Saturday, October 23, 2010

One of the Stupidest Remakes Ever

I grew up knowing very little about the 1984 film Red Dawn, other than the fact that it was an action film which starred Patrick Swayze. Lately, I learned that it's been remade by famed stunt director Dan Bradley (who worked on the last two Bourne movies, the last two Spider-Man movies, and the last Indiana Jones and James Bond movies) with star of the upcoming Thor adaptation, Aussie up-and-comer Chris Hemsworth, in the Swayze role. I still didn't know anything about the plot, though.

Thanks, however, to, a site which I happened to "like" on Facebook (because it really is pretty darned funny) I now know its basic premise: it's about a bunch of high school kids who stage an armed resistance against a Soviet-led communist army which has successfully occupied the United States of America. In view of perestroika, a remake of this film set in the present day would obviously be ridiculous, but that has apparently not stopped studio execs over at the floundering MGM studios from trying, by replacing the USSR with, of all things, China. When I read that China would be the new heavy, I found myself flabbergasted and thinking "are they kidding me?"

In this day and age, where almost everything is made in China and where even people who have professed to live and die by Maoist principles are criticizing China's capitalist tendencies, picking a fight with China by making a movie about their invasion of the United States of America is profoundly stupid. What compounds this is that this film comes barely two years after the United States had just about the most hated man in the world as its president. I mean, Marvel studios was afraid to give the title "Captain America," to the film adaptation of the superhero comic of the same name because the image of the United States the world over is downright awful. This doesn't strike me as the same impulse that prompted the remake of The Karate Kid, which, after all, was set in China. Sure, it's about riding high on love for the 80s, but I'm thinking it's a different kind of love.

This strikes me as an effort by the suits at MGM to revisit a simpler time, when communists were evil and the American way was, well the way. Part of me imagines that this film may have been done with tongue planted firmly in cheek, but the rest of me really doesn't think this film is worth writing an overly long-winded blog post about, so I'll stop here, but in this day and age it astounds me that someone would be idiotic enough to pick a fight with the Chinese.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Well Kudos to Facebook, But What Does This Mean?

I have yet to see The Social Network, though I've read a number of the glowing reviews and have found myself impressed by the trailer. In short, I certainly want to see it.

What makes this compelling to write about, for me anyway, is that while the internet has, in the strictest sense, literally been around for forty years, the social networking phenomenon in any form remotely recognizable as related to what we have now has only been around for the last ten or fifteen years at the very most. I didn't think we'd have a movie about it, at least not a biographical one, quite so soon.

It figures Facebook would be the one to make the big leap first. As an FB user, I think everything that came before it basically just pales in comparison in terms of sheer user-friendliness. That may be a good or a bad thing, but the point is that whereas Friendster, Myspace, Multiply or even the lesser known sites like Tubely seemed to have reached their limit in terms of public interest, with Friendster (which seems to have been mainly a hit in the Philippines) having peaked a few years back and with Myspace having been effectively supplanted by FB as the "in" social network among Americans, FB just seems to be getting bigger and bigger. And it's the only network that's had a movie made about it.

No wonder a lot of sites tie up with FB, even Twitter which I really don't care much for; it's kind of a matter of survival, I would think. Facebook, and social networking in general, has been effectively woven into the social fabric.

Now, this has gotten me thinking.

I can't help but wonder: with so much of our lives online, from our journals to our picture albums, what happens if the whole thing, one day, just up and crashes? I mean it's so much more convenient to chuck our pictures into cyberspace than actually stock up on photo albums, and to type down our thoughts (like I'm doing right now) than to actually write stuff down in a journal. Books, comic books, music albums are all available online for download into our handheld appliances, many of which have set expiry dates.

I've been telling my wife for years that we have to start putting our pictures into albums. Back when we first got married, we used to do just that, but since we got started on digital pictures, it's all been about saving stuff onto a CD or onto a hard drive. Considering we've had our hard-drives reformatted more than once, that's a kind of risky proposition, really. I'm talking about really wonderful memories here, like our family's trip to Bohol and Cebu three years ago. Sure, photoalbums can get lost in fire and flood, but to my digital storage media is a lot more fickle because God only knows how long photobucket will be around or what virus could take gmail out.

There's something more, though, and it's not about being resistant to technology. There's a warmth, dare I say it, to sitting with one's family around an old album, as opposed to just admiring something on a screen and clicking "like." It's great for sharing these precious recollections with people one cannot see everyday, but when a family such as mine doesn't have any pictures more recent than 2004, the time to start investing in some photo albums has definitely come.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Thanks for Nothing

I've been maintaining this site since around 2004 and have nearly 300 posts to my name, not counting the ones I've deleted for one reason or another, and I've decided after months and months of posts that received no comments and probably minimal viewing that I'm simply not going to contribute to this blog anymore.

I can live with people ignoring this blog because that's just the way of things, but the fact that for every new post I've been putting up for the past several months I get visited at least twice by a Chinese spammer offering me either porn or a personal ads just goes to show how little regard you have for your subscribers. Sure, this is a free service but does that really mean we are entitled to next to no respect?

Anyway, I'm taking my blog posts over to multiply, where people actually read and comment on them, and where I don't experience spam because their filters actually work.

Thanks for nothing assholes.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hey, Make ME One of Your Critics!

It had not dawned on me how low the bar to admission as one of the critics of had been set until I happened upon one of the so-called "reviewers" of Toy Story 3 who saddled it with a negative review and therefore being one of only three reviewers to have done so out of over one hundred and sixty. The negative review I read was pedantic, pretentious and downright pompous. The writer seemed intoxicated on some misplaced sense of self-importance.

The thing is, I don't even blame him; I blame for giving him his fifteen minutes of infamy.

In fact, I noticed something in reading the reviews posted on that quite honestly annoyed me more than any self-dubbed critic ever could: the site apparently cherry-picked negative reviews of Toy Story 3 and planted them right in the middle of the film's otherwise perfect score to generate outrage and therefore traffic. How do I know this? One of the three reviewers whose negative reviews was cited, infamous "contrarian" Armond White, whom I wrote about previously and who was probably sharpening his knives for Toy Story 3 the day he found out it was being made, wrote a scathingly negative review about Shrek Forever After which for reasons I do not understand never made it onto the film's "tomatometer" over on RT. I've gone over it twice (during my free time, of course), and White's negative review simply does not register. For the record, the Shrek sequel registers a 53% score on the site (rotten), while the Pixar sequel is quite lofty with 98%. White's review would not have registered at all over on the fourth Shrek film, which nearly half of the reviewers polled hated anyway, but because it had the shocking effect of being the first review to spoil Toy Story 3's heretofore perfect score it made more sense to throw it into the mix. The comment count on White's TS3 review is at something like 750+ and climbing. Ironically, the same people clamoring for White to get fired keep on taking the bait again and again, which is why rottentomatoes is so ready to lay it out; in the case of Shrek 4 it would have been meaningless so they never included White's bad review.

With TS3, however, they clearly they saw the opportunity to stir up the usual gang of idiots. It strikes me that RT sought even more opportunity to generate traffic by including the rare negative reviews on their site, so they dug up some blogger whom they probably otherwise wouldn't give the time of day and slapped his review there, which is now generating traffic as well.

Now, people are free to log onto or avoid RT altogether, but what's sad about this charade is that the reason why RT rose to prominence in the first place was that it afforded people the chance to know what reviewers...serious, HONEST reviewers and not attention whores, think about movies. It's supposed to be a MOVIE LOVERS site, and while that certainly does not mean they will only post positive reviews, it should mean that they will post reviews from writers who are more or less sincere in their liking or disliking of films, not people who post purely for the attention they generate. Whatever they started out as, they've devolved into something else, something...less.

Hey rottentomatoes! Toy Story 3 was a putrid film! Make ME one of your critics!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wow, That's a Lot of Venom Intended for a Little Kid...

Last Friday, I watched and thoroughly enjoyed the remake of The Karate Kid. For all its flaws (starting with the embarrassingly inappropriate title as it was set in China and the kid in question learned Wushu, not Karate), it was very engaging, with some beautiful scenery, great, albeit bone-crunching action, and a surprisingly moving, tender friendship between leads Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith as teacher Han and student Dre, respectively.

I totally get the vitriol that the fan community has spewed regarding this movie; Hollywood's addiction to remakes and sequels is truly irritating, and had I not enjoyed this movie I would be joining the bandwagon against this and other remakes.

What has honestly taken me by surprise is how many people wish so much ill on its star, Smith, who's basically just eleven years old. Granted, people feel that as the son of Hollywood megastar Will Smith, he's getting breaks that other kids might not necessarily get, and granted that both his parents are the driving force behind this remake, but here's the thing: I'm not sure he deserves all the hate.

Well, he may not be a great actor, but he certainly isn't a bad one, at least not in my opinion, or the opinion of the majority of the critics polled on and, or the opinion of a whole lot of people who went to the movies last weekend who spent something like $60 million dollars worth of their money to see this film. In fact, he carries the film, all two and a nearly-a-half hours of it, on his shoulders which is no mean feat for any actor, let alone someone who has yet to hit puberty. The feat becomes doubly impressive when one considers that this isn't a kid who's surrounded by an orgy of CGI or who is doubling with his twin to help the producers dodge child labor laws. In short, whatever break his parents have given him, Smith has made the most out of it by acting his little heart out, and by busting his ass to learn some serious Kung Fu chops.

There are a lot of famous people out there who benefited more than just a little from their parents' celebrity. Folks like Angelina Jolie, Angelica Huston, Nicolas Cage and Jason Reitman to name the few that come to mind all managed to get a leg up on the industry that they may or may not have gotten had they not been related to revered filmmakers or performers. Sure, Cage may have adopted the name of a comic book character to hide his true surname Coppola and thereby dispel any doubts that he made it in Hollywood based on merit, but there's no denying it helped him. What was important about all of these people was that they took the ball that was handed to them and ran with it. One has them on the one hand and folks like eternal-supporting-actor Colin Hanks and Sofia Coppola on the other, the latter of whom stumbled when given the opportunity to act in The Godfather Part III, though she eventually found her calling behind the camera. I'm fairly certain that on the acting front, Smith is no Sofia Coppola.

"Nepotism" isn't particularly new, even in Hollywood, but at least this kid is using the opportunity to its fullest. And besides, this film only cost about $40 million, which by today's standards is a song, and it's not as though they're tapping him to be the next Spider-Man or anchor some billion-dollar franchise. And ultimately, it's not as if they didn't make him work his ass off to be able to do the things he does in this film. Unlike Jack Black, who probably ate a box of Twinkies or something between recording sessions of Kung Fu Panda, judging by his current appearance, it's plain to see how hard Smith worked to pick up the skills necessary for this role; it's written all over his wiry little frame.

Count me, therefore, as one of those throwing their support behind Smith as a star of tomorrow. Fanboys can stew in as much hatred and concoct as many Scientology/Nepotism theories as they want, and if the rest of the world is lucky The Karate Kid will make over $200 million at the US box-office and cause those same fanboys' heads to explode from trying to figure out how Will Smith and Jada Pinkett managed to hypnotize that many people into watching their son's movie.

Friday, June 04, 2010


At the risk of getting more Chinese porn spam on my blog I have to weigh in on a recent spate of disappointments I, and quite possibly a lot of other fans of Marvel properties being turned into feature films have endured.

Iron Man 2, while a respectable enough movie, simply did not set off any of the fireworks that the first one did. It had more effects shots, more bad guys and more money thrown at it, but it simply did not up the "wow" factor the way that sequels like Spider-Man 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and (grumble) The Dark Knight did. I blame primarily the writer, Justin Theroux for a script that would at several moments and with a couple of tweaks have been better-suited to some raunchy R-rated comedy than a follow-up to a movie that TIME Magazine's Richard Corliss named as one of the 10 best of 2008, but film being a collaborative medium, in the end a lot more people involved, from director Jon Favreau to the actors deserve one form of blame or another.

Of course, the failure of this film to live up to the promise of the original is hardly the end of the world, even for Marvel movies, but I'm not entirely sure about how I feel about where they may be headed in the next couple of years. Some of the developments that have been reported about them have been encouraging, while others...not so much.

For one thing, I definitely like the choice of Joe Johnston as director of the Captain America movie, whatever other people may have had to say about it. Had Disney and Industrial Light and Magic not dropped the ball on the special effects shots of The Rocketeer, it would remain an eminently watchable and re-watchable superhero/comic book film, and for all its flaws, he can definitely take credit for everything that went right.

Also, while I'm still anxious to know about how the planned Avengers movie will come together, the virtually official involvement of Joss Whedon in the project is good news to me. Admittedly,I would much prefer to know he's writing it rather than directing it, but it is definitely a plus, especially since I know Marvel are talking to the right people, like The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner for a possible turn as Hawkeye.

I'm even fairly pleased about the look they've given Captain America, which is basically Bryan Hitch's Ultimates costume given a few tweaks here and there, though I feel it's a tad too modern-looking. The concept art they've released may or may not be the final look for the character, but though I may have my reservations I think they've pretty much gotten it down pat visually.

Unfortunately, when concept art for Thor surfaced shortly after the Cap concept was shown, I felt my stomach turn, especially after the promise that the initial teaser shot held.

When Marvel announced that Kenneth Branagh would be directing the film, I was 100% behind because the whole gambit had this it-just-seems-so-crazy-it-might-actually work vibe to it. I believe I wrote that this film would either be a huge hit or a colossal flop, or something like that, and after seeing that dreadful computer generated image of Chris Hemsworth in the one of the worst comic book costumes adaptation I've ever seen, even counting the nipple-toting batsuit, I can't help but feel like it's the latter.

It kind of stinks that for all the positive developments that seem to be surrounding Marvel's plan, the two disappointing ones, like Iron Man 2's fizzling out, and the awful Thor images, are those that really stood out for me. Maybe I am being overly negative here.

I would be happy for Marvel Films to prove me wrong.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Curse on All You Perverts and Maniacs

I've had to tweak my facebook and multiply pages on account of concerns on who can see my posts and pictures, and upon remembering that I've posted some pics here as well I've been constrained to remove them, considering that a blog is pretty much open to anyone. I loved sharing those pictures, but because of all the sick, predatory bastards out there I've had to pull them out. Too bad, really...

Monday, May 03, 2010

On Russell Crowe's Impending Return to Badassery

The first time I ever saw Russell Crowe as a badass was in the 1995 film "Virtuosity" in which he appeared for the first time onscreen opposite Denzel Washington (with whom he would work again many years later on "American Gangster"). He was absolutely feral as a virtual supercriminal created from the personalities of several other dead criminals. That same year, he appeared as another badass, a gunslinger opposite Sharon Stone in "The Quick and the Dead." Apparently, neither of these roles set the multiplexes on fire, nor did Crowe's Oscar-nominated turn as tobacco-industry whistleblower Jeff Wigand in Michael Mann's film "The Insider."

It was only when he played the Roman general turned slave Maximus in Ridley Scott's "Gladiator" that audiences really took notice of him. It's really hard to say what it was that made the difference between box-office chump and box-office champ, but from my layman's perspective it would appear that there was something about the gritty, real-life texture of the film, combined with Crowe's everyman-like portrayal as opposed to his highly-stylized characterizations in "Virtuosity" and "The Quick and the Dead" that made him appealing in a way he had not previously been. So appealing, in fact, that apart from the box-office and accolades, he even picked up an Oscar for Best Actor. It couldn't have gotten any better, really.

Crowe rode the success of that film and was able to wow audiences with his versatility by playing the complete antithesis of Maximus in Ron Howard's "A Beautiful Mind" where he played a man with schizophrenia. Not long thereafter he starred in what was arguably a thinking man's action movie, namely "Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World," but despite that movie's astonishing production value and glowing reception by critics, it fell well-short of blockbuster status, finishing its American theatrical run with just short of $100 million in grosses, as against a reportedly $150 million budget (though it did better in the rest of the world).

And then, of course, came the hotel-clerk debacle which saw Crowe smack a hotel desk clerk with, if I understand the reports correctly, a telephone. Nobody likes a bully, especially one who plays an underdog, and as a result Crowe's and Howards' "Cinderella Man," their second collaboration after the Oscar-winning "A Beautiful Mind" tanked at the box-office.

I honestly think it can be argued that Crowe hasn't fully recovered from that; his long awaited reunion with Ridley Scott, the 2006 romantic comedy "A Good Year" bombed resoundingly at the box-office, while his 2008 collaboration with Scott and hit-or-miss box-office proposition Leonardo di Caprio "Body of Lies" suffered the same fate as all of the other movies thus far released dealing with the current conflict in the Middle East:it flopped. Crowe's last film, 2009's "State of Play" was similarly ignored. 2008's "3:10 to Yuma" was only a moderate success, even though it co-starred white-hot "The Dark Knight" star Christian Bale, so I really wondered where Crowe's box-office appeal had gone.

The reasonable success of 2007's "American Gangster," Crowe's last movie to make over $100 million, (still the standard of a mainstream film's commercial success) can, I feel, be attributed as much to co-star Denzel Washington's participation as much as to Crowe's. While Mr. Washington has not has quite the headline-grabbing success of Mr. Crowe, his box-office returns over the last several years have been a lot steadier and more consistent. Over at, where they actually average the grosses of the films in which a particular personality (actor, director, producer, etc.) is involved, Washington, despite the fact that none of his films have grossed the returns of Crowe's highest grossers, still edges Crowe in terms of average gross by about three million dollars. This arguably shows that more people attend his movies regularly. Haha, yes, I actually follow these things.

Anyway, when the first promotional still for "Robin Hood" came out with Russell Crowe basically looking like Maximus dressed like Robin Hood, I was a little confused. Having seen Crowe with long hair, and having seen Scott direct "Kingdom of Heaven" a medieval epic starring Orlando Bloom who wore long hair, I would have thought they'd go for a look more befitting the period, i.e. long, scruffy hair for one.

When I saw the first trailers of "Robin Hood" though, and the "from the director of Gladiator" blurb, I understood perfectly what the entire crew was going for: to bring back Maximus, pure and simple. It's a semi-well-known fact that Scott and Crowe had previously tried to move Heaven and Earth to make a sequel to "Gladiator." This obviously wasn't going to be a very easy proposition given that Maximus dies at the end of the movie (and anyone who yells "spoiler" over a ten-year old, very popular movie that won a Best Picture Oscar can go suck an egg). Considering that plans for that fell through, it makes sense to take the sensibilities that would have gone into that sequel and inject it into this film. Everyone stands to benefit, especially Crowe, who never enjoyed quite as much success as he did playing Maximus.

Will it work? Well, it labors under the dreaded "second Friday of May" curse which hobbled a lot of movies just after the launch of the U.S. summer movie season, with expensive flops like "Speed Racer," "Battlefield Earth," and "Poseidon" all having been released on those dates. Not only that, but this film has to follow "Iron Man 2," which, it is projected, could have one of the biggest if not THE biggest opening weekend of all time. However, Universal and company can take solace from knowing that last year's "Star Trek" immediately followed the splashy opening weekend of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and went on to ultimately outgross it. I don't think that'll quite happen here as "Iron Man 2," unlike the mutant prequel, is actually a pretty good movie but maybe the market place can expand, as it did last year, to accommodate two blockbusters within such close proximity.

All box-office prognostications aside, I really hope the film does well because I, for one, genuinely miss Russell Crowe the badass. I hope Scott, et al don't actually kill off Robin Hood at the end of the film so we don't have to wait so long to see the badass again.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why I Understand Nicolas Cage

Having seen a movie starring Nicolas Cage recently ("Kick Ass"), as well as previews for at least one more big-budget action movie he'll be starring in later this year, ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice"), I've found myself thinking not so much about his career as about his apparent inability to manage his considerable financial resources. Not being much of a financial wizard myself I certainly wouldn't presume, here or elsewhere to advise Mr. Cage on how to handle his money, but even though he probably makes, per big-budget movie, more money than I will make or even need in my lifetime, I honestly believe that I can relate to the impulse that has possessed him to buy far more property than he was, per recent events, able to manage.

It hits me that no matter how much money someone has, there is no end to the cool stuff one can buy with it. Like I said in my "window shopping" post recently there is so much gratification to be had from just walking into a store and taking in the glorious sight of all of those products, whether they're clothes, books, toys, appliances, home furnishings, or anything else consumers can think of to spend their money on that sometimes it can even surpass the satisfaction of actually buying something, especially when one knows that one cannot possibly buy everything in sight. Now, I imagine it would be a complete game-changer, as it were, to all of a sudden have the money to afford everything in sight; the possibilities are staggering.

I'm not saying that it isn't altogether irresponsible to blow enough money to feed a third world country on worldly possessions, because God knows it is, but putting myself in Nicolas Cage's shoes and envisioning myself with all that money I started imagining all the things I could buy with it, if I really wanted to buy stuff. I mean, if, for example, I treated real supercars like I do the toy cars I collect, then quite possibly not even millions of dollars would be enough, especially coupled with lots of world travel and investments in, of all things, castles. In the right hands (so to speak), even a hundred million dollars wouldn't go very far. After all, with real estate taxes, things like castles continue to drain resources long after the purchase price has been spent.

Now, honestly, I don't think I'd need to buy all of the things that Cage reportedly has, but I wouldn't feel right judging him as I know what kind of impulses motivate people who collect things. Anyway, I'm still giving him my money for "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and the inevitable "National Treasure 3" because no matter how much people bash him I generally find his onscreen performances entertaining, but I sure hope that at some point he overcomes his insatiable urge before his star fades so that, if nothing else, he doesn't see out the remainder of his career making direct-to-DVD garbage for a paycheck.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Contrived Controversy

This is going to sound weird; though I genuinely enjoyed the movie "Kick-Ass" to an extent, I took an equally genuine amount of satisfaction when I learned that it failed to set the American box-office on fire last weekend. It made me feel smug about how little the opinion of internet fanboys means in the real world, as it were. As much as I liked the movie (and I didn't like it THAT much, I'd like to emphasize), I never got behind any of the vitriolic comments posted by internet fanboys over at decrying almost any and every negative review posted about the film, even the well-thought out ones that didn't harp on morality issues. Essentially, that particular site was governed by a cadre of "nerd police" ready to defend their beloved film tooth and nail against anyone who had anything bad to say about it. Well the film's box-office, while respectable, fell well-short of industry expectations, putting into emphasis the simple fact that, internet fanboys' belief to the contrary, they are NOT a significant demographic. If the box-office failure of "The Grindhouse" and "Snakes on a Plane" left any questions as to this issue, the tepid returns of "Kick-Ass" should have answered them.

What made me even more smug, however, was that apparently a great number of people refused to be baited by writer Mark Millar's deliberate and heavy-handed attempt to court controversy by creating an 11-year-old mass murdering vigilante named Hit Girl. People didn't turn out in droves like they did for "The Passion of the Christ" or "The Da Vinci Code" to see why the Jews or the Catholics or the self-appointed guardians of morality were throwing tantrums about the film. Nobody picketed the theaters (or at least, nobody who caught the eye of any national media outlet) claiming child abuse or anything like that. Yet, when he was being interviewed about the comic book about two or three years ago, I rather got the impression that this was the effect Millar was gunning for; he was out to push the boundaries of taboo, and essentially to see how people would react to Hit Girl, not because he particularly wanted to address any urgent social issues, but just for the simple sake of offending people. While reading one such interview I could practically see him (in my mind's eye) gleefully rubbing his hands at how the conservatives would get their panties in a twist over his work. Some of them have, but not nearly enough to generate even a fraction of the furor that accompanied "The Passion" and "The Da Vinci Code" and not enough to put a record-breaking number of fannies in the seats, so at least he isn't quite laughing all the way to the bank the way he might have hoped.

People who do things just for the sake of controversy are truly irritating. I can think of a number of people in the local entertainment industry who have managed to get press time long after their stars had faded by saying or doing something calculated to get them in trouble, because without it they lose all relevance. What disappoints me about Millar is that he is a truly talented writer who is capable of getting people's attention on merit rather than on the strength of cheap stunts; his run on "Ultimates" at the beginning of the millenium is regarded by many as a modern classic, and for my part I absolutely loved his twelve-issue run on Spider-Man about five years ago. Sure, he's often had a gimmick, including writing about the Antichrist in "Chosen," but he's sold more than a fair share of books through good, compelling writing.

People who resort to controversy to generate attention in this society are inevitable, but it saddens me when people who don't necessarily need the controversy desperately court it to stay in the spotlight.

All I can say to the people who refused to be baited by the blatant attempts to generate controversy by the makers of "Kick-Ass" is this; good job. This film should stand or fall on its own merits, not because Mark Millar is able to generate outrage with an 11-year-old, female version of the Punisher.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

On (Window) Shopping

Even though I don't go to malls nearly as much as I used to, I still understand the allure of the mall. While the air-conditioned comfort is a no-brainer, I love walking among the books, magazines, comics, restaurants, DVDs, games and toys, even if about five times out of six, I don't buy anything at all.

Since my late adolescence I've come to look at shopping malls a source of comfort, a place where I can get away from the difficulties of life, which came into sharper relief when I was on my own and supporting a family.

I take some solace knowing that I still find more comfort sitting in empty or relatively quiet churches, and sometimes, in my office, after a long day's work, than I do walking around a mall looking at items I usually can't afford, but the urge to walk around malls and window shop incessantly still exists. I mean, I don't think I've ever bought anything at Bonifacio High Street, but I still go there, pay the 35 peso parking fee, and walk up and down, alternating between Fully Booked, Hobbes and Landes and Maxitoys, just staring at all the stuff, whether they be books, magazines, resin sculptures of pop culture figures like the Lord of the Rings characters or Spider-Man, or astronomically priced 1/18 and 1/43 model cars.

It's hardly a religious experience, nor is it exactly the same thing as standing in an art gallery or museum (though it's closer to that than to standing in a church), but there is a gratification in being able to just stand in a nice, cold room surrounded by a bunch of beautiful products, whether or not I ever actually buy them.

In fact, as bizarre as this may sound, sometimes there is a gratification in not ever even buying these things, because these stores in which I browse these items, with their air-conditioning, lighting and comfortably upholstered furniture (in some cases) are like refuges from the trials and tribulations of the outside world. It's not quite the sanctuary that home (or an empty church) is, but there is something comforting about standing in one, and seeing the cars lined up in their shelves. I have no such shelves and my cars are stacked up in boxes. When I want to admire or photograph them for my galleries I have to take them out and painstakingly unpack them, in some cases even having to unscrew them from plastic bases. Even if I had shelves to keep or display them in I'd have concerns such as dusting them or keeping them at cool temperatures so that their rubber tires would not melt and stick to the surfaces on which they are displayed. In the store, there is no such concern as the stock is, during the hottest times of the day, stored in full-airconditioning and yet remains on glorious display. To remove them from these safe havens (even assuming I were willing to pay the exorbitant prices charged by Hobbes and Landes) and expose them to the dust and elements that I mentioned earlier is not a prospect I relish in the least. Of course, there are a number of cars I dearly want to take home and in a few instances I do (albeit from the much cheaper Greenhills merchants) but the times I don't buy anything far outstrip the times I actually plunk down the money for a new haul.

Window-shopping remains, for the most part, a preferable alternative to actual shopping, no matter how much money I have in my bank account. I may go home most of the time without anything, but at least it means I have one less new item to worry about storing, cleaning, or in general just maintaining somehow. And of course, I still have money in my wallet.

Friday, April 16, 2010

On High Horses

A healthy chunk of the criticism levelled at the movie "Kick-Ass" zeroes in on what most writers describe as its morality, or lack thereof, with the specific focus of that ire being the foul-mouthed, murderous 11-year-old named Hit Girl, played by Chloe Moretz. I will not contest that there is something off about the concept, and in fact I was initially put off from watching the movie precisely because of it. I mean, I have a four-year-old girl and the thought of casting a little girl in that role seemed revolting to me.

The thing about art, whether in literature, music or film, is that sometimes, in my opinion, it has to challenge our perception of what is good and proper, whether the end result is an affirmation of one's belief or a reexamination of them. I was genuinely curious about the film and ultimately decided that if I wanted to knock it, I would have to try it first. So basically, I walked in half-expecting to hate it, despite my efforts to suppress all expectations or preconceived notions.

Ultimately, however, I couldn't. I enjoyed myself too much, even though the movie definitely had its flaws. It be self-indulgent and it often engages in one too many nudge-nudge, wink-wink moments to fans of superheroes, but director Matthew Vaughn, whose "Stardust" adaptation I enjoyed three years ago, really seems to know how to tell a story. Sure, Hit Girl is a big part of that story and yes the violence is pretty disturbing, but to judge the film solely on the "morality" of the film while overlooking breakthrough performances by Aaron Johnson and Chloe Moretz and a fantastic return to form for Nicolas Cage is to allow one's own preconceived notions to curtail one's ability to appreciate an attempt at art on its own complete terms.

I think morality and art appreciation can be compatible, but I think it's important not to mix the two. The craft of a movie boils down to how it tells its story; the effectiveness of the script, actors, directors, visual effects, lighting, sound design, etc. (and in the case of a film like "Kick-Ass," its comic timing). It's why films like "The Birth of a Nation," and "Lolita" have remained in the public consciousness despite the former promoting one of the worst possible evils and the latter touching upon a relationship that, even today, would be not only taboo but grounds for imprisonment. It's morals are something else, and can be varying degrees of good or bad. The important thing, I think, is not to appreciate a film solely based on its morals or perceived lack thereof; for better or worse, these films are kind of like cultural touchstones, like clothes or music; they can tell future generations what past society is like. I'm not saying "Kick-Ass" does that, but by writing it off solely on moral grounds, one risks missing the bigger picture.

Not only that, but by insisting on moralizing about a film, like the Catholic Church did with "The Da Vinci Code" one ends up generating a whole lot of attention the film may or may not have received without all the pontificating. For example, the fact that the DVC sequel, "Angels and Demons" was, relative to its predecessor, a box office failure, offers some testimony to the mileage the original film got out of all its negative publicity. It could well go down in history as one of the films that really spooked the Catholic Church. Without all the hoopla, given the bad reviews and people who didn't come back for the apparent sequel (which did not contain any Catholic Church-bashing), it may have just gone down as yet another murder-mystery-suspense film, end of story. I suppose the reasonable conclusion here is: the higher up one gets on a horse, the farther the fall.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Some outdoor shots

With this new digital camera, I now have increased confidence in my ability to create some pretty spectacular automotive illusions. Allow me to demonstrate...

Maybe writer's block isn't so's allowed me to discover a whole new side to myself...

Friday, April 02, 2010

On Writer's Block and Chinese Spam (And I'm Not Talking About the Canned Food)

I've been writing a little something for myself since last year; it's a book I hope to be able to have published when it's done, or failing that, which I am able to self-publish. It's a fiction book; writing law textbooks, despite my profession, somehow holds very little allure for me.

Lately, though, I've hit a bit of an impasse. I've always known it was hard to write when one has a lot on one's mind, but when I finally got back to work on my little novel over the Holy Week what took me aback was exactly how much time I'd been away from it. According to the time stamp I had last written there on the 28th of January, or over two months before I got going again.

I thought to myself; I couldn't possibly have been working that whole time, so what exactly have I been up to?

I got my answer when I went over my various blog posts, film reviews, and discussion threads over at my toy car collector forum. Long story short, not very much and a whole lot at the same time.

I guess it's easier to work around writer's block or write without any real inspiration when one is basically writing off the top of one's head, as one tends to do for stuff like blogs and online fora (though I recognize that there are much more serious bloggers out there who put a great deal of thought into their online musings); sometimes it feels easier for me to sustain quick bursts of creative energy than to go through the agonizing process of structuring a narrative. This was clear to me when I read the book I've written so far and saw that some of it was pretty engaging and some of it kind of just blundered along. My up and down days affect my ability to write a longer piece of work, unlike a quickie blog post, which is either great or awful reading all by itself.

One downside of blogs like this one and multiply is that people I don't know from Adam sometimes post all kinds of garbage. The latest batch I'm getting is a bunch of Chinese spam which, thanks to the google translator, I have determined is an advert for some porn. Good grief.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

My Generation's Turn to Be Remade

One of the touchstones of my youth was listening to remakes of twenty-year-old songs, hearing my mother say "the original sounded better," and refusing to believe her. That was the eighties, and the songs being remade were either sixties' era songs or older.

As early as 1998, I should have seen that it would soon be the eighties' turn to get the remake treatment, when a mullet-wigged Adam Sandler starting poking fun at the era (in which he had clearly grown up) in his film, The Wedding Singer, which was set in 1985.

Twelve years after the Sandler movie, when everything from even the last year of the eighties is officially over twenty years old (and where the people born in 1980 are now turning 30), apparently people sitting up in Hollywood feel that the era is now officially ripe for the remaking. It's been in the works for some years, with such popular 80's properties as Transformers getting the big screen treatment and making a mint, but in 2010 the floodgates seem to have burst open, with everything from toys, TV shows and old B-movies getting either an adaptation, remake or sequel. Heck, even the Disney movie Tron, which bombed when it was first released in 1982 but which has generated a cult following since, will be followed up by Tron: Legacy, a sequel literally 27 years in the making.

To make a brief rundown of the films and properties getting the remake treatment, here are a few I've seen advertised over the last few months in no particular order: Clash of the Titans (based on the 1981 film), The A-Team (based on the popular TV series), The Karate Kid (based on the 1980s film series) and Poltergeist (based on the 1980 film). I remember watching the original Clash of the Titans.

Now, I have no intention of decrying the remake in general and bewailing the creative bankruptcy of Hollywood. That's just as tired and old as the people claim the remakes to be. Some of the films I truly liked have been remakes, including the Lord of the Rings films (there was a prior attempt to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien's saga back in the 1980s by adult-animation meister Ralph Bakshi)and Andrew Davis' 1993 film The Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. I'm not complaining, nor am I particularly happy to see it happening.

I just find it, well, in a word, funny to think that this day has come. So many of the things I enjoyed as a kid are so old they're getting made over with rock music and CGI. Boy this feels weird...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On Coming Out and Career Revival Attempts

The other day I wrote about some out-of-work screenwriter trying to grab (or re-grab) his 15 minutes of fame by writing a non-apology for his role in bringing the cinematic debacle Battlefield Earth to the big screen (basically saying "it's not the movie I wrote!"). It was such an oddity I had to give my two cents on it, and it was in many parts an entertaining read.

Now, official has-been pop star Ricky Martin has just come out of the closet. To the uninitiated, that means he's announced that he's gay. The funny thing about it is, the general public kind of saw the writing on the wall a few years ago when Martin sired twins by a surrogate mom (i.e. "you're marketed the world over as a Latin sexpot, and yet you have to get a SURROGATE to carry your kids instead of placing them in a woman the old-fashioned way, which is what arguably millions upon millions of women would absolutely love for you to do? WTF?"), and several people who were even keener (e.g. Barbara Walters) saw it a lot earlier than that. So, frankly it's about as "newsy" as George Michael's coming out. Or Elton John's.

So why do it at all? Well, I haven't really been following the music scene a whole lot for the last several years, but it strikes me that this guy hasn't had a whole lot of hits since his first English language album was released over ten years ago. Maybe in the post-Adam-Lambert-coming-out climate Martin felt that the market would be more receptive to gay singers than they would to aging Latin pop stars. Apart from the fact that I'm pretty sure Lambert is a better singer than Martin is, the thing about Lambert is that he has work that is currently on the radar. Martin, outside of his usual Latin audience, has apparently fallen well below it. Had he outed himself at the zenith of his career or even after selling a moderately successful album I believe the applause at his candor would have been a lot louder, but now he's only a few notches, if at all, above the aforementioned Battlefield Earth screenwriter. Maybe he'll come up with a follow-up revelation that he isn't really gay once it emerges that no noticeable bump in the sales of his albums has occurred.

Scriptwriters deserve to get work based on their skill and musicians deserve to sell albums that provide a great listening experience; this promotion-by-controversy/ shocking revelation business is quite honestly depressing. I couldn't give two shits if Freddy Mercury slept with men ; he was a rock god. Neither do I care if Adam Lambert is gay; the man has a great voice and he isn't shy to use it. But as much controversy as they courted, at least they let their music do the talking the loudest.

Well, Martin doesn't appear to be getting a whole lot of Yahoo! hits so maybe people aren't quite the suckers I'd figured them to be.

An Open Letter to Google Ads

Dear Google,

I confess I don't really understand how your ad placement system works, but it strikes me that right now, it's not working very wqell.

After Manny Villar started polluting my blogspace (and just about every other space on the internet) I went to AdSense and clicked my preferences; I made it clear that I DON'T want political ads on my blog. It strikes me that I was ignored; the ads continued, and it strikes me that the only reason they even stopped is that Villar must have used up his "Net" time the same way he has come close to using up his TV air time. One reason I'm sure that this is the case is that Villar has since been replaced by another senatorial candidate, this time one of those mass-murderers from the era of martial law who has managed to perpetuate himself in the political system by jumping allegiance time and time again just like every other worm in elected office and who would now seek to do so with your help.

How archaic is your filtration system that you can't even detect a simple political campaign ad for what it is? What kind of money have the candidates dropped into your bank accounts that you can summarily ignore your subscribers' emphatic pleas to be free of politics in their blogs, which for people like me are often a haven from the trials and tribulations of daily life?

Please, if my recalibrating my preferences didn't say it clearly enough, please TAKE ALL THESE POLITICAL CAMPAIGN ADS OFF MY BLOG!


This Irate Blogger

Sunday, March 28, 2010

If You're Going to Own Up, then Own Up, for God's Sake...

A curious bit of entertainment-related news popped up today: there's a story in the New York Post which is described as an apology by J. D. Shapiro, one of the screenwriters of the 2000 film Battlefield Earth for...well, the movie itself, though one presumes he only referred to his role in getting it made. It must have been a major role, as he received an "award" in the form of a Golden Raspberry, also known as a "Razzie" for his work on what has been voted as the worst movie of the decade (the 2000s). Shapiro received the award personally, and while in the case of people like Sandra Bullock and Halle Berry one can say they're simply being good sports, in Shapiro's case it would appear that he showed up because at the time he had nothing better to do.

His apparent unemployment aside, the piece is an entertaining read at first, in which Shapiro starts out by confessing that he only ever got involved with Battlefield Earth author L. Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology, and subsequently with the production of the film, because he wanted to get laid. There are a good number of chuckle-inducing passages on the way, and in some instances I even found myself laughing out loud.

Then, maybe about midway through the piece, the tone changes as Shapiro goes from blaming his dick for his participation in the production to blaming John Travolta and his people for overhauling his script. Now, I have no interest in defending this film but I have to say that if Shapiro had truly wanted to apologize for this movie he could not have picked a less sincere way to do it. Had he really wanted to tell everyone how sorry he was for even turning in a draft for what turned out to be a critically-reviled and commercially-shunned film he could easily have done so without resorting to the old "I wrote a different movie" chestnut. Instead, he seems to make the rather feeble suggestion that his draft would have made a better movie. The most he seems to apologize for from this point onwards is the fact that he even bothered to collect a paycheck for this film. As for writing it, however, Shapiro seems much more convinced that he had written a better movie than that which saw theatrical release.

Now, though I will take the trouble to point out that apart from Battlefield Earth this man seems to have no other screenwriting credits (or at least, none that a quick Google search could turn up), which would seem to suggest a desperate grab for attention here, but whatever his motives I think the real issue here is why Shapiro even bothered to preface his piece with the declaration that he had written the "suckiest" movie ever, considering that according to him, he didn't write the version everyone saw.

In this day and age of zero accountability (witness the execs of the Big Three who went to Washington with their begging bowls sometime last year and basically disavowed all responsibility for running their companies into the ground with their insistence on making, marketing and selling gas-guzzling pieces of junk) it would have actually been kind of refreshing to see a mea culpa, even if came kind of out of left field and was for a movie that everyone except the folks that award the Razzies has already chosen to forget (by no doubt suppressing their memories). It certainly got my attention, and if Google is to be believed, quite a number of other people's, too. Too bad it wasn't much of a mea culpa at all.

So really, if one wants to apologize, then one should APOLOGIZE, for the love of Pete, rather than make a ham-handed attempt to shift the blame to someone else mid-diatribe. Shapiro should just own up for his part in the disaster and then maybe the healing can begin. Assuming, of course there's even a ghost of a hope left for his screenwriting career...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Recycling Superheroes Part II (and Manny Villar is...Gone??? Thank God!)

I don't think it was even a year ago that I blogged about how Hollywood seems to be falling into the habit of recycling actors for roles in comic book movies. I guess the most dramatic possible illustration of how utterly insignificant my blog is to the folks over in Tinseltown is the fact that they have just done it again. Chris Evans, the actor who played Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four in the two rather unloved film adaptations of the comic-book, has just been cast to play Steve Rogers, aka Captain America in the upcoming feature film.

The sad thing about it is that I actually like Evans. I was willing to defend the second Fantastic Four movie and to a lesser extent the first one because of how perfectly cast he was as Johnny Storm (and how perfectly cast Michael Chiklis was as Ben Grimm, aka the Thing). When Twentieth Century Fox recently announced that they'd be rebooting the Fantastic Four film franchise I was genuinely hoping that he and Chiklis would be retained (though I also hoped that the Thing would be replaced with CG rather than his rubber makeup, which made him look like a pile of orange shit). I find his portrayal of Johnny Storm to be incredibly true to the character's comic book origin; he's cocky, he's a loud mouth, and he loves fast cars and hot women. Now, I don't know whether or not he has the acting chops to pull off a completely different comic book character in Captain America, and maybe he does, but as far as I'm concerned that's not even the point.

The point is that there are sooooo many actors out there, known and unknown, who could play any given role, including that of Captain America, that confining the choice to so very few as to include people previously cast as comic-book characters just feels like yet another symptom of Hollywood's collective lack of imagination. Evans, in particular, has starred in, apart from the Fantastic Four films, Push, a superpower-themed film, and is going to star in TWO comic-book based films this year alone.

Go ahead and make your comic-book movies with the same actor over and over again, Hollywood. Ask yourselves this, though; what would Iron Man have been like if Tobey Maguire had been given the role of Tony Stark, or what would Batman have been like if Christopher Reeve had been given the role of Bruce Wayne?

A little imagination can go a long way, please start showing some.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Aging Matinee Idols (and Manny Villar can eat my dog's day old shit)

It was weird watching the John Hughes tribute on the Oscars last night; though I hadn't seen all of the movies featured there I knew just about every one of the movie stars who appeared onstage to say some kind words about him, and even most of the actors who appeared in the clips that formed the montage of his body of work. And in those clips they were all so...very...young.

I was between ten and thirteen when most of the movies featured came out but I remember seeing those actors and basically figuring they'd never grow old.

Having seen so many of my actual friends die young, it's a bit of a paradigm shift to suddenly see people who seem to have abruptly grown old. I'm not talking about the people I see regularly, in person or on the big or small screen; watching them age before my eyes just as surely as they see me doing so before theirs is a markedly different experience from running into someone one hasn't seen for so many years and being hit in the face with the reality of age. I need no reminders of my own mortality, and in fact I find what I saw somehow oddly reaffirming; so much can happen between now and the day we die, and as long as we're alive it's largely up to us if what happens is good or bad.

In short, the tribute to John Hughes, to me anyway, had the desired effect; rather than mourn a death, the once-young icons who stepped up on the stage there on Oscar night ended up celebrating life. And as near as I could tell, they all looked their age, not all botoxed-up like Manny Villar.

Thank You Academy! (And DON'T vote for Manny Villar)

Having watched the 82nd Academy Awards earlier today, I wasn't treated to a whole lot of surprises as the people widely expected to win, well...did. It wasn't unlike seeing "Titanic" or "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" romp all over their rivals many years ago, though in this case the awards were slightly more evenly distributed over more films.

I won't spoil the winners for anyone who may blunder onto this blog post without having seen the show or read about the winners, but on a personal note I will say I was rather happy with the way the awards turned out.

Suffice it to say that just because the Academy had to cave in to pressure to make room among the Best Picture nominees for more...popular movies, they certainly haven't sacrificed their judgment when it comes to recognizing the movies they truly love. No, they stuck to their guns, and made a little bit of history in the bargain.

I'll say no more, but suffice it to say that this marks the dawn of a new day!

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Advertisement of the That Motherfucker Manny Villar

Several months ago I noticed a "monetize" option on my blog and recalled all of the wonderful stories I'd heard about people making money off their blogs. So I signed up for the program.

The thing of it is, this blog isn't particularly popular and I don't even have a whole lot of time to write it in it anymore, so I basically haven't been paid yet because it only gets remitted to me after the income reaches a specific critical mass. Well, next to nobody clicks on this thing, and the few people who do usually don't even comment (one of them insists on texting me instead), but I take some comfort knowing that I've earned x amount of cents at the very least.

But boy, the ad of Manny Villar that has been showing up regularly on my blog now for months really just pisses me off. It's the proverbial salt in the wound. I know and accept that people who write about useless, irrelevant shit make bucketloads of money through their blogs, and that some other somehow manage to get 15 minutes of fame because yahoo basically picks up their blogs for opinions on everything from fashion to events. I am okay with that; I'm okay that they're making money off their blogs and I'm not...but to see this asshole's mug smack in the middle of my blog actually discourages ME from posting on my own blog.

I can't stand Manny Villar. I think, based on what I've read and heard, that he's a liar and a thief and that there's a fair chance, if he's elected, that he will rape this country like no one ever has or ever will.

I've tried to call up the "monetize" option and take it off, but I really don't know how, so it's really frustrating.

If you guys at Google are reading this, please take this asshole's mug off my blog, even if it means losing ads. I'm not making any money off them anyway.

Yesterday I thought I'd found the solution; I clicked onto google ads and adjusted my preferences to exclude politics and current events. The next time I logged on I was pleased to see something else. Apparently, however, Villar's crew have found a way around this and have once again had Google reinsert his irritating face onto my blog. PLEASE, Google, recognize this bullshit as a political ad and BAR it from my blog!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

And Then There Were Ten...

Fans of The Dark Knight who gnashed their teeth over its exclusion from the race for the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2008 can take some solace knowing that, apparently as a result of the outrage, the Academy of Motion Picture of Arts and Sciences has expanded the field of Best Picture nominees from five to ten. As a result, this year, whereas those of us who follow the annual Oscar nominations would usually see a slew of art films with the token mass-appeal movie thrown in for good measure, now there are ten nominations which seem to be split evenly among the "blockbusters," or movies which have grossed over $100 million, and those which haven't. A lot of other bloggers who chose to voice their opinions around the time the nominations are released basically divided the ten among those the Academy among those who the Academy wanted to nominate and those they felt they had to nominate.

What do I think? Well, not that it really matters in the great scheme of things, but people take the Oscars a tad too seriously, more than they deserve, and this little episode is proof of that.

The expanded field is both a blessing and a curse; on the one hand they allow the Academy members to include deserving films that would otherwise be on their "almost" lists, but on the other hand, it creates a tendency towards "tokenism."

That doesn't strike me as much of an issue with films like District 9, which nabbed a slew of technical nods and even one for best adapted screenplay, or Up, hails from regular Oscar-bait-house Pixar, but considering that The Blind Side, a film I haven't seen, has as its ONLY other nomination one for Sandra Bullock's acting in a lead role, I smell an attempt to fill a quota. That just feels wrong on several levels, because either now the Academy is trying too hard to please the all-important TV audiences that keep their program relevant, or are showing absolute contempt for those very audiences by choosing films that, without the expanded system, basically wouldn't get the time of day from the Academy. So they're either pandering excessively to or showing their disdain for the general public. Either way, I don't see this ten Best Picture nominee system catching on too well in the long run.

Of course, that's just me.

But hey, if it means Iron Man 2 will be able to snag a Best Picture nod next year, maybe it'll be worth keeping around for just one more awards season...

Monday, January 04, 2010

Why the Environment-Friendly Blockbuster Film is an Oxymoron

Back when WALL-E was in theaters, apart from enjoying the film itself, I took additional pleasure from readings its mostly glowing reviews. One review, though, which seemed contrary just for the sake of it, made a scathing commentary on the hypocrisy of Pixar for pushing some anti-capitalist, tree-hugging agenda despite the fact that at the time the film was released Disney's partners and licensees were busy hawking tie-in products that were unabashedly profit-oriented like toys and t-shirts (my kids each have one of the latter). The toys, as I understand it, didn't sell real well and are now presumably gathering dust in bargain bins or warehouses. In short, they'll probably turn out to be a lot like the junk WALL-E had to compact and stack for 700 years. Now, the fact that such tie-in products exist is arguably not attributable to Andrew Stanton, who created the story and characters, but to the studio's marketing arm. While it's unfair to criticize the film based on the actions of the suits responsible for selling it, that doesn't mean Pixar or Disney deserve a free pass. The fact remains that on some level they greenlit the attempt to sell useless junk based on a film that precisely decried the effect that the long-term accumulation of useless junk could have on our planet. After the merchandising phenomenon that Cars turned out to be (with new lines still selling almost four years after the film was first released), it's not hard to see why the suits at Disney would try to sell products based on their film, but there does seem be something highly contradictory or paradoxical about hawking consumer products based on a film that seemed to condemn excessive commercialism.

This, I believe, is a genuine problem facing well-intentioned films that nonetheless require the capitalist system to get off the ground. I think it's also a problem that the studio that financed the openly environmentalist blockbuster Avatar had to deal with; to hedge its bets on the gargantuan budget, Twentieth Century Fox probably sold off as much of the film as they could to sponsors and licensees. I've seen the McDonald's tie-in toys and have read about the existence of Mattel-manufactured toy line (though mercifully I haven't seen any of it). I'm fairly certain that there are (or at least will be) such other products as t-shirts, video games, and novelizations (or comic-book adaptations) to boot. While the film decries the abuse of forests, the suits marketing it chop down trees to print books about the film.

Of course, this has no real bearing on the story or James Cameron's vision but as in the case of WALL-E there's something distinctly off about a movie saying "save the planet" while it is accompanied by dozens of tie-in consumer products, that will, upon their disposal, undoubtedly add to the already near-catastrophic pollution problem we are currently facing.

I still remember the absurdity of the attempts to cash in on the unique financial juggernaut that Titanic turned out to be; there were talks about a planned TV series or miniseries that would be set before the sinking. A sort of "prequel TV tie-in." By its very nature, Titanic was not the kind of film that would lend itself to any kind of sequel so people tried (and failed) to find other ways to make money off its mammoth success.

Avatar, with its fantastical worlds, colorful characters and creatures and cool-looking mechanized villains, is ripe for "toyhood," with one of the most exploitative capitalists in the business, Mattel, taking on the license (though high-end collectible manufacturer Sideshow Collectibles reportedly has some really cool stuff in the pipeline). Fox could have gone straight to artisans like Sideshow and maintained some kind of integrity by shying away from mass-market products as opposed to limited production but again, to guard their gargantuan investment they went for the cash in Mattel's pockets.

Thus, to get its message across, Avatar or any other hyper-expensive film with an environmentally-oriented message must use the very system it condemns. Though this is an understandable and necessary evil, I still can't quite wash the bad taste out of my mouth.

Maybe down the line such films can be funded the same way Barack Obama's presidential campaign was; through grassroots fund raising of some sort, then maybe we could get some solid message-oriented work from creators who didn't have to sell a little bit of their souls to get their films made.