Friday, July 31, 2009

Say It Ain't So, G.I. Joe?

The link above has an extended cut of the infamous chase scene that has been shown in all of the trailers for G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA. It's in French but a lengthly look at the film.

I'm a huge fan of the animated series. I don't have good expectations for the film, but I still have some optimism.

But after this, I don't what to think right now.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li - Review

This travesty of justice is far, far worse than the original STREET FIGHTER. I have often enjoyed that one despite its many shortcoming and problems with acting, direction, and plot. But this film, STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI, is beyond redemption in the eyes of video game fans and ordinary viewers. It's generic as generic can get and doesn't do anything with the Chun-Li character.

Chun-Li, who is one of the iconic and popular females in video game history, is inhabited by Kristin Kreuk. She doesn't act the part nor is the part, she just exists as a skinny sweaty girl next door girl that is called "Chun-Li" by the other characters. She has basic film female childhood as her father is kidnapped by an antagonist (Neal McDonough). The film tries to constantly bring up her emptiness for her father, but the anti-charisma of Kreuk sucks it away. She goes to Bangkok, looks for a kung-fu master, and you know the drill. While this average Hollywood martial arts storyline goes on, the viewer also is subjugated to a storyline featuring two police agents uncovering McDonough's underground deals. It has no purpose for being in the film; Chun-Li just suddenly appears to converse with one of them as a way to fix this mammoth plot hole.

I could go on and on in multiple paragraphs describing my hatred for this film, so here's some bullet-holes to simplify it:

  • I don't know Chinese martial arts, but I don't think headscissors takedowns and hurricanranas are part of them. Also, most of the moves are obviously done with wires.
  • McDonough is a great actor but is awful as Bison, the main villain of the Street Fighter franchise. Instead of evil incarnate, he gives him an all-over the place accent and makes him to be a sadistic businessman than a ruthless dictator to be.
  • Bison buys up the slums of Bangkok and kicks everyone out of there. In later scenes, the people are back and never explained why.
  • The recreation of Chun-Li's Spinning Bird Kick is laughable and not effective. Her kicks go nowhere near her opponents.
  • Chun-Li and Gen (Robin Shou) are supposed to be true martial artists, and not use anger as a weapon. After this explanation, both of them kill people in very violent fashion for the sake of vengeance.
  • Vega looks terrible and is defeated by Chun-Li in a pure squash match.

The film is one of the worst video game adaptations and one of the worst of this year. Don't see it.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

The International - Review

THE INTERNATIONAL is a film that I have been waiting to see for some time largely due to the publicity of a key cinematic moment in the film. I don't really have to tell you since it's shown above and in all of the trailers. The shoot-out in the Guggenheim Museum does deliver on its expectations but is the only thing truly shining from the rest of the film. The film's attention is focused on the compositions of its background more than what is upfront to the viewer.

The story is average; average to its core and doesn't go further in depth. Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) has been endlessly chasing after the activities and corruption that surrounds the world bank of International Bank of Business and Credit. He works with a NY assistant District Attorney (Naomi Watts) in finding leads and people that they will whistle blow for them. But, they always seem to die or disappear. Trust me on this, potential viewer, you will see this happen all the time. None of the characters are explored or get any development; they play their generic types and are relegated to a black or white status. This problem hits Watts' character the most since she doesn't have any weight or true purpose. She is simply a messenger, just as she was in EASTERN PROMISES.

The biggest problem with the characters, however, rests more on the powers that be of IBBC. The film tries to make them seem evil but they are so forced on the hard sell. The viewer shouldn't really care about their deeds; yes, they made the bad decision to sell illegal arms but the elite members of IBBC aren't made to be realistic. I was waiting for one of them to stroke their mustache while going over their deals and acquisitions. We do cheer for Owen to catch or kill them but his paranoid loose cannon cop is something seen too often. It's not Owen's fault but the script's; the film could have had the corporate men downplay their generic evilness in the beginning to make Salinger appear far more paranoid than usual but they don't. Instead, we get the same routine of man vs. corrupt machine.

As stated before, the focus on Tom Tykwer's direction is more on the architecture of the modern business civilization. Several well-framed shots display the fluorescent glow of night-time Berlin and over-zealous constructions of Luxembourg. This causes the cast to be dwarfed and, as stated in a overused film line at the end, show that their existence doesn't matter since the looming economic world will continue after their exit from life. The striking cinematography does reach its climax during the Guggenheim gun fight, which tells the most interesting story of the film both in the writing and cinematic staging.

The only other true recommendation would have to be Armin Mueller-Stahl, who plays another slightly menacing but aging old gun that he has been doing recently. His performance is the only display, human-wise, of deeper characterization. The rest of the characterization only seems to go to the monuments of modern design.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Away We Go - Review

Throughout AWAY WE GO, there are Godard-ian text boxes that tell the audience where the two off-beat protagonists are off to next ("AWAY TO..."). Some viewers may have noticed or simply forgotten that the title is also given this treatment. This causes the film to be self-aware of its own identity as a indie/arty road film. And, it gladly wants you to be a part of the equation and enjoy the experience.

AWAY WE GO is a very thoughtful look on the complications of future parents as they try to pick the best living environment for their child. It is also an examination on the personalities of parents that must or won't alter it for the benefit of the child. While I enjoyed it thoroughly, I was surprised later when I saw the divided opinion by professional film reviewers. The repeated problem addressed by some is that the characters of Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) are smug and a better couple over all of the other characters. This is an unfair assessment of the protagonists and truly shows that quirky indie wave started by GARDEN STATE and JUNO has caused a prejudice against the film.

The best example of showing the non-existence of smugness is in an opening scene where Verona asks if they can be defined as "f***-ups." This type of character development tends to only come up towards the end of many films, with EASY RIDER being the obvious display ("We blew it..."). As they go to the different locations for potential nesting grounds, the couple talk and criticize more about themselves than their friends and relatives. The only time where they truly go off on people is on one of Burt's old friends (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her way too elaborate views of baby strollers. Yes, they are a bit smug here, but you the viewer can be classified as well if you laughed during these scenes.

Krasinski and Rudolph are very believable as a loving couple. They have chemistry and they act it very well. Instead of playing their characters like big brash comedians, which sadly many Hollywood actors do in these types of films, they rely on simplicity and subtly. The two actors show off more inner emotions than outer, thus giving off more complexity.

The entire film also is done in a subtle manner. Sam Mendes' previous films have had a more grand and/or surreal look to them. AWAY WE GO is more plain like the Colorado air in the prologue. But, it does have some great moments of cinematography; a personal favorite moment is a scene where Verona talks with her sister (Carmen Ejogo) in a bathroom store. They are both constantly walking to the right of the screen as multiple display models are moving in the background. This shot represents Verona's continuous search for the perfect home and her struggle handling with it.

Because of the plot's constant movement around North America, the other cast members are given just brief spotlights. From this pack, I seemingly enjoyed Allison Janney's part the most on a comedic level. Her rapid lines and insults are very funny and devastating to hear. Her eccentric character is helped toned down due to the excellent casting of Jim Gaffigan as her husband, who brings his special low droll humor to the mix. The surprise of this film came from Chris Messina, who plays one of their old college friends. He delivers a heartbreaking monologue about his marriage very effectively later in the film.

The film is well-structured, but there are some problems to the flow. The main one involves all of the ending segments. AWAY WE GO suffers the same errors that I felt brought down the conclusion of GROUNDHOG DAY. Instead of ending with an effective sequence between the main romantic couple, we are given additional scenes that don't really advance anything and the lines said are laughable unintentionally. It is also easily to figure where there are destined to move to and when it is shown, it doesn't match up with other things that have been said.

AWAY WE GO isn't a perfect film, but it has the right ingredients to make a dramedy and tell it well. Some of the quirkness may turn you off, but it is the layering and the writing that makes it a special treat for the year.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Comic Book Reviews: "Blackest Night" Commences

Blackest Night #1

My first impression of this highly anticipated event comic was mostly disappointment. But, upon repeated readings, the issue became more enjoyable and worth the hype. The disappointment may have to do with my expectations after Green Lantern #43, which was a great issue and a great prologue. I just didn't expect nor wanted another prologue to be lay down further foundation with this event.

Geoff Johns creates a well-structured script by having it begin with the study of human despair and relationships. It looks at how the superheroes and normal citizens are able to persevere over the death and destruction they live with. After a considerable focus on it, the tension of the Black Lanterns is introduced with the discovery of Bruce Wayne's grave being desecrated. What follows afterwards is left to be read.

The slow build of the script may have annoyed me at first but it's a good way to start rather than having a Michael Bay opening. The constant look at selected heroes' problems dealing with the deaths of fellow friends and colleagues makes them stand out and creates an expectation for the reader to see them continue. With this issue, I do want to look up the history of Damage and Atom Smasher and hope that Johns returns to them in the future. Though Hal Jordan is largely the main character, one of the surprise protagonists for this event is Barry Allen. Though I didn't like his return thanks to "Final Crisis", his struggle with the deaths of Firestorm and the Dibnys is effective.

While we get to see who becomes a Black Lantern, none of them stand out or given some spotlight except for a couple of them. Two special ones, who are revealed in the violent ending, are very frightening due to the great artwork. Black Hand sadly doesn't do too much except acting as an Emperor Palpatine-like figure.

The only strong negative for this comic is a moment before The Flash sees who had died after his own death. A new addition room underneath the Justice League building is revealed that had me say out loud, "Oh, come on!" It is such a dumb idea since it obviously will play into the plot later and is just stupid for the League to have.

With the slow burn plot and the gory coda, this issue really makes the event to be as great as everyone has expected it to be. Hopefully, the crew doesn't drop the momentum later on and keeps up the excitement.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Comic Book Reviews: The Night Goes Black, People Scream For JUSTICE!

I have been more of a casual reader of comic books than hardcore. I follow what's going on in the worlds of Marvel and DC for a short time and then move on. I tend to follow the animated television programs and films more religiously. With the comic book form, I'm always annoyed about the dumb new ideas of the editors and the constant deaths and resurrections of characters.

I'm currently in the mood right now due to the video review series by Linkara (Atop the Fourth Wall) and the hoopla for an event comic from DC Comics. I haven't followed an event comic since the Maximum Carnage arc for Spider-man in the 90's, and this one looks to be more interesting than all of the other crappy events since Marvel's Civil War. (p.s. I have been following more of Marvel than DC, so that statement goes towards the former)

Here's a couple of reviews for recent issues:

Green Lantern #43

This is probably one of the darkest single issues for a comic book series I have read. And it was great.

GREEN LANTERN #43 is a backstory for two separate plots. It shows the entire life of a former loser villain to the Green Lantern/future warmonger Black Hand and is one of the prologues of DC's new event "Blackest Night." With these two objectives, the issue has two narrators and it is handle well without confusing the reader. However, for the benefit, Black Hand is a very unreliable narrator; the flashbacks of his troubled upbringing don't match up with his reflections, causing him to be more deranged as the story continues. He also desires for his story to make himself sympathetic but the unrelenting violence and disturbing thoughts ruins his mission.

The issue entirely focuses on the element of death. Black Hand is shown to adore the aspects associated with it and literally hears the voice of Death as his savior. Black ink is used so frequently in the art, too much so for a color comic book. And then, there is the death montage. In the middle of his serenades in a cemetery, Black Hand mentions how he hears and sees the souls vanquished from the DC world and the reader sees all of the horrible deaths in multiple frames. This barrage brings true horror and despair to the comic book medium before the disturbing climax and ending.

This isn't an exploitation of violence like in many other comic books. The graphic violence is used to show how unhinged Black Hand is and his fascination with depravity and sadism. It makes him to be a great villain and makes the issue to be a fantastic start to "Blackest Night."


Green Lantern Corps #38

Another prelude to the "Blackest Night" event, GREEN LANTERN CORPS #38 didn't seem a must buy and read for me. But I balked and listened to the comic websites to get it before the first event comic is released next week.

Chaos and ruthlessness surrounds the Green Lantern Corps and the planet Oa after a prison breakout. All of the prisoners are now being given an execution order by the powers that be, a harsh and unfair order for the Corps. Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner then spend half of the issue trying to prevent the sentencing and beg for a return in the politics for the group.

While the issue is entertaining, the dialogue seems stilted in places and there is some dumb plot holes. Rayner shouts out how he believes in giving the prisoners a fair trial and preserving their lives. Then, a moment later after saving one of them, Rayner goes off on the prisoner saying that he is worthless. The Guardians also come off too much as generic corrupt leaders rather than their usual morally based characters. Of course, I haven't been following the recent stories so I might be wrong.


Justice League: Cry For Justice #1


Oh, how you will hear that being said too much and used very stupidly in this book.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRY FOR JUSTICE is a limited series being released and has some bad reputation preceding it due to constant delays. While I didn't hate it with a passion, it felt like I was ripped off considering it has higher price and a small plot line.

Green Lantern is sick and tired of the politics of the Justice League and wants JUSTICE! to be dealt. He leaves with best friend Green Arrow and has a pretty funny argument about their dramatic exit. Then the two Atoms beat up some guys before the Ray Palmer version expresses how he wants JUSTICE! Then one of the Starmans sees a dead boy, blows up a car and screams for JUSTICE! Then a golden-colored gorilla cries for his dead friends and shouts for JUSTICE!

That's it. That's the entire plot.

Sure, the dialogue is oddly entertaining and their is some funny lines and the art is good yet in a way Alex Ross-lite. However, the lack of advancement and the fact the team hasn't been made or entirely shown is very annoying. Also, having Hal Jordan a main character is problematic considering "Blackest Night" is about to start, so this story is either far behind and has to wait for the event to end to be canon.


Gotham City Sirens #1

This is simply fluff, pure and simple. GOTHAM CITY SIRENS preys on the fanboys of the Batman animated series to bring a mediocre comedic piece.

Catwoman is still suffering from having her heart ripped out(?!) and is significantly weaker than normal. Before being defeated by a new D-list criminal, Poison Ivy deus ex machinas and then brings her to the Riddler's apartment, where Ivy and Harley Quinn are crashing. Then after a lot of talking, a pointless Zatanna cameo, and more talking, they engage in a badly made battle with the criminal again.

The art is fine and the dialogue is okay but the direction of this comic is just badly done. It may have some promise later but this debut is just stuck in neutral.