Nov 27 2016

Watching TV in a live concert

Adel Gabot

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8:28AM

I was rewatching Adele: Live in New York City this morning, and I noticed a curious thing: whenever the footage switched to a combined shot showing Adele in the foreground and a large video monitor showing the live concert in the background, I found myself unconsciously watching the video monitor instead of the more accessible, vibrant foreground of the actual concert.

Eh? What the hell?

I remember catching myself doing the same thing in actual live concerts, and have to consciously remind myself to watch the actual damn show happening right in front of me instead of watching it on a monitor. I didn’t pay an inordinate amount to go to a live show and just watch television in a concert hall, dammit.

I think this is a consequence of our incessant media watching that it’s become an ingrained and unconscious habit to turn to a video monitor and watch when one presents itself. Even when it’s doing a redundant function such as providing better visuals of a live concert to the cheap seats far in the back.

It’s not as if I can help it. It’s an automatic response, a Pavlovian reaction. I don’t even think about it, I just do it. It’s a function of the current technological stage we’re living in that we unconsciously watch a video monitor whenever there’s one around, regardless of the situation or environment at that time. It’s so deep-seated as to be a fundamental instinct.

We have to remind ourselves that there’s a time and a place for everything, and when the actual reason for the video coverage is happening right there, in flesh and blood, breathing and thinking and reacting, singing and dancing and acting, we need to watch that actual thing instead of watching reproduced pixels and phosphors on a bright screen. When the actual thing is long gone, or the actual thing is not happening in front of us and we don’t have easy access to it, then that’s the time we consider watching the footage on video.

So there.

Wala lang. Just ranting.


Jul 7 2016

Batman kills

Adel Gabot

10:13AM

I really don’t know how to feel about director Zack Snyder’s revisionism of our classic comic book superheroes.

In Man of Steel he had Henry Cavill break the cardinal rule of being Superman: Do Not Kill Anybody, when he killed General Zod (Michael Shannon) to save a family from being burned to a crisp.

This is not to mention the many hundreds of others in Metropolis he indirectly killed when he went mano-a-mano with Zod in that urban battleground, people inadvertently crushed in the fallen buildings or killed in the streets and in their cars in the aftermath of their clash.

You don’t kill when you’re a superhero. Cardinal Rule No. 1. It’s easy to indiscriminately kill people when you’re that powerful, so the solution is never ever kill them, directly or indirectly. In fact, you take extra special care that you never do. It’s a line all the DC superheroes of my day never crossed.

It’s an old-fashioned Victorian aesthetic, a near-Puritan moral code that the comic books instituted in the old days because it was easy to cross the line when you reach the rarefied air of superhero-dom (to mix a couple of metaphors). Who decides who lives or dies? Superman? Who made him God?

Yet Snyder had Supie break that Cardinal Rule, that strict moral code, in the interest of cinematic license.

Now, again, he has Batman (Ben Affleck) doing the same thing in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Now that they’ve released the Ultimate extended version, I got an even closer look at the movie, and I’m kinda appalled.

In fact, someone made a supercut (linked above) on YouTube detailing the Batman’s kill count in that film: 21 people, as far as we know. And that’s just in the days of the Batman-Superman thing. God knows how many he’s killed since he first became the Caped Crusader. And will kill in the future.

Hell, the Batman’s not even supposed to own guns, yet Snyder has him shooting from the hip with assault rifles and assorted weapons, killing the bad guys. It was another cardinal rule in the DC universe—you’re not supposed to own guns when you’re a superhero, and you’re never ever supposed to shoot anybody, even if they’re evil as all get out. Maybe with gas pellets or rubber bullets. Maybe, but only then.

Yet here we are. It’s the new 21st century morality.

Of course, I still enjoyed the movies as separate, independent entities from the comic book world, and I took them at their cinematic value.

But it’s never gonna be the same. Sheesh.


Jun 30 2016

Changing my mind: A quick review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition

Adel Gabot

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12:36PM

Ok, ok, I’m not really changing my mind: I still dislike Zack Snyder’s superhero epic, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

But I’ll say this—I dislike it a whole lot less now, with the release of the Ultimate Edition. In fact, I might even say I tolerate it now, and kinda sorta admire it a bit.

Just a bit.

The extended version puts back a lot of material Snyder decided to cut in the theatrical version, so as to keep the movie at a palatable length. As it is now, the movie has an additional 30 minutes restored or added, putting it at a staggering 3 hours and 2 mins long.

The original cut had cut a lot of the scenes a bit short in the interest of time, and consequently shortchanged character arcs and plot developments, and introduced seemingly glaring plot holes, particularly if you weren’t very familiar with the superheroes’ histories.

The Ultimate Edition takes the time to fill out these arcs and plot developments, and adds a bit more material to make the movie a largely better film. And also, a bit more bloody action for those of us looking for it. And a bit of skin. And some swearing.

Although a lot of stuff that was restored is, frankly, largely unnecessary. The film remains basically the same thing you saw in the theaters, only with way more exposition, a bit more character development and more R-rated material. As such, the movie makes better sense now, and is more suited to an adult audience (that is, if an adult audience can actiully sit through it).

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My main reason for catching the Ultimate Edition is to see the Jena Malone part that was left on the cutting room floor. Rumors put it that she was either Batgirl or Robin or some other major role like that, but it turns out it was just a cameo, essentially. Malone played a lab tech named Jenet Klyburn who examines Lois Lane’s magic bullet and discovers it was made by Lexcorp, and appears in just two short scenes. So much for internet hype.

The new version, among other things, shows us how long Lex Luthor has been patiently manipulating the main characters, and gives us an idea of how intricate and thought-through his plan was. That’s one wily bugger.

There are also quick, additional tweaks to some of the characters, like some nice, friendly banter between Batman and Martha Kent (“I’m a friend of your son.” “I figured.”) , more screen time for Alfred and extended scenes between Lois Lane and Perry White. Also, there is a nice extended bathtub romance scene between Clark Kent and Lois that had them show a bit more skin.

I just find it a bit curious that Harry Dean Morgan, who plays Thomas Wayne, remains uncredited in this version too. Also curious (in both versions) is the fact that Jimmy Olsen is a CIA operative now, but gets a bullet in the head early on in the film. Great way to treat a beloved supporting character. So much for that storyline.

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I still feel, like I did with the original version, that Snyder tries to cram in too much material in the movie, especially so now with the extended version. For instance, having Luthor cook up an alien baddie for Bats and Supie (and Wonder Woman) to deal with together after their little spat seems a bit much and feels like it should be in another movie entirely.

But that’s just me, folks.

However you felt about the theatrical version and the DC Cinematic Universe, this new ultimate version on Bluray and DVD is certainly a much better movie than the first one, even if it is a little bit long.

7 out of 10 stars.


Jun 25 2016

A quick review of The Wave

Adel Gabot

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7:27AM

This Norwegian big-budget film from last year is actually decent.

I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it has heaps of Hollywood cliches, but the stunning cinematography, excellent score, believable effects and decent acting made for a very absorbing couple of hours. Normally, I’m not accustomed to watching subtitled foreign disaster movies, but The Wave (Bolgen in the original Norwegian) is a pretty damn decent film.

You don’t usually associate pleasant mountain ranges with tsunamis, but that’s the main conceit of this film. It’s set in an idyllic, tourist-friendly Norwegian fjord called Gerainger up in the mountain pass of Akneset, where we meet geologist Kristian Elkjord (played by Kristoffer Joner, who looks like a rich man’s version of a comfortably rumpled Norman Reedus) and his family.

Kristian works for the government monitoring the geologic goings-on in the area, but has recently been hired by a private oil company out of town and is in the process of moving out to the city with his family and leave all this behind. On his last day at work, he discovers some curious geologic activity that tells him something disastrous is about to happen, but he can’t really do anything about it since he doesn’t work there anymore.

And that disaster does happen. That evening, a gigantic landslide happens happens high up in the mountains, and sends the waters of the fjord rushing towards Gerainger in an 80-meter tsunami. The entire community, including a nice hotel where Kristian’s wife incidentally works, is wiped out, and those who aren’t quick enough to get to higher ground are goners.

You’d be totally horrified by the terrible spectacle of an entire mountainside crumbling and falling into the waters below and sending a gargantuan wave into town if the effects weren’t so pretty at the same time. The scenes of a peaceful mountain range ruined by a huge, roiling wall of water rushing down below is, in a word, spectacular.

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This catastrophe happens about two-thirds of the way into the movie, which is kind of surprising: the big event happens a bit early! In a disaster film, that’s unheard of!

The first two-thirds of the film were setup and preamble to this event, and the final third is the story of how Kristian and his family survive that event—which should be anticlimactic and much too prolonged for it to work at all, but remember, we aren’t watching a typical Hollywood disaster movie. It does work, and all for the better.

Sure, it gets pretty melodramatic towards the end (and I’m not about to spoil it for you, dear reader), but on the whole, it works for the film. I won’t go into specifics, but I don’t know if it’s the culture or the fact that it’s a tsunami happening high up in the mountains of Norway or what, but whatever it is, it works.

Assuming you don’t speak Norwegian, if you’re not beneath taking the trouble to read the English subtitles, I think you’re going to be pretty entertained by The Wave.

7 out of 10 stars.


Jun 24 2016

My very first DVD

Adel Gabot

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8:15AM

Blast from the past: yesterday I got another copy of the very first original DVD I ever owned—Spawn.

Oh, I know it’s not anything earth-shattering or auspicious. And it’s not a particularly good movie, not by any means. But it was my first movie in the (what was then) new format, and it holds great sentimental value for me.

Back then when DVDs were still new (and very expensive), they weren’t readily available in my country. Bootleg discs were still a few years away. All of the titles being sold were original American R1s, and were all over the map as far as movie types were concerned. We bought what we could get.

The player I got (which was big and bulky), as far as I can recall, was one of the early Sony models, which I paid a pretty penny for. Back then (as I still am now) I was already an early adopter, and I had to have the latest and the greatest. If I knew then what I know now (that we’d have hi-res files of these movies just streaming to our TVs and desktops, and that the disc format’s days have come and gone) I wouldn’t have tried too hard to be an early adopter.

But back then, playing a DVD was a wondrous experience. Coming from the bigger and buggier laserdisc technology (which I also had a ton of), it was a singular experience to have such hi-fi output to come from such a little thing. I marveled at the high resolution video and audio fidelity of Michael Jai White being burned to a crisp by an evil Martin Sheen. Hey, it’s Spawn; what do you expect?

That disc began a long run of many satisfying hours watching movies, both good and bad, on DVDs, until I migrated to Blurays and streamed video. Watching it now, I’m transported back to the good old days.

I have no idea where it is now, that disc, but wherever it is, I hope it found a good home.

Wala lang, just reminiscing.