Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays....

And, for the special ones, have a merry Patrick Swayze Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar - Review

Let me just cut to the chase: James Cameron's AVATAR lives up to its expectations. At least a majority of them. He paints a magnificent world of wonder and makes the CGI work perfectly with the real-life actors. The animation of the Na'vi characters through extensive motion capture is very natural and organic, with perfect facial expressions and body language. I may be hyping strictly the visual effects so far but that is because it is most obvious and notable aspect of this film that can help viewers forgive the stock plot of its script.

Though the many detractors may link this up with the enviromentalistic FERN GULLY as a joke, AVATAR is more simply a very glossy coating of DANCES WITH WOLVES. On the floral planet of Pandora, there is a substance called laughably "Unobtainium", a special mineral that Earth corporations want to take control of for profit. However, the planet's race of indigenous humanoids dubbed the Na'vi refuse to move from their forest residences and have created a tense environment with the hired military units. Meanwhile, a paraplegic Marine named Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) has taken over his twin brother's lucrative and informative position as a subject for the Avatar program. This scientific program was created to make genetically engineered Na'vi-like bodies as a way to democratically handle the racial situation and for their own private gain. Jake if forced to break away during an expedition and gets himself impeded with a Na'vi tribe and in a destined relationship with the leader's daughter Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Cue the juggling of duty between the military leader (Stephen Lang) and head scientist (Sigourney Weaver), romantic melodrama, and a action-packed finale.

The plot may be expected and I may have treated it cynically, but Cameron has written it with entertaining dialogue and special story elements that makes his dream idea seem truly unique. One noteworthy moment is when Jake's status as a being is deeply questioned due to his constant jumping between his Avatar body and his human form. He becomes depressed and loses his track of thinking and the timelines imposed on to his missions. Another thing I enjoyed thoroughly was that Cameron gave all of the characters a gray morality instead of the "black and white" trope. For instance, the military colonel actually upholds the Marine code and seems to truly care for Jake by keeping his promise to repair his legs for his sleeper mission. As for the scientists, they have been caught up with their work and their sought-after goal that they have forgotten the reality of the situation and what the Na'vi truly want. This is best shown in the scene where Weaver tries to tell the corporate head about her theory of a collected nervous system among the plants and appears to be out of her mind. It's kinda of a nice callback to Weaver's work in GORILLAS IN THE MIST.

While the script has some good touches, there are some holes and big problems that aren't address. The "Unobtainium" MacGuffin isn't fully explained, only in a quick scene. I forgot why it is so important and the film did too, since you hardly ever see any mining or the crews working in a special area that had been violently conquered. The romance between Jake and Neytiri doesn't fully developed properly and is rushed due to the constant focus on Jake's viewpoint. It starts off on the right note but dropped in the many training scenes until returning again in the obvious moments. Speaking of Neytiri, she is the only Na'vi character with characterization, as the other important Na'vis get barely any time or lines to be flesh out. They simply stick to the selected roles. The same goes to some minor military characters who are intended to be enjoyable killed later but get no attention to warrant a response. As a last note, the ending theme is no "My Heart Will Go On" and is a bloated mess to play over the credits.

I have talked more about the criticisms than the positives, but AVATAR is an enjoyable adventure in the theaters. I say adventure in both the sense of its script and its visual effects. Cameron has created a film that wisely builds up the tension slowly between the Humans and the Na'vis until the climatic final battle. While it could have been as great as some of his previous sci-fi films, it still gets the job done and deserves to be discussed and enjoyed later on with them.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thirst - Review

Park Chan-wook has made a career mixing brutal violence with social critique. His recent film, THIRST, was highly anticipated thanks to the cult popularity of his Vengeance Trilogy here in the States. Its premiere at Cannes left some critics in the cold, but it nonetheless won the Jury Prize. I can see why this twisted take of vampire romance has been praised however it remains a creative misfire within my own eyes.

Often, films with unique or creative ideas tend to fall in the same trap: Interesting opening and middle but loses steam fast when entering into the third act. THIRST has the mirrored effect; The film doesn't enter creative territory until the last 40 minutes, where it finally brings the expected payoff and becomes more of a black comedy. It opens with a Christian priest (Song Kang-ho) as he walks away from his distressing job in a hospital to volunteer to take a experimental vaccine for a deadly virus. He dies shortly there after but comes back to life miraculously on his death bed. He resumes his life but with the new stigma of a faith healer. He eventually meets up with an childhood friend, Tae-Ju (Kim Ok-bin), who was forcefully married to another old friend of his. The two begin to have an affair while the priest has started to notice his new body changes and a taste for blood.

The previous plot description might sound boring and generic in both a horror and melodrama sense. And you will be right; THIRST moves at a really slow speed as the two wrestle with their emotions and family/faith problems. Park tries to change or simply shock the proceedings by including long sex scenes and having Tae-Ju mentally unstable due to her horrible life. But it simply doesn't help cover up that the film is going through the motions. As stated, the story doesn't become very interesting until after the husband has been killed and Tae-Ju has become a vampire. The latter finally sets off the slow burn of Tae-Ju's manipulative nature and sadomasochistic sexual tendencies. The film stops being an ordinary "vampire man/human woman" romance and becomes a twisted view of it that Park intended to be.

If the the film cut a lot of the fat from the first two acts, especially the blind mentor subplot, THIRST could have been an enjoyable experience and worthy to be seen. While I might recommend it to those who enjoy Korean horror or Park's other films, it just can't be justified for everyone else. Even the great performances from the main leads and the nearly-voiceless ending are unable to make this a must see in my opinion.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Boondock Saints II: All Saint's Day - Review

The first BOONDOCK SAINTS was simply an okay/mediocre action b-movie that only had life to due to the scenery chewing of Willem Dafoe. The film also had more life given to it with a pretty ludicrous cult following on DVD. A sequel to the first would have been inevitable and lucrative but the only thing that should not have been included was the touch of the original creator and director Troy Duffy. Many of the faults of the first film rest entirely on his own hands and he should not be anywhere near the film industry again especially after the release of the documentary OVERNIGHT. However, his ego won over common sense.

THE BOONDOCK SAINTS II: ALL SAINT'S DAY is trash. A trash that has been resting in a dirty alleyway where passer-bys have regurgitated on and spilled their midnight drinks in. And because of the releasing of this film, this trash has slowly moved on a campaign around the country, infecting the masses intoxicated on stale popcorn and sugar rushes. This is an extreme way of stating that I hated this film, but considering how extreme Duffy wanted both in the film and its script, it's way too tame to describe.

Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery return in their roles, as the two assassins have chosen a life on peace in Stereotypical Ireland and also chose to wear the worst fake beards ever conceived. They learn that a hitman killed a Boston priest in their own special manner to provoke them out. After sailing back to America and picking up a new sidekick, they go after an Italian mafia group. Yes, they want to take vengeance on the hired gun but stupidly go after his possible benefactors first. Luckily, the dumb hitman forgets his mission as well and spends more time reflecting on his short stature. Get ready for a lot of scenes on his shortness, folks, if you make the bad decision to see this film now. Also, be prepared to see every shot have a fade in and out to black, the same now lamer crime recreations, more bad techno rock with gospel backing, and a terrible "grindhouse" scene.

No sense of reality is placed within this film and there is no suspense at all. Action films often have this lack of tension, but at least they try with some dangers for their main characters. At no point will you fear for the brothers' safety. And, if they are so good at not getting hurt, why do they have stupid complicated plans to always go ire? Once you get over the "god mode" device, you still have a juvenile, offensive action film with every actor performing their lines to reach the bleach theater seats. All the lines have either an expletive, a racial slur, or a gay joke in it. No one can speak or act in a simple straight manner, only in a hyper mode. I must have forgotten the three beat detectives from the first one, because their first scene made me hate them instantly. In fact, that can be said about all the characters, since all have to have an outrageous entrance into the picture.

With this film, Troy Duffy continues to amaze me with his ineptitude and misguided anger at the world. He lacks any semblance to filmmaking and writing, even if his films are not supposed to be art. His "entertainment for the average joe" direction is not good at all. Duffy wants myself to enjoy the death of Italian bad guys simply just cause he said they are bad with no show of it and because they aren't Irish. Even the original film had some reasons to hate its main antagonist. Duffy has not changed for the better. He, as OVERNIGHT has shown, is nothing more than a stupid hateful man.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Land of the Lost - Review

LAND OF THE LOST is simply random. All of its elements rely only on being random and maintaining it throughout. Notice that I haven't added comedy after it. There are many examples of random comedy (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Family Guy), but LAND OF THE LOST can't be included because it is absolutely unfunny and has no sense of order in its proceedings or in the making of the film.

This whole review can be nothing but a laundry list of complaints so here is just a "random" few: Why the pointless prologue with the astronaut? How did Holly (Anna Friel) carry the dinosaur egg back to Earth? Why did I have to sit through a long skit where Will Ferrell poured urine all over him? Why did everything look super fake and green screened? How can Holly communicate perfectly with the ape man Chaka (Jorma Taccone)? Why would the villain want to conquer Earth? Why should we fear the Sleestaks if they hardly do anything? And, finally, how could all of these and many other problems got into the final cut?

The original Land of the Lost television show was simply a fun romp through a prehistoric world as a group of family members struggle yet enjoy the surroundings and new cultures while looking for a way back. The film, however, is a group of older adults who act like complete boards of wood while engaging in stupid action moments and can only experience the now ultra-surreal world only through violence, sex, and drugs. That last statement may seem like I'm over thinking but it's not: Will Ferrell and his two helpers often fight with whatever catches their sight, They interact with Chaka by groping and humping, and there is a way too long sequence where the three males are flying high due to narcotic plant.

Will Ferrell has been getting flack for this film and he deserves it whether it is his own fault or not. He doesn't know how to play his character, instead switching between uptight seriousness and his generic goofy shtick constantly. I don't know if he tampered with the script, but it is odd that all the comedy and moments that are supposed to bring down the house only come from him. Anna Friel and Danny McBride are both great comedic actors but they have nothing to add since the spotlight is always on Ferrell. McBride looks more disgruntled, since he seems to have to stick to the script and lose the fireball-hatred element that makes him hilarious to watch. Friel, on the other hand, does the stereotypical woman role of motivator/kidnappee who has to fall in love with the protagonist despite the lack of chemistry.

The only good thing about watching this turd was that the shear dullness of it prevented any anger to build up with me. Not even the misogynistic comments throughout it could provoke me. Not even the scene where the group rip-offs a Seinfeld gag and watches a ice cream man get mauled to death. This film needs to be lost and never found.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Short Comic Book Reviews: 11/25/09

  • Green Lantern #48: It needs to be read before the latest Blackest Night. Despite the helpful yet very stupid warning (a "prelude to BN #6". Seriously, how did they miss that?), the issue was an enjoyable heated verbal and physical debate between the head Lanterns. Gets some bonus points for a Muppets reference. 4/5

  • Blackest Night #5: After the disappointing last issue, this brings the gears forward again. A lot of cool moments build off each other in the end, dangerously close to being a spotfest. And, it has a fantastic twist and another ending twist to create a great cliffhanger. 4/5

  • Image United #1: Dear Lord. I had some hope, but this was beyond terrible. Nothing happened. Terrible and awkward posing. A character is "severely" injured in battle yet does not appear at all in ANY frame since a group shot. Bad layout. No advancement at all. NO BUYS for later issues. 1/5

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! - Review

The exploitation genre of film has always been an interesting topic to discuss, lampoon, or recreate. All of these factors have been feature in major film releases, such as GRINDHOUSE, and now it has come in the form of documentary. But the kicker is that instead of going after the usual suspects like the American independents or Italian giallo, Mark Hartley keeps the focus on his own country of Australia and how the "Ozploitation" isn't featured prominently. After seeing NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD, I and other viewers now have more films to look for and put in the Netflix queue.

The only films from Australia that have often been shown to the rest of the world are largely art films, such as the works of Peter Weir and Gillian Armstrong, and the punchline-inducing Yahoo Serious movies. These films, and largely the entire Australian film industry, couldn't have been successful without the benefit of B-movies and exploitation films winning over their own continent. Hartley breaks down this immense study of the genre by simply looking at the sex romps, the horror flicks, and the over-the-top action movies that played to the minds of the Australian audiences and to the scorn of the film critics. The director also gives attention to critique the world's view of the Outback, the backlash against foreign actors being cast, and the future wave of genre filmmakers such as Greg McLean (WOLF CREEK).

The viewer gets to see a great number of films, each receiving praise and jeers from a collection of talking heads. Each film debate is no holds barred; the film critics always may come up with a witty yet venomous line but other participants bring up their hatred with a director/producer or attack the treatment of women during production and on the screen. Connecting these verbal crossfires and exciting clipped montages are many Flash-created animations, which are the biggest problem against the film. These little breaks cause the film to look ultra-gaudy and seemingly into a VH1 television production.

NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is a fun ride through films of Australian past. It brings up many social/politicial issues such as nationalism and stereotyping while also partaking the spectacle and thrills of sex and violence. So, if you are sick of the usual Australian art film, with this film you can look further away from the stuffy shirts and dresses.


The Ugly Truth - Review

The ugly truth about THE UGLY TRUTH is that it is really ugly. Yes, that maybe a very corny way to introduce this bomb of a film but it is the truth. Okay, no more stupid quips.

An awful attempt to rip off the success and elements from the Judd Apatow films, THE UGLY TRUTH strictly goes for being dirty at all times. The creators seemed to forget that the Apatow films mock the overthinking and attention of sex in gender politics while bringing in some innocence to the main characters. Well, it seems that Nicole Eastman, the screenwriter and a woman, felt that wasn't necessary and made an extreme mess of a script where women never change or learn anything and everyone seems to talk like juvenile children.

The plot is pure basic Hollywood rom-com: A local television producer (Katherine Heigl) supervises over a low-rated morning news show but has a bad romantic life. Her boss brings in a "controversy creates cash" persona (Gerard Butler) to spice up the shenanigans by bringing his show "The Ugly Truth." He shouts out sexual words and profanities on live television about the romantic relationships between sexes. Instead of being fired, like you know in reality, he brings the ratings but the ire of the producer. But, he then starts to coach her to court a newly arrived neighbor (Eric Winter) and the story follows the usual path.

I already said the script is a mess but there's such a huge palette of crap at my disposal. The film has a low number of supporting characters for a news comedy film and many of them simply disappear without a trace. Two writers/journalists that argue about celebrity news and environmentalism in the prologue never show up again after a later conference. Bulter has a nephew and a sister to help bring lame characterization to him but you hardly learn their names or anything in the three scenes they are in. Not even Heigl's assistant/best friend is given anything despite appearing often. This lack of attention to the supporting players is distressing considering Cheryl Hines, a very capable comedic actress, is in the cast and receives nothing and says nothing but vagina one-liners. Then there's the dialogue; Not one scene goes without something sexual just has to be said. The lines aren't funny or amusing in any way except that is supposed to be since it's coming from pretty people like Heigl. But it's not; the filmmakers are just being crass to be crass and have no substance to back it up.

Now, I have been a fan of Katherine Heigl. I even supported her when she blasted the writers of Grey's Anatomy. But around the time of promoting this film, she got more diva-like and attacked KNOCKED UP for being offensive. Other than having a tight pair of beer goggles around her eyes, Heigl also seems to not notice she isn't acting in this film. Sure, her character is offensively written with her refusal to let control being shared with the other partner and near-psychotic tendencies, but Heigl is just terrible in her delivery and body language. She makes her character suddenly go into random mood swings, her comedic timing is stilted, and she doesn't fullfill her part of the chemistry with Butler. This is best shown in the obvious sex scene between them. While Butler is sweating and out of breath during their talking break, Heigl has full makeup on, wearing small earrings, and doesn't look at all like she had a fun time on Space Mountain. (See, I can be crass too.)

I could continue but I'll end with the most talked-about scene and the most shameful thing from this pile of so-called adult humor. Everyone has attacked and pointed the stupid scene where Heigl wears vibrating panties to a corporate dinner and brings the remote for it for some strange reason. Instead of making a rant about ripping off WHEN HARRY MET SALLY..., which had a great script from a female writer, I'm looking at the moment before where she slips it on. I honestly felt dirty watching the film when it happened. It felt so exploitative, especially considering that the camera gazes at her dress opening so her breasts can be easily shown. And, because of this one moment, I hated this "movie" a hell of a lot more.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Special Wrestling Video I Composed...

This is a match that has been causing a lot of commotion and laughs among puroresu fans and I decided to make a highlighted version.

After this, you will know that Kota Ibushi is one crazy man but is pure awesome.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lego Rock Band - Review

Despite the release of Guitar Hero 5 and The Beatles: Rock Band, the music war between Activision and EA continues yet again this year with a bizarre twist. Both publishers are going after the children and teenage girl demographics with their latest spin-offs of their franchises. Despite the fact that both demographics probably already have or at least played their previous games. To combat Band Hero, EA partnered up with other developers and the Lego corporation to release Lego Rock Band. Now, Lego Rock Band drew a lot of bad comments and bewilderment when it was first announced. However, instead of being the next Wii Music, the game actually is very fun but the constant replaying of a short song list might and/or will annoy all ages.

The video game has 45 songs total to play alone or with friends. Compared to Band Hero, this is a very low number but the selections work without any truly awful picks. Some personal favorites of mine, including Jimi Hendrix's "Fire" and Bryan Adams' "Summer of 69", are very welcomed additions to the rhythm game genre and are a blast to play. However, there is some repeats from Guitar Hero 5, as "Song #2" and "A-Punk" are featured and don't have the same and more exciting gameplay as Activision's version. Also, I wished that Tom Cochran's rendition of "Life is a Highway" was included instead of Rascal Flatts.

In the campaign/story mode, you and/or your band-mates create a rock band and play gigs at many Lego-theme arenas and a couple generic ones. Like the latest version of the WWE Smackdown vs. Raw series, the game's main gimmick is complete customization; Other than your own Lego avatar, the player can create and change the other band members, your entourage and roadies, instruments, album covers, logos, and your personal rock pad. To purchase more characters and unlockables, you have to play special sets and buy them with the money you acquire. The developers changed the mechanics of gaining money as you get the same amount of money as your score for a song. By purchasing entourage members, you can increase the currency more with special percentage increases. There is also the Rock Challenges, where your band must do well while the fmvs show your band fighting monsters and asteroids. All of this tiring but fun experience is wrapped with a entertaining yet childish rock and roll storyline and cute cut-scenes.

Graphics aren't one of the important factors for the game, but the frame-rate stutters in menus and during performances. But the most problematic is the band performance itself. Maybe I'm still spoiled by The Beatles game and its great music video performances, but your created band don't have special or specific programming for each of the songs except for the Rock Challenges. Instead, they rely on a random movement pattern, which kill the continuity and lead to many glaring errors. For example, the bassist would be seen clapping their hands for four seconds while their opening bass line is heard. Characters will be jumping constantly despite you playing a slow song. The worst of these involves the singer as he just teleports into different poses and often sings with his Lego butt facing the audience constantly. The only other major problem is that the Lego characters don't really make the experience more exciting with their animations. You might love singing a favorite of yours but your Lego avatar barely looks like it matters. The animators could have gone crazy with these motions, such as having the body parts falling off like in their commercials or have the body break apart and re-assemble when they jump up.

Lego Rock Band isn't one of the best but is a pleasant surprise to behold. Stick with a rental of it or wait till it drops in price.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Here's a good video for the occassion. One of the most frightening and disturbing shorts from Disney. And, funny too.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The World's Largest Shopping Mall

I was referred to this and it is one of the best short films I have seen this year.

It is a short documentary on a nearly deserted mall in the middle of nowhere in China that has the distinction of being the biggest in the world.
The surreal shots of empty corridors and walking mascots with no one to greet truly make it worth to view.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Life in Ruins - Review

I feel bad for anyone coming into this film expecting to see some Greek architecture lushly shown on film. I feel bad for anyone expecting Nia Vardalos in a good role and in better form. But this film will not get any sympathy from myself. This is a very vulgar, unfunny film masquerading as a light-hearted travel through Greece. According to the logic of this film's message, tour guides need to let tourists shop all the time and only entice them to the old history of Greece if it has something to do with sex.

I'm one of the few people who still openly admit to liking MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING. It was a fun film that accomplished its goals and was refreshing from Hollywood's usual rom-com trite. But Nia Vardalos has definitely changed in the years since that film, both in looks and her comedy. In MY LIFE IN RUINS, she uncreditedly writes herself as a beaten-down ring leader of the next wave of tourists into Greece. She is supposed to undergo a transformation, from a tight-ass (their words, mind you) into a free and happy independent woman. But there is no morphing; Vardalos hardly acts differently nor does she change her body language or wit to display. She's just smug throughout the film, and that's sad and annoying to watch.

Now, let's get to the "real" comedy of this film, the tourists themselves. There is a section where Vardalos reads off all of them into cliche categories as a joke but the film still keeps them in line with the cliches instead of exploring beyond them. You have the usual ugly Americans, a Spanish cougar pair, uptight British family, the elderly, and "Mr. Funny" as played by the once great Richard Dreyfuss. Get ready to hear their special shtick ad nauseaum because it never ends. One character introduces himself as a businessman to the IHOP chain. Guess what jokes you hear from him during the entire 95 runtime? But, the absolute worst characters in this film are the Australians. While the other tourists at least get some characterization to try to make them unique, the Australian couple do nothing but drink, drink, and made fun of for their lack of good English. Then, after their goofy moments are done they disappear to the back of the group never to be shown for awhile.

Nothing is funny or good in this film. It's at least somewhat relatively easy to view than other fiascos this year but it is still very bad. Even the Greek people aren't given a nice image; the regular citizens are shown to be greedy misers and horny idiots. I don't know what Vardalos will try next for her comeback, but she needs to re-work herself before re-working someone else's script.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 - Review

A sequel should recapture and modify the entertainment of the first entry and create more incentives to its structure for the benefit of the fans. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 does try to follow this way but subtracts the freedom of the player and has no difference in replay.

In other words, M:UA 2's gameplay has been altered to cater to the casual market but at the expense of losing some key features. The sequel has all of the playable characters limited to only four superpowers instead of the multiple ones in the first game. You get more stats to beef up for your choosing but you need to play the game twice to open them up due to story limitations. There is no need to create a super team again, thus giving the opportunity to play as anyone at anytime. However, the added benefits of extra health and striking would be nice when playing in harder levels or on Legendary difficulty.

Plot wise, the developers chose to use established storylines of Marvel instead of an original plot. The player goes through the "Secret War" and "Civil War" events, where the superhero community becomes divided on the idea of registration and how the recent toll of civilian casualties has changed their public look. It then goes into a lame original third act that isn't exciting as the beginning but does end with an epic final battle. I enjoyed how you get see Iron Man and Captain America's friendship beginning to crumble and Nick Fury becoming a major character than the exposition-talking leader in the original. The missions tend to favor being located at secluded areas like bases and warehouses but there is a very fun map where the two sides fight it out in the city while a convoy carrying prisoners is moving along. But, no matter which side you pick, they have the same walkthrough. For example, if you pick pro-registration, you must destroy ammo dumps during the convoy mission. The anti-registration group simply has the dumps being switched to Anti-Air cannons. This copy-and-pasting design is very disappointing.

I had fun playing this game for its fan service and the action game play but the new changes and lackluster game design left a bad taste in the end. It is a good purchase for comic book fans but it should be a good rental for everyone else.


The Beatles: Rock Band - Review

Let's start with the obvious: The Beatles: Rock Band is the best music video game of the year.

The game is an entertaining ride through the life and music created by the Fab Four and it pushes the standard boundaries of the guitar/band games to make the experience more artistic and vibrant. The player, along with their real or virtual friends, can play through the "Story" mode where you relieve the historic moments, concerts and arenas. But it is the middle period of the career where Harmonix gets as experimental as the Beatles were. All of the songs performed in the Abbey Road Studios transform into psychedelic music videos that are so exciting that it can distract the player. These songs are definitely fun to play again to spot all of the nice touches and video effects.

However, the game does have some problematic shortcomings. The playlist is a bit on the short side with 45 songs. Several notable songs were left off, including "All You Need is Love", seemingly just to be given through Download Loadable Content. This is an annoying way to get more profit from the consumer instead of having in the final cut. Another odd problem is to PS2 players; the game wasn't given a release for the still popular system despite the Wii, which has the same horsepower as it, getting a port.

Though it has some annoying faults, The Beatles: Rock Band is one of the best this year and should be bought instead of the mediocre mess that was Guitar Hero 5.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Simpsons is Dead

Seriously, what the hell?!

Congrads, Playboy. You got the attention you wanted at the price of everything you stand for and accomplished.
Matt Groening, you sir should be ashamed.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sin Nombre - Review

Before the two Ben's were kicked off the show At the Movies, they sadly were given the honor to be given the "Best So Far" episode. The two of them both happily, with their facade smiles and forced cheeriness, had named SIN NOMBRE as the best film of the year. This film, which came out of the disaster that was this year's Sundance Festival, came around to my local art house and I blew it off as yet another border film. Well, the Holy Grail Knight should be smiling right now as I have chosen wisely; SIN NOMBRE is a lame carbon copy of both CITY OF GOD and EL NORTE and it doesn't move anywhere beyond mediocrity.

The film is supposed to follow these two young teenagers, a gang member named "El Casper" (Edgar Flores) and the Hondurian Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), but the writer/director Cary Joji Fukunaga seems only interested in the former then the latter. This was a poor decision as the Casper character is too cliche and suffers due to Flore's bad non-acting skills. Casper is trying to run away from his former street gang after the death of his girlfriend and killing the culprit, who happens to be the alpha leader. While he gets most of the story and attention, the viewer also experiences the cynical Sayra as she is pushed along with her father and uncle to travel to the American border through the trains. Her side is more interesting, since her urge to leave isn't necessary and she feels insecure about her place in the world. Instead of following this new original take of a border film, not to mention Gaitan's good performance, Fukunaga wants to shove a dumb redemption story down the eyes of the audience.

The story doesn't move beyond the basics; You will figure out the next plot point without even trying. For example, Casper helps train a little boy to be part of the gang. Gee, I wonder if this kid will join in going after Casper when he defects? Will he get caught up with the brotherhood propaganda and the allure of a gun? If you want to see these ideals at work, but more realistically done, just see CITY OF GOD. But the most notable dumb plot element is when Casper's girlfriend goes to a secret meeting of the gang in the beginning. Why does she do this seriously dumb decision? Simply so she can have a horrible death scene and to have Casper morally change.

This constant misdirection also affects the rest of crew. The cinematography, which won the Award for Excellence at Sundance, is not engaging or unique. One shot in particular irked me: Casper kills his former boss in front of the immigrants and segregates himself to avoid contact. When the train stops for awhile, there is a moment in a long shot with him still in place on the train while the others are resting and eating in a plain. Instead of holding it, the cinematographer tilts down to show a guy getting water from a polluted stream. Then, it cuts to a closer shot of his position, thus making the first shot a complete waste. Another missed opportunity involves a sequence when the immigrants place different colored rain tarps to cover up. Why show it from a grounded level when you can do at a high angle, which would make it more colorful and also suspenseful as some robbers walk around them?

SIN NOMBRE isn't one of the worst films this year; It has a good performance with Paulina Gaitan and a couple of clever moments. But the banal direction, predictable script, and the fact it is yet another ordinary border film, you have a recipe for a cheap art and social film.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Comic Book Reviews: "Blackest Night" is Still Awesome, Experiences with "After Watchmen,..."

I haven't done any reviews for comic books in a while, so here's my opinion on past items in quick form:

- The Blackest Night event is reaching its midpoint, and it has been nothing but a great read. Aquaman is a lot cooler as a heel, The Green Lantern/Flash dialogue exchanges have some of the finest examples of characterization, and the pacing is just right.
- I'm a little annoyed that Tempest (aka Aqualad), a character I just started to like, was killed in issue #2. It's Namorita all over again.
- A Cry for Justice isn't carried in my local comic shop after the first one and that's a good thing. It has gotten more laughable and stupid.
- Gotham City Sirens sucks.
- Where's Black Hand?
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 may have entertained me, but it still can't draw me to Marvel's current comics with Dark Reign still going on.

Now for some reviews:

Green Lantern #46

The current warfare between all of the Lanterns has continued through this and the Green Lantern Corps line. With this issue, and the third issue of Blackest Night, a brief amnesty and combination of the feuding Lantern Corps is beginning to form up. And it gets off to a great start.

No. #46 is simply a thoroughly frame to frame entertaining joyride. The action continues advancing higher and higher as the stakes facing popular characters almost overwhelms them. The issue is practically action the entire time, which is good for fans. However, I did think that the signature fight between Sinestro and Mongul should may have been an entire issue to capture instead of the last third of the story. Oh well.

Definitely one of the best issues since #43.


Due to the popularity and semi-success of the Watchmen film, DC Comics knew that people would buy the trade paperbacks for it. As a way to hold on to these potential readers, the company has created the "After Watchmen,... What's Next?" line. They released reprintings of the first issue for many of their mature and more thinking-man series, ranging from Alan Moore's other works to Identity Crisis to 100 Bullets. And, they are only one dollar. Here is two of them:

Preacher #1

Are you serious?

This is the comic everyone loves? This is the comic that Wizard Magazine can't possibly stop talking about? It might just be this first issue and the story could get better, but Preacher #1 is an annoying overwrought pretentious comic.

There is some good ideas and situations; I enjoyed the scene where the Reverend spills the secrets of his immoral community in the local dive and a comical spot where a Mob boss seemingly forgets his bodyguard has his jaw shot off. Except for these two moments, the rest was a chore to get through. The dialogue is too contrived to believe or even to let it slide. The flashback structure doesn't make sense, since there are scenes where the main trio aren't in the area to recall it. Combined with the stupid character lines, it makes following this book even more harder.

Thankfully, I was able to read this so I didn't have to fork over more money for a paperback of it and be disappointed on a larger scale. Steven Dillon's artwork may be good, but Garth Ennis' terrible writing ruins any chance for myself to give this book any redemption.


Transmetropolitan #1

Here's a writer that lives up to the hype. Warren Ellis has been brought up a lot as one of the best writer of comic books and many have expressed their love for this comic. I first was a little cautious, but the controlled chaos of its main protagonist and his laughable disdain of futuristic city life made the comic a hard-biting and entertaining read.

Spyder Jerusalem is a fascinating character to follow as his extravagant rants and lifestyle would scare anyone but he retains a smart cynical look at how civilization and technology have gone farther off the deep end than him. His background as a controversial and popular journalist justifies the Gonzo-like approach of his lines and thoughts. Even if he didn't have this occupation, I would have still loved the writing as it creates great off-beat zingers ("My household appliance is on drugs") and accurately fits with the disgusting city life.

Its bizarre storytelling and protagonist might greatly turn off the normal reader, but Warren Ellis has created a very refreshing introduction to the series though it could have more advancement or conflict. Definitely check this out.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

District 9 - Review

During a major and suicidial mission towards the climax of the film, the main protagonist has to enter his former work offices to retrieve the MacGuffin. To get to the probable location where it is hidden, Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) has enter his pin number at multiple locked doors. Except for this possible plot hole, DISTRICT 9 is a very well made science fiction film and certainly one of the absolute best of the year.

Many detractors have voiced about whether or not this is a truly original work of fiction and have to try to compare it to previous films. Though they seem to forget that nothing produced today in the film industry can truly be new, they also neglect that this isn't an American or a Hollywood production. It is a South African film set in South Africa, and produced with only $30 million dollars. The film is richly in deep with the South African culture, language, and history and doesn't feel the need to fully address any outside audiences. Director and Co-Writer Neill Blomkamp has made an interesting take on the old apartheid system that still haunts the nation while also making a strong statement that human beings are the antagonists and are at risk of self-destruction.

The introduction starts off as a finely produced documentary on the back story of this "alien invasion." A giant alien craft has been hovering over Johannesburg for twenty years and has remained docile. The alien beings left alive in it were moved out and into a temporary relief camp. Due to some hostile interactions, their strange behavior to steal objects and ugly outside appearance, their relief area was turned into a regulated slum and prison. These aliens, dubbed "Prawns" by the discriminating human population, are now to be relocated to a new and segregated environment.

The human focus of the feature is the previously mentioned Wikus, who is the head of human-alien affairs and the leader of the eviction mission. The documentary film within the film shows him to be a well-hearted but dumb and offended citizen who wants to make the situation peaceful but also has some disdain for the Prawns. After coming into contact with the MacGuffin, a cylinder capable of powering up a hidden machine, he slowly is transformed into one of them to the horrors of his peers. This of course makes him valuable to his company's leaders and scientists since the Prawn's destructive hand-held weapons can only be fired by their DNA. By this time, the documentary is stopped except for a couple interjections and the film follows his escape and new relationship with a sharp-minded Prawn in the slums.

I could go on about the apartheid similarities but they are obvious to note and everyone has already done so. What many seem to forget is the military and weapon sub-plot; Wikus' company is also one of top manufacturers of weapon hardware and they and separate independent groups want to control these new resources of destruction. The viewer sees how everything has to experiment on to find the solution through the corporation while a Nigerian mob simply hordes it until their belief in a false voodoo will grant them the power. This constant craving of hardware and personal and financial gain keeps growing throughout the film and when it turns into a full on military war film at the end, it is rightly justified. Our obsession with the power of weaponry is another clear example of the problems of humanity.

Sharlto Copley certainly deserves an Academy award nomination or at least a Golden Globe for his performance. For a non-professional actor, he takes the script's complex characterization of Wikus and makes him the best example of a human being: striving to be optimistic and friendly with different cultures yet still selfish and lets his anger and sorrow overtake his thoughts. The rest of the unknown actors, at least to American audiences, are fine in their performances. The Prawns were done strictly in CG and at first they look a bit cheap but the narrative and cinematography eventually hides this fact. Blomkamp does well in creating a paranoid world with many different camera techniques and the action sequences are always thrilling and exciting.

On a final note, I'll address the controversy of the Nigerians. While I did take a note of some people being offended by them, these characters seem designed to be a destructive human environment to fully interact with the Prawns and they just happen to be Nigerian. The gang's greed of weaponry and religious aspirations are brought to make the film's story more organtic and shouldn't confuse audiences with actual Nigerians.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

WET - Review

Wet doesn't try to be anything more than an entertaining third-person shooter with a eccentric vibrancy throughout it. Artificial Mind and Movement have taken the exploitation films of the seventies and eighties, or simply Tarantino and Rodriguez's vision of the era in GRINDHOUSE, and created a bombastic yet repetitive action film-game. I called it a film-game instead of video game mainly due to it's overuse of the quick time events and cinemas that has been plaguing the industry for some time. These moments are fun but mainly to see than experience it through your actions.

The player is Ruby Malone, a bounty-hunter/hitwoman who serves those who pay the most. After a far too extensive prologue where she gets back a transplant human heart, Ruby is hired by the rich recipient of it to rescue his drug-pushing son. Many fire fights, parkour, and double crosses later, she now goes after her recent employer simply for her own vengeance.

The plot is supposed to be a cliched spun from the action/woman revenge flicks but with tweaking to include Tarantino-like dialogue (more of his swearing and not his morality and meta conversations). The characters' lines are funny in its over-the-top manner but the creators also made sure to make Ruby likable and upbeat rather than making her the female version of Max Payne.

The levels have a similar layout: Reach a checkpoint, run and jump your way to the next, engage in an enemy spawning shoot-out, and repeat. The game breaks up some of the monotony with two very cool gun-fights on the highways, the mentioned quick time events, and special areas where the game goes hyper-violent with the same graphical look as Killer 7. The worst moments for myself were the pointless challenges you have to go through when a new weapon is acquired. While this constant re-use of the same structure is a bit discomforting, I enjoyed playing through them nonetheless. If you play this game in short spurts, the time spent with it will be better. To help advancement in it and re-playability, you can unlock and beef up Ruby with new moves and put on some special features to the gameplay after completing the game once around.

Audio wise, the game has it in spades. Ruby is played by television star Eliza Dushku, who is just right in bringing the aggressive attitude and sincerity of the character. Malcom McDowell plays another villain role and Alan Cummings is fine though I had a hard time spotting him. The music, however, is the highlight and best part overall. The developers picked and used a mixture of variety of rock music, ranging from punk to Mexican, and placed them in every ultra violent fighting area. It makes every fight different and exciting. Plus, the songs are a treat to listen to on their own.

Though it can't reach the same level as House of the Dead: Overkill, Wet does has some fun with the grindhouse film genre and maintains a enjoyable experience.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Guitar Hero 5 - Review

I haven't played a Guitar Hero game since the third one. I was a little annoyed with the excess attention at it and Rock Band and all the other crappy rip-offs being sent out. Since the third entry, I only have played the Rock Band games with the friends who were suckered in buying the entire band sets for them. They were fun but the change from guitar anthems and hard rock to a variety of different genres were worrying me. With Guitar Hero World Tour, the series went the same path and seemed from the sidelines to be losing its luster.

With Guitar Hero 5, Activision has made certainly the worst entry of the series. It is entirely forgettable and has nothing to make it stand out. Even the signature characters and surreal storylines for career mode are toned way down. The arenas look largely the same except with different promotional plugs to corporate products. And, more importantly, the music includes too many mellow and unknown acts to the average consumer.

The core gameplay is still the same, with the player hitting the frets and chords at the right time. However, everything around the game has changed and not for the better. All the songs are unlocked at the start, thus losing any achievement in advancing through the career. The currency system has been taken out so players have to win certain challenges for specific songs to get special features. It may help replayability, but players like myself who have none of the other instruments or can't get others to play will be annoyed with the inability to get them. The career mode for the guitar has been butchered for hardcore fans; Throughout my exploration in Medium difficulty (I can play higher but I simply don't care about being better or high scores), I never failed a song or had any difficulty with the songs except towards the very end. And, since the song list is terrible overall, my play experience had me wearing a dull face throughout.

Criticizing the song library does rely entirely on my personal opinion and everyone is entitled to theirs. However, even the diehard fans for certain artists will complain that they don't and shouldn't be in a Guitar Hero game. Why is Coldplay, Bob Dylan, and Beck in this? I like them and their songs included are good to listen but playing them loses their flavor and brilliance. Though there is some good old-school songs to play ranging from Wild Cherry, T. Rex, and Thin Lizzy, the rest are songs are more recent fare and many have just came out last year. The few songs that I enjoyed playing over again weren't exactly masterpieces and came from bands with dumb names such as Attack! Attack! and Scars on Broadway. They are generic and have no real value, but they get the job done and fun to play. Even Rammenstein and Perfect Circle can't help the mediocrity in this installment.

I could continue this tirade on the other songs, but I will end it discussing in some length on two: Rush's "The Spirit of Radio" and Peter Frampton's "Do You Feel Like We Do?". Both are live pieces, which simply don't work in musical video games and both go way too long. "Do You Feel..." was my most hated song in this game; It is a good song to listen to but the game ruins any fun to be had with it. After a strong opening, the player will simply have to wait for a very long time until playing a brief section and then wait some more. And since the live song is so long, you'll just stand there begging for any note to come down. Rush's song is the last to play to beat the campaign and its the worst to have as the finale. While the previous games had classic and hard songs to get through like "Freebird", "The Spirit of Radio" is simply a boring chore with so much pretentiousness. And, after this anti-climax, the song playing over the credits is a bummer to play as well. Dragonforce it isn't.

As for my comment on the inclusion of Kurt Cobain? I don't really care or have any negative thoughts about it. How come people aren't complaining that I can have Johnny Cash sing a Blink-182 song or have Carlos Santana play the drums? People are just making a hissy fit out of nothing. At least with its inclusion, Cobain and his music can reach younger listeners much larger than radio or MTV. Shouldn't you complain that the singer from Garbage is in it for no real purpose?

Though the game wasn't the worst of this year and I had some fun with some songs, the imbalance of taste and frustration with changes made Guitar Hero 5 a lame addition. This is stricly a rent through and through. Oh, and the box art is the laziest I have seen for a big release.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ponyo - Review

When I was reading about 2008's Year in Japanese Film, I saw a lot of backlash against Hayao Miyazaki's latest and probably last animated feature, PONYO. Many professional reviewers were saying that the master of anime had lost his touch with modern audiences and has made his worst film of his distinguished career. After viewing it, PONYO is certainly one of the most entertaining films of the year but does has the director re-using many of his old tropes.

The title is the name of the main character, the special fish daughter of Fujimoto, who is basically Poseidon, and the Goddess of Mercy. She sneaks away from her father's magical submarine one day to explore the human world and arrives at a small Japanese fishing town. After getting caught in a pickle jar, she is saved by the five-year old Sosuke and becomes his pet and best friend. However, her interactions with the human world and her later transformation into a human entity creates an imbalance of the Earth that could cause a global disaster.

That is really all the plot you need to know because the rest of this film is largely plot and care free. This film is a breathtaking exploration of spiritual innocence. The conflict is kept to a minimum and none of the older characters look or talk down to the children and to the spiritual world. So, you and children can share the same smile across your face and lose yourself into Miyazaki's sprawling story and animation.

The animation is certainly the most experimental of Miyazaki. The majority of background artwork and exteriors are water colored or have an impressionist style. Though an interesting aesthetic, it causes the cels to stand way too out. For the foreground animation, it varies in each and every scene. The characters are simply designed but the magical creatures and waves of water are given tons of detail. The most crowning moment is during the appearances of The Goddess of Mercy, who is richly animated. This film was done entirely by hand and it's sad that something like this is not done more often today.

The voice cast for Miyazaki's films as supervised by the Disney elite have always been given the right touch. PONYO is no exception; The actors selected fit their roles and bring more delight to the picture. The stand out is Tina Fey, who voices Sosuke's hardworking mother. The character is the only supporting player to get the most spotlight and Fey delivers on all accounts. Fey's performance shows especially during a key scene where Sosuke's mother has to make a important moral decision and needs to tell it to her son carefully.

The only problems I had with this film involves some recycling of earlier themes and designs that Miyazaki has used in previous films. The most odd ball out is a short environmentalist message in the first half. Miyazaki made an entire film about perserving the Earth (PRINCESS MONONOKE), so he doesn't need to repeat it and it has no importance to the plot. Other jarring errors are the similar character designs to previous Miyazaki creations. Fujimoto looks like a more dressed-up Howl and an elderly woman named Toki has the same body structure and clothes of Sophie, both of who are from HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE.

Despite some questionable inclusions, PONYO is a film that is a real treat to see with a crowd and especially on the big screen. Having this beautiful world sparled all over a large canvas is a rare treat to have.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

At The Movies, w/ Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott - Review

With Ben and Ben out the door, fans of At The Movies can be happy with the show again starting this weekend. While it still lacks the charm of Roger Ebert and can never return to the glory days with Gene Siskel, At the Movies with Michael Phillips from the Chicago Tribune and A.O. Scott from the New York Times went to a good slow start.

The buddy dynamic is there but needs some time to develop more. A.O. Scott seemed a little intimidated now that he has a recurring host duty instead of being a guest again. However, his review of THE BURNING PLAIN was the best review of the show, mocking the presumed pretentiousness throughout the film. It was a weird television moment, as I wondering why he started off saying, "Kim Basinger plays the mother" before anything else. Michael Phillips is still fine, as he came into his own during his stay with Richard Roeper during Ebert's medical absence. The only major complaint toward them relates to their seating; Phillips is more similar to Ebert in screen style and mannerisms, so the fact he sat to the left is a bit off.

The set is still perplexing, as the attention went to the blue background instead of the chair and table, which looked like something from a public access show. Though, I must admit that the previous golden look is thankfully gone as the critics of this new show aren't happy Hollywood lap-dogs.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Inglourious Basterds - Review

It may be a bit pretentious to start the review by stating this: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is probably my generation's NAKED LUNCH. Quentin Tarantino's latest film has joined next to that film along with Cronenberg's other infamous creation CRASH as a movie that gave myself quite a debate to have. It has some great elements but the full scope of his vision prevents the film from being placed up there with the rest of his films.

The film's biggest problem that has been addressed often is the purely bait-and-switch advertisements for it. The ads set it up as a violent action film like the KILL BILL films with a tongue ripping through the cheek. However, the actual film has a ton of scenes where the dialogue is the bullets being fired. Unfortunately, the lines are more like a chain gun and not a sniper rifle. In other words, there is so much talking that the suspense built for certain scenes is nearly or completely gone by the end. Tarantino's words may be great but it shouldn't have so much attention to itself to suspend the flow of the story. Also, the Basterds aren't really the main characters or given the full spotlight. A more accurate film title would be "Triumph of the Film."

The main story of the film involves a young Jewish woman (Melanie Laurent) on the run after her family has been killed while hiding in rural France from the Nazis. She barely escapes from the grasp of the infamous Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) who has been given the fortunate/unfortunate title of "The Jew Hunter." After a couple of years, the woman, revealed to be named Shosanna, is seen operating a film theater. She gains an annoying fan from a German soldier who later is shown to be a war hero. He has just finished a feature film of his exploits with Joseph Goebbels and wants to have the film premiere at her venue. With these recent developments, Shosanna decides to create an elaborate plan to take down the Nazi empire with the help of film.

The importance of film and entertainment during World War II has not been featured or discussed a lot in war films. Tarantino makes a great point with this inclusion, complete with giving the film-within-the-film a Eisenstein-esque style. The climax creates a truly shocking and very disturbing image as film is used a weapon to consume lives and transforms into a violent ghost of memory.

With just that idea, I should have adored this film but the rest of it doesn't work so well. The best example for its problems is the Basterds themselves. Tarantino doesn't give his usual rich characterization to the eight-man group, letting only a couple of them some back story. And when they do get it, these characters then are killed off in their next scenes. He simply tells us this group is vicious and hard to kill but skips over their year-long exploits to show them die horribly. I wished there was more time with them but since the writer/director doesn't want to, I also gave them a lack of attention. Other problems: The editing has a lot of jump cuts which works except for a major character's death and the weird footnotes and titles in the frames of the film turned me off.

The acting is obviously supposed to be over-the-top. While everyone does a fine job with their roles, the most noteworthy one is Christoph Waltz. After winning the Best Actor award at Cannes earlier, he has been the most talked about part of this film and it shows. He redefines the smiling Nazi role and makes Hans Landa appear to be the most sadistically happy of them all. In one such scene, where he sits next to a grown-up Shosanna in a restaurant, Waltz makes waiting for cream to be placed on a strudel to be very scary. Along with his constant switches between four different languages, Waltz has given one of the best of the year and deserves an Oscar nomination.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS wouldn't be Tarantino's most controversial film of all time but it will be his most controversial to discuss. Unfortunately, the specialness of Tarantino didn't work fully for me this time.


Monday, August 31, 2009

My Hatred with Stereos

An odd title, huh?

I've been wanting to go to the drive-ins for the first time in awhile. At a local one, they are currently showing DISTRICT 9 and HALLOWEEN II on a double bill.
However, all of the portable stereos and boomboxes I have wouldn't work. Oh, they will work if plugged into an outlet. But to run on batteries, old or fresh, and it just sits there. I don't know why all of these devices became self-aware and why they can't give me a break. Also, I just threw out all of my cassette players. And I certainly do not want to spend $14 for a new one just for this event.

I hate advancements in technology sometimes. Play over a 1000 songs? Great. Play radio stations so I don't have to put a crappy speaker in my car and have mosquitos fly over me? No.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Informers - Review

Every scene in this film always end with either sex, drugs, or violence. And, that's not a good thing. THE INFORMERS is an unbelievable boring movie to behold where it wants to be shocking all the time but it comes off as trite.

Supposedly based on a series of short stories by Bret Easton Ellis, the film tells us absolutely nothing of grave interest or even a different take on 1980's white society in Los Angeles. The individual stories are placed together but none of them impact each other. Instead, the film comes across as a terrible rip-off of CRASH, especially when some of the characters are wondering about their morality and doing the right thing. But since every scene has no purpose and the characters don't really try to change, there is no reason for this film to be seen.

All of the actors aren't phoning it in, they simply slowly go through the motions and not emotions. Billy Bob Thornton sleepwalks his part as a studio head who wants his chaotic wife (Kim Basinger) to accept his infidelity as a part of their crumbling marriage. The young actors play bland and shallow way too much to lose any care for them. The only exceptions and the film's highlights are Chris Isaak and Mickey Rourke. Isaak does well for a pointless role as a rich father on vacation with his gay son and Rourke is enjoyable frightening as a vicious child kidnapper. This film was noteworthy for being Brad Renfro's last performance and, sadly, it isn't very good; Renfro plays his part way too crazy and ineffectual.

Upon looking up information after this travesty, it seems the majority of the blame absolutely goes to the director Gregor Jordan. He changed the tone of the film from a satire to its droll look and deleted a supernatural storyline involving vampires. This furthers my disdain for him, as his limp direction, basic cinematography, pretentious editing, and misogynistic viewpoint ruin the viewing experience. I would rather watch all of Andrew McCarthy's scenes in LESS THAN ZERO again than re-watch this lame fiasco.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Duplicity - Review

DUPLICITY wants to be a master of the con by fooling the viewing audience and it does at times but I'm no body's fool. It wants to create some suspense but I knew that there is no grave concern for the "heroes" of this film. It's not because of the old Hollywood rule where the movie stars don't die in pictures. It is because the constant twists and mind-games are simply being built by the screenwriters to create more and more until a finale with an even bigger twist for the heroes to experience.

I'm not trying to be bitter over this film. It was an entertaining film with an almost balancing act of being an action caper and a romantic screwball comedy. The acting of Julia Roberts and Clive Owen should be given some thanks for it, but it relies more on James Newton Howard's music, which creates the vibrant tone when the script or the direction fails at it.

I still haven't seen Tony Gilroy's last film, MICHAEL CLAYTON, but from this example it seems that he has some problems with film structure. The film progress smoothly at first as we meet the complicated history of Roberts and Owen as they use their positions as corporate spies to locate and retrieve an hidden pet project of Burkett & Randle, a consumer product entity that has a nasty rivalry with Equikrom. The latter company's CEO (Paul Giamatti) wants the MacGuffin before a major meeting with the shareholders. This sequence of events is fine and dandy until more flashbacks are introduced. Other than giving way too many clues on what the two spies are planning on doing, they have these way too flash introductions with multiple frames moving around. These devices are pure television and should have been taken out. Also, a character is stuck in a jam right near the end, falling in the "Who's watching the watchmen?" scenario, where the spy crew question the trust of the individual. The film then jumps 12 hours in time and the character seemingly got out of it. No clue on how, just that the character made it out alive with no need to explain.

The final twist is a genuine surprise and the film is done with a lot of fun to be had, but it isn't a must or a great film. DUPLICITY doesn't deserve to be blacklisted but it shouldn't have to come out of the cold of 2009.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rifftrax LIVE / Fathom Event Review

This was certainly the highlight of my week.

The old MST3K, now Rifftrax crew of Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett returned to the screen (a much bigger one) and gave a great performance and comedic night.

The show started off with a educational short, one of MST3K's favorite targets, about the "hard" work being a Flying Stewardess. Constant attacks on the city of Fort Worth were a treat, as was a smiling man towards the end that was partially a callback to the Johnny Longtorsos and Bob Evils of yester-years. A good start to the proceedings.

And then, the fun begins to fade. Before the main show, we were "treated" to two shorts done by the creator of Something, a chippy yet plain nerd singer, and a woman simply there for eye candy while trying to be part of the act.

But, it rises again. The selected film, Ed Wood's classic PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, was certainly the best to do for the crowd. Both the taped audience and my own enjoyed some of lunacies of the film. The crew fired off jokes, ranging from old and new things of pop culture (a riff on the Dramatic Prairie Dog was a hit), to "state park" jokes, to sexual jokes. And there was a lot of the latter.

Favorite Riff of the Night: "And that's how you throw a curveball. This is Bela Lugosi, reporting for Sportscenter."

It was a treat for MST3K fans and normal viewers. Simply a great event.

Reaction to the Avatar and The Wolfman trailers...,31940/,31949/

Wow, these two look problematic at best.

Between the two, I would rather see AVATAR. It looks interesting but too heavy with the CGI. Not to mention, it looks like an animated film with some live-action elements.

Dear lord, am I going to have to sit through another IMMORTAL? Please no.

Also, if it is the future with technologic advances, why is the possible protagonist in a wheelchair that he has to push? Shouldn't they have some type of cure or robot legs for him?

As for THE WOLFMAN, way too generic.
Take out the titled character, insert The Incredible Hulk and what do you get? HULK!
It's hitting the same beats while trying to recreate the look of the 1990's Universal Horror films.

And Anthony Hopkins looks to be phoning in another crazy character.

Just stick to the original.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rifftrax LIVE - Tomorrow!

After seeing the preview for it in several film screenings, I decided to attend the Fathom event of Rifftrax Live for tomorrow.

I'm a huge fan of MST3K, so to see and hear a live version from some of the old crew, the other being the Cinematic Titanic, is an awesome treat.

I'll post a review of it later this week.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Coraline - Review

CORALINE is a fantasy film where a little girl battles with her egotism and her own femininity. Though she really fights with a witch-like apparition in a bizarrely contrived environment, I noticed that Coraline really was fighting herself throughout the picture. Not only for her dreams of a well-mannered and loving family but a reasonable way to find her own voice without the pressure of elders, especially from the female characters.

The plot of the film is the usual fantasy fable that is used so often: Coraline's parents are busy with work, Coraline hates it and wishes for a relief, finds a magical creation that achieves it but regrets it later to learn a lesson. As it has been said when related to the usage of generic storylines, it is how you tell the story that makes it special. The story has been constructed by famed fantasy/comic book writer Neil Gaiman, a man whose work I enjoy though a little pretentious at times. With the help of the director Henry Selick, the two make a dull yet eerie landscape where vibrant colors stand out before being spirited away by controlling forces.

As stated in the intro, the main conflict for myself was Coraline vs. Coraline, not Coraline vs. the Other Mother. The character starts off the film way too obnoxious, simingly spurned by the treatment of her writer parents. Yet, she comes off a bit like a brat rather than an unloved child. Coraline is close to Chihiro from SPIRITED AWAY but I was fine following Chihiro's trouble beginnings, despite being overtly selfish, and not with Coraline. As the film continues, you notice the conflicting disputes she has on interests and attitudes. She is a tomboy who enjoys doing things in the rain but has a vanity for special attire to stand out when attending school. Coraline craves the attention of others but hates when it becomes overbearing or too loving. She wants to have some of stereotypical qualities of a "good woman" like cooking and gardening yet seeks independence and a place to speak her mind. The film has a fascinating take on growing up as a woman which has more magical quality to it than having some characters with buttons for eyes.

Though this conflict interested me, the rest of the film didn't have the same focus. It isn't that the film is bad, but it just didn't have that spark I was looking for to make it one of the best this year. Certainly best in animated films but not overall. Maybe it was the going-through-the motions plot. Maybe it was the weird secondary climax. Maybe it was the use of computer effects or strange moments where the slow-motion animation is stilted and too slow. I don't have a clear reason for it, but CORALINE is nonetheless a good film to watch.

One last note, the film score is exceptional. It really works with the mood while having it's own personality.