a character.

Given that the role was actually very small, this had the result of making the guy standout just a little too much, leading to me thinking of him as “that one French guy” as opposed to an actual personality.

Barrie Wild’s character of Tim, an Irishman; also had a noteworthy accent, but also had the benefit of more screen-time and lines in the script, resulting in him seeming quite a bit more fleshed out than Wilhelm.

Oh well, on the plus side Wilhelm’s reaction to a throwaway joke regarding the WWII invasion of his homeland is quite precious:

The face of a man who's just seen Santa's ding dong.

Moving on, while virtually every role in the film was performed ably, there are a few I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge, that of Dennis Fitzpatrick’s Buster, and David Loftus’ Rick Steiner.

Both of these characters had significant arcs in the film, and as such; felt pivotal to the film’s success.

The character of Buster was essentially the rock of the coup, (again, not the wrestler) unwavering in the face of adversity, and quick to rise to the occasion whenever necessary.

Watching him go from a jaded old-timer to an enthusiastic pillar of the group was a pleasant journey, arguably even more so than our sometimes troubled protagonist, Miles’.

While some could say Buster’s arc had him getting a little too warm and fuzzy by the end, personally; I found it refreshing.

Steiner’s character is one that I’d prefer not to spoil, but I will say this; the man is a joy to watch on a technical level.

I’m not sure if it was good editing or what, but some of Loftus’ minor inflections and stumbles in his speech really went a long way towards legitimizing the character in my eyes.

At the end of the day, I’d happily recommend Coup De Cinema to anyone with an appreciation for film.

As mentioned earlier, the film is handsomely shot, stupendously scored, and equally well written and acted.

I’ve always found myself in awe of the art of filmmaking, and as such, films that take it upon themselves to pay homage to the process; and actually show the audience what goes into it, will always have a special place in my heart.

Maybe it’s because I’m a friend of one of the directors, or because I’m actually in the film; (in the BEST 5 seconds of the film *wink wink*) but I really liked Coup De Cinema.

Pictured: THE BEST PART OF THE MOVIE.

Again, my opinion has nothing to do with the awesomely spectacular image above.

*ANYWAY* from what I’ve been told, the movie has done well in the local film festival circuits, and is in fact set to appear at the Action on Film Festival, where it was nominated for the best title sequence; sometime this week.

My greatest hope is that the film is received there half as well as it was when it was screened among my family and friends.

That being said, I’d like to take another opportunity to thank Sean Parker and Austin Hillebrecht for giving me the opportunity to view and review Coup De Cinema.

Thank you to all the actor’s and crew members involved in the process, I assure you, you did a wonderful job even if I didn’t mention you by name!

Be sure to look quick at 1:08:53 for a cameo of co-director Sean Parker!

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“I’ve Got A Problem Here…”

Ah, Jek Porkins; how we hardly knew thee.

To the scant few out there on the intersnatch that don’t know the story of Jek Porkins, I offer this brief history lesson:

From what I can recall from my Star Wars obsessed childhood, Jek Porkins was from the planet Bestine IV.

Where that is, or what significance that planet holds in the greater Star Wars universe, I have no fucking clue.

Pretty much everything you’ll be reading in this little bio section here came from a trading card and a handful of comics, so don’t be surprised if there’s a few holes here and there.

 

Pictured: Said trading card. I've got like a dozen of these...

Disclaimer aside, let’s continue with the epic saga of Jek Porkins, shall we?

A trader and a pilot before The Empire made him and his people refugees, Porkins joined up with the Rebel Alliance and became a pilot in their starfleet.

Due to his obese, vaguely Stay Puft Marshmallow Man-like physique, Porkins was awarded politically incorrect (and hilarious) nicknames such as “Belly Runner” and “Piggy” during his tenure in the Rebel starfleet.

 

"Sucks to your ass-mar!"

The highlight of Porkin’s career came tragically (and hilariously) at the end of his life during the Battle of Yavin, when while piloting X-Wing fighter Red Six along the surface of the Death Star, his ship malfunctioned, causing him to fall prey to the space station’s Turbolasers.

It was this moment, Porkin’s death; that immortalized the character of Jek Porkins in the minds and imaginations of sci-fi dorks throughout the world.

However morbid it may sound, there’s just something satisfying about watching a fat man die in a movie; particularly when he does so in such a pathetic manner.

 

Case in point...

To my recollection, Porkins accomplished exactly nothing at the Battle of Yavin.

Seriously, it’s a fuckin’ miracle that tank-ass Porkins even managed to get his S-Foils open without self-pwning.

Regardless of what the expanded fiction and lore of Star Wars may indicate these days, what I remember seeing of Porkins during the running time of A New Hope; consisted of him flying in formation, helping Biggs take out a tower, and then exploding in a fiery (and flabby) blaze of sad.

Hell, I’ve read that he took a Turbolaser up his ass, but based on what I remember of the movie; I always kind of thought his ship exploded on it’s own due to malfunction.

Now that I think of it, that actually kind of works out in some ways.

He was just so damn fat, and so damn sad, that his ship just up and FAILED itself into oblivion, thereby ensuring that if would never have to bear the humiliation of hauling his chunky ass across the galaxy ever again.

Anyway, consider this a tribute of sorts to the marvelous death of the fat sack of fail known to the world of dorkdom as Jek Porkins.

Salute to Porkins, salute to the equally humorously named actor, William Hootkins; that portrayed him (as well as many other memorable fat guys of the 80’s) in A New Hope.

More than anything though, salute to George Lucas, that evil greedy bastard; for having the balls to insert a blatant fat joke into an action-packed sequence of galactic warfare.

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“You Betrayed Shiva!”

I don’t know why, but for some reason I’ve been in a very Spielberg/Lucas-y mood for the past week or so.

For those that don’t get the quote/reference featured on the card, I direct you to this amusing waste of time.

I’m pretty sure it all started last weekend when my buddy Mencius was kind enough to show me the Red Letter Media critique/analysis of Star Wars Episode III.

For those that haven’t seen the video, it’s serves as both an insightful and hilarious look at Episode III, as well as the nature of the entire Star Wars film franchise.

Truth be told, the way the whole thing was structured, it actually kind of reminded me of the writing style I use for posts on this blog.

Y’know, tidbits of information/humor, separated by irreverent and/or stupid images and captions.

Kind of like this.

Anyway, that’s my explanation for all the Harrison Ford/Indiana Jones references as of late.

Seeing as Lucas-ian products serve as a near bottomless treasure trove for retarded (and amusing) quotes and references, I wouldn’t be surprised if this keeps up for some time.

Hey, it’s not my fault I’ve got nothing to write about, not a whole is happening in my particular corner of the woods of dorkiness.

And no, I don’t give a shit that Johnny Storm/The Human Torch of The Fantastic Four died last week.

Johnny Storm, showing us just why he had to die.

I’ve never been a fan of The Fantastic Four, and while I find it interesting that the one member of the team that I had any appreciation for is the one Marvel decided to kill off; I don’t see myself ever owning or reading a Fantastic Four book in a good long while.

Anyway, here’s hoping I find something to write about soon, otherwise I’m just gonna’ keep making Magic cards until I’ve got a whole fuckin’ deck of ’em…

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The Legend of Harrison Ford’s Punches

While I’m guessing it’s been thoroughly documented elsewhere, I feel I need to say a little something about the nature of the above Magic card.

Harrison Ford made his livings as an “action star” for a good portion of the 80’s and early 90’s.

Despite this reputation however, it doesn’t take a genius to notice that he’s by no means a physical specimen.

Pictured: Harrison Ford prepares to undergo a procedure to become a physical specimen.

Let it be known, in the world of Hollywood films, a “rugged” appearance, a team of good stunt men, and some creative camera angles can go a long way towards making an action star out of even the most ordinary of people.

That being said, while I loves me some Harrison Ford, and would never go out of my way to talk shit about him or his career, I feel it needs to be mentioned that the man never fully grasped the mechanics involved in throwing a decent punch.

While that may sound like nitpicking to some, (it is) I’ve always found this to be hilarious, being as Mr. Ford has a reputation for decking people in an alarming number of his films, much to my approval.

Hell, I even remember him clocking somebody in Witness, while disguised as an Amish guy no less.

Damn, that's one savage MAN FACE. Hey look, Viggo Mortensen!

Watching Harrison Ford draw back and punch somebody, is akin to bearing witness to a violent seizure or dry heave.

Near as I can tell, the man has no fucking clue what he’s doing, nor any real control over his actions; yet somehow, he’s pretty damn consistent about doing it the same way every time.

You see he doesn’t really punch, per se.  It’s more like he sticks out his arm like Superman and falls fist first into people’s faces.

"Aw shit, get to cover people! Harrison Ford's winding up!"

My guess is, this particular technique is unorthodox and unpredictable to the point of being utterly impossible to avoid.

Think of it like drunken boxing, only sloppier and more Jewish.

Fortunately, Mr. Ford’s punches have the benefit of being backed up with some of the greatest punch sound effects in the history of film:

That’s the magic of filmmaking for yah’.

You can throw the ugliest punches known to man for 20 or 30 years, but in the end; all it takes is the combined awesomeness of a character like Indiana Jones, and some awesome sound effects, and you have the makings of an action movie legend.

Thus is the difference between an “Indiana Jones Punch,” and a “Harrison Ford Punch.”

The former has the benefit of Spielberg-ian/Lucas-ian cinematography and sound engineering, while the latter displays the sad reality behind all the flash.

Anyway, that was “The Legend of the Harrison Ford Punch.”

Hopefully this has been an educational, and intellectually stimulating experience.

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Looking Forward To Ultraman Zero: Super Decisive Battle! Belial’s Galactic Empire!

Remember my scene-by-scene dissection of Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy The Movie?

Remember how I poked fun at it’s paper-thin plot and absurd action-to-dialogue ratio?

Well, as fate would have it, Mega Monster Battle just got a theatrical sequel, and near as I can tell; it’s a helluva’ lot better than it’s predecessor.

Check out this review by the always reliable (and thorough) folks over at Sci-Fi Japan.

Despite tokusatsu film’s tendency to seem phoned-in when it comes to film adaptations of TV series, (especially in regards to sequels) I can honestly say that, even at a glance; the production art and character designs for Ultraman Zero had a level of investment and detail to them that suggest a lot of care was put into the project.

While Mega Monster Battle made use of Tsuburaya’s extensive collection of monster suits previously used in their Ultra Galaxy TV series, I was surprised to note a staggering number unique characters and costumes featured in the promotional material for Ultraman Zero.

In a clever homage to some of the older and more obscure characters in their extensive production history, several of the new hero characters are intentionally designed to resemble said characters.

Combine this, with the director of Ultraman Nexus, (my favorite series) even better effects work, and composer Kenji Kawai, and you have the makings of an Ultra film that I’m proud to be looking forward to seeing.

So what if the acting is shit?

So what if the live-action sets look hokie and cheap?

So what if the trailer shamelessly rips-off scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Star Wars Episode I?

As long as the movie is competently put together and has an ounce of the spirit that makes Ultraman so special, (as well as a awesome fight here and there) I’ll gladly pony up to see this one.

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Thoughts On Tron Legacy

I went to see Tron: Legacy in theaters today.

No, I didn’t watch it in 3D, and no; I was not at all excited to see it.

The original Tron was a movie that I never really had any sort of love for.

Sure, it was an astounding technical/visual achievement for it’s time, but that doesn’t mean it was all that good a movie.

To be perfectly honest, even as a kid I found the original Tron to be a muddled, confusing, and downright boring film.

“Boring” is a powerful word when used to describe a film consisting entirely of flashing lights and pretty colors.

As I sat in the theater today, I couldn’t help but feel that this Tron for the new generation; seemed to share many of the problems of it’s predecessor.

The film wasn’t bad, it was just sort of mediocre; and horribly paced to boot.

If ever there was a film that lost it’s way in the second half, it would be Tron: Legacy.

The basic plot of the film involves Jeff Bridges’ character from the previous film, Kevin Flynn; becoming trapped inside the digital realm of his own design, The Grid.

While doing whatever the fuck he does in there, he creates a digital program copy of himself, named Clu; and instills within him a “simple” directive of creating a perfect world.

As seemingly all computer-to-man exchanges seem to turn out, Clu ends up obeying this command to a fault, going so far as to usurp his creators position of power to achieve his goal.

It’s a fairly interesting set-up, that sadly is introduced to us far too late in the game to garner any significance to the audience; nor does it amount to any sort of dramatic pay-off.

Make no mistake: Tron is not a writer’s film.

Anyway, as you may have guessed, the little tidbit of the plot I just gave you is not something made apparent to the audience right off the bat.

Instead, we get treated to an introductory segment wherein our would-be protagonist, (he kind of gets shoved to the side… As does everyone else once THE PLOT gets dropped on us in the second act) Kevin Flynn’s son, Sam, (Garrett Hedlund) shows off for the 3D cameras through a series of EXTREME activities.

Truth be told, I found myself snickering through all of this, (as well as most of the film) as I couldn’t help but feel that it was the filmmaker’s way of justifying Sam’s physical prowess during the action sequences in the grid.

We see him ride his motorcycle, WRECKLESSLY, thereby showing he can drive a light cycle.

We see him do some hood jumping over cop cars that looks curiously like free-running, showing he’s not a feeb.

And on top of that, we see him do some fancy computer hacking, showing he is indeed computer literate enough to solve the mystery needed to START THE FUCKING MOVIE.

The reason I found this humorous, was the fact that I kept wanting them to show us a scene of him playing some Ultimate Frisbee in the park, y’know; to justify his awesomeness in Discs of Tron.

I’m jus’ sayin’, if you’re gonna’ take the time to cover your bases so artificially, you might as well cover them all.

Just so we can all say I talked about the plot, (Tron has a plot?  Since when?) the whole thing starts out sentimental and heartfelt, then it turns into a chaotic mess of (decent) action scenes, then THE PLOT comes crashing down, stopping the film’s momentum dead in it’s tracks.

From there we lose any sort of affinity we might have had for any of the characters, Michael Sheen acts faggy, and the whole thing ends with an anti-climactic bang.

Without exagerrating, the story progression felt like it was written by a 5 year old with A.D.D.

People, places, and essential plot devices seem to manifest at will, all in an attempt to streamline the process of getting the characters from point A to point B.

Despite the convenient nature of The Grid’s layout in regards to the central plot, it amazes me that somehow the film is still boring, and manages to throw us in the doldrums for more than half it’s running time.

Rest assured, most of the breadcrumbs of dramatic tension that the film attempts to sprinkle in the early goings are either ignored, or… No, actually they were all pretty much ignored.

Anyway, from an acting standpoint, I felt that everyone did alright with what the script had to offer.

Jeff Bridges was “fun,” I guess.

His retro dude-isms were decidedly out of place, and therefore worthy of a smile or 2, but for the most part his character, along with most everyone else; felt anemic and devoid of any real character.

Even so, Jeff Bridges has an inherent inviting aura of gravitas to him, so it’s hard for me to say anything bad about his performance.

I will say this though:

The digital mask used to portray Clu as a young Jeff Bridges was a pretty decent likeness, especially in profile and from over the shoulder, but the lips of the damn thing just looked wrong to me.

A friend of mine and I were joking that the “Digital Bridges” bore a resemblance to Bill Maher, such that we both felt Maher should’ve been cast in the part.

It was most apparent when he was speaking, particularly when yelling, (watch out for the speech sequence, he looks like shit…) but otherwise it was a decent attempt.

Good try, but we haven’t breached the uncanny valley just yet folks.

I feel it’s worth mentioning, that Michael Sheen will likely go down in history as the foremost authority on playing faggy Brits.

Seriously man, take one look at the man’s imdb, and you’re likely to find like 20 fuckin’ listings of him playing “Faggy Brit #4.”

While it may sound like I’m making fun of him, (I am) one should also note that Sheen’s just happens to be the only real notable performance in the entire film.

Watch out for all the cut-backs to him during the nightclub sequence, his posing and dancing were truly inspired.

And faggy.

Moving on, coming into Tron, Garrett Hedlund was an unknown item to me.

Despite having just seen him as one of the lead actors in a multi-million dollar film, I have to say, the man is still a nobody in my book.

‘Nuff said.

Olivia Wilde’s performance in the film was decently entertaining, bearing a wide-eyed inquisitiveness that made her a bit more endearing than most characters; however her place in the plot was somewhat lost to me.

She was apparently of vital importance to the story, as well as to the human world outside The Grid, however the explanation as to why felt inadequate.

Oh well, maybe I just couldn’t hear it over the FUCKING DAFT PUNK MUSIC!

That’s right folks, Daft Punk did the music for Tron: Legacy!

Not only that, they’re also in the fucking movie!

Did I mention Daft Punk did the music for Tron: Legacy!?

In case you couldn’t tell, the above statements were an example of sarcasm on the part of the Azn Badger.

Daft Punk’s score for Tron: Legacy is actually quite good.

There are some fairly inspired themes, particularly in the film’s quieter moments, and the whole score gels well with the aesthetic of the movie quite nicely.

My only real issue with the soundtrack, is probably more the fault of the editor and the director than Daft Punk, and that’s the fact that, like Inception; I felt the soundtrack held too large a presence in the film.

Much like anything in this world, if you pollute your film with too much music, no matter how beautiful; it will end up being detrimental in the long run.

Anyway, let’s get to the one part of this review that I’m sure everyone is here for:

The visuals.

Tron: Legacy is a very handsome film.

The artistic design is striking and beautiful, as well as imaginative and inventive to a fault.

The color palette is decidedly bleak for the most part, with black (as opposed to white in the first film) being a constant in most of the designs, and other colors being used as a highlight.

Rest assured, in classic Star Wars fashion: Red = Bad, Blue = Good.

To the credit of the digital artists, I found myself genuinely at a loss when it came to determining which props and sets were real, and which were digital.

Unlike in George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels, wherein the sets bore an artificiality to them that made the actors “pop” out from them, many of the railings, floors, and walls in The Grid were lit/rendered with such attention to detail and texture, that I honestly couldn’t tell if they were real or fake.

Speaking of texture, I want to thank the design team of Tron: Legacy for going the extra mile to design actual costumes for virtually all of the characters in the movie.

You all probably know how I feel about the upcoming Green Lantern movie, and how silly the digital Lantern suit looks to me; so it comes as a surprise to me that Tron would contain actual physical costumes, and quite good ones at that.

Everyone sort of looks like Dark Knight Batman/ninjas in The Grid, and while that doesn’t really do it for me personally, I have to say; they were stunningly well-designed.

On that note, the whole film has a very cohesive look to it that was clearly meant to reflect the orderliness of a computer system, however the metaphor seems to have stopped there.

Many of the design choices, while all wonderful to look at, are a little bit silly; even by sci-fi/fantasy standards.

In the world of The Grid, there are drunk hobo “programs,” (in the form of people wandering the “streets”) and there are dance clubs.

The streets of The Grid are perpetually covered in puddles of “water,” and programs carry umbrellas to shield themselves from “rain.”

Not only that, planes in The Grid show a tendency to stall when pushed too hard.

They’re little things, I know; but purposeful oversights to an imagined world’s continuity for the sake of art always make me giggle just a little.

In summary:

Tron: Legacy is a fantastical visual experience, just don’t expect any sort of depth to it… Or any entertainment value above the level of “mediocre.”

Well designed and imagined, the film is simply lacking in the one area that usually matters most in any film:

Writing.

That being said, if you do go see Tron: Legacy, make sure to look out for shades of Star Wars in Jeff Bridges costuming, as well as some of the events during the films final act.

When Jeff Bridges told his son to hop on the gun of their escape craft, I nearly cracked up waiting for him to tell the kid, “Don’t get cocky!” while he was shooting down TIE fighters, er, I mean “Tron Planes.”

Anyway, thanks for reading!

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Motion Capture Is Cool…

I was watching my newly purchased Blu-Ray of Avatar tonight, when it suddenly hit me that I forgot to write my blog.

Nah, just kidding, I never forget…

While I’m on the subject of movies though, I figure now would be a good time for me to talk about my feelings on motion capture technology; something that Avatar couldn’t have been made without.

I’ve always been fascinated by the artistry of the human body in motion.

I’m a firm believer in the concept that much of how we communicate our image and demeanor to the the people around us, stems from our body language.

That being said, whether it be in stage acting, professional wrestling, dance, mime, sports, or fighting; a person’s character, both fictionalized or genuine; shines through in the manner in which the move their body.

For me, a person that doesn’t converse with new people often, or well for that matter; being able to understand gesticulations and body language goes a long way towards getting to know people.

Though I can’t pin down the first time I saw it in action, motion capture technology is an amazing tool that I’ve grown to love very much.

The basic concept of it alone is utterly intriguing to the point in which I found myself wanting to be involved with it at some point.

Seriously, if you know anyone with an “in” to the motion capture industry, let me know!

For those who are unaware, motion capture is a technology that uses a specialized camera and computerized tracking system to map out and record the movements of a subject’s form.

Using the data recorded through this process, said movements can then be transposed onto the anatomy of a digital character.

In the context of movie or videogame production, doing so allows CGI animators to save (some) time by using actual human actors to map out a performance for digital characters, which can then be finessed or tweaked further by the animators.

In many ways, it’s the heir apparent to the classic animation technique of rotoscoping.

In many ways, the largest benefit of motion capture technology, is that it grants directors and animators an incredible degree of control over their projects.

If George Lucas is any indication, control is something that is very important to filmmakers.

They say some of the best moments in film history have been the results of happy coincidences, or even mistakes.

While that may be true, CGI stands as a counter to that, as a tool that allows filmmakers a degree of control that makes the word “mistake” seem almost obsolete.

CGI allows directors to create and animate just about any imagery that pops into their head, but motion capture technology allows them the ability to continue to work with actors, while taking advantage of the technology to precisely extract the desired performance from said actors.

While I don’t see live-action movies going away at any point in human existence, the inherent possibilities of producing digital motion captured films are downright incredible.

Think of it this way:

When producing CGI films with motion captured performances, one gains the freedom to set their film anywhere they want, populated by whatever they want.

They also retain the ability to cast big-name actors that put asses in the seats, not to mention gain the capacity to modify the actor’s appearance to their liking.

Not only that, motion capture also allows for stunt actors to be inserted into scenes without having to be shot at distance or from behind, as the whole process would be seamless.

Come to think of it, the whole concept of “stunts” as a whole could potentially be removed when making a motion captured film.

After all, the whole thing is performed in a sound stage, not to mention the actor can be “removed” from scenes whenever necessary, thereby allowing the animators to take over for the dangerous or “un-performable” sequences.

Still, the idea of being able to slip Donnie Yen’s motion capture performance into Tom Cruise’s digitally de-aged body is something that I’m sure a lot of people would pay to see.

To me though, the most interesting aspect of motion capture in film, is it’s effect on the acting process.

Acting in a green room, surrounded by artifice, actors have to dig deep and use their imagination to summon strong performances.

In short, more stress is put on the actor to use their body to convincingly occupy the digital landscape their character inhabits.

From the audience’s perspective, I find it changes how we view these performances as well.

While I myself am normally attuned to the physical aspects of an actors performance, when I watch motion captured performances, I find myself drawn to dig a little deeper.

I can’t tell you how much fun it is to see a digital character walk around in a movie, only to find the tiniest little inkling of evidence of the fact that you are in fact seeing a familiar actor, give a performance in an unfamiliar shell.

In many ways it reminds me of my lifelong love of Godzilla, or any sort of “suit acting” for that matter.

When Haruo Nakajima stomped around in a Godzilla suit, you could instantly tell it was him by the “largeness” and sheer character of his movements.

When Kane Hodder killed bitches as Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th movies, we could always tell it was him by how savagely he went about killin’ bitches.

When Peter Weller was switched out in favor of Robert John Burke (the fattie from Thinner) in Robocop 3, we were all up in arms; not just because that movie sucked, but because Burke’s physical performance simply wasn’t Robocop.

While motion captured performances will never beat good ‘ole “man-in-suit” acting, the concept is similar enough that is brings me great joy to watch.

I look forward to seeing the day when Donnie Yen steps into the motion capture studio and shows us what motion capture pictures have been missing out on.

Seriously, why the fuck hasn’t anyone made a martial arts movie in mo-cap yet, huh?

That’s right Robert Zemeckis and James Cameron, I’m lookin’ at you two…

Filed under: Boxing, Kung Fu, Movies, Tokusatsu, Wrestling, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Guest Review Over At Collected Editions!

The Collected Editions logo in all it's glory.

Wowee, lucky me!

Last month, the webmaster of a blog I frequent, Collected Editions; put out a request for guest comic book reviews for the month of November.

Being as I have been reading Collected Editions for quite some time, I jumped at the opportunity to contribute in some way.

At the time I had just finished reading Brian Michael Bendis’ Dark Avengers Vol. 1, Assemble; so with it fresh in my mind, I set out to write a review on it.

It took some doing, but I think I managed to write an article that measures up to the standard of quality that one would expect from a Collected Editions post.

While I’m on the topic, I’d like to thank the webmaster of Collected Editions for requiring me to edit and revise my writing.

Since I started this blog, I’ve been forced to self-edit my work; meaning I’ve pretty much stopped editing altogether.

You hear that Lucas!? STOP. EDITING.

It felt good to get a jab from someone telling me:

“Nice job, but you’re better than this.  Try harder.”

Thanks again.

Anyway, I’m guessing it would be in bad taste to re-post my guest review here, so instead I’ll just throw you guys a link:

LINK

Thanks for reading, and thank you again Collected Editions for hosting my work!

 

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