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.