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The Last Airbender: Why it is so bad

M. Night Shyamalan what have you done to the Last Airbender?

Last Airbender

I know I am a bit late on this one, but let me explain. In the beginning of July The Legend of Korra got a blu-ray release. As an animation fan I bought it. I immediately fell in love with it :-). Because I liked Korra’s adventures so much, I soon started to get into Avatar: The Last Airbender. I was very impressed and now love both series. Maybe I should have known better considering it has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 6 %, yet I could not help myself but become interested in the movie adaption afterwards. Boy, what a mistake :-).

First things first: It does not matter whether you have watched Avatar: The Last Airbender on Nickelodeon or not. This movie is a complete mess regardless. There is no coherent plot and everything feels episodic. Mainly it is just a few situations without any obvious interconnections. There is some dull narration to explain all the time jumps, but it just feels messy. Basically if you have watched the first season of the cartoon the movie feels like an extremely condensed version that skips all the character development. It just throws in the most important action scenes without any of the buildup. And because of that there is no tension at all. You just don’t care about anything on screen cause you never got to know the characters in this movie. And they really don’t have much to do with their incarnations in the series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

In the series Sokka is a sarcastic but extremely brave and loyal smartass. In the movie all his personal traits are gone and he is just some generic warrior. Katara is a caring but too worried girl in the series. In the movie she has no personality at all. All she does is either look  desperate or stare longingly at Aang. The later is a moral but playful boy with an interesting mixture of childishness and wisdom in the cartoon. In the movie Aang almost feels like he has a serious depression. (And why the heck did they change the pronounciation of his name???)

There is also a LOT of miscasting The Last Airbender. Worst is Nicole Peltz as Katara. She does just stare desperately all the time. And what did Shyamalan do to Iroh? He is an old man with a funny attitude and a lot of hidden wisdom in the cartoon. In the movie he is a middle aged man that is just dull. Boy but emperor Ozai might be even worse then Kitara! Cliff Curtis feels like a  fat sleazy businessman here. The movie incarnation has nothing in common with the mysterious martial arts master Ozai is in the cartoon.

My rant could go on and on, but I guess you get the picture. Stay away from The Last Airbender and just watch the fantastic cartoon. If you have not watched the Nickelodeon series and check out the movie you will just be either bored or confused and wonder what the fuss was all about. If you have watched Avatar: The Last Airbender this movie will feel like a bad fanmade movie with random scenes from season 1 to you.

Wanna find out more about the series? Check out this article at A Dribble of Ink for further reading :-).

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Spartacus vs. the German language

Spartacus is slaying the German language

Spartacus: VengeanceI am a big fan of the tv series Spartacus. At least that holds true for the first season “Blood and Sand” and “Gods of the Arena”. Spartacus: Vengeance was okay, but it can’t hold a candle to the first season and the miniseries. Partly this may be because the lead Andy Whitfield tragically died. His replacement Liam McIntrye is okay but lacks the charisma and gravitas Whitfield brought to this series. Okay, but this was not the point I was gonna make. Spartacus: Vengeance caught my attention with something unrelated to the story: The bad, bad German some actors speak.

First let’s be honest: I don’t wanna imagine what native speakers may think of my English. For sure it is not abysmal, but I guess I probably have a thick German accent. Yet, I am no actor let alone play an Englishman or American in a tv series. In Spartacus: Vengeance on the other hand some episodes are heavily focused on the German Agron (Dan Feuerriegel) and other Germans he frees. While “Feuerriegel” is a German name the actor is an Australian who has not learned German. Although to his credit, he still does the best job trying to speak German. Other actors sound far worse. I am not exaggerating: I understand all the English dialogue in Spartacus: Vengeance. Still I could hardly understand any word of the spoken “German”. Like any  American / English viewer I had to read the subtitles! Yes, the “German” in this series is that bad :-). This is bizarre for me as a native speaker: To watch a TV series with spoken German that I can not understand :-).

Well, there are other examples of this, too. Like Spielberg’s first Indiana Jones movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. The first version that was shown in cinemas contained German dialogue that was based on bad voice acting by Americans. Spielberg later regretted this and corrected it with overdubs by native speakers. How I Met Your Mother is another example: Klaus, the ex-boyfriend of Victoria, is also speaking German with an American accent. He also uses horrible grammar that does not make much sense :-). The BBC series Sherlock does a better job. In the first season Sherlock steals a book from a German tourist who at least speaks recognisable German. It is clear he is no native speaker, cause he has a British accent. But at least his grammar was correct and I could very well understand him.

But Spartacus: Vengeance is the worst example of spoken German I ever heard in a foreign TV series. As said, I really had to read the English subtitles to get what the characters were saying :-). So, hey, Hollywood: If you ever need a German voice actor just hire me, ha, ha.

More on Spartacus: Vengeance:

Sidekick Reviews reviews Spartacus: Vengeance

Paperblog reviews Spartacus: Vengeance

Official website for Spartacus

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Zach Braff: Kickstarter controversy

Is Zach Braff an honest artist or ruthless businessman?

Zach Braff

By David Shankbone (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Right now there is an interesting controversy going on: Actor Zach Braff (Scrubs) has started a Kickstarter campaign to fund his upcoming Indie movie “Wish I Was Here”. He wants to raise 2 million US-Dollars. Well, he has already achieved this goal and secured over 2,7 million bucks on his Kickstarter page. He has also aquired additional financing through Worldview Entertainment, which give Brach an investment / loan so the budget of his movie is now about 10 million US-Dollars.

These are the facts. Now why is there controversy around this? Well, famous youtubers ScreenJunkies started their own campaign against Braff. They even made their own Indiegogo crowdfunding project to raise 10.000 US-Dollars for a full page advertisement in the Hollywood Reporter to raise awareness. While I think this is fairly pretentious, I generally agree completely with their main argument: Zach Braff is a rich Hollywood actor with lots of incredible contracts in the industry. He is really losing perspective by letting his fans finance a pet project.

Don’t get me wrong: While I never was a fan of “Garden State” I love Zach Braff’s work on Scrubs. He also has a cool taste in music and seems to be a nice guy. But his kickstarter project is a punch in the face of all “real” indie filmmakers who truely need the money to make a movie at all. Braff even says that he COULD have aquired traditional funds by studios and producers but just wanted to have the right for the final cut and selecting the cast. These are luxury problems he is lucky to have! Even more experienced and famous director’s don’t get final cut on most of their movies. And most indie director’s would feel lucky if they were allowed to shoot their movie at all – regardless of possible alterations and casting decisions.

I think Braff is also more of a clever businessman than the quirky indie director he makes himself out to be: If it was really only about producing this vanity project of his with artistic integrity he could at least have said: “Ok, I fund it myself”. He has enough money – period. But no, he simply says: “I could lose money with this movie…” Wow…You know if I would open a store I’d have to go to the bank, get a credit, pay it back and maybe go completely broke for the rest of my life! These are the problems of “normal” people, Zach Braff! The kickstarter backers are not even investors: Say the movie becomes some kind of sleeper hit and makes tons of money – it will all go into the pockets of Mr. Braff. He COULD have said: “It is really all about the art. If “Wish I Was Here” makes a big profit I will only cover my own costs and a small salary. I will donate the rest to charity.” Now that would have been a cool example no one could really criticise.

Bottom line: I am not a big fan of crowdfunding: I think the three roles of “fan”, “customer” and “investor” get mashed up with only disadvantages for people who back projects. But it completely steps over the line when celebrities with tons of money and endless contacts use crowdfunding to finance their vanity projects. Zach Braff is a good actor and a decent director but in my opinion he has taken a step into the wrong direction.

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Tiger & Bunny – Set 1 (Blu-ray Review)

Published on May 12, 2013, by in Reviews.

Tiger & Bunny – Set 1 (Blu-ray Review)

Tiger & Bunny prove what it means to be heroes

Tiger & Bunny - Set 1

Story:

Tiger & Bunny is an anime series produced be famous studio Sunrise (Cowboy Bebop). The series centers around two heroes: Tiger aka Wild Tiger is a middle aged hero who has seen his best days. His new partner is Bunny, a young hero who has the same superpowers. While Tiger is more idealistic than Bunny the latter is certainly more capable in tense situations. Together they team up to save the metropolis of Stern Bild City and uncover the mysteries around the death of Bunny’s parents. The clou to this story is, that these heroes don’t work like the Avengers but have big corporations as sponsors. Their adventures are always broadcast on TV and they are ranked on a leaderboard for every deed they do. So they must decide: Do they rake in the points or let TV be TV and do everything to save lifes?

My Take:

Tiger & Bunny is a fun little anime that is heavy on action and beautifully animated. The heroes look a bit sterile in their robotic suits but the colourful cast of other characters makes up for that. For example there is the drag queen Fire Emblem, the sexy teenage hero Blue Ice or the pompous Sky High (not to be confused with the movie of the same name). The banter between Tiger & Bunny is also often quite funny: Tiger, whose real name is Kotetsu T. Kaburagi, always wants to get on Bunnys good side, which mostly leads to silly results. Bunny on the other hand, whose real name is Barnaby Brooks Jr., just wants Tiger to quit his “meddeling”. Over the course of the first 13 episodes included in this set the two unlikely partners slowly develop a friendship.

While Tiger & Bunny is mostly an action-packed adventure with a lot of humour, it even contains a bit of social criticism. The whole documentary aspect reminds the viewer of voyeuristic TV shows like Big Brother, Simple Life and The Osbournes. Even though there is a bit of slapstick involved here and there Tiger & Bunny can also be quite dramatic. Bunny’s backstory is tragic and his quest to find the murderer of his parents can even be dark at times.

All in all I’d advise every superhero fan to tune in and give Tiger & Bunny a chance. It is a fine little series that should appeal to many comic fans.

The Blu-ray:

I bought the American blu-ray by VIZ Media. This set contains the first 13 episodes in 1080p / 1,78:1 encoded with MPEG4-AVC for the picture. The episodes are spread over two discs (Region A locked). The picture quality is excellent with bold colours and a lot of detail to the animation. There are no compression problems and I give the PQ a solid 9/10.

The audio is lossless DTS-HD Master Audio but sadly only in stereo. This goes for the English dub as well as the Japanese original. The sound quality is good but I feel this action-packed anime could have greatly benefitted from a surround mix. So the audio is more like a 6/10.

For those bonus lovers there is even some extra material here. The Making of Tiger & Bunny grants insight into the production process and is even in HD. There are also clean opening and closing sequences as well as some trailers.

Overall this is a great blu-ray set. Fans of anime in general and superheroes in particular should definately give Tiger & Bunny a shot.

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Roger Ebert has passed away

Roger Ebert has passed away

Renowned film critic Roger Ebert has died yesterday

Roger EbertI did not always share his opinions – but I always respected them. Yesterday the famous film critic Roger Ebert passed away at the age of 70. Ebert made his last Twitter post on the second of April. He regularly updated his website close to his death and contributed thousands of reviews to the Chicago Sun Times over the years. It was Ebert who “invented” the thumbs up and thumbs down rating for movies together with his colleague Gene Siskel. In my opinion the movie scene has lost one of the greatest reviewers of all time.

While I often disagreed with Roger Ebert’s reviews, I always admired his style of writing. He was always to the point, funny and showing his deep love for and knowledge about movies without rubbing it under the nose of the reader. His reviews were never pretentious but always clever and honest. Mostly he stayed fair and he rated every movie by itself and by it’s genre. For example he explained you can’t compare a comic book movie to a drama and must measure them with different standards. Otherwise one could complain “Transformers” does not feature a dramatic deep story but could also frown upon Rain Man for not having any action scenes. I agree with this review philosophy and respected Ebert’s well written reviews. For example when looking into the section “Critical Response” in an article about a certain movie on Wikipedia, I always searched for the quotes by Ebert.

Ebert fought a long battle with cancer and finally he lost it yesterday. As you can see he even twittered two days ago, so I don’t suppose he expected his treatment to fail. Although Ebert announced a “leave of presence” he had a lot of plans for the future. It is sad that he does not have the opportunity to follow his dreams anymore.

I for one will miss his reviews. I was not an “avid reader” who soaked up all of his reviews but liked to look what he wrote on certain titles. For example when a film polarised audiences and critics alike it was always interesting to see what he had to say on the matter. I especially love his review for “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. While I wholeheartedly disagree with his extremely negative review for “Kick-Ass” for example. Still both reviews are well written – as his reviews always were. And that is why I always had fun reading them.

Rest in peace Mr. Roger Ebert and thanks for all the years of fantastic movie reviews. You will be remembered.

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