Saturday, July 24, 2010

ABC's "The Gates" Review

So it’s the summer time, which means I’m over the angst I felt when all my shows left me with a cliff hanger, but there’s still a void because I’m not watching them. The only saving grace is a few summer shows like “Hell’s Kitchen” and “So You Think You Can Dance”. But since I’m a geek and needed something else to watch, I decided that I would give ABC’S “The Gates” a try.

It’s basically a show about monsters that live in a gated community because they want to be safe from normal people because they want to live normally. At first I thought it was vampires, then I pleasantly saw that there were werewolves/shape shifters and then it turned out that there were other creepy neighbors like witches and succubuses, which never really gets done. So the show is an interesting twist on monster mythology.

The non-monsters that we’re supposed to care if they get eaten is a family moved to The Gates because the dad, Nick Monohan, is a cop who had shot a criminal who he supposedly thought was armed. He’s the new Chief of Police for The Gates and is pretty tough on crime. For that reason, when a neighbor goes missing and is mauled in a so called “animal attack” he’s on the case, to the annoyance of the residents.

The second most important character from the family is the son, Charlie, who likes a girl at school who has a boyfriend, a very deadly boyfriend. A love triangle ensues.

I wasn’t too thrilled with it while watching the first few episodes. It was something I barely decided to DVR. I would play it on Hulu while I was working on something on my computer. I’m not too attached to any of the characters and wouldn’t be sad if any one of them disappeared. I’m just not invested into them yet. There’s a line of morality missing for me. And though Charlie isn’t knocking over in liquor stores or anything like that, I just don’t think it’s cool to engage in cheating. And then all the monsters eat people and I don’t find any of them really charming, with the exception of vampire Dylan Radcliff.

Then the fourth episode comes on and it’s typical blah, blah, blah and then at the last five minutes of the episode makes me go “I can’t believe that just happened!” I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it. For those who know what I’m talking about, it certainly was reckless and unexpected. However, it proved to me that this show isn’t going to play it safe and that there’s more than what I thought to it. If a show can make me gasp, they’ve got something.

I’m officially a fan. I’m not devoted or addicted, but I’m eggar to see what comes next. I recommend it. While it has somewhat of a slow start to me, it gets better and I think it’s gonna be really good!

Is The Last Airbender worse than Dragonball Evolution? That’s a good question, and one that has been actually raised due to the epic fail that The Last Airbender turned out to be. DBE is pathetically rated at 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s pretty terrible. But The Last Airbender even managed to do worse with 8%.

But not everyone agrees with critics and Avatar probably has a younger fan base, which might be harder to please and might not grasp important things like direction or cinematography. So is it really as bad as DBE?

First off, I’m gonna start by saying that I’m one of Dragonball Z’s biggest fans ever. I was into fanfiction, had my computer filled with fanart, and watched it every time it was on tv. I even watched it when it showed throughout the week on Toonami and then on Saturday when they showed every episode that they just played during the week. I was into it!

When I heard some of the changes being done to the movie, I was appalled. First of all, if it’s “Dragonball” and not “Dragonball Z” then it should have been about kid Goku, not high school Goku (especially since he’s as dumb as a rock except when it comes to fighting). Bulma didn’t have blue hair, Master Roshi wasn’t really old, and Chi-Chi wasn’t really herself at all. So the more I heard, the angrier I got.

Then it occurred to me that DBZ is a crazy show. There’s no way that terrifying monsters that turn people into food or talking animals that can drive and pay mortgages on their houses would translate well into film. There’s just too much crazy stuff to make it completely accurate. So while I don’t understand why Bulma couldn’t have a blue wig, I decided to reserve judgement and go see the film for myself.

I was disappointed with the film, but I sort of liked it. It’s not a strong “like”. It’s a “shrug my shoulders, I didn’t want to kill myself and I might actually watch this again if I’m bored” sort of like. It was a bad film though.

Since DB/DBZ/DBGT was over, there was a hole in my heart. Presently, I’m lacking in really good animes. Death Note and Full Metal Alchemist was awesome, but nothing quite felt like DBZ to me. A good show that filled that gap was easily Avatar: The Last Airbender.

I was ecstatic when I heard they were doing a live action film for that show. My younger sister Tina put it in the calender in her phone so the alarm would go off the announced date of the movie. I was still pumped when I heard M. Night Shyamalan was doing it, because I like his movies. When I saw The Happening, I became very leery of him and began to lose faith.

Then I heard a bunch of crazy changes and I got angry, just like I did with DBE. When I heard some of the casting, I was upset. I’m not one of those “they should be Asian!” screamers, but I at least want the actors to look like the characters. Heck! Zuko’s scar is barely visible. It looks like he got smacked in the face, not burned. I remember staring at my computer screen and chatting with my friend on facebook saying “Why aren’t Sokka’s and Katara’s coats blue?” I was really upset!

Then I saw some trailers and I began to get excited for the film again. After all, it’s an easy film to make. The source material is awesome. It’s difficult to decide what to take out and what to keep, but the story is fantastic. The characters have such great chemistry with each other. The humor is amazing. And even though it’s a kid’s cartoon, the show has such serious content that it’s easily expanded it’s demographic.

So I saw the film opening day with an open mind. When I heard the first name mispronunciation, I think I twitched, but I told myself to go on. Then it happened again, and again and I forced myself to ignore it. But then there were so many other mistakes that just didn’t make sense for the sake of the plot. I tried to get over that too, but then the acting was bad and the characters were butchered. How can Asian Americans forgive the act of “race bending” when everyone was so bad? No one can believe the lie of “the best person got the job”. Crap!

So I left the theater angry. My youngest sister exploded as soon as the credits started rolling.

But the question still remains of which movie is better.

I have to sadly say that DBE is the better film. The reason is this, and this alone: The Last Airbender failed miserably on characterization. I can understand changing stories. I can understand taking out scenes or adding scenes or the director making his own race his favorite nation. I can’t understand, but I can forgive the name changes. What I can’t forgive is that the total lack of character. Aang–the fun, loving, goof ball might as well have put on black clothes and makeup because he was Emo. But he wasn’t a “dress Emo because I think it’s cool and it’s how I am” Emo. He was slitting his wrists material. All he needed was some sarcastic and demented remarks. Sokka–the joker–was completely humorless and didn’t have much of a part. Even his tragic love scene barely survived the editing room. Katara wasn’t motherly. Zhao was a punk, instead of the formidable, angry, and arrogant foe. The Fire Lord didn’t even seem like that bad of a guy!

Dragonball Evolution might have been rushed, the fighting might not have been up to par with the show, and the story might have been over all stupid, and fans might have had a lot of “what the heck!” moments, but AT LEAST the spirit of the characters were there. At least they had little moments to appease some people. Goku tried to gel his hair and his spikes wouldn’t allow it. Goku ate a giant piece of chicken and I could go “Oh! That’s Goku!” At least the guy playing Yamcha did his best and actually sounded like him.

I wish Sokka would have said a joke. I wish they would have ruined a cabbage man’s cart. I wish Aang would have hinted that he liked Katara. I wish. I wish. I wish!

But it didn’t happen.

DBE changed WAY more than TLAB, but the problem was that M. Night tried to fix something that wasn’t broken. As a matter of fact, it was perfect. I literally thought there was no way he could ruin this film. A DBZ movie should only be made if you want to see cool fighting. Some of the character’s stories are great (Prince Vegeta), but the show itself is nowhere as good as Avatar.

Sure Airbender had good special effects, but M. Night missed the mark. He must not have realized that he was making a movie based off of a beloved children’s cartoon. He somehow took all the fun out of the story and the characters while also making it cheesier. Congratulations for that, because that seems very hard to me to pull off. It couldn’t have been an accident. That must have taken a lot of effort!

The Last Airbender’s story was better, but that’s a reflection of the cartoon and had nothing to do with M. Night. This was probably his worst directed film. The acting was terrible, the shots were weird sometimes, and there was no character development. The special effects were very cool, but it took too long to bend anything.

I really would like them both to reboot. I’d take the chance, because I did love the shows.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Eclipse OWNS The Last Airbender

After seeing both Twilight Saga: Eclipse and The Last Airbender on the day of their openings, I’ve got to say that I really, really enjoyed one over the other and I’m surprised which one it was.

I’m not a big fan of Twilight. I don’t dislike it, but I’m not much of a chick who likes romance flicks unless they’re really funny. I can watch them, but I don’t have much of a desire for it. The first Twilight was rushed while New Moon felt long in some parts. I wasn’t sure how Eclipse was gonna play out, even though the previews were pretty sweet. The truth was that I really enjoyed the film. It wasn’t my favorite film of the year, but so far it’s my favorite of the summer. There was more action, the pace was good, and it was really humorous. Though I don’t really buy Taylor Lautner’s angry face all the time, I really enjoy his chemistry with Robert Pattison and their rivalry for Bella’s affection. I liked that more of the characters lives were explained and it went outside of the love triangle by explaining Rosalie’s and Jasper’s past, which is something the first Twilight film failed at big time.

To some people, saying that Eclipse was the best Twilight film isn’t enough, because they don’t care or like the first two. I’m gonna go out on a limb and admit that I liked it. I recommend not seeing it with a theater filled with little kids but an actual young adult crowd and feed off of the energy they invoke. I had a really nice movie experience.

I thought The Last Airbender was going to be the best movie of the year, when in reality it was probably the biggest disappointment in my movie watching career. Ever. It was a movie that was basically easy to make. The story is so solid that you really don’t have to adopt it, just make it real life. The source material is great. It’s not like Dragonball Z when there’s so much crazy stuff like talking animals and villains that turn people into food and eats them. Avatar was a great and sensible cartoon. I can’t believe how badly it was messed up.

Since I’ve made a video for a Twilight review and will do one on Last Airbender, I won’t go too in depth right now as far as what was wrong in comparison with the cartoon and film, but I will say it was really rushed, some of the shots didn’t compliment the scene sometimes, the pronunciations of the names were ridiculous, and the actors did terrible jobs. They weren’t the characters. Most of them had no real personalities because there was no character developments.

I thought Last Airbender would be able to draw children and happy parents, but the film changed some things about the story that actually made it cheesier. I strongly think only small, as in very young fans of the show will like the movie. Just about anyone older than ten will probably be able to spot the changes and see how it damaged the plot.

I also thought Eclipse might have been a bit darker for a younger audience, but it really wasn’t dark at all, so Eclipse easily translates to a much larger audience.

Eclipse ended up opening up just a little shy of New Moon’s opening gross, but it’s still the second highest opening day grosses ever. Last Airbender is being trashed by fans and critics a lot, so while it might stand to do well, it’ll barely be what Paramount expected.

The moral of the story? Twilight wins. It was more hype than an actual fight.