As August trudges into its third week, it’s becoming more and more clear that any semblance of quality has long left us behind for the summer. This rings true in yesterday’s Solar Eclipse, the latest from the sky, which has given us monumental classics in the past, such as clouds. But this new phenomenon from the above atmosphere rehashes elements we’ve all seen and attempts to package them to the masses as something new and exciting.
The Moon (whom you may remember from night) makes a rare, and dare I say unwelcome, daytime appearance in this spectacle which this reviewer found to be out of character for the C-Grade celestial body. This Lunar hasbeen then proceeds to inch its way in front of the Sun and remains there for what feels like an eternal two minutes and forty seconds. The result of this over-hyped anomaly being a shroud of darkness that covers American soil.
Of course, the Solar Eclipse has already amassed a sizable amount of interest from the hoi polloi. Slack jawed mobs couldn’t be more excited by the prospect of of everyone’s second favorite sky-ball receiving some day play. It might be just under three minutes of novelty air time for the space rock now, but what next? Five minutes? An hour? As far as we know, this may be a marketing ploy to boost the reputation of the Moon and gauge public interest. Would Millennials care if they did away with the Sun all together? Not likely.
When I was a child the Sun was admired – treasured. The Sun represented good, American ideals. It’s a star that pulled itself up by its bootstraps and worked hard to make it in this industry. And how is the Sun portrayed in this Solar Eclipse? Why, as the villain, the evil tyrant, only there to be stomped out by the Moon. Yes, the Moon is certainly the satellite of the new generation, justified in taking that which he hasn’t earned: the position of our dear friend, the Sun.
So keep your fidget spinners, your dabbing, and your Moon, kids. I’m sticking with America’s Sun, thank you very much.
“Why does Ash Ketchum never age?” is the most burning question on the internet pertaining to the Pokémon anime, right after why Ash never has a girlfriend and why Ash never wins.
I came across a few theories in my research for this post that attempted to give explanation to the character’s fountain of youth: One being that Ash was blessed with eternal childhood by Ho-Oh because of his childhood awe of the Pokemon. Another theory is that thing where the character is actually in a coma and imagined their entire adventure, which is a really boring and unimaginative idea that can be applied to any narrative and I’m still shocked whenever I see people still bring it up.
But I actually have the answer to Why Ash Ketchum Never Ages: Because… he’s a cartoon character.
Alright, maybe that’s sucking all the fun out of the question, but it’s true. If you look at other decades spanning animated TV shows like The Simpsons, Arthur, South Park, Scooby-Doo, the characters don’t age. Or they revert in age, if you count A Pup Named Scooby-Doo.
But then why do people only wonder about the agelessness of the the famous Pokemon trainer? Bart Simpson never ages and I’m not inundated with a YouTube homescreen of videos wondering why.
We want Ash to age because we’ve aged. We’ve all taken the exact same journey he has through the video game, which does an excellent job of making the player feel like they’ve grown.
As you progress your Pokemon get stronger and they physically change in appearance, you become better and catching and battling Pokemon, you leave a small town and discover big cities and caves and forests and mountains, and when you reach the end you feel like you’ve grown beyond the small town boy you were at the beginning. Ash’s eternal pre pubescence feels out of place in a story that intrinsically is about growing up.
“Why Ash never wins?” follows the same logic. We’ve become the Pokemon League Champion a handful of times and Ash regularly forgets type advantages. Although I think he has a better chance of becoming a Pokemon Master than actually reaching eleven. If he’s never going to have a birthday at least give the kid a win.
The movie season doesn’t end until the Oscars air, making my 2016 Top Ten list still super relevant and topical. So here’s my list and a few words about each film. And maybe some real mild spoilers for some of the films.
10. Kubo and the Two Strings
The beauty of this film is obviously the first thing that anyone will talk about because maybe it’s not the strongest narrative, but it is one of the best movies I’ve seen take on the scope of an epic in the average running time of an animated film and pull it off. It’s a very simple story existing in this massive world the audience feels a part of. It’s also a film that follows your basic good and evil storyline and delivers a wholly creative and satisfying end.
9. Hell or High Water
A “get in, get out” straightforward neo-western that’s too much fun to actually win best picture. While it at some points haphazardly swings at a theme, it does strike gold on occasion, really legitimizing what had every right to be just a fun cops and robbers flick.
8. Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea plays its drama like mystery, making the audience the detective and offering amazing performances as lil’ clues. It’s a simple story of grief, and characters moving through life after loss, expertly written. A conversation about selling a boat becomes as intense and captivating as any thriller.
Moonlight feels like a classic, and is my pick for pretty much every category it’s nominated for. Every shot in this film you see and feel from the protagonist’s perspective, which is no easy feat as the movie takes place at three vastly different stages in his life. It tells a love story that you feel every moment of through every person who worked on this flick. This is the kind of movie that already feels like a classic. A film people will go back to and ask, “How did Moonlight do it?” Because Moonlight does it all.
This movie is so good it makes me think about everything I do. It’s a tough movie to talk about as a man, but it’s certainly one to reflect on. Every man in Isabelle Huppert’s life displays aggression, some broadly and others in simple actions. Everything is different in the world of a rape victim. Every interaction and decision is different. It’s this realism combined with the well played “who done it” elements that really make this movie.
I don’t think I’ve seen a mystery film as succinct and relevant as Zootopia. Disney builds upon its ability to construct great stories, memorable characters, brilliant world building and weaves it all into a genre film. I’ve rewatched this one the most partly, I think, because of the perfectly fast pace and partly because I just want to be back in Zootopia.
4. Don’t Think Twice
I think I laughed as much as I cried while watching Don’t Think Twice. It’s rare to find a film with an ensemble cast where you care just as much about every character and their story plus the larger story all these characters play into. It forces you to fall in love with this group and then understand why it must be destroyed.
3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
I became a massive Taika Waititi fan right before this movie came out and my love was only enhanced. I guess you could describe this movie as an action buddy comedy, but that genre doesn’t have very good association. It’s like those old, old trailers, “You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll be on the edge of your seat!” I don’t think there are many films that can pull all of that off anymore, but if there is Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the shining example.
2. Swiss Army Man
Swiss Army Man is the weird movie I wish more people were recommending. The Lobster is a movie I heard a lot about this year, but while The Lobster makes its weirdness alien, Swiss Army Man invited you into its weirdness, paying off its more than fair share of farts in a meaningful and heartbreaking manner. You will cry at a fart.
I’ve heard Sing Street described as a “feel good movie” so many times, even though this movie does not end on the happiest note and I think it’s because you can strongly compare it to another musical that came out this year about making it in an artistic field. But what Sing Street does is perform this fucking magic trick, where the weight of success seems to be heavier and at the same time less important. The characters in Sing Street might actually die if they don’t Make It, but all we care about at the end of the movie is the love we feel between the three characters on the screen. This other musical posits that you can choose love or success, but Sing Street knows that our relationships make us better artists.
It was starting to feel like something I was missing out on. It wasn’t until the sixth sequel was released until I found out this was a huge blockbuster franchise that people saw and talked about and shared opinions like, “Oh, it really doesn’t get good till the fifth one.” I wanted to have opinions like it doesn’t get good till the fifth one, too! And the more I heard about Fast and/or Furious the more I realized I needed to dive deep into this tritan of summer cinema nouveau (AKA Vin Diesel’s pecs) and rub my greasy pop culture addled op-ed (AKA my penis) all over it.
Day 1 – The Fast and The Furious (2001)
Going in I didn’t know much. I could tell that the cars went fast and that furious was personification. I knew Vin Diesel was in the series, and that he probably got the job based on his name alone. And I was pretty sure The Rock showed up at some point but I wasn’t sure.
The flick starts by reminding us it’s 2001 with flying chrome graphics and generic hip-hop. Every scene is bathed in reds and oranges, giving it that hottest day of the year vibe.
I previously knew Vin Diesel from The Iron Giant and Guardians of the Galaxy, where he shows off a specific set of acting skills, but The Fast and the Furious is where he sets himself apart, since every character is the exact same and he plays that character the best. Diesel plays Dominic Toretto (it should be the other way around, right?), a tough guy who loves street racing. There’s his sister is Mia, a tough girl who loves street racing. His girlfriend, Letty, is crazy about street racing, but watch out she’s pretty tough. His best friend is Jesse, he’s a street racer with a bit of a tough guy edge. And finally Brian, the undercover cop who knows a thing or two about racing cars, but can handle his own in this underground world of crime due to his overall tough demeanor.
I think I created this blog at one point to talk about movies and that never really happened, so let’s give it another shot.
Here’s a thought I had on Captain America: Civil War that was a bit longer than a tweet, and yes there will be spoilers below this point.
One of the bigger criticisms of the Marvel films is that the studio no longer lets them stand on their own. Civil War being the latest example of this which feels less like Captain America 3 and more like Marvel Adventure 13, with each new movie relying more and more on the ones that came before it and giving you preview of future movies to come. These bits used to be relegated to a post credits sequence and were always looked forward to.
But then, Avengers: Age of Ultron happened, featuring a now infamous scene of Thor taking a quick vacation from the plot to lay pipe for some other Marvel movie (Thor 3? Avengers 3?) we’ll be seeing a few years down the line, which involves Thor grabbing his buddy Stellan Skarsgard and heading to a remote cave where he takes a bath and sees the infinity stones, then hops back into Age of Ultron.
My 100% guess for why this scene exists is that Marvel realized they couldn’t make two to three more movies with a rock McGuffin and so put it on Joss Whedon’s shoulders to quickly give some infinity stone weight and explanation to Earth bound Marvel characters.
There were rumors that one of the reasons Whedon left Marvel was because of his lack of control over Age of Ultron. And with scenes like Thor’s bath time it’s clear why. But it didn’t have to be that way and Civil War gives us a look at what we could have had in place of the exposition jacuzzi.
Spider-Man adds nothing to the story of Civil War. He doesn’t affect the story, he doesn’t affect the characters and he doesn’t go through any significant change of his own. He’s introduced for a fight and then he’s gone. Everything he does is clearly a setup for Spider-Man: Homecoming, but now I really want to see Spider-Man: Homecoming. Every scene he’s in is fun. The character is charming and the way he interacts with the other MCU heroes is exciting. When Marvel charged the Russos with the task of setting up future Marvel films they made it fun to watch.
Black Panther, too! Ultimately does not add much to the story as a whole. His goal is to track down Bucky, and when he finally does, he overhears some stuff that changes his mind. But was interesting as hell, well performed, had an original fighting style that looked like nothing else in the MCU. These characters are essentially back door trailers, but they’re effective trailers.
Since we don’t know the payoff to the Thor/infinity stones set up yet, it’s hard to suggest a better way it could have been done. But Whedon did know the end goal, and instead of working out something better, he shoved the Marvel sanctioned scene into a space it did not belong and then stood behind confused and upset viewers going, “I know, right?”
This is how Marvel is going to be making films now. Setups and payoffs overlapping each movie. You’re going to have to eat your vegetables without getting dessert for a few years. So, you can be Whedon, shoving the broccoli down our throats, or you can be a Russo and make such a well thought out meal, you don’t even realize you’re getting your veggies.
After thinking I had hit snooze on my alarm, I woke up an hour later than I wanted to and then found out if I didn’t catch the bus in one minute then I would be late for work, and I really didn’t want that half point so I threw on my costume and ran out the door. It must have been the first day in years I didn’t shower and I could feel it. The sweat from the previous day and the night before covered my layered my skin and my hair, matted and greasy, only got worse as the eleven hour work day went on. At some point in my morning I realized I had forgot my invitation for the Osborne Dancing Lights launch party which started an hour after my shift ended. I took the bus home after work, met Nora and Anastasia at Vista, took the fastest shower and caught an Uber to Hollywood Studios.
And then my bad day was over. Standing in the middle of the Streets of America, where all you can see is Christmas lights that cover every inch of every building and fill every peripheral was an incredible experience. I’ve never seen anything like this display that dances to songs like Little Saint Nick and What’s This. I spent the night staring up and the colors and the snow and drinking hot chocolate and running into friends I saw. It was a sudden and welcome jolt of full body holiday spirit, and my only regret is that Marina wasn’t there to share it with me. I saw a couple holding each other and watching the show and the snow and hearing the music, I said out loud, “Fuck, this is romantic.”
When people ask me about my DCP I will bring up the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights. They truly warmed my cold frozen heart. It’s Christmas now, mother fucker.
It’s safe to say there’s never been a good movie adaptation of a video game. Hollywood has tried deviating from the source material in Super Mario Bros. (1993), to replicating so hard it hurts in Doom (2005). The video games that remember for the story marry that story so well to the game that separating the two would be to lose most of what made it great in the first place. Everyone wants to see Zelda as a film, but the plot of Zelda is collecting a bunch of things to defeat a big baddie, and that doesn’t sound like a movie, it sounds like a game. Okay, so what about a game where the plot is almost inconsequential to the mechanics? How do you make a movie out of a game with almost no story at all?
Animal Crossing, or Animal Forest as it’s known in Japan, was first released in 2001 for the N64 and has since seen success in sequels, most recently on Nintendo 3DS. It’s a game where you play as a human who moves into a town of anthropomorphic animals. You fish, you catch bugs, you pay your mortgage, you make friends… and that’s pretty much it. The game gives you very little objective, very little motive and there is no concrete plot or ending. It goes on forever. And I’m not talking about The Sims, where it goes on forever if you do everything right. In Animal Crossing there’s no winning, there’s no losing, there’s just… tree shaking. So how do you make that a movie?
The Animal Crossing movie was released in 2006, not long after the release of Wild World and follows that game the closest.
“Animal Crossing movie? That’s dumb as shiiiit!! What’s it about a person who gets a house and makes deliveries to pay off her dumb house and eats cherries and shit??” -You, The Reader
Yup! The first act of the movie, that’s exactly what it’s about. Ai is a girl who moves into the Animal Village and takes on the role that would be filled by the player. She gets a house and does work for Tom Nook who asks her to meet everyone in town. That part in Animal Crossing where you just want to explore the village and start living your life but the Raccoon/Tanookie is like “You work for me now!” and ‘Meet everyone in town and don’t come back till you do.” And then you think you did and then you come back but you missed one person so you run around everywhere trying to find them and it’s super frustrating and boring. That’s the movie. Well, that’s the first ten minutes of the movie.
If we take the game and split it into acts, the tutorial would obviously be the first act. This is where we get a setup of what the game is about, helping your animal friends out and paying off your loan. But when directly translated to the film it doesn’t work. They set up that Ai needs to pay off her loan but it never comes back in the film later on. We now know she works for nook and there’s a cranky mayor and a pelican that works at the post office but there’s no payoff. In the game all these characters serve purpose and introducing them with distinct personality is a way of making the town real. In movie it’s useless and boring. It’s like watching someone play the game. Any entertainment value comes from a “Wow, remember that part in the game?” factor, and “That’s just like in the game!” Aside from the look of the film which is very pretty with its water color backgrounds and adorable characters. A 3D to 2D style change can be difficult as we’ve seen with most Pixar merchandise, but the filmmakers pull it off.
But back to the story. Introducing all the shop owners and various NPCs in the game opens the world up. You feel like you’re part of a living town with lots of personality. You could make the argument that this serves the same point in the movie, which would be great if the movie were about the town, but, oh no it isn’t!
Here’s the plot of the movie broken down into the three basic parts
1. Sally and Ai’s Friendship
This is the part of the movie the filmmakers got 100% right. In the beginning of the movie Ai meets Sally, an elephant that Ai bonds with over Sally’s ambitions of making clothes. Two things you can attach yourself to emotionally as someone who’s played the game. We’ve all had villagers that we like whether it’s their personality or character design, we get it. We all have favorites and Ai’s favorite is Sally. Also, Sally likes designing clothes, an activity you can actually do in the game. Making designs was never my thing but people love it and we can understand why this Sally would love it too. And then Sally moves away without telling Ai, something that happens in-game a lot. Ai is super upset about her favorite villager leaving and the audience gets to sympathise with Ai. It’s a nice emotional moment that the game can’t capture because this idiot always has a dopey ass smile on his face.
You just lost your best friend and he feels nothing! But Ai’s emotion validates our own. It takes elements of the game we know and builds on them in the new medium in a way the game can’t. That’s great video game adaptation.
Too bad the rest of the movie wasn’t like this!
2. The Romance
This one might be more of a personal point but I really did not enjoy watching these adorable animal characters talk about each other’s sex lives.
In the game, friendship is a huge theme. Making friends with the villagers is pretty much the whole thing. And even though there might be a huge demand for it online, you can not fuck the villagers. So, it’s really unsettling when all the villagers in the movie gossip about the wolf character and the eagle character’s former relationship. I think this stems from the fact the animal crossing is somewhat of a utopia simulator. It’s a perfect place to hang out and help make more perfect. Adding drama that really throws off the mojo of the game. It’s unnerving to know there’s some secrets in this town. I wanna be friends with everyone and help each other out, not live in Twin Peaks where villagers are fucking behind each other’s backs and you don’t know what’s what. Not to mention the this story has no conclusion really. It’s referenced here and there and I think is supposed to be a world building device. It’s just not the world they should be building.
Kind of the biggest storyline in the movie is… aliens. And I have a feeling there’s a large portion of people who’ve maybe played an animal crossing game but did not play Wild World so I’ll explain the best I can. In the game Gulliver, who’s usually a sailor that gives you treasure, is an alien. Or at least thinks he is. It’s not exactly clear. It’s a side quest. He shows up sometimes, you find his things, you give them back, he sends you a new item for helping him out. It’s in no way what anyone would describe as a finale or a conclusion to Animal Crossing, even though it is the end of the movie. That would be paying off your house or having a perfect town. Goals that take a long time and that you set yourself. But in the movie, after Sally leaves to fulfill her dreams Ai starts searching for her own purpose in life because she realizes that she has no real interest or ambitions and she’s wasting her life, but it’s explored through this adorable cherry pie metaphor or something. And that’s when aliens send Ai a map of where to plant trees in her town, and Ai decides that this is definitely her destiny and we’ll all just pretend we buy that.
This did remind me of an existential crisis you might have if you’re playing Animal Crossing for the first time. If you’re going in fresh, and you’ve never played an open-ended game or a simulation game, I would probably tell you to pick a project. Decorate your house, collect fish and bugs, design your town or make clothing. You have to make your own fun in the game, which seems to be exactly what Ai is looking for. So one character’s “cherry pie” is designing clothes, and the other’s is Close Encounters.
If you take a step back and look at this movie it seems good. It looks like Animal Crossing, the music is right, the art is right, it’s got all my favorite characters doing all the things I like them to do. But, just like any other adaptation, the faithfulness to the game ultimately doesn’t mean the story will translate to a different medium. With no concrete plot, you’re mostly adapting tone, which is hard to achieve when every player’s experience is unique.
Real quick here, when I started writing this post Animal Crossing was the only adaptation I had seen of a video game with no plot, and then I found Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures.
It’s… incredible, in the worst kind of way. Pac-Man is in high school and behaves much like Poochie. It’s action sci-fi/horror/terrible hack comedy. And as the theme song tells us, “Pac-Man yo, Pac extreme He’s a chowing down machine Ghosts, monsters, ghouls And only one can stop them Pac-Man rules”
So I guess my final thought here is, thanks Animal Crossing for not being as bad as you could have been.
Laura is stuck on a farm in the middle of nowhere, hidden away from society, raising three kids, while her husband has convinced her and everyone else that he’s an important part of a team of actual superheros. And even when Clint’s not off fighting Ultron and Loki, is he home? Nope. The first two times we see Hawkeye is when he’s sitting around guarding Thor’s hammer (and then does nothing) and then sitting around guarding the Tesseract (unsuccessfully). Shield probably wanted to get guys with guns for these jobs but Clint, being the neglectful father and husband he is, insisted on doing it himself. Maybe in Avengers 3, Laura will dump Clint and end up with Captain America, a goddamn wood-chopping, gentleman.
Tony Stark, opting out of using Microsoft Sam, decided to make his new AI software, like, super scary by hiring James Spader. And since none of the other Avengers recognize his voice we can assume that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that Sex Lies and Videotapes bombed and James Spader is forced to take the job of recording every word in the dictionary for Stark Industries. And since the project is top secret science stuff, Spader probably didn’t even know what his voice was being used for until he saw murdering robots on the news that sounded familiar. And now he has to decide if that’s something he wants on his resume.
Vision’s Pants Bulge
Most of the Avenger’s outfits don’t leave much to the imagination, but Vision’s, ahem, bathing suit zone fuels the imagination and baffles the mind. If what that is, is what we think that is, why is that there? Vision was created by Ultron and Dr. Helen Cho, under the influence of Scarlet Witch. So one of them must have put it there. Either Ultron had a short list of things to do once he acquired an organic body that included boning, or Cho thought, “So, a giant evil robot is telling a witch to put a magic spell on me to create a human body out of a made up element from a made up country, I’m at least going to get laid.”
Once a badass super spy seen breaking free from the clutches of the Russian mafia and the omnipresent Hydra, Natasha spends a chunk of this movie trapped in what looks like a rusty kennel, and can only escape when it furthers the emotional arc of Bruce Banner, much like Roger Rabbit who can only escape when it’s really funny. But Black Widows greatest victory in the movie is when she one ups Hulk’s sad sack story with her own. You did that yourself Bruce. Quit complaining. (Cue Natasha hitchhiking down a road with sad music.)
Marvel’s most recurring character took a bullet in the first Avengers movie, in what was an emotional and impactful death scene, only to be brought back a few months later on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Tuesdays on ABC! And the poor agent who died, but then didn’t die, but still had his trading cards ruined, didn’t even get to tell his super pals that he’s alright. As far the Avengers know, Coulson is still dead and the Agent that once hung around with Super Soldiers and Gods is now stuck leading a group of D-level characters (Tuesdays on ABC!). But that’s okay ‘cause according to a tweet from Joss Whedon, Agents of SHIELD isn’t canon with the MCU films and Coulson is actually dead in Age of Ultron. But, then Marvel’s twitter account tweeted that SHIELD is canon with the MCU. But actually, none of this is real and Disney has just found a way to make money off childless adults, but you don’t mind because looking forward to five movies at a time distracts from the inevitability of death.