Don’t Believe the Hype: Summer Movies

By:

Matthew J.R. Kohler

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Because most of the movies look dreadful this summer, I decided to clump them all into one big article to share why I think you shouldn’t go to the movies.  While commercials try really really hard to get you to the theatres, I feel that instead they are attempting to keep me from the theatres.  I mean, name one blockbuster this summer that isn’t a remake, sequel, or something we have seen a million times in the last five years.  Yup, I can’t think of anything.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

Hey look, it’s 1990 all over again!  Apparently, the remake didn’t suck enough to kill the franchise, so we needed a crappier one to do the job.  In a time when media is not trying to be offensive, the new Turtles film sure does a good job of being just that to true fans of the source material.  Not only does the film not take itself seriously, but also everything looks so out of place and fake I would just rather watch the 90s live action show (and that is saying a lot).

Independence Day 2

We’ve been waiting twenty years for this…well not me, or you, but…I guess Hollywood has?  Not every movie needs a sequel.  Independence Day is a standalone film.  It has a beginning, middle, and end.  Who cares about what happens next?   For some odd reason, they don’t know how to end things in Hollywood.  Maybe the spaceship in the first one should have hit Hollywood instead of the White House.

Finding Dory

Pixar has a good track record when it comes to sequels (Toy Story 2 and 3, Monster’s University).  But, this is a spinoff movie that hasn’t seen a lot of commercial time on Disney’s main stations.  That, to me, means trouble because usually Disney boasts about how awesome their new movie is.  Sigh.

Star Trek Beyond

How do we make something cool?  I know, we play Beastie Boys in the trailer; they were anti-establishment back in the day, and rebelliousness is the tone we want to give to a Stark Trek movie.  We all know the trailer was godawful, and the premise sounds all too familiar.  It’s like the filmmakers can’t make anything new and exciting and just have to look back to the original series.  Remember Indiana Jones?  That was an original take on something we’ve seen a million times.  But who needs creativity when you have name brand recognition and hundreds of millions of dollars?

2016 seems to be offering the least promising summer of movies I have seen in several years.  Hopefully, one of these years,  the movies that come out will generally be more original.  That way, I’ll actually feel like I’m in present day, and not some past decade.

Don’t Believe the Hype – Issue Six Assassin’s Creed Trailer

By:

Matthew J.R. Kohler

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Over the last twenty years, Hollywood has tried to crack the code for successfully adapting video games to film.  Their latest attempt is called Assassin’s Creed, starring Michael Fassbender.  Once again, this is a disaster waiting to happen onscreen.

When the popularity of video games exploded in the 90s, movies were coming out left and right.  Now, are any of these movies good?  In this era, favorites such as Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation killed any Hollywood desire to make movies based off of video games, for a few years anyway.  But there is one film from that era that came close to cracking the code.  In fact, it is the closest we have ever seen—Mortal Kombat.

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Not even close.

No, Mortal Kombat is not good in terms of quality, but it IS fun.  Not only were the action scenes enjoyable, but also the music added a new (and memorable) layer to the characters.  Aside from “Get over here!”, the Mortal Kombat theme song has become the most popular part of the movie.  Mortal Kombat gave hope to us all that video game adaptations could be at least entertaining, and, of course, make a lot of money to guarantee more of such movies.  Granted, a lot of its financial success was due to timing.

In the mid 90s, the “Mortal Kombat” franchise was at its peak.  Many other video game films, such as Street Fighter and Prince of Persia, failed mainly because they came out long after their respective franchises left the spotlight (and because they were not good films).  Sadly, even though Mortal Kombat succeeded at the box office, Hollywood could not build on the momentum.  Now, let’s jump back to present day, with “Assassin’s Creed”.

Pictured: franchises NOT at their peaks

It is one of the biggest games of the last ten years.  Ever since “Assassin’s Creed II”, the games have received mainstream success.  But, after that game, the momentum went downhill.  The Assassin’s Creed movie could still be a huge success, but I think Hollywood waited too long after the franchise’s peak to make it.  By comparison, the second “Mortal Kombat” game came out at the same time as the first Mortal Kombat movie.

Most people have complained about everything with the present era of “Assassin’s Creed”.  In this game, you are a character who is related to past assassins.  You have to be “plugged in” to become whichever past character is necessary for a certain mission.  These scenes were atrocious, and I continued to despise these scenes after every ensuing game.  Once again, we will have to watch scenes just like that in the upcoming movie.

So can Assassin’s Creed be an excellent film?  In light of recent history of the franchise and video game adaptations, I say no.  Example: the new Ratchet and Clank film, I bet nobody even knew this happened.  It came out less than a month ago and did nothing at the box office.  It was intended for families—but THEY didn’t go see it!  This summer, Angry Birds and Warcraft will hit theaters.  If they flop, don’t ignore that as signs that Assassin’s Creed will too.

14045_poster2.jpgFinally!  The future of video game movies is here!

Don’t Believe the Hype! Issue 5–Affleck Solo Batman Movie

By: Matthew J.R. Kohler

Amid the rumors of “creative differences” between certain directors and DC, regarding their shared universe, the one ray of hope that continues to shine is a Ben Affleck-directed solo Batman movie.  But, how do we know this ray of light is nothing more than a mirage?

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Going to hammer more tires, are we?

Batman v Superman had many problems.  Although a lot of that can be placed on Zack Snyder, it’s not all his fault.  Remember, the movie had a massive agenda–setting up umpteen different movies within two-and-a-half hours.  Plus, it was trying to tell two classic stories at the same time (Dark Knight Returns and Death of Superman).  Typically, studios are responsible for shoehorning in set-ups for future films (Marvel with Age of Ultron), and more characters than necessary (Sony with Spider-Man 3 and Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Warner Bros. with Batman & Robin).  Since DC is clearly dead set on making a shared universe work, what’s to say they aren’t going to try the same tactics with their go-to cash cow’s solo film?  That said, I ask this: how much can Affleck do to make the solo Batman movie a good one?  Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo are all solid, well-regarded movies that he has directed.  So, it seems like a no-brainer that Affleck’s Batflick will be good, right?  Not necessarily; the DC movies are made by companies, not directors.

Written and Directed by $$$

Do you really think any director would insert into his or her own movies references to ones that won’t come out for 2+ years?  I don’t think even Snyder would do that to himself.  He proved that he can tell a focused, self-contained story with Man of Steel (albeit not a good one).  As I mentioned, setups for franchises and needless inclusions of characters (Wonder Woman in BvS) have typically been attributed to studio tampering.  What’s to say the solo Batman movie won’t be mucked up with a forced setup for a Batman and Wonder Woman team-up movie, or a team-up movie with Batgirl and a new Robin?

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They’ll never learn.

The DC movies are investments more so than actual films.  When any movie studio, not just DC, pumps five to ten years and billions of dollars into something, of course they want to play it by the numbers.  Hell, look at how safe Marvel has been playing it with every film since Iron Man.  What I’m saying is that, for how great of a director Affleck is, he will ultimately be a director-for-hire.  He will not have free reign to make a legitimately good film.  Even the veteran himself, Steven Spielberg, said over fifteen years ago that even he has to fight for creative freedom, not with other creatives, but with bankers (p. 52 of the book Steven Spielberg: Interviews).  Film is a business now more than ever, because there’s money to be made in not just the U.S., but also action-movie-loving countries like China.  In other words, companies feel the need to appeal to a much wider audience (translation: make movies less about people and real problems and more about the action).

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Look, kids!  It’s Ben Affleck fighting DC for his creative freedom!

When you look at the failure of a big-studio blockbuster like Batman v Superman, don’t be like everyone else by blaming the directors, actors, etc.  Blame the studio.  After viewing Batman v Superman, I blame DC for making the film feel like one long commercial.  DC is failing by trying to do a condensed version of Marvel’s business plan, and I believe it’s naive to think they won’t continue this plan with the Batman solo film.

Between BvS, the ill-advised Suicide Squad (it’s like Avengers if they were bad guys–creativity strikes again!), and the undoubtedly rushed Justice League, I feel sorry for Affleck, because he has spent the last five years letting people know he is the real deal.  Now, it seems that his legitimacy as an actor and director are being exploited by DC to lend credibility to their half-baked attempts at a cinematic universe.  When it comes to doing the inevitable Batman solo film, what can’t be ignored is that Affleck faces the possibility of reliving Daredevil, even if he is also the director and writer this time around.  This time, though, it will be different.  No matter how bad the film is, it will inevitably turn a profit, and more films will follow, leading to a decade of suffering.

Don’t Believe the Hype! Issue 4: Star Wars: Rebels Season 2 Finale

By: Matthew J.R. Kohler

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It has been a couple of weeks since the “big” finale of Rebels, so I wanted to take a step back to analyze why the season finale did not work for me.

We all knew it was going to happen—Ashoka Tano versus Darth Vader.  What we didn’t know is that in the same episode Darth Maul fights Ahsoka, and the Inquisitors, who are fending off a temple.  The episode sure was filled with a lot.  In fact, too much.  All I ever hear about is this show has cool ideas, but a lot of filler.  Why would you utilize three of your biggest characters in the show in the same episode?  Not only does that diminish the impact they have on the show, but also it’s a wasted opportunity to explore such potentially rich material.  I feel that this episode could have been spread over a few episodes.

For the most part, the episode is hard to watch because of the extreme difference between this show and Clone Wars.  The most annoying difference is in the tone.  This show tries to be serious, but comically stumbles.  When Darth Maul appeared and told Ahsoka his plan to train Ezra, I laughed.  We know Maul to be a brilliant mastermind in war, yet he picks this loser to be his apprentice?  What also makes this show less serious are the color tone, drawing schemes, and direction.  For a second, let’s compare the two Clone Wars shows (the most recent one, and the one from 2003).  We can agree that the animation is totally different, but they remain serious.  I think it’s because the two shows portray their characters “equally”, and they work in the universe that each of them built.  With Rebels, that’s not the case.  One minute you have Vader destroying an entire fleet.  The next you have Inquisitors escaping via lightsabers that are used as helicopters(?). It seems like this show can’t decide if it wants to be like the cartoonish 2003 Clone Wars show or the dead serious 2008 version.

I mentioned that Ahsoka, Maul, and Vader are all in this episode.  That is another problem–none of those characters are Rebels characters.  You can even say that the story is not even a Rebels story.  Instead, this episode felt like Dave Filoni’s attempt to finally finish his Clone Wars series.  That’s cool and all, but don’t make the main characters take the back seat in their own show.

Yes, we got to see Ashoka versus Vader.  That’s a great idea, but the execution was poor.  Lighting and color did so much for The Clone Wars.  I remember many episodes where Maul would be enhanced by lighting, to where his eyes and diabolical speeches were you knew he wasn’t a throwaway character.  Each time I see Darth Vader in this show, I instantly say, “This is a kid’s show.”  I know people are going to say to me, “Well, dur!”, but don’t forget that this show, prior to its premiere, was advertised as “the new Clone Wars.”  So, how can the two shows not be compared?  Whether or not you agree with the right to compare, the bottomline is that the lighting and animation of the villains are too cartoonish, which robs them of being convincing threats.

I used to think that Rebels was a new direction for the better.  Instead, we are seeing that this show is not intended for people who get what Star Wars is.  Instead, the powers that be are looking for a new audience.  By doing so, they not only have to retell stories, but also tell it in a less mature way.  Hopefully, Rebels is just a stepping stone for Filoni’s next adventure.

Don’t Believe the Hype! Issue 3: R-Rated BvS is BS?

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By: Matthew J.R. Kohler

Recently, we heard that a 3-hour, R-rated director’s cut of Batman v Superman will be released on home video.  Whether or not you like the movie as is, will an R-rated director’s cut make it better?

Personally, I thought BvS was the most boring movie I have seen since Thor 2.  That said, if the movie is already too long, why make it longer?  (Granted, Lord of the Rings was made better because of the added footage, but that is an exception).  For most of BvS, I was either twiddling my thumbs, or looking around at the crowd to see who was actually enjoying it.  You know what the filmmakers should do instead of add 30 minutes?  They should cut 40 minutes.  Why do we need three dreams, two flashbacks, and Wonder Woman?  I know that people like her, but she was unnecessary to the story.  The closest she came to being essential was in the fight against Doomsday, but Superman could have done everything that she did!  Remove all of that clutter, plus the useless Lois Lane subplot (in which she tries to find the origin of the bullet), the needless setup scene for Justice League, and the tacked-on Doomsday appearance, and you get a much simpler movie.  Don’t add more to an overbearing movie; that just makes it worse.

Speaking of which…how about that R-rating?  Why would Warner Brothers do that?  You know, for how many times I have heard people complain about Batman Returns for being too dark (since Batman kills), there is no way they can praise this movie, where he also kills!  Making it rated R is only going to worsen this movie’s problem, and it seems like a desperate cry for love.  The rating just doesn’t belong with these superheroes.  Also, movies such as BvS think that computer graphics in a live-action movie sell.  Well, I’m here to tell you that nobody was getting excited during BvS.  Why?  Because CG effects–whether they’re PG-13 or R-rated–look pitiful because none of it looks believable.

Batman v Superman is not doing well in the critics’ minds, and has been receiving poor word-of-mouth (as evidenced by its record-breaking first-to-second-weekend box office plunge).  If WB thinks that a longer, more hardcore version is going to save the movie’s life after theaters, then why didn’t they put this in the movie to begin with?  As a superhero fan, I ask: do you think that this will service the true fans?  Do you think it will raise the hype for Justice League?  Or is this just another reason to get your money?

Don’t Believe the Hype! – The World of Warcraft Movie

by: Matthew J.R. Kohler

Sometimes a trailer does not indicate the quality of a movie, but other times you just know when you’ve seen the trailer that the movie just isn’t going to be good.  Such is the case with the upcoming Warcraft.  “World of Warcraft” is one of the biggest games ever, and its developer, Blizzard, is one of the biggest names in gaming.  I’ve talked to several peers about the upcoming film adaptation. They told me the film would look sweet if it were done in the same style as the cinematic cut scenes from the game.  If you’ve never seen one, then pause for a moment and watch.  The cut scenes are amazing!  They’re also animated.  The trailer, of course, clearly shows live action footage.  Well, barely.  We actually see the classic mishmash of garish CGI and badly colored live-action footage.  This movie looks exceptionally bad, so I decided to make a complaint/remind you that this movie is happening.

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When The Hobbit films came out, people were furious that the movie was mainly CGI.  Why were they mad?  Not only were The Lord of the Rings films made with mostly practical effects, but also because the filmmakers meshed the practical and digital effects together seamlessly.  Despite the backlash, the filmmakers of Warcraft decided to go for The Hobbit look.  Why?  Don’t you want more people to go see your movie?  In the trailer, there are cuts from CG orcs to actual actors.It’s very jarring because of how different the live-action footage looks when compared to the CGI.  These type of shots are the worst shots because most of the CGI looks like a dang PS2 cut scene!  If you want the movie to be dominated by CGI, why don’t you just make an animated film instead?

Because nothing was real in The Hobbit, none of the action scenes were cool, or could ever be believable.  You also never get magical moments in those films.  Many of the actors spilled blood when filming The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it shows.  The only thing that was spilled in The Hobbit was the tears of Ian McKellan, who was so sick and tired of standing in a studio, in front of a green screen, saying lines to people who weren’t there.

And don’t even get me started on the lighting!  Well, actually, I’ll discuss it, because it’s important.  When everything in a movie is dark (in both lighting and color), that is a sign that the filmmakers are trying to hide their substandard CGI.  Just look at how most movies with terrible animation look dark.  Sadly, the attempt to mask it usually fails.  Look back at Harry Potter 5.  I remember watching it in theatres and laughing out loud when they showed the giant.  That was nine years ago, and today the same strategy is being used.  No longer can they be out in the sunlight thanks to us making fun of the fight scenes of The Matrix Reloaded.  Now, everything is dark!

So, should you care?  No. The trailers don’t make me want to view this movie at all.  But, some good could come from this movie.  It could be such a colossal failure that we’ll stop getting video game adaptations once and for all.