Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pacific Rim Watch - May 29th, 2013

Gypsy Danger fan-art by edcomics - Go see his DeviantART page here!

With the highly anticipated "Pacific Rim" coming in just over a month's time, I'll be doing articles like these, for both major and minor updates alike. And also, just to share my obviously bias opinions on the upcoming release - I am a giant monster fan after all!

Starting with today's recently released featurette, which explains the how the film's  'neuro-bridge', or The Drift works. Hopefully there will be more such shorts in the days to come, including ones focusing on the Kaiju antagonists themselves.


Now I should mention my disappointment and related fears around the general public's rather flippant reactions towards this film. Along with Geek culture being more interested in the relatively minor casting of voice actress Ellen McLain (Glados from "Portal 2"), and the cheap accusations of this film being "Transformers 4".

Meanwhile, film critic and blogger (and fellow Kaiju fan) MovieBob own sentiments on "Pacific Rim" heavily mirrors my own, as seen in his own shout out towards the third trailer (also feature below).

Here's what MovieBob had to say on the matter, edited slightly for potty mouth tidbits:

I really, really hope that this (third trailer) marks the start of a much bigger push for this movie. Fairly or not, I feel like so much is riding on "Pacific Rim." An original (read: not a sequel, remake, reboot, adaptation, etc) big-budget genre movie? Guillermo Del Toro finally on the cusp of the blockbuster clout he should've had a decade ago? Giant monsters and robots up onscreen with no "apology" for their own existence or attempt to make them palatable to audiences that might turn their noses up otherwise?

If something like this doesn't "succeed," it validates all the worst chicken**** instincts of the current studio-system. "Joe Popcorn" (or whatever the current euphemism is) probably doesn't deserve this movie... but I hope "he" shows up anyway. There's more riding on this than just this.


I personally doubt "Pacific Rim" will be one of the big bombs of the Summer 2013, though the possibility of it being a box office disappointment is still there, as mainstream American audiences really do turn their noises up at giant monster movies. The success of Michael Bay's "Transformers" films probably have to do more with everything surrounding the title robots, except for the title robots themselves. This being a situation not too dissimilar to "One Million Years B.C.", where one busty, red-headed cave girl was the box office draw, and not the (equally) fantastic dinosaur effects work.

Peter Jackson's "King Kong" remake from 2005 did well, but not well enough to really give the giant monster genre a shot in the proverbial arm. And the success behind  "Cloverfield" had more to do with its 'Mystery Box' marketing, over audiences even knowing, let alone wanting to see the movie for what it actually was about. For more on this nonsense, I refer you all back to MovieBob's video on the matter.

On the extremely bright side however; no matter how "Pacific Rim" performs, we can still rest assure that around this same time next year, Legendary Pictures has another Kaiju film in store for all of us. Isn't that right, Mister British Director Man?


Than of course, there's the Japanese factor to consider.

Contrary to popular belief, Japan hasn't been that keen on giant monster movies for several years now, despite being the country that was once the most prolific in this sub-genre. And often for reasons very similar to American attitudes towards Kaiju films, as being 'old hat', 'outlandish', or met with just plain indifference.

And again, just like America, when these films do succeed, it's often for reasons outside the Kaiju themselves, like paring up some of the Millennium-era Godzilla films with more popular animated fair. Or the presence of some beloved actor or in-the-moment guest stars who simply happen to be in said monster movies.

With that said, I'd be interested in Japan's reaction towards "Pacific Rim", even if I have the sneaking suspicion that the hype around the film will be centered firmly upon child actress Mana Ashida, who's quite big there right now.

"What's this? Famed child star Mana Ashida, in an American attempt at weird Kaiju films? How can this be!?!?" is probably how most of the Japanese publicity might play out.

Regardless, director Guillermo del Toro hasn't forgotten the county that directly inspired his upcoming opus, and had this special trailer made for that particular distribution.


Also worth mentioning (unfortunately), is that those infamous producers over at The Asylum are doing their thing again, with the 'mock-buster' "Atlantic Rim". In all fairness, this actually looks better than most of The Asylum's output. And the one (I repeat, one) giant monster in this does looks pretty neat, like a slender dragon-dinosaur-style hybrid.

But having seen my fair share of modern B-movies and Syfy Originals, I'm expecting we don't get any good fight sequences until the last 20-or-8 minutes, and the action and adventure will take a backseat to overused horror elements.

Oh and is that a token black man among the robot piloting trio? Surely nothing BAD will happen to him before film's end (sarcasms)!


I know I'm coming off quite negative here, but I really am excited for "Pacific Rim". And will go see it either at a midnight screening, or first thing the following morning. And my comments here are only being realistic and level headed, at best. But please share all your opinions and speculation in the comments below. Out blabber mouth THIS blabber mouth!

And to further end this article on a high note, the site io9 has some concept art based on the film's monsters, along with newly released promotional photos here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ranting Time: J.J. Abrams...Really?

Hello everyone! How are you doing?

I just found out today (1/25/2013) that director and producer J.J. Abrams has been chosen to helm the new "Star Wars" movie, slatted for 2015. Very old news for the rest of you by now, granted, but I just have to share my thoughts here regardless.

Because that's what the Internet is all about - complaining about anything and everything!

Now before I begin, I must state that I'm not the biggest fan of "Star Wars", even before "The Phantom Menace" arrived in theaters over a decade ago. The extreme dichotomy between good and evil with no margin in between, and a sad tradition of mugging actors who look like they really don't want to be there, are my chief complaints. Oh, and a general lack of respect for otherwise sentient robot characters, outside well received guest appearances from David Tennant.

But it's still Star Wars, and my fondness, or care for the franchise is present enough to lead me to write the following article (extended rant).


Now I'm also not a J.J. Abrams hater like most critics and Internet commentators tend to be, but when I think of the Star Wars Universe (for better or for worse), I think of massive colorful landscapes and characters (at least in appearance over personality - again, see mugging), with related good cinematography and / or imaginative artistry. Even the cold planet of Hoth, and the emotionless interiors of the mechanized Death Star, are both nicer to look at than similarly theme locations found elsewhere in fiction.

And from what I've seen from Mister Abrams past works...those elements are NOT in his repertory, unfortunately.

He's one of those science fiction craftsmen who underplays everything he does, as most Hollywood film makers often tend to do - even in the supposed unlimited age of computer generated imagery, or 'CGI' for short. And although that might work with most of the material that these men and women are given to work on, it's an otherwise bad fit when it comes to something as bombastic as the "Star Wars" films.

I know the "Star Trek" franchise, as a whole, was never really about insane aliens and space monsters, but there was a earnest attempt at colorful alien variety while Gene Roddenberry was still kicking about, as evident in his own Star Trek motion pictures, the Filmation cartoon spin-off, and "The Next Generation". But Abrams' own handling of the Trek mythos, although not bad, was still pretty tame and even visually neutered. And that's even by the more unimaginative comparisons of previous Trek films and television series.

'Star Trek light' if you will.

And of course, there's his overt use of darkness in his films...And no, not darkness as in story material or subject matter, but literal darkness, as in poorly lit and purposely so shots, hampered further by limited cinematography and related artistry. He never goes as bad as the later-era "Harry Potter" films, which it comes off to me like grown men blindly fighting each other with three-or-more glow sticks, in a completely unlit warehouse during a prolonged Alaskan night.

But Abrams films like "Super 8" and "Cloverfiled" come dangerously close to the line, or even over stepping it on occasion. This 'Stage Lighting Blackouts Syndrome' of course obscures any coherent scenes, and more so, any and all creature designs.

"But Enshohma (You might say), the overt use of lens flair isn't dark at all!"

No, it isn't...for that's on the complete opposite end of my 'problem specter', and the amount J.J. Abrams flaunts it, it breaks the forth wall with as much subtlety than a plate of pancakes, being shoved into the camera every ten-seconds for a cheap 3D gimmick.

Getting right back to underused monster and alien designs - that's also something Abrams seems to excel at in all of his projects, which comes off like a bad mixture of being way-to-realistic with your admittedly silly monster movie, or again, typical of Hollywood, laughably timid (the 2011 "Green Lantern" movie for example).

I'd like to give J.J. Abrams the benefit of doubt, and hope that he hasn't done 'creature spectacle' in his past works because the studios were holding him back...But than I remember to myself that he's very much in the "Jaws" school of cinematic thinking, by never showing any non-human characters for any significant amount of time...which in my opinion works only in the suspense style of that aforementioned film, but not in outrageous space fantasies like "Star Wars".


I know I might be over reacting here (for all the right reasons), but this feels like yet another bad decision that the 'Hollywood Suits' tend to do, when pairing a film's manager, to an ill fitting subject matter that's almost the opposite of what he or she understands, nor even cares about.

Like placing two otherwise competent film makers on a project, whose fantastical subject matter doesn't at all appeal to them, even remotely. And thus the two alter the said material to their own extreme preferences, that we end up with something that's completely, if not insultingly against the source material. Akin to the similar situations that plagued the making of "Super Mario Bros the Movie", and of course the 1998 American Godzilla.

And I actually liked "Super Mario Bros the Movie"!

Now with J.J. Abrams, he no doubt will do a better job than the aforementioned examples, but I still can't shake off the dumb-downing and visual blandness of his "Star Trek" reinterpretation, which wasn't further helped by script writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who unlike Abrams, are bigger offenders in this regard.

And maybe Abrams will tone down his own idiosyncrasies to deliver an actual Star Wars-like, or at least Star Wars-looking product. This is after all, a genre I do love, and as such, I give almost every science fiction and fantasy film a fair chance when they get released, even when I have MAJOR reservations like I'm sharing here.

Plus, let's face facts and note that J.J. Abrams is a rather smart filmmaker (lens flare not withstanding), unlike say someone like Michael Bay. So if Abrams' does fail at "Star Wars", at least we know he was putting some effort into the proceedings.

Although just like Michael Bay, I have the sneaking suspicion that J.J. Abrams' continuing success in Hollywood has much less to do with the caliber of his work, and more to do with how well he personally appeals to the studio heads behind operations.

But even with that stated, this is all still a less than a promising start to the new cycle of this already troubled franchise. Especially after a good number of weeks when the future of Star Wars was looking positive, with George Lucas stepping down, and giving the reins over to Disney. Despite the obvious jokes and gags the public loves hurling their way, Disney has done fantastic jobs with their stewardship and support of the Muppets AND Marvel Studios properties.

And unlike most of you, I am mindfully grateful that they halted production on all those terrible straight-to-video sequels, prequels, and 'midquels' of their own animated theatrical films...Well, minus the Ticker Bell movies, and all the freakish "Cars" flukes.

But YET again, with J.J. Abrams being directly involved, my enthusiasm for a New Hope (pun intended) has diffidently been diminished.

HOWEVER, maybe you can make positive arguments, or less harsh opinions on this turn of events, and as such, I more than encourage you to share them here, beyond the usual, expected 'this sucks' replies.

-Love Enshohma!