Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Tops of 2012 - September

THE CAMPAIGN is way too wacky and annoying to work as a satire of current politics. The problems fall entirely on the production side, led by the cloying Jay Roach.

PARANORMAN is a fantastic scary film for all audiences. It pays tribute to horror classics, deals with social and moral issues, and leads to genuine, goose-bumping terror in its finale.

THE OOGIELOVES IN THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE sucked. Everything within its frame is god awful and it will live on as one of the biggest fiascos in movie history.

DETENTION is one of the those interesting passion projects that works. A tribute/mockery of the 1990's and teenage fare, this film bursts with brilliant irreverence and overdosing on breaking the fourth wall.

THE BOURNE LEGACY is enjoyable for Jeremy Renner and some well-made action sequences. However, the story moves at a snail's pace before stopping at the end of the second act, leaving no resolution.

LAWLESS had some mighty fine performances but it's way too generic, relying on the audience's patience to watch Shia LeBeouf as a plucky hero in a moonshine war. Its rapid tonal shifts also ruin any chance to relish any scene.

HIT & RUN was an unfunny display of Dax Shepard's manhood. I feel a little bad beating on something made by love but there's no laughs, no joy to behold.

DREDD was a pleasant, violent surprise. Karl Urban was completely badass, the gore was plentiful, and even the 3D effects worked. It has the potential to grow in time.

HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET desecrates one of the absolute best films ever made, only to fail even more with a lack of blood and common sense. Poor, poor Jennifer Lawrence and Elizabeth Shue.

THE POSSESSION was way too funny to ever take serious as a PG-13 horror film. Worthwhile for house parties or the eventful Rifftrax.

Best Films of 2012

1. The Avengers

2. Chronicle

3. The Secret World of Arrietty

4. The Hunger Games

5. The Cabin in the Woods

6. ParaNorman

7. 21 Jump Street

8. Beasts of the Southern Wild

9. Detention

10. The Grey

Worst Films of 2012

1. The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure

2. Project X

3. Dark Shadows

4. The FP

5. House at the End of the Street

6. The Devil Inside

7. Rock of Ages

8. Total Recall

9. The Campaign

10. Hit & Run

Brief Film Reviews - September 2012 (2)

From time to time, I forget or not motivated enough to write a full length review for every single film I have seen in theaters.

As to catch up, here are some short form reviews:

House at the End of the Street

HATES, the Twitter approved titled of this movie (despite actually being HATEOTS), is a maddening display of the horrors plaguing Hollywood today and the skeevy producers who want to profit off a new hot commodity with a film that should have continued to stay on the shelf. Oscar nominated actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Elizabeth Shue have the unfortunate to move into a small town filled with strangely injurious, rich white people, and next door to a blank-staring young man, who openly chooses to live at the house where his parents were murdered by his deranged sister four years ago. Original screenplay and story by David Locuka and Jonathan Mostow respectively? That's complete bull. The first half is a remake of the super-lame THE TOUCH OF SATAN, sprinkled with plot and camera swipes from TWILIGHT, before embarking on a disrespectful plagiarism of one of the all-time greatest films ever made. The first couple of twists are genuinely interesting but they become negated by later ones, a mixed moral message, and being a slasher film without any sight of blood. Ruined by its PG-13 rating, as well as the pretentious direction by Mark Tonderai, this psycho-sexual thriller wastes the time of its very talented actresses and the pocket money of its easily-fooled target audience.


The Possession

This movie has to be the biggest laugh riot of the year next to TED. I couldn't suppress the humongous guffaws or the urge to talk back at the screen. A young girl picks up a odd box covered with Hebrew writing at a yard sale of all things, becomes mentally and physically overcome by a Jewish demon, and threatens to further ruin her parents' divorce. The film is well shot, with some striking compositions, and does benefit from the talents of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick. Even the young actresses as their daughters try to make this harsh knock-off of THE EXORCIST be seriously dramatic and frightening instead of ultra-campy fun. There are too many snicker-filled highlights: the opening pretzel-twisting non-murder(?), Anton Sanko's goofy piano score consisting of loud "DURM"'s after every big scene, an outrageous murder of a teacher, the deliberately over-the-top performance of a college professor, and Jewish reggae musician Matisyahu as a Hasidic priest. It may be highly stupid, not to mention makes the bad decision to setup a possible sequel, but THE POSSESSION is a bit worthy of a view for all the wrong reasons.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Midlife Crisis-es of Tartakovsky and Sandler

Tomorrow brings the long-awaited release of Hotel Transylvania, a film that has suffered from multiple directorial changes, a long developmental process, and sadly features the unwelcomed presence of the Friends of Sandler Brigade in its supporting cast. A different and more commercial take on the stop-motion classic Mad Monster Party, the big-budgeted film is expected to either be a camel or a fair family affair. Nobody is really expecting great things from it, especially since it comes from the highly hit-or-miss studio of Sony Pictures Animation and reunites one of the absolute worst acting duos of this summer from one of biggest flops of the year.

The bigger picture of the film, however, is what the future will hold for its director and main star. Genndy Tartakovsky and Adam Sandler are both currently suffering the dregs of their respective careers. They have failed badly in recent times, unless of course you are too blinded by your own fandom to see it clearly. If you unfortunately happen to be, let me explain the malaise surrounding the once popular kings of their medium.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dredd - Review

For the hardcore comic book fans, DREDD is certainly way better than the 1995 version of the popular British character who spawned from the pages of 2000 AD. No sans helmet, no campy tone, no Rob Schneider. Personally, I have a fondness of that glorious misfire, something to be watched when time is slow and spirits need lifting. If you need some heavy doses of copious gore and spilled blood, however, stick to the present because DREDD is a balls to the wall orchestra of ultra-violence. Running at a nice fine clip of 95 minutes, the film is a hardcore breeze through a day in the life of the one man judge, jury, and executioner.

When describing the plot, most have acted like dutiful children, pointing heavily at something until the bad thing is given the proper response. They are correct in the assertion that DREDD is a blended smoothie of TRAINING DAY and this year's sleeper THE RAID: REDEMPTION but the latter can be ruled out as highly coincidental and a case of awkward timing. The titled character, played by a gruff, nail-eating Karl Urban, is one of the top military/police officers, i.e. "Judges", in a huge, grimy post-apocalyptic metropolitan dubbed Mega-City One. He has no time for medals and handshakes because he always needs to put away the scum and lowly street urchins, preferably with lodged bullets and a ride on the "meat wagons". He is asked by one of his chiefs, a calm female individual instead of the usual stressed-out sort, to test out a possible candidate and see if she is the one of five to survive the job. Her name is Anderson, played by the ever-lovely Olivia Thirlby, an individual who has failed the qualifying tests but gets a special push through due to being a mutant, having powerful psychic abilities, and being one of her genetic kind to be very pretty and not have three arms or other types of defects. He takes her to a drug-war related massacre at Peach Trees, one of the city's huge 200 feet tall towers, only to end up locked out from leaving with an interrogation-ready criminal. This guy, dubbed Kay, is one of the top cronies of Ma-Ma, the diabolic ruler of Peach Trees and the lord over a new popular drug called Slo-Mo, which makes the brain feel like it is moving at 1% of real-time. Like a good janitor, Dredd needs to clean up all of the floors before he can go after the queen, and he best not miss.

The character of Judge Dredd is a fascinating subject and he is shown just that here under the direction of Pete Travis. He is the future version of DIRTY HARRY but with the fascism driven way up. As the audience, you want to see him utterly eviscerate his opponents, usually with his standard-issued police handgun and one of its many, alternating bullets such as armor-piercing or incendiary. Travis and screenwriter Alex Garland, on the other hand, want to stir the moral debate within yourself. Dredd does stack up a high body count but his muted expression, enhanced by the absolute refusal to see his face, cold turkeys you from whooping and hollering. There is a highlighted scene where Dredd just stands and watches as a group of gang members succumb to his naplam-like attack, as the flames reflect off his visor. He even indulges on the preference of execution the villains first use in the picture, choosing to occasionally railing kill a thug and see them fall in ever increasing heights. By the time he has no qualms pointing a gun at armed kids, you know that ambiguity is completely in the air. Though he is vicious and ruthless, the script does soften him just a bit at times, giving the viewer a welcome breath of relief or a gratifying dry laugh.

Though the characters are very interesting, such as how Judge Anderson is a strong and positive female character even when the chips are done, probably the most enchanting thing featured on the screen is the lush story of the backgrounds. It may look like a crusty, completely dilapidated pile of smog-covered metal on the outside, but Peach Trees has an engaging interior look all the while tons of bullets are flying. Other than this being the new civilized lifestyle after nuclear warfare, you may question why 750,000 people would openly choose to live in slum luxury with a series of stairs that even professional marathon runners would stay away from. As executed by the creators, the answer lies in the fact that the mega tower is a colossal shopping mall. The bottom floor is the food court, main street, and red-light district all combined. There is an severely understaffed medical hospital, consisting of one unfortunate soul. A later shootout takes place in front of a beaten down movie theater, advertising goofy looking action fare. Why should these people ever go outside when everything is provided for in one location?

If acting is the reason to see a film, Karl Urban most definitely wins the argument. Fans will be cheering him as the perfect Dredd; his near Bale-Batman meets Eastwood voice may throw you off at first but it feels like an organic voice for the character. Urban hits the right subtle mood changes and skillfully looks like an absolute badass. Olivia Thirbly is also as good, focused more on internal acting than facial expressions. She even has the best scene in the entire film, where she jacks into the mind of Kay and devilishly abuses it, always in control. There's more subtlety to go around to Lena Headey as Ma-Ma. Acclaimed right now for her Lady MacBeth role on Game of Thrones, her former prostitute turned gang-leader is one smart cookie, wisely choosing the best courses of action given the circumstances Dredd unleashes on her crew. Headey doesn't let the scar makeup do all the talking, deciding to rather talk slow and in a hushed evil tone.

You may have already looked at the rating and asked what would keep DREDD from being a true sci-fi action classic? The performances are good, the overall direction are good, the special and 3D effects in fact are even good. What else would I need? That would be grandeur, an aspect where good becomes great. It loves its artfully done kills but something still feels a little off-putting about them. The whole movie tastes more like a television pilot rather than a comic book event and new franchise starter. The plot is brilliantly simple yet it is too easy to see what comes next. It's a very well made B-movie with intriguing ideas but it is unable to hit the A range at this time. Maybe with age, not to mention repeated viewings on the Syfy and Spike channels, this film will beat the rap and get away scot-free.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Follow-up/Review of Fire Pro Wrestling (X360)

Since plunking down ten dollars for this game on Friday, I have been playing Fire Pro Wrestling on my Xbox 360 constantly. That is both a good thing and a bad thing. Here are my observations after three days of play:

  • It certainly isn't a Fire Pro game. I'm aware that it wasn't supposed to be since its inception, but it must said again, especially since the hardcore fans won't shut up about it. As many fans seem to forget, the Fire Pro series hasn't always stayed with the same gameplay formula, such as the arcade-based Blazing Tornado, and this entry is no exception. However, it does kinda feel like it needs to be called something like Avatar Pro Wrestling instead.

  • The Famestar element does help with the game's replayability, with weekly and bonus challenges and special rewards, but it highlights how this game is part of a bigger corporate element instead of its own identity as a wrestling game.

  • You only have six CAWs, which frankly sucks, except there are bigger character creation problems to address. You can't create characters with different genders. The only gender you can use is what your avatar is set as. Even if you adjust the sex outside the game, upon start-up, the game recognizes the change and your characters automatically change back to this new default look. Your moves, levels, and stats stay the same but you lose all articles of clothing. This is horrible, especially if you want to make someone of the opposite sex, such as joshi stars like Manami Toyota or someone from AAA.

  • Many players have gone into the game with bought avatar merchandise, such as WWE attires, costumes, and props. If you say want to create lucha John Cena, again, the avatar defaults out.

  • You unlock moves through the campaign or multiplayer. Some require a specific stat rating before being able to use, so make sure of who you want to create. For instance, if you want to make a lucha wrestler, build up speed and technical. You unfortunately can't re-adjust your stats, as they are final after hitting "Accept".

  • The moves are very fun. They are more toward the lucha and spotfest style, so expect a lot of opponents with Canadian Destroyers and running Deja Vu. All of them are highly over-the-top, often leading to the sight of seeing players fly in and out of the ring. One instance, I was outside with my opponent. I gave him a Dragon Suplex and he literally flew not only inside the ring but to the right side of ropes.

  • Gameplay can be an unnerving mess at times. Melee attacks seem to miss often and can be ineffective simply because the opponent turtles up behind blocking. There is a special ability to get a "melee break", where you guard at the exact moment the attack hits you, allowing you a free hit or grapple. This will drive you nuts when facing cheap A.I. in the campaign. The grappling system is fine, more focusing on cat and mouse and psychological warfare than precise timing. If you pick the same grapple button as your opponent, you will counter the move. This gets better if you upgrade your luck stat, which can negate your opponent and allow you to perform a maneuver. You can also hammer throw, i.e. irish whip, the opponent but it is never really effective to use. Running grapples are awful, as you have to bounce off the ropes before using them. Even if you do, your opponent will most likely move out of the way. Ground attacks can be crappy if you have more damaging moves like the camel clutch or German suplex attached; your character will just slap the opponent over and over again, to no effect, until they are in the right position to deliver the move. Stick to sentons and feet stomps.

  • Finishers, both for singles and tag, are awesome but infuriating to pull off. You can't set any move as the finisher, only a few extremely over-the-top ones, like a giant swing around the world and a vicious ballet routine. To do one, you must successfully pull off moves, then use your taunts. The taunts unleash your stored up offense, allowing the spirit bar to hits its peak. Then, you have tap up on the d-pad, which does your finisher taunt and sets you on fire. Grapple the opponent and watch the show. The problem is that if your enemy hits anything on you, even a little kick, you instantly lose your opportunity and your bar drops back down. Wrestling game logic would stat that the best course of action is to just pick up your downed opponent, as they would be stunned and vulnerable, especially when their health is down. None of that applies here, as once you kick up the opponent to a standing position, they become fresh as a daisy, ready to ruin your shining moment to end the match. I understand being fair, especially for younger gamers, but this is beyond horrible.

  • The campaign mode consists of nothing but match-ups. You have a cute little story element at the beginning, where your character fights in a dream battle for the world title and you are completely overpowering, unleashing finishers with just the B buttton. After the tutorial, there is no plot to speak off, just a series of matches. During loading times, you have a ticker at the bottom telling you about the other characters, including your so-called rival. Beating them unlocks them for exhibition mode, including copies of the same character with different levels and outfits. Talk about padding out the roster. You will be switching between the three settings (Casual, Champion, Underground), as some stages will have higher leveled opponents than the others. Towards the end, the game gets super-cheap, as it pulls the cardinal sin of handicap matches. You have to fight several 1 vs. 2 matches and one god awful 1 vs. 3 match in order to progress. Only one is okay, as one of the two has low health and doesn't fight at all, but the majority are taxing on the brain and near game-breaking and ruining. Once you defeat everyone, you unlock the title match, where you fight a walking punching bag, who is also your forced-upon tag partner throughout the mode, and that's it.

  • Online is terrible right now. Pre-Match-ups are handled well but can often fall apart due to connection problems. Once the battle starts, atrocious lag problems surface up. This greatly impacts the grappling, causing you to pick the wrong button or win through flukes. Take your time when playing. Then, there's the usual suspects, like trolls, cheaters, and players who pull the plug once they are about to lose.

  • The game is $10, though it really is $15; Day One DLC is already out. From what I can gather, the Legends pack is just 20 more characters and 12 more matches, just like the rest of the campaign. You do get more moves and costumes though.

  • I will say that the game is ultimately dumb fun and a bit addicting, even with its major, major errors. I'm always a sucker for action-RPG type games and the whole colorful and bombastic violence is delightful. It is sure to be good for the casual crowd and kids. It would be better off as a $5 game, unless the extra money will either lead to patches and fixes or the possibility of a future traditional Fire Pro game. If you don't like it or hate the trial version, nothing is stopping you from replaying the older games.

    Thursday, September 20, 2012

    The Fire Pro Problem: The End or Something New?

    Every gamer has a few video games selected to be their deserted island treasures, the type of games that they can play through multiple times without ever feeling exhausted. One of my selections is Fire Pro Wrestling Returns, a game that arrived during the last legs of the Playstation 2 era. Released in Japan in 2005, it took two years and the publishing company Agetec to finally come here as a budget title with a laughably generic and ugly box cover. This frivolous window dressing couldn't keep the game from being one of the absolute best professional wrestling video games of all time.

    The Fire Pro Wrestling series started all the way back in 1989, paving a way with advanced features and important elements that would become standard of the industry and the wrestling sports genre. Able to skid past copyright laws, the games serviced gamers with the opportunity to play as their favorites, mostly Japanese stars with some "gaijins", against one another without the restrictions of promotions. Wanted to see The Ultimate Warrior team up with Tiger Mask to battle with Mitsuharu Misawa and The Great Muta? You could do that. The later games brought the ability to create your own wrestlers, customize their attires, movesets, and even the CPU logic, allowing your Stone Cold Steve Austin CAW to fight exactly like the Texas Rattlesnake. The gameplay was sophisticated and not very user-friendly but it felt closer to real professional wrestling, as you start off with simple maneuvers, working your way to unleashing your finishers. The majority of the action rested on a special grappling system, where once two characters begin to lock up, you need to input your button combination as soon as the arms interlocked. And finally, the franchise would feature the humble beginning of one of the auteur of the current generation; noted-crazy genius Goichi "Suda 51" Suda worked on several games, and has been linked to one entry's truly shocking nihilistic ending to its special story mode.

    The series was created and developed by Human Entertainment and was later taken over by its successor, Spike. The latter company helped bring the series overseas and gave the franchise multiple chances to survive after sinking sales and a general downturn in Japanese wrestling during the mid 2000's. The supposed final entry was to be Fire Pro Wrestling Z, only to have another grand finale with Returns. Since then, the 2D series laid dormant as many 3D graphical games took up the market. Fans didn't give up hope, as seen in the continuing popularity of Fire Pro Club, a site where edits, formulas, fake federations, and general wrestling talk are shared with everyone on a daily basis.

    A new chance for the series came in 2010 as news of a revival was revealed to the public, to be released as an exclusive on Xbox Live Arcade. But two words stood out and remained in the collected fan consciousness under a harsh negative light: avatar support. See, as an alternative/rip-off of the successful "Mii" creatable characters with the Nintendo Wii, each Xbox 360 user were later given an "avatar", a simple 3D character that can be shaped into their image. The gimmick also was a marketing strategy, allowing Microsoft and other companies to sell special clothing and accessories for users to buy with real money. Arcade games would later be developed using your personal avatar as the main player. Some were good, some were awful, but they all had a casual tone to them. If there is one thing that Fire Pro has not been throughout its series, it is casual.

    Fans were furious, growing worst once early video footage showed up online. In place of the expert grapple timing were simple, quick button pushes. Characters bumped like beach balls around the ring, as if everyone was a cocky indie flyer or Shawn Michaels at Summerslam 2005. And the avatars, oh the avatars. This early derision proved to be lasting legacy of the game, as it just utterly disappeared from public view. Designed to come out in 2011, the release date flew by without any news or updates. The game seemed to be dead in the water.

    Several weeks ago, the game popped up out of nowhere on official Xbox Live sites. It's new release date was set for September 21st, with a price tag of 800 Microsoft Points, the equivalent of ten dollars under the company's craptastic currency system. And I might be doing something I hardly ever, ever do nowadays: I might buy it instantly without waiting for the reviews.

    I am still not very happy that a 2D Fire Pro can't be created for the current systems. There is so much potential for online trading, downloading other people's characters, and fun multiplayer for Fire Pro that the WWE games are doing right now but under heavy restrictions, such as the intolerable online passes. I may not be completely won over with this new Fire Pro Wrestling but I understand the mindset of both Spike and Microsoft. They want to the keep the fire burning, so to speak, as they see the opportunity of using avatars as a possible gateway for new and other gamers. Sure, they may not appear, due to the stigma pro wrestling still has today, but it is a nice college try.

    Some new videos have been appearing very recently, including this special preview broadcast on that show off what the game will feature. The gameplay still looks odd and discomforting but the presentation is kinda nice and the animation, particulary single and tag finishing moves, is fun and eventful. The CAW/Edit mode is interesting, with a lot of freedom and inventiveness, such as the ability to enter the arena with the animation of becoming a werewolf. However, there are still some big questions unanswered until release; The campaign mode consists of a ton of match-ups, which your avatar/created character embarks on, unlocking new items and moves, gaining experience and able to be upgraded. Do I only have one CAW character? Do I have to unlock all of the moves for each and every character or do I gain them all through one playthrough? What about the stats? Do they come into play in exhibition mode?

    The internet may come down hard on this entry but I at least want to give it a fair shot. Even if the game turns out to be bad or even the worst in the entire long series, at least it is a wrestling video game of a different mode. The market has consisted of nothing but WWE games, a monopoly that has suffocated the flavor of the wrestling genre. Fire Pro fans should at least give the game some cheers, in the hope that it succeeds and may lead to a new hardcore fan-friendly entry in the franchise.

    Monday, September 17, 2012

    RoboCop Remake Photos Leak, Everybody Points Out the Obvious

    Oy vey.

    Take both pictures in. Take a deep breath. Ready?

    Despite a recent and expending trend of audience apathy and utter rejection of remakes of popular horror and sci-fi films, highlighted greatly this summer by the failure of Total Recall, the hollow remnants of MGM are still moving forward with plans to do a restart on the RoboCop franchise. Like all things nerdy, someone with cunning instincts and a passion for stoking volatile internet forums snapped a few pics of the redesigned robot suit.

    The debate over it has often been leading down to the same roads. The first set of arguments relate to whether or not this will be CGI enhanced later in post-production or if it is one of many(?) suits the character will be wearing. Of course CGI will come in later, because the mindset of Hollywood studios nowadays is to shy away from practical effects , i.e. technology that looks more real and more impressive that someone actually constructed it with their own hands and not a mouse. The legendary leg-holster is sure to be one of the few "enhancements". As for the second part, unless for toyetic purposes, I don't think he will be enriched with cooler guns and bigger armor for later action sequences. I think this is all we will be getting.

    The next fight over the leak is simply a contest: Who can come up with the best i.p. this look rips off? The first thing that came to my head when I saw the images was the Accelerator suits from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Other popular favorites have been The Dark Knight and Mass Effect. All of these comparisons show that the design of the suit is woefully generic and unmemorable, especially compared to the bulky, stylized original by Rob Bottin.

    Like a lot of people, I frankly do not care or wanted a remake of the 1987 sci-fi classic. However, the makers want to hang on to the rights and revive this franchise. And, in a way, they should; As noted in the last part of the first sentence in this paragraph, the RoboCop franchise begins and ends with the Paul Verhoeven take. RoboCop 2 was a complete debacle, with a highly awful script and controversies that still linger today. RoboCop 3 lost its leads (breakout star Peter Weller left after 2, Nancy Allen only appeared in this installment to be killed off), and was reduced to a PG-13 rating, only to fail even worst. Then, you have the mediocre to crap television works, both live-action and animated, that tried to overcome low, low budgets to breath new life into the part-man, part-machine, all cop.

    The current news on the remake project are mixed at best. Like many remakes, the makers wanted the project to be a colossal A-picture only to settle for scraps. RoboCop is to be played by Joel Kinnaman, a Swedish-American actor no one has honestly heard of, despite starring in two ultra-lame products: last year's The Darkest Hour and AMC Television's The Killing. The rest of the cast to feature heavyweights, such as Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton, but the premise of the plot looks to be another brooding sci-fi feature where the futuristic hero is all depressed and has love problems. The 1987 film had ambiguous characters, hyper-gore, "I'd buy THAT for a DOLLAR!", Jesus metaphors, great art direction, an excellent score and theme, and fantastic special effects. So far, all we seem to be getting with this installment is a PG-13 rating and whiny hero rants.

    The only good thing for now is that the film is under the hands of José Padilha, the Brazilian director of the documentary Bus 174 and the violent The Elite Squad series. The guy knows action, pacing, and hints of fascism. Still, he is working with a group of individuals who only want make something for legal purposes and to get a money pop by reissuing old films on blu-ray. I probably will be seeing it, regardless of my opinions here, but the fact that it is expected to come out in August next year doesn't bode well.

    Sunday, September 16, 2012

    Brief Film Reviews - September 2012

    From time to time, I forget or not motivated enough to write a full length review for every single film I have seen in theaters.

    As to catch up, here are some short form reviews:

    The Bourne Legacy

    Decompression at its worst; was Brian Michael Bendis the script doctor? I still haven't watched the two acclaimed sequels to THE BOURNE IDENTITY but any non-attentive viewer can see this spin-off has major problems. I did like Jeremy Renner as the Bourne-like Aaron Cross, a super-assassin who is on the run from the NSA and CIA while searching from the power drug pills that make him into the next Roger Ramjet. Despite Renner's likability and some finely executed action and suspenseful sequences, the story moves at a snail's pace, with scenes stretched out that would have been heavily red-lined by a Screenwriting 101 teacher. There is so much padding, not to mention the endless amount of talking, that the film literally ends at its second act. I guess the third act will be its sequel because Universal Studios and the Kennedy/Marshall Company love money.

    FINAL REVIEW: 3 / 5


    Yet another disappointment from Australian director John Hillcoat. The movie is a forever bouncing ball, moving between two tones constantly. One moment, you're watching some kinetic hootenanny, then head right into cruel, black comedy. Sometimes the characters behave interestingly and off-putting, the next their intelligence drop to stupidity levels. I do enjoy the film's weird humor and BONNIE AND CLYDE exploits involving a gang of moonshiners fighting against the morally corrupt officials who wish to piggy off their backs but I suffered too much mood whiplash and too much Shia LeBeouf. I can't really be delighted in seeing the young star be increasingly beat up when I have to suffer from a by-the-numbers plot and a low-budget looking set design. It is partially worth it for the performances by Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, and Gary Oldman, but not enough to sustain the two hour running time.

    FINAL REVIEW: 2 / 5

    Hit & Run

    Home movies are not actual movies. If they were, everyone's filmography would be several miles long. Here, star/writer/co-producer/co-director Dax Shepard made one just to show how much he loves cars and his real-life girlfriend Kristen Bell, and then came up with an excuse of a plot to fatten up its shockingly long run time. Shepard is frankly fine as a Witness Protected getaway driver who wants to drive his lover to a ob interview in L.A. only to cross paths with the friends he snitched upon, such as an ugly dread-locked Bradley Cooper. The problem is that everything here is either preachy as all hell (Shep and Bell have a overlong conversation about the other "f" word) or completely unfunny despite featuring talented workers (Kristin Chenoweth, why?). The levels of conflict are often barren and the chase scenes do not warrant an "ooh" or "aah". This film does have the feel of small independent labor of love among friends but that doesn't excuse the opening to ending laugh-less ride, unless you are the type of person who thinks the sight of a lemon party is hilarious.

    FINAL REVIEW: 1 / 5

    Friday, September 14, 2012

    Trailer Review - Lincoln

    1st Trailer
    Watch It Here

    Person of Interest: Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln, Sally Field as Mary Todd, David Stratharian and Tommy Lee Jones as Lincoln allies, Hal Holbrook and Jackie Earle Haley as cranky politicans, and a cameoing Joseph Gordon Levitt.

    Scene Pop: No pop but the cinematography in some shots is very striking.

    Briggs Breakdown: 3 Oscar winners, 4 brief Civil War battles, too many fade ins and outs to count!, epic John Williams score, Congress anger, and rampant lecturing and shouting.

    Effective?: Yes, in a way. It certainly does look like Steven Spielberg's vision of the life of the 16th President but the cut is a bit old-fashioned and didactic with all of the talking.

    Check it Out?: Well, yes. I always do like going out to see the newest Spielberg movie. This trailer may be a little boring and expected, since it is obviously designed to start the Oscar talk for it, but I am interested in seeing what all of these great actors get to work with. Not to mention, it is fun to see a good American democracy film every now and then.

    Thursday, September 13, 2012

    Trailer Review - Texas Chainsaw 3D

    Texas Chainsaw 3D
    1st Trailer
    Watch It Here

    Person of Interest: No one. Apparently, the token black guy is rapper Trey Songz. He didn't have his shirt off so I couldn't tell it was him.

    Scene Pop: That horrible, negative-colored, flicker jump with the putrid chainsaw sound effect.

    Briggs Breakdown: 3 3D effects, one bra, a wrecked door, a wrecked car window, angry attack on a fence, a sucker punch, and multiple phallic imagery.

    Effective?: No. The jump scares are annoying and the film doesn't look at all like a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film. Just another Syfy Saturday Night Premiere.

    Check it Out?: No. It's kinda hard to take this film straight after The Cabin in the Woods. But again, this is just another below average slasher film, in a haunted house, with a hidden killer who just happens to wield a chainsaw. It pushes the characters/meatbags more than Leatherface, which is plainly stupid to do when making a new installment in a film franchise. Apparently, this is is supposed to be the REAL sequel to the 1974 original classic, which is both laughable and aggravating. Also, they dropped "Massacre" from the title? Why?

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Trailer Review - Parental Guidance

    Parental Guidance
    1st Trailer
    Watch It Here

    Person of Interest: Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as themselves playing two grumpy grandparents and poor, poor Marisa Tomei as a vanilla mother of three sires.

    Scene Pop: Bat to the groin, cause those never go out of style!

    Briggs Breakdown: An airport security joke, old people and technology joke, and of course, Man Getting Hit by Baseball Bat.

    Effective?: No!

    Check it Out?: Dear heavens, hell no! This churned-out tripe wants to get that Christmas green but is more likely going to be in the red. Crystal and Midler look like walking wax statues, completely empty inside. All of the jokes featured are bad sitcom-worthy, relying on stereotypical family life. Also, how can you have a kid's baseball game if everyone gets on base?! Is it just one ultra-long inning? Do they stop after three batters hit?

    Trailer Review - Atlas Shrugged: Part II (2)

    Atlas Shrugged: Part II
    1st Trailer
    Watch It Here

    Person of Interest: Taylor Sch...Huh? Samantha Mathis? Jason Beghe? Esai Morales?! Patrick Fabian?!! Richard T. Jones?!!! RAY WISE?!!!!

    Scene Pop: Any of the bad CGI effects. I guess we will have to wait to see the complete plane crash.

    Briggs Breakdown: Massive white people problems, many dull surprise faces, 3 skimmed trees, a bad Zimmer ripped-off score, a gas/lava(?) explosion and a plane crash.

    Effective?: No. It makes the film look like a DTV or DTTV release.

    Check it Out?: As stated before, I will be seeing it, due to my love of trainwreck cinema, but no one else will. Look at all of the problems: A complete cast overhaul, retaining the awful CGI and cinematography, the title logo in a different film format, and re-doing the entire CAST! I can not believe they wanted to continue this series after the failure of the first one but changing every single actor is beyond human understanding.

    Sunday, September 9, 2012

    Trailer Review - Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

    Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
    1st Trailer
    Watch It Here

    Person of Interest: Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as Hansel & Gretel.

    Scene Pop: Homage to She-Devils on Wheels

    Briggs Breakdown: 9 arrows fired, 1 shotgun round, 2 flash deaths, 1 blown up house, 1 blown up door, death by oven, rampant fighting/gunfire and a headbutt.

    Effective?: Slightly pointed up to yes.

    Check it Out?: Maybe, considering it is something to wake up the doldrums of January, but this type of fairy tale fare has proven to be disingenuous with the general public. It so far comes across as the long-awaited (to no one) sequel to Van Helsing, complete with cg vampires, anachronistic weaponry, and featuring cool and attractive leads. Also, it feels more like a byproduct of the 90's, with its lush detailing of people with guns in practically every shot.

    Thursday, September 6, 2012

    The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure - Review

    I missed out on seeing DELGO and CREATURE in theaters; the former due to scheduling problems, the latter due to general disinterest. So when THE OOGIELOVES IN THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE debuted and became the new worst widely released film ever, it was destiny calling me to man up and take the bullet. I paid up front, got my butterfly glow stick that lasts for six hours, and sat down in a deserted theater. After the horrible earworm-inducing theme song concluded and the screen turned black, I walked out shell-shocked and staggering.

    This movie is why we live in a horrible timeline where Jim Henson's life was cut too short. THE OOGIELOVES is not a product from a human heart and mind but of corporate greed. The fact that the title was specifically picked in order to leave open the possibility for future sequels can prove this. It follows the Poochie school of entertainment design: The tone and setting is a cross between Pee-wee's Playhouse and The Teletubbies, the main creatures look like McDonald's rejects, and there are puns and catch-phrases that will have kids in stitches or stitched on their t-shirts. Bless "Manos" and his hands of fate because all of that work has been mishandled by a cast and crew of idiots. Nothing in this monstrosity works.

    The first notable problem with the film is that it's an interactive experience. Film honestly can not work in this manner. This is not the theater, the circus, a sporting event or professional wrestling, where the performers can note, adjust and/or feed off the energy of their audience. Instead, the performers have to believe that they are that damn good and worthy of your hard-earned money. I had no other viewers but even if I had a child with me who was willing to participate, he/she would have been gassed after the first ten minutes and curse every time they see those dumb subtitle-carrying butterflies flying by to tell them to get on their feet.

    Let's look over this disaster-piece of a story. Joining next to a frozen chicken burrito as the worst mission goal in a 2012 film, we have to cheer the titled characters on so they can celebrate the birthday of a pillow. A pillow that talks like Adam Sandler, can't move by itself and has the i.q. of a graham cracker. Their gift to this pink abomination is five of the cheapest golden balloons I've ever seen. Their dumb vaccum cleaner housemate/butler/parent(?) lets them fly away so Goobie, Zoozie, and Toofie must find them in time for the surprise party.

    I can not tell you which one of the Oogieloves is which. There is an animal-talking girl, a nerdy scientist, and a boy that hates belts around his pants. Each of them is voiced by an appalling and ear-splitting woman that all sound-alike. Even worse, their mouth flaps hardly move at all yet these things never shut up, chattering up a storm about how things are "scientastic" or "sparkliciousness". Director Matthew Diamond didn't care about this issue, nor the fact that the puppeteers can't see straight, constantly mess up their timing, and are often filmed in positions that reveal the cut-offs of their fabric and helmets. They are also accompanied by their no-water-needed pet fish, who ends up being the audience surrogate, complaining about everything and loudly declaring, "When is this going to END?!"

    They meet up with several guest stars. How could these talented people do this? First is Oscar winner Cloris Leachman as a bibbidi-bobbidi-boobing old coot who loves circles. Then comes a crime of the century, as Oscar-nominated and mob movie heavyweight Chazz Palminteri appears as Marvin Milkshake, a diner owner who can't sing for pennies and is married to a half-built puppet cow named Moolah. Multi-Grammy winner Toni Braxton is next as a prima donna singer who loves roses and delivers the absolute nadir of songs in the movie. Towards the end, the unholy three needs to get to a windmill and can only get there by hopping in a sombrero warship, piloted by the dancing of non-Spanish Jamie Pressly and Christopher Lloyd.

    There is one person who I've neglected to mention. Cary Elwes is in this picture. The mighty Westley himself. The Brit plays Bobby Wobbly, a texan truck-driver who can not stand still (Cause he's WOBBLES! GET IT?!) and is carrying a stockpile of bubbles. This guy is so terrifying that Buffalo Bill from THE SILENCE OF LAMBS would tell him to tone it down. Elwes plays him so over-the-top that he starts off awful then becomes gloriously hilarious then ends back where he started. It is such a skillfully atrocious performance for the ages, screeching and hollering like a madman ("DO YOU LIKE BUBBLES?!").

    Not a frame goes by where there is glaring error. Often next to the characters in scenes are the absolute worst puppets every devised and utilized. These side animals are dog-chewed-up creations with less detail and nuance compared to Punch and Judy. ADR is all up in here, as every single performers had to re-dub their lines, often flubbing the synch. The special effects are PS1-era worthy, featuring a ghastly sight where a giant mechanized cow sign is floating in mid-air on top of a diner. Then there's the dreadful music, where the lyrics and melody never match up or flows together. Each song gets progressively atrocious, with Braxton's song being king of the mountain of crap, as she literally slow-jams a R&B tune dedicated to sneezing and coughing. How can a kid dance to that?

    As for the edu-tainment factor, there is nil here than can benefit the development of a child, only regressive and damaging. These are the lessons your child will learn: Kids should climb really high trees and jump off the top with a balloon in their hands; they will land safely and be labelled a hero. Drinking your milkshakes ultra-fast is the way to go. Putting a scarf over heavy bags of luggage makes for a great trampoline. Walking into the back of a semi-truck with a smiling cowboy is a good thing to do. And finally, if a balloon blows away, summon the Ma-Ti in you and just blow kisses to get it back because love is the most powerful classical element.

    Do not try and pull the "it's a kids movie" card for this nightmarish terror. A bad movie is a bad movie. Kids are smarter than you think and can judge on their own. If you bring a child to this or have them watch it later on video, they should be legally allowed to slap you hard in the face while you are sleeping. Stick to Sesame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba!, and other shows that air free on children networks. This franchise is already dead and you shouldn't let it be buried with your money.

    FINAL REVIEW: 1 / 5

    Tuesday, September 4, 2012

    ParaNorman - Review

    It has been a very productive and acclaimed year for the animation genre of stop-motion. Earlier, we had the Brits of Aardman Animations launching out an adaptation of THE PIRATES!, and just recently we finally received a wider release from the Czechs with TOYS IN THE ATTIC, a 2009 film that has been touring the festival circuit. Laika, the stop-motion animation studio best known for CORALINE, has now unleashed PARANORMAN, a whimsical horror fantasy that treats kids with thrills and spills while also maintaining a sense of dignity. It never talks down to its younger viewers, choosing to entertain them through identification, even touching on subjects that may be too risque for easily offended parents but are the absolute truth and reality for the newer generation. Other than featuring a nice moral high-ground, the film is also is simply just a great zombie flick with a PG rating.

    Norman Babcock's avocation is his real life as a kid in the little town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts. His main occupation, other than being a student, is watching schlocky 80's horror flicks and talking to ghosts who are not only stuck in purgatory but in Blithe Hollow as well. These ethereal beings can only enter the afterlife once they ask someone to embark on a personal mission for them. Norman is the only one who can see these apparitions, thus giving him a stigma among the citizens. They place this harsh punishment on a little boy despite living in a town that has abused and exploited its past legacy as the site of a famous witch trial and her deadly curse. The anniversary of said event is coming up, leading to some odd mental visions that literally burn their way into Norman's psyche. He is then hassled by his unwashed and insane uncle, who can also see and sense what he can and warns him of the danger looming ahead. The uncle comically kicks the bucket but haunts Norman at his school before asking him to prevent the evil threat by reading a book on the graves of those cursed by the witch. Of course for conflict reasons, this request is hampered due to interference, a pile of 17th century zombies come out, and thus Norman must figure out how to quell the terror striking Blithe Hollow, even if he has to trust others to do so.

    Unfortunately, Norman's ghosts become a rare afterthought once the first act is completed. Whether due to the script or the film's budget, they do not appear either as a helper or more comic relief for the boy. In their places are his older sister, a fellow wannabe school mate who suffers from others yet looks on the bright side of life, the mate's car-loving dumb older brother, and a miscreant who has a been thorn in Norman's eye. Each of them play a certain conventional horror character type (cheerleader, fat kid, jock and juvenile delinquent respectively) and follow the mandatory mindset associated with them, i.e. all dumber than a bag of hammers. Thankfully, the creators gave each of them surprising traits, some of which I can not mention for spoilers sake. One I can talk about is the school mate named Neil. Though designed and wonderfully crafted to be the perfect fat kid fall down foil, he does a have nice air of assertiveness and has some of the growing pains and feelings a kid would have at his age.

    Though I like the little touches, the majority of the film is simply being cute, a pleasant breeze through mild-mannered plays on popular stereotypes. There's some nice substance to the material but something is just missing from the witch's pot. It really isn't until the major plot twist and the grand macabre finale that truly elevates this work while dropping your jaws. The fun then begins coming not from the laughs but from utter terror. The grimness rises and it becomes intoxicatingly ghastly. Let's just say that the goosebumps come a-poppin' when a strategic use of a fast zoom is employed and they stay there. Though they are creepy, the scares are ultimately suitable for children, never going beyond into nightmare fuel territory. They will give them jolts and frights but they will not scar.

    Additional to the frightening spooks, the film aims its sights on several morals to imbue on to the lucky young viewers and even some adults. It tackles the on-going social debate of bullying, as Norman is completely ostracized within the confines of his school. The creators present it realistically; the majority of the children do not speak or stand near him, afraid and disgusted by his presence, leaving him open to the few who would inflict him with physical discomfort. The other major theme is how fear can cloud everyone's judgment, causing them to commit heinous acts of violence and mortal danger. A large, unruly mob pops up later, crazed and bloody-thirsty by the presence of the zombie pack, leading to a debate of who are the real monsters in this scenario.

    I must commend directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler and all of the hard-working men and women at Laika. They engineered some of the best advancements in stop-motion technology here, through the use of full color 3D printers, making some exquisite facials on the characters. Also, as a horror buff, I was tickled by the musical stings and scene recreations to past films, such as a moment where Neil wears the Jason hockey mask while set up in a shot from the ending of HALLOWEEN. Of course, none of those can top the hilarious prologue, where a "Feature Presentation" logo pops up before screening a z-grade EVIL DEAD pastiche with a foot-planted screaming woman and a boom mike shot. As for the acting side, all are generally good with Kodi Smit-McPhee being the obvious standout as Norman. I also want to give a special mention to the person voicing the evil witch and her wide range of emotional hikes. The only big miss is Jeff Garlin, who comes off more hostile and unlovable as Norman's dad but that seems to be the fault of the writers and their own daddy issues.

    PARANORMAN is what a kid's movie, whether animated or live-action, should be. There are no smug and smiling main characters, afro circuses, or visual hyperactivity for the sake of it. It may be stuck with the theater-happy 3D format but it features elements and questions that are more in your face than a zombie's gapping mouth. This is yet another stop-motion movie that will live on and on, whether on video and television, every October.

    FINAL REVIEW: 4 / 5

    The Campaign - Review

    Here we have a case of why you shouldn't pay for something when you can get it for free, i.e. the television vs. film debate. The main mission of THE CAMPAIGN is to lampoon while calling attention to the wheelings and dealings of the Koch Brothers, here dubbed the Motch Brothers and played by two overqualified comedians. The problem is that Aaron Sorkin is already making a better case against those bozos on his HBO television show The Newsroom. That show is highly flawed and ungainly problematic but it has its moments of grandeur. THE CAMPAIGN, however, is largely unfunny, brimming with travesty and wasted opportunities.

    The majority of my laughs were in the first five minutes, then I came down with a serious case of stupefaction, brought on by utter boredom and crude immaturity. There is a few pops as the battle between two political candidates gets more heated but they are often overwhelmed by the pool of malaise all around them. This film is headed by Jay Roach, a popular comedy director who has won acclaim and an Emmy for his political TV movies, and written by several people associated with Eastbound and Down. These talented men were unable to craft a raunchy satire, so they instead use the leftover scraps from the SNL writer's room, complete with television-like direction and delayed comedic timing.

    So, let's go over the plot and pinpoint all of the problems: Will Ferrell plays Cam Brady, North Carolina's 14th District four-term Democratic congressman, who is just Ferrell's signature impression of George Bush but made more abrasive, if that is even possible. He supposedly suffers from a recent sex scandal with a trampy gladhand, losing some of his precious points and numbers, but since he has no opposition for his job, he doesn't have to worry. The Motch Brothers (sadly played by Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) do not like this sin of the flesh and want to put a patsy they can command and control into Brady's position, choosing Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), a cooky tourism director of a small town and the son of a big Republican associate. Remember, they pour their money and build a campaign for some loser when they could have just bought off/sponsor the morally corrupt Brady, a man who has been unopposed for eight years running. Also, considering how loony, gullible and idiotic North Carolina residents are represented here, he could gone on forever.

    The Motch Brothers are the true evil of this picture, the ones who must be punished and given a diatribe against at the finale, yet they only appear in six scenes. Their continuing presence is supposed to be transplanted into the allusive Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott), Huggin's specially hired campaign manager, but he is more of a motivational goof than a serious threat. That leaves Cam Brady to be the major antagonist and it should be. His character is a disgusting man-child who thinks with his loins first and willing to do anything to humiliate someone. However, whether through a re-write, studio intervention, or simply a dumb idea in the first place, the viewer is intended to root for him as well as Huggins. This is seen easily when he recalls when he first wanted to go into office or when he has a moral debate when he hears what his own son is doing. Really, Mr. Roach? You want me to cooperate and cheer on a bully who sees women as an object to be used and abused?

    I may have earlier somewhat praised Sorkin's current television show but the thing that this film easily shares with that masterpiece of mediocrity is the negative portrayals of women. Now look, I don't go into every single work of film expecting female characters to be 100 percent perfect and equal or else I boo, hiss, and give it an one star. Even I sometimes hate being trapped into writing yet another spiel, as if I'm trying to make a Linda Williams essay. Nonetheless, there is a scene featured at the end of the second act that blew past the glory-hounds, the gold-diggers, and the walking tramps to be crowned the most sexist moment. What happens is that Brady gets sick and tired of being humiliated, despite it largely coming from his own behavior. He not only chooses to make an ultimate jab back at Marty but he films it, turns into an campaign ad, and leaks it online. This utter distaste comes when he premieres it at his office, in front of several female aides who are completely shell-shocked. These women have mouths yet do not scream; They instead are directed by the script to take this exploitation in and do nothing about it, not even send in their resignations.

    All of these faults lay on the director and the writers. I have no qualms with any of the actors, including Ferrell. They are trying to make this awful material work, with only Dylan McDermott as one of the very few able to rise beyond it. I do have massive amounts of anger for the extras and special cameos, however. Their theatricality is extremely taxing, as they either wholeheartedly fake laugh or shout out every dumb punchline with the biggest shit-eating grin on their dumb faces. Every time one of these people appears and talks, especially the cable talking heads, they obliterate the fourth wall and take the fun out of anything that can be remotely called a satire.

    To use Marty Huggins' political tagline, THE CAMPAIGN is a mess, a movie that plainly sucks. Since I want to end this review positively, I will focus on Karen Maruyama. Without spoiling her character, it is safely to be said that this actress is the best thing going for this film. She is very limitedly used, which helps make her lines that more hilarious and effective. Hell, she is technically the hero of the story, since she in fact has the last scene and the last laugh. If there is somehow a sequel to this abomination, which is highly unlikely, I do hope her role is expanded.

    FINAL REVIEW: 1 / 5

    Monday, September 3, 2012

    Michael Clarke Duncan - RIP

    Michael Clarke Duncan has died. He was 54 years old.

    The African-American actor had a very prolific career in the 2000's, right after his star-making and Oscar-nominated turn in Frank Darabont's The Green Mile.

    The man always had an imposing figure and a booming voice. He could play childlike or be as vicious as they come. Due to his signature vocals, he was able to experience a second career as a voice-over actor.

    Still to many, he will always be John Coffey, the gentle giant who wished to save some lives in a cruel prison.

    He will be missed.

    A Look at Fall 2012

    It is that time once again, where the public shrugs their way through a new season of life before back-to-back holidays bring back the fun and festivities. It is when the Oscar-bait, family fantasies, and boffo popcorn material come out to take up the theater screens and to divvy up the spoils. It is also when a few interesting and challenging works are opened to provoke discussion and debate during the most wonderful time of the year.

    Let's check out and go thoroughly through all of the offerings coming out in the last four months of 2012.

    September 7 is one of those weekends you feel bad for the premiering films, even if they look/are boring. The most heavily hyped release, especially on television, is The Words, a film that was extremely mixed at Sundance and feels like an after-school special about the dangers of plagiarism and the troubles prevailing aspiring white writers. Of course, you might have a slight laugh viewing it as the alternate universe of Bradley Cooper's character in Limitless, who also was a hungry novelist. The Cold Light of the Day has a direct-to-DVD plot and a super-generic title but is from the director of the very offbeat action film JCVD. You will have better luck finding fare in the limited theaters: Bachelorette has three good actresses in the lead (Kristen Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan) and recalls last year's Bridesmaids (especially since Rebel Wilson is in it as well), Hello I Must Be Going is getting buzz thanks to Melanie Lynskey's performance, and the cult crowd get to indulge in their love of British humor and zombie gore with The Inbetweeners Movie and [REC] 3 Genesis respectively.

    September 14 was going to feature Gangster Squad, but that film sadly fell into trouble by a scaredy-cat studio. Instead, and a bit thankfully, The Master has been moved up and will be an appetizing entree for film critics. Its long on-going controversial take on Scientology and off-beat teaser trailers certainly brought a lot of attention both to the film and the "religion", especially since Tom Cruise has a movie coming out later. The Resident Evil franchise continues it slowly-dying run with Resident Evil: Retribution, the fifth installment which is catering to nostalgia by bringing back previously dead characters (zombie genes!). Finding Nemo 3D is a circus act, born to get the suckers, Arbitrage looks to be a cookie-cutter thriller of white people problems with slumming Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere, Liberal Arts is a indie snore, despite featuring Elizabeth Olsen, and then there's Stolen. I may have gleefully enjoyed him in the Ghost Rider sequel, but this Nicolas Cage starring Taken rip-off, which is actually getting a sequel this season, doesn't look good, especially after his other output this year, Seeking Justice.

    September 21 is bringing the law. Dredd looks for redemption to the comic-book character after the so dumb/so good Sly Stallone flick and seems to have it with Karl Urban in the title role and a plot that bares similarities to The Raid: Redemption. David Ayer brings out yet another, another L.A. cop film with End of Watch. I know it must be easy to make these films, considering all Hollywood has to do is place a camera outside their studios, but I have had enough of these mediocre films about corrupt cops and urban dread. Oh, and look, here's another thing I hate seeing nowadays: the PG-13 horror film. House at the End of the Street may have Jennifer Lawrence and is expected to get a good first run but there is no hope for it being good. Trouble with the Curve so far looks to be a sports snore, as Clint Eastwood grunts his way through his strained relationship with daughter Amy Adams. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is fueled by a best-selling book and some talented young stars but it looks to be another yawn-inducing indie trip of an awkward white boy while the documentary How to Survive a Plague pays attention to a period where AIDS was a guaranteed death sentence before some activist groups tried to say otherwise.

    September 28 will be the biggest break for writer-director Rian Johnson, as he unleashes Looper. Working with a clever sci-fi twist involving mob hits and time travel, the film is another starring role for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as he plays cat and mouse with his future self, played by Bruce Willis. I am interested but hesitant for Hotel Transylvania. It is directed by famed animator Genndy Tartakovsky, who is still big in the animation industry but has fallen on hard times, and has a fun and cute premise. However, Adam Sandler and the Friends of Sandler Brigade are in the voice cast, so yeah. Won't Back Down isn't a new MMA film but harkens back to the once popular teacher films of the past. Speaking of sports, The Other Dream Team, a documentary that lacks the egotism of Michael Jordan for the tale of the 1992 Lithuanian basketball team, looks engaging.

    October 5 will feature first place winner Taken 2. It may not be good, but at least Liam Neeson continues his badassery on the screen, which reached nearly peak position with this year's The Grey. Since it is the start of the Halloween season, multiple horror-themed releases are coming out, with Tim Burton's Frankenweenie upfront. An updated adaptation of one of his earliest short films, I can only pray that the animated film lives up to be far better than his take on Dark Shadows. Then there is the dueling found footage films, where the blah Ethan Hawke-starring Sinister is trampled heavily upon by the horror anthology V/H/S. But the truly horrifying is The Paperboy, the Lee Daniels melodrama/exploitation flick that has been mocked since its premiere at Cannes. The scene where Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron has already become legendary. Then, there is the few comedies based on peculiar social activities, whether it is college glee club (Pitch Perfect) or butter carving (Butter).

    October 12 seems a bit odd when you look at its releases. There is Argo, Ben Affleck's latest directorial effort after The Town that boasts a well-sized cast and an interesting based on a true story premise, where CIA had to extract six Americans from Iran through a fictitious sci-fi film. Seven Psychopaths is the latest from Martin McDonagh (the excellent In Bruges), surely to bring grim humor through violent conflicts. Then, there is the latest from Frank Coraci, who spawned the abysmal Zookeeper. Here Comes the Boom is another stab by Hollywood to make a popular MMA film, this time starring Kevin James. I should be wary of it but I frankly like James and wish him well. Also, the trailer may be audience-friendly, not to mention a carbon-copy of Nacho Libre, but James looks committed and it may be okay.

    October 19 will host Paranormal Activity 4. The trailer is laughably bad but the series has somehow avoided condemnation from myself, achieving creepy scares through a very simple approach. This entry is the first sequel from the original film, the other two were technically prequels, as some familiar-looking new neighbors move in next door to a gullible family. Killing Them Softly looks to be more up the alley for adult audiences, with a possible Oscar-winning role for Brad Pitt, as he goes after two idiots who robbed a mob-run poker game. For the best comedy of the season, check out Alex Cross, the wannabe new thriller franchise with Tyler Perry of all people as its star. Its trailer had me in stitches, though I do think and believe it may not be as funny and just be a forgettable film.

    October 26 has Cloud Atlas, a film so big, its trailer had to be six minutes long just to convey some of its plot about reincarnation and multiple time periods. I was let down by Prometheus earlier this year, so I am taking two steps back from this. It also is probably not going to do well audience-wise. After two weeks of no horror films comes Silent Hill: Revelation, a movie that is proving to be a mental nightmare for fans of the first film and video-games. Sean Bean returns as someone completely different yet Radha Mitchell remains the same? For the kiddies, Fun Size might be a silly Halloween walk but its unoriginality (Adventures of Babysitting much?) is too much to bear for now. I would rather skip these films for The Sessions, an interesting Sundance fave that has been drawing raves for stars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt (Remember her?). Its plot is a little sickening, an iron lung patient looks to lose his virginity before dying, but the performances could overcome it or make it worthwhile.

    November 2 could be a walk-off for Denzel Washington but I will place my bets on Disney. Wreck-It Ralph has been winning video-game fans with its clever premise and awesome first trailer while Disney has pushed the film heavily for general audiences during the Olympics. Flight will have Denzel Washington using his charisma to sell a picture about an airline pilot who saves a plane but gets into trouble. If it fails or is less than stellar, it will be no biggie for Denzel but another disaster for director Robert Zemeckis. Rapper RZA's The Man with Iron Fists is at least a nice distraction from the rest of the outputs for simply being a martial arts flick. The trailer didn't completely wow me though. Then, there's the curious cases, with This Must Be the Place, a dramedy with Sean Penn as an aged rocker looking for someone, and the far late Halloween arrival/second horror anthology The ABCs of Death.

    November 9 is a two film race, the commercial versus the critical. Skyfall looks to be a return to form for the James Bond franchise. The trailers look awesome and it is retaining the Daniel Craig style of a dark and depressing world for the secret agent. The latter proved toxic with Quantum of Solace, so hopefully director Sam Mendes will learn from past mistakes. Steven Spielberg's new epic Lincoln is already astonishing people simply with a profile; Daniel-Day Lewis' uncanny resemblance to the 16th President is drawing good notices. There is no trailer yet but the fantastically large cast and being an adaptation of a popular history book seem to shut up those fears.

    November 16 is all for the women, as three female-lead films are released. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will break some records, even with the on-going tabloid fever of Kristen Stewart cheating on Robert Pattinson. Maybe this controversy will finally clear the diluted minds of fans that the Twilight films have major problems and that Bella is an awful human being. The other two are art-theater and Oscar bait: Joe Wright delivers another book adaptation with the heavily-abused Anna Karenina, again teaming up with Keira Knightley. It has the potential to be effective but no one was really asking for it beyond some desperate costumers and art directors who wanted an Oscar on their mantles. I heard mixed feelings for Rust & Bone, though Marion Cotillard is getting good reviews as a woman who finds love and disaster in the ocean.

    The week of November 23 will have two big-time fantasy epics battling each other and with a film of dire realism. My pick goes to Rise of the Guardians, a film that obviously will have a long run into all of December. Dreamworks' strategy for the film has been commendable: Start with a teaser poster, than an effective teaser trailer, than with some glorious character posters. Life of Pi may win over some but not myself so far. Its style over substance approach doesn't work for me in this instance, despite having Ang Lee in the director's chair. This may be Hugo all over again, where the 3D is more important than everything else. David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook may be a dark horse but I have not heard much about it.

    November 30 has......nothing? Really?

    December 7 has two new releases, but it really is just another week for Guardians to rule over. Kinda odd that the two expected seasonal favorites have "Rise" in the title, huh? Hyde Park on Hudson is purely Oscar-bait. Real-life politician? Check. Two big and talented actors? Check. Romance with problems? Check. I do like and wish the best for Bill Murray and Laura Linney but this film will be drawing more blue-hairs than the normal public. As for Playing for Keeps, another attempt to sell Gerard Butler in romantic-comedies, it will certainly be highly forgettable.

    December 14 has the two biggest heavyweights of the season, vying for that first place position. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is going to be that lucky film, though I personally am not hyped up for it at all. I was never a fan of the original book as a child and I really do not need an adaptation of it. This, plus all of the news stories about its 48 frames/per sec format and the story now being stretched into three films, makes this film a skip for me, though I will try to change my mind. Right now, I rather go with the female crowd to Les Miserables, the musical adaptation that has been expected since the musical's premiere on Broadway in 1987. That has its share of problems, namely filling up the roles with actors who shouldn't be near a musical and having Helena Bonham Carter and Russell Brand once again sing. At least they have Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean.

    December 19 and 21 has some fare for parents and adults to kick back to except for one. Zero Dark Thirty is given the special Wednesday release and is sure to ruffle some feathers and crowds. This is Kathryn Bigelow's big Hollywood film after making history at the Oscars with The Hurt Locker and its subtle marketing campaign seems to be working. Not to mention, the film will benefit from the recent controversy with one of the Navy Seals, who wrote a book and claims that the death of Osama Bin Laden played out differently. Monsters, Inc. 3D is another Disney sucker. Judd Apatow unleashes This Is 40, a sequel to Knocked Up that focuses on Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann's characters, because Apatow can't make one thing without his wife. Since I still haven't seen the earlier film, I won't be seeing this. There's also the fact that comedy sequels during the Christmas time tend to be really awful (Little Fockers anyone?). There's also Jack Reacher, which tries to sell Tom Cruise as the Shetland pony version of the popular pulp hero written by Lee Child, and The Impossible, which is based on the experiences of a family that survived a tsunami in 2004.

    December 25 features the feel bad movie of Christmas 2012, Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. Like last year's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this film will do well with adults but suffer from a perplexed and uncouth general public. Those losers would rather see more comedies, which are a mixed bag. The Guilt Trip looks interesting with the duo of Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand but Parental Guidance appears to be dreadful, featuring a money-grubbing Billy Crystal in a generic babysitting plotline.

    My Top Picks of Fall 2012

    1. Wreck-It Ralph
    2. Django Unchained
    3. Lincoln
    4. Zero Dark Thirty
    5. Rise of the Guardians
    6. Skyfall
    7. Looper
    8. Argo
    9. The Master
    10. Killing Them Softly

    Of course, there are some films not mentioned here because I frankly have a hard time determining their release time frame. Such include the remake of Red Dawn, which I might see despite its long shelf life and lame trailer, and the two very realistically devastating films, Smashed and Amour.

    I hope your movie experiences will be as good as mine, but probably less cynical.