Monthly Archives: July 2013

Some speculations about the upcoming “Insidious: Chapter 2”

*Disclaimer: As Insidious has been released a couple of years ago, I’ll go with the assumption that majority have seen it already. If not, and if you plan on watching it, don’t read this post as I’ll be mentioned some MAJOR SPOILERS over here.

Okay, my post about Insidious wasn’t exactly giving the film best praises considering that it included an extremely unnecessary twist where Patrick Wilson‘s character gets possessed by the evil entity. Based on the ending, it is implied that he kills everyone inside the house, well, at least how I understood the ending. That only seems to be the most logical progression of events. It would look darn hilarious for Josh to tell Renai, “I was only angry at Lin Shaye‘s character for taking a candid picture of me so I strangled her to death. No biggie.”

Look, what I’m pointing out here is that the upcoming Insidious: Chapter 2 completely lost me based on the trailer as it was established that the family was, for some reason, happily reunited after the hauntings. Okay, this confuses me: didn’t Josh kill the medium at the end of the movie? Wasn’t Josh now controlled by the evil entity? How the heck did the family leave the hauntings behind, and how would Josh just forget about the murder? Did he suddenly develop amnesia or something? My goodness these questions boggle the mind.

Unless, it turns out that the entire film just happens to be hallucinations taking place within Josh’s mind as he tries to escape the clutches of the entity possessing his body. I’m sorry but that scenario seems to be the most logical progression of the story. But then again, coming from the writer of Saw, I’m guessing the right term would be, “Screw logic?”

Pacific Rim (A Review)

Pacific_Rim_FilmPoster

*This review contains some minor spoilers.

All I can say about Pacific Rim is that it seems to have been made by someone who understood what makes giant mechas fighting giant monsters fun. It’s not so much as adding as much computer generated mayhem on screen but also adding a basic human element alongside the spectacle. Granted, the storyline might be derivative from every blockbuster out there, and that the plot almost feels like an extended Saturday morning program (Neon Genesis Evangelion and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers come to mind). However, director Guillermo del Toro knew what made the genre fun and so he goes all out on the fun factor for this particular outing.

The Good

The biggest draw to this film was the idea of seeing giant monsters slugging it out with giant robots. That alone is the reason to watch the movie. In that aspect, the movie delivers well. The visual effects don’t overwhelm the story, they serve a purpose. Despite my appreciation of Michael Bay’s Transformers, these robots look and feel more real than Optimus Prime, Megatron, and Bumblebee. A jaeger’s footsteps send tremors to its surroundings, and so does a kaiju’s. Both the jaegers and the kaiju feel colossal. These creatures feel more like the CGI armies in The Lord of the Rings than the robots in Transformers; they have depth. It’s not just a CGI robot; it’s a fully functional CGI robot. And if that alone just describes the scale, wait till you reach the slugfests.

We see a jaeger using an oil tanker as a sword (I shouted “Power Sword Now!” in that sequence). A jaeger has rocket-powered fisticuffs, and upon making contact upon the kaiju, its snot, skin, and others comes flying from its face. Kaijus are sliced in half and blown to bits with an ion cannon. These descriptions should be sufficient.

As for the acting, while it’s not exactly Oscar worthy, they function well for the story. Some might complain that the characters are too cartoony or cliché, that they are more of sketches than actual characters. It doesn’t matter, it fits the story. It’s a live action Saturday morning cartoon, so it’s only fitting that everything about the movie feels like a cartoon. While it’s not bad to brood about the meaning of life (ala The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel), it wouldn’t fit in a movie whose single premise (robots vs. monsters) is the main reason for watching it.

The Bad (minor spoilers)

I don’t believe in perfect movies (even The Prestige, The Lord of the Rings and Leon the Professional have its issues) and Pacific Rim has its share of problems. However, while the rest are, for me, more nitpicking than actual criticisms, the biggest problem of the film would have to be the 3rd act underwater fight. Coming from the extremely exciting Hong Kong fight, the underwater fight near the dimensional rift seems a bit uncreative and, to an extent, overlong. Some argued that the 3rd act fight was meant to highlight the sacrifice and the not the slugfest, but if that’s the case, then how it was presented seemed to be a bit off. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t entirely bad. It’s just, coming from the previous fight, one expected an escalation. As presented, however, it just felt a bit anticlimactic.

The Verdict

As a whole, however, none of the more problematic parts of the film are deal breakers. Despite the anticlimactic feel of the 3rd act, the film’s presentation of the 2nd act slugfest mostly undoes every wrong thing about the film (plot holes included). The film set some expectations about what to expect and it delivered on it. My personal take on it when asked if it has a stupid story was this, “Story? What story? I came to watch giant robots fight giant monsters! That’s good enough for me!”

Brave: Really Late Impressions

Brave_Poster

*Disclaimer: I know some of my students read this blog so for now, I would like to warn you ahead of time that this post might include extremely harsh language.

Brave just wasn’t good. It just wasn’t. While it may have some interesting moments, they are too few and far apart. The pacing of the film felt tedious, and the tone was too inconsistent. I know Pixar films had the tendency to  mix drama with comedy but the earlier films did that in order to cancel out the extremely dark and existential themes the earlier films had (specifically Up, and Toy Story 3).

But the moment when I completely stopped giving a toss about what was happening in the film was the moment when the filmmakers EXPLICITLY mentioned that the situation could be resolved by BREAKING TRADITION. WHAT. THE. F*CK?! Here we have a “Girl Power” piece of propaganda material in the guise of a children’s film. My goodness, what is wrong with you guys? I’ll admit that my personal views on gender roles is conservative at best. However, this “breaking tradition” crap with Brave just managed to push way too many angry buttons in my system for a couple of reasons.

Film is a VISUAL MEDIUM. You tell the story with a strong narrative and visual elements. This form of storytelling is not only sloppy or lazy, it’s PREACHY, and being preachy definitely a big no-no in art as the elements are supposed to bring the theme to life (which is why, despite the film going against my viewpoints, Brokeback Mountain and Shame are two well-made films). Being preachy is insulting NOT because you are imposing your morals upon me, but because you are insulting my intelligence.

Additionally, if you guys will be making a “breaking tradition”/”girl power” kind of story, you should have chosen a more fitting character than Merida. If anything, Merida is the WORST person imaginable to be the poster girl of a “girl power” propaganda piece because Merida is one of the most bratty, the most entitled  b*tch I’ve even encountered in animation. There is nothing lovable about her. Fine, maybe the story was meant highlight that aspect of her, and it would’ve been a good move. Unfortunately, she had no growth of character. It wasn’t seen. Fine, it was mentioned EXPLICITLY in the portion when she was crying as she thought her mother would be a bear forever, but the growth wasn’t felt. It wasn’t like in Toy StoryUp, Wreck-It Ralph, or even Cars (supposedly Pixar‘s worst output). Woody and his gang grows up with every succeeding film. Wreck-It Ralph came to terms with his role as a bad guy. Lightning McQueen changed from the self-loving dick he was into a more selfless race car who gained the respect of the world when he helped the crashed race car finish the race (at the expense of coming in 3rd place). These characters grew up. We saw what they did on screen. They didn’t announce it out loud for the whole audience; they just did it. What did Merida do? Nothing. A few tears were shed, and a convenient ending narration summed it all up. That’s it.

The “breaking tradition” monologue actually did more harm for the film as it effectively deflated one of the most powerful characters in the movie; Queen Elinor. Yes, she’s a queen. Yes, she’s the one holding Merida back. Yes, she might seem stuck-up. But yes, she is one “strong woman character” I respected at least until the “breaking tradition” sequence. Remember the sequence when there was pandemonium in the castle, when the four clans were fighting each other? What did Elinor do? She stood up, walked towards her husband, and nobody, I mean NOBODY, laid a finger on her. The Scotsmen parted as she approached, and as she neared King Fergus, the fighting stopped (though one may argue that the males in the film were depicted more like buffoons, it’s one subject I’ll not touch for now). That is true power. She is a woman in authority. She understood the implications of Merida not marrying the firstborns of the other clans (again this was one portion not effectively highlighted due to sloppy story-telling). She herself had reservations when she married Fergus but what happened to her, she was a queen, an untouchable queen, and the Scotsmen would follow her every command. That is real power, not Merida saying, “I want to be in control of my destiny!” It takes a strong will to acknowledge one’s littleness in the universe, and that, at least before the “breaking tradition” scene, makes Elinor a respectable woman. And the fact that she goes back on her stance thanks to Merida taking control of her own destiny makes Merida’s character one of the most appalling characters in animated history, even more appalling than Malificent, Lotso, and Scar (the most bad-ass Disney villain ever).

Brave is not a disappointment; it’s a really bad movie. And I’m sorry, Pixar, but no amount of new technology can ever mask sloppy story-telling, tone inconsistencies, and an appalling protagonist.