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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Oh God Hollywood, Why!???


It is one of those places most of us dream of, fewer still actually get to live there, and even less make it in the thriving and competitive world of acting.

I have had some fortune to work and have projects there, having gotten my feet wet as an associate producer and start a production resume. Who knows, perhaps a few years from now you might be watching one of my own films, cross your fingers. For now I get to talk to people in production, casting, directing, actors, writers, and get to learn from as many of their brains as I can pick.  

With the multitude of talent and creative personalities you would think that Hollywood with all the resources that exist could get some things done right when it comes to video game movies.  

I know, it is easier to say then do, but I am sure when producers, directors and writers sit down to look at a potential film franchise they look at the potential gain vs loss.  For the most part you will want to make gobs of money to be able to continue in the craft.  Then you have the independents.  They want to get enough to make their vision so that when it presents at festivals like Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, New York, Miami Film Festivals, etc, They hope that the critical acclaim can help them gain more opportunity to be picked up by a studio or for them to get the attention of those studios for more "Studio" sized work.  

Then there are those in between.  

For the most part what can be seen are some studios looking at what can be banked on for the lowest amount of money, and are producing junk and wrapping it in the names of genre pieces we know and love to get us hooked to what ends up being trash.  You also have the copycats, where a small percentage of these people jumping onto a bandwagon to make money from the current trend or mood of a population.  I think for the most part many of us are fed up with this line of thinking and are tired of spending our money to go see something that turns out to be junk.  

To a degree I believe this is what makes the piracy of a lot of media such a huge problem.  If you don't pay a cent to download a movie or a song and it ends up not being to your liking, you can erase it and be done with it, no money spent to rent or buy, perhaps you didn't even pay to see it in the theater. However, if you do like it or it surprised you, you now have a file.  Most file types now are such high quality they are the same as the Blu-Ray without the extras, which you can download now too...

Me, in truth, I download everything off of IRC, If I like it I go buy it.  I support the studios and companies that produce good work, if it is awful - then to me it was a great preview - I don't sell it or give it away and in my mind if it were to appear on cable I would normally be able to copy it on my DVR so essentially downloading to me is not the same as piracy from the standpoint I have above.

I am sure there are others out there that will rampantly download and never pay for a DVD or a Blu-Ray. Either way we can see how this problem in some ways were derived from the rampant output of crap from Hollywood.

The reason for this note is, recently, I have been working with different groups as a project manager. Getting the opportunity to make suggestions and even work with Casting Directors from something as simple as holding casting calls in locations I utilize or participate in a casting selection.  I have become much more picky to what makes the most sense for choosing characters from any existing medium - because of these experiences.

I recently looked up "The King of Fighters" film that was put out last year and "Tekken" as well as the older "Dead or Alive" film.  I am noticing, that:

1) Studios, Directors, Producers and Writers are taking their own creative license to make changes to a film because they think it is better then what we as fans of this material already know and love...

In response to this, The reason we as an audience love the material is because of what it is, how it is done and the existing storylines behind it.  It is not a canvas for you random Mr. Director/Producer/Writer guy to alter it to your liking and assume we will embrace your vision.

2) Some of the Worst Casting I have ever seen that kills authenticity and hurts the artistry of the representation

My Response to this, Use what is needed.  If the role calls for Japanese do not assume "Asian" if the role calls for Jamaican or Brazilian don't assume "African" if the role calls for Greek or Roman don't assume "Classically trained British"

These things are important for us as an audience to absorb the best possible representation.  Here is an example - I wanted to take a look at a film called "Mask of the Ninja" simply to see how poorly this was done - Most of the cast were Chinese and American Actors.  many of the Chinese actors were actually Stuntman well adept and skilled in a variety of martial arts, but none of them had any realistic Taijutsu, Koga or Iga-Ryu training...This produced a lackluster martial arts film with the general "wannabe" acrobats and martial arts scene we have scene over and over.  Aside from this, the Ninja attacks occurred in the day time and with litle to no stealth movement being utilized and looked at appeared ridiculous, where you can clearly identify martial art techniques that were not of a Ninja or for that matter of a Japanese origin.

Two very different but better interpretations are "Ninja Assassin" and "The Last Samurai"

While Ninja Assassin was a hyper exaggeration of mythical Ninjutsu and Genjutsu (I have studied Koga and Iga-Ryu styles when I was younger) it kept true to the mythical concepts of Ninjitsu (we all know its not realistic, but when done right it is quite artistic to see), while it did not utilize many actors with the same and proper training they had solid consulting to maintain the image and concept of what needed to be preserved for the film to gets its message across.  Realistically speaking it appears to be a modern version of "The Hunted" which was for all purposes a solid work for its time with appropriate representation as well.

"The Last Samurai" Used an amazing Japanese Cast, and presented the scenario almost like looking through a window in time of how an attack from Assassin's from a Ninja clan would occur and how Samurai would essentially deal with it as it occurs (I have held "A Day in the Life" style seminars in proper costume at the Morikami Museum in Florida for what a Day would be like for Samurai and for Ninja - this topic always get me riled up when I see it done poorly).   

3) Use of things outside of its origination simply to copy or recreate something and have the audacity to utilize its titling or namesake...

Going through the casting for "King of Fighters" I noticed an actor Sean Faris was playing Kyo Kusanagi - he absolutely does not fit, but we will get to this film later.  Looking at his credits he is an accomplished actor for sure, but he has no appearance whatsoever to Kyo Kusanagi...He has a film coming up called "Freerunner" which is about a guy getting chased with a bomb on his him and he has to get from one point in the city to the other, he is listed as young freerunner...There are none of the original creators of Freerunning / Parkour in this film which is in my opinion a crime. To create a film about someone elses highly sought after accomplishments and not even have any of them on this film, which were Yahn and Frederic Hnautra, David Malgogne, Stephane Vigroux Kazuma, S├ębastien Foucan & David Belle.

All of these issues I am raging about are the reasons why so many films in production today targeting us are horrible. 

A perfect example as well is Uwe Bole - we hate his movies, I don't think there is one I have liked, yet I have seen them all, and we even got to meet him last year through conference at SGC (he was unable to make it physically to the convention) and I remember a conversation I had with Stuttering Craig from SGC - "You can tell him you hate his films and he will tell you, so what, I don't care, I enjoy making films and will continue to make films" and i remember Craig saying no matter what you think of the guys work you have to respect him for continuing to do it in a way.  While I agree with him on a few levels I would also say, that is great but how about you stick to what it is and not recreate something that is already beloved...

It's the reasons why we love Batman and Batman Returns - dislike Batman Forever and Hate Batman and Robin...Why we like Batman Begins, and ABSOLUTELY LOVE The Dark Knight...Joel Schumacher made Batman into a Rainbow of color and while we love Arnold, made him the big deal in the film and utilized an Actor we love for his emotional characteristics and for his way of conveying that in his face...Bruce Wayne is not outwardly emotional he is a man of few words and is brooding with his rage and inner conflict...That's why we hated what Schumacher did and cant stop watching Chris Nolan's Dark Knight...

I'm looking at the cast list for "King of Fighters" and It is making me sick...

They have some great actors in the wrong roles...Ray Park...I will be seeing him next week and they have him as Rugal...??? I can see how this could work, Rugal is the longest running boss for King of Fighters, its not a totally incorrect placement but wouldn't Ray Park's facial features, size and masterful and internationally known ability with a Quarterstaff be better suited toward Billy Kane... or Perhaps even as a younger Geese Howard 

Terry Bogard was David Leitch....????? Dear god, what have you done to my childhood, whats worse he is a cop with no real fighting ability...ARE YOU SERIOUS, and apparently Mai Shiranui is the main character along with Iori Yagami...  I don't even want to go into how badly this film was made, the total botching and rape, yes rape of the story and misused characters and omission of key figures...I don't want to turn this into a review of "King of Fighters" but it is so wonderfully bad, I challenge people to sit through it that know the game or its storylines and come back and tell me about the excruciating pain of it.

If you look at "Tekken" some of the casting was not bad even though some of those roles should have been switched with other characters (Like Gary Daniels as Bryan Fury and Luke Goss as Steve Fox), and the story of the film was garbage.  But it stills goes to show the concept of adapting something far off from the original.  The end of Tekken used weapons...which made no sense and the fight choreography was atrocious.  We did use 3 locations to help with Casting Calls, and some of those folks were pulled in as extras.  I even remember a friend of ours who really wanted to audition for Julia Chun (she actually looks like her but cosplay and acting are two different things, didn't have the heart to be brutal with her)

Dead or Alive was roughly in the same level of these films but it actually was much more entertaining, the ending scenes were absolutely ridiculous but all in all worked well.  The casting was fairly decent and the fight scenes were great, the rest of the film was lacking.  

I simply think Hollywood, Hong Kong, Tokyo and the like need to really pay attention to what the fans love, you dont have to get the highest paid celebs out there, you can use new faces, don't go for the wrong situations I have stated above. Authentic is always better.  

Don't get me wrong the concept of Acting is to be something you are not and portray it well, and this can be done well by some people out there like Scott Adkins (Undisputed II-III, Ninja) who played a Russian in Undisputed II-III and did so really well.  I am sure good actors can make us sit through a film of those characters that they are not and make us believe.  But there is for the most part acting that, in the moment, we can't believe the person in the role you lose us and thus the audience.  

I can go on about "artistic license" in a film by directors, producers and writers - Legend of Chun Li, Dragonball Evolution, etc.  The point is we don't want your version...we want the version we already love.  Choose wisely the actors and the people that fit, don't just fill in the blank with pre-madonna A and pre-madonna B simply because the actor wants the role or lobbies for it, choose the right group of people to bring to life what we long to see because a lot of the material available is great for films but we are not dumb fans, we know we are looking at garbage when we see it.   Hell give me a call, I'll consult, and If I don't know, I'll get the right person who does to point you in the right direction.

I realize at this point I am burning a hole in my keyboard as I type this, and I have more to write in my book but that is another story.

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