Google+ Isma's Meditation Chamber - Doodles by IAMO: 2005

Monday, November 28, 2005

Watching the Goblet of Fire

Following up on my last blog entry related to films dubbed in Spanish, I wanted to talk about the experience I had last week when I went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at a local movie theatre in Tijuana.

First of all, I'm a fan, so I had been waiting for this movie for some time now. I was trying to read the whole book before I saw the movie, but I just didn't have the time and I only got to "The Yule Ball." I have to say, the movie is amazing, I loved everything about it, and I can't wait for the next one.

The movie was great, but I had a horrible experience at the movie theatre. You see, there is a ridiculous trend going on in Mexico with more and more movies being shown in theatres only in their Spanish dub version instead of the subtitled version. This is really annoying because I prefer to see this kind of movies in English. Where I live, the best and closest option to see a movie is Cinemastar, but it's not a big movie theater chain in México, and lately, some of this year's most popular movies (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Corpse Bride, among others) have only been shown dubbed in Spanish. For those who don't know, when a Spanish dub is not made correctly, it can suck really, really hard. Well, Goblet of Fire was only shown dubbed in Spanish in my favorite theatre, so I had to look else.

I only had 2 other options: Cinepolis (which I avoid due to really bad customer service) (just my opinion here), and Cinemark. Both are big chains in Mexico and both where showing Goblet of Fire in your choice of subtitled or dubbed versions. Well, I picked Cinemark, and I really regret it. The movie and the soundtrack where scratched, throughout the whole movie! You could see 2 vertical stripes and a screechy sound whenever the score was played. I still can't believe that the movie was in such bad condition on opening day.

I wrote to the managers of both Cinemastar and Cinemark. I didn't get an answer from Cinemark, but the manager at Cinemastar kindly replied to my message and said that he agrees that the movie-going public should always have the choice of both dubbed and subtitled versions, but that, unfortunately, they depend on what the distributors in Mexico City send them. What this means is that, in Mexico, we live in a stupid centralized system. Think of Coruscant as the Capital and the rest of the country as the Outer Rim Territories. But, what the distributors don't understand is that whatever they like to see in Mexico City (or if they prefer dubbed versions) doesn't necessarily apply to the rest of the country, much less a border town like Tijuana.

So, I'm running out of choices to go to the movies in my town. I guess I'll just go to San Diego to watch my next must-see movie in a digital projection theatre.

In summary: Harry Potter Year 4. Great movie. Bad movie theatre experience.


Monday, November 14, 2005

"¡Tú eras el elegido!"

There is a sort of controversy in Mexico with pictures being shown in movie theatres dubbed in Spanish or with Spanish subtitles. This Dub vs. Sub debate has been going on for ages, but it has become more evident lately because more and more movies, specially the family-oriented ones, are shown dubbed in Spanish, and sometimes the subtitled version is not made available. A lot of peophe really hate the dubbed versions, they want to hear the real voices in English and prefer to read the subtitles. But also, a lot of people prefer the dubbed versions because, well, they don't know English, or, like in so many other countries, they don't know how (or don't like) to read. Personally, I have no use for either one of them, but only because I know English. So, when I go to the movies, I skip the dubbed versions (because sometimes they are not made properly) and I ignore the subtitles.

Some countries don't have a choice. I don't know if it's entirely true but, I have heard that movie theatres in Spain are required to show all international films dubbed in Spanish ONLY. Or that subtitled versions are not very accessible. I think that's stupid.

My position in this debate is neutral. I don't think that one version is more important than the other one in the context of the Mexican movie-going public. The important thing is that we have a choice. Both versions should always be available to public. Much like the audio options in a DVD.

Which brings me to the Spanish dub in the Revenge of the Sith DVD. Though I prefer the English version, I have made it somewhat of a tradition to watch the Star Wars movies dubbed in Spanish with my Dad, because that's the way he prefers it and because non of the Region 1 Star Wars DVDs have Spanish subtitles. Also, my sister has done some voice over work recently, so I have learned to appreciate the craft and talent of voice actors.

Yesterday, I got together with my family and watched Episode III dubbed in Spanish. Not to be confused with the awful (so I'm told) Spanish dub from Spain, fortunately, this was the same Spanish dub that was released in theatres in Mexico and Latin America, and I have to say, It was not that bad. Some dialog is slightly changed to match the screen actor's lip movement, but, other that, most of the voice acting was convincing. Mario Filio is okay as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Cristina Hernández is great as Padmé Amidala. Jesús Colin nails it as Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, he sounds almost like Ian McDiarmid. Irwin Daayan is also very good as Anakin Skywalker, although he sounds a bit older for the part.

The cool part about this voice over work is that they paid attention to continuity and used the same cast for Episode I and II, and also the Clone Wars micro-series for Cartoon Network, as you can see here and here. Also, some of the same voice actors worked in the Spanish dub for Episodes IV, V, and VI, so, you can hear Arturo Mercado as Yoda and Carlos del Campo as C-3PO throughout the whole Star Wars Saga.

Now, since they are not shown in the DVD credits, and so that they don't remain as unsung heroes, here is the entire cast list of voice actors for Star Wars Episodio III: La venganza de los Sith:

Anakin Skywalker: Irwin Daayan
Padme: Cristina Hernández
Obi Wan Kenobi: Mario Filio
Canciller Palpatine: Jesús Colin
Yoda: Arturo Mercado
C-3PO: Carlos del Campo
Mace Windu: Víctor Hugo Aguilar
Conde Dooku: José Lavat
Bail Organa: Gerardo Reyero
Darth Vader: Federico Romano
Clones: Miguel Angel Ghigliazza
Nute: Paco Mauri
Ki Adi Mundi: Carlos Aguila
Eeth Koth: José Luis Orozco
Saesee Tiin: Gerardo Vázquez
Kit Fisto: Ismael Castro
Tion Medon: Alberto de la Plata
Odd Ball: Rolando de Castro
Mas Ameda: Mario Arvizu
Droid médico: Humberto Solórzano
Piloto de Fireship: Raúl Anaya
Super battle droids: Oscar Flores
Super battle droid 3: Javier Rivero
Droid de batalla: Igor Cruz
Capitan en Cruiser: Herman López
Capitan Antilles: Andrés García
Genaral Grievous: Eduardo Giaccardi
Droid técnico: Carlos Hernández
Typho: Ricardo Brust
Niño Jedi: Andoni Sánchez
Piloto en Cruiser: José Luis Mora



Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Batman's Beginning

"They told me there was nothing out there, nothing to fear. But the night my parents were murdered I caught a glimpse of something. I've looked for it ever since. I went around the world, searched in all the shadows. And there is something out there in the darkness, something terrifying, something that will not stop until it gets revenge... Me."

-Bruce Wayne

So, why am I talking about Batman after I have been posting about Star Wars? Well, my excuse is the obvious connection of Liam Neeson playing a mentor to both Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in The Phantom Menace as Qui-Gon Jinn and Bruce Wayne/Batman as Henri Ducard in Batman Begins.

But, the truth is that I am a Batman fan and I love everything about Batman Begins, which was just released on DVD today. I am just so happy with how this movie turned out. And it was a long wait to see a good Batman film.

I am a big fan, but, unlike my love for Star Wars, I do have to be more selective when it comes to Batman, because, let's face it, there has been a lot of crap (specially in movies and TV) associated with the Dark Knight since his first appearance in Detective Comics in May 1939.

They had tried making bat-movies before but never got it right. Batman (1989) was not a "Batman movie," it was a "Tim Burton movie," and although it was 100 times better than the shameful 1960's TV series, it was still not faithful to the Batman seen in comic books.Batman Returns (1992) was weird and boring. Batman Forever (1995) was silly and over the top. But Batman and Robin (1997), the worst movie ever made, brought the franchise to a dead stop and left it with the same campy stupidity as the 60's TV show. I never understood why director Joel Schumacher, a filmmaker that has given us some really intense dramas, never took Batman seriously. But, because of that lack of respect for the Dark Knight, I have not seen one of his movies ever since. But now that we have Batman Begins, let's never talk about those movies or the groovy 60's TV show ever again. Ok? They never existed.

But that does not mean that there has not been anything good before Batman Begins. There have been many amazing graphic novels by such authors as Frank Miller, Alan Moore, and Jeph Loeb, just to name a few. And let's not forget animation. I am a big, big fan of "Batman The Animated Series" (1992-1995, and known as "The New Batman Adventures" from 1997-1999), not to be confused with "The Batman" currently shown on Kids WB. Also, before Batman Begins, the feature length animated movie Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) was the best Batman movie ever made. The series and the animated movie were faithful to the comic book, very well written, beautifully drawn and animated, and the voice actors were excellent. Mark Hamill provided the voice of The Joker. Hey, there's another Star Wars connection.

Well, may The Force be with the cast and crew of Batman Begins. Can't wait for the next movie.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Critics Shmitics: Don't Try Too Hard To Hate 'Return Of The Jedi'

A lot of people have read the article "50 Reasons Why Return of the Jedi Sucks" by Dan Vebber. It was originally published around 1997 in the below average "Sci-Fi Universe" magazine (a publication whose editor-in-chief was Star Trek Fan and Star Wars Hater Mark A. Altman) and later included in the trashy paperback 'The Unauthorized Star Wars Compendium: The Complete Guide to the Movies, Comic Books, Novels, and More' by Ted Edwards. As to why some so-called-fans actually got a kick out of this article made available by Star Wars bashers is beyond my comprehension.

The funny thing is that once The Phantom Menace came out, every critic in the world forgot about Return of the Jedi's flaws. Not because one movie is better or worse than the other, but because hating Episode I became a fashion statement.

Vebber lists his 50 reasons in no particular order of importance and tries his best to discredit Episode VI. It would have been somewhat amusing if he had made a funny top 10 list, but, since he forced himself to write "50 reasons," the list runs out of gas very soon and becomes uninteresting, redundant, and hateful really fast. Because Vebber tries too hard to fill in the 50 gaps in his list, he ends up making absurd comments like the following:

"16. Unforgivable Dialogue
Threepio approaching Jabba's palace: "I have a bad feeling about this."
Han Solo, when confronted by Ewoks: "I have a bad feeling about this."
With dialogue like this, it seems Lucas finally put that "million monkeys at a million typewriters" theory to the test."

Well, that's all I need to know that this guy is not a Star Wars fan. Guess what Dan? The "I have a bad feeling about this" line is a running gag throughout the whole Star Wars Saga. And us real fans love it.

How about this one:

"19. Stupid Coincidences
"We have been without an interpreter since our master got angry with our last protocol droid and disintegrated him." Pan over to said droid being pulled apart in a machine, to allow for a startled reaction shot by Threepio. Numerous scenes like this further damage Jedi's ability to convince us this stuff is really happening."

Well, guess what? That stuff isn't really happening. It's a movie! This is a common mistake with people who still think that Star Wars is Science Fiction and not Fantasy. When it comes to Science Fiction, there are certain reality based rules you need to follow. But when it comes to Fantasy, anything goes. Vebber just doesn't get that.

Here's another one:

"35. Vader's Real Face
You know, Darth, that scar will never heal unless you stop scratching it. But enough with the clever bon-mots: it should have been David Prowse under that helmet. Period. He deserved at least that much, and probably would have been willing to shave his head. Sebastian Whatsisname (Shaw) delivers an acceptable acting job (actually, one of Jedi's only acceptable acting jobs), but that pudgy head just doesn't match up with the body we see on Vader throughout the rest of the Trilogy."

Didn't this guy understand that Darth Vader was "more machine that man" and that his look under the helmet was anyone's guess? His comment is just as ridiculous as saying that James Earl Jones should have been under the helmet, whom, according to what Vebber says, would have the same right as David Prowse. This is just an example of a whiney critic not accepting something that was not what he expected.

This one always makes me laugh... at the writer:

"7. Physical comedy
This is a Galactic rebellion, for heaven's sake! Yet an Ewok clocks himself with his own slingshot. Threepio's legs point skyward after he falls off the skiff into the sand. Countless adorable muppets zanily cover their eyes or flip-duck off their perches when faced with tense situations. Worst of all, there are two solid instances where burps are used for cheap laughs. Burps! And where are the f**t jokes?"

Well, he got the fart and poopie jokes in Episode I. Now, when you see an eopie farting in Jar Jar's face, the Star Wars bashers might say, "I told you so." But I say, that's the Star Wars Universe farting in Dan Vebber's face. And it's funny as hell.

And this one:

"45. Generally Dumb Dialogue
Vader, upon seeing that Luke has constructed a lightsaber: "Your skills are complete. Indeed, you are powerful as the Emperor has foreseen."
(Wait a second-all because he read a Time/Life book on electronics and soldered together some transistors? Does this mean Tim Allen is a Jedi?)"

Yeah, sure. I would like to see Dan Vebber build a lightsaber. I assure you it would explode in his face. Anybody who saw the animated Clone Wars Chapter 14 knows how significant it is for a Jedi to successfully construct his or her own lightsaber.

At this point, Vebber was not even trying to be funny. He had become consumed in his own hate for what is basically a fantasy family film and he was just trying to come up with anything that would finish his list.

So, bottom line: When making a list to criticize something, less is more.

Till next time,


Monday, October 3, 2005

False 'Star Wars' Fans Suck!

We know that there are whiney fan boys. And we know that there are Star Wars haters. But there is nothing worse than someone who claims to be a Star Wars fan and can't stop criticizing George Lucas or his work. Beware of these False Fans.

It seems that in the "Original Trilogy" days one could tell who the real fans were. It was all black and white. People either loved Star Wars or they didn't like it.

But then the 1997 Special Editions came along, and Star Wars fans started to split up: those fans who supported Lucas' vision and those fans who wanted... well, who knows what they wanted, but they sure liked to complain.

When Episode I came along in 1999, all Hell broke loose. The whole purpose of The Phantom Menace was to introduce the characters, to set up all of the story pieces in the chessboard. These characters and story pieces would start moving in the next episodes. All true fans knew that. But, some people did not get that, and some fans were not that patient. They wanted the whole package in one movie. These so-called-fans could not stop complaining about how Episode I was not what they had wanted it to be. I remember Howard Stern saying in his radio show something like, "these people have been waiting 16 years for this movie... they finally have it... and they criticize it." And I knew exactly what he meant. A real fan is supposed to be supportive, not attack the artist with vile and cynical comments. It made me sick.

People complained and complained and complained. Their expectations were ridiculously high and they were disappointed with Episode I. Not because it was a bad movie, but because their short-attention-span-minds could not let them see the whole picture (the whole 6-episode saga). For example, in a local San Diego news report where they interviewed people coming out of the theatre on opening night, I remember a young woman saying she didn't like the movie because, "there's no story." Well, there IS a story there, you just have to pay attention.
The start of the "Prequel Trilogy" marked the beginning of the Old vs. New debate. A dumb discussion which is completely generational in my opinion. Since that summer, fandom is split into "Original Trilogy" fans and "Star Wars Saga" fans. Sad.

And Lucasfilm knows this. During this year's Cannes Film Festival, George Lucas said:

"I see it all as one movie, so I don't pay much attention to people who prefer one chapter or another chapter. But we've discovered that we have two fan bases. One is over 25 and one is under 25. The over 25 fan base is loyal to the first three films and they are actually in their 30's and 40's now, so that they're in control of the media, they're in control of the web, they're in control of everything basically. The films, which those people don't like, which are the first two, actually are fanatically bored by the other two. And if you get on the web and you listen to these conversations, they are always at each other's throats and the devotion for each group is pretty equal."

But, there are false fans in both groups.

I had almost gotten used to so-called-fan complaints. But then, the false fans took it to another level. When the Star Wars "Trilogy" (or half of the Star Wars Saga) premiered on DVD in September 2004, fans learned that the movies had additional editorial changes. The hate of the false fans exploded, going as far as saying that Lucas had no right to make changes to his movies because they were public property and that he is obliged to release the original versions of the films. I couldn't believe it. I was past disgusted. I was past sad. I was just mad as Hell that these ignorant little creatures could not shut up and just enjoy the movies. But no one said it better than Scott Holleran in his article "George Lucas vs. the Stormtroopers". Regarding the false fan attitude, he said, "There is a word for this philosophy: fascism."

Now, I'm not saying that Star Wars fans should not have a critical mind. They should. But, there is a big difference between being critical and being cynical. I'm just saying that if you are going to call yourself a "Star Wars fan," than you need to learn to accept it, and enjoy it, as it is. And leave the Star Wars bashing to the non-fans.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

While I Was Gone...

Wow, that was a long absence.

Some interesting things happened while I was gone:

Comic-Con 2005. I went to 4 out of 5 days of the Con from July 13-17. I missed Saturday because one of my best friends got married, but it was well worth it. Steve Sansweet's Star Wars presentation on Friday was not as amazing as last year's (I mean, how can you top Carrie Fisher, Hayden Christensen, and the Episode III title unveiling), but there were still some cool things shown. The best thing was the short film The Journey which chronicled the last steps of the Revenge of the Sith production, including the promotional tours. But there is one thing I did not understand: The footage in The Journey from the London premiere shows the audience booing Ian McDiarmid and cheering Hayden Christensen and George Lucas. But why? I don't understand. Why would they boo Ian? He is an amazing actor. Don't they like him there? Until I find an explanation for that behavior, I will only think those people were a bunch of confused individuals. Sorry, I'm a Palpatine fan.

I am no longer a Padawan. It took me 5 years (I graduated in 1999) to get my sh...shtuff together, but on August 2 I presented my college professional exam and I got my bachelor's degree in communications. It felt good to get that out of the way.

Oh, and It was my birthday a couple of days ago (September 19). Had a good time.

That's it. Later.


Tuesday, July 5, 2005

A Certain Point Of View

I find it fascinating that, after seeing Episode III, a lot of scenes from the previous movies have now acquired a new meaning. Not only scenes from Episodes IV, V, and VI, but also from I and II. I am sure that there are a lot more of these, each one a debate or discussion on its own, but these are my favorite ones:

"Your father's lightsaber." When Obi-Wan passed on Anakin's lightsaber to his son, he decided that it was best for Luke to remember his father as a hero of the Clone Wars, a great pilot, and a great Jedi Knight of the Republic. But if Luke only knew how much blood was tainted on that weapon. Sure, it was the same lightsaber Anakin used during the Clone Wars, but I can't help to think that it was also the same weapon he used to cut Mace Windu, kill the Jedi at the Temple and the Separatist leaders, and fight with Obi-Wan to the death. Luke held on to his father's lightsaber with pride, and he never knew.

"There is still good in him." Now it becomes clear that the climax of the whole Star Wars saga is not Luke Skywalker becoming a Jedi, but saving Anakin Skywalker's soul. Obi-Wan was right when he said that Darth Vader had killed Anakin. That is why Yoda and Obi-Wan did not believe he could be turned. But first Padmé and then Luke believed that the "good man" who was Anakin could come back. And it now makes perfect sense to see a young Anakin coming back from the afterlife at the end of Episode VI.

"There is a great disturbance in the force." I have really enjoyed the recent analyses some fans have given about the Emperor's hologram message from Episode V. And I agree with the consensus. Palpatine lied to Darth Vader, and for twenty years he believed that Padmé had died before she gave birth. But shortly after the Death Star was destroyed, he learned about Luke Skywalker and became obsessed with finding him. When the Emperor contacted him during his search, he wasn't informing him that Luke was his son, he already knew that. He was basically saying, "I know that you know."
"She was very beautiful. Kind, but... sad." I don't know why this scene confuses some people. I think it actually makes more sense now. Leia remembers Padmé at the time of her death: A beautiful woman that died of a broken heart.

"What a desolate place this is." Sure, we all knew that a memory wipe would explain C-3PO not recognizing his home planet of Tatooine and that it would save him years of therapy from knowing that Darth Vader was his maker. But, how many of us knew that R2-D2 did not get a memory wipe, and that he knows about everything that has happened, and that he is just keeping quiet?
"The Jedi Master who instructed me." Some people just couldn't stop complaining about this line. "Why does Obi-Wan say that Yoda trained him, when in fact Qui-Gon was his Master?" Well, it is implied that Yoda trained Obi-Wan when he was a Youngling, before becoming Qui-Gon's Padawan. But, as we can tell from the end of Episode III, Yoda trained Obi-Wan even as an adult when he was already a Master. Yoda taught him how to comeback from the afterlife and instructed him to train during his years in Tatooine. So, the way I see it, Yoda trained Obi-Wan during different stages of his life.

"Join me." I now understand how cancerous the Sith Master/Apprentice relationship is. We saw a little bit of that between Darth Tyrannus and Darth Sidious. Darth Vader wanted to overthrow the Emperor and rule the galaxy along with his wife. When that did not happen, he wanted his son to join him and destroy the Emperor. But Palpatine wanted to get rid of Vader and have Luke take his place. So, one wanted to kill the other, and at the end they destroyed each other.

"The Emperor's coming here?" Palpatine is my second favorite character in the whole Star Wars saga. Who knows how long he planned his revenge on the Jedi, but once he sets his plan in motion, its amazing to see how this character is unraveled. His death at the end of Episode VI is made all the more significant because now we know all the evil that he represents.

"Do not...Do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor, or suffer your father's fate, you will." We already knew that Yoda was warning Luke about Palpatine's powers of seduction to the Dark Side, but now we know that his warning also implies the Emperor's Force lightning and lightsaber skills that he experienced first hand. I think that Yoda and Palpatine are the characters that most benefited from the prequels. It is clear that Palpatine is Yoda's antithesis and that one is just as powerful as the other one is. It is no coincidence that they appear in the same number of episodes.
"He has too much of his father in him. / That's what I'm afraid of." How much did Owen Lars knew about his stepbrother Anakin Skywalker? Maybe he learned about the Tusker Rider Massacre after Anakin left Tatooine. He sure didn't miss C-3PO, but he did wish for a simpler life for Anakin.

"...On your home planet of Alderaan." Whether I want to or not, I can now visualize the destruction of this peaceful planet from Bail Organa's point of view.

"He's no good to me dead." The connection between the Stormtroopers and Boba Fett is just perfect. Who knew Jango Fett's face would be under those helmets.

"I'm getting too old for this sort of thing." Yeah, now we know who the Jedi were and what they could do. By "this sort of thing," Obi Wan means evading clone troopers, skydiving through buildings and air traffic, facing bounty hunters and cyborg generals, and chopping up Sith Lords. But one is never too old for a good mind trick.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

So, which is my favorite Star Wars movie?

Maybe it's harder for older fans to view Star Wars as a "sextet," a complete saga, instead of "two trilogies" or individual movies. I think that is why some people are disappointed with some of the episodes: because they look at it as a competition between individual Star Wars movies, or the old and new movies. Which makes no sense to me, since now we have all the pieces of the puzzle and since Star Wars stooped being a trilogy in 1999. Personally, I think Star Wars is more enjoyable if viewed as one six-part story that has good things and bad things.

If we look at all of the movies in order, we will see that the story is perfectly balanced: Episodes I and II have the exposition, episodes III, IV, and V have the plot, and episode VI has the resolution. Beginning, Development, and Ending.

Having said that, I believe Star Wars has been a sextet since the making of the prequels was announced. But, if someone would put a gun to my head and demanded that I view it as separate movies and that I pick my favorite, in that case, I would put it in the following order from best to less good:

1. Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back2. Episode III - Revenge of the Sith3. Episode IV - A New Hope4. Episode II - Attack of the Clones5. TIE. Episode I - The Phantom Menace and Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

Why the tie? Well, one is not really better than the other one. They have the same weight in the overall story. The only purpose of Episode I is to introduce the characters, and Episode VI's is to tie all the loose ends. Also, I have more love for Gungans then I do for Ewoks, so sue me.

Take care,