Friday, August 7, 2015

I fear for the Deadpool movie.

So this week "Deadpool fans" were treated with the trailer for the upcoming Deadpool movie. While the trailer has gotten a lot of hype, I can't help but see all the hall marks of potential failure.

It has an R rating so kids can't go watch it, I'm sure Fox should know that what makes the Marvel movies such a success is that EVERYONE can watch em, and I'm sure a massive part of the profits come from kids dragging their family to screenings; and what about the franchise outside the films? If kids aren't watching Deadpool then they aren't buying Deadpool merchandise, which in turn limits the franchise greatly.

You could argue that films like Mad Max: Fury Road and even Rambo 4 got decent results from it's R ratings, but these weren't superhero / comic book movies. These were established franchises that had a mature following. I think one major thing comic book movies should not over look is that kids still do read comics, regardless of how old comic fans like you and I are.

Lets not forget what happened with The Punisher films. The first film had an R rating with generally negative reviews that barely made it's money back. (Budget of 33 Million earning 54.7 Million at the Box office)

Punisher: War Zone upped the antics and embraced the characters violence (Much like the Deadpool film intends to do) and though it got slightly better reviews (mixed to negative) it earned 10 million at the Box office on a budget of 35 Million.

 Now lets talk character and plot.

We know Ryan Reynolds can be funny, but his witty on-liners did nothing to save the Green Lantern film. You can argue that that's because the story for GL was crap, but we haven't seen him do anything in the Deadpool trailer except be Van Wilder in a red suit. There is no hint of a plot and no sign of a character arc to explore. We see him start off as a funny guy dying of something terminal turning into a funny guy fighting "bad" guys.

Plus Deadpool on his own is meh. In the comics his most memorable moments come from him messing with other established big league heroes, none of whom will be seen this film because it's a Fox movie and not a Marvel film. We saw him take a punch from what looks like Colossus in the trailer, but who cares about Colossus? We might get a surprise and see other Xmen characters in the final film, but I highly doubt that.

In fact Deadpool went from having several books staring him to just one where his the title character and another where he shares the title with Wolverine. The rest of his appearances have him guest staring in other titles. It will also be interesting to see if the film adds the "forth wall breaking" stuff that Deadpool does a lot of in the comics.

I predict that the Deadpool film will be a decent flick that will pull favorable reviews but will fail at the box office.

Having said all of this, there is a part of me that really is hoping that this movie does do well.


Because I want to see a R rated Punisher film that has a decent budget. I want a Terminator movie that doesn't have a fucking PG-13 rating. I want studios to be able to reliably invest more into R rated movies knowing that there is a market for them, instead of watering every action film down to something they can sell to the kids because they think that's the only way that they can make money.

It is for this sake that I hope that the Deadpool film is much more than just the Merc with a Mouth and actually has some bite to all it's bar, like I said, there was no hint of this in the trailer but maybe the film is hiding it's aces.

I might go watch it, though I wouldn't break a date for it... what about you?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Terminator: Genisys - I loved it.

When I first heard about Terminator: Genisys (TG) I was both skeptical and excited. Skeptical because I know that Hollywood is going through a phase where they're  grabbing at anything that can rake in the cash and any franchise that already has a fan base is big game.

I was also skeptical because I was afraid it would end up as a "star vehicle" for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The way Terminator 3 was just a machine to boost popularity during his election, I felt that TG might be just something done to get him back into the game. Not that there's too much wrong with the later, he does need to make a come back some how and what better way than to reprise his most iconic role.

The excitement I felt for the news of TG was from me being such a massive fan boy of the Terminator franchise. T1 and T2 are near perfect movies for me and seeing them as a kid shaped my taste in so many mediums.

Once I laid my eyes on the early trailers I was very hopeful. The film looked to be at the very least an decent action movie and for all the story and time theory the Terminator films try to cram into themselves, at the heart of it their main attraction for me is the action.

Sadly though before the film even came out we had the bullshit plot reveal in the trailer. A plot point so essential to the over-all enjoyment of the movie that even the films director Alan Taylor (Thor the Dark World/ Game of Thrones) couldn't believe got out. So right of the bat there was some serious controversy with the film's story. As a Terminator fan it was a major step away from the films backbone in a sense, but I was still keen.

Then the early reviews got out and the film was pretty much panned across the board. Bad reviews were coming from "fans of the series" and even a few sites whose words I hold as the bible truth pulled no punches when it came to trashing the film.

Despite all this I was pretty much set on watching the film for myself. Now this might come as a surprise to some, considering I used to host a film review show, but I'm not a fan of going to the movies. Mostly because I like watching movies that I know and lover over and over again. It takes a very special film to get me out of to the films.

So last night I went to watch Terminator: Genisys with pretty much no expectations except to re-enforce the negative reviews the film already has.

And you know what?

I can't believe the shit reviews. Let me preface what's to come by saying that though there might be things to hate in this film, as a Terminator fan there are a lot of things to love.

I thought TG was the best film in the franchise since Terminator 2 and that's saying a lot. It may not be the best Terminator movie because that's highly debatable between T1and T2, and it may not be the best sequel because that's definitely T2.  But as a Terminator Film, it stands right up there with the first two films and it has become the unofficial Trilogy for me.

Terminator: Genisys knows it's got big Arnie size boots to fill, and it makes no quarrels with letting us know that it knows the first two films are great because the way the film is made, the first half of it pretty much lives in the original Cameron films shadow.

Now there's going to be some spoilers here, but nothing as major as what has already been leaked through the trailers.

Because of the way the film is made and its plot unfolds, to me the first bit of TG plays out like a love letter to Terminator fans.

The opening scene which features a battle between the human resistance and Skynets hordes of machines is finally getting the visual respect it deserves. Sure the SFX isn't the best, but these days we know CGI when we see it. What turns this around is that we get to see something we've only ever heard whispers of in the previous movies and that's the turning point in the war against the machines.

In fact we get to see the fall of Skynet as told by Reese in the first film. This is the Resistance victory that promoted Skynet to send a Terminator back in time to kill Sara Corner. We get to see it unfold... with a twist of course.

What follows this is pretty much Terminator Nostalgia as we see pretty much the opening of Terminator one redone. The fan boy in me jumped like a giddy school girl as I tried to figure out whether the scenes were Arnie's T-800 arriving in the past was redone or simply touched up versions of the original. Either would be awesome.

 Then we have the film's Kyle Reese follow suit, arriving in 1984 and from here any avid fan would know that film makers were going out of their way to put in nods to the orginal series.

There is a bit where a cop car pulls up to investigate the light show from Reese's appearance and it is spot on a replica shot of the cop car pulling up to investigate the T-1000s appearance in the second film.

It's also important to note that Terminator 2 also suffered from a trailer reveal of it's plot and if we hadn't seen Robert Patrick's character as the baddy in the T2 trailer it would have been safe to assume he was the good guy and Arnie was the bad Terminator again.

I got all that from that cop car simply pulling up.

Then we have the bit in the clothing shop where Kyle is being escorted out by two cops and he gives a confused glance at a silver store mannequin. This same gesture was done by the T-1000 in Terminator 2 for-shadowing it's full silver body appearance to come.

I honestly could go on with this list of nods but the point is for the Terminator fan in me these were just awesome (The smile gag from T2, the ability to learn after removing the chip), but it doesn't end with all this nostalgia of course because we have a franchise to reboot so half way through the film decides to rear in it's own identity and by now I am so pumped by all the fan service the film has already given me that I am open to where ever the film wants to go. It's almost as though the film makers wanted to prove that they know "Terminator" before they showed us what they had in mind for it's future.

I also liked the way Arnie was not the aggressive killing machine he was in the first two films and despite his age was forced to be in the third film. Here the film gives us a reason for his aging and slower reflexes and this created a solemn moment for me as a fan of not just Terminator but of the Governator himself, moments that even made me sad at times.

This coupled with suggest that the T-800 may actually be learning how to feel and take responsibility of who it is protecting at almost an emotional level, sounds like a silly bull shit sci fi moment, but you know what? We're dealing with time traveling robots here, lets not get hung up on robot logic.

Movie logic wise though the film doesn't suffer. We have characters doing what we'd pretty much expect them to do without looking stupid. By the time we get to the "John Conner Reveal" I can buy it. In fact I'm kind of glad they leaked this in the trailer because it's such a "WTF" moment that instead of brooding over it at the movies, knowing about it before you go in makes it easier to accept.

"Easier" is used sparingly though because I'm still not a 100% sold on the "John is over of them now" thing because a part of me feels like it robs us of the the films "back bone" and that is that everything we do in these movies is to protect John.

But then again, to turn that idea on its head. I respect that.

There isn't much else I can tell you about what I liked with out telling you the about the whole movies, but for me as an action film and a Terminator Sequel/ prequel / reboot, TG really delivered. So for the life of me I do know what critics and film goers were expecting to give the film such harsh reviews.

But then again Fast 7 got about 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. A movie about cars and action that barely has a 2 min race in the opening and no action till about 35mins into the damn movie. Even then the action is spread so far apart that it tries to up the drama factor even though none of these movies are known for it's stars acting ability.

Terminator: Genisys on the other hand knows exactly what it is and doesn't let up. It might even be by some standards a by-the-book action flick, but the thing about these "by the book" films is that they come in flavors and this one is Terminator Flavor.

Let me end this by saying that Terminator: Genisys may not be the best Terminator film, but it is a better entry in the series compared to what's come after Cameron's T1 and T2. If you are a fan of the series or just in the mood for a good action film, Terminator: Genisys hits the spot.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Old Scrap Book

A very dear friend of mine was nice enough to send me some pics of my old scrap book that I had given to her before she left Fiji. Looking at these is a trip because it's like looking at a piece of me from 14 years ago. You can click the pics to see them bigger.

A brief history of Me: part 1

Washing dishes with my granddad
In honor of me turning 32 today I decided to reminisce a bit.

Growing up I was told that I talked too much and that I could never sit still. I'd always be running around outside with my Ninja turtles or Transformers; talking to myself and smashing things. I have a very entertaining story involving a cubby house that I'd love to share over drinks.

I used to draw a lot too when I was younger. In class 1 I remember being told to draw something by out-lining shapes. I drew Star Scream from Transformers. By the time I was 9 I used to draw my own comic books. They were mostly just me making up my own Batman and Spiderman stories. Although I did have one original character who I named Radioactive man, and this was before a character with the same name appeared in the Simpsons. I still remember my reasoning behind the name. Characters like Spiderman and The Hulk were all made from radiation, why not have a guy who got his powers from being exposed to radiation and just call him Radioactive man.

I wasn't into just comic books though; I used read a lot of Enid Blyton. Adventure stories were my favorite. My Aunty Benji used to have a massive collection of Hardy Boys books which were fun to read too. Despite all this reading I couldn't spell to save my life. I couldn't even confidently spell my name till I was in class four.

Around the age of 10 I really got into some weird occult / supernatural reading. I had a copy of The Mammoth Book of the Supernatural by Collin Wilson that would I read over and over. This is about the time I started keeping a journal. After watching my first episode of X-files around this time too; I wanted to grow up and be a paranormal investigator.

This was the time "Ghost Writer" would play on TV, so I had formed a group of "investigators" - our password used to be "visum et repertum" which was Latin for "Seen and Discovered"

By now I used to watch a lot of horror movies too. My granddad and I would watch a horror film almost every night. He would fast-forward all the sex stuff but was totally fine with me watching Jason Voorhees stab people in the face. House, Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, the original Hills have eyes; we watched them all. We had some decent movie shops back in the day that stocked a lot of great movies, but my spots were Preet's movie shop up in Tamavua and A1 video in town. Because of them I watched so many films that are considered horror classics now.

Horror seeped into my reading too.

By the time I was 12 I had read all the classic horror novels. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible man; I had made it a point to research and read everything considered a "horror classic".

English and literature were the only things I liked in school. In my later primary school years I started to write plays and I remember my Class 8 teacher Master David Doughty telling me to stick with it cause I wrote good stories. He used to read my short stories in class. As an educator he was probably the most positive influence in my life.

At the end of Class 8 we had a party where we invited parents and friends to come watch us put up items and plays. That's when I wrote a stage adaption of Interview with the Vampire, I have the whole thing on VHS. I need to get that on disk one of these days.

When I turned 14 an uncle of mine (Well more of a family friend) gave me two CDs. Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's 10. That's when I got into music.

All through high school I wanted to start a band. I couldn't play an instrument yet so all I did was write lyrics and pass them off as poetry. Drawing and writing was what I did with most of the my time. Many nights were spent with Nirvana playing late into the night while I stayed up drawing. I used to carry around a file with all my art which I would show off at any opportunity I got. At the end of form 6 I started carrying around a guitar.

It's funny how dreams start small. When I started to play music I thought it would be a big deal if I ever got to play at the Suva Civic center. At the end of form 7 I got to do exactly that thanks to my school hosting a concert night. My buddy Meli and I played a song called "Miss You" which was the first proper song I wrote with music. By this time I was sure that I was going to be a musician. In fact during my external Geography Paper I got inspired and started writing a song.

I didn't finish the paper. It's not a mystery why I had to repeat form 7.

I started writing music reviews for the News Papers during my second year in Form 7. Around this time the band I was in started gigging. We played Traps, ROC markets, the boulevard, Dragons, music festivals. The pay was crap but we enjoyed it.

This is what I did for about a year after form 7, earning about $80 each per show. Eventually I had to get a "Real Job." I started working as a temp Assistant Events and promotion guy at Fiji Broadcasting. This was my first full time job.

After that for about two months I worked as a debt collector. I didn't like the job but the people I worked with were great.

Luckily though FBC had decided to relaunch their old 104 station and since the man running it, my good friend Russel Fong, knew that I was really into music he asked if I wanted to be a part of it. So I went in for an audition and on one particularly bad day as a debt collector my buddy Dave Lavaki, who had also auditioned, ran into me in front of my office and told me I had gotten the job.

Thus began my love affair with FBC, the place that would take all the things that I love doing and let me make a career out of them.

Getting into Radio came easy as I loved talking any way and I had by now developed a deep appreciation for music, particularly rock music.

I spent about a year on Radio, doing the night show on 2Day which i had the privilege of naming "The system after dark", a name that has stuck around till today. During this time I did a lot of production for radio; liners, radio plays and shows.

I left Radio to start a job as an editor at Fiji Television, a job i loved very much. It was through video editing that I was better able to explore an older passion of mine, which was film.
I left Fiji TV to peruse studies in Animation which is where I made some really good friends who are still around.

Sadly at the time Animation was not popular enough to snag me a job right away so i returned to radio as a producer. I made radio adverts and went back to making radio shows. In 2008 my alternative music show "Something a little different" won me my first ever award. It was a FAME award for best locally produced music show.

I left FBC once and ended up working for myself. Sadly though th local market for free-lance editors has very few things to offer if you do not want to be doing wedding videos. I did however get myself a nice free-lance job with an Australian kids magazine, for whom I did illustrations.

By now my love for movies and film making was strong that I had to do something with it. So through the encouragement and help of my close friends I was able to make my first short film. Which also got me my first Short film award at the Kula Film awards.

One short film followed another and before I knew it i was back in FBC but this time working for Television. The five months leading up to FBC TVs launch had me animating the graphics for a lot of the local shows you see today, as well as designing the look and feel of FBC TVs graphics. i did this with a very talented animator and graphic designer named David Whiteside who is now the Head of Graphics for FBC TV.

i on the other hand am now "Producer Local Programmes" which basically means I'm suppose to look after the local shows. Work with the producers, discuss issues and make sure everything checks out.

As you know, I also managed to squeeze in a few of my hobbies in there as well.
My passion however still lies in Film Making. I have done a few documentaries for FBC TV, one of which won me a very nice World TV award back in 2013.

My next step is a full film which i am working on getting together now.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Playing it Old School

I am an old school gamer. I was reflecting on games, trying to see what stood out for me last year and it dawned on me that I am an old school gamer.

Thinking about it some more I realized all my favorite current gen titles are old school.

Like Dead Space, that's pretty much Doom with fancy weapons. The core gameplay is the same as Doom. You find switches, open doors and kill everything in the way.Yes you fix things here and there and solve puzzles but at the heart of it Dead Space is Doom.

Dark Souls has to be the most old school current gen game ever. It's entire principle is based on the old "risk/reward" philosophy which governed early game design. And in true old school fashion the game trains you through clever level design and enemy placement then tests to see if you were paying attention by throwing a boss at you. Dark Souls is the bastard child of titles like Castlevania and Ghosts n Gouls. It prides itself on being hard and that's what the allure is for a lot of old school games. Beating that challenge.

Lets do one more.

Borderlands one and two. They are Diablo with guns. You kill hordes and hordes of enemies and then rejoice in that sweet sweet loot.

Old school.

Do you know what these games have in common? They are all fun to play and they have absolutely fuck all story. Yes Dead Space has an interesting back story, but in the narrative of the game it takes a back seat to the shooting and bodily dismemberment.

But this is ok because these games aren't about stories. They are about the gameplay. I love these games because of how they work and play.

Now why does this make me old school? Well because in this day and age these kinds of games are very few. Aside from indie titles the majority of the gaming scene is dominated by "new school" games.

The Last if us, Bioshock Infinite. Uncharted, Assassins Creed. Mass Effect

What do these games have in common? Well most fans will tell you that they have a great story.

"I love the story!" "I played it for the story!" " o the story!"

Too bad that these games have the worst fucking game play.

No... stop. Really... think about it. What do you do in Uncharted that's so fucking amazing? Explore? There's barely any exploration as you progress through a mostly linear  path. Platforming? You climb and jump off highlighted areas.

What do you do in Assassins Creed? The combat? I played Black Flag half way killing every guard in sight because all I had to do was push two buttons. Counter and attack. Is it the platforming? You hold down one button and move... the rest happens for you. Mass Effect? Aside from the speech wheel that lets you fuck everything what is the draw in that gameplay wise?

What about Bioshock infinite and The last of us. Hailed as the greatest games of 2013. Hell Last of us has been hailed one of the greatest games of all time.

What do you do in them? What is the innovative gameplay feature in The Last of us? And don't get me started on the shitty gun play in Bioshock. I think if Bioshock deserves any award it should be for being the most over rated game of all time. And I'm not the only one who feels this way. While most gaming sites have been taking it up the ass for this game there are some game devs that have come out to say: WTF?

But it's ok... because these games have a great story.

Since when is the story the main draw for a video game? Since when does gameplay and function take a back seat to story telling? You think up every single game that was popular before and you will find that the awesome story was usually a bonus. Old school games were built on gameplay and the story complimented that. Now days it's the other way around.

I know that in this day and age the video game medium has come a long way from what it used to be. It's not just something that performs and functions for kid, it's a major market that caterers to all walks of gamers. And that's why I'm an "Old school" gamer... because I can not for the life of understand the appeal for these "new school" games.

It's not all games mind you.

I'm very thankful for Indie developers that are making a killing with their brand of retro "throw back" games. Titles made popular through game play not just story like Mark of the ninja, Super meatboy and Spelunky to name a few.

There are big titles that have not forgotten what it means to be a video game. Games like Farcry 3, Crysis, Battlefield, Halo (most shooters in fact), Skyrim, Fallout 3, Splinter Cell conviction, Dishonored, God of War, Devil may cry, Portal. All of these titles have awesome gameplay features that are expanded by the story. These games also have "so so" stories which can be forgiven because of the gaemplay... that's how it should be.

 But that's how things are these days. "Play it for the story" one of my buddies will say. I've got one friend who will cheat through through some games because he hates the gameplay but wants to know the story. Hell I'm guilty of it to some extent myself with games like Allan Wake. 

As a game maker isn't that kinda shitty? That someone glances over your gameplay for the story? What the fuck are you making a video game or a movie? Don't ask Quantic Dream that, their head will explode.

But I guess the rebutle here could be that for some people loving the story is a very important part of video games.

Remember how people would justify shitty graphics by complimenting on the solid gameplay? Now days people push the story to make up for shitty gameplay.

And most gamers seem to be ok with this.

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