Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Just More of The Same

Written on: June 1, 2011

Awhile ago, I started work on a rant about how nothing ever managed to happen in the 80s film They Live which is outrageously well-known, even though nobody thinks they've heard of it.
“I've come to chew bubble gum and kick ***. And I ran outta bubble gum”
Doesn't ring a bell?. How about sunglasses that make the world turn black and white?.
Signs in the background that say things like “obey”?. No?.
Well anyway, I never finished said “review”. So I decided to do what I did last time.
Chatter about what I've seen recently. The Final Sacrifice gets chucked, just because I watched the MST3K version so you know it's bad.
In short, both films had one thing in common: bewildered looking folks blundering around nowhere in particular for no apparent reason.
Yes. That is exactly what happened. And no, nothing else happened. And no, nobody bothered to explain why (though somehow I doubt it would have helped).
So anyway, upon making this decision, I realized I actually had no idea what I'd been watching lately, other than Due South *drools* and Metajets *pats on head and sends outside*.
So I decided to ask the Wizard of All Knowledge (In this case the Netflix Instant Watching Activity page. The other list would lend no useful information as I've been renting nothing but Due South and Smallville *kicks Smallville's shins and steals its biscuits*).
Apparently, Dad has been watching stuff on Netflix too, as I'm fairly certain I haven't seen a lot of these films. So, after kicking those films off the list, I was left with these.

The Crow – 1994
Start-Off: Shut up. Just because it's famous and EVERYONE has seen it doesn't mean I have. As you all should know by now, I'm Nobody. And not in the semi-cool but mostly dumb way of the TMNT character.
The Expectation: Uh... I dunno. Something akin to The Sixth Sense perhaps?. Well... something involving an undead guy and a crow anyway (hehe... I kept thinking “Russell”. If you don't get the reference, go watch Unskippable on The Escapist. You'll have more fun).
The Reality: Huh.... well... not what I was expecting (except for the whole “undead” and “crow” thing). The crow, firstly, is the most awesome character in the film. Why?. Because he's a freakin' CROW!. Flap flap – caw caw and all that. And he has shiny crow feathers. And upped the over-all coolness of crows by... like... a million.
That said, there is no reasonable explanation as to why this movie is famous.
Because.... Bruce Lee's son is in it?. Because said son died before they finished it?.
Ooh... I know. Because it involves revenge. And dead people. But not zombie dead-people.
None of that deterioration and stuff. Invincible undead guy wanders the streets of City-Sir-Not-Important *can't remember name* and kills off all the people who murdered him and his... girlfriend?. Wait, no... I remember. They were going to be married the next day (Halloween :P). I can't give this film too much smashing because 1. I watched it in pieces over the course of an entire day :P and 2. It has the most freakin' AWESOME crow in it! *is crazy supernatural (and natural) animal-loving freak*.
So.... yeah. He kills them with stuff they love in a rather creepy manner (which was completely thieved by The Joker in The Dark Knight. Don't throw stones, I think that movie is awesome. Still, whoever wrote that version of Joker is a total character thief). And he makes a drug-riddled lady go and take care of her annoying kid who has the silliest teen/preteen-girl outfit of any R-Rated film (oddly specific sentence is oddly specific).
So.... it could have gone Horror on us, but decided to travel that thin line that Batman Begins cheerfully jogged along and stayed an Action movie. Actually, in some ways it has a very similar feel.
I find it hard to beat on this movie, since it was an alright film. And, considering their main actor died before they were done.... meh.
The first half of the movie is very dark and captures the feel that one might think most Halloween-themed films should. Utterly creepy (though probably more so at night and in one sitting).
It believed in blood-spatters. But not the common blood spewing everywhere blood spatters. No, they were specific and used entirely to draw you creepily into the scene, rather than shoving you back into reality as red ketchup fountains burst forth from the knife wound in some innocent pedestrians chest.
Actually, there were very few extras in the movie, to its credit.
And there was never a doubt who the bad guys were. Yeah, those *insert many expletives here* guys over there with their weird bullet-swallowing rituals and aim-the-gun-at-the-guy-on-your-left games.
Basically, the bad guys are completely and totally nuts and should die.
Which is exactly what The Crow decides. So it hauls Captain Dead-Guy back from the grave by knocking on his head stone and sends him on a... poetic?. Ironic?. What's the word here?. Killing spree. His only official goal seems to be to kill the four guys who were there the night of his murder. But it grows into save-that-girl and kill-the-banana-behind-this and Russell-er The Crow certainly isn't about to tell you what or why things are happening.
However, the last half of the film mostly consists of “Screw it. Let's just shoot everyone”. Don't get me wrong. Some people DO live. Or... go back to being dead.
I suppose I shouldn't hit it over the head too much. This was, after all, a Comic-Book Movie from the 90s, so I guess I'll let it go now before I've beaten the dead horse too much.
*gives biscuit and lets The Crow go play outside*.

Animal Face-Off – 2004
Start-Off: It was a TV Show. Shut up. Also, I only watched Hippo vs. Bull Shark recently. All the others, I saw back when this series was NEW. And the only one I actually remembered was Lion vs. Tiger. In short: I shall probably be slapping these episodes the most. But that's okay. The whole series was pretty much exactly like this.
The Expectation: Uh.... not very good?. Completely obvious?. Trying so hard to be cool that it feel down and hit its head?. Yeah... that.
The Reality: Yeah. Pretty much.
I'm gonna start with Dave Salmoni. He was on the side of the tiger in that episode in which the lion one through the sheer will-power of people who still believe that King of The Jungle idiocy. I'm not arguing for the tiger, but it was all so FORCED. Especially the rivalry between the person who liked lions and the one who liked tigers. I've seen Salmoni in other things. He thinks Big Cats are awesome!. All of them. And he's great when it comes to working with them. He's also crazy, but that's totally fine because we NEED crazy people working with big cats because sane people sure as hell won't.
In short: Salmoni should be ashamed for even being near this series.
So... basically what happens is strengths and weaknesses and behavior are measured and compared and then they stuff the information into a computer and watch a CGI film in which one creature kills the other. ?. ??. ???. Who thought this was a good idea!?!?.
In all the ones I've seen, they clearly favor one animal over the other. Of course, that's the one that wins in the end. And, usually, the animals are horribly mismatched (Elephant vs. Rhino?. Seriously people?) or at least not of the same element (Wolf vs. Cougar?. Wolves live in packs. Cougars are loners. A cougar could rip a wolf in two, no sweat. But a pack of wolves would tear a cougar limb from limb. Oh, or Hippo vs. Bull Shark. Bull Sharks DO go into fresh water, but they're built for deep water. A full-grown hippo fears nothing except other hippos and MAYBE twenty-foot crocs. UNFAIR!).
The show shamelessly ignores various facts (such as hippos actually EATING MEAT sometimes and wolves living in packs. And... male lions being nearly impossible to provoke without a “queen” lioness present who will prompt them to defend the pride. Who cares about those details?. Throw behavior out the window along with common sense!. WHEEEE!!!!!!!).
The show could have been a bunch of people flapping their arms and shouting out random animal facts they knew and then stirring a big pot of water over a fire at the end for how close to reality it actually was (note: I personally think that would be a fun show and I would totally watch at least one episode, if only to try and guess which animals the various facts belonged to XD).
In short: This series was dumb then, is still dumb now and will stay dumb forever into the future.
Oh yeah, and adult polar bears have been known to kill and eat full-grown and healthy walruses on more than one occasion. It's rather well documented, actually.

Big Cat Dairies – 1996-2006
Start-Off: Okay, another documentary. Shut yer trap. Also, I watched this before it was in reruns. I didn't care for it much as a kid. But I grew up with it and remembered it all the way to recently when Netflix waved it at me and said I would think it was the most awesome thing since sliced bread. For nostalgic purposes and because Netflix usually tells me I will think that any and all documentaries are complete rubbish, I took them up on it.
The Expectation: Kinda skippy, jumpy kid-stuff about big cats.
The Reality: Actually a very interesting concept. The crew goes out and films very specific cats (season one example: two cheetah families. One has very young cubs and the other has half grown ones. Two lion prides, one large and one small. And a leopard and her cub) over the course of one week. At the end of the week, they edit all the film together and ship it in as a half-hour episode. Pretty fast-paced and difficult work. Over time, one gets to know the big cats and their general habits. The reason it seemed random and slightly skippy is because it was. With only one week to film, edit and send in the episodes, the relatively small season one crew were hard pressed to make it happen.
Two years later, they came back for a second season with a new cheetah family, the leopards cub and the two lion prides. With a week-after-week approach, you get to see some of the things most documentaries completely abandon because they don't think it's exciting enough. Also, you get to see some truly rare and unique footage that never would have been captured otherwise.
My main complaint is that near-commercial camera flailing. You could give someone a seizure with that. Or at least a headache.
So... mostly a documentary. An awesome one with a rather unique approach, but nonetheless.

Metajets – 2008
Start-Off: It's a cartoon. Shut up. SILENCE!. I kill you!. Ahem... yes. Oh yeah, and for those of you who think it was 2010 *slapslapslap!*.... it was 2008 originally. You just weren't paying attention.
The Expectation: Oh great... why am I watching this?. Why do I do this?. This is dumb. Every episodes the same. These characters annoy me and should die. Kill them all, please.
The Reality: Wow, I actually feel entertained.
Sure, it's a cartoon. Yes, the characters were pulled out of a used character bin. Yeah, the animation kinda sucks and looks a bit stolen from Anime (what do you want, one of the animators WAS Japanese) and the jets keep turning into cheap CGI when you aren't looking. Sure enough, the theme song stinks and its lyrics will firmly wedge themselves into the picture album of your memory forever. Yes, they wave morals and life lessons and political correctness messages at you like there's no tomorrow.
But its okay, because they know what their audience really wants. Awesomely fun to watch dogfights (with jets, moron, no DOGS), unexpectedly delivered cheesy lines and plenty of jokes and puns for all.
I noticed from the start that it was taking lots of its material from Power Rangers and I expected to hate that. Difference being Metajets took their stupid and made it cool.
It has all the token characters.
Token rookie who just happens to be awesome. Check.
Token hot-tempered black guy. Check.
Token military-minded chick who rookie has crush on. Check.
Token weird-hair guy. Check.
Token commander who also happens to be chick's father. Check.
Token transforming vehicles. Also check.
But it somehow managed to make it fun.
The rookie “farm boy” is actually cool and doesn't force his obnoxious personality into every second of every episode and he certainly isn't the only fighter in the field (in other words, he doesn't spend all his time rescuing his team. No. Everyone holds their own but needs saving now and then, including him and gets a fair amount of screen time). And his crush is only painfully apparent in the first and last episodes. Other than that, it just shows through as a joke now and then, almost as if the channel kept nudging the writers to remind everyone that there was romance not going on. But it could be. Not.
I didn't even realize that the black guy was black until he took his helmet off XD. And it's easy to forget that he is. And they never mention it. It's just like “yeah, this guy is a member of our team and he likes fire and thinks he's totally the most awesome pilot ever” with no mention of the whole “race” thing.
Military-minded chick doesn't forget that second part about being a chick. Or was that having a mind?. Either way works. She's actually sort of cool, for a female character (all of which I loath until they prove themselves not moronic).
Weird-hair guy is also a genius. He's quite the problem solver, though he'd rather be playing video games. He's also the resident comic relief, which he takes to with relish. He's not over-the-top annoying and is first-and-foremost, a member of the team.
Really, that's the thing that made it work best. They were Metajets first, characters second. But, unlike most series, they didn't forget to HAVE characters.
They never developed random phobias or suddenly had ginormous egos or anything out of character that annoys the heck outta me in most series.
Like the characters, the series took most of its episodes out of the discard bin.
But it tweak 'em just enough to make them feel refreshing and different.
Actually, the whole series is set on an environmentalist gold mine.
It's in the future and global warning forced people to take to the air (seriously, floating cities and all). The writers could have beaten us to death with how evil and destructive and all people are and how we should recycle and all the other *insert various expletives here* they're teaching kids these days.
But no. Metajets is just like “what?. Who cares?”.
It's a series that caters to the viewer, rather than the channel (which must be why it got shot down in just forty episodes).
There's political-correctness lurking, but it knows what it's really about.
And that's blowing stuff up and cracking jokes.
*pats on head again and then sends it back outside*

So, In Short
The Crow – Alright as an action movie, but has no right to be so famous.
Animal Face-Off – Will make documentary-lovers everywhere cry with sorrow.
Big Cat Dairies – Pretty decent. Just don't expect run-of-the-mill documenting techniques.
Metajets – A cartoon. What do you want from it?. Silliness!. Who cares about the environment or the laws of physics!?!?. Certainly not me as a kid!. WHEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!! :D

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