Aisle of the Damned: 07/28/17- The Hidden Secrets in Henry Cavill’s Mustache

Check yourself for VD

Luc Besson is back to making French comic book sci-fi and, much like The Fifth Element, it’s incredibly divisive. What did Kent think of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets? And what did he think of the Medieval sex comedy The Little Hours with a who’s who of comedy stars?

But even before that, we look at a metric ton of San Diego Comic Con news and trailers. Prepare yourself for all of this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Sloppy Seconds- Queen of Outer Space

Aisle of the Damned: 07/20/16- Ghostblather

They don't actually manage to bust one ghost.

Bryan and Kent saw Paul Feig’s Pixels 2… sorry, Ghostbusters, and think it should be busting itself, because it’s pretty much DOA. Find out why we don’t think it works as a whole (SPOILER ALERT: They don’t manage to bust and hold onto one ghost in the whole film.) and the things we think do work on a small scale.

Plus, we have looks at Spielberg’s surprisingly underperforming The BFG and indulge our Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick crushes with Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. As usual, we also have recommendations for our listeners. All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Los Straitjackets- ¡Ghostbusters!

Movie Diary- 8/9/13

New player enters the game!8/2/13- Watched the second part of the Evangelion “rebuild” last night. It’s too bad I have no idea what’s going on, because it’s actually pretty damn cool in places. I described Pacific Rim as Evangelion with Star Wars overtones. I also maybe should have specified, “without all the psuedo-theological hokum and a plot that a sane person can follow.” What is awesome is that while the first one was just a compressed version of the TV series, this one was pretty divergent in a lot of ways. First off, Mari is an awesome addition to the cast. When the Mark 02 goes feral, it’s pretty damn impressive and the way they use color for her (especially after giving her that weird meet cute with Shinji) is just jarring and badass. Not only that, but the existing characters are actually more likable. Shinji doesn’t come across as such a whining wimp and doesn’t sit around crying the way he had so often in the show. Asuka (who has bizarrely had her name changed so that even the European characters seem to have Japanese surnames) is even more of a sociopath, but she’s given a bit of depth along with it and goals for her future. And the ending is just a whole bunch of “WTF.” If you liked the original series, you will either hate this for not being exactly the same or love it because it’s finally telling a new story. Hopefully it won’t end with as complete a narrative f@ck you as the show and the previous “End of Evangelion” movie did.

8/5/13- I have a rant about animation coming that I wrote at work and forgot to send to myself. In the meantime, I’ve watched a couple of movies with Spence and his girlfriend Allie. Brave being the main one. Which is still great. The thing’s hilarious and I don’t get why people just decided to take a big dook on it, because I think it’s really well made.

I got into a discussion about the glut of CGI animated films with my friend Jared. It turned into a gripe session of the current state of animation in general. I feel like the “dooming of 2D” is basically a self-fulfilling prophecy that was caused by the animation industry and Hollywood itself. If you look at recent history, the last big hand-drawn hit was probably Lilo and Stitch. Home on the Range crashed and burned because nobody liked it and Princess and the Frog did reasonably well. Certainly well enough to justify continuing the practice of making hand-drawn features. What’s really frustrating is that Frozen, the next feature from Disney, started out as hand-drawn but because of the success of Tangled, a film I actually really enjoyed in part because it aped 2D so well thanks to the handiwork of Glenn Keane, was switched over to yet another 3D feature and apparently the Diz has laid off nearly all their 2D animators.

It’s a sad day indeed given when John Lassetter took over the Mouse’s animation department, including the newly integrated Pixar, it sounded like they were going to actively pursue 2D animation again, in the spirit of the studio’s long history. I have no problem with 3D animation when it makes sense for the story. Pixar has done a good job of picking projects that seem to lend themselves to the particular look of CGI, for the most part. Wreck It Ralph made absolute sense to do in 3D because it was about computer-generated characters. But why aren’t these studios making movies based upon which medium is simply going to be better for the story being told? It’s not like making a film in CG guarantees it to be a hit. I mean, criminy, look at all the movies that have either failed to make a dent at the box office, if you’re speaking generously (or bombed if you aren’t.) Turbo is only the most recent example of one of them underperforming.

I find it very sad that Hollywood has convinced itself this is meaningless and that 2D is dead for no reason. At this point only France and Japan seem to be actively involved in creating hand-drawn films and I find it sad that the country which pioneered the animated film (and perfected the animated short through Warner Bros. and MGM) simply doesn’t care anymore.

At least we still get a stop-motion film or two a year, even if they’re falling into a pattern of nearly all having to be Burtonesque macabre comedies. (This coming from someone that enjoys that kind of thing.) I will take a pure CG movie any day over a mo-cap feature though.

Most of these Zemmeckis-pioneered features are mediocre at best and the visuals rarely have wowed me. As much as I enjoyed TinTin, and I do enjoy it a lot (more each time I watch it, actually) I am continually bothered by the awful decision to do it as a mo-cap feature with what is, frankly, some pretty grotesque design. Herge’s characters are pretty universally beloved throughout Europe and much of the non-American world, so why not actually make the characters look like they do in the comics? Or even just bite the bullet and film it as a live-action feature? Because instead it is a charmless and puzzling visual mish-mash that is simply unappealing. The look of the film really pleased noone that I’ve spoken to, with the distraction of the character design hampering the things that work really well like the imaginative set-pieces, a fine script by the cream of the creative crop currently in Britain’s TV and film industry and the best chase scene Spielberg has directed since Raiders. But that’s the problem with motion capture, period. I simply don’t know who it’s supposed to appeal to. The only film I can think of that really worked with it was Monster House. (This of course is not counting the stupendous work by Andy Serkis and the artists behind Gollum and other such instances of incorporating CG characters into live-action film, but rather a self-decribed “animated film.”) But the characters in Monster House were stylized so that they were more appealing and didn’t fall into the uncanny valley trap quite as hard. And even then, the motion capture seemed worthless because a good animator can do a better job of conveying emotion than some dots glued to a person’s face. There’s really very little reason to hire an actor when an animator is already doing the job of an actor if they’re any good.

Is it neat that Speilberg tried a different medium? Absolutely. With directors like Wes Anderson, Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton jumping from live action to animation and vice versa, it’s an exciting time for creative freedom in film. These folks are taking advantage in the blurred lines of filmmaking and picking up the reigns from the likes of Frank Tashlin to try to take advantage of the best avenue for them to tell their stories. It’s just a shame that one of them is completely closed off now. I’ve loved every one of Bird’s features, for example. He managed to keep the Mission: Impossible franchise from squandering the goodwill JJ Abrams presented it with and his Pixar films, especially The Incredibles, are not just some of the best animated films of the last 20 years, but a couple of the best films of the last two decades period. But I could not see The Iron Giant being what it is were it live-action or computer animated beyond what was used initially. (Speaking of which, why isn’t that on blu ray yet? Can Warners still not figure out that it’s a hugely popular cult film that could be sold on the basis of Bird’s megahits?)

Really the main disturbing trend is that animation in its various forms, especially CG, is more in demand than ever thanks to increasing special effects and more films flooding the market then ever, yet prospects for animation seem so bleak. Effects houses have publically been failing because they are not rewarded for a job well done in many cases (even when they win an Oscar.) Animators have become the pariahs of Hollywood. While art and “geek culture” proceeds to dominate the box office and the pop culture consciousness, the actual creators of the art in cinemas are being pushed around as though the work can be done by any schmuck off the street with the right software. This isn’t the case in every instance to be certain, but as a whole it seems like outsourcing and undercutting are the rules of the day. Perhaps they always have been. Rocky and Bullwinkle were animated (if you can call it that) in Mexico to cut costs and that was in the 60s. But for some reason it just seems worse now. Maybe it always seems worse now than in the past. It is human nature to paint the most dire portrait of the present. After all, I suppose at least as an audience we’re getting more content than ever and we’re no longer in the dark ages of the late 70s and early 80s.

Kent’s Movie Diary: 7/31/13

7/31/13- One cool thing so far about Spence being homeless, we’ve been watching movies and we’re getting into a bit of a groove with it. Last night we started with a Netflix documentary, American Grindhouse, which I’d seen but it had been awhile, as I wanted something quick and he seemed to be in a  documentary-type mood. It’s pretty paper-thin as documentaries about movies can often be, but as before it makes me want to actually see a lot of these films, be they culturally relevant or just crazy. I also noticed just how many old exploitation films have had bands named after them. Or at the very least, songs. The real reason to watch it is John Landis, who is both incredibly funny, and also striking of an odd balance between not being a dick, but without giving way to bullshit when describing some of the films and how truly awful they are. Somehow he can degrade a film but not go out of his way to be just plain mean.

After that, I put in 21 Jump Street as he’d never seen it and he seemed to feel exactly like I did about the film before I had actually seen it. The movie is the biggest example of cinematic alchemy I can think of, taking a terrible actor (Channing Tatum), an unlikable comedian (Jonah Hill) and a tired premise (a remake of a TV show that was pretty lame, even if I like Stephen J. Cannell) all on at the same time. And yet, because of a fantastically funny screenplay by Michael Bacall of Scott Pilgrim fame and the fact that Tatum turns out to be far, far, FAR more talented at comedy than he is at drama or action (plus some great and rather out-there work from the comedians in supporting roles) it is actually really, really freakin’ funny. Almost shockingly so. I’m surprised I haven’t’ heard more about this film since it came out because I thought its legend would grow like Anchorman and it would be continually quoted online. Maybe it is and I know the wrong people. I don’t know what the hell they’re thinking making a sequel because I don’t think lightning will strike twice, but hey. Good luck to ’em. If they do something half as funny as the drug freak-out it will be worth being made. Spence thought it was hilarious, so I managed to gain some street cred with him.

Here comes the Fuzz!8/1/13- Since I’ve had the last couple of days off, I’ve watched a couple more movies with Spence. He decided to put in Jurassic Park. I’m starting to develop a theory based on my blu rays. Most 80s titles look like crap. It’s pretty obvious. Especially the comedies and anything with special effects. Everything was shot soft, for one thing. It’s like everyone was trying to make their movie look like softcore porn. And it’s often pretty grainy. My God, the Ghostbusters transfer alone is abysmal enough to prove my point. Today, most movies look pretty amazing out of the gate. But there’s this transition period in the 90s where things don’t look as bad as 80s movies, but they still don’t look pristine, either. Men in Black was that way. Jurassic Park is another. (I just got Independence Day as I haven’t watched it in forever and had a hankering. I bet it’s the same way as well.) I don’t know the reason. I’m not technical and what I know about filmstock would fit on my pinkie. Just something I’ve noticed. Today I threw in one of my all time favorite movies for the next-to-last Yocum Thursday: Hot Fuzz. My personal favorite of the three films of Edgar Wright’s (all of which I love dearly), it was once again nice to show a flick to an appreciative audience. I feel like I should make a notch in my TV stand for every film I get someone to buy after showing it to them. (John, if you’re reading this, I ordered Forbidden Planet today, so you got one over on me, too. It was on sale for $7.50, so how could I resist?) Every time I watch Hot Fuzz, it manages to find a new way to surprise me because of how deeply layered some of the callbacks are. Sure, some of them pay off right away, but some of them are really “blink and miss.” The script is simply fantastic. I have seen some people dismiss it simply because it’s not Shaun of the Dead and I feel sorry for them, because it’s an absolutely brilliant piece of filmmaking, one that I appreciate more every time I watch it. I can’t wait for The World’s End. And as my local Regal Theater is not participating in the “Cornetto Trilogy” screening, much to my chagrin, I will just have to watch them with some friends in the comfort of my own home. Tonight after he gets off work and I’ve had a beer or two, I think I’ll sit him down with Safety Not Guaranteed and see how well it plays for him. I’m expecting good things.

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Jurassic Park

Admit it. You hear John William's score right now in your head.

I still remember seeing Jurassic Park for the first time. It seemed to take forever for the small Jayhawk Theater in Atwood, Kansas to bring it to us, but that was the norm for a single-screen theater in a tiny midwestern town (pop. approx. 1,350.) Or maybe it just felt that long because I wanted to see it so bad. As a dinosaur-obsessed kid grown into a junior high student, I quite loved the film. Actually, “it blew my widdle mind” might be more accurate. I remember getting the VHS as soon as it was released and putting it on while some people were visiting our home, including a girl that was staying with our guests as a foreign exchange student. She seemed bored by the whole idea of a dinosaur movie… until that brachiosaur lumbered across the screen and she let loose with a breathy ‘wow.’

I’d already read the book. It remains my second all-time favorite novel, right behind The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it made me a lifelong fan of Michael Crichton’s particular brand of thriller. This is not to say that the movie and the book match up, of course. They’re two completely different kinds of pleasures. The book, with it’s indepth philosophical examination of mankind’s ego in his supposed control over or destruction of nature, only scratched upon in the film by comparison, and the explosive finale that contrasts with the crowd-pleasing antics of Steven Spielberg vary to a large degree. But thanks to Crichton adapting his own story with David Koepp, the movie is very much it’s own animal. Despite the fact that the ‘new’ ending makes absolutely no sense, it’s hard not to love it.

Now, on the twentieth anniversary of the its release, we have it back in theaters. I suppose this isn’t so much of a review of the film, given that it is a couple of decades long in the tooth. Rather, it’s more of a reflection on the film and it’s influence on my life, in most ways. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Jurassic Park on film since 1993. Only a couple of years ago, Liberty Hall in Lawrence, where I currently live, played it as part of the town’s Christmas opening. It was a bit of a beaten-up print, but I’ll take a somewhat scratched and speckled screening of a favorite film any day over a DVD projection. I got to hear kids squeal during the velociraptor attacks as if it was brand-new. Nice to know it still has that magic for the next generation.

Like a few certain special effects spectaculars, Jurassic Park has managed to keep away a timestamp, despite excited references to CD-ROMs. The same way we don’t care that the people in King Kong don’t have cell phones, it is in some ways a ready-made period piece, the ravages of time being very kind to it thanks to the writing and the character work. But the true marvel is how well the effects have aged. While we keep being told that computer animation is improving by leaps and bounds (which can certainly be seen from instance to instance) it’s bizarre and somehow miraculous that Jurassic Park still remains one of its greatest triumphs. Part of that has to be thanks to its judicious use. Wisely, practical effects were used in a great many instances and they blend fantastically with the animation. (See the first Iron Man for another instance in which this was done to positive results.) Plus, the method of the computer animation was done old-school; the animators used stop motion techniques to animate the dinosaurs like hi-tech Harryhausens. The result manages to retain personality that is often unseen in the rubbery, boneless critters that now populate the big screen. When I read the words of internet trolls criticizing the effects in the film, I have to shake my head.

The added draw that is intended to bring out audiences who have had the film on video, DVD and now blu-ray for that last two decades is, of course, that it has been post-converted to 3D. I haven’t exactly made it a secret in the past that I am not a fan of that particular brand of 3D, preferring to only go to films that were intended for and natively filmed in the format. Of the post-converted films I’ve seen, only a couple have really managed to not support my feelings on the matter. Most are dark, blurry messes.
I would be lying if I didn’t say Jurassic Park was the best conversion job I’ve seen. I’m sure the time they had to get it right certainly helps matters. While there are certainly examples of the film succumbing to the problems inherent in the process like softening of details and blur, the people behind the transformation have done a surprisingly good job of making it seem like it was intended to be this way. Depth of field is applied very well, not just in the wide expanses of the park, but in the indoor scenes and even close ups. The infamous Tyrannosaurus sequence, still one of the best bits in cinema history, makes spectacular use of the rain and dark where these criteria would usually play havoc with the attempt and it was obviously treated with tender loving care.

I absolutely recommend seeing this movie again in the theater, with or without 3D. It retains its scares, it’s tension and its humor and remains a jewel in Spielberg’s crown.

(Five damns out of five)