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Archive for July, 2013

Top 20 favourite movies of all time (#12)

#12: The Crow

I think the most difficult part about this movie is which perspective I want to look at it from.  Do I look more into the symbolism of death, the crow, the atmosphere of night-time, the rain?

Or do I just go straight for the theme of vengeance and how strong the theme of love is conveyed through the main character of Eric Draven?

Or would one look at this movie from the perspective of the comic book reader who felt that there was a lot missing from the book that could have been added to the movie?  Perhaps add a few scenes to bring the length of the movie over the two hour mark?

I’ve never been much of a fan of the overused swearing in scripts, I think an R-rated picture can just as easily be effective without the need for coarse language and ultra-violence.  But mostly the coarse language was used a bit too abundantly throughout the movie and brings the level of empathy down a notch for the characters.  I don’t even know what to make of the villains of this movie given the weirdness of Top Dollar (they don’t say his name but that’s what he’s credited as) and his female companion with an eye-fetish.  I’d rather he be more straightforward without the odd macabre vibe, otherwise you’re not sure what to make of this guy.

What draws me the most to this movie and makes me watch it over again is Brandon Lee.  His controversial death during production of the movie evokes a stronger sympathy towards not only Brandon, but to Eric Draven as well, since the role is elevated and immortalized even more given the tragedy that happened.  You see him still live on in the movie even though he never lived to see the movie completed and I feel that enhances the quality of the movie overall and you believe in the character even more.

However, I still feel the character would have still been believable if Brandon was still alive and carried on the franchise of the character in future movies, because out of all the actors to portray the character, Brandon hit the right notes on what the Crow is supposed to be: a tortured soul seeking to right the wrongs committed against him and avenge the love of his life and the afterlife.  Pivotal moments such as how much he remembers Shelley and how much pain it brings him is reflected through the performance of the actor and I couldn’t see anyone else pull it off quite as well as Brandon could.

It also brings different aspects of love to the viewer, two people in love, a mother’s love for her child, a love of two friends, a connection between man and animal through an inseparable bond, all able to convey the theme of love throughout the movie.

You could also look into what sort of symbolism the bird itself brings, a mythic symbol known throughout history in various cultures that are mostly overlooked because we normally see these birds every day acting as any other bird would, gathering food, flying around, surviving, reproducing.  When we can look past the superficial and delve deeper into the mysticism, the crow is a powerful symbol that is a representation of many things.  Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re evil, sometimes they’re necessary to understand the human condition, who knows?

Brandon is still missed by all of us, his career had yet to hit its peak with this movie and sadly that is how he went out.  But for what it’s worth, he still lived on.

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Top 20 favourite movies of all time (#13)

#13: Gremlins

Forget every single christmas movie you can think of and just put Gremlins and Die Hard as the best Christmas movies of all time, lol.

I find what works best with kids movies or family movies is that there needs to be some darker elements to it, but not to the point where you lose your audience or you isolate the kids away from the adults and make it too complex for them to understand, and in the case of Gremlins, too scary.

I like that this is the kind of story that once you think about it, its very difficult to replicate and its very difficult to make a decent sequel out of it (Gremlins 2 was too “cartoony” and toned down the scary elements).

It’s very inventive when you take a little creature such as the mogwai and fashion a story where it reproduces through contact by water and the new mogwai are evil and mischievous.  When they go through their metamorphosis into the gremlins, its scary and goofy at the same time and it has that right mix where early on you see how much of a threat they are to the adults, yet goofy enough that they just want to have fun, eat food, get drunk, and party all night.  They’re kind of like delinquent college kids who had one too many drinks and tear shit up somewhere.  We’ve probably all been that  kind of person at some point in our lives when we’re just moving out and living on our own, making our own rules as we go along and saying how much we’re alive and we’re not afraid of anything.

When you see the transition from mogwai to gremlin, comparing Gizmo to Stripe, you’re also seeing how we as people are able to get out of our comfort zone and reveal ourselves, unleashing our id as it were.  But we also notice how destructive that id can be without the proper ego to control it.  It’s almost its own psychological study on the human psyche and how sometimes we want to detach ourselves from our mundane lives and go crazy now and then and these gremlins are the kind of people who have little care for the well-being of others and will do whatever they want to do.

Even the old man’s warning at the end of the movie when he says we’re not ready for such a huge responsibility when taking care of the mogwai is in essence telling us that we’re not ready to balance ourselves completely.  We’re not ready to mete out the yin with the yang, our light and dark halves and this movie serves as a pause to reflect on our true nature and how often we hide a little gremlin in each of us, making sure we respect the rules and not unleash chaos.

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The Zimmerman verdict

Bullshit.  That’s probably the one word I would use to describe what’s been going on with this Zimmerman trial and that he got away with killing someone.

How do we, who live in countries abroad, have a say in this?  What can we say that could explain how we feel about what has happened, not only to Trayvon, but to many young adults who end up at the wrong place, the wrong time?

I could just as easily play the side of those who throw in the race card (and there is sufficient evidence to support that claim), but I’m more on the side of those who feel there is a fundamental problem with the judiciary system, particularly the one in Florida.  Two examples this past week make this very abundantly clear.

The first is the Zimmerman verdict.  It’s bullshit because he didn’t have to kill anyone and to claim self-defense against a kid who was unarmed and was provoked is ludicrous.  Forget that Zimmerman is half-white/half-hispanic and Martin is Black.  One’s a large adult, the other’s a scrawnier teenaged boy.  The bigger man stalked and abused his authority as a neighbourhood watchperson and provoked Martin without just cause.  He called the police and didn’t wait for them to show up to enact his own way of “justice”.  There isn’t much we can say on how he got those injuries, whether Martin caused them or whether they were self-inflicted.  What remains as fact is that gunshots were fired for no reason for the mere claim of self-defense when a gun wasn’t needed.

What’s even worse is that the police should’ve had more suspicion behind Zimmerman’s reasons for firing his gun at an unarmed Martin rather than just believing a simple plea of self-defense and the “stand your ground” law they have in Florida.

To even add salt to this wound is that the gun that was used in the killing was returned to Zimmerman along with his freedom, which I would never believe for one moment was earned.

The second example is of a black woman from the same state who had every right to exercise the “stand your ground” law to defend herself with a firearm and all she did was fire warning shots at her husband who was about to physically harm her.  Her intent was likely to fire these shots as a warning to him to stop what he’s doing to her, otherwise the next time she will shoot to kill.  She ends up being arrested for her act of courage and sentenced to the mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years.  She killed no one, she “stood her ground”, she defended herself, and she is now serving a jail term for it.

I’ll get to what really bothers me about this whole week shortly, but for this kind of law that promotes self-defense, when people abuse it, people who are in a position of authority, they seem to get off scott free and go back to their daily lives without any problems while those that really, truly do need this law to protect themselves are those who suffer the most from the judicial system.  Is it because they’re black that they’re less favoured by the system, or is it because they’re regular people oppressed by those in power?  In both cases, the woman and Martin were both black, both victims of a Florida law that seems to be biased towards people who either are white or have a position of power, even if its by a small amount.

But here is where it upsets me the most and I find this to be disturbing whenever I see it.  It’s the comments that I read from people chipping in on either the huffington post article link, or a Facebook post from a certain group.  For every one person that seems to have a logical argument that reflects how I feel about this situation, five more will jump in and call that person a racist for suggesting that its about race or that they’re quick to call Trayvon a thug, as though they’re defending Zimmerman’s case.

Well, I’m glad at least some people out there have a certain degree of sanity and reason, otherwise we’d all be living in an asylum.

And if it feels like I’m playing the race card with my thoughts, remember that the courts rejected all the black votes and won Bush the electoral college votes to become president.  I think often enough, playing the race card might be necessary.

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Top 20 favourite movies of all time (#14)

#14: Robocop

This movie grew on me a lot when I watch it; the revenge plot where the main character either dies or has something deeply tragic happen to them is an easy sell for a story, only if its done well of course.

I suppose I should dedicate this mostly to a commentary on the subject of vengeance and vigilante justice.  From what I’ve viewed in terms of characters out to avenge something, whether it be themselves or someone else, they tend to become detached from their own humanity, as though seeking justice is something we humans do but very rarely go through with.

In the case of Robocop, the main character dies horribly in a rain of gunfire and is remade as a cyborg, completely devoid of his humanity and thus acts as a machine would.  As the story progresses, however, you see the human side slowly return and he’s not as mechanical as he once was, memories of the people who had caused his death still linger in his mind and he pulls all the stops to find them and bring them to justice.  If it weren’t for the three prime directives or Asimov’s laws of robotics when it comes to police work, he would have likely killed them (even though he does at the end), so one must ask the question: is vengeance justifiable as a human aspect or as a non-human aspect?

You look at your common superhero with a tragic backstory, and most of the time he or she is out to seek vengeance to right the wrongs committed to them.  Yet because they possess superhuman qualities or enhanced abilities that they are still one way or another detached from what we generally consider to be human.  Even Batman sadly follows under this category, despite him not gifted with superhuman qualities.  That he must don the cape and cowl and fight crime as a costumed vigilante while as Bruce Wayne he’s typically normal and more human in his interactions with other people.  Is putting himself above the law to fight crime something we as humans could never bring ourselves to do, and if so, does that mean we become less human?

I think generally with the subject of vengeance, Robocop works on that level.  It’s also with a grain of humility that we have to look at society from a media’s perspective with the fake news and commercials they throw at you, going over the top with how batshit crazy we can be when selling products.

The acting is very solid and even with the premise of a cyborg police officer fighting crime and avenging the loss of his previous life, there’s a lot of good performances from a lot of the characters and however brief they are, you get a sense of who they are and where they stand in the overall plot.  Kurtwood Smith and Ronnie Cox play the villain roles with such simplicity that you couldn’t bring yourself to believe that they could pull off good-guy roles, relishing in the evil character archetype.

As much as we’d like to think Peter Weller has a career outside of this movie, most of us will always remember him as Robocop, the make-up effects of his cybernetic suit really sell that he’s what you see him as, and his mannerisms are very robot-like.

And then there’s swiss-cheese boardroom guy, lol.

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Top 20 favourite movies of all time (#15)

#15: Beetlejuice

There are two sides of Tim Burton that I tend to notice.  The good side of Burton is when he can take an original idea and make a movie out of it, the bad side is when he adapts an established story into his own motif and it kinda fails in a way.

I enjoy Beetlejuice as a movie and even more so as the animated series, one of my favourite cartoons of all time, but I’ll tackle that list for another time.

I think that what makes this movie unique is that you don’t feel that its outdated in some way.  You can set this movie at any time afterwards and you probably couldn’t tell the difference, aside from the visual effects of the stop motion animation.

Is it scary?  Nah, it can’t be categorized as such.  Although humour and horror can be a good pairing depending on the movie you’re writing.  Most slasher flicks can be shlepped into the funny bin.

Is it a good movie, per se?  It’s hit and miss, some of the jokes attempted in the movie can get stale after a few viewings, but the use of dead-like puns have their moments.

I will definitely give props to Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice, he really had a lot of fun with the role and you can get good chemistry with other actors when one character is sold in such a way, the cartoon version doesn’t deviate from the source material as far as the character is concerned.

This list is only going to get better as we go along and I look forward to sharing the remainder of the list :).

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The Legend of Korra

I can probably count on my fingers the amount of animated programs that “get it”, that tells you a story and you want to continue to be invested in this story until the end.

When I saw Avatar: The Last Airbender for the first time, I wanted to continue watching it and I loved it from beginning to end.  I loved the world that this was set in, the set design, the animation, the voice acting, the humour, the bending techniques and the research into actual martial arts choreography that makes this the selling point of the show, but it has a lot to do with how much investment you put into the main character and his friends.

Unfortunately, this spin-off/sequel to the series doesn’t work.

Within the first ten minutes of watching Korra, I really didn’t like her.  This is supposed to be the main character and she has traits you’d normally see in a supporting character.  She’s too cocky, shows off too much and is overall a teenaged brat that’s even less mature than the kids from the first series and we’re supposed to invest ourselves into the fact she’s the next avatar.  And from what is explained in the first series, the avatar must journey across the world and learn the elements from gifted masters of the bending arts, but with Korra, she’s already doing everything but airbending and I don’t get it, I don’t get why they made this avatar in such a way.

Then there’s the problem of this city, Republic City.  It’s too “modern” for this kind of world and I can’t imagine why Aang and Zuko would ever do such a thing given what we’ve known about them previously.  I see too much of real-world familiarity that the beauty and “magic” of the world of the Avatar gets lost.

The other major problem with this is that Korra is a very predictable character.  We know what kind of attitude she has, and we know what changes she’ll go through that the mystery is no longer there.  She’ll go from irresponsible show-off to a noble, respectable warrior and characters like these have been done before.  She’s Luke Skywalker in a sense.

I also felt that the acting was a tad on the bland side, that the words are said, but there’s no substance in them.  Same with this whole world.  We’re shown this world, but I feel we don’t get much of the substance behind it.

There’s also the fact (I’ve seen and heard bits here and there) that all these new bending discoveries now seem more common-place in this world than it was in the previous, yet there doesn’t seem to be much of an explanation as to why they do it and who they learned it from.

What disappoints me the most is that this sequel is clearly more intended for a younger audience, probably because the adult-themed elements in the first series was too “dark” or too “serious” for a kids audience?  They have toilet humour for crying out loud, they never had toilet humour in the first series.  That and they play up the asian instruments way too much in the soundtrack of the series, you never got it that often in the first series.

It’s like they wanted to capture the magic of the first but didn’t really know what to do with it and rather place it in a modern-like setting, which plain and simply doesn’t work.

I would have rather the same creators of the first Avatar series make a prequel instead.  I would have loved it if they instead told the story of the first Avatar and how he/she was able to bring balance to the four nations of the world.  This person could have been a wandering traveler who’s a quick study and as he/she travels they pick up on the different bending techniques and progresses throughout the story until this first Avatar was able to unite the four warring nations and preserve it throughout each generation when a new Avatar would be born.  Something to that effect, you know?

I can’t get into this show, it doesn’t work for me and I can’t see it get any better than what I’ve seen.

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Top 20 favourite movies of all time (#16)

#16: The Karate Kid (2010)

It’s very rare that people would in all honesty consider the remake to be better than the original.  Over the many decades of film history, we’ve seen people create beautiful masterpieces of film-making that you would never be able to re-do or modernize, yet there have been a few cracks in that impenetrable wall that showcase that you can make a remake and make it in a way that stands on its own.

There are two on my list that I’ve chosen for this subject alone, the first being the Karate Kid remake.

I think what worked more when it came to this version rather than the 1984 version was the chemistry established between Dre and Mr. Han, Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan, respectively.  I felt a stronger bond between the two because Mr. Han took the time to bring Dre into this whole other culture and the elegant power and philosophy of Kung Fu that you could see made a stronger impact than the original.

I find movies fascinating when you can take your main character and put them in a situation where they’re completely foreign and their struggle to immerse themselves into the culture to the best of their ability establishes a good level of conflict for the character and gives them a chance to grow and mature as the movie progresses.  It’s not very often that this plot device works as it has been shoved down our throats with Avatar, Dances with Wolves, Ferngully, etc., because there’s not really enough there to evoke pathos for the main protagonist, you don’t see them struggle enough that they truly feel as though they’re alone in this almost alien world and they take you along for the ride.

I also love movies that shoot on location and we get to see the beauty of China, you get a glimpse into their world.  You also get to see the Great Wall and Dre training with Mr. Han, using the natural environment as their training grounds.

I think its no great secret that I find Kung Fu bears an unprecedented beauty in its movements and seeing masters in battle without the need to use weapons and that they themselves become a living weapon really illustrates that.  That anyone can learn not just the techniques but the whole philosophy of Kung Fu is something so many people overlook.

I was also astounded at how well Jackie Chan can act in this movie, his role was more serious than what you’d expect of him in other light-hearted roles or it bears somewhat of a comedic overtone.  Yet with this role he plays it more serious, you feel more from his performance than you would in any of his other movies and I think the movie’s strongest point comes from this performance.

I felt more of the overcoming adversity theme in the remake rather than the original because Dre is a kid struggling to deal with a different country and the bullies who torment him every day, his inability to fight back because these kids learned Kung Fu, and fearing for his own safety makes you want to cheer him on and hope that he’ll succeed.

I’ll also address the question of why this wasn’t called the “Kung-fu Kid” instead since there’s no Karate involved.  Because its a remake, the title brings you back to the movie you remembered watching from the 80s, and somehow Kung-fu Kid doesn’t quite sound as good a title as Karate Kid, but that’s a small nitpick on my part, lol.

The choreography in this movie is also really, really awesome, lol, there’s no other way I can describe it.

I’ve run out of things to close this with so yeah, liked the remake more than the original.

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