Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Suck My Ass 3-D Part 1: Movies

It seems like every 30 years or so, 3-D seems to make some sort of comeback. Originally started in the 50s/60s era as a cheap gimmick for matinees and cheesy horror flicks, the 3-D format saw a resurgance of sorts in the 80s, once again being in assorted horror films. Whether it was "Friday the 13th: Part 3 (D)" or "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare", the technology remained the same: using cheap paper cut-out glasses that utilized the effects of light being bent in whatever fucking direction...nevermind I have no idea how it really works, and nor do I really care, but let me get back on track here...

Here we are in 2010, and once again 3-D has reared its ugly head. No longer exclusive to just the horror genre, but 3-D has integrated itself into children's films, science fiction flicks, and even action movies. James Cameron's "Avatar" found the director utilizing new 3-D technology that he himself had spent the past decade plus developing, with the end result being the film becoming the highest-grossing movie to ever see the light of day (don't forget that ticket prices for seeing a 3-D flick in an IMAX theater however will run you about 20 bucks or so depending on where you live, but that's another topic entirely).

The end result for me personally after seeing it in theaters in 3-D: I thought my eyes were going to bleed and eventually explode out my fucking head!

Anyway, sometimes 3-D isn't all that bad depending on how well it gets utilized. A key example would be last year's "My Bloody Valentine 3-D", which not only featured some great visual gags, but like "Avatar", featured the whole film in 3-D and not just certain segments. One film that definitely suffered for the worse thanks to 3-D was the recent "Clash of the Titans" remake, which was never filmed with the intention of 3-D effects, but was decided to be integrated during post-production in an effort to drive up ticket sales after the studio realized just how bad the film was in general. The end result was the film as a whole looked just plain awful in 3-D, and the 3-D effects were so poorly utilized that you'd be better off watching the original "Blob" with the shitty little green and red glasses on.

What I'm trying to get at here in general is that 3-D at its heart is no more than a gimmick, and it is quickly becoming an expensive gimmick at that. Is there really anyone clamoring to see more movies in 3-D? I can understand when something monumental, like say "Toy Story 3", is released to the masses and targeted not only for the appeal of children, but for the appeal of adults as well, utilizes it and ends up taking it to a greater effect. Then again, that's just Pixar for you, who so far has never been able to do any wrong in my book.

While Pixar can do no wrong to me, there sure are plenty more than probably can in the not too distant future. Just over the horizon, we have "The Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan's "Inception", as well as "Saw VII", "Zombieland 2", the upcoming prequel to "Alien", and James Cameron's "Avatar" sequels as well as his stuck-in-development-hell adaptation of "Battle Angel". There are more 3-D planned movies as well, but for now, this is really all that I can mention without punching myself in the face in pure disgust.

3-D however isn't only limited to the movie realm anymore however. As technology continues to change and improve, we have now gotten to the point that 3-D needs to infringe upon the world of...video games!

Yes, video games in 3-D...but that's for next time folks...

Part 2 coming soon!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Think your childhood has been raped enough? Think again...

If you were born or grew up in the 80s, chances are that you have some fond memories in relation to your childhood. Whether it involve a favorite cartoon series or popular toy line, more often than not there is something in your childhood that you can look back on and smile about...

...until it gets a modern day update in some other medium and is so different from what you remember that those memories of joy and love turn to feelings of rage and hate!

Modern updates to old properties are nothing new, as every decade or so a new coat of paint gets thrown on something old so it can be repackaged to the masses as something new, but a number of properties to debut in the 80s specifically have seen this brand of repackaging more so than anything else. I remember as a young kid in the early 90s getting re-introduced to "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" in the form of a new-age cartoon and toy line, that even back then I knew couldn't hold a candle to the original.

Anyway, let's go back to 2007, when the massively successful "Transformers" live-action movie debuted and raked in tons of cash. This wasn't the first time my beloved "Transformers" were repackaged and remarketed though. When I was in high school during the late 90s/early 2000s, there was "Beast Wars", which focused on a group of new robots descended from the original characters of the original series, and featured many more ties and homages back to the original series of which it was based upon. It was different, but enjoyable, especially for teenage viewers that were around my age who had fondly remembered the original series and toyline. When Michael Bay's big-budget take on "Transformers" was in pre-production, there was a good amount of hesitation about how the end result would turn out, and in the end, the film was surprisingly enjoyable for being little more than big, dumb, loud, mainstream-aimed trashy fun. The 2009 sequel: not so much, but that's a discussion for another time.

"Transformers" hasn't been the only kids-associated line to see many repackages and reimaginings however. "G.I. Joe" has been doing it for even longer, and culminated fairly recently with an abomination of a live-action film that if I were to do a scientific-based study on, could prove that people who watch and enjoy it actually get more dumber as the film progresses. Regardless of that though, one would think that raping "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe" would be enough for Hollywood execs to get off on, but think again.

Since Hollywood is apparently so devoid of original, or even good, ideas at all, other toy lines, cartoons, and even board games are being looked at to be made into feature films and everything that comes with them. "The Smurfs" is on the horizon for next year I do believe, which pretty much everyone knows by now. However, what some may not know is that there are feature film adaptations of such things as "Monopoly", "Battleship", and "View Master" on the way. Yes, you read that right...movie takes on board games and that shitty piece of plastic. How can someone seriously make a movie based on the "View Master"? What kind of brain trust has to be assembled to come up with an idea surrounding a feature-length movie to go along with the thought that masses of people will shell out their cash to actually watch it? What the fuck are these ass holes thinking?!?!?!?! I can understand taking a cartoon or action figure line and turning it into a movie, but coming up with a movie take on a fucking board game or lame toy? What's next, a movie based on the mother-fucking Easy Bake Oven or the Creepy Crawlers machine?

Not too long ago, I poked some fun at the fact that so many horror flicks get remade these days that it isn't even funny. I had asked just how bankrupt for ideas the major film-making brass is to give the green light on these things being made, and now I have to ask the same thing in reference to films based on the assorted nonsense that I just got done bitching about above. I can understand wanting to secure the longevity of a toy or cartoon franchise by making a big budget movie or roll out a new cartoon series for a new generation of viewers, but are these so-called "creative minds" in charge that goddamned brain dead?

Christ all-fucking-mighty, I need a cigarette before my head explodes...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The joke that the NBA has become

Maybe it was because I was somewhat spoiled as a basketball fan growing up that I look at the NBA today and just shake my head. I say spoiled in the sense that I had the pleasure of growing up with a group of players who weren't just superstars of their sport, but are the stuff that legends and icons are made of. Think about them: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, and even big Shaq. These guys played their hearts out night in, night out, and all in the name of being champions. True, they made big money, and for a few of them, had some off-court incidents and lived certain lifestyles that could be called, well, a bit questionable. Regardless of that though, these guys made professional basketball worth watching, something that the class of players in the league today should take note of.

How many true superstar players are there in the NBA today? Shaq may still be playing, but his days of dominance are far behind him, and it won't be all that long before he hangs them up for good. So who is there exactly? There's no question that Lebron James is the most exciting player to watch since Jordan, and Kobe Bryant is going to go down as being one of the best Lakers to ever take the court, so who's left? Big man Dwight Howard can dunk and block shots better than just about anybody out there today, but it has become apparent just how limited his game really is. There's Kevin Durant, who the Trail Blazers are kicking themselves over for taking Greg Oden over, then there's Dwayne Wade, who has won a championship and carried the Heat on his back seemingly since he was first drafted to Miami. There's also Carmello Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki, who the luck of the Nuggets and Mavericks respectively rest upon. There's Yao as well, but his constantly wonkey knees may spell the end of his career, even after taking a whole season off. After them however, that's pretty much it.

It wasn't all that long ago that guys like Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, and Allen Iverson were instrumental to their team's success. Nash is a former MVP and still one of the best passers in the game, but he doesn't have long left as age is creeping up. Duncan still is to a degree with the Spurs, but he's not getting any younger, while Iverson's once Hall of Fame-seeming career has reached its end and fallen apart sadly after going back to the Sixers. Just for the record, while I watched him, there was never any other Sixer player who gave it his all and threw his body with wreckless abandon night after night. It truly is a shame that he never won a title thanks to never having the kind of supporting cast that he really needed to do so, yet he always somehow ended up shouldering the blame whenever the Sixers failed.

Anyway, while we have Lebron, Kobe, etc., there aren't any other game-changing players like there used to be an abundance of. Nowadays, if a team doesn't have a legitimate superstar or go-to guy with a decent supporting cast of players, the team will go nowhere fast. Sometimes however though, a great coach with an emphasis on true teamwork will simply get shit done. the 2004 Pistons relied on team defence to bring home a title, while the Celtics a few years back managed to completely turn things around after going on and acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and adopting a philosophy that restored the true fundamentals of team basketball. That, and the fact that Garnett, Allen, and Paul Pierce wanted to win a title more than anything. That sheer desire is something that is sadly lacking in the NBA today.

In the end, players get paid no matter what. How many players raking in obnoxious amounts of cash do nothing but sit on the fucking bench for Christ's sake? Take the Sixers for example, who threw a ton of money at Elton Brand, and when he is rarely healthy, can usually be found on the bench, or not found at all considering the fucker is practically invisible whenever he's on the court. For so many NBA players, they sign the big money contract, and they're happy with that in itself, pretty much saying "fuck the championship or winning at all". Not only is that a shame, but that's a fucking disgrace! If I'm raking in 20 million plus a year, I think I'm going to go out there and play to the best of my ability, injuries or soreness be damned. But in no other sport are there such unbelievable prima-donnas like there are in the NBA, and that's what has made the league the joke that it is today.

Is there hope? Possibly so, as Kevin Durant has already proven to be a more than formidable player who is reminiscent of Iverson early in his career. Not to mention that we are on the cusp of the biggest NBA Free Agency blast ever to be seen. Lebron, D-Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk, and plenty more are possibly going to be changing addresses, which in itself offers the most excitement that the NBA has garnered in quite some time. Will it be enough to re-ignite the flailing interest that the sport has seen over what has been close to a decade? Time will tell, time will tell...

...and just to get it out there one more time, FUCK THE LAKERS!!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What's Wrong With Horror Films Today Part 2

Last time around I bitched about the whole "torture-porn" sub-genre of the horror film genre, while making some small references to what may be the next biggest problem in horror films today, which is none other than shitty remakes of not only classic horror films, but remakes of horror flicks which weren't all that great in the first place.

Horror remakes are nothing new in the least, and on the ultra-rare occassion, can turn out to be pretty good. John Carpenter's early 80s gorefest "The Thing" was a remake of the classic "The Thing From Another World", and remains one of the director's finest efforts. Before Zack Snyder took on comic book adaptations "300" and "Watchmen", he directed the 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead", which while it featured the much-maligned running zombies, was surprisingly and shockingly enjoyable. 2006's remake of Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes" was visceral and shock-filled, and even last year's remake of "Friday the 13th" turned out to be kind of "so bad it's good" enjoyable trash.

At the other end of the spectrum however are the needless, lifeless remakes of classics and fan favorite horror flicks that wind up being so bad that it automatically kills the viewers' interest in ever checking out the original. In no particular order, over the past decade plus we have had remakes of "Psycho", "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Halloween", "A Nightmare on Elm Street", "The Fog", "My Bloody Valentine", "Prom Night", "The Stepfather", "Day of the Dead", "Willard", "The Last House on the Left", "April Fool's Day", "The Wicker Man", "The Omen", and "It's Alive" to name a handful. Not to mention the fact that there are a ton of remakes on the horizon as well, including retreads of "Fright Night", "Videodrome", "Scanners", "The Monster Squad", "Creepshow", "Basket Case", "Phantasm", "Hellraiser", "The Blob" (second time it's been remade), and another take on "Night of the Living Dead". Even my beloved "Near Dark" and "Evil Dead" aren't immune to the virus that is the remake, as both legendary cult films are seemingly headed down that route.

Now, when a remake takes something that made the original good in the first place and adds some new ideas to it, the end result can be good. As mentioned before, the remakes of "The Thing" and "Dawn of the Dead" took the basic outline of the original films of which they were based and added new dimensions to it. For "The Thing" it was cutting-edge makeup effects and upping the ante in terms of tension, while for "Dawn of the Dead" it was fast zombies and pitch-black humor. The other remakes that for the most part are shitty beyond shitty, not only don't add anything new, but more often than not either follow the exact same formula that we already know from the original, or just butcher the original's ideas in the first place. The original "The Fog" was a chilling ghost story that was remade as a non-sensical hack-job, while the new take on "A Nightmare on Elm Street" presented a lifeless and boring Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund will always be Freddy to me, but that's another story entirely) while recycling so many of Wes Craven's original shots that charges of plagerism should be filed.

Is there such a bankruptcy of ideas in the horror genre that all these remakes need to see the light of day? Granted that horror isn't the only genre where there are a hearty amount of remakes: the science-fiction and action genres get a ton of remakes themselves, so in all actuality, there is apparently a bankruptcy of ideas in the mainstream film making world as a whole. This is just so depressing to me that words just can't describe my thoughts on the matter. As an aspiring writer, I can vouch for the difficulty of attempting to come up with an original idea and actually move forward with it, let alone tackle something that has been done over and over again and try to add a level of freshness to it, but when neither is actually attempted, it just boggles my mind as to how the remake wheel keeps turning.

Such established franchises like "Halloween", "Friday the 13th", and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" have their names and iconic screen villains to rely on to rake in profits that the makers behind them don't really have to worry about making something old new again because it is a relatively trusted brand at this point. But was anyone clamoring for remakes of "Prom Night" or "The Stepfather"? Yeah, that's what I thought.

In the end, the horror film genre just recycles itself over and over again, with occasional glimmers of originality and hope shining through every so often. Sadly, those occasions are becoming all the more rare as the years go on, and I can only hope that by the time I'm in a wheelchair and shitting in adult diapers that the tenth reboot of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" isn't playing in the local multiplex.

Friday, June 4, 2010

What's Wrong With Horror Films Today Part 1

Let me start off by saying that the idea of being tortured by someone is absolutely fucking terrifying. Being bound and helpless while someone else indulges in their sadistic tendencies at your expense is something that no one would ever want to experience, let alone even think about. If this is so, then why oh why has there been such a huge wave of torture flicks released in theaters and straight-to-DVD over the past few years that somehow, someway, manage to become hits?

For any horror film fan, casual or die-hard, one can easily notice how the genre more often than not tends to follow certain trends. In the late 70s, John Carpenter's original "Halloween" helped birth the slasher film, which ran well throughout the 80s as well. The slasher film usually consisted of sexy (and usually horny) teens being stalked and killed by a masked killer, a sub-genre of horror films that experienced a rebirth of sorts in the mid/late-90s thanks to "Scream" and others of the ilk, before finally being beaten enough into the ground until recently.

Flash back to 2004, when the trend in the horror film genre was that of PG-13 rated Americanized remakes of Japanese horror films. Beginning with "The Ring", various studios followed through with "The Grudge", "Dark Water", and other forgettable duds, as well as assorted sequels, prequels, and blah blah fucking blah.

One film however, dared to be different, and this film was the original "Saw". An independent horror flick that became a surprise smash hit and helped make Lions Gate a big time movie studio, the original "Saw" presented a simple, but surprisingly intricate, tale of two men who wake up chained to one another, and a hacksaw on the floor between them. Gory, stomach-turning, and featuring some genuine surprising twists, a sequel was no surprise...

...and now here we are in 2010. "Saw VII" is filming (in 3-D no less) and since 2004 on when "Saw" first became a hit phenomenon, we've had a new "Saw" film every year, all of which have continued to up the ante in terms of how much the audience can be grossed out. In between now and then, we've had other torture films of the ilk, including "Hostel" and its sequel, "Turistas", and lesser-known films that went straight-to-DVD.

The most alarming factor in discussing these films is not the fact that they have all made money, but the fact that these flicks display nothing but sadism. As said before, the idea of being tortured is horrific yes, but seeing it unfold on film is rarely frightening at all. Early slasher films, such as the original "Halloween", "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", and "A Nightmare on Elm Street", were truly scary and suspenseful, while offering varying degrees of gore and blood-letting. There may have been a sadistic element or two, but nothing to the degree of what can be found in the aforementioned modern films that pass for horror today.

Last year's "Saw VI" was a surprise dud at the box-office, losing to "Paranormal Activity", which like the original "Saw" before it, was a surprise independently filmed hit that no one had anticipated would achieve such massive popularity. Ironically enough, the director of one of the "Saw" films (i.e. not James Wan or Darren Lynn Bouseman, both of which have moved on to greener pastures) is helming the upcoming sequel to "Paranormal Activity". Maybe this is a sign that the torture brand of horror films has reached its peak...however what comes next may be something even more detrimental to the genre...

Part 2 coming soon!