Friday, April 30, 2010

"NO, Joe!"

I thought it was worth it to follow up on my previous blog about my affection for the 80's animated series "G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero!"...and give you my two cents on the live-action movie from last year. Yeah, this blog may seem a little dated; I thought it might be when I finally got to see the film in December, and passed on doing it then. But some things I have to get off my chest, and anyway some of you probably haven't seen the film. This is both review and warning to you!

If you're one of America's typical moviegoers, don't expect a lot from "G.I. Joe". It's another popcorn movie from Stephen Sommers, the same guy who brought us the first two "The Mummy" films. (The original was very good, but falling far short of clear inspirations like "Raiders of the Lost Ark", and the second was to be expected...more of the same!) Those films were pure popcorn entertainment, the same as your typical blockbusters since "Star Wars" and "Jaws", when Hollywood decided that Summer was their prime time for drawing film fans to the theatres. Bear in mind that "G.I. Joe" is no different and wasn't made to be anything less than a brief explosion of eye candy and thrills. The intelligence behind it is questionable, though, just like most blockbusters: for one thing, it asks us to accept on its face the history between the good and evil principals, and the coincidental events that bring them all together! It's one thing to suspend disbelief when we learn about a past relationship between Duke and the Baroness, but to know the lead good guy also knew the lead villain and...! I'm stopping right there so I don't spoil too much. Not only that, the twist involving the high-tech bomb shelter that sets up the FAR-too-open ending is more than slightly improbable. Just chuck logic out of the window as you's worth it to see a couple of great action set-pieces that show the impressive yet strangely soulless wonder of computer generated effects. Oh, Marlon Wayans wasn't anywhere near as annoying to me as many said he was, but that's only because I've seen much more annoying performances than his! And Dennis Quaid? I remember him back in his heyday in films like "Dreamscape"...he was phoning in his performance for this movie!

Other than that, there isn't much to say...

...except for this second half of the blog, which is for my fellow fans of the original animated series!

It must go without saying that to fans of the original animated series, the filmmakers got so much WRONG translating "G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero!" to a big-budget flick. It's annoying enough that they diluted the original patriotic themes from the series just to make the most people happy across the world. The movie was set for release at a time when the rest of the Earth seemed to have a problem of perception with America -- namely that they didn't like my country. If the makers of this film were really sensitive, they wouldn't have made a film based on patriotic themes in the first place! Instead they made G.I. Joe into a multinational U.N.-approved organization. That isn't a big gripe for me, but for a film to bend over backwards to be sensitive is just plain dumb. I thought filmmaking, like other art forms, were about freedom of expression...not going out of one's way to keep folks from getting upset! What made "G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero!" distinctive was its patriotism and its themes that good will always win out with enough grit and when one thinks about others before themselves. The series ended each episode with a moral, even! Any potentially politically incorrect distinctiveness is discarded in favor of a bland, vanilla-flavored world. It doesn't help that the performances in this flick were so bland, too! Rachel Nichols, for instance, turned Scarlett (a firebrand who at her best measured up just as well as any guy character in the series) into a brainiac who has problems communicating with people! Dull! And I've already gone into the way the film complicated what was once a straightforward good-versus-evil dynamic, and I won't go there again. In short, there probably never would have been a 'right' time for "G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero!" to be remade into a film. But drop its identity for the sake of P.C. bullshit and don't invest a friggin whit of effort in anything but special effects, and...sigh, you have a typical Hollywood blockbuster.

Fans like me expected too much. Fortunately, we still have the original animated series -- patriotic and un-P.C. content untouched, thank God! -- on DVD to watch again and again as an alternative. Hell, the current and future generations of kids can be shown the show and get away from a world that flat-out refuses to keep shit simple. The original series wasn't a product of the Devil or anything, just an enjoyable romp that gloried in red, white and blue because back then unlike today, America was seen with hope instead of derision by the rest of the me a sentimental fool, but maybe my country will be looked upon kindly again sooner or later. And unlike Hollywood films of the present day, each episode made at least an effort to tell a good story with a positive message for the kids at the end. For all of that, I also have a great fondness for "G.I. Joe: Resolute", which essentially was a sequel to the animated series, and continued the story of the never-ending battle between G.I. Joe and Cobra. "Resolute" was for fans like me, and also updated the story into something much darker and mature, an adventure were not all of the Joes (or even Cobras) would live to fight another day, and while the patriotism was muted, it was still there.

Now you know...and knowing is half the battle!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tiger, Tiger, burning...too bright?

Early this afternoon, I watched Tiger Woods prepare for his first shot at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia. It wasn't exactly my choice. My mom was in the same room and wanted me to turn it to ESPN to watch, so what could I do?

It seemed like EVERYBODY wanted to watch that. Some call it the second chapter of Tiger Woods' career. You'd think the way some have inflated this event, it ought to be called the second coming of Tiger Woods. The guy might as well be Jesus, the way people follow each and every little detail about a man who is both the greatest golfer of his generation and celebrity superstar. That in spite of the little fact that ALL HE DOES THAT'S NOTEWORTHY IS FRIGGIN' GOLF!

I reached my saturation point for Tigermania LONG ago, back when they made a big deal that this was a black guy who was all but conquering a supposed 'white man's game'. But Tiger is so damn good at golf he went beyond any political correct bullshit. It got to the point where it seemed like he could do no wrong...that all he touched turned to gold. But again, all he does is play golf. It's not like he's could shape world events, like President Obama. He's a sports celebrity. But Tiger's celebrity far eclipsed his chosen sport long ago, as well. He isn't just someone to be admired because he's so damn good, he's become virtually exalted. He's become a personality for others to worship.

That can make a fall from grace all the more painful.

When I'd heard of his extramarital scandal, my first thought was that it seemed out of character for Tiger to do something so damn stupid. He has a beautiful wife and family, and I thought by default that everything was cool with his personal life. I also had to think, why is all of this 'news'? Again, he's a golfer -- a great one, one must admit -- but his scandal was subject to more analysis and coverage than the earthquake in Haiti! How am I in a world where a sports celebrity's personal life is more important than a major world event?

I'll be damned if I know how.

This is my world, though, and I gotta live in it. Fine, a golfer is center stage in the American consciousness. Whatever. But let's focus a little, okay? Let's not get stupid if we can't help but be obsessed.

I have to ask that -- maybe plead that -- because of a FOX Sports article I chance upon online about a week ago. Jason Whitlock reported about a Vanity Fair expose of Tiger, and the one responsible for this airing out is of a disgruntled lawyer who once worked for the golfer. I won't dignify him by saying his name here, but he claimed to try to be Tiger's advisor to avoid doing something dumb, like stepping into the deep shit of a scandal. This advisor who claimed to have the celebrity sports pro's best interests at heart said that Tiger was unwise to follow the example of sports celebrities like Michael Jordon and dive into excess and sin.

Jason Whitlock all but said 'bullshit' to such statements, and rightly so...he said it was "silly, naive and dishonest." But then Jason went on to say that the one who's really to blame is Tiger's late father, Earl Woods. Instead of raising a good man with strong values, Earl sabatoged the process from minute one with his own bad influence as a chronic womanizer...not only that, he was on record declaring Tiger would 'change the course of humanity' be a superstar and gain every imaginable glory and indulgence accordingly.

Maybe Jason had a point...but he was also wrong.

And again, let's not get stupid. Blaming anyone else for Tiger Woods' fall from grace is useless, because in the end there's only one person to blame for his cheating on his wife with more than one mistress. Even though such things have no right to be 'news'. The only one who's at fault for what Tiger did is Tiger himself. No one else can ultimately take credit for his being a great golfer, right? Trying to blame someone else for what a person does wrong is denying that person any responsibility for himself and his own actions, first and last. If you're going to worship anyone, at least we can do it with some intelligence and give both credit AND blame where it's rightfully due.