Category Archives: Bechdel pass

Pacific Rim – the dream of the 80’s is alive in theatres now!

There’s a certain group in our culture who grew up through the 70’s and 80’s and had an understanding of the beauty present in giant mechas and robots. It sounds weird, but it’s true. How else can you explain the nostalgia for Transformers that has repeatedly managed to revive the franchise? Even knowing that the main purpose of the series is to sell toys, we knew that there was more there. Fans of Transformers have yet to see a big screen payoff (although the 80’s film has its moments), but IDW’s comics are an unexpected treasure. Godzilla fans get something great every now and then, although it seems Toho is hanging its hat for a while. (The upcoming American film is concerning but promising.) What we haven’t really gotten is the clash that our toys used to have. Anime only sates the appetite so much before the fans say, “I want to see real people in mecha punching monsters dead!” Yeah, our over excitement taxes our grammar a bit…

Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim does more than satisfy our taste for giant destruction. It whets our appetite and makes us long for so much more. And it’s not because the movie is missing anything. It’s that the movie does so much and makes us believe that maybe we might someday get to see more like it. Read the rest of this entry

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Dredd

Without hesitation, I can say that Dredd is the best comic book movie of 2012. Put away your bat-shaped pitchforks and mighty hammers so that you can hear me out. Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers were both considered fantastic epics that were the culmination of years of build-up. Both were huge and explosive. When you walk out of the theater, you comment on what a rush it was. Then what do you walk away with?

Dredd is a much smaller film. Not only is the budget smaller but the length doesn’t even attempt to touch the other two films. If the other two films were explosives, then Dredd was a bullet from a sniper rifle. It is exactly that precision that I appreciate about the film. Read the rest of this entry

Rubber

Rubber seems to have a more interesting concept than its creator/director, Quentin Dupieux, seems to acknowledge throughout the film. The idea of a sentient tire with psychokinetic abilities that can cause people to explode is fun for unabashed fans of the absurd. Unfortunately, in its 82 minute running time, it’s not allowed to be just that. Read the rest of this entry

Torchwood: Miracle Day

It may have taken a few years, but Torchwood was finally continued in another high-concept series – this time in a joint British and American production. Children of Earth‘s concept was the desperation of humanity against an impossible to defeat alien threat that simply wanted to use their pre-pubescent children for drugs. Miracle Day, the latest effort, had an even more amazing concept – what would happen to the world if people stopped dying? It wasn’t a matter of invincibility, mind you. Even when decapitated or crushed, people stayed alive through what could only be described as a miracle. What does humanity do with a population that only increases in number? Vile things, it would seem.

There’s a lot to talk about with this particular series, but I’m going to try to streamline it. This is an approach I wish that BBC and Starz had taken with the series, which would have been brilliant at 5 episodes but seemed stretched thin at the 10 episodes they aired. Good storytelling with proper buildups would no doubt have a bit of slow movement in the middle of the series, but Miracle Day almost came to a crawl as the writers struggled to figure out how to slow down the pace that a proper Torchwood story should have. What made Children of Earth so effective was that it felt like a five hour movie, whether you saw it all at once or over the course of days. Miracle Day seemed less fluid and contiguous. I suspect it has everything to do with the arbitrary episode count.

But the series was brilliant nonetheless. I love the idea of exploring how humanity tries to deal with overpopulation (categorize and eliminate). I love the idea of taking the Torchwood team out of Wales, proving that their efforts really do affect the world. I love that they were taken away from the Torchwood tech, meaning that the solution to each problem did not depend on having the right miracle gadget. They played it smart, and I appreciate the series for that. The spirited performances also helped me to believe in the story and the new characters.

Bill Pullman did an amazing job as Oswald Danes, convicted pedo-rapist/murderer and first high-profile survivor through the miracle. I loved watching this complete slime rise in popularity despite how horrible everyone acknowledged he was, and I loved Captain Jack Harkness’ deconstruction of the man Oswald was hiding inside. His character arc was very subtle, but it was there. He basked in his glory until he realized that he was being recategorized as no longer living but rather as someone who should not be allowed to live. In helping to end the miracle, he found some level of redemption in the eyes of the viewers. Meanwhile, he proudly boasted he would likely go to hell when he was finally able to die, finally accepting his fate.

But what about the climax? To be honest, the payoff for the series was pretty damn disappointing. It should be a spoiler to say that some weird, two-opening creature that lives literally through the Earth was the cause of the miracle, but a lack of any sort of build-up or worthwhile explanation renders the spoiler pretty much null. It simply exists, and it proves Jack’s theory that the miracle was somehow caused by morphogenic field alteration. No, this isn’t made up sci-fi terminology. However, its application here is again stretched thin. The reversal of the morphogenic field needed to be explored further to be satisfactory. All the time they had was squandered.

I can’t help but think that I’m more intrigued by the concept of the series than anything else, and that helps me to acknowledge the poorer aspects but look past them for the rest. I’m not sure if any other show would take a chance on running a full concept through for a season. For any other show, this would have been a two-parter.

So would I recommend Miracle Day? Probably. I would sooner recommend Children of Earth, as that is truly mind blowing and heartbreaking. Miracle Day felt like it was almost but not quite the same. Maybe if they get another chance, if the ratings didn’t drop too much, they can build upon this and make a much better series. They already put in sequel hooks, after all. Still, more Torchwood is never a bad thing in my book.

Jennifer’s Body

Jennifer’s Body is a film that doesn’t deserve half the spurning it got from the critics. It was one of those bodies that was just released at the wrong time – and that time was the height of Megan Fox’s starlet status. If memory serves, this might have been around the same time she likened Michael Bay to Hitler. It was not unreasonable to dislike her. The worst thing Fox can do for her career is say anything that isn’t written down for her. Read the rest of this entry

Another Sucker Punch

Steampunk is what happens when goths discover the color brown.

Because I enjoyed Sucker Punch so much when I saw it in the theatre, I jumped at the opportunity to purchase the DVD. Unfortunately, the DVD edition lacks the extended cut provided on the Blu-Ray release. (No, I don’t have a Blu-Ray player yet; I’ll be holding off until the players are relatively cheap and I’m forced to make the leap forward. Or if someone just buys me one.) I cannot comment on the full version of the film, but I can comment again on the theatrical cut. Read the rest of this entry

To whom it may concern: A Sucker Punch

I figured if people were linking directly from my Photobucket account, I might as well get some free advertising out of it.

 

Now that I’ve spent my $7 and seen Sucker Punch, I can work on a letter I’ve been meaning to send out. Well, a series of letters, if you will. Sucker Punch is not the only film plagued by certain media problems, but it is one of the most recent. If you want, you can imagine this for other films. I definitely have ideas for other letters, too, based on the form of this one. Read the rest of this entry

Torchwood: Children of Earth – an account of horrid classism

While Doctor Who is slowly establishing itself as a source for decent science fiction stories in America, its spin-off, Torchwood, is still an obscure property over here. Given the pop culture sensibilities of this country, it should have been an easy sell. Torchwood is Doctor Who‘s shadow. Torchwood shows a dark and gritty world of sex, swearing and pessimism while Doctor Who promises the romantic notion of clean fun while bringing out the best in everyone. Torchwood should be an easy sell because the first two series of its run are mature in the same way that R-rated movies and M-rated games are mature. Who doesn’t like violence, unnecessary swearing, and strong sexuality?

Then came Torchwood: Children of Earth. This third series can be considered an experiment by the producers, mostly because the BBC had to cut the budget and thus the entire run. Instead of 12 episodes, they received 5. Instead of the usual late Sunday night time slot, it was shown on five consecutive nights during the week. This is what television stations do to a show when they expect it to fail and just want to get it out of their system. Children of Earth should have floundered but was an absolute success. Focusing on five consecutive episodes forced the writers in a position to make a strong yet concise tale about human pessimism and survival. Read the rest of this entry

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

[Author’s Note: If you’re just curious about what I thought of the movie, skip down to where you see the asterisks. Otherwise, this is a very lengthy post. I’ve noticed that no one tends to read the entries about anime (except for the dozens of people who keep coming here for Tekkaman Blade pics), so I went crazy with it. If you want to read a 2300-word post, knock yourself out. I promise you none of it will be on the exam, though.]

It is difficult to find good, creative, original science fiction. Sure, some people might have that one friend who does nothing but read science fiction anthologies and keep up with all of the latest material on the web, but the rest of us have few sources and even less time. What the popular multimedia world is most often known for are the scifi retreads – either of old works or old ideas. “It’s the delivery that matters!” we say to ourselves. While true, it also opens ourselves up to eating the same cereal so long as the marshmallows are offered in new shapes and/or colors. For example, I loved four and a half seasons of Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica despite the fact that it was a retread of the original BSG that invoked the darker and edgier trope and borrowed heavily from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?/Blade Runner and a little from the rest of the Philip K. Dick library. I recognized the sources clearly but still moved forward. That may very well be the reason why I was able to move forward with it.

There are no more original ideas. It’s all be done before. The movie trailers on TV look like items from either a few years to a few decades ago. It seems like movies are being made just so the studios have a steady flow of product coming out. No one holds off for the great ideas. No one devotes time to meticulously perfect a creation. Having something out there is generally regarded as being much better than having something great.

I’ve always been an anime fan. The general anime fan likes to cite creativity as a reason why s/he prefers Japanese output over American. I’m not that fan. I’m not an otaku, as I’ve said before. I watch what I watch. While the ideas over there are decidedly different in origin, they area also quite plagued by hackneyed ideas. Watch enough Japanese content and you find that it becomes increasingly more difficult to find original ideas. (Even in writing this introduction to a review about The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya I’ve realized that it is not entirely original because it could be considered a lighter and fluffier version of Akira. I’m still moving forward with this idea of original content, though.) No matter where you look, people borrow from ideas that they find interesting. Read the rest of this entry

The Last Exorcism

You know what? I want to write a review, but there is nothing more I can say than to go see this movie. It is superbly written and well performed. Patrick Fabian has always pleased me in his television appearances (see Saved by the Bell: The College Years, Veronica Mars season 3, and even one episode of Bones), but he really stands out in the leading roll as Reverend Cotton Marcus. He is completely lovable while essentially praying on people’s faith, and you cannot doubt his goal in exposing exorcism to save the lives of children. (He lost his faith after reading about an impaired child’s being suffocated by exorcists who were trying to save him.) While Ashley Bell, as Nell the possessed girl, also gave an outstanding performance, it was hard to believe that she was 14. Aside from that, everything was perfect. The ending will definitely disappointed some viewers, but there was really no other way. The movie had me locked into my seat. The first half of the film is lighthearted and then you are whiplashed into chaos and fear. And then you might be left with a simple question: What do you want to believe?

This is how some of the people in the audience with me felt after seeing the movie

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