Underrated Directors Who Should Totally Helm A Blockbuster

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Directors; to many casual film goers, they are the driving force behind all aspects of a movie. And while those of us who actually work in film, writing scripts, editing footage, mixing sound and so on, know that this isn’t true, it is true that directors can have a huge influence on a picture’s look, tone, and style. And that look and style can attract audiences, and make the pictures better as a whole. Now there are certain directors whose look and style have become well known to the public–the Spielbergs, the Burtons, the Tarantinos–but there are others whose talent is clear when you watch their films but, for whatever reason, they and their work have remained out of the spotlight. I’d like to remedy that today. Here is my list of awesome, underrated directors who should totally helm a blockbuster. Why a blockbuster? Because that’s what most people see, and, if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s the only way most of us will ever hear about these artists.

1. Bong Joon-Ho.

  • What They’ve Done: The Host, Snowpiercer, Okja.
  • What I’d Like Them To Do: A Star Wars Movie.

Perhaps the best-known filmmaker on this list, Bong Joon-Ho is one of my all-time favorite directors, and a household name back in his native Korea. And yet, despite all his critical and commercial success in Asia, he remains relatively unknown in the West. Film nerds have probably watched a few of his flicks, but the vast majority of audiences aren’t familiar with his sumptuous visuals, dark humor, sudden shifts in tone, and biting social commentary, all of which make him ideal to helm a Star Wars movie. Just watch The Host, see how he shoots action, writes villainous characters, and uses creature effects, and tell me you couldn’t see him directing an episode in a galaxy far, far away.

2. Jaume Collet-Serra.

  • What They’ve Done: Non-Stop, The Shallows, Orphan.
  • What I’d Like Them To Do: A MIssion Impossible Movie.

Best known for his many collaborations with Liam Neeson, Spanish director Jaume Collet Serra has a habit of taking silly genre scripts, and turning them into much better films than they have any right to be. Seriously. If you take a hard look at the plots of any of his features–Unknown, Non-Stop, Orphan–they don’t really hold up. But the films themselves are so well-acted, so beautifully shot, and so viscerally entertaining that you don’t really care. Which makes him an ideal match for the Mission Impossible franchise, which, let’s be honest, isn’t  really famous for having the most believable story lines, but whose insane action set pieces more than make up for that. And let’s not forget, several of Collet-Serra’s flicks, like Unknown, have espionage elements to them. So it’s not altogether out of his wheelhouse.

3. Wes Ball.

  • What They’ve Done: The Maze Runner Trilogy.
  • What I’d Like Them To Do: A Fast & Furious Movie.

Say what you like about the Maze Runner films–I, personally, am not a huge fan–they have amazing action sequences. Even these movies’ harshest critics agree that the chases, the fight scenes, and the stunt work are incredible, and that the director, Wes Ball, has a good eye for action. So what better franchise to put him in than the Fast & Furious, which we all can agree is extremely light on story, but very heavy on amazing set pieces? I have no doubt whatsoever that Mr. Ball could concoct some truly bonkers action scenes, and give this series’ fans the high octane thrills they crave.

4. Mike Flanagan.

  • What They’ve Done: Oculus, Hush, Gerald’s Game.
  • What I’d Like Them To Do: A Batman Movie.

One of this generations true horror masters, Mike Flanagan’s films work, not just because they’re beautifully shot, and possess ghosts and serial killers, but because of their fascinating explorations of their characters’ pasts and psyches. Gerald’s Game and Oculus are all about people revisiting childhood trauma, and trying to work through it. And if there’s one blockbuster franchise that relishes horror, and childhood trauma, it’s Batman. He’s a tormented character, who just can’t let his past go, and several of his rogues, the Joker, Scarecrow, Two Face, are horrifying manifestations of various mental illnesses. So who better to helm a Batman film than a horror master with an interest in dissecting the minds of damaged people? Well, okay, I’m sure there are loads of filmmakers who’d be totally great for Batman, but Mike Flanagan is at the top of my list.

5. Takashi Miike.

  • What They’ve Done: 13 Assassins, Audition, Ichi The Killer.
  • What I’d Like Them To Do: A Predator Movie.

A prolific and controversial director, whose work I’ve written about before, Takashi Miike is perfectly suited for the Predator franchise. Why? Because just like John McTiernan’s 1987 classic, which began as action, and ended as horror, many of Miike’s films blend genres and tones. Several of his features, like Yakuza Apocalypse and Ichi The Killer, synthesize elements of thrillers and horror. Many more, like Fudoh: The New Generation, Blade Of The Immortal, and Terra Formers, include insane, stylized characters with insane, stylized weapons i.e. the exact kind of fighters that the Predators would want to hunt. And, as if this needs mentioning, Miike is superb at crafting creative, bloody fight sequences, which are precisely what this franchise thrives off of.

Is The Rose Storyline In The Last Jedi Really Pointless?

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

So I’ve been surfing the web recently, and I’ve been reading a lot of reviews for Star Wars: The Last Jedi which criticize my new favorite character, Rose, and her storyline. They all pretty much have the same thing to say, “her storyline is pointless. It adds up to nothing.”

Now, my instant, gut reaction is, “well fuck you. I liked her, and you all should be more supportive of an Asian American actress finally making it big in hollywood.” But then I took a step back, and started thinking. Was her storyline really pointless? After all, her plan to find a hacker fails, the hacker she does find betrays her, and she stops Finn from sacrificing himself to save the Resistance. In a sense, neither she nor Finn did anything that was relevant, plot wise. So, yes, the Rose storyline was, in that respect, pointless.

But the question I want to ask the world is, is that a bad thing? Is it bad for movies to have scenes and characters that don’t effect the overall plot? I would argue “no.”

The best films have characters and worlds that feel lived-in, and real, and one of the best ways to do that is to show characters just interacting with each other and their environments. Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino have made careers off of writing scenes that don’t really have an impact on the plot, and yet, are interesting, and flesh out the characters. Basically every conversation Jules and Vincent have in Pulp Fiction is like this. Their opening talk about hash bars never gets brought up again. Neither does their conversation in the diner about pork. The taxi driver Bruce Willis talks to doesn’t come back to play at all. And the discussion of pot bellies and blueberry pancakes serves no purpose whatsoever. If the film was to cut all of these “pointless” scenes, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting, and the characters wouldn’t be nearly as memorable.

Another great example of a “pointless” scene that actually makes the movie better is the gas station stand off in No Country For Old Men. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Javier Bardem plays a psychotic killer who decides whether or not to murder people by flipping a coin and giving them the chance to call it. If they get it right, he lets them go. If they don’t, he kills them. In one scene, he goes into a gas station, and the gas station owner tries to make small talk. Javier Bardem doesn’t like that, and so flips the coin. The gas station attendant gets it right, and Bardem leaves. Now, this is the one scene that everyone who’s watched the movie talks about and remembers. They say it has the best dialogue, and the best acting. But here’s the thing; it’s pointless. The gas station attendant never comes back into the picture. And, in the end, the scene was just a whole lot of build up to nothing. Bardem doesn’t kill him. He just leaves. In terms of plot progression, this whole stand off is dead weight. And yet, if you were to take away this “pointless” scene, you’d have lost one of the best moments in cinema.

So, yes, maybe Rose’s storyline in The Last Jedi is “pointless” in that it doesn’t effect the overall plot, but that doesn’t make it bad. It introduces us to a fun new character, who provides a different perspective on the conflict. It’s got some good humor with her and Finn. There’s a fun sequence where the two of them ride horse/kangaroo monsters through a Casino, tearing it to pieces. And, as I said before, it provides us with a non-stereotypical Asian character in a major blockbuster franchise. That’s huge. See, Cliff Chang, the artist on the comic series Paper Girls, told me something heartbreaking once. He said, “growing up, I never saw myself in the artwork that I loved. And, over time, I just grew to accept that.” But that doesn’t have to be the case anymore. Rose is proof that you can have Asian characters in big budget, blockbuster franchises, who don’t speak broken English, or know martial arts, and the world won’t fall apart. Millions of young Asian-Americans will see her and think, “that could be me one day” and not “I could never be in those movies,” which, sadly, is what many people of my parent’s generation, including my father, were taught. And the fact that they won’t think it can’t happen for them, the fact that they will be inspired, is wonderful. So, yeah, Rose’s storyline is pointless. But the movie, and the world, wouldn’t be better without it.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

The Resistance is on the run. The First Order has destroyed their base, and they’re looking to wipe them out for good. And unlike every other time this has happened, our heroes can’t just jump into hyper-space and fly away, since the First Order has developed the means to track them. So it’s up to Finn, Po, and newcomer Rose to find a way to disable the bad guy’s ship. Meanwhile, Ray has found Luke Skywalker, and is trying to get him to come out of hiding. But this might be a harder task than previously thought, since Luke has shut himself off, not just from everyone, but the force as well.

The Last Jedi is a loud, long, visually-arresting spectacle. Did I love it? No. But did I regret going to see it? Not in the least. There’s actually a fair bit I liked in here. For starters, unlike The Force Awakens, it’s not just a carbon copy of previous films. Sure, there are elements of other Star Wars movies present, but this flick’s story is, ultimately, its own. On top of that, there’s some good humor in here. I actually laughed quite a few times in this movie, which is always good. And, as if this needs saying, the action and special effects cannot be compared. But probably what I liked the most about this movie was the relationship between Finn and Rose. Their chemistry is AMAZING! Seriously, if you told me that the actors playing them–John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran–were dating in real life, I’d believe you, because what they have is magnetic. On top of this, Rose is a really fun, really likable character. She’s a grease monkey who repairs the rebel’s ships, and who’s not used to hanging out with big shots like Finn or Po. So, when she’s first introduced to Finn, she acts like a total fangirl, which I found very endearing. To put it bluntly, I love her, and want to see her in the next movie.

That said, the film does have problems, not least of which is the fact that it is way too long. It’s about 152 minutes, and there are definitely points where you feel that. There are so many scenes, like when Ray is trying to convince Luke to come out of hiding, and he keeps refusing, that are just dull and repetitive. We know he’s going to help her eventually, so why waste our time? On top of this, the action in here, while fun, is all so big and dramatic that it just gets tiring after a while. Seriously. There were about three points in this movie where I thought we’d reached the climax, but then, oh no, there’s another huge spaceship battle, there’s another big sword fight. I honestly felt exhausted when I got out of the theater. But by far my biggest gripe with the movie was the character of Ray. I didn’t really say anything about her in my Force Awakens review, since I didn’t think it was fair to harp on any one person, but I kind of hated her here. Everything you’ve read online about how she’s too perfect is on full display in this movie. She never grows. She never gets hurt. And she’s so strong that she’s able to beat everyone, from the main bad guy, Kylo Ren, to Luke, the dude she’s ostensibly there to learn from. People talk about Superman being too strong, but at least he has weaknesses, like Kryptonite and being overly trusting. What are Ray’s weaknesses? What are her flaws? What makes her worth watching?

Still, I’d be lying to myself if I told you I didn’t have fun with this movie. Is it too long? Yes. Is the main character a bit of a bore? You bet your ass she is. But the film’s humor, action, and the relationship between Finn and Rose are all so infectious that you end up walking out with a smile on your face. For that reason, I say, go give it a look.

Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Greetings Loved ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Like all the films in the Star Wars franchise, this installment is certainly entertaining, but lacking in substance. On top of this, it’s highly derivative. What I mean by that is, with only a few exceptions, the movie more or less follows the exact same plot line as the original, 1977 film directed by George Lucas. Once again, the movie begins with a rebel leader entrusting a vital secret to a droid, who gets stranded on a desert planet, then gets picked up by an orphan who secretly possesses the Force. Once again, there is a big, evil device that can blow up planets, and the film ends with the good guys destroying it. Once again, the main villain is someone who used to be good, but was then seduced by the dark side, and he ends up killing a beloved person from his old life at the film’s climax. Once again, once again, once again…

But, as a dear friend of mine who actually got the chance to interview the great George Lucas once said, “There’s no such thing as an original story out there. Everything you read or see is just a re-telling or adaptation of something else.” So, on it’s own, a derivative plot-line isn’t enough of a reason to hate a movie. And, no, before you ask, I don’t hate this movie. I’m just not going to cream my pants over it as some fan-boys are bound to do. I will look at this film’s flaws, as well as its strengths.

Speaking of strengths, I think all the lead actors did good jobs. They seemed energetic, excited, and genuinely happy to be in this movie. On top of this, as with all the films in the Star Wars franchise, the special effects and fight scenes are very impressive. I can’t think of a moment in this movie where I was bored, so that’s good.

As I said before, this is an entertaining, visually-stunning film that I can certainly understand why lots of people would enjoy going to see. I just don’t think there’s much to it in the way of morals, themes, motifs, or really anything of substance. Part of this has to do with the fact that this film is extremely fast. What I mean by that is, SHIT IS FLYING AT THE SCREEN ALMOST EVERY SECOND! There’s hardly a point in this movie where the characters aren’t running, shooting at something, being shot at, or having things explode all around them. They, and by extension, the audience, are barely given time to breathe, much less talk to one another. It honestly seems to me like the director, JJ Abrams, was determined to not have his film be labelled as boring, and so did everything in his power to cram as much action and violence into the movie as possible.

I’ll be honest with you guys, I’ve never been a huge Star Wars fan. I don’t hate the movies or anything, but I’ve never understood why people get so violently defensive and obsessive over them. I’ve never understood the hatred that some people have for the Prequels, Jake Lloyd, or Hayden Christiansen. For that matter, I don’t understand why so many die-hard fans hate George Lucas, the guy who created the whole universe to begin with. So what if he made some alterations in the special edition DVDs. You don’t have to buy those. The originals are still for sale. And, really, does adding a little CGI to the background in a few scenes, or changing some dialogue, really matter? The plot, the characters, and all the moments that you liked from the original are still intact. And as for Jake Lloyd, why on Earth do you dean it necessary to bully a little boy, send him death threats, and make his life so miserable that he quits acting for good? Just because he didn’t deliver an Oscar-worthy performance at 10? That’s just cruel, guys. The truth is, this franchise has generated a shockingly mean-spirited fan base, and the cruel actions of that fan-base have kind of made me weary of the movies in general. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them for what they are, but I always feel somewhat nervous when I go see them now.

So, again, I don’t hate this movie. I don’t even think I dislike it. I just won’t urge people to go out of there way to see it. It’s a fun, dumb, 7 out of 10 popcorn movie. If you want to watch some epic explosions, sword fights, and spaceship battles, here you go. As for me, I’m good. I’ve had my fair share of all that.