Daniel Wu

SH S5E11: Tomb Raider Review

SH S5E11: Tomb Raider Review
Screen Heroes

 
 
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We’re joined by two special guests this week, KCLane Cosplay and NikkiMouse Cosplay to talk about the new Tomb Raider movie. We also talk news including the new Shazam logo, the latest Avengers: Infinity War trailer, Fox’s wishes for a new Buffy the Vampire Slayer reboot, and more!

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A Heroes Podcast Network Production

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Derreck Mayer
Rae Stewart
Ryan Couture

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KCLane Cosplay
Nicole Santorella at NikkiMouse Cosplay

Executive Producer & Editor
Derreck Mayer

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Flying Killer Robots

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SH S5E11: Tomb Raider Review

In Defense of…Warcraft

In my latest column, I’ll be defending movies that were not received well, did lousy at the box office, critically panned, or altogether forgotten about. Most of them will, probably, be fairy tale movies. You’ve been forewarned.

The first film I plan on tackling is one that is still in theaters. You may have heard of Warcraft by now. But you may have not.  The current film is directed by Duncan Jones (Moon) and stars Travis Fimmel as Lothar, Paula Patton as Garona, and Ben Foster as Medivh.  The budget was an estimated $160M and has since made only $38M back domestically. However, international box office numbers take the total gross to over $308M, making it the most profitable video game film to date.  It has received the following ratings:

IMDB: 7.6 out of 10
Rotten Tomatoes: 29%
Metacritic: 32 (out of 100)

Why Warcraft is failing (at least in the US)?

Warcraft and it’s numerous successors, including industry giant World of Warcraft have been pinnacle in PC gaming.  Over the years, they have transformed gaming into what it is today, creating rich characters, backgrounds, and mythologies as well as stunning visuals.  That’s not what American cinema is used to, though.  It’s not always looking for a bigger picture, which is just what Warcraft is doing.  If Blizzard was interested in making only one film, the story would have been much more concise and linear. Certain characters would have fallen in love while others would have lived to see the end.  Since Warcraft is trying to build a cinematic world and not a one-time cinematic experience, they’re thinking of movies 2-6 here instead. American cinema is often short sighted and the universe building doesn’t plan for the future past the next film (Marvel is guilty of this).

Warcraft - Garona

That’s not the only reason why the film isn’t doing exactly well, either. While sitting in the movie, I had no idea what was going on. The movie assumes that you either already know the backstory to Warcraft or that you’ll pick it up eventually. For me, it was latter. It took awhile to figure out certain characters or be invested in the plot, but it got me there.  I don’t feel like it’s such a stretch if American audiences didn’t immediately cling on to it because of the aforementioned reasons.

Where Warcraft Succeeded

Warcraft - Lothar and Khadgar

Warcraft is visually stunning if nothing else. The technology used to portray the world of Azeroth is absolutely incredible. At no point does something look “off” or as if they cut corners at any time.  Because of this, it’s easy to get sucked in. If you’re not worried about why this effect didn’t match this one from earlier, you’re more willing to grab on to the rest of the story and Warcraft’s consistency assists in this.

The acting was outstanding as well. With fantasy films that have a niche following, it can be difficult to bring in outsiders who care and understand the world as much as the original creators do and the fans that have grown it. Yet Warcraft did a superb job of bringing in actors who would care just as much about the subject matter as the others involved. Ben Foster was perfectly cast as Medivh, slipping seamlessly into the role so that I hardly recognized him. Paula Patton was a beautifully tragic Garona, successfully splitting her character between two worlds. Considering most of the time the actors were talking to tennis balls and MOKAP suits, I’m pleased with how much depth each person was able to bring into their stories.

Why You Should Give it A Chance

The movie is fun. It’s a great beginning to, what I hope, will be a continuous adventure. Within a few minutes, I felt captivated to learn more, and by the end, all I wanted was for the story to continue.  I was never into Warcraft before, but now I have no choice but to continue to feed that new interest of mine. I want to know the stories of Lothar, Garona, and Khadgar.  I want to read the books, play the games, and see more stories on the big screen. And that, is the point of any new series: draw in new fans to love what so many others do already.

Catch the latest TV spot below and find out more at WarcraftMovie.com.

Do you agree with my assessment? Do you have other thoughts? Comment below or our on Facebook page!

In Defense of…Warcraft

Into the Badlands – Review

It pains me to say it but Into the Badlands is flawed. It’s not that great to put things mildly. The plot is irrational and borderline moronic, to be a little more harsh. As a long time martial arts fan, I hate to say it, but with only 6 episodes in its first season, I can’t recommend it to anyone just yet. But don’t take my word for it, you can watch it for free on AMC’s site.
It’s not to say it is without hope. I mean a lot of shows suck early as they struggle to find their footing. And the show does have some excellent elements that I admire but it’s not enough to tip the scales in its favor. At best I could only recommend waiting for it to come to Netflix or at least letting it finish out another season (well, if it lasts that long). I’ll cut to the quick for you.

Stance Bad Lands

Plot Synopsis
Taking place in Louisiana, a head body guard by the name of Sunny goes about doing his despotic leader’s bidding. In what  may be a NRA members worst nightmare, guns are outlawed and martial arts reigns supreme. Sunny as head clipper and regent of his Baron is the best fighter in the region. All except for a young boy Sunny finds named M.K. who has supernatural abilities that are released when he is cut. Sunny, slowly learning the depravity of his leader’s ways and the desperation of his situation, plots escape, forgoing the prestige and trust this despot bestows on him for his great skills in combat. Planning to take his romantic interest with him along with his new fighter in training, M.K, Sunny plans escape Into The Badlands. Sadly as my disappointment with the show grew, I kept thinking of South Park’s Mr. Mackey every time they mentioned M.K.

Mkay-song-300x174



 

Badlands: The Good

Fight Scene Episode One Badlands

Fight Scenes
The action is crisp and excellent. Seeing Daniel Wu, who is an experienced martial arts actor, is what sets Into the Badlands apart from any other action show out there. This Hong Kong style action isn’t seen much on the Western television, if at all. Unlike a lot of other Western copies of kung fu, Into the Badlands films it so much better making the moves the star of the action and not the actor’s faces. Usually when Western movies try these they zoom way too close because of the star power of the actor and because the aforementioned star’s lack of martial arts skill.  Casting Daniel Wu for the fight scenes was an excellent choice. Each punch and kick he throws looks authentic because actor and stunt man are one and the same. All the fight scenes choreographed well and the pacing is just right.

Rain Scene One Badlands

Rain Scene Three Badlands

Acting

Surprisingly the acting is much better than any kung fu show has any right to be. Wu does a great job as a clean cut, straight forward hero who is unmistakably on the good side of morality. Contrasted by the Baron (Marton Coskas), who is played so oily and paranoid that he will make you squirm with loathing for him. Csokas, a New Zealander, pulls off an incredible Southern gentlemen’s accent (just think Val Kilmer Doc Holliday from Tombstone and you have the idea.) A hero is defined by a villain and, as a foil for Sunny, Csokas is remarkable.
The rest of the supporting cast is incredibly talented as well. The deadly sexy Emily Beecham as up and coming baroness. The gorgeous Orla Brady as the outgoing baroness, and the smart and sexy Sarah Bolger as the new baroness all do an excellent job of bringing this new world into focus. The young Aramis Knight and Ally Ioannides as star crossed lovers round out the cast excellently. An important part of story telling is character’s and Into the Badlands gets this right.

dan wu badlandsinto-the-badlands-quinn-csokas-700x1000

 

Visuals
The show is pretty. It really is easy on the eyes. It makes excellent use of Southern Culture and settings, one moment showing the regal flair of a Baron’s home and castle, while at another showing the gritty urban look of the French Quarter of New Orleans. All the while interspersing stunning vistas flowers in bloom and weeping willows. At no time could this be mistaken for Southern California like every other show out there; this is the natural beauty of the South. All of this is shot expertly using some great cinematography. Seeing a long shot of Sunny ridding down a road laden with southern flowers is incredible. And you can’t escape the nod to the Samurai flicks of old.

Badlands Field
Costuming is another more subtle force. True to form of classic Kung Fu shows, each domain has its own look and feel to it. Where Sunny’s side has sleeveless soldiers in red leather Chinese style clothes other lords are visually distinguished. One group wields Scottish basket-hilted swords and Celtic plaid clothing, while another group further north sports loose baggy pants and Indian kukri short swords. Lords and lieutenants dress apart from the soldiers but are still bound to the fashion style of their domain. It’s an easy way to see stark clan lines that is a hallmark of kung fu films of feudal China. It’s a subtle but superb touch.AMC_ITB_S1_Inside_Characters_TheBarons

 

Showdown Badlands

Tension With Out Words



 

Badlands: The Bad

Plot
Well there is only one real bad thing of the show but it’s by far the most important: the plot. It could be said that pure kung fu shows don’t really need plot, it’s all about the action after all. The bad thing is that Into The Badlands is actually trying really hard at the plot and failing at it miserably, often times laughably so. Each episode averages out to maybe one fight scene and a half with drama making up the rest. I’m reminded of complaints about The Walking Dead not having enough zombies and too much drama. Consider this and realize that Into The Badland’s drama not nearly being as good.
The characters and interactions are awesome, which is an integral part of any plot driven show, but when you zoom out just a little and ask yourself why am I watching this? It’s as if they know where they want the show to go but the steps they make the characters take to get there are lame.

A good example of this, and perhaps low hanging fruit for plot making, is building up for a confrontation. Something even Hong Kong action shows can easily get right, Into The Badlands stumbles into. Take for example 2008’s Ip Man film. It slowly builds up animosity and tension between the Wing Chun master and the evil Japanese general. The whole time you know there will be a show down between the two. It’s inevitable. It takes time to show the hero and his friends suffering and when the fight scene happens the audience is rooting for the hero to win. The confrontation is savored and has purpose.
It’s not like this is the only option for a simple kung fu story.

IpMan ffight

Netflix’s Daredevil show handles the relationship between fight scenes and plot much better. Though Into the Badlands is a much more sophisticated kind of fight, Daredevil’s fights always have purpose. The epic long shot fight  in the green hallway from the second episode isn’t fancy, it’s a knockdown, dragged out, brawl. It shows Daredevil’s drive bordering on obsession and it ends with the characters perseverance wining the day, not his fighting skill.

DD FightInto the Badlands on the other hand bungles even this simple element in action shows. Though technically very good it is “with out emotional content” as Bruce Lee would say. It’s as though they sprinkled fight scenes at random into a mediocre show with minimal cause and little purpose. An example of this let down would be the major confrontation with Sunny’s greatest enemy, It ends in a couple seconds with a stabbing and is quickly glossed over.

Emotional Content

Emotional Content

And later on when the other rival baron’s come to fight and Sunny’s apprentice and he release his long anticipated supernatural abilities its not really shown, nor are the consequences. Many of the other fight scenes happen without much purpose and have little consequence either. You could just as easily substitute the fights with verbal arguments and it would be same before and after. A bad sign for any show, let alone one emphasizing martial arts. Even the simplest of Kung Fu shows know how to make fights matter! In even the most typical fight scenes you have to root for the protagonist on some level, the fight scene although technically good lack in any relevance, any umph. There really is no excuse for not having this minimal level of fights with some purpose in the plot.

Lady Badlands

Conclusion

I’m not sure AMC is willing to venture out of its comfort zone of drama driven shows to give an honest Kung fu one a shot. And Into The Badlands plot just isn’t good enough to stand on its own. Though the fight scenes are technically some of the best, there are still better fights with much better purpose. The fight scenes on Into The Badlands are hallow and meaningless despite stunning visuals and excellent acting. As it is I can’t really recommend it to anyone either as a drama or an action show.
The best case scenario would be for someone like Daniel Wu and his stunt team coming over to another show like Netflix’s up and coming Iron Fist. At the very least though it demonstrates how good fight scenes can be done on television and that it is possible after all. And that the producers shouldn’t shy away from some really technical kung fu. Yea that’s it, maybe cut and paste the fight scenes from Into the Badlands onto another show and we’ll be all set. I’ll give a generous 2.5 out of 5, but just because I have a soft spot in my heart for some kung fu.

The Grid Rating Saucer 2.5

Into the Badlands – Review