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Promptus Thoughtus

Posted on September 24, 2014 at 2:20 AM

 

Promptus Thoughtus


When I can't think of something interesting to focus on, I just do a bunch of small things to make up for it. So here's four things that are in my head right now in the latest entry of this series:

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Hi There New Final Fantasy Game Trailer

It’s pretty telling where I am on this series these days. This trailer just does nothing for me. So overwrought and melodramatic, taking itself far too seriously…good Lord. What’s sad is, visually, it looks great. I dig the art style fine and it seems to have a really cool world design, but the way it presents itself as this self-important (especially considering the insertion of the final line of dialogue in that trailer) just makes me roll my eyes.

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"It's been a long time..." oh screw you.


Let’s face it, Final Fantasy has become synonymous with “disappointment" just as Square Enix has become so with “inept.” And now they’re removing the director of this game that’s already six or so years in development and probably putting Square Enix in the red year-in and year-out. Talk about an absolute mess.


I don’t care about the setting or character design, I just want a good game to play, and with years on end with no clear definition of how this thing is going to play, kicking out the lead person on the project and, I’m sure, rushing to meet a deadline, I don’t have high hopes. The same thing happened with Final Fantasy XII. That game also had a long development process and the lead guy, Yasumi Matsuno, left as well for “health reasons” but all signs indicate he was over budget and not on schedule, so they rushed to get the thing finished and you can totally tell by the final parts of the game where everything feels rushed and a lot feels just flat-out cut.


The best JRPGs of the past few years (as in about 10 years) haven’t come from the developer that more or less created them and made them popular. Square Enix, I don’t think, knows what they want to do anymore and have no idea what their audience wants. The thing is, all they have to do is go and look what some of the people who left their company have delivered and see what the audience wants.



Though, let's all get one thing clear...SE knows how to make some pretty pictures move around. There are very few JRPG developers that deliver on that..


All that being said, I like the new guy on the project and, for once, there's a clear indication that there's something worth talking about rather than the vagueness the previous director and the company wallowed in (you can read a great piece here with the newe head fella). Well, he’s not that new, he’s been working on it since 2012, but he’s pretty much handling the whole thing now and has been upfront a lot more than anything the previous director (Nomura) and the company has given us in a while.

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Pilots!

It’s pilot time. Not “pilot season” mind you, that’s a different term for the industry when pilots start getting cast and shot, but the middle/late of September is when all the new shows start coming out, and truth be told, I rarely, if ever, see a pilot I like. That doesn’t mean the show won’t be good, but pilots are often very hit and very miss. For example, I liked The Flash pilot (it had the benefit of being a backdoor in a way, so some of the pressure was off) but really didn’t like Constantine all that much.


But either way, I don’t say yay or nay based on pilots, as I do any show I give a show at least three episodes to get me interested and, if I’m at least that, I’ll give it another three or four to get me invested in everything.


Pilots aren’t meant to be anything other than a selling tool. That’s all they are. They are financed, cast and made only as a one-off thing to show a network, and if the network likes it they’ll order additional episodes. That’s why you’ll often get really good directors for the pilot, someone like Joe Carnahan (though he came back for The Blacklist) or JJ Abrams himself on Lost. The money is big-time on that because those directors are, then, attached to the show as an Exec Producer and will get a check for each episode spawned from their pilot.



Sometimes that doesn't matter and you just wonder how the hell something got a pilot order to begin with.


It’s a good gig. Go in, shoot a kick-ass pilot, sell it, then collect checks for as long as that show is on the air (and residuals as well). We’re not talking a few hundred bucks an episode either, mind you. We’re talking tens of thousands for a drama for a major network. It’s worth the money. The director on a pilot has a lot on their hands. They have to establish the style, the tone and all that stuff, so a great director is not only good as a selling tool for a pilot, but will help keep the quality of what the producers and network want for years to come. This is why, if you go watch House of Cards for example, every director is trying to make it look like David Fincher’s style.



(There are exceptions, the pilot for Boardwalk Empire is distinctly Scorsese for example, or a director might hold back their style a little bit so others can follow suit easier, such as Guillermo del Toro with The Strain).


So when reading pilot reviews, keep all that in mind. It’s really just a business selling point and not much else. They’ll try to set up something for the series expected to come, they have to because that’s how to show “potential” for the show on a week-to-week basis. But pilots are usually the most self-contained episode of a series as well. You have to establish and tell a story with a finite conclusion with an hour while planting potential seeds for arcs (if it’s serialized rather than episodic, if episodic the job is that much easier).


Anyways, just some insight, and I’m looking forward to handful of shows this year but only giving them three to really grab me. Hey, I can’t watch everything (though this blog and all my TV Season Reviews might make you think otherwise).



This is what a typical pitch meeting is like.

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Halloween Time!

Oh man, Halloween is coming up and I haven’t even thought about what I’m going to do. Well, I’ve thought about it, I mean I’m here writing it after all, but I can’t seem to really decide on what to watch and write about.


The past few years, I’ve done a number of blogs on great horror filmmakers. There was James Whale and Terrrence Fisher and John Carpenter. There's also a handful of other Halloween-theme blogs, but the directors are the big ones I spend a couple of weeks researching, watching and writing.


So who this time around? I mean, those are three of my favorites. I thought about Wes Craven but, truthfully, he’s only made maybe three or four movies I really liked and don’t feel like going through all the ones I don’t care for (Vampire in Brooklyn, Serpent and the Rainbow). The same goes for Tobe Hooper. It’d start strong, but soon peter out (and one of his best was, arguably, not technically directed by him).




So I started to think “influential” instead. Ok, who was influential. Well I haven’t talked George Romero all that much, so he’s still in the running. Forget about Hitchcock, that’s too much of an undertaking and a few of those I’d need to rewatch (especially his early, early stuff).


Dario Argento, at one time, was one of the best filmmakers in the business. He burned hot and fast, though, as the quality of his movies quickly lowered, but if I focused completely on his 70s to early 80s material (Flies on Grey Velvet, Inferno, Tenebre even though I don’t remember much from it, Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Suspieria obviously, Cat o Nail Tails and his masterpiece, Profondo Rosso…yeah this could work.


I mean, I kind of just waded through Carpenter’s later years, but the problem is Argento’s movies are all, essentially, the same style and content. They’re all slashers/murder mysteries (with maybe one or two exceptions like Inferno). They don’t have the variety that I really go for to make for an interesting blog.


So, as of now, I’m thinking Romero. I know his Dead series by heart so I don’t even need to rewatch them, I probably need to rewatch Martin again and this gives me a great opportunity ego talk about Knightriders. So unless you think otherwise, let’s go for Romero in October this year.

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And Finally..Fan Films

So I recently watched the Angry Video Game Nerd movie and started asking myself this: why are "fan films" always awful?  Whether it's a short about Batman or Spawn or a multi-part series about Smash Brothers, it's almost always awful. Now I say that without trying to sound like an asshole, but I'm probably failing at it. The facts are as follows:


1) The fan films have no budget and are usually shot with amateur actors (friends of friends) for no money.


2) They are done as a passion project - a way to express ones fandom about something in the same way people dress up in costumes at Comic Con.


3) Nobody has any experience in writing, directing, production and, more often than not, have nobody to really say "no" to them once in a while on an idea so it's all pretty free-form "throw everything at it" type of stuff.


So yes, you have to take all that into account. I want to applaud people taking the time to go out there and do a ten minute short on Doctor Who or something, but I have to be blunt: they're usually awful.




You see, the standards, because it's all fan expresion and done for no money, isn't particulary high. But when I see a headline that says "you have watch this Superman v Hulk animated movie" or "check out this five minute Deadpool thing" I just roll my eyes. I expect the worse. And usually that's exactly what it is, and nobody wants to really say anything solely because they're also fans who want to see other fans express their fandom.


And that's fine, and I'm certainly not punishing those that want to grab a camera some friends and costumes and re-inact Metal Gear Solid, but it's still awful.


Now, here's the reasons that have nothing to do with money or the amateur status of the creators and actors:


1) They often take themselves way too seriously and never have a point or plot, it's usually just a series of scenes that kinda form a story.


2) They are almost always too long and poorly paced and edited. (again, nobody to say "no" once in a while)


3) They rarely offer anything new or interesting. Unless it's a quirky, comedic take on something, it's pretty standard fare (see also #1)


Now there are exceptions here and there, but those really prove the rule (usually the ones that take a comedic angle are superior) but even when writing this and googling a bunch of fan films, I couldn't find one I liked to use an example of a good one. Maybe that silly Michael Bay Pac Man one, but then we're getting into College Humor territory and they have corporate money to finance that type of stuff.

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This is the only kind of fan films I think work: short, to the point, comedic and with a twist.


I'll admit, I can be brutal when it comes to these things. But I'll go and see some shorts at some festival and then watch some fan film and I have a billion questions as to why the fan film looks and feels like absolute garbage. Sure, budget has something to do with it I'm sure, a lot of these shorts have legit producers and people backing it (though that's not exactly a ton of money, mind you). But that's kind of not the point. Yes, fan films look cheap and have amateurs, but that's no excuse for bad writing and bland concepts.  Maybe the problem isn't so much the execution as much as it is the poor planning and prep. I have yet to really find one that I can stand watching for more than a few minutes.


So, while I certainly want people to express their fandom, the "Drop everything and watch this..." or "You won't believe this fan film" or "this is amazing" stuff needs to stop. It's never good. It's fine, but don't sell it as something good. It's good in a "fans doing fans" kind of thing, but never have I really seen one that's actually a good short film. If you want a good short film, go to Vimeo Staff Picks or Short of the Week or check out Film School Reject's Section.




I'm sure i just sounded like some elitist prick...

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