baavgai: (Default)
( Sep. 30th, 2007 07:52 pm)
Like phases of the moon, I seem to run into vampire based entertainment. The modern vampire myth is simple, superhuman powers and an addiction to the always fashionable red stuff that runs through people's veins. Those are the only rules, really. Note, in the context of "good" vampires, blood is usually a little like spinach to Popeye.

As cheesy as all that innately is, I'm still a sucker for it. (Yeah, puns are mandatory.) First, the stupid. One of the stupidest vampire movies ever, based on a video game, is BloodRayne. Well, that's what I thought until I saw BloodRayne II: Deliverance. Note the cast in the original, a lot of recognizable names in there. With that, a scene very close to X rated, an off screen tryst between the two female leads, actresses later seen in Lost and Painkiller Jane, and a Meatloaf cameo, BloodRayne is a really entertaining bad movie. The "sequel" is bizarre, a basic spaghetti Western with vampires, very bad but nothing particularly redeeming.

In anime, the very short movie Blood: The Last Vampire is a stand out. Atmospheric, creepy, it runs against the all too real background of a US military base in Okinawa. It spawned a series that I'm currently watching, Blood +. While containing many anime cliches I'm not fond of, I still can't turn away. I'm on episode 40 or so. It's good, in spite of my reservations.

And now, the other night, on CBS, was Moonlight. It's been done, many times. One reviewer likened it to Angel, but he was wrong. This show is a near identical reprisal of Forever Knight. The pilot for which stared Rick "I love the 80's" Springfield.

I enjoyed Forever Knight and expected to hate Moonlight, but I didn't. The lead actually has a Rick Springfield thing going on. His voice is melodious and suited to the little Sam Spade style voice overs the pilot favors. There is a blond woman who "knows" his secret and an old friend (LaCroix?) who chides his mortal sensitivities. It's not inspired or original, but I'll probably watch the next installment.
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baavgai: (anime)
( Jul. 8th, 2007 10:29 am)
After a long hiatus from the dark den of over salted popcorn, we've seen two movies in nearly as many days.

The first is Pixar's new Ratatouille, the tale of a rat with impossible dreams of being a chef in Paris. It's what you'd expect from Brad Bird, writer and director of The Incredibles and The Iron Giant; it's exceptional. Visually engaging, funny, playful, enjoyable across demographics. The acid test, the mob of screaming brats next to us sat entranced and silent when the lights dimmed. The preceding short animation is also wonderful. No one could possibly be disappointed with this movie.

Writers rarely get their due in tinsel town. Scripts are often reworked on the day of shooting. Actors and directors reinterpret. A well written script can be destroyed and a poorly written one can be transcended in the production process. Animation is where a writer's vision can come through clearest. And Ratatouille, beyond all else that recommends it, is an unusually adept bit of storytelling.

It's dense with detail. While the archetypes and overall collection of elements are familiar, they are strung together with skill. There are no meaningless scenes, no filler. No element is allowed to overpower the complete work and run on its own, though many elements are strong enough to do so. Some elements exists for mere moments of time, while never feeling forced or superfluous. This, on its own, is a feat to be admired. A true rarity in popular summer cinema.

The antithesis of this type of writing is common enough in theaters, almost the norm for summer. Examples of big rambling productions where a clear story seems lost on the cutting room floor are Legion. Well, on to the next film.

Transformers! This is also what you'd expect given it's pedigree. There's action, effects, pithy one liners, and an army of two dimensional characters. It's fine for what it is. Such summer fare suffers little in the absence of logic or any plot to speak of. This is Michael Bay, who brought you Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. It's a big, sweeping, epic, surround sound panoramic ride.

It should be seen on the big screen. The action scenes are often pretty frenetic and hard enough to follow in theater sized dimensions. Trapped in the box a home, this movie will suffer. I rather like the way the giant robots move about. There is a lot of rolling and tumbling, at times looking reminiscent of capoeira. While not exceptional, this movie is an amusing enough way to kill a couple of hours. Also, surprisingly blood free, appeared kid safe overall. Indeed, it seemed primarily written for fifth graders.

Both these movies are good, light, summer fare. The animated rat has more humor and heart, the bots have more action, techno dazzle, and nice explosions.
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baavgai: (Default)
( Jun. 18th, 2006 08:42 pm)
I hate to admit it, but I have an embarrassingly high tolerance for sub par entertainment. As a result, I probably expose myself to it more than I should. I do try to spare others, so tend to indulge in solitude.

Bulletproof Monk. This one's been haunting my shelves for some time. Unfortunately I never lost it and ended up watching it today. It turned out to be an illegal copy, but I don't know where I got it so I can't rat them out. Most martial arts movies are painfully dumb, it's part of their charm. With that in mind, this one was charming.

Hex, the BBC series. I watched all of them. Characterization is not a strength of this show. There is no consistency in the behavior of anyone. Everyone needs medication. No one seems particularly likeable through the whole thing.

Hikaru no Go. I still don't know why I watched all 100+ episodes of Yu Yu Hakusho, this is the same kind of the same thing. I have them, they're fluff, I'll probably end of seeing all 75. Ok, that's not 100% fair. They do have something I prize in anime more than most and that's little insights into Japanese character.

War of the Worlds, with Tom Cruise. Um, it wasn't horrid. I guess on the big screen it might have been something. This was mostly vapid disaster movie filler. I feel dirty.

After all this I felt the need to break out something of value. Ikiru.

Ikiru is about Wantanbe, a bureaucrat with cancer forced to look starkly on his wasted life. Sound depressing as hell? Yeah, I thought so too. Still, it's considered one of Akira Kurosawa's masterpieces and that alone is worth the heart ache.

Surprise, I found Ikiru quite uplifting. Ok, it's sad, but it's a "Life is Beautiful" kind of sad. There's a lot of unresolved side issues, but Japanese seem to enjoy their stories like that. I'm actually happy the version I had was subbed but not dubbed. The voices of the actors added something, even if I don't know what the hell they're saying. When Wantanbe sings there is a depth of emotion that comes through wrenchingly strong.

Ikiru I can heartily recommend. The rest of the stuff, well, it was ok... ;)
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baavgai: (Default)
( Oct. 10th, 2005 12:49 am)
At the risk of seeming to watch too much Anime, here's this weekend's movie review.

AVP: Alien Vs. Predator. About what you'd expect. Vapid enough fluff. There's violence, SFX, and enough action movie cliches to make you wonder if it's written by trained chimps. Still, it's not a painful waste of time.

Dark City. This one reminded me a lot of the The Thirteenth Floor for a number of reasons. But all the traps the latter movie managed to avoid, this one fell into. It is hard to swallow from beginning to end. Finally setting up one mother of an unresolved dilemma; when you free the slaves, what do you do with them?


Joan of Arc (1999/I) (TV) Do not watch this. If you picked it up in same bargain bin we did, throw it back. Better yet, light it on fire, burn it at the stake. No one made it to the end of this one, and we really, really wanted to see flames and burnt bodies.
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