Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lincoln/Skyfall Discussion

For whatever reason I forgot to write a Skyfall review last month, not sure why. Despite this site traffic has increased immensely; again no idea why. But I will likely write an Academy Awards post this year predicting from the films I've seen (I'll see one or two more) since it's not a dreadful year like the last. So, Lincoln is a very impressive film and makes for a very interesting historical impression of how congress used to operate. Maybe a bit more like parliament where people insult each other with regularity and say "HOW DARE YOU!!" in the most amusing fashions. Also lots and lots of excellent facial hair styles. Skyfall is an extremely good Bond movie and just about as good as Casino Royale.

I think Joseph Gordon Levitt should win an honorary Oscar or a composite actor oscar for being in every damn movie made this year. A true hero and following Liam Neeson's example. Despite my praise for either film they both have flaws and somewhat similar strengths. Back in 2007 No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood came out and it was easily the closest competition for Best Picture in quite some time; Javier Bardem won Supporting Actor and Daniel Day Lewis (the man himself, Bill the fucking Butcher) won Best Actor. The Academy fucking loves DDL no matter what so he might well win it again; Bardem is sort of an outside candidate but I think he will be nominated.

Skyfall is basically the Dark Knight in Bondsian (you know, the 2nd or 3rd best player of all time that won't be elected to hall of fame; I digress) terms, it follows the plot very closely except for the odd ending sequence. Javier Bardem is the Joker with different makeup and a passion for weird extensive revenge plots. He's all powerful in the film more or less but for some reason chooses not to finish his objective or fails so the plot can follow a happy-acceptable-by-mass-audiences ending; and that's something that happens in movies with excellent villains and hell it even happened in Othello. Iago loses; who the hell knows why as everyone else was a dipshit manipulated to his every whim. The biggest issue with the film is the exclusion of Sean Connery in a cameo, which would have solidified that role and probably made the ending sequence a fair amount more awesome.

Lincoln is a Spielberg historical documentaryish film like Saving Private Ryan. Daniel Day Lewis is incredible as Lincoln and it would have been amusing to talk to him on the set I imagine as he told many random tales from his character's childhood. He only works like once every four years though and thus does not deserve a Joe Gordon oscar, but he'll probably get best actor. Tommy Lee Jones and James Spader deliver awesome supporting performances. The biggest issue is Spielbergian mistakes like having the film drag on for another 15 minutes when it could just end or including entirely irrelevant proceedings that are famous and identify-able to a larger audience (doing this once is fine to immerse the dumber folks; don't need to do it 5 or 6 times for sure). It's still probably the best Spielberg movie since Saving Private Ryan so that's something.

For some reason the Osama movie Zero Dark Thirty is getting universal praise and love and is probably going to snake Best Picture, I'll see it and let you know what I think. To take a guess it will be like the Social Network; an excellent film but about a terrible topic so it is inherently inferior to just making a different film with the same cast and director. However there is some potential for me to be wrong in this.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Looper




Looper is a curious movie, personally I hadn’t even heard of it prior to randomly seeing that it had a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Generally this means you “have to see” a movie at all costs, but in this case I’m not so sure. Looper is a solid film to be sure and maybe has a lot of mass appeal, but it’s still flawed in such a way that it would behoove critics to analyze it. So why the 94%? I think it has enough random arthouse elements tossed in that make ancient people happy is the best I can come up with, but I truly don’t know.

Joseph Gordon Levitt stars as a man in the future… whose job it is to kill people sent from even further in the future. Once a day he walks out to a field and shoots an instantly appearing masked man, then collects his payment from the body and incinerates it. This is a really great premise I have to admit, but they could have done a lot more with it. Eventually “Loopers,” Joe Gordon’s job title, shoot their future selves and are released from service; receiving a much increased salary. Then the movie starts referencing a theoretical future villain who is “closing all the loops,” and this is your first logic hole. If the loops are being closed in the first place doesn’t it mean the system was already set up to do that? It’s Sci Fi, dumb stuff happens who cares.

Bruce Willis is Joe Gordon’s future self, and shockingly enough he doesn’t die within seconds of appearing. At this point they try to track down and kill the future antagonist, whatever shell he might inhabit. You might think this is just another character like it would be in a suspense film, but instead it’s a randomly introduced character some time later. Why? I guess so the film could be more artful? There’s plenty of things they could have done with already extant characters to make the film interesting, but instead you kind of continuously have new characters thrown in the mix up until the last 30 minutes. Each character is individually solid but it makes you wonder, what if they were solidified into just a few extremely interesting characters?

I won’t spoil the necessary elements, but suffice to say the movie is interesting throughout and certainly had a lot of potential to be fantastic. However, it isn’t. It’s a surprisingly good movie for when it was released in the Calendar year, August/September tend to be death knells and have been box office wise. The only extremely remarkable thing about this film is the universal praise and the solid chance that it will receive a Best Picture nomination, another casualty of the 10 selections process (Avengers and Dark Knight Rises will likely also receive them, if only to recognize how much they’re carrying the industry financially). Under-deserved praise, mayhap, but still a worthwhile picture.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Ain't nothing wrong with open world games





It occurred to me recently that 85-90% of games I've played in the past few years have been open world or some derivation of it; yet oddly I never seem to get bored with that aspect of said games. It's a fairly simple equation, 30-60 bucks for 5-10 hours of linear, paced gameplay or 20+ hours of non-linear only somewhat scripted gameplay. There are of course amazing exceptions like Uncharted 2 or the longer linear style of the original Demon's Souls and Bayonetta. Aside from ridiculously derivative FPS's I think the largest stamp on games from the present generation of consoles is open worldiness.

So why then is the simple quest hub > quests > advance plot > new quest hub repeat gameplay so ubiquitous and yet still continually satisfying. Well it's ubiquitous because it's super easy to design those sorts of quests. Borderlands has some of the most lazy atrocious quest design I have ever seen, literally every quest is either Kill, kill-collect, or fetch with very little dialogue or plot, but damn if it isn't extremely fun, addictive, and even somewhat immersive despite that. There's a lot to be said for atmospheric design in addition to fun gameplay with RPG-esque rewards to keep you continuously interested. The loot can be random and thus by design add replay value to the game, or it can be fixed and the first time around will likely be your most satisifying. A game doesn't really need replay value if its 20 hours or more long, unless its a deliberately paced game like a traditional JRPG.



Open World games are often more about the world and establishing it than they are about the inhabitants of said world; most often you're not going to find game developers as astonishing storytelling masterminds but they do have elementary level ideas that can be used to create enthralling landscapes. I don't know how many people have had this particular experience but I remember having all sorts of interesting ideas as a child that never fully developed into anything beyond simple ideas, maybe I didn't craft a masterpiece out of them but they all had promise. Your typical open-world game is generally a fruition of one of those simple ideas.

Even though it seems like this one aspect repeating itself in almost every genre and game type would get tiresome I don't really foresee that in the near future. Much like RPG elements you can slap an open world design on almost any game and it will work out. Dark Souls is a vast improvement over its predecessor thanks in large part to its new Metroidvania style of design which was considered quite a risk early on. Every game can be turned into a free to play MMO and fail, or it could be turned into a single player pseudo-MMO and succeed admirably.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Barry Bonds is a Hall of Famer

Bonds... Unfortunately I started delving deeper into baseball in 2004 so I wasn't paying all that much attention to advanced stats while Bonds was destroying every single season record conceivable. Bonds was so ludicrous that he was intentionally walked 120 times in a single season. So 1 out of 5 times he came to the plate the opposing team said "fuck it" and put him on. He ended the season with a .609 On Base Percentage(OBP); baseball is a game of failure where it is admirable to put up a .350 or so OBP, but not so much for Bonds. He had four consecutive seasons where he reached based more frequently than making outs, those four seasons being good for 4 of the best 11 seasons all time. There are only 19 seasons of a greater than 0.500 OBP, so the previous maxim generally holds true.

So, Bonds almost certainly used steroids, though to be fair it hasn't been conclusively proven. Does it matter? I mean you can probably argue Palmeiro down from 3000 hits and 500 HRs and wagging his finger like a dumbass and all that, Bonds is more than twice as valuable as Palmeiro over the course of his career. Bonds isn't just good, he's ridiculously, unfathomably amazing statistically. Keeping Bonds out of the Hall is just as absurd as keeping Babe Ruth out of the hall, there's a difference between debatable hall of famer and top 5 player all time. 7 MVPs isn't enough I suppose.

Now, for most educated readers you probably know most of this already, Bonds is indisputably great. But he probably used steroids, what a CHEATER! Unfortunately so did the vast majority of baseball under Bud Selig's good wishings or kind look-away. 1998 brought baseball out of the depths of the strike and it has been doing quite well financially since then. The fucking Dodgers sold for 2 billion, driving the prospective cost of every other franchise, even the Pirates, up considerably. The same Dodgers that haven't won a World Series since 1988, the year I was born. Steroids saved baseball and for some forever tainted an otherwise bulging enormous head era of Got Milk smiles.

So, when Bonds is not elected this year and falls short by 15-30% or what have you, remember that he's vastly superior to every other player since the Korean War. There's even a pretty good argument that he's the best of all time, though I won't sully Babe Ruth's good drunken shot calling name with such an admonishment. Even Pujols is a paltry normal sized human by comparison.

Bonds Youtube: 1 2


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Total Recall


No I'm not reviewing the new at-best mediocre movie! This is a time for Arnold, for classics, for awesome quotes and fantastic memories. Total Recall is one of the best action movies ever made, but alongside the action is an extraordinarily interesting premise: what if your whole life was a false memory? There's quite a few ways the remake could have gone with it, but trying to make a carbon copy of the original is kind of doomed. Douglas Quaid finds himself in this situation, he's an average man's average man; after all who couldn't relate to Arnold and Sharon Stone.

I wouldn't quite say Stone is the ultimate femme fatale but she certainly makes a huge impact in only a handful of scenes in the film. I think the combination of her and Michael Ironside is next to impossible to beat, so they decided to put it all on Kate Beckinsale's shoulders instead. She's an okay actress but I don't think she has much campy entertainment value nor is she just plain as attractive as Sharon Stone was in the early 90s. But its egregious not including Michael Ironside in some way, he's in essentially every Science Fiction movie ever made so why not put him in the remake? No Richter? No Benny? Outrageous.

I think Arnold and Ronny Cox are basically unbeatable in their roles, but you could potentially have just remade the character of Douglas Quaid differently so it fit a decent modern action star. Jeremy Renner or even Tom Cruise could carry a solid divergent design of this plot; but instead they try to copy it with a supporting actor at best in Colin Farrell. Ronny Cox is the ultimate corporate asshole and I think you do need that sort of character regardless, so why not bring him back as well? Throwbacks are fine, making a trailer that copies a whole bunch of scenes and fails is not.

All in all there was very little chance of a remake being better than the original but we could have had a decent enough addition to the Sci-fi action genre. Instead we got a bad imitation that cost an absurd amount and will probably break even due to the all powerful overseas market. (Remember, Pirates 4 grossed over a billion solely due to worldwide audiences, the new Ice Age is even worse). All things considered the original Total Recall isn't even that old and is still absolutely spectacular so I don't really see the need for a remake of any kind, though maybe a differently title film based on the same short story would work.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Diversity


Ah well here's an interesting and vaguely political topic. Rest assured I have no intention of politicizing it however, I do believe there is a certain value in diversity, or more specifically it is one of the characteristics of a truly utopian society. This is the sort of diversity where all kinds of people wield power on a relatively equal basis, a converse of the society described in Ayn Rand's Anthem, total and absolute acceptance of others yes, but also a continual need to investigate and understand why a different culture does what it does. Naturally this probably wouldn't include things like human sacrifice or cannibalism, cultures are allowed to operate as long as those ceremonies and traditions don't conflict directly with other cultures in a society. This might seem impossible but that's why its utopian.

I firmly believe it is always possible to strive for a better, improved society. But the basis of that improvement is never going to be diversity by itself, diversity is something that you can come to embrace but it can not be forced upon you. There is a lot of diversity in America, sure, but there damn well isn't much diversity in those that actually wield power. Effectively diversity is yet another divisive politically abused thing to distract from overall issues. In essence, political correctness negates any usefulness that diversity might have provided on a societal scale. Now, I would much rather live in a multicultural society as opposed to a Mandarin uniculture, if only for having intellectual discussions and light conflicts.

On the Internet, land of infinite wisdom, is where you'll find uniculture after uniculture more or less; every forum and subculture tends to become a whole bunch of people obsessed with their own opinions congregating and circle jerking one another. The existence of the almighty "moderators" merely serves to reinforce this, a moderator doesn't like you? Banned. Disagrees with how you approach a situation? Banned. Doesn't like your posting style? Banned. I'm sure every moderator likes to see themselves as the judge of magnificent wisdom who only decides on such hefty actions when it is truly required, because in their omnipotent wisdom they surely don't make any mistakes. However, even in a situation where the mods are light on the banning there's a lot of situations where one dominant train of thought pretty much shuns all truly diverse opinions. People have small insignificant arguments over small insignificant things to be sure, but any thing that challenges on a grander scale leads to immediate repercussions. This is why its so easy to troll people, disguising a salient opinion in order to irritate and perhaps actually get a point across is quite functional.

So, diversity doesn't work on the Internet, the one society on earth where people are theoretically equal. But does it work in reality? Well... it's better to live in a situation where you have a large variety of different opinions if only for the entertainment of watching people argue with one another over both trifling and actually interesting matters. Living in a small rural town is basically like living on an internet forum. But, more important than diversity is the spreading of a more logical, functional train of societal thought; we will likely never reach utopia but we can certainly do a hell of a lot better than the present state of both American society and the world as a whole. Of course, idle words don't cause this to happen, and neither do idle movements. External forces are what will cause dramatic changes in this society; but be ready to embrace something other than idiotic political correctness, 1984/Facebook, "Likes", +1's, and the faulty belief that success has any correlation with merit in a Merchant-class society.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

All the King's Men (1949)




This film won best picture instead of earning critics’ ridicule like the remake. And I would have to say it is vastly superior in almost every way. The visual aesthetic is perhaps more pleasing in 2006’s picture but that’s a very peripheral trait to have. The original has better acting, better line delivery, a much better plot, and much better character arcs. The only other thing the remake has over it is unintentional hilarity.

Jack Burden isn’t the sole focal point of the storyline here, as Willie Stark has much more screen time and we learn just why Jack is interested in Willie moreso than before. Willie becomes corrupt a bit more gradually this time around and still shows human characteristics, he’s not the over the top crazy Sean Penn version but a sensible power hungry dictator instead.

While the ends are questioned in the later film the original focuses on the means, a much better functionality. Of course Willie Stark wants to help the people, it helps him to stay in power. He has his hands in the muck because it’s the best way for him to operate, the crowds singing his praise not only because he paid for them but also because they believe in him. Stark’s wall begins to crumble, but he survives impeachment only to be slain by the much better characterized doctor.

Jack isn’t an ineffectual moron with a terrible accent in this rendition either, he’s an interested observer in Stark’s work. While he fails to capitalize on his love interest it isn’t for such a ludicrous overplayed reason like it is in the remake. He acts and behaves like a 1940s man would. Even the quotes from this movie vastly outdo anything in the second rendition. “There is no God but Willie Stark and I’m his prophet and you’re his…” this even functions as a slight criticism of the Socialism advocated by the real life Huey Long and really any communist dictator, while I don’t necessarily agree with the reasoning it is fantastically purveyed on the screen.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Random Dark Knight musings

Yay short post! I suppose giving TDK Rises 4 stars is a bit nebulous; The Dark Knight is 9.5/10 to 10/10, Rises is 9/10. In terms of Nolan movies its better than Batman Begins, better than Insomnia, and sort of a tossup with Prestige (personally I'd pick Prestige but you could easily go either way). Inception was much better and is kind of still the high water mark though there's definitely a lot to be said for Memento.

The Dark Knight Rises




Ah the mighty Nolan, man who never fails me. Naturally you’ll go into this review wondering the impossible query, can this possibly be better than The Dark Knight? No, it can’t, but there’s still a pretty huge gap between The Dark Knight and every other superhero movie. This film fits in there quite nicely as the second best superhero movie ever made; though there is a debate to be made for the Avengers.

As you’ll recall Batman killed Harvey Dent at the end of the last movie and has been living in seclusion as a fugitive ever since. Bruce is now a hobbled version of his former self, since 4 (7) years have passed since the last movie. But have no fear Gotham prospers while he rests; unfortunately there’s an evil megalomaniacal scheme at work; naturally. This one involves obscure business dealings and Bane appears to assist. I won’t go too far further into the plot except to say about half of the movie is shown in previews; there aren’t any surprises for quite some time.

Now there is one rather out of the blue twist in the last quarter of the film; Christopher Nolan likes to foreshadow almost everything he does. In Memento, in The Prestige, the entire plot is foreseeable if you pay enough attention; but the twist here really isn’t. There’s a lot of supporting information and the situation definitely fits in well but the direct correlation is not. There’s another much more Nolany twist at the very end that I saw about 45 minutes beforehand; but I still liked the previous twist if only for the mild surprise; but it definitely wasn’t an “OH IT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE NOW” sort of twist.

The effects in this film are largely practical and there’s a few really awesome 3-4 second shots of either thousands of extras or dozens of police cars which must have been quite a feat to film. If you’ll remember virtually every main setpiece in The Dark Knight was almost entirely practical, and the biggest action scene in the movie was. They flipped a semi over on its vertical axis and blew it up, and it looked fucking incredible. In Rises there’s the Batwing which is essentially a small gyrocopter with shitloads of artillery installed on it; while they probably did have a working gyro in some respect it certainly didn’t fly at high speeds and definitely didn’t have missiles on board; such a prototype would cost well over 100 million to build; not to mention annoy the US military substantially. The tumbler (Batmobile) is almost entirely practical by comparison, and I think the Batcycle was in TDK but isn’t entirely in Rises. It’s a pretty minor quibble but a noticeable difference between the films.

And now for the elephant in the room, The Joker. Yes, he’s still by far the best superhero villain in any of these movies and yes there’s nothing even close to his performance in this film. Look at this and this for a reminder. Anywho, that’s hardly a detriment on this film but more yet another heap of praise for Heath Ledger’s performance. Aaron Eckhart’s performance also far surpasses anything in this film, though it is just a whole bunch of good performances instead of 2 heavily focused ones. Christian Bale is much better in Rises than he was in TDK, for instance.

Is this movie better than the Avengers? I don’t know, they’re really hard to compare. One is really campy and silly and heavily CG’d, the other is about 75% practical effects and has a deep, serious plot though it doesn’t cut quite as deep as its predecessor. I think you sort of have to accept that the Nolan Batman movies, particularly the last two, fall outside of the Superhero genre and are Thriller/Crime procedural mixtures with supervillains but no superheroes. 


Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Negotiator



This is a movie I’ve seen on TBS about 4-5 times, this was the first time I’d ever watched it in full unedited. It’s a bit hard to judge knowing most of the twists beforehand from memory but I don’t think the movie is all that predictable. Sam Jackson is a hostage negotiator, the dude from Without a Trace is his partner. Sam demonstrates his heroism right at the start so that the audience has no qualms with what’s about to occur.

Without a Trace man gets shot and Sam Jackson is the primary suspect. He had inside information on a police corruption scandal and Samuel knows that his conviction is a certainty; thus he takes action and takes the only lead he has hostage alongside his secretary, a con, and a cop. He tears apart the first attempted negotiator and calls for Kevin Spacey to replace him. Spacey is available and the plot goes on from there in semi-predictable fashion; enough being done so that the audience doesn’t lose their affinity for Sam Jackson throughout.

The movie does have a small amount of comedy in this portion, though it quickly moves on to thriller “guess what happens next” silliness. But for being a 90s movie it isn’t all that cliché’d; I guess the only thing you could easily figure out is who’s the main traitor. The acting is excellent; apart from the two exceptional leads most of the supporting cast is great as well. Paul Giomatti is around as well, this is before he became a lead actor and he was still great as a supporting actor prior to Sideways/Cinderella Man.

I suppose if I was to criticize something it’s the plausibility of Kevin Spacey being able to prevent Sam Jackson from being sniped by hundreds of Chicago policemen. Additionally though he’s a Negotiator Sam also seems to be the most competent “SWAT” sort of guy around and holds off two breach attempts in what seems to be a fairly large building. If they had chosen a narrower office building it might be more plausible that one guy could hold an entire floor by himself.

The very end of the movie is a little magical and providential; the old “get the bad guys to screw themselves” routine. Still there’s a halfway decent twist there and a bit of visual variety from the rest of the picture. Clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes this is a pretty long movie for a thriller; though 90’s movies were longer per capita I believe so suppose that’s a product of the era. You could probably cut out about 15 minutes and still have a solid film; but it isn’t all that much of a blight.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

21 Grams



The back cover of the dvd for this movie advertises it as a “suspense/thriller” but generally I saw it as a drama/tragedy. There’s nothing really exciting in the film from beginning to end; it’s pretty much non stop depressing scenes. The scenes play out of order but the plot is fairly straightforward and there’s not any over arching reason why they play out of order. The film basically only leaves one thing up to your questioning until the very end, aside from the initial confusion.

Benicio Del Toro plays a born again ex-con who accidentally hits a father and his 2 young daughters and then speeds off. All three of them die and he turns himself in. The mother, Naomi Watts, fails to prosecute so he’s released in fairly short order but is obviously struggling with his faith and some sick bastard told his kids about what happened so he has to deal with their accusatory glances as well. This kind of drives him insane and he has to leave and cope with his guilt on his own elsewhere. I like his story arc the best but there’s some really over the top symbolism that’s utterly unnecessary.

Sean Penn is on his deathbed to start the movie as his heart failed for whatever strange reason; the only particularly unhealthy thing about his character is that he smokes which would probably cause lung failure before heart failure, but who knows (also fairly young naturally). He eventually makes a speech in the film about the beauty of mathematics and how there’s a number behind everything, unfortunately he couldn’t work out the basic equation that smoking is bad for you. He’s saved by the car accident as the father’s heart is transplanted into his body, though he wants to thank the family members.

Eventually he gets together with the widow, Naomi Watts, and they end up having a relationship. It’s not really sexy or romantic at any point by design; though it is a bit weird. You have to allow for some Hollywood magic here as the reason he finds Naomi is because of some PI. It’s not divine providence that draws them together in infidelity, but Sean Penn’s stalking her for a while to find out more about why he’s still alive.

I won’t spoil the rest of the plot but suffice to say everything works out about as sadly as possible. The film is well acted, well shot, and fairly interesting from start to finish; if occasionally offensive. It is better than the Machinist, the only other hit and run car accident film I’ve seen, though a lot of that has to do with having 3 good lead actors instead of 1. Without the “bash you over the head” symbolism in Benicio’s story I would have liked it a fair amount better. The film is mostly silent on the music front, which functions quite well as there’s a lot of focus on breathing and otherwise silence in various scenes.


Monday, July 9, 2012

48 hours



Ah 1982, a time of repression, segregation; pre civil-rights if you will. At least that’s how the film is constructed, a modern Birth of a Nation so to speak. Nick Nolte gives his gun to some bad guys for no apparent reason and gets a guy killed; his captain (also the captain in Last Action Hero, that masterpiece) informs him that he must catch (kill) the cop killers at all costs. Some fortunate magical police logic leads him to Eddie Murphy, a cop disguised as a convict mysteriously.

And so the main plot begins, the original buddy cop picture; though if Eddie Murphy was just his actual partner that would place him on equal footing with Nick; and Nick could not have an epiphany about racism if he wasn’t in a “superior” position. It is still pretty funny though it’s also ironically funny in retrospect; this movie sort of seems like it was made pre-civil rights and obviously pre political correctness (the latter being a terrible thing for the most part). I’ve heard quite a few aged white men tell me this was their favorite movie, but it sort of has direct racism to start with and then Nick evolves into a standard soft racist (“but I have black friends!”) as the movie goes on, he becomes a modern white person instead of coming from the 1950s; bravo Nick.

But being that this is an 80s movie the action is still really well done, even brief shootouts are fairly interesting and believable. The movie is very predictable but presuming it actually spawned several of the clichés within it I don’t think that’s too much of an issue. Even though most of the movie takes place in same-y city streets they somehow still make it varied enough that it never gets boring visually. There’s one sequence with the buds’ car chasing a bus where they actually exchange blanks on a road; this probably wouldn’t happen in any modern filming situation for safety reasons, but that’s part of the charm of the 80s; stuntmen could actually die mid filming due to lack of safety precautions so there’s a legitimate air of danger added to the material.

At the end of the movie Nick lets Eddie keep his money but returns him to prison for 6 months; since no black people ever got off for good behavior in the reconstruction era. Keeping drug money = good; letting people out 6 months early after they helped you stop a serial killer and risked their own life in the process = bad, very bad. A funny, well shot, strikingly ancient film and very entertaining all told. Women are objectified of course, but that certainly hasn’t changed in modern pictures.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Die Hard



Wow, the 1980s were a fucking awesome decade for action movies. Sure sure you can say there’s a handful in the early 90s (or 1997 if you like Starship Troopers) and late 70s but you just get so much awesomeness in one decade; all of it destroying any modern CG picture. Before Bruce Willis was Bruce Willis he was John McClane, a regular old guy stuck at a party with a bunch of stuffy businessmen and his bitch wife who wouldn’t even take his name when she moved to LA. Unfortunately a bunch of high class German (English) super terrorists showed up and tried ruining the party, but John was there to save the day.

Fortunately for Bruce his wife languished in relative obscurity while he rose to stardom after this movie alongside his trusty companion, the Dad from Family Matters. There’s 2  Steve Urkels in this movie as well, one more Steve Urkelish than the other, and eventually they join together in yet another glorious scene. Mr. McClane utilizing his cowboy powers manages to almost single handedly thwart the plots of Hans (Alan Rickman); much to Hans’ chagrin.

In addition to being amazing visually this film is also very humorous; almost every scene having a wisecrack from John or a dumb comment from the incompetent police downstairs. The police do manage to kill exactly one (1) of the terrorists before the end, thanks again to the Dad from family matters, and suffer countless casualties. The audience doesn’t really connect with those assholes though and we are forever endeared by John McClane and his heroic antics.

For all of his heroism Bruce was not yet a super hero at this point, he suffers a vast variety of injuries throughout the ordeal and by the end he’s sort of a bloody mess. Christopher Nolan is trying to sell The Dark Knight Rises (finally saw a not terrible trailer yay!) as this gritty over the top situation in which Batman gets beat down by a steroid pumping mask wearing crazy dude, but really he should just have Christian Bale play his role in the Fighter and gradually deteriorate into a bloody mess by the end of the film. Bale would be much more appealing than his Straight Lawman genericness and he’d also be quite humorous as he poked fun at how silly Bane looked and bitched at Catwoman for moving to LA. The Dark Knight/Die Hard crossover would really have been the successor to Heath’s masterpiece.


All the King's Men (2006)



 I have recently begun appreciating the extended works of one Sean Penn, despite only rarely seeing movies with him in them for whatever reason (coincidence). So I’ve seen Mystic River, Carlito’s Way, and now this odd film. All the King’s Men is a novel based on the life of Huey Long, a pseudo-socialist dictatorial Governor of Louisiana (oh yes, there will be terrible southern accents) who was assassinated prior to challenging for the presidency. Short of FDR one of the most interesting American political leaders of the past century. The dude who shot him was immediately annihilated by Long’s “gunmen” Gestapo police force. Per the trustworthy Wikipedia: “Long's bodyguards returned fire, hitting Weiss 62 times and killing him instantly.”

I’ve always been a fan of silly stories like that, hence my fascination with Rasputin and his inability to die. Anywho, this film stars Sean Penn, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Mark Ruffalo, James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Patricia Clarkson, and Jackie Earle Haley; but despite the incredible cast was critically panned and poorly received. This film is actually a remake of 1949’s best picture of the same name so evidently was placed under a microscope.

That said it is a bit hard to defend the film, most of the performances are over the top, Jude Law’s character is basically a means to move the plot forward, and Sean Penn turns into a power hungry “corrupt” government figure in about 5 minutes. Still I don’t think it is entirely without merit, the cinematography is outstanding, the score is fantastic, and the acting while over the top is still entertaining.

Every 20 or so minutes there’s an interlude where Sean Penn stands on a soapbox and yells to an audience, “every man a king” speeches and lambasting all of his opposition. He has a pretty amusing sounding southern drawl which I honestly have no idea as to the accuracy of. Jude Law is the center of the plot otherwise, various blabbing about his irrelevant past and how he must serve Huey Long’s magnificent corruption for no apparent reason. But then the weakest part of the film surfaces.

Jude Law has several overly emotional scenes that are really laughably bad; I don’t really care about the character since the film gives you no reason to. Evidently every tragic moment in his past must be emphasized heavily so he can finally decide to not help out Huey’s reign of terror; unfortunately this goes for naught and impeachment fails. Conveniently he’s then assassinated 5 seconds later and the single bodyguard (Jackie Earle Haley) in this case kills the assassin. Jackie’s character is awesome throughout as the only word he ever says is “bastard” while shooting or driving (Suga boy is his name), but unfortunately he fails to redeem the film by hilariously saying this in the end sequence and suddenly goes mute. Bastard is my favorite word and its omission is absolutely grievous and uncalled for, what a disaster.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Amazing Spiderman



Ah the glorious movie industry and their weirdass release dates. July 4th is tomorrow (or today I suppose), thus our movie must premier on July 3rd! Tuesday!? Who cares, people go to see movies on July 4th weekend err… I mean week. All week long in fact! It’s a weekend week if I ever saw one. The 75% full theater testifies to the intense popularity of Tuesday releases and future Monday releases that will inevitably follow. Glorious!

Strange release date aside I thought this was a decent enough film as absurdly fast reboots go. The cast is much improved over the previous Spiderman trilogy, though oddly that doesn’t make as much of an impact as you’d think. The strongest part of the first Spiderman was Daniel Defoe as the Green Goblin, and his story arc is much more compelling than the Lizard’s is in this film (or in general). Additionally Sam Reimi did a much better job of directing and constructing a film, even with much weaker actors.

That said the first half of this movie is great and far exceeds the precedent; unfortunately the movie starts to take itself too seriously at roughly the halfway point. If the original Spiderman pandered to post 9/11 audiences with New York joy, this film is outright insane. There is, no joke, a 5 minute sequence of nothing but that sort of pandering with a ridiculously overdone “epic” soundtrack (James Horner: Titanic, Braveheart, Avatar, Troy… and Spiderman). That alone knocked at least a half star off the score of this film.

There is one strange part about the early part of the film, literally every primary “high school” actor looks and acts like they’re 10 years older than they are. The school they’re in has collegiate style classrooms, the love interest (Emma Stone, who’s only 22) looks like she’s 25 and acts like she’s at least 30 and has the job credentials to match evidently. Andrew Garfield doesn’t look quite that old but he’s competing with a 5 foot tall guy who sounds like he’s 5 and looks like he’s 12; he may as well be as old as Martin Sheen.

Speaking of which, Martin Sheen dies in the good half of the movie and its not too overdone, I guess you could say it’s a necessity for Uncle Ben to die and as long as its over quickly that’s fine. But, then the second best actor in the movie dies and there’s a 10-15 minute sequence blabbing about him and things related to him. All of the over-dramatization sort of kills any chance this movie had of surpassing the original Spiderman (doesn’t even come close to Spiderman 2 regardless). That said I still think it is worth a look since there’s not much else coming out until Batman.


The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Athena



Pros:
++ Satisfying mixture of melee and ranged combat
++ Moderately difficult
+ Decent boss fights
+ Fantastic sparse dialogue
+ Some interesting first person puzzles
Cons:
-- Too much shooting
- Melee is a bit too twitchy against the only two difficult opponents
- First half of the game looks like Doom 3

Ah here we are, only several months late. Vin did okay in my absence, however, have no fear. The original Escape from Butcher Bay (included and remastered on the disc) is regarded as a sort of classic for the X Box. If you recall that system had only a handful of competent games so being a classic isn’t much of a challenge. When your competition is a couple of alien shooters and Morrowind you too will be escalated into the pantheon of legends.

So, how does this game stack up to Butcher Bay? Eh, it’s not horrible by comparison. Dark Athena is sort of a mix of a modern shooter and Butcher Bay’s melee/ranged mix. You don’t have a ton of regenerating health so there’s a greater tendency to think about situations. Unfortunately only a few encounters in the game can be solved by multiple methods, for the most part you’ll just be shooting or punching your way to victory. While the few situations that can be solved creatively are quite satisfying I only wish there were a lot more good moments like that.

Without wishing to be too spoiler tastic I’ll say you fight an enemy about halfway through the game who has a long death scene immediately thereafter. Then, without any justification that same enemy returns to life magically. It sort of feels like they had two boss fights and didn’t know what order to put them in and thus randomly stuck one before the other (both having long death scenes, the latter being far more escapable than the aforementioned one). It’s just bizarre and very strange especially in retrospect.

The massive genre of first person melee/ranged hybrid adds another to its list, and so I’ll try to compare it to the closest game I can think of: Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. Yes, Skyrim sort of has the same vibe but it is extremely non-linear and the action is still the most wanting part of that game; both Dark Messiah and Dark Athena outdo it for simple combat. In Dark Messiah almost every situation can be solved dozens of different ways. Kick an enemy into spikes, collapse a wall on top of him, stealth kill him with a knife, stealth kill him with a bow, charm one enemy and make them fight each other, let your flimsy companion take care of it, there’s just a ton of ways to kill stuff and almost all of them are satisfying. Dark Athena needs this if its going to challenge that throne.

As it is Riddick’s (likely) last installment isn’t quite as good as the first but is still reasonably unique in the modern military shooter era. I wish the color palette wasn’t so grey/brown, but at least there’s some incentive for playing well in having non full regenerating health. For how cheap it is I think it’s worth the purchase on X Box or PS3, though I’m told the PC version has some more troublesome issues.

Final Score: 8/10

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Prometheus (Spoilers)

I wrote this email a week or so ago, a bit more detailed discussion of my fairly vague Prometheus review inside:

Hello sir,
You talked about how the idea of meeting one's creator is the main interesting idea in this movie that isn't really expanded upon, however I don't really think it is told in such a way that it's "debating" the point of creation by a God or gods as much as its pigeon holing Ridley Scott's belief system into it. Now I don't really have any large amount of disrespect for Ridley Scott but he has pretty much made every one of his movies bash you over the head with some philosophical point or other for 10 or more years, the initial Alien not really having that issue became an excellent picture. This movie if you look at it as just an Alien clone doesn't really hold up as there's so many somewhat random weird things going on alongside the most sympathetic character being an Android. But the movie isn't about that, it's about this absurdly elaborate construction of the Ontological argument for the existence of God.

Someone asks a question "What created God?" and you wind up with this infinite loop of creation, the ontological argument simply posits that there had to be an initial force at some point in the creation loop; everything we know and understand is finite therefore the universe must be finite in some respects save this force oft identified as God. Michael Fassbender's character is essentially the central portion of this and he introduces the other primary plot point by saying "Doesn't everyone want to kill their parents?" On its surface this a throw away line, one level deeper and it reflects his motivations, but looking at the movie as a whole under this guise is really where you start to pick up on it. Androids are created by humans and want to destroy them, humans are created by titans lets call them, but humans are completely retarded in this movie so instead of wanting to kill everyone but themselves they just want to have peace and happiness, doesn't that work out great? Titans create humans because the dude on the waterfall (theorized to be a rogue) turns himself into primordial soup on the isle of skye.

Rest of the titans don't like this so they create Pandora's Box, the mother of all pathogens. Black goo. What the hell does black goo do? Well its hard to say, I don't think it genetically traces directly to Xenomorphs. If ingested black goo deconstructs and reconstructs your DNA and you turn into a zombie (weird Irish geologist guy who's the most prolific murderer in the movie, 4-5 kills in like 30 seconds), if the black goo soupifies on its own it becomes the penis monster. If you are fucked by a zombie as a human THEN your baby turns into a hydra octopus giant face hugger thing which if it then impregnates the only Titan around becomes a (very small somehow) Alien, and maybe aliens propagate themselves after that asexually, who the fuck knows. Everyone wants to kill every other race except retarded humans.

Okay what I just explained sounds really fucking stupid as a plot for a movie, however I would have to guess this is how Ridley Scott views the eternal cycle atheism that he embraces. Something created us then got destroyed by us or vice versa and this led to creating other shit because people were idiots and wanted more biological weapons, and this goes on continually until the end of time. It's fairly interesting philosophically. Of course the movie doesn't make the point very well, if I were an undecided person and had weak faiths I don't think Prometheus would inspire me to doubt the existence of God, even looking at it through this lens. No I think I'd just realize how weird and bizarre Ridley Scott's argument becomes if it is drawn to its logical conclusions, which kinda sorta happens in the movie.

I wrote a spoiler free rendition of this on my blog here: fcdisbad.blogspot.com But it's nice to articulate it to someone who has actually seen the movie. I'm probably going to write 31 movie reviews in July out of boredom and having shitloads of DvDs, but I tend to write brief reviews, 4-5 paragraphs so they don't become too much of a wall of text; though it depends on the movie and what I have to say about it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Prometheus/Ridley Scott



Prometheus is a mildly amusing addition to the Science Fiction genre. At its core there is the potential for an exceptional, excellent movie but it kind of falls short. Now the primary reason for this is because of our kindly neighborhood director Ridley Scott. At some point, ten, fifteen years ago Mr. Scott decided to stop making movies for the sake of making movies and instead embeds severe some might say ham-fisted philosophical points into his films. The major point in this film is essentially the Ontological argument for the existence of God, or some derivation of it.

Ridley Scott is a renowned atheist, but he isn’t the dickish/retarded sort that just says herf derf there is no God. Clearly this man has put in the effort and thinks about it daily as it is lambasted in Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, and now Prometheus. This may seem bizarre for a Science Fiction movie to revolve around God but, that’s precisely what happens here. Man discovers a potential creative being in hieroglyphs and somehow finds the constellation that all the various histories have in common. They send a ship there for at best nebulous reasons and so advances the plot.

But at some point the plot pretty much solely becomes about the question “What created God?” and the Ontological argument basically counters this by saying that there had to be some initial force and that particular force is identified as God. It’s not as philosophically invincible as say, Determinism, but it’s not the worst argument out there. Michael Fassbender plays an Android in this film akin to Alien and is absolutely fantastic. Most of what he says is hugely symbolic but pretty much everything he says is well written; the same can not be said for the rest of the cast.

Anywho there’s one line in particular, “Doesn’t everyone want to kill their parents?” Seems sort of like a throwaway but I picked up on it instantly, as every created being wants to destroy their creator in some bizarre infinite loop of creation and destruction, perhaps Mr. Scott’s outview on how civilization begins and ends. An interesting method he could have used to purvey this argument better was to make the Greek and Roman symbolism much heavier as their myths fit in much better with the weirdness of the plot; but really all you get on that front is the title of the ship and the film. Of course maybe a better title would be “Aliens of various species.” Somehow this movie does look to be doing fairly well at the box office, but if it was advertised as directly linking to Alien instead of being like Alien could it have sold better? One wonders.

I realize this isn’t much on the review front, but people have approached their reviews in the wrong sort of way. If you look at Prometheus as a single cohesive plot it doesn’t really hold up all that well and becomes a mediocre movie, but if you look at the obvious philosophical argument that is being utilized it becomes much more interesting. Plot aside the film has a fantastic cast and solid acting performances throughout to go alongside excellent CG and practical effects. Fassbender is the biggest strength the movie has and I guess I’d say the meaninglessness of Charlize Theron’s character is the biggest weakness.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Avengers


Alright well I might as well just put this out there to start: Avengers is the best heavy CG action movie ever made. There is a 45 second single cut which blows absolutely every other scene out of the water and will probably continue to be the best CG action sequence for at least 5 years. However it is at its core still just an action movie; I won’t say it is a “dumb” action movie as it is at least smart enough to be genuinely humorous throughout in an unironic fashion.

However, when I say Terminator 2 is the best action movie of all time, it still completely destroys this movie (you see that helicopter flying under a bridge over a freeway, that is a helicopter flying under a bridge over a freeway) and on top of that has some pretty hefty philosophical issues inside of it. When I say The Dark Knight is the best superhero movie of all time, it has a genuinely terrifying villain, the vast majority of the action sequences are practical effects, and you don’t know for sure what’s going to happen in the end (unlike absolutely every other superhero movie to date).

And so we move on, I suppose an overview of the cast is probably the best way to approach an ensemble review like this. Loki is the villain here, returning from Thor, and generally competent. There was only one way to do Loki excellent and that was to make him continuously smug and mischievous as he is after all the god of Mischief. However he starts out pretty weak and they bring up those oh so terrible daddy issues from Thor briefly before he finally starts to gain some traction in the central sequence of the film. Loki should be fucking with people nonstop, he shouldn’t have a massive inferiority complex. The actor (Tom Hiddleston) is still extremely solid, it’s simply the plot that’s constructed around him that makes him less effective than any great cinematic villain. That said he’s still pretty good for a superhero movie.

Jeremy Renner shows up as Hawkeye and is magnificent, because Jeremy Renner is fucking awesome. Sam Jackson is extremely stoic and delivers a Star Wars prequel level performance, I’m sure if this movie was rated R he would have been amazing, but he’s kind of just there spouting exposition in this case. Mark Ruffalo is fantastic as Bruce Banner, though he doesn’t say much if he’s in CG form, he even lifts the level of weaker performers in his one on one scenes. That one dude from Shield is much better developed than he was before. The Patriots from Metal Gear Solid show up, don’t know why.

Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans, Thor and Captain America respectively, deserve special mention here. Both of these guys are fairly new actors opposing a fantastic cast and both perform superbly well. In addition they both do most of their own stunts so while an action scene with Scarlett Johansson has 5 cuts in the middle of it, one with Thor or Captain America has 1-2. This isn’t really something you notice as a novice movie goer but I have picked up on it more over time and can appreciate when an action sequence only has stuntmen when absolutely necessary.

Speaking of Scarlett, surprise she’s the worst character in the movie and could easily be labeled as fanservice (though it’s not as bad as Gwyneth Paltrow’s brief appearance). However I don’t think she is objectively terrible, she’s just mediocre in a movie with 6 or 7 superior actors. Now you might say “But she was good in Lost in Translation!” Right. Well that was almost 10 years ago, what has she done since except become a sexual object? She was in The Prestige, easily the worst part of that otherwise exceptional movie. Maybe Michael Bay turned her retarded somehow, stupidity is contagious.

And we’re left with our leading man Mr. Robert Downey Jr. He is of course fantastic and pretty much plays the exact role that he played in Iron Man (every other character is different from their previous appearance, some more than others), which is what everyone wanted. I don’t think there was any doubt about this though as even if the rest of the movie sucked Robert Downey Jr. would have made it somewhat watchable.

Well, I don’t really have to say this but you should definitely watch this movie if you have a pulse. It is one of the best popcorn movies in the past decade, and while you won’t have an epiphany or philosophical catharsis you will most certainly be entertained. There is a ton of humor, every character has at least some development, and of course the excellent action scenes.


The summer of cities being destroyed begins! I suppose Independence Day started this trend but lately it seems almost every movie has either a gigantic obsession with the US military or the need to destroy New York City or pseudo NYC. Battleship? Check. GI Joe? Check. Batman? Check. Can't we all just get along?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Killzone 2


Pros:
+++ Exceptional enemy AI
+++ Fight with Radec is perhaps the best in any first person shooter
++ Solid atmosphere
++ Other bosses are also well designed
+ About half the arsenal is extremely satisfying
+ Excellent graphics
+ Length feels just right
+ Extremely difficult
Cons:
--- Rico is a terrible character
-- Weapons don’t have secondary functions like they did in Killzone 2
- Storyline is pretty mediocre

Ah the Halo Killer at long last… okay maybe that turned out to be Call of Duty, but this was still an excellent shot at the FPS crown which has continued to be reasonably successful in its third (by all accounts worse) rendition. The first thing that might strike you about this game is how they swear so damn much, every other word being “fuck” or “shit” helps to add to the gritty World War 2 atmosphere… scratch that this isn’t WW2 and swearing only makes the game sound bizarre as they shove the plot down your throats.

Well, how many FPS’s have good storylines anyway? Surely there’s some redeeming factor here! It must be the weapon design, there’s about 10 weapons in the game and they’re not all virtually and functionally identical like CoD! Unfortunately the first game also had about 10 weapons but every one had an interesting secondary fire, why they removed that glorious function from the game is beyond me. If not for the last part of the game’s reserve of good qualities it would be rather tedious going through the game a 3rd or 4th time.

So, we’re left with the extraordinary difficulty of this game to keep us persevering. Naturally I’m referring to the “Elite” mode which is basically “Legendary” from Halo on steroids with almost every enemy in the game being both able to kill you in seconds and able to move in a surprisingly effective manner to get to you. Yes this may be the one modern FPS that actually has functionally good AI, some enemies simply move about intelligently cover to cover, others bumrush you ignoring cover entirely, and a few scarce others tend to camp at specific spots like this was a much worse game; but it’s the combination of all 3 that leads to a very hectic and difficult experience.

You’ll ask yourself “how many guys are left, who’s coming up these stairs next, gotta get the last guy gotta get the last guy gotta get the last guy!” Literally the entire game is tense on the hardest difficulty as it really isn’t predictable how the enemies approach you the next time you restart that checkpoint. KZ2 has a brutal way of keeping statistics, the only way you get kills is if you advance to the next checkpoint, so I have a staggering 1200 or so kills to 550 deaths in my 2 playthroughs of the game, roughly 450 of those coming on Elite. Now that is by far the most deaths I’ve ever had in any game playing through hard, and does gives KZ2 something of an argument for the hardest game of all time, but I tend to think its too fast paced for that award.

The last boss is the hardest section of the game and even FPS masters tend to admit that they had quite a lot of trouble with it. Surprisingly I only took about 2 hours on those 3-4 checkpoints, some take days. You have to fight about 30 guys in rapid succession with very little cover coming from all directions in what is effectively a shooting gallery for them (depressed section of a room with elevated balconies all around). Eventually you get to the second floor and don’t have to play as aggressively to succeed. Finally you fight the last boss, who is just absolutely amazing as he switches between knifing, teleporting, and shooting you over and over; the best way to damage him is to knife at the air in the hopes that you catch his invisible ninja form a few times. I’m not particularly great at the fight but it is still exceptionally entertaining.

Final Score: 9/10