Tuesday, November 17, 2020

What would a Velcro the Ninja Kat movie look like?

So the Velcro the Ninja Kat books have been out for some time now, yet in all that time, I've never really given my own thoughts on them. Not that I intend to review my own books or anything like that, but I would like to just give a little insight here or there, and perhaps provide just a little peek behind the curtain, so to speak. And to start off, I'd like to discuss the first book in the series, Velcro: The Ninja Kat, and specifically one reaction in particular towards that book that was perhaps the most prevalent when it originally released.

When the book first came out, there were actually quite a number of people who read it who came away with the reaction that they'd love to see it made as a movie. Now, I have to admit that I was a little confused by this reaction at the time, as I personally felt that the story played out more in a manner suited to something like an ongoing anime series, as opposed to the confines of a two hour long film. But then recently, it actually clicked with me how the first book actually could work as a stand alone feature.

See, most of the first book takes place within a single location, that being the military brig known as The Web, which also acts as the base of operations for the villainous Spider. The Ninja Kat breaks into the prison along with her hamster allies in order to free their friends who had been imprisoned after their home village had been attacked by the Devil Corps, and the majority of the book sees them making their way through the Spider's lair and all of his various traps he's set for our heroes along the way.

Now, in certain regards, this set up might sound somewhat similar to a couple of films that had released some years back (the same year as when Velcro: The Ninja Kat released, now that I think of it. I guess everyone had their own different take on a similar idea at the same time), those movies being Dredd and The Raid. Both of these films saw their heroes storming into a building where they find themselves trapped inside and having to fight their way back out in some manner. Only, unlike both of those films, my story deals with anthropomorphic animals. And, well, as we've seen with the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films from the 90s, it is in fact possible to convincingly pull off anthropomorphic animals in an action film, even in live action.

The writing would of course have to be tweaked in certain regards from the novel in order to make the transition into this new medium seamless, but there's honestly not too much that would need to be changed, and the end result could definitely work. And in fact, I already tried to do this very thing on a much smaller scale in the short film, Kip, which does in many ways visually resemble the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and which was precisely the look I was trying to go for. Now, imagine taking that more gritty look of that initial Ninja Turtles movie, and placing it in a setting not too dissimilar from something such as Dredd or The Raid (and perhaps toning down the action to more of a PG-13, as opposed to a hard R), and you've more or less got what I envision a live action feature length adaptation of the first Ninja Kat book to look like in a movie. So basically, the Ninja Turtles meet The Raid.

Personally, I would definitely want it to be done as practical as possible, meaning actors in full costumes performing on screen, and to avoid having to rely on CGI as much as possible. I'm not exactly looking to use last year's adaptation of the theatrical production CATS as any sort of inspiration, for instance. And I have to emphasize that the look from the original 90s Ninja Turtles movies would be a most ideal approach, as it's sort of crazy just how much those movies still hold up visually today, especially compared to the newer movies from the 2010s, in which all of the turtles are done in CGI. I think this just comes down to the fact that what you're seeing on the screen is actually physically there, and it looks and feels organic, it looks more real, because in a sense, it is real, whereas the CGI characters don't quite have the same effect.

Pictured above: NOT what we're going for!

But anyways, this is definitely a goal of mine to achieve one day, though I still need the resources to actually pull off such a project. I believe it could definitely be done on a low budget, but not quite the micro budget the likes of which I'm more used to on my own films. The Kip short still cost several hundred dollars, and most of that money went into the costumes. So having to expand that to a full cast of characters in a full feature production, yeah, that would definitely add up to more than I can personally afford out of my own pocket right now, though it does still feel like something that's realistically achievable someday.

Of course, I still feel like the Ninja Kat is ripe for the likes of comics and animation (and in fact, a brief comic book run does currently exist), but it's nice to think that a feature length live action adaptation could be realistically achieved. And hey, who knows? Should we make this initial project and it actually succeeds, then there's plenty of more material to work off of for the sequels, such as Velcro: The Green Lion, where we can further expand the story and this world, similarly to how The Raid 2 opened up its own world quite drastically as compared to the single locale of the first film. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here, and perhaps stop it there, as we look ahead to what may yet come. And as for now, feel free to check out the short film Kip to get a bit of a better idea of what a live action Ninja Kat film might look like:

Now available:
Velcro: The Ninja Kat
Velcro: The Green Lion
Velcro the Ninja Kat presents: Kip


Sunday, November 8, 2020

On the state of online discourse as it relates to film

It's been a while since I've really posted something here. In a sense, I sort of feel like my Best of the Decade in Film post was more or less a retirement from me blogging about movies. But a part of the reason I fell out of talking about movies, was because I had become discouraged with the state of online discourse. And this is in a much broader sense as well, which should become quite apparent as the post goes along, but for the purposes of this essay, I'll just discuss my thoughts on the state of online discourse specifically as it relates to film.

To go back some years, around the time when social media was still in its infancy, I recall how sites like myspace and livejournal existed mostly just to congregate with friends you knew in real life online, and as facebook opened up beyond being exclusive to college students, and eventually twitter came around, soon the pool of friends and feeds also expanded to people you had met online. And in those earlier days, I remember how these sites mostly existed just as a means to share humor and post about our hobbies or our day to day activities. And I also remember how politics was still generally regarded as a taboo subject, and people would actually get called out for getting political, no matter which affiliation their arguments may be swaying.

Cut to today, and you'll find much the exact opposite to be the case. It's almost entirely politics, and divisive politics at that. And if you choose not to participate, well then now you're the one who's shunned. And again, I've found that political affiliation doesn't matter in this regard either. I know both right leaners and lefties who choose to stay out of the discourse, people who used to get quite a bit of traction once upon a time, but who now, as a result of choosing to stay out of politics, get completely ignored by just about everyone.

Now, how this relates to film, is that even in the confines of discussing film, the same has become the case. Nowadays, I've found that films are largely no longer discussed based on the content therewithin, but rather, based on our political interpretations of them. In fact, I'd argue that the state of film criticism in the past couple of years has been some of the most dishonest discussion on film that I've ever seen transpire, where oftentimes people would straight up lie about a film in order to gain political ground.

There's a number of films I'd like to discuss in this regard to make my case, the first being Bohemian Rhapsody. Now, I understand if people didn't want to support this film because they took issue with its director. However, rather than just dismissing the film and moving on, they chose to instead torch it, and to do so by lying about it. Almost all of the criticisms I've seen about the film are just factually false, and are claims that anyone who's actually seen the movie could attest to. The big ones that still stand out to me are how people claim that the movie completely disregards Freddie Mercury's heritage and sexual orientation, which I'm sorry, but not only is that not the case, but these factors are indeed major aspects of this film, and to say otherwise is just completely dishonest.

As bad as Bohemian Rhapsody got it though, it was nothing compared to what we'd see with the reaction towards Joker. People had already determined that they knew what the film was about months prior to release, and were already deriding it for being "problematic". But then, sure enough, the movie comes out, and it's quite literally not the "racist, incel rallying cry" that so many had proclaimed it to be. And in fact, it's actually a fascinating film with a lot that's actually worth dissecting and having an actual discussion about, but I found this to be an impossible task due to all of the political activists online who had completely hijacked all conversation on the movie with their BS agendas that, in fact, had nothing to do with the film in question. Hell, I'd even argue that had this film released in a different political climate, say even just five years ago, almost everyone who so unfairly attacked it would be singing a radically different tune about it. But here we are.

And there's other examples, such as how some corners of the internet had a complete 180 on La La Land after it had swept at that year's Golden Globes, and thus they now viewed this movie as being "overrated", and some even took it a step further and attached unfair labels to it as well, such as being supposedly racist. And then I could write an entire post on just how dishonest the criticism for Frozen II has been, almost as if everyone in the "Frozen is overrated" camp wasn't even willing to give this film a fair shake, but even so, they felt the need to straight up lie about it and make things up in order to justify their disdain for the franchise and its popularity. And speaking on films or franchises we deem "overrated", I mean, if a film isn't for you, why isn't that enough? Why feel the need to constantly rag on it? Hell, there's plenty of hugely popular franchises that I'm not that big a fan of, and that I personally consider to be "overrated", such as Stranger Things or It. But you know what I don't do? I don't raise a big stink about these films when a new entry comes out. They're not for me, and I'm not here to rain on anyone's parade who does like these things. So I just ignore them, and go about my day.

But that's the thing, is that I've noticed the internet becoming more and more of a place to just take a massive dump on everything. Discourse has become a competition on who can have the hottest take, or who can make the snarkiest remark. And I get it. I used to partake in this. Especially when I was younger, it can be kinda fun going on a rant about a really bad movie. And at one point, I even used to put together "Worst of the Year" lists at the end of the year to go along with my "Best of the Year" counterparts. But even back then, I always felt a little weird putting together those lists, and I only kept doing so for so long because, for some reason, they consistently generated the most conversation. And I've even recently discovered a similar case in real life, where at work one day, we were talking about movies, and I had gone on a brief rant about Jurassic World, which had come up in the conversation. And my coworkers were so entertained by it that they asked me what else I didn't like, but I just shook my head in response, and said no, I don't actually really like talking about the things that I don't like, and that I'd much prefer to speak on what I do like. And I'd like to think that I've come to carry this same mentality in recent times online as well.

That's not to say that I feel all film criticism should go away. Not at all. It certainly still has its place. And that's even in regards to the films I just discussed. For instance, one of the more fair reviews I saw for Frozen II actually did come from someone who wasn't so high on it, but at least he was honest in his overall assessments and didn't resort to making stuff up in order to plead his case. And that's the thing, I just wish that we could be more honest about it all, and also perhaps not place so much emphasis on what we don't like, and maybe focus a little more on what we do. Because there's just so much negativity out there, and after a while, it just gets old, and it becomes exhausting. Like, I follow accounts who still only ever criticize things, and at some point, I just shake my head and wonder, do you even like anything? And if so, why do you never talk about that instead? Because honestly, some of my favorite reactions to films in recent years come from people just being so passionately moved by a film, even if it's one that didn't necessarily have so strong an effect on myself. For instance, I recall a video where a man was driven to tears recalling the "Martha" twist from Batman v Superman. And while I do quite enjoy that movie, I have to admit that even I found that twist to be a bit silly in its execution. Yet even so, seeing just how strongly it affected this person really warmed my own heart.

Or one of my favorite reactions I've seen for a film came from a poster on a film forum I used to frequent, in regards to Kubo and the Two Strings. He shared his immediate reaction to the film, in which he turned to his friend in the theater with tears still streaming down his face, and he audibly expressed, "holy shit, dude," at the sheer euphoria he had just experienced on screen. Now, I personally wasn't as thrilled by this movie, but even so, that reaction thrills me to this day, and it's one that especially comes to mind whenever I revisit Frozen II, as I feel my own reaction to this film mirrors his reaction to that one (the poster in question of course wasn't so thrilled with Frozen II himself, however).

Hell, one of my friends who mostly stays out of the politics and discourse uses her social media solely as a means to express her passion for Doctor Who and One Piece and such. And these aren't even franchises that I follow at all, so I have no opinion on them one way or another, and often have no idea what she's even talking about when she goes on about them. But just seeing somebody actually being positive for a change, and just really moved by their passions is enough for me to consider it some of my favorite content on the internet these days all the same, and it often leaves me reflecting on franchises I do personally hold dear in a similar regard, such as Babymetal or Naruto or Frozen.

Sadly though, this sort of content I've found to become fewer and farther between in recent years. Because everyone's a critic, and as I've already discussed, much of online criticism isn't even honest anymore, so everyone's a dishonest critic at that. But the internet has become so inundated with negativity, I actually considered putting together a show of some sort, like a podcast where we would bring on guests and just talk about our favorite movies, just dive deep into what about them really affects us so. I was inspired for this idea after hearing a number of people expressing their personal all time favorite movies, and hearing a number of really interesting responses, such as an online journalist I follow claiming his favorite film to be Doctor Strange, or a gaffer from a short film I worked on in New York saying his all time favorite movie was Blade Runner 2049. And hell, seeing how my own all time favorite, Frozen, is one I'd consider to be an interesting pick as well, and one that I can definitely dive deep on, I'd similarly like to just talk about some of these movies with some people and really get their thoughts on them, even in cases where it's a film that I wasn't personally a big fan of (Doctor Strange).

Of course, I never did get around to doing that, and I'm not positive that I ever will. Though I do have a friend who's doing something similar recently, where he's got a vlog series where he just sits in front of a camera and talks about movies that he likes. The show's even called "Movies I Like", so maybe check it out for yourself if you want some good positive content in your lives in these dreary times.

Though as I've said, this sort of content is becoming harder and harder to find, and actual film discussion feels as if it's become near impossible without becoming some sort of heated debate. And this just grows tiring after a while, and often reminds me of online political discourse, where in the end, nobody really "wins", and everyone just comes away feeling more bitter towards the other side. However, you'll oftentimes not find quite such heated reactions when discussing these topics in person, but then, that's sort of the sad thing about the state of film discussion, because I don't recall debating the merits of a film ever feeling similar to having to defend a political position. But in this day and age, it very often feels that way, and it's certainly not helped when the reasons you're defending a film are in order to thwart unfair political associations being attached to the movie, so that you can get past that nonsense and actually discuss the film itself. But nowadays, with how overly politicized everything has become, as with politics itself, the over-politicization of film I've found has honestly just made even attempting to discuss certain films just uncomfortable from the outset, which really just sucks.

I just really wish we could all stop talking about politics all the time. I miss the days when not every single thing was politicized. I miss the days when not every single person felt it necessary to share their political takes on every single issue. I miss being able to follow a filmmaker, or a musician, or an author, or another artist on social media and just getting content related to their art, not their politics. I miss following friends and family online, and just seeing them post about their daily lives and hobbies, and not just their politics all of the damn time. I miss when we all sorta understood that this platform was just about the least ideal place to share and express our political views, as we oftentimes do so from behind the safety of our screen where we can allow our emotions to run out of control, much like experiencing road rage while driving behind the wheel, and that such topics are best left to in person where we can more calmly and rationally come to an understanding on the matter.

But that's where we are now. And all of the above is a nice concise way of explaining why I don't enjoy talking about films as often these days, and why I've in a sense "retired" from blogging. I am kind of depressed with the state of film itself, which is another topic entirely, but more than that, I'm depressed by the state of film criticism and discussion, and how dishonest and overly agenda driven it's all become, where half the time we're not even discussing the film in question itself, but rather, how it relates to the state of modern politics, relevancy be damned. Which, as if it hasn't become apparent by this point, I am absolutely sick to my soul of.

Thinking on heated online discussions though, while the one person I managed to find who would actually discuss Frozen II with me online got pretty out of hand and quite heated and ugly, it does make me recall another time in which I was discussing the first movie with a friend who took a lot of issues with it some years back. I was just hanging out at his house while we were going over ideas for one of our shorts we were about to film, and we started talking about movies, until the topic got to Frozen somehow. And while I let this friend vent about some other movies that I liked that he wasn't as big on, I found myself actively speaking up in defense of Frozen, but doing so in a manner that really came from the heart. And my friend could clearly see just how passionately I spoke on it, and he actually chuckled and asked, "you're not gonna let up, are you?" Our conversation wound up ending on a positive note after that, with him saying that perhaps he'll give the movie another chance, and that maybe he had missed a few things when he watched it. However, had our conversation taken place online, I can almost guarantee that the end result wouldn't have been nearly so nice and satisfying for either party.

So yeah, I guess I've kind of been holding on to these thoughts for some time now. But this is largely why I'm not so active in a lot of arenas online anymore, such as blogging and social media, because quite frankly, a lot of it is just discouraging at this point. But in the meantime, as you've perhaps been able to see, I've still been keeping busy producing my own art, and finding other ways to bide my time. But will I be back online full time? Maybe, but most likely not in the active capacity that I have in times past. But who knows for sure, we'll just have to see how things pan out, and hopefully someday things can take a turn back towards the positive.