Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Tops of 2012 - October

THE WOMAN IN BLACK has a couple of good scares and is kind of graphic for a PG-13 rating (a lot of kids forcibly commit suicide) but the film is a tedious viewing experience and too predictable to care for the somewhat miscast Daniel Radcliffe.

SILENT HOUSE wastes an excellent Elizabeth Olsen in a beyond horribly staged one-shot movie, where the horrors of a home invasion is hampered by sheer dumb metaphors, craptastical twists, and some deplorable exploitation.

KILL LIST is certainly unique as a British crime thriller that turns on a dime in its final act. The actors give interesting performances, and the dark humor and gory violence is fun and distressing but I was often humming along with the film, rather than eagerly awaiting the next weird development.

ARGO is yet another top-notch thriller by actor turned director Ben Affleck. The large cast is good, the pacing is excellent, and the moral ambiguity is like a fine wine. Could have lost some of its predictable flavor though, in terms of its script.

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS is a funny meta-fueled ride with some crazy L.A. residents but its constant fourth wall breaking gets a little taxing.

ATLAS SHRUGGED: PART II was as bad as the first installment and shares the same problems as that massive failure. One of the worst cases of watching a television production yet paying for it with an overpriced movie ticket.

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. Argo

8. 21 Jump Street

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

10. Detention

11. 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. Atlas Shrugged: Part II

8. Rock of Ages

9. Silent House

10. Total Recall

11. The Campaign

12. Hit & Run

My Halloween/Horror Hit List

Like many others, throughout this month I have been watching horror or horror-themed films in honor of the Halloween spirit. This is all of the movies I watched for the first time or re-watched:

The Blob (1958)
The Car
Day of the Dead (2008)
Dead of Night
Deep Red (Profundo Rosso)
The Devil's Rock
The Devils
Empire of the Ants
Evil Dead Trap
The Exorcist (Director's Cut)
The Haunting (1963)
Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
Hellraiser: Bloodline
Hellraiser: Deader
Hellraiser: Hellseeker
Hellraiser: Hellworld
Hellraiser: Inferno
Hellraiser: Revelations
The Horde
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
The Keep
Kill List
Let's Scare Jessica to Death
Monster Brawl
Motel Hell
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
The Old Dark House
The Relic
Shaun of the Dead
Silent House
Something Wicked This Way Comes
The Watcher in the Woods
The Woman in Black

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Brief Film Reviews - October 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:

Seven Psychopaths

The follow-up to his great IN BRUGES, writer/director Martin McDonagh has all of the ambition to create a meta-masterpiece with SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, yet the resulting film is a bit too meta for its own good. Sam Rockwell is entertaining and muggy as an out of control, constantly failing actor who takes part in a sure-to-fail dog snatching scheme with old crony Christopher Walken. One day, he makes the bad decision to steal Bonny, the cute little Shih Tzu of the even more insane mob boss played by Woody Harrelson. Colin Farrell, a Hollywood screenwriter named Marty(hint hint), gets mixed up in all of this fine mess, all the while he wants to overcome his writer's block and alcoholism to finish his latest work, "Seven Psychopaths". The film does have many fun uses of destroying the fourth wall, such as a delightful gag about the female characters, and the slick dialogue most associated with McDonagh. Unfortunately, it is so constraining with its inventiveness at times that it becomes a chore or sadly loses all sense of laughter. Still, it is might worthy of a watch or to write a film essay about.


Atlas Shrugged: Part II

Previously on ATLAS SHRUGGED: Dagny Taggart was crying over an oil field and found a new fusion engine with Henry Rearden, sure to save the world if it wasn't for those pesky kids in Washington. Despite failing hard critically and commercially with the first installment, the unthinking and severely pathetic producers of ATLAS SHRUGGED: PART I thought the world needed a continuation, or had to make one to keep the rights firmly in their grip. ATLAS SHRUGGED: PART II does have a better film poster than the previous laugh-inducing one but it is still an awful experience to watch. The entire cast has been wiped out and replaced with an entire colony of slumming actors, except for the surprisingly way-past-cool and campy Esai Morales as Dagny's former latin flame and an agent for John Galt. Despite Morales' presence, the film has the same returning problems: T.V. production quality, limited sets, redundant subtitles, bad C.G. work, and getting a misdemeanor for abusing the phrase "Who is John Galt?" to cover up the crimes brought on by the trite script. Even if you pay attention through all of the constant empty speeches and boring conflicts, you are sure to go crazy that our so-called brave and superior heroes let the "villains" win thanks to some easily pulled tricks; who knew Rearden would jump on a sword if you tried to blackmail him? If you want two long hours of white business supremacy filtered through by a piteous cast and crew, enjoy wasting your eleven dollars.


Disney Buys Star Wars and Lucasfilm! Episode 7 in 2015!!!

The eastern half of America is reeling from a truly devastating hurricane, political-mania is still running wild with only a week away from Election Day, and now, the world of entertainment thought it was to best to drop a major bombshell that will impact the landscape of the field. Announced today, The Walt Disney Company has bought up Star Wars.

What did it cost to buy the king of all franchises, despite a multitude of fan outrage since the prequel misfires? $4.05 billion worth of cold hard cash and stocks. The Star Wars franchise now shares the company of Pixar and Marvel Comics as the next major juggernaut in the field of family entertainment to be under the Disney brand.

But it gets better/worst: They have also announced plans for Episode 7! Holy crap! The expected film is to come out in 2015 and is sure to follow the aftermath of Return of the Jedi and/or one of the many, many, many future stories written, drawn, or played about since the 1983 film. Of course, the beloved trio of the original films will probably be replaced for a "new generation" of heroes.

This major development comes after the major news story early in the year where George Lucas was said to be stepping down from the responsibilities of his company in order to start crafting more personal projects, such as this year's Red Tails.

We are indeed witnessing major business and pop culture history being made today.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Trailer Review - Evil Dead

Evil Dead
Red Band Teaser Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: A flat line-reading Jane Levy (TV's Suburgatory) as Not-Ash, a poor dog sure to be exploited, and four loser/idiot actors you know are to be killed off.

Scene Pop: The last demented shot of the trailer.

Briggs Breakdown: 3 in-jokes, 4 racing camera shots, 3 acts of self-mutilation, death by fire, death by taking a shower (electrocution?), death by tree rape, a rain of blood, massive cat genocide, chainsaw gore and a cut tongue.

Effective?: A mixed bag. For new eyes, it looks like a creepy and disturbing horror flick. For the legions of Evil Dead fans, well...

Check it Out?: No. Seriously, is this a lost film from the Platinum Dunes crew, complete with the piss yellow and grimy green lighting scheme? It may be a rated-R remake but it doesn't look scary or unique like the original, just another Hollywood-ized remake. Hardcore fans will stay home, unless they are masochistic thrill-seekers or have an internet review show. Not even the shout-outs and in-jokes will put butts in the seats. Lastly, as stated in a previous article, it's kinda hard to take this film straight after The Cabin in the Woods.

Trailer Review - Empires of the Deep

Empires of the Deep
1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Olga Kurylenko as a merwoman thingy.

Scene Pop: Um... Any of the bad CGI shots.

Briggs Breakdown: A lot of fish and a lot of bad CGI.

Effective?: No.

Check it Out?: As a best worst movie lover, I probably will. No one else will go to it here in America but the gullible Chinese 3D-ingesting audiences will, right before catching wind of its true horrid production. This is a complete fiasco waiting to happen, as it can be seen by the simple fact that this trailer was released in such a terrible low video quality.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Trailer Review - Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3
1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Robert Downey Jr. as a concerned (dying?) Tony Stark, Gwyneth Paltrow as a constantly in danger Pepper Potts, brief cameos of Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, and Ben Kingsley as the mighty Mandarin. Also, the Iron Patriot.

Scene Pop: The haunting final note in a snowy landscape.

Briggs Breakdown: 3 destroyed Iron Man suits, 7 free-falling people, 2 HAL-like threatening moments with a sentient suit, total carnage to Stark's residence and a vicious attack to a table.

Effective?: Yes. Though the trashing of Stark's house is kinda of a repeat, the trailer definitely shows a raising of the stakes.

Check it Out?: Of course. Sure to be big and possibly sway those who were turned off by the second film.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Big No for RoboCop; Moved to 2014

Oy vey, indeed.

Another small stone has been thrown into the win pile for the internet, as the massive cynicism and fanboy outcry has seemingly won the battle but not the war over the remake of RoboCop. Sony Pictures has replaced its pegged time-slot of August 9, 2013 for February 7, 2014. In its original place will be Elysium, the sci-fi flick who's pre-buzz heavily centers around an ugly bald-headed Matt Damon rather than being the next awaited feature of District 9's Neill Blomkamp.

Suffice to say, Sony has simply just moved the remake from one garbage dump to another; both months are hard sells for sci-fi, again as seen in this year's Total Recall failure. The major difference being that audiences will seek out anything to see in the theaters during the first cold months of 2014, before the arrival of the premier March releases. Sony is really gunning for a big projected first weekend for the film, especially since the next week is Valentine's Day, a day where the vast majority of female audiences would rather watch something else than being the one dragged by their dates into seeing a man trapped in an unoriginal robot outfit.

The long post-ponement is also for the film to lose the film's growing derision, so it can be judged more objectively and given a fair shake in the marketplace. We will have to wait and see in 2014.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Argo - Review

ARGO is a standard issued thriller based on a real-life, once-classified CIA operation. It tells the tale of the daring rescue of six employees of the American Embassy of Iran, who had escaped to the streets before the embassy was overtaken by rioters on November 4, 1979. This spy game was done by Tony Mendez, a CIA operative who crafted a cover story of being a Hollywood producer for a fake STAR WARS rip-off called "Argo". He comes to Iran, meets up with his "crew", hiding away in the Canadian Embassy, and tries to get them out safely. Along the way, he encounters the generic guidebook of thriller film tropes: the dangerous walk through a public area, the angry bystander, the many distrusting guards, and the golden oldies, the pulling of the plug and the hero's silent drinking at night.

Despite these purposely conceived instances for the sake of film entertainment and familiarity, ARGO is one hell of a pulse-pounding ride. All of the scenes set in Iran, starting with the chaotic opening showcasing the fall of the American Embassy, are pure forms of absolute tension. However, the last act of the film is spellbindingly astounding and frightening, most especially since it pulls off the rare feat of suspending the knowledge side of your brain. You could be a spy history aficionado, know the real step by step process of the event, and be a hardcore cynic about all of the discrepancies, yet you will still find yourself squeezing your arms hard or eyeing those delicious nails as you await the final outcome.

What makes the film stand firmly out and become the most exciting film certainly of all year is not Ben Affleck, the actor but Ben Affleck, the director. Though he does an admirable job as the crafty yet blank-slated Mendez, Affleck paints a mighty canvas riddled with 1970's verisimilitude and flavor. You can practically smell the McDonald's hamburgers and breath the ire-filled air of the Iranian streets. Affleck and his crew's love of making this "based on a real story" film is so powerful, that they didn't want to wait until the home video release to show their workmanship; the fantastic ending credits show side-by-side comparisons of the actors and their real-life counterparts and the famous photos of the Iranian turmoil that they wanted to replicate. He delivers very good performances from his entire ensemble, with the best being Bryan Cranston as Mendez's CIA supervisor, Victor Garber as the brave Canadian ambassador who sticks his neck for his fellow neighboring nation and the duo of Alan Arkin and John Goodman as Hollywood professionals and Mendez's cover crew.

ARGO is a captivating action-drama, with a little comedy thrown in as well. It may be a little too stereotypical at times but it makes the cliches work. There's also the nice little touches that make it more enjoyable, such as adding some moral ambiguity and grayness to the timeline, showing that both America and Iran had their fair share to blame for the conflict and the hostage crisis. Ben Affleck should be very proud for his newest accomplishment in film and he richly deserves a Oscar nomination for his fine direction.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Retro Game Master: GameCenter CX Collection - Review

There have been many attempts to craft a television show all about the culture and interactivity of video games. They have often fall either under utter kitsch (GamePro, Nick Arcade) or achieve a unique, long-lasting flavor only to be retooled by the powers that be (X-Play). Then, there are the very few that unsuccessfully want to make a reality show about video-gamers, only to exploit their appearances into broad stereotypes and have them involved with easy product placement (WCG Ultimate Gamer).

Pretty much the absolute best in this field of television, able to have the familiarity of reality shows while having an immense love and respect for video games and its history, is a Japanese show called GameCenter CX. Originally devised in its first season to be a variety show consisting of interviews with big-time creators and travel-logs of arcades all-around the great nation of Japan, the show was remodeled to greatly expand its most popular segment with viewers, the video-game challenge. Here, Shinya Arino, the host of the show and one-half of a comedy duo called Yoiko, is forced by his producers to play-through some of the toughest games ever devised. He is given help and guidance by a revolving door of Assistant Directors (ADs) but must complete each episode's game of the day in the allotted time.

Granted, the show certainly has a cult appeal. After all, the majority of the public think the act of watching someone else play a video game is not thrilling in the slightest. I can't neglect that valid point but I do strongly disagree with it. Anyone who has or had a sibling, a cousin, or a friend with a game console or ever went to a public arcade know the feeling of observing someone better at a game. For this show, the practice is reversed and placed in bizarro world terms, as the predominately smarter viewer is well aware of the retro games being played yet still watches as a far-low par gamer is tasked with beating it. Coupled with a sports-documentary style narration and pacing, seeing Arino falter consistently but never giving up, helps make the show a thrilling watch.

Attempts have been made to bring the show overseas in some form, including a brief run on the Kotaku website, re-titled Retro Game Master, with the Japanese narration replaced with an English one. Instead, the show continued to live on only through a devoted online fan-base, who produce fan-subs or help spread episodes through video sites like YouTube.

Discotek Media has thankfully given another push for the show, releasing a four-disc set of fourteen episodes of the series. The discs feature the episodes as follows:


Ninja Gaiden
Super Fantasy Zone
Bonanza Brothers
Solomon's Key
Clock Tower (SNES)


Mighty Bomb Jack
The Mystery of Atlantis (Atlantis no Nazo)
S.O.S. (Septentrion)
Battle Golfer Yui


53 Stations of the Tokaido
The Wing of Madoola
Golden Axe


Shiren the Wanderer (Mystery Dungeon)
Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos

The first three discs include the same episodes featured on the Kotaku run, as well as the inclusion of both its specially made English narration and the original Japanese narration. The last disc were specially picked out for the DVD release and remain entirely in Japanese. Frankly, due to the cult of the show, any fan and viewer would stick to the original format. The original narration was provided by Tsuyoshi Kan, who is also one of the producers of the show. He really gets into the act, making Arino's play-throughs feel like Herculean efforts. The English version, however, simply is a complete detriment. The English announcer is Adam Ray, who does have a good broadcasting voice but is miscast here. The best example between the two is during the Clock Tower episode: Kan speaks his lines through a hushed, dire tone in order to match up with the survival horror game. Ray, on the other hand, talks normally and way too excited when relating the plight of a young girl through a dark mansion. The other big problem between them is the translation: In the Super Fantasy Zone episode, there is a segment where Arino faces the second stage boss. He notes that the turrets on the boss look like Chocolate Babies candies, and begins to destroy them with the ship's twin bombs. Kan narrates with, "The twin bombs' hits are effective." Ray's reply? "Twin bombs score baby chocolate!" That there is some pretty terrible Engrish. The Japanese translation is far better with the original audio than the Kotaku-approved English version. The subtitles are generally great but do feature a few misspellings here and there.

It seems that the problems with Kotaku do not end there with the translation. The first twelve episodes are completely out of order with the seasons of the show. Anyone can notice this problem: Arino notes that the first game played on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive for the show is Bonanza Brothers. This episode is placed right after watching the Super Fantasy Zone episode, which also was played on the Mega Drive. This confusing series of events is worsen when involving the ADs. As stated earlier, Arino's assistants change out with each season or have a small run. When they come back on to the show as a special guest and helper, it is a major shocker and unexpectedly joyful to see how they have changed. You are not given this here, as this mix-up of episodes ruin any surprise and bring utter confusion to the proceedings. For instance, the original AD Toujima leaves at the end of the Atlantis episode (#201) on Disc 2 but already appears as a special guest on the Ninja Gaiden episode (#409) on Disc 1. Also, since these are all selected picks, you don't really get why some ADs have special nicknames or skills.

One of best things about the set is that you do get the entire long-plays of some of the games. For example, the game Mighty Bomb Jack took three whole episodes to be completed, culminating in a special live performance in front of a large crowd. Also, some of the episodes have the director's final cut; Battle Golfer Yui, a strange Genesis RPG golf game, ends not with its game ending as originally broadcast but with a special play-off between Arino and his three ADs. Not all are given this luxury, however, which leads to another big problem for fans: Each episode is completely devoid of the show's other segments. There are no visits to arcades, no history lessons of NES games, no goofy readings of game text, nothing. This is probably due to rights issues, the same issues that might explain why only certain games were picked out, leaving some of the other better episodes out in the cold. Another odd change is the mix-up of the 2D mascots. Each season would have a 2D Dragon Quest-like regal character at the bumpers of the show, or featured during special explanation segments. For the majority of the episodes, they are instead replaced with a baby king, who spoils and wraps up the show.

Packaging wise, the set has two discs on each side of the box, placed on top of each other. The cover and back art is striking but it is the special art illustration in the inside that is truly marvelous. Specially commissioned, it is a real treat for long-time fans. Each disc has nice art of the show's title screen but they all look the same except for disc number. Also, they lack the text of what episodes are feature on each and every one of them, so the buyer has to make a mental or physical note to remember. The menu screens are fun but every time you go through them, whether to look at the chapters or change the audio, you have to sit through the opening menu animation and hear Adam Ray say the English title every time. It gets a bit annoying, even if you only hear it for a short amount.

Though the price is a little steep at $50, I do highly recommend the show to those seeking video game drama or off-beat Japanese fare.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Trailer Review - The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger
1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Johnny Depp is Tonto and Helena Bonham Carter is a possible femme fatale. Oh, and Armie Hammer is the titled character, I guess.

Scene Pop: The boardroom massacre.

Briggs Breakdown: Tons of gunfire, a 3D effected silver bullet, a train heist, a 3D effected train, a train sandwich, and many shots of a train and train tracks.

Effective?: Meh. Either looks like Wild, Wild West and/or a complete spoiler of the film's climax.

Check it Out?: Probably not, maybe as the bottom of a drive-in bill. Frankly, as time and business has shown us, movie westerns are not profitable anymore. Coupled this with the fact that this beleaguered and troubled production is drawing comparisons to Disney's last fiasco John Carter, not to mention a minor but growing fatigue with America's love of Johnny Depp, it will be a hard train ride for this film.