Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review: Bangkok Adrenaline - Part Two

Okay, so try to follow along with me as I describe the plot so far.

We start with four friends.  One of whom is a world-class martial artist, one of whom is the brains of the group and a high-quality marital artist, one of whom is a mountain of a man portrayed as being dumb as a post and always hungry, and one who I swear is the cause of everything wrong in this world, somehow, and has less character sympathy than your standard Nazi in an Indiana Jones movie.

At least the Nazi might have a family out there somewhere that cares about him.

After falling in debt to a local small time crime boss (a guy who breaks fingers over $90 American money), these four losers decide their best plan of action is to kidnap the daughter of a local millionaire/billionaire/somethingaire.  However, between their own incompetence and the fact that Irene's father (she's the girl in this situation) is apparently a "one man mob boss," things are even worse than before.

Irene's two bodyguards manage to attach a tracking device to the, quote-unquote "good guys" of the film, the extremely skilled martial artist (Dan) and Irene have a brief "meet cute" where angelic voices sing, and we left off after the group's leader (Mike) just learned something from a bondage fan at a leather club about Irene's father, leading Mike to provoke the father into admitting he'd rather have Irene dead than rescued because of...reasons, I guess.

Now, with a hit squad on the way, Irene's bodyguards closing in, and our four male leads having no idea what to do next, you might be thinking "wow, Erik, this sounds like an even dumber version of the Mark Wahlberg/Lou Diamond Phillips/Christina Applegate movie The Big Hit" to which I say "yes, I realized that as well."

So let's jump back in and see if we can't stomach our way through it.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: Bangkok Adrenaline - Part One

Every now and again, somebody in Hollywood who has a job that isn't "screenwriter," "producer," or "director" gets the idea, "hey, I work in movies, I could probably make a movie!  How hard could it really be?"  It's because of ideas like this (and the fact that people aren't quick to stop those who have them) that we have movies like Swept Away, a movie so bad that Roger Ebert's review starts with the following sentence:

""Swept Away" is a deserted island movie during which I desperately wished the characters had chosen one movie to take along if they were stranded on a deserted island, and were showing it to us instead of this one."

Fortunately, not everybody who has this idea is Guy Pierce.  Many actors have eventually made the successful leap into film production.  Action heroes, dramatic stars, even people who voiced cartoon characters have all moved on to create instead of simply act in a film.  Many of them have been quite successful and quite good.

Then there's Bangkok Adrenaline, a movie I can really only describe as "some really neat scenes of people being kicked in the face mixed in with people who wouldn't be cast as actors in any high school production of anything.  Anywhere."

I've had this movie sitting on the shelf for several years now, waiting for just the right time to watch it.

It turns out there is no right time.

That's right, we're doing a scene by scene synopsis, in the spirit of Dead or AliveBarb Wire, and Iron Sky.  Because if I had to suffer through watching it, then you have to suffer through reading it.

Let's get started.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From The Making Of The Princess Bride

I enjoy a good biography and memoir, but I tend to prefer ones where I didn't know too much ahead of reading or watching the story.  For example, I can't really get excited by any more movies or books about Abraham Lincoln because, well, we pretty much know what he did and what happened in the end.  Unless a huge secret is uncovered about his life, I can't find myself rushing to read any more news bits about him.

However, present me with something I like but know little to nothing about, and I'll eat up every bit of trivia I can.

Such is the case of The Princess Bride, one of my all-time favorite comedy movies.  I know the lines, I know the actors, I know the story by heart...but I know very little about how it was made.  What was set piece, what was shot on location?  Did the cast like each other?  Did anybody get injured?

Fortunately, Cary Elwes came along and told me.

Well, not personally.  I mean I read his book.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Marvel Disk Wars The Avengers - Episode 6: Hulk's Great Rampage!

A lot of the cartoons that Marvel put out over the years can be linked to very specific times in the history of the series.  The 1990s X-Men cartoon, for example, was so deeply entrenched in what was "cool" in the 90's that it looks almost quaint now.  Instead of making big heroes out of characters like Cyclops, Storm, and Jean, most of the stories revolved around time travelers who carried a lot of guns.  It's...really kind of sad, if you actually sit and think about it.

I suppose it's only natural that a show that comes out now about the Avengers would have most of the major characters from the movie in starring roles, but I wonder about the fact that they went with Janet Van Dyne (aka "The Wasp") over Black Widow.  Granted, the Wasp makes for a better visual in animation thanks to energy blasts, size powers, and flight, but considering we've only just recently had a Hawkeye cameo, I can't help but wonder if Japan just doesn't like Scarlett Johansson's character.

But enough thought, it's time to get back into the action!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

In Memorium: Richard Sher

(Yes, I'm aware that Terry Pratchett also just passed away, but I've been working this tribute out in my head for a while and finally submitted it to the "Says You!" site.  I also figured I'd post it here.)

I've seen "Says You!" recorded twice in my life, once at the Camden Opera House and once at USM in Portland.  I've listened for years, off and on at first, but then became a truly die-hard fan as time went on.  It's not uncommon for me to simply play episodes while I work all day, struggling to THIS time remember all of the words, trivia, and fun I hear so I can spread it to others (which they're undoubtedly sick of).

There aren't many entertainers that I consider a true "influence" on my life.  A few writers have certainly inspired my love of writing and heavily influenced my writing style.  A few entertainers have taught me ways to tell jokes, relate a story, or simply talk to people.  Richard Sher, and by association, the panelists of his show, taught me something about myself that I was in danger of losing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Raising Steam - A Discworld Novel

People will sometimes ask me who my favorite author is, what my favorite book is, or what my favorite type of book is.  Each time, I have to hold back the urge to immediately spit out "Terry Pratchett and his Discworld novels" because, well, partly I'm worried I'm going to come off as the true nerd that I try to hide behind a suave, debonair attitude belonging to someone who functions well in the real world and doesn't get excited by things like Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion making a series about actors who were in a short-lived science fiction series that gained a cult following and OH MY GOD I CAN'T WAIT.

Obviously, I do this poorly.

Also, while I do love Terry Pratchett's novels, they're remarkably difficult to explain to people without going "okay, take Lord of the Rings, take out the elves (mostly), add in things like vampires and werewolves and ancient barbarians and more wizards and witches and Death himself, and then mix in a lot of Monty Python-esque humor."

But that still doesn't really explain it.

So let's see if I can review his newest book Raising Steam, the fortieth (soon to be forty-one!) book in his series.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review: Only The Strong

I like Mark Dacascos in everything I've seen him in.  He's brilliant as the Chairman in Iron Chef America.  I loved his cameos in Stargate: Atlantis.  I enjoyed him in The Crow: Stairway To Heaven.  Don't even get me started on my secret love for Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight.

I also really love capoeira, the Brazilian martial art that's all about rhythm, fluidity of movement, and being able to kick someone in the face while upside down.  I love the appearance of the fighting style in movies and television shows (I smiled broadly when it made an appearance in the remake of The Karate Kid), and I'll freely admit it's a lot of fun to play as capoeira fighters when I work up the nerve to play fighting games.

It's not that I don't like playing fighting games, it's that I suck at fighting games.

But with capoeira fighters, it helps that half the time I don't even know what their moves are going to do, making it harder for my opponents to predict my actions, and they're also always a lot of fun to watch as they move.

Some are more fun to watch than others.
So when they take a movie starring Mark Dacascos performing capoeira against a gang whose primary form of street combat is also capoeira...why is it that I come away muttering and wishing I hadn't wasted my time?

Well, because it's a pretty terrible movie, is why.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Review: The Tale Of Princess Kaguya

Sometimes I think Hollywood gets a bit too caught up in their fancy new toys.  Over the past few weeks I've seen multiple "did you catch these background details" clips on Youtube regarding films like Big Hero 6, I have to say I honestly don't care if they managed to put a statue dedicated to Olaf in San Fransokyo- actually, scratch that.  I -do- care because it makes no sense.

It's a post for a future date, but to me, an Easter Egg only works if it has a meaning and fits in the context of the story.  The hints about the snitch in Reservoir Dogs, the clues in Fight Club, the hidden language in Futurama, they all fit in the context of the story.  Just tossing in a hint of another movie might be cute (the hat from Spinal Tap showing up in the kid's room in The Princess Bride) but to have something that just doesn't fit annoys me.

I think part of the problem is that CG is a lot easier these days, allowing people to cram as many details as they want into any given scene.  You start needing to fill every empty spot or it feels like a waste of space.  I think this takes away from certain films, because you can get overwhelmed by the constant flood of information.  Video games have the same issue sometimes, where they spend so much time making sure it's as detailed and gorgeous as possible, but the game play suffers.

Then something simple comes along and shocks the system by remembering just how great something can be without needing to cram everything possible into a scene.  Such is the case with The Tale of Princess Kaguya, quite possibly the most gorgeous and visually stunning movie I've seen since Life of Pi.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Review: Big Hero 6

I'm starting to think that "superhero" movies are starting to turn into a broader genre of film.  At one point, it was simply "hero A shows up, discovers villain B, destroys villain B."  Batman, Iron Man, Thor, Superman, Spider-Man, they all followed a pretty standard formula.  It's only in more recent years we've seen even the slightest variation of this in mainstream Hollywood.  The movies for Captain America were more "war movie" and "spy thriller" than standard superhero films.  It's not common, but I think studios are starting to realize that you can tell other kinds of stories in worlds where superheroes happen to exist.

Big Hero 6 is such a movie, taking a formula about "a group of heroes band together to fight evil" and twisting it around into a story about grief, loss, and morality.

As well as "once you get him away from his brothers, Damon Wayans, Jr. can actually be fun to have in a movie."