Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I Blame My Job

I blame my job for a lot. Let's see...

- Pale skin (though it's a bonus to Koreans, so perhaps this is a good thing?)
- The beginnings of carpal tunnel
- Terrible eyesight that's getting worse and worse
- Lack of time to do anything but work
- Frustration, anger, panic
- Pavlovian response to a ringing phone
- Steady diet of Diet Coke and saltines
- Horrible people

Not that it's all bad, after all. The pros:

- Money- it might stink and corrupt the best of us, but we all need it!
- Ability to type 75 words per minute
- Opportunity to work on movies
- Wonderful people

Okay, so the cons outweigh the pros. But still, it's a start!

Another big con is the fact that I will not and do not watch movies solely based on the appeal of said movie. No matter what kind of film it is, save for documentaries (and even that's iffy), all movies have visual effects in them. Maybe not a lot, and maybe only for necessary things like wire removal or to fix damaged film, but almost every single film? Altered in post-production in some way.

The problem with working on movies is that it has made me overly critical in the field that I know. That is to say, any digital effects are scrutinized and taken through the wringer, emerging with either a pass or fail. I don't have shades of gray when it comes to movies that I have not worked on, though I can fake it pretty well- "How was "Wanted," you ask? It was okay. The digital doubles weren't ... so ... great, but some of the explosion stuff was nice." Sounds so civilized, yet is so untrue. I hide my true colors beneath a veil of propriety.

This is all a rather long introduction to explain my reactions to a couple films that I've seen recently. I took advantage of Thanksgiving to catch up on TV (and mercifully delete some crap off my DVR) and watch movies.

First up is "Blood: The Last Vampire." I fully admit that the only reason I bought (!) the DVD is because (a) it was cheap and (b) I'm supporting my Koreans. Remember the Korean? Jun Ji-Hyun (전지현) was supposed to be part of the Hallyu Wave of 2009, one of the breakthrough Korean acts that 'made it' in Hollywood.

Yeah, not so much.

The limited release of "Blood" in the United States made it difficult to catch while in theaters. And because of the limited release, the marketing was non-existent. Unless you knew about the movie and sought it out, you weren't going to watch it.

It didn't do half-bad, considering, but it certainly didn't do well. And it was not the vehicle to propel anyone to stardom. I mean ... did you watch it??

I did. I did, and I laughed. Not because it's funny (it's funny) but because it's so funny without meaning to be. Jun Ji-Hyun (or GIANNA, as she was credited in the movie) was appropriately brooding and angry and kicky with her sword and pigtails, but she didn't quite get the cadence of American English. Because her character was Japanese and actually spoke Japanese during flashbacks, I thought leaving an accent would have been fine. But nooooo, she went and tried to be as American as possible, and it didn't really work. I'm sure the French director confused her plenty, along with the Japanese actors that spoke minimal English and then the English actors with their own accents, some more posh than others.

The visual effects. I don't know what to say, it hurts my brain just conjuring up the memory. So here are some snippets: fake blood, ghastly. Fully demonized vampires, even ghastlier. Color correction for mood and atmosphere, less ghastly but still regrettable. Shudder. On a sidenote, the poster! Why does Jun Ji-Hyun look like she dislocated her arms?? This is all they could come up with??

Yes, I own the DVD. And I'll probably watch it again, because I enjoy dissecting visual effects and seeing the seams and scotch tape that hold the thing together (poorly, in this case). I'm weird like that, what?

I also watched "Get Smart,"a movie that I missed purposefully when it came out. I refuse to pay $15 for a screwball comedy starring Steve Carrell. I love the guy, really, and I think he's funny, but he cannot hold my attention for the duration of an entire film. His movies somehow ... bore me. They're funny, but not so funny that I'm engrossed. They're not dramatic enough to pull me in emotionally. They're not over-the-top enough to repulse me. They're just ... there.

Better vfx than "Blood," of course, as there are no fully-CG characters and they had more money to play with. "Blood" had more of a distinct look and feel, though, whereas "Get Smart" was kind of generic, like all the other rollicking caper movies ("I Spy," "Johnny English," "Sky Kids," etc.). I respond very instinctively to lighting, which I think separates the amateur filmmaker from the paid professionals. Lighting and sound are two things that drive me bonkers in student films.

So. Flop and flop on both accounts. Not bad movies, necessarily. I knew exactly what to expect with each one and got it. Eh.

But now that I've happened upon my Hallyu Wave post, I feel compelled to comment on how things turned out, nine months after I wrote the thing:

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine," with Daniel Henney. It was a huge hit, very successful, made lots of money. I still have not seen it because frankly, I never found the time to. I'm sure that the next time I see it in a store than I'm shopping at, I will buy it. I bought "Blood," of course I'll buy "Wolverine," I obviously have no standards! With a budget of $150 million or so, it grossed more than $370 million just in ticket sales. Counting in DVD's and other peripherals, it's a very tidy profit for Fox.

"Dragonball Evolution," with Park Joon-Hyung (박준형) came and went with a whimper, didn't it? I still don't know what Chow Yun-Fat and Emmy Rossum were thinking when they agreed to be in the movie- perhaps they both lost bets with someone or other. It's rumored that the budget was anywhere from $45 to $100 million, which is pretty reasonable- it was a very vfx-heavy show, with lots of fire fx, which costs lots of money. It didn't even gross $60 million while it was out, a very disappointing showing. It never got enough marketing or air time, and April is a tough month for a movie that's really summer fare.

"GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra," with Lee Byung-Hun (이병헌), did very well, though not as well as "Wolverine." It had more money than "Wolverine," about $20 million more, but made $60 million less. Still not bad at all, and I'm sure that Paramount is more than happy to extend the franchise into as many films as they can. It's what studios do, after all. I had, strangely, no interest at all in watching this movie. Maybe because I knew people working on it, maybe because I never watched the cartoon or played with the toys, maybe because I don't like Sienna Miller for no good reason. Still have no interest in watching this one. Meh.

After the mega-hit of "Wolverine," Daniel Henney got cast in "Three Rivers," on CBS. I don't watch a single show on CBS. I watch NBC, ABC, HBO, TNT, even FOX shows, but not CBS. I have no idea why it is, but I've always considered CBS to be "old." Even with my best friend, Neil Patrick Harris, doing his hilarious thing on "How I Met Your Mother," I cannot bring myself around to CBS.

Between my CBS-based bias and the fact that "Three Rivers" looks like a lame and less-dramatic version of "ER" or "Grey's Anatomy" or "Private Practice," I never watched the show. And now, since it's been canceled as of yesterday, I'm never going on. Valiant effort, Henney- with a blockbuster under your belt, TV would have been nice to conquer.

Besides which, if you've watched "My Name Is Kim Sam-Soon (내 이름은 김삼순)," you would know that Daniel Henney, pretty as he is, cannot act his way out of a paper bag. He was supposed to be a doctor on that show. He wouldn't have convinced a deaf-mute, much less a hyper-critical girl (woman? sob!) that stares at pixels all day. Since he's broken up with his job, I hope hope hope that he gets a post-breakup haircut, because his long hair is hideous.

It's been a long day at work today, starting with me waking myself up in a panic, thinking it was 10:00 when really, it was only 6:00, then with a very long and tedious meeting that ate up five hours of my life. Having a blog is great for the times when I just want to spew stuff out and I need an outlet, to give my poor family and friends a reprieve.

I'll update as more Hallyu Wavers try to break into Hollywood, but given this past year, I ain't expecting much. "Ninja Assassin" and Rain are next, and they're already getting a beating from the critics. I don't expect to watch it until it's out on DVD, but I do think it'll make some money- with the relatively low budget (for a bigger studio) of $40 million, it'll turn a profit. It's already made around $30 million, I think, and has no where to go but up. I kinda like the poster, which obscures Rain's face. Not that I don't like his face, but the composition is interesting:

If only someone would give me $40 million to produce a film. I could do it, and it would have great vfx. Too bad no studio would entrust that amount of money to me!