Thursday, September 17, 2015

Selfie from Hell



Today's short film is called Selfie from Hell, and it's by Fuck you Zombie. Now, obviously this isn't their real name, obviously their family had their name changed when immigrating to America. It was probably Fuck you Zombiestein in the old country... Anyway, they have a Youtube channel with a pair of real quick, and pretty effective, horror short films. 

You should check them out.

So, of the two short films currently available for viewing, I wasn't as big a fan of Dreamy as I was the one I've posted below. It was good, and it really used the long hallway nicely, but in the end, I thought Selfie from Hell just worked much better.

Maybe you'll disagree...

Selfie from Hell is rooted in a pretty relatable reality. It's the story of a young lady spending her evening taking a few sexy-time selfies intended for a special someone she knows to masturbate to. Unfortunately for her, upon examining the photos, she spots something... disconcerting.

Let's watch!


Nice, right? Quick and to the point. The story is clear. The rules are firm. There's tons of tension. It's a traditional horror tale in the way that "bad/sex behavior" gets you killed, but it embraces a new way to impart that "lesson". This is a really well done and clever short film, folks.

Nice job, Mr. you Zombie!

Selfies kill,
Jon

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

No-A






Today I have an animated short film called NO-A. It was Directed by Liam Murphy, who--according to IMDB--has only worked on this project here. I'm sure that's probably not quite true, and I'm not trying to insinuate that a lack of credits is a bad sign or anything, because it's not. I'm just saying, it is what it is. That's all the information I have.

Of course, I didn't make a lot of effort...

Anyway, here's the synopsis: The world is a desolate, unforgiving place in this action sci-fi with a surprising amount of heart. We follow NO-A (Noah), as he attempts to rescue Aixa, the young woman that created him. In his attempt to save her, he must face an unknown enemy and fight to keep them both alive.

Now, before we get started, let me be clear about one thing: I am definitely interested in this short film. I posted it because I'm interested, so I'm definitely gonna watch the thing. It's right up my alley, all of the stuff it mentions, the images I've seen, it all piques my interest, but... that is one poorly put together synopsis, right? I mean, shit, that's the best summation you can muster about your film? "A surprising amount of heart"? You can't include that in your own synopsis, man, that's for the audience to decide. That's something critics say. How can you create something with a surprising amount of heart? Aren't you the one directly responsible for the total amount of heart included? How does it surprise you? Also, I love how they point out how to pronounce the name NO-A, but not Aixa (Ache-sa? Eye-ja? Beats me...) Now, normally you can tell when the synopsis was written by someone for whom English is second language, but it doesn't seem that way to me. At least, I don't think so. I wouldn't make fun of them if I thought that was the case. And if that is the case, my apologies, but it honestly doesn't read that way to me, it just reads as... terrible.

Let's hope that's not a sign of things to come...


Hmmm... okay.

That was light, that's for sure. Nebulous. It certainly looked good, I enjoyed he action, and I thought it was paced well, but in the end it runs into many of the same problems these short films all seem to share: The almost non-existent narrative. I realize it's only 5-ish minutes, but the film basically moves through a small action set-piece (a much smaller one than I expected, honestly) and then it's all done. And that's it. There's a very video game feel to the whole thing. It's a Level, not a Story. There's a Start Point and an End Goal, but no explanation for why it starts where it does, or why it ends where it does. Almost nothing in the film tells you who these characters are, why they're doing what they're doing, or how they got to this point. In fact, what little back-story there is, any hints to our robot hero, and who exactly the girl is to him, are all merely hinted at in the end credits.

How does that enhance the story?

And was there really a "surprising amount of heart" like the synopsis claimed?

Honestly, what's the point of short films like this? To show off the animation? Is that all these things are, a small studio's Show Reel? And if it is, was it all that effective? Also, is there a rule somewhere that says these things must preclude a full story?

The sense of the geography I got for the setting in this film was that of a bowl. No-A starts high up on one side, then leaps down into the center, where they run across the floor, and it ends when he sends the girl up the other side? What is this place? A Colosseum? It has a dirt floor, but no seats. Some kind of mining facility? Maybe, but I didn't see any equipment. It's hard to tell, because it was just an empty space. There's no context. It makes little sense as a structure, and provides even less insight as to why the girl was down there, getting captured for who knows what reason, while her obviously very protective robot friend was not. I mean, the last wave of bad guys show up, and No-A does his doomed last stand/frozen leap into action thing--which looked cool and was well-done, but was also an overly familiar moment--and the only thing I can think is: Those bad guys showed up in a jet, so why send her up in an elevator? Where is she going, and how can it be safe? Can't they just fly up there after her? Lots of questions, and no answers, so there's very little satisfaction in the end.

NO-A looks great, but it's cotton candy, pretty and delicious, but with no substance to speak of.

A surprising amount of disappointment,
Jon

Monday, September 14, 2015

Justice League shorts


When it comes to cartoons from the Big Two, DC has been the King of comic book based animation for some time now. It started a long time ago with the Superfriends cartoon, continued on into the ground-breaking Batman Animated Series, which then led to such fantastic shows as Justice League Unlimited, Young Justice, and The Brave and the Bold. Really, save for a few notable exceptions, WB/DC has left Marvel's mostly weak animation attempts so far behind, and so long ago, that it's not even a competition. It's so one-sided, it's kind of like how Marvel dominates DC when it comes to the live-action box office.

The question of who is on top is no question at all.



And it wasn't just with the TV shows either, DC has also cornered the market when it comes to Direct Release Full Length Animated Movies too. For just about the entire time they've been making them, these films have been of a much higher quality than the absolute shit Marvel has put out. Again, it's not even close. Some of the DC animated films were almost even real movies, y'know? I mean, if asked, I would actually recommend the Mask of the Phantasm and Under the Red Hood to anyone who might be interested in the genre.


What I'm basically trying to say here is, while DC may not make the best live-action films, they sure as hell can make some great animated ones.

Well... for a time, that is.

Recently their output has fallen off quite a bit, the stories have grown much more wooden, while the animation itself has become much less distinctive, much less stylish, and generally of an all-around poorer quality. That all of this seems to coincide with the controversial launch of the New 52--a line wide reboot of the comic book universe that has never quite taken off--and with Warner Brothers' sudden boner Post-MCU for building its own set of shared universe film franchises, is not really all that surprising.

And thus... Justice League: Gods and Monsters.

Here's a film that is quite unlike either version of DC's animated history, both the old regular continuity (the good version), and the new Nu-52 continuity (the bad version). Not that it's "good" or anything, I'm not saying that, because it's not. What I mean is, this film is set more along the lines of what Marvel comics would call a "What if...?" story, or what in DC terms is know as an "Elseworlds" tale. Succinctly put, it's an Alternate Universe story where Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman are all much different from how we usually know them.


Here's a hint for you new kids out there: You can always tell right from the start when it's a darker Alternate Universe set story, because a character will usually have a goatee, or they will be wearing a trench coat. Sharp-eyed readers will have already noticed that this version of Superman has both.

This isn't just dark, kids, it's super dark.


How dark is it?

Well, in this movie Superman is the son of Zod instead of the usual Jor-el, which is shown in a surprisingly rapey origin scene. Before you get too nervous though, I should mention that it only involves Zod inserting his finger into a machine before Jor-el has a chance to, but still... it's kind of creepy. Anyway, as a result of Zod's apparently meaner DNA, Superman is much more of a hard ass in this world. It also seems like he was raised Mexican maybe, or Native American, but they don't really go into it much, so I'm not sure if that is also supposed to be responsible for him snapping necks left and right in this world.

Poke. Annnnd... baby.

This time out Wonder Woman is a child of New Genesis. This is from an old Jack Kirby idea called the New Gods, and it's one of those comic book things that might be too weird for people who aren't used to this kind of stuff, but who knows... maybe not. People embraced Groot, so whatever. The basic idea is that they're these benevolent Space Gods that are kind of based on the Greek Gods a little bit, and they have this Evil Opposite Pantheon headed by Darkseid and his fellow evil Gods. Wonder Woman is the child of the HighFather (King Benevolent God), and she is set to marry Orion, the son of Darkseid, and thus form a bond of peace between the ancient enemies. The twist is, in this story the evilness has been switched (Alternate Universe), and Highfather and his buddies end up betraying Darkseid and his people during the marriage ceremony, total Red Wedding style. As a result, Wonder Woman gets pissed at Dad (it WAS her day, after all), and stomps off to Earth... to fight crime forever, I guess? As origins go, there's some gaps... especially when it comes to her top.

She invests heavily in double-sided tape.

The Batman in this universe is a man named Kirk Langstrom instead of the traditional Random Wayne family member. In the regular DC universe, Kirk takes a formula and is turned into The Man-Bat--who looks pretty much exactly as his name would lead you to expect--but since this is an alternate universe, in this story he took a formula and became a Vampire. I guess that makes sense. Either way, now the criminals of Gotham City aren't just a superstitious and cowardly lot, they're also dinner. A side-note, in this film Kirk has a ridiculous mullet and no one ever mentions how terrible it is. Maybe it's a side effect of his vampirism.

So bad, it even terrifies Batman...

In a nutshell, this is yet another version of a rough and tumble killer Justice League, and just like always, the government finally sets about trying to take them out, because that's a good idea when dealing with mad Gods, especially when you miss the first couple of times. Anyway, carnage ensues, and in the end everyone learns a little bit about themselves... and each other.

Like I said... it's super dark, man, like none more dark. That's how dark it is.

Now, I'm usually a sucker for alternate universe versions--I mean, show me a character with an eye-patch who doesn't normally wear an eye-patch, and, well... you have my attention--so with that in mind, while I wouldn't exactly call Justice League: Gods and Monsters "good", (it's certainly not on par with their older efforts) I will admit that at least it's much better than the last few animated films DC has released. A low bar, sure, so your mileage may vary, like I said, I'm a sucker for Alternate Universe tales, but who knows, maybe you'll like it.

Which brings us to why we're here today...

The usual thing to do with Direct Release Animated Films these days is to put some bonus material on-line, so as a result, we have these three short films. There's one for each character, and I thought I'd take a quick look at them all and then give you my thoughts, because why the fuck not?

You got it? Yeah? All righty then...

Wonder Woman


In this short, it's sex and violence uber alles as Wonder Woman stabs the shit out of a bunch of faceless guys and then lets it be known that she likes to be dominated during sex with Steve Trevor, but hey, in a nice bit of turn-about, not only was Steve the one who needed rescuing, but his costume got torn in a very sexy off the shoulder kind of way. A thin silver-lining, but a silver-lining nonetheless. Then they cap it all off with Wonder Woman initiating some sex atop a bunch of fresh corpses... so, yeah... so darkly awesome, right? I do like the way they have her use the Boom Tube in combat, though. That's a good bit.

Superman


This short starts out exactly the way the current batch of folks at WB/DC like their Superman... with a bunch of shit being destroyed. It's weird that they decided to include the part where Superman completely ignores the bus-load of people begging for help, right? It's not just me, right? It's almost as weird as them deciding to make the destruction at the end look almost exactly like the destruction at the end of Man of Steel. Are they re-enforcing that moment as canon by implying it is something that always happens regardless of the timeline? Doubling down on their bullshit, basically? Probably. It doesn't matter, I guess, it's just par for the course. In the end, this short is just more weird decisions for another weird portrayal of the character, but at least that's consistent with the way they've handled Superman the past few years. Anyway, the short ends with Superman heat-visioning a baby to death. I will say that I kind of like the blue suit, red belt, and black boots look. This might be the best looking alternative Superman I've seen in awhile.

Batman


Ah... and now the big gun. The favored child. To make what I assume is probably a direct quote from a Warner Brothers Executive (with a hat tip to the Simpsons): "To Batman, the cause of--and solution to--all our franchise problems." In this short, Bat-Mullet is looking for a kidnap victim and finds her in what must be one of the thousands of funhouse/clown themed abandoned warehouses in Gotham City. Is it the Joker? Nope. We're not that lucky. They just couldn't not include Harley Quinn in this shit, right? And of course, its the tiny panties and lingerie Juggalo Princess Harley, too. She's the worst version of them all. You know what surprises me the most? Honestly? As fucked up and stupid-dark as this version of the DC heroes is, how is this not ridiculously popular? Does the fedora-wearing/over-sized bowling shirt crowd of DC fans simply not know this film exists, because they would love it, man. It's seriously right up their alley, and yet, I've hardly heard any raving about it. Weird. Anyway, the short ends with Vampire Batman eating Harley Quinn, because of course it does.

And there you have it.

I honestly don't know why I bothered to write this all up, but here you go... this is what WB/DC wants you to have. And looking it all of this, it just makes me wonder: How the hell did the Flash TV show turn out so awesome and not stupid?

Make Mine Marvel,
Jon