Kong: Skull Island – Pointless Chinese cast member # 2

Hi Tian Jing – why are you in this movie?

If there’s one thing that’s really starting to shit me in modern movies it’s this new trend of Chinese funded movies that are inserting Chinese cast into the movies for NO FUCKING REASON!

It’s offensively stupid. In the two cases I’ve seen it, there’s been two female Chinese characters inserted for what I assume is a reason to market the movie to Chinese audiences on the Mainland. In both instances, the characters were just plain pathetic and really shouldn’t have been there. I could simply just ignore them, but the blatant insertion for localisation irks me and it’s a trend that I hope dies in the ass, asap.

In the first instance, we have Angela Baby in Independence Day Resurgence. Now don’t get me wrong, this was a shit movie whichever way you looked at it, but Angel Baby’s presence was nothing short of laughable.

Early into the movie she appears as one of a squadron of pilots, and that’s basically about it. She disembarks from a fighter plane, removes her helmet and tosses her long hair about her shoulders, looking all doe-eyed. From this moment forward she barely said two words, and became the automatic, unspeaking, love-interest of the nerdy pilot.

Case number # 2 is Tian Jing in Kong: Skull island. I heard good things about Tian Jing in the recent Great Wall movie, another movie I thought was poor. I was unimpressed with her there as along with the white-washed cast, she was clearly only included due to her limited English ability. Her actual acting ability left a LOT to be desired.

In Kong, I don’t think they even said her name. In addition to John Goodman and his African-american counterpart, she randomly showed up as the third member of their team en route to the island. I laughed when I saw her as when I saw Tencent Media in the opening credits, I was willing to bet money there’d be a Chinese actor/actress in the movie and boom, Tian Jing it is.

The thing here is – practically every other character, even the minor ones, were there for a reason and had lines. Tian Jing had barely 5, and they consisted of poignant things such as, “How big?” “He said we should leave at dawn. It’s dawn.” And that’s about it.

You just know that in China, her name will be prominent on the billboards – as if they’re stupid and this kind of bait and switch works on them. The sad thing is, it probably does.

I have no issues with Chinese cast. As someone who watches a lot of Chinese movies, I welcome it. But these inclusions as a human version of product placement can GET FUCKED. Seriously. #endrant

On the good side, I skimmed the cast for Wonder Woman – Tencent Media’s second movie endeavour and by the looks of it there’s no product placement Chinese.

The thing about Trump…

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I can understand how so many down-trodden American’s are looking to Trump as a saviour of sorts. Someone different. Someone from way left of field, not cut from the same mould as the politicians; who in their eyes, have failed them.

In many respects, I feel the same about the Australian government. I feel measures of frustration and infuration when I read about them. The constant bickering and inaction. The backwards thinking in regards to critical issues such as climate control, the disgraceful handling of asylum seekers and marriage equality. In short, our government sucks, whichever side of the fence you fall on.

I keep thinking it needs reform. Core structural issues that affect the country shouldn’t be mnaged by these incompetent fools who are assigned to a particular portfolio (often beyond their area of expertise) but something along the lines of Singapore – where an independant body of experts handle these things beyond the infuriating political body.

I can see then, where someone like Trump who is so far removed from the a-typical middle-aged white guy could have appeal. The key difference however, is this kind of person needs to have those left of field trait, but also be armed with the facts.

Having just watched the debate between Clinton and Trump I was not surprised in the least at the result. It was like watching a child debate a parent. There was no contest. The sheer fact that everything Trump says is either completely devoid of detail or directly contradicting (or denying) things he’s said on record in the past is telling. Clinton on the other hand answered everything with the cool, calm and collected head of someone not only prepared, but someone who knew what they were talking about.

IF Trump argued against her, backed by fact and knowledge, rather than the blathering babble of someone clearly out of their depth, then something akin to a landslide might occur. As it stands, Trump to his supporters is a clear indication of what the people want. They want something different – and I dont think that’s too unreasonable at all as I’d like the same in Australia. But when that something different is a dodgy, shit-talking, sexist, racist and questionably successful business-man like Trump however – until someone with integrity, passion for real change and armed with the facts comes along, we’re stuck with the same middle-aged white politicians who created this problem.

Berserk 2016 – Worth the wait?

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Ever since I was young I’ve enjoyed Japanese anime. Not the cutesy Pokemon/Sailor Moon type stuff that many people immediately think of when they see the word anime – but the heavier movies and TV series that often have cult followings attached to them. Series like Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo – all timeless classics. These types of stories are very much aimed at adults and are often surprisingly complicated when dealing with various scientific and political issues. Berserk, another old favourite has resurfaced this year and for once, is finally continuing the story.

Like most anime, Berserk is also adapted from its original manga and I’ll admit, as much as I enjoy reading/watching Japanese stories, I struggled with the manga. Japanese books/comics are effectively the opposite of their western equivilants – you start from the back cover and read from back to front. In addition, you’re scanning from right to left. I tried really hard to get used to this but it just does my head in, it feels so bloody weird!

The original Berserk anime came out in 1997 and follows the story of Guts (or Gatsu in the original manga), a swordsman noted for his strength and in particular, his ridiculously massive sword. The very first episode is present day and then quickly jumps back in time to follow a younger Guts as he hooks up with a renowned mercenary group known as the Band of the Hawk and the stories two other main characters, the enigmatic Griffith and the fierce warrior captain Casca. I won’t go into the story as it gets bizarre from that point, but I will say that Berserk is as unique as it is awesome.

The anime series ran for approximately 25 episodes and ended in a particularly dark place – and that was it. Short of reading the manga, there was no means of knowing what happened to these characters we’d grown to love – until 2013 when a series of three movies was released known as Berserk – the Golden Arc. These three movies effectively rebooted the series – following the same story but with newer (and not neccessarily better) animation – but frustratingly like the anime, also jumped back in time and retold the same story as the original 1997 show. Worse though, these movies of questionable quality skipped over most of the story (obviously limited timewise) and much of the character development suffered as a result. For someone new to the series this wasnt the best entry-point to the story.

But finally in 2016 we’ve been given a brand new series that continues the story. It starts with Guts fighting in a familiar tavern, but what happens there was not a jump back in time, but pushing forward! Woo!

And now having watched all 12 episodes of this first series (until it returns in 2017) I have to say the overall feeling is slightly under-whelmed. The animation itself is decidedly low-budget and has adopted this pencil sketch type technique which I assume is an ode to the manga but just makes everything seem a bit…shit. The character animations are jerky, the models a bit on the lifeless side and i guess the overall feeling is watching a video game from early 2000.

The story itself is not much better. I’m told from people who have read the manga that it hits all the key points but like the movie, it feels like it moves from one scene to the other with not a lot of explanation as to why. We’re introduced to this religious zealot known as Father Mogus and the Knights of the Holy Chain (basically like the Spanish Inquisition) as Guts tries to find Casca (who is still insane from the end of the original anime’s dark conclusion).

There’s fights with rather goofy looking demons, a range of odd new characters including a particularly annoying blonde with super tight curls, and well – there’s not a lot else to speak of. Guts is still pretty badass but i suppose the highlights are the comic interactions between the young thief-type Isidro and Puck the elf which tap into some of the things that make anime so enjoyable in the first place.

So while I’m keen to see how things pan out in the next series, I do have to say that Berserk 2016 was a bit disappointing and difficult to reccomend.

 

 

 

Everest – Mountain of Corpses

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Recently while in New Zealand, surrounded by mountains of the most epic proportions, I thought it somewhat apt to watch the movie Everest (as I was lounging in my hotel robe supping hot chocolate). Unfortunately only a mere handful of the mountains I saw were snow-capped, being too early in the year for such white beauty, so having gone a bit snow crazy (and bothering the crap out of my wife by mentioning it every few minutes), it was on with the movie!

These movies all tend to start and finish the same way – a band of adventurous climbers setting out during an acceptable weather window, only for it to go to hell. Generally it’s a combination of unexpected storm, climber tardiness and avalanches that cause these problems, and sure enough in Everest, the same held true.

I enjoyed the movie, and despite wondering why the annoying Kiera Knightly was cast as the main characters wife (sporting the most horrible kiwi accent attempt I’ve ever heard – and in such a small role that any actual New Zealander actress could have played it)– I enjoyed the fact it wasn’t a Hollywood’ised retelling of the 1996 climbing disaster. When the main character (Rob Hall played by Jason Clarke) was trapped and facing death, the manly Sam Worthington, climber-guide extraordinaire didn’t in fact rush up the mountain single-handedly to save him, instead played a very normal character offering support to those back at base camp. And oops sorry about the spoiler – but we both knew someone of note had to die, right?

More interestingly, watching the movie raised a few issues for me that I had not considered about Mount Everest. Firstly – it’s littered with corpses. There’s said to be over 200+ bodies up there in various states, from frozen, parka-clad bodies respectfully covered by their respective national flags, to night of the living dead style bodies with skeletal arms protruding from the snow. How would that be, climbing up a super-dangerous mountain known to have taken the lives of some 250 people – only to see physical evidence of it!

In fact there’s even one famous set of remains named Green Boots – the remains of an Indian climber who froze to death on the NorthEastern path to the summit. Climbers had to literally step over old Green Boots to get there. If you’re feeling morbid, fire up images.google and search for Everest Corpses – then immediately regret doing so J

The reason the bodies remain on the mountain is not simply some romantic notion that these people died doing what they loved, it’s because it’s simply too dangerous to remove them. Almost all of these bodies are in what’s known as the ‘death zone’ (I know – sign me up to be a mountain climber right this moment!!) – 8000 feet above sea level where there is not enough oxygen for humans to breathe. That’s approximately one third of the amount of oxygen you get at sea level – or in short, you’re not pulling in as much oxygen to your body as you’re breathing out.

To make matters worse, when human brains are deprived of oxygen they effectively shut down. In addition to winds over 320 km/hour, temperatures so low that any exposed body part can be subjected to frostbite and of course avalanches, swelling in the head can lead to headaches, hallucinations, general disorientation and a whole range of other niceties, none of which you want to occur at over 8000 feet on earth’s highest mountain!

But despite all of this, people just keep on going up there. Why? To quote the movie, “Because it’s there!” The thrill of achieving the impossible has always been a key motivator through human history and Everest is right up there, along with those psychos who free dive to such ridiculous depths that large numbers of them drown in doing so. But according to some of the older school Everest climbers – who did so before it became ‘cool’ and overrun by commercial climbing companies, it’s just not the same anymore. The romantic notion of climbing the forbidding, mysterious majesty of Mount Everest has gone with over 7000 summits achieved by some 4000 plus individuals. And what is the end result? A mountain that has become buried in various forms of human filth, rubbish and of course, dead bodies.

The thing about Essendon and the never-ending supplement saga…

I’m an Essendon supporter but by no means a die-hard. Admittedly by interest in football has really declined over the past decade, and my interest in the team even less so the past few years with the never-ending supplement saga that has been pervading the news continually. Yesterday, WADA has come out and finally found the team guilty of using banned substances as part of the clubs supplement program and as a result, 34 past and present players have been banned.

The thing that really annoys me about this is the emphasis that’s put onto players for being mindful of what goes into their bodies. Sure, that’s easy enough to say, and is really relevant when you have individuals taking a little something on the side to be unfairly competitive – the genuine cheats. But think about these guys for a minute.

Picture yourself as part of a professional football club, involved in the vigorous training regimes – your entire life is consumed by the game and being prepared for it. If the club has provided to you a vitamin supplement cocktail and everyone else you know in the team is using them – would you really doubt it? Why wouldn’t you think the club itself ensures that what is being provided is above board and legal?

Now I of course have not been in this position, but when I think back to my school football days, had the coach suggested and provided a series of vitamins or what not, I very possibly would have taken them (albeit naively).

Of course the players really should be asking – hey, what’s in this? But at the same time, it’s perfectly understandable why many/most haven’t. They shouldn’t have too! If you can’t trust your professional sports club, particularly in a game that’s supposedly clean like AFL – then who the hell can you trust?

The blame here should be adamantly on the team itself. On the management. The coaching body. The very people who should be ensuring that anything their players are taking that’s determined by them, is clean.

If beyond this a player is taking their own illegal supplements on the side, that’s a different thing entirely. Given what’s happened with this whole, dark scenario – I think it’s the players themselves who are really paying the far greater penalty than their superiors.

Domestic Violence – Australia’s Dirty Little Secret

Domestic violence is a re-occurring, terrible problem in Australia. There’s rarely a week that goes by without hearing about another woman being killed or seriously injured by their current or ex-partners and the inactivity of our government to deal with this issue is frustrating beyond belief.

Australia is often called the ‘lucky’ country, but these days I really wonder what the hell that actually means. Yes we might have beautiful beaches and be gifted with a whole range of other desirables, but I am becoming increasingly jaded by what we as Australian’s consider being lucky – for on a global scale we’re simply dropping the ball.

For a start we have our head in the sand about climate change, and our recent track record with handling asylum seekers is appalling. Our wonderful government beneath the recently deposed Tony Abbott (and good riddance to that clown) feels it’s more important to drop bombs on foreign countries or sink ridiculous amounts of cash into local anti-terrorism controls (such as the beyond stupid Border Farce) and yet women are dying in unacceptable numbers for no other reason than their male partners can’t control their anger.

Men do not have the right to hurt women. It’s that simple. Whether drunk or sober there is never an acceptable time for a man to hit a woman – let alone take her life. This problem has to stop!

Case in point – the other night I left my apartment in a high-rise building to go out for dinner with my wife. As I closed our door, I could hear what sounded like an argument in the flat opposite. I couldn’t make out what was being said although the woman did mention something about having a girl’s night with her friends or what not. I thought nothing more of it.

About an hour and a half later, we arrived home to a police car parked outside our building. Outside the building was a large male – maybe late-30’s or so, sitting by the building in a singlet and jeans. He gave me a guilty looking smile as I passed although I didn’t recognise him. When we got back up to our floor, there was a fist sized hole in the wall between the two elevators. And then another hole further down the corridor, and another smaller one in the wall between our apartment and theirs. We could quite obviously hear the police talking inside.

So there’s obviously been a fight between the two and in his rage this guy has punched 3 separate holes in the wall – the one between the elevators must have bloody hurt too as that wall is quite thick.

What if he had instead hit his partner? The sad thing is – in many cases like this, the guy does infact hit their partner – or in the case of a recent incident in Queensland – the man chased down his partner and continued hitting her until not only she died, but her face was unrecognisable.

How the hell do you do this to someone – let alone someone you have supposedly loved or cared for?

It pisses me off.

Thankfully with the recent change of government, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has sworn to address this issue. Whether you love him or hate him, good on him for finally taking some form of action. The cost of inaction has been appalling.

The day after the incident in my building, a friendly looking print-out was put over the hole between the lift saying, “Please excuse the wet paint!” with a big smiley face beside it (placed there by the building management – not the guy responsible).

I felt like crossing out the ‘wet paint’ and putting in ‘the results of a man who can’t control his temper’ – as this thing shouldn’t be kept secretive and behind closed doors – this guy deserves to be shamed and called for his actions. Too long has this been allowed to fester in the dark.