Kyle Is Sick Of Great Visuals

April 17th, 2011 by Kyle

There’s been a revolution in filmmaking in the past few years, as powerful computing technology has made effects and techniques that used to be complex and difficult easy, and made ones that were impossible possible. It has put in the hands of directors the ability to create visuals that could only be dreamed of only twenty years ago. What once could only be imagined is now ubiquitous.

And I for one am totally sick of it.

This thought started brewing inside me when I walked out of Sucker Punch, and it’s taken me a while to really formulate it, but here it is: All these amazing new filmmaking tools haven’t given us better movies. Hollywood directors and producers think they have, but they really haven’t. In fact, there are examples of filmmakers who have visibly, undeniably had better tools turn them into worse filmmakers.

Of course, George Lucas is probably the most obvious and prominent example of this. He should have spent less time during the creation of the prequels worrying about special effects, and more worrying about storytelling, character development, and dialog. Lots has been said about this, and there’s not much I can add to it.

But Lucas is not the only one to fall into this trap. Look at the movies James Cameron made in the 80s – classics like The Terminator and Aliens. Look at what he’s made lately with all the technology at his control – Titanic and Avatar. Neither of those were awful films, mind you – but both were weak and cliched stories that would have been nothing without their handsome stars or impressive visuals. In fact, the storyline of Avatar was nothing without those things – when it was called Delgo. Certainly, they’re nowhere near as smart and innovative as Cameron’s early films. Avatar’s budget was 36 times bigger than The Terminator’s budget – which is the better film?

Here’s another one – between 1985 and 1995, without modern effects technology, Robert Zemeckis directed the Back to The Future trilogy, Romancing The Stone, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump. In the last ten years, with it, he’s directed The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey, and produced Mars Needs Moms. Need I say more?

Or how about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? I’m a Crystal Skull defender, by the way – I think it’s just as good as the original trilogy. Just as good – but not better. And certainly not any better because of any advances in visual effects.

Who isn’t sick of the likes of Skyline, Battle Los Angeles, or Sucker Punch? Yes, we’ve always had action, horror, and sci-fi films that have been big, loud, and dumb. But the technology hasn’t done a thing to make them any better.

So, Hollywood, step back from the computers and get back to writing strong stories with memorable characters and well-written dialog. You will, in the end, make better movies than you’re making now. Yes, in the hands of someone with a strong aesthetic vision, these tools can make great things possible. But even that’s hit and miss. The Wachowskis made The Matrix. But they also made Speed Racer. Better tools do not make better artists, nor do they necessarily create better art. If they become a crutch, or a substitute for the abovementioned characters, story, and dialog, then they become a hindrance rather than a help.

And so they have.

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Geek Tragedy #57: Review-a-palooza!

September 28th, 2010 by Kyle

[podcast]http://npccomics.com/podcast/gt/GT_ep57.mp3[/podcast]

It’s the GT Fall Preview Spectacular! Find out what geeky cool is heading your way this fall in movies, TV, anime, and video games!

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Categories: Episodes

Geek Tragedy #54: Kyle’s Back, and He Hates Good Movies!

September 7th, 2010 by Kyle

[podcast]http://www.npccomics.com/podcast/gt/GT_ep54.mp3[/podcast]

The band is back together, as Kyle returns from his trip to the East Coast! But he is changed… Something horrible has happened… Kyle no longer likes good movies!! Hear the horror as Kyle preaches the gospel of After Last Season, while continuing his war against Inception and Scott Pilgrim… Yep, GT is back to normal!

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Categories: Episodes

Episode 54 Show Notes

September 7th, 2010 by Kyle

Episode 54: Kyle’s Back, And He Hates Good Movies!

Starters:

  • Kyle returns
  • Level Up! premieres, GT won’t do much game coverage anymore.
  • Looking for anyone who remembers The Magic Garden

Geek News:

  • From the Hollywood Desk:
  1. Star Wars Uncut wins an Emmy
  • From the Gaming Desk:
  1. Hawaiian man sues MMORPG maker for addicting him
  2. Trapped Chilean miners get PSPs
  • From The Television Desk
  1. Sandman TV show coming?
  • From the Comics Desk:
  1. “Batman, Inc.” to feature multiple Batmen
  2. Papers of Frederic Wertham now open to scholars
  • From the Anime Desk:
  1. RIP Satoshi Kon
  2. Pink Lady to reunite
  • From the Cellar:
  1. Starwars.com editor marries R2-D2
  2. Gunman storms Discovery Channel to demand better programming
  3. Highstranger.com to allow you to commit a Class D Felony in front of a camera on the open internet
  4. North Korea opens Facebook, Twitter, YouTube accounts
  5. RIP Morrie Yohai, inventor of the Cheez Doodle

Commercials:

Summer Movie Recap:

  • Dave’s Hits and Misses
  • Kyle’s Hits and Misses

Pick Of The Week:

New Release Tuesday:

Stuff You Should Know About:

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Categories: Show Notes

Geek Tragedy #51: At the Movies!

August 10th, 2010 by Kyle

[podcast]http://www.npccomics.com/podcast/gt/GT_ep51.mp3[/podcast]

Dave is joined by Fancy Fembot of the Sci-Fi Party Line as they review their favorite summertime geeky blockbusters! How did this year’s batch fare in their eyes? Dave and Cat are here to let you know!

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Categories: Episodes

Scott Pilgrim vs. My Utter Indifference

August 3rd, 2010 by Kyle

Hell no, I won’t go.

One of my favorite movie review sites is the rather bombastic, but always funny Mr. Cranky’s Reviews. My favorite of his reviews was of Spice World. Let me reprint that review in its entirety:

“Three words: No fucking way”.

And indeed, that is how I feel about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, the new movie from Edgar Wright that the Geeky community seems to have its panties in a knot over. And I know that I’m supposed to be similarly panty-knotted over a comic book movie, starring Michael Cera from Arrested Development and Superbad, directed by Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead. But I can’t work up a shred of enthusiasm for it.

And here’s why: In the end, after you put aside the retro-chic video game, anime, and action movie references, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a story about the love lives of a bunch of hipster douchebags. And I just can’t bring myself, try as I might, to care about any of that.

Maybe it’s a matter of perspective. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. As anyone who lives here knows, San Francisco is absolutely overrun with hipster douchebags. You see them everywhere – with their carefully-selected “I’m too hip to care” clothes, their asinine piercings, their conspicuous and omnipresent white earbuds, and their perpetual smirks about the fact that their daddy-financed lives are just a big joke that no one but themselves is clever enough to be in on.

Forget the cancer that is killing /b/ – these idiots are the cancer that is killing San Francisco; a city that, for all its many faults, I desperately love. They want to turn the whole place into something that feels like one giant Apple Store.

So Scott Pilgrim is your typical unemployed loser amoral slacker idiot with a bunch of First World problems which seem to stem mainly from two things: 1) his unwillingness to leave a self-imposed perpetual adolescence, and 2) his pursuit of a promiscuous hipster chick who changes both bedmates and hair colors with alarming frequency. And then… stuff happens to them, I guess. All of which I couldn’t care less about. Again, I see too many of these people in my daily life, and don’t like them there either.

The long and the short of it is that I’m not going to pay ten dollars to see a movie about the lives of people I wouldn’t talk to if they were sitting next to me on the bus. And that’s not a hypothetical – they have sat next to me on the bus, and have tried to talk to me, and in response, I’ve turned my iPod up and pulled the cord so the bus would stop and let me out. Yes, I’d actually rather wait for the next bus in the rain than hear about people like Scott Pilgrim – so I’m damn sure not going to go spend two hours watching a movie about them.

Sorry Edgar – see you when Paul opens.

P.S Michael Cera needs to stop playing Michael Cera in all the movies he’s in. I mean every role he does – Superbad, Juno, Year One, Youth In Revolt – he plays the same goddamn character: the well-meaning, slightly goofy, slightly nerdy teenageish everyman. I mean, how bad is that when even his Superbad costar Christopher Mintz-Plasse managed to do something different when he played a villain in Kick-Ass? Or when the most interesting Michael Cera role in years was actually played by Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland? Seriously, Cera needs to do something – anything – different, and he needs to do it right now.

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Categories: Movies

Kyle’s Inception Review

July 20th, 2010 by Kyle

It seems that my role is very often to be the official Geek Tragedy contrarian, and so I shall be today. In contrast to my cohost Dave, NPC Comics Editor-In-Chiel Jaimel Hemphill, and virtually the rest of the geeky world, I wasn’t that impressed with Inception.

First of all, I want it understood that I’m not saying that Inception does have some good points. It’s a very well-crafted film, filled with superb performances. But what bothers me most about the reactions to Inception is the idea that it’s a very innovative or groundbreaking movie. This, it most certainly isn’t. Virtually every concept, whether plotwise or visually, is something I’ve seen done before, and often better. Allow me to go through a list of some of Inception‘s concepts, and show you what I mean.

Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams
Where I Saw It Before: Paprika

Released four years before Inception, Satoshi Kon’s movie (based on a Japanese novel from 1993) involves a psychologist who uses a device called the DC Mini to enter other people’s dreams in a plot that involves a lot of corporate intrigue. Sound familiar? I know that a lot of western directors lift concepts from anime, but this was pretty blatant.

Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams
Where I Also Saw It Before: The Cell

But hey, maybe that’s not where Nolan got the idea from. Maybe he got it from this ten-year-old J-Lo movie that everybody seems to have forgotten about.

Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams and plant ideas there
Where I Additionally Saw It Before: Dreamscape

Or maybe Nolan got the idea here! Hat tip to Appman on the Rifftrax forums for reminding me of this semi-obscure 1984 Dennis Quaid movie that also covered this ground.

Inception Concept: Lucid dreaming; a long time in the dream = a short time in real life.
Where I Also Saw It Before: Waking Life

Richard Linklater’s been there, done that, more creatively, ten years ago.

Inception Concept: People trapped in a world that may or may not be a dream.
Where I Saw It Before: Urusei Yatsura Movie #2: Beautiful Dreamer

This was an early film from Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell, The Sky Crawlers), based on a manga and anime series written by Rumiko Takahashi (InuYasha, Ranma 1/2). The film was released in 1984, and was actually the first full-length anime film I ever saw. It’s a fantastic film – beautiful, spooky, carefully paced… one of my favorite anime films of all time. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Without going into great detail, the characters are all trapped in what they eventually realize is an increasingly bizarre dream, and none of them can be sure which of them is actually the dreamer. So not only did it do one of the big concepts behind Inception, it did it better, and 25 years earlier.

Inception Concept: Hacking someone’s consciousness to artificially plant ideas there
Where I Saw It Before: Ghost In The Shell

While we’re on the subject of Mamoru Oshii, this is basically what we saw in the form of “ghost hacking” in GiTS. Yes, it was done by different methods, but the basic idea is the same.

Inception Concept: Someone trapped in a dream they might only be able to escape by death.
Where I Saw It Before: Life On Mars

(SPOILER ALERT for the original BBC series) This was, essentially, Sam Tyler’s dilemma: He was mostly, but not completely, sure that he was trapped in some kind of world that was a dream or hallucination. By the end of the series, he came to believe that the real world was the dream, and decided to go back to the world of 1973 by jumping off a building. In other words, he did exactly what we see Cobb’s wife do in Inception.

Inception Concept: Dead folks from a character’s the past that manifest and torment them in a state of altered consciousness.
Where I Saw It Before: Flatliners

This 1990 thriller with Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, and Kevin Bacon put its characters through the same drama that we saw with Cobb and the wife that haunted his dreams.

Inception Concept: “Which story is real, and which is the dream/fantasy/hallucination?”
Where I Saw It Before: Total Recall

Cobb’s dilemma at the end of the movie is basically the same one faced by Quaid/Hauser on Mars. And, as with Inception, the movie ends with us not really totally sure what the truth is.

Inception Concept: Japanese megacorporation employs brilliant but disgraced hacker to steal industrial secrets with unusual, daring plan
Where I Saw It Before: About half the novels William Gibson ever wrote

Yeah, pretty much…

Inception Concept: “Just one more job, for a good cause, and then I’m out”
Where I Saw It Before: The Killer

This is actually a fairly common trope, but John Woo’s HK action masterwork is a particularly good example, albeit one with an ending less happy than Inception‘s.

Inception Concept: A story layout that structures time in unusual ways and plays tricks with memory
Where I Saw It Before: Memento

I know that the John Fogerty court case established the idea that you can’t really plagiarize yourself, but I’m just saying’…

Inception Concept: A battle taking place simultaneously on multiple levels of reality
Where I Saw It Before: The Matrix

Especially the Matrix sequels. Oh, and the girl is… “The Architect”? Really, Nolan? You thought we wouldn’t notice that?

Inception Concept: Cutting back and forth between multiple battles taking place simultaneously, all leading to one climax
Where I Saw It Before: Return Of The Jedi

And technically The Phantom Menace too, but accusing Nolan of copying Phantom Menace would just be too cold-blooded.

But that’s not all I felt was wrong with Inception. The other big thing that bothered me about Inception is the fact that it more or less simply wasted the opportunities given to it by its structure. The characters end up in a dream world, but instead of facing grotesque or bizarre monsters from the Id (as, for example, was done in both Paprika and The Cell), Nolan simply represented the dreamers’ defenses as guys with guns. By doing this, he threw away the chance to craft some really interesting concepts and images, opting for some well-shot, but standard-issue and more or less forgettable action sequences instead. This was a big disappointment for me – I was expecting something more interesting, both visually and conceptually.

In the end, Inception isn’t a horrible movie – but it’s nowhere near the masterpiece it’s being made out to be. A little looking around will reveal films that have done the same things before, and often done them better. I know it’s a minority opinion, but I give Inception a big fat “Meh”.

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Categories: Movies

GT Special: The 1st Annual Shiny Awards!

March 24th, 2010 by Kyle

[podcast]http://www.npccomics.com/podcast/gt/GT_epsa1.mp3[/podcast]

Better late then never! It’s the first annual Shiny Awards! Dave, Kyle, and Guest host Miss Gina bring you all the hits (and misses) from 2009. It’s like the Ocsars, but with unwashed armpits and Sci-Fi snobbery! It’s The Shiny Awards, where fandom wins in every category!

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Categories: Episodes

And The Razzies Go To…

February 2nd, 2010 by Kyle

The nominations for the 2009 Razzies were announced today, and I just had to share. The Razzies, in case you don’t know, are like the anti-Oscars – given for the worst films of the year instead of the best. The full list of nominees are:

WORST PICTURE:

  • All About Steve
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
  • Land of the Lost
  • Old Dogs
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

WORST ACTOR OF 2009:

  • All Three Jonas Brothers, “Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience”
  • Will Ferrell, “Land of the Lost”
  • Steve Martin, “Pink Panther 2″
  • Eddie Murphy, “Imagine That”
  • John Travolta, “Old Dogs”

WORST ACTRESS Of 2009:

  • Beyonce, “Obsessed”
  • Sandra Bullock, “All About Steve”
  • Myley Cyrus, “Hannah Montana: The Movie”
  • Megan Fox, “Jennifer’s Body” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”
  • Sarah Jessica Parker, “Did You Hear About the Morgans?”

WORST SCREEN COUPLE OF 2009:

  • Any Two (or More) Jonas Brothers, “The Jonas Brothers 3-D Concert Experience”
  • Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper, “All About Steve”
  • Will Ferrell and any co-star, Creature or “Comic Riff,” “Land of the Lost”
  • Shia Lebouf & Either Megan Fox or Any Transformer, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”
  • Kristin Stewart and either Robert Pattinson or Taylor Whatz-His-Fang, “Twilight Saga: New Moon”

WORST SUPPORTING ACTRESS OF 2009:

  • Candice Bergen, “Bride Wars”
  • Ali Larter, “Obsessed”
  • Sienna Miller, “G.I. Joe”
  • Kelly Preston,”Old Dogs”
  • Julie White (as Mom), “Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen”

WORST SUPPORTING ACTOR OF 2009:

  • Billy Ray Cyrus, “Hannah Montana: The Movie”
  • Hugh Hefner (as himself), “Miss March”
  • Robert Pattinson, “Twilight Saga: New Moon”
  • Jorma Taccone (as Cha-Ka), “Land of the Lost”
  • Marlon Wayans, “G.I. Joe”

WORST REMAKE, RIP-OFF OR SEQUEL:

  • “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”
  • “Land of the Lost”
  • “Pink Panther 2″
  • “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”
  • “Twilight Saga: New Moon”

WORST DIRECTOR OF 2009:

  • Michael Bay, “Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen”
  • Walt Becker, “Old Dogs”
  • Brad Silberling, “Land of the Lost”
  • Stephen Sommers, “G.I. Joe”
  • Phil Traill, “All About Steve”

WORST SCREENPLAY OF 2009:

  • “All About Steve,” screenplay by Kim Barker
  • “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” screenplay by Stuart Beattie and David Elliot & Paul Lovett
  • “Land of the Lost,” written by Chris Henchy & Dennis McNicholas
  • “Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen,” written By Ehren Kruger & Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
  • “Twilight Saga: New Moon,” screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer

WORST PICTURE OF THE DECADE (3 SPECIAL 30TH RAZZIE-VERSARY AWARDS):

  • “Battlefield Earth” (2000) — Nominated for 10 Razzies, “winner” of 8 (including Worst Drama of Our First 25 Years)
  • “Freddy Got Fingered” (2001) — Nominated for nine Razzies, “winner” of five
  • “Gigli” (2003) — Nominated for 10 Razzies, winner of seven (including Worst Comedy of Our First 25 Years)
  • “I Know Who Killed Me” (2007) — Nominated for nine Razzies, “winner” of eight
  • “Swept Away” (2002) — Nominated for nine Razzies, “winner” of five

WORST ACTOR OF THE DECADE:

  • Ben Affleck — (Nominated for nine “achievements,”winner” of two Razzies) “Daredevil,” “Gigli,” “Jersey Girl,” “Paycheck,” “Pearl Harbor,” “Surviving Christmas”
  • Eddie Murphy — (Nominated for 12 “achievements,” “winner” of three Razzies) “Adventures of Pluto Nash,” “I Spy,” “Imagine That,” “Meet Dave,” “Norbit,” “Showtime”
  • Mike Myers — (Nominated for four “achievements,” “winner” of two Razzies), “Cat in the Hat,” “The Love Guru”
  • Rob Schneider — (Nominated for six “achievements,” “winner” of one Razzie) “The Animal,” “Benchwarmers,” “Deuce Bigalo: European Gigolo,” “Grandma’s Boy,” “The Hot Chick,” “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry,” “Little Man,” “Little Nicky”
  • John Travolta — (Nominated for six “achievements,” “winner” of the Razzies) “Battlefield Earth,” “Domestic Disturbance,” “Lucky Numbers,” “Old Dogs,” “Swordfish”

WORST ACTRESS OF THE DECADE:

  • Mariah Carey – (The Single Biggest Individual Vote Getter of the Decade: 70+% Of ALL Votes For Worst Actress Of 2001), “Glitter”
  • Paris Hilton (Nominated for five “Achievements,” “Winner” of four Razzies) “The Hottie & The Nottie,” “House of Whacks,” “Repo: The Genetic Opera”
  • Lindsay Lohan — (Nominated for five “achievements,” “winner” of three Razzies) “Herbie Fully Loaded,” “I Know Who Killed Me,” “Just My Luck”
  • Jennifer Lopez — (Nominated for nine “achievements,” “winner” of two Razzies) “Angel Eyes,” “Enough,” “Gigli,” “Jersey Girl,” “Maid in Manhattan,” “Monster-in-Law,” “The Wedding Planner”
  • Madonna — (Nominated for six “achievements,” “winner” of four Razzies) “Die Another Day,” “The Next Best Thing,” “Swept Away”
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Categories: Movies