4.30.2009

*Sigh* P-P-P-Please Robert...

Almost a year ago now, I wrote a review on the 80s classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit? In it, I stated the following:

"The animation is seamless. This movie couldn’t have been made today, because they would have mucked it up with crappy CGI that wouldn’t have worked right. This animation is timeless because everything is meant to look the way it does. They’re supposed to be cartoons that look ripped out of their era, not 3D models that look realistic with the real world. And the interaction between real world and cartoon world is perfect, as well. The movie’s mix of live action and animation will never go out of style or look like crappy special effects unlike most movies. And if my word isn’t enough, the movie won three Oscars, two of which were for Best Visual Effects and Best Editing (the other was Best Sound Effects Editing)."

Well... let's just get down to it. According to Robert Zemeckis, who directed the movie...

"I'll tell you what is buzzing around in my head now that we have the ability--the digital tools, performance capture--I'm starting to think about 'Roger Rabbit.'"

Le sigh.

4.25.2009

Short Review: The Diving Bell And The Butterfly.

Premise: After a man has a terrible stroke, he becomes fully paralyzed, except for his eyes (one of which is immediately sewn shut). So after a bout of self-pity, he decides to do something productive and write a book using a method of blinking while a scribe goes through the alphabet (in order of most commonly used letters).

Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josee Croze, Anne Cosigny, Max von Sydow, and Isaach De Bankole.

My Reaction: Not much to say. I've wanted to see it since it first came out, and I've even had it on my Netflix for months, though I kept pushing it back in favor of other things. But this movie is beautiful... in every way. Though I kept thinking that the main guy looked like what would happen if you merged John Francis Daley with Robert Downey Jr. My only real negative comment is that all the women confused me. They all looked similar, and you didn't often hear their names put to their faces... so I was never sure who was who. But that's only a small issue in the scope of the film. Absolutely brilliant and beautiful.

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Royale With Cheese

4.19.2009

WTF Did I Just Watch: Tokyo Zombie.

Warning: As always, big spoilers ahoy.

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This probably won't be as negative as the last two... mostly because this wasn't as bad (or crazy) of a movie as the others. In fact, I almost didn't write it up as this. But it's just weird enough that I had to. And just like last time, it's a Japanese movie that deals with people coming back from the dead. You'd think I'd learn? But this time, it's taken from a popular manga/comic by the same name.

And let me put this movie into perspective for you. It's a zombie movie/buddy comedy/action film directed by the same guy who did Ichi the Killer. Though it couldn't be any different. In fact, there's really not a whole lot of blood (which is a shame in a zombie movie).

The movie starts out telling the audience about Black Fuji, a trash mountain where people go to dump anything, from satellite dishes to chemical waste to human bodies.

After this point, it introduces us to our main guys: Fujio (afro guy) and Mitsuo (bald guy). As stated, one of them is an Asian guy with a huge afro, and the other is bald on top (though with hair around the sides). They work in a fire extinguisher factory, but spend most of their time practicing Jiujitsu. Mitsuo is a master, though Fujio is still learning the craft.

This is when their boss comes in and starts smacking Mitsuo around for fooling around, and Fujio bashes him over the head with a fire extinguisher, killing him. Not incredibly worried, the two guys take him to Black Fuji (where else) to bury him. And there, we're set up with what would seem to be the tone of the film. There's a bossy young woman shouting orders to her boyfriend/husband to bury his mother in the dirt (she's already up to her neck). And when the mother talks too much, the young woman runs up and kicks her head like a ball, and the head flies off into the distance, the mother still screaming after the son. In other words, it's very slapstick.

The first 50 minutes of the movie (or so) is similar to this. It's like what would have happened if Stephen Chow had written and directed Shaun of the Dead (in fact, this movie has been heralded as the Japanese Shaun of the Dead... and I can kinda sorta see it... at least in this first half of the movie). Though more of the movie at this point is sentimental relationship-building between the two leads than actual zombie fighting.

And this is where the movie really gets its first strike: the zombie fights are lame. They're using jiujitsu, first of all. But it's basically coming off as punching off heads with ease, or knocking them down to the ground. And all of this in quite a light tone.

As the two start driving the Russia (because that's where all fighters go to get better), the movie introduces us to its next character, a young woman named Yoko. She has a bad attitude and doesn't really seem to like either of them. She gets a bit annoying after a while, because she never really changes or shows any emotion except annoyance or hatred. Even when she's trying to be more emotional (towards the end), it's still coming off as upset or angry.

But anyway, very soon after this, Mitsuo gets bitten, says his goodbyes (including asking Fujio to take care of Yoko), and then jumps out of their van in a very cartoonish way off a bridge and into the water below. Fujio stops the van and tries to get Yoko out to throw her into the river, too. But a man obsessed with Calpis (assuming a type of alcohol) steals their van. Long story short, they both end up in the river below.

This is where the movie gets its second strike: the entire movie changes completely. It's like two completely different movies. While the first half seemed to be Shaun of the Dead via Stephen Chow, the second half was like Land of the Dead via Ang Lee (and produced by Stephen Chow). It jumps forward 5 years where the rich have build a living complex in the middle of the city, and they use poor people as slaves. Now, if the slaves want to rise in rank and live as the rich, they have to become popular. The best way of doing so is fighting in gladiator-like battles against zombies. Of course, Fujio and Yoko are slaves, and they even have a daughter that hasn't yet to speak a word in her life (though she's like... 4). Fujio, now a Jiujitsu master, uses his skills in the arena... but it's like Brad Pitt in Snatch. He's too good and lacks the entertainment value. He'll kill the zombie in one move, and that pisses off everybody.

This part of the movie is much darker and much more serious. It has its comedic moments, but it's not nearly as light as the first half... and that's incredibly jarring. Also, the movie breaks its own rules here. Whereas in the first half, zombies were just mindless, slow creatures... this second half, they have the ability to remember any fighting abilities, assuming they were fighters in their past life. Also, just punching their heads off doesn't even exist anymore. Where it was so easy a scrawny young woman could do it at the beginning, it seems to be impossible now.

The best comedic moments come from a guy called Prince. He's the guy who first called out the zombies taking over the city, and seems to be the guy running the whole rich people complex. But he has a bit where he carries around a little doll with a removable head, and he's obsessed with decapitation. He'll constantly ask something like "Did you decapitate it? Did you decapitate it?" And after every time he asks, there's a *pop* as he removes the head from the doll. He was one of the only parts of the film that made me laugh out loud.

But of course, the end of the movie brings back Mitsuo and Fujio in the ring, as Mitsuo is apparently the "Strongest Zombie." But the weird part is when Mitsuo starts talking, and you're not sure if he's actually talking or if it's a hallucination (as we had previously been shown Fujio has when in regards to talking to Mitsuo).

But then, of course, the "Calpis" guy shows up at the complex with a band of others, raiding the place for Calpis. He blows up most of the complex to get in, and then enters the fighting arena. He brings in a gattling gun that apparently shoots out both number 1 and number 2, if you know what I mean, and fires it at all the rich, snobby women who come to see the fight as he yells at them to tell him where the Calpis is.

Fujio had 'defeated' Mitsuo and escapes with the Calpis guy, who gives him a motorcycle with a sidecar. Fujio, who had left his wife and daughter earlier, goes and picks them up. And, of course, the daughter speaks her first words at this vital moment, though it's what Yoko keeps saying throughout the majority of the movie: "Are you a fucking retard?"

They escape the complex, save the life of the fighting announcer (who is gay for Fujio), and drive off for Russia. But that's not all! The movie rewinds 5 minutes and shows Mitsuo sitting up after being defeated. Then it rewinds 5 years and shows the moment he was bitten. Apparently, he had just been bitten by dentures, so he traveled around for 5 years thinking he was a zombie. And if any real zombies attacked him, he'd just beat them down and scream at them ("I'm a zombie, too, you idiot. God, don't you even know your own kind? Zombies these days...")... and the zombie would bow in shame and shamble away. So zip forward to the present, and Mitsuo runs after Fujio. The movie pretty much ends there.

This might not sound overly weird, but it's really the intricacies of the movie that make it bizarre. There are the odd little visuals or the cartoonish sound effects. And let's not forget a couple animated interludes. This movie is incredibly hard to explain in its strangeness.

But its biggest downfall is its tone. Even in the first half, it can't really find a good tone. Sometimes it tries too hard to be slapstick, and then goes into the more serious dramedy. And, of course, the huge shift around the halfway mark (a little after it) that totally alters the entire movie in every way. The second biggest downfall is the lack of good zombie action in this zombie movie. There are plenty of zombie moments, but they weren't done nearly well enough... especially for a movie that promises zombies versus Jiujitsu.

It does have some good moments, though, so the movie isn't a complete wash, much like the other two "WTF Did I Just Watch" films (Feast 3 and Casshern). There's even a really good line in the film toward the end: "Since you have nothing, anything is possible." If I ever saw this movie on Showtime or something, I might stop to watch it for a little while (depending if anything better was on). Like I said at the beginning, the only reason I wrote it under this format is because I don't think I could have reviewed it without explaining the spoilerous details of the film as a whole.

With that being said, I certainly don't recommend you go out and see this immediately. Unless you're a super fan of zombies or are just curious as to how crazy this movie is based on this review, I wouldn't suggest bothering to see it at all, honestly. And that's about all I have.

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WTF

4.17.2009

CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE.

I don't even know where to start. This isn't going to be the usual review, I'll tell you that. I don't have that much to say about it. Hell, I'm not even sure if I liked it or not. It's one of those.

I'll just say this: If you liked Crank, you'll probably like Crank: High Voltage. If you didn't like Crank, stay far... far away from this. It's like the first, but far more over the top, far crazier, and far weirder. There's more blood; there were even some scenes where I cringed. There's (a lot) more boobs, too, including Amy Smart's (though her nipples are taped over, and everything else is--I kid you not--blurred out). And although I don't think there's the same sense of urgency and adrenaline the first movie had (at least to me), it was still intense.

It's funny, too... and usually inappropriately so. This is a movie out to not just break all the rules, but shatter them into tiny pieces and then nuke those pieces--twice. It reminded me of Feast 3, except more insane, and I don't think I hated this one. They really took the whole idea of psychedelic video game and exploded it.

The only thing I outright hated was the ending, but for two reasons. First, this old man, literally about 2 minutes before the credits start to roll, and right in the peak of the climax, gets his things and goes to leave. But then he stands in the middle of the freakin' theater and just watches from there, being awfully distracting. So I missed the vital 30 seconds or so where Chev gets to the big baddie. I got the main idea of the scene, but still. However, I still saw the following bit in its full, and I didn't like it at all. Let's just say the flames couldn't have looked more ridiculously fake, and the whole scene, I felt, was a really crappy ending. Though I liked the stuff during the credits. That made up for it a bit.

All in all, there's really only one way I can sum up this movie. In the words of Chev Chelios...

Cheese... and... Broccoli.

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WTF

4.16.2009

2 In 1: Confessions Of A Superhero And Special.

The two films I’m going to be talking about today share a very… special theme. Both of them deal with regular people obsessed with superheroes to the point they dress up like one. And sometimes, just sometimes, they act like them. The first is a documentary about the life and times of people trying to make it in Hollywood. The second is a film about the life and times of a man just trying to make it through life. So without further ado, here you go.



Confessions Of A Superhero.


Okay, so I saw this documentary reviewed a while back. It was a fairly positive review, and it sounded like something pretty good. Well, I finally got around to seeing it myself. And… well… let’s start with what it’s about. On Hollywood Boulevard, people dress up like fictional characters and take pictures with tourists, and then proceed to beg for tips. This documentary chronicles the lives of four of them, four who dress up like superheroes. There’s Christopher Dennis AKA Superman, Jennifer Wenger AKA Wonder Woman, Maxwell Allen AKA Batman, and Joseph McQueen AKA The Hulk. And… that’s about it. It just bounces back and forth throughout the four of them, showing their day-to-day lives.


The first issue with the film, I picked up early on: there was no narrative structure. There was no rhyme or reason to the editing. The only clear pattern is the story rotation of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Hulk, and even that is dropped about halfway in. There’s no theme that connects the different segments together. They could have been shown in almost any order and it wouldn’t have made any difference.


But I know what you’re saying. This can easily be resolved if who you’re watching is entertaining enough, right? Well, that’s the next problem with this documentary. The most interesting person is Joseph McQueen/The Hulk, and he’s barely in the doc. He has the least amount of screen time, which is horrible, as he’s the most endearing of the four. And, unfortunately, the least interesting—Superman Chris—is the biggest focus of the film. He has some “crazy fan” quirks, but mostly, he’s boring. Jennifer/Wonder Woman is somewhat interesting, though, which holds the film together since she has the second biggest amount of screen time. And Maxwell/Batman is just batshit crazy.


One of the more fun aspects of the film is completely dropped, too—the psychological aspect. There’s a whole bit about whether or not Superman Chris is actually the son of Oscar winner Sandy Dennis. And the bulk of the story with Maxwell/Batman is that he’s this angry, super-crazy ex-Mafioso. Was he really a hitman for the Italian mob, or is he full of crap? Unfortunately, neither of these stories is ever followed fully. They’re introduced and talked about a couple times, but that’s it.


But the primary reason for the four of them to be doing this in the first place is to try and break into acting. The two who even come close (or are at least shown) are Jennifer/Wonder Woman and Joseph McQueen/Hulk. Jennifer is the only one of the group who probably will break into the business, as she does have some talent, and she does have good looks. And although you want him to, Joseph McQueen probably won’t ever be famous. And although this is supposed to be the prime reason these people are doing what they do, the documentary barely focuses on this aspect. Instead, it pays a load of attention to them begging for tips on the street, as well as a bit of their home lives.


Because of all this, the movie drags more than it should, and I was constantly looking at the clock. It’s not a good thing if you’re only 14 minutes in and feel as if you’ve been watching for over half an hour. There’s not even much eye candy to keep you involved. With the exception of Jennifer/Wonder Woman, everybody in this movie is butt ugly.


But all of my feelings aren’t completely negative. Overall, the movie did have its entertaining moments. After all, had it not, I probably would have just turned it off. This documentary isn’t terrible by any means. I just didn’t think it was as outstanding as it had the potential to be. I could have seen a bit less of Superman Chris and seen a whole lot more of Joseph McQueen… and then maybe answers to a few open-ended bits. Otherwise, it’s just alright.


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Stop Saying Okay! Okay.




Special.


Les (Michael Rappaport) is a meter-maid who lives alone, is shy around the opposite sex, has low self-esteem, and only has two friends, Joey (Josh Peck) and Everett (Robert Baker)—the same two guys who sell him his comic books. But after he takes an experimental drug called Special to help increase his self-esteem, given to him by Dr. Dobson (Jack Kehler), Les starts to believe he has superpowers. Now with a new self-worth, Les runs around town trying to fight crime as a superhero.


Special is one of those movies that is equally uplifting as it is depressing. You really want Les to succeed at everything, but the more he gets the crap beaten out of him, the more everybody tells him he’s crazy, the more you just stare at the movie in bizarre wonderment. Ironically, the drug Les takes is basically an anti-depressant, which makes him battle between feeling good about himself and hating the situations he’s in. And the movie itself works just like the drug, making you bounce back and forth between happy and depressed.


The acting is top notch, though, especially from Michael Rappaport. I think he was perfectly cast, as he drags you along and makes you feel bad for him, but then he makes you excited when he starts recognizing different superpowers. Josh Peck and Robert Baker are also good as his friends, who play equal parts buddy-buddy and caring.


I particularly liked the visuals. It would bounce back and forth between Les’ point of view to other people’s. If he was flying, you’d see him flying; running through walls—same thing. Or you’d see him stomach-down on the ground, waving around his arms and legs, or running smack into a wall, getting up, and running back and going “See? Wasn’t that awesome?” only to receive bewildered reactions from his onlookers.


The part I didn’t like about the movie, however, was the ending. Although the climax is brilliant… it ends there. There is no tie-ups with his friends or his potential new love interest. Nothing. But part of me is conflicted here. Half of me wanted the loose strings tied up. The other half of me thought tying up the loose ends would have diminished the ultimate power of the ending. But even with the powerful ending, I still feel the movie is a bit lacking. I don’t know.


Overall, it’s a beautifully done film, and it has some really top notch acting and visuals. The tone of the film makes me wary of watching it again anytime soon (it’s one of those… hard to watch too many times in a row), though I kinda wanted more done with the ending. I think.


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A Keanu 'Whoa'

4.15.2009

TV Review: Dragonball Z - Season One.

Alrighty, so I finished re-watching the first season (The Saiyan and/or Vegeta Saga) of Dragonball Z. Season One has never been my favorite season, though I do have some things I do really like about it. You don’t necessarily need to have seen Dragonball to follow Dragonball Z, though it helps.


The series picks up 5 years after the end of Dragonball. Piccolo had been defeated, and Goku and Chi-Chi are married and have a four-year-old son named Gohan (after Goku’s grandfather). But when an alien named Raditz, who turns out to be Goku’s older brother, shows up wondering why Goku hadn’t destroyed the planet yet, Goku learns all about his mysterious past. Goku is a Saiyan, one of the most powerful races in the universe. They are planet dealers, leveling planets and selling them to the highest bidder. But the Saiyan’s home world was destroyed, leaving only four Saiyans alive—Goku being one of them. He had been sent to Earth as a baby to get it ready by killing everybody and getting it ready for sale, but hit is head and forgot everything. He thus becomes the world’s protector instead.


However, Raditz still wants the mission to go through as planned, but not if Goku and his friends have anything to say about it. Raditz kidnaps little Gohan and forces Goku to act. Piccolo, still alive and well, is forced to team up with his mortal enemy to kill this Raditz guy, because he’s way too powerful for either of them to take alone. And they barely do it, but not without Goku dying in the process, as well as Gohan showing some innate power. They also discover that two other Saiyans—Nappa and Vegeta (Prince of all Saiyans)—have heard everything due to a transmitting device and are on their way to Earth to find the Dragonballs and wish for immortality.


So now everybody has one year to train and get ready to face the two even more powerful Saiyans. Piccolo takes Gohan under his wing, because he feels the kid can come in handy. Krillin, Tien, Choazu, Yamcha, and the cowardly Yajirobi train on Korin Tower with Kami, while Goku must travel the seemingly endless Snake Way in Otherworld to train with King Kai before being wished back to life with the Dragonballs in one year’s time.


Okay, so the first 5 or 6 episodes are the only ones that deal with Raditz (and really only the end of the first episode… the rest is introductory). Then for about 15-20 episodes after that, it gets a bit repetitious. Piccolo leaves Gohan to live on his own for 6 months to get over his spoiled-ness and to toughen up. Goku travels through Snake Way; in fact, it’s really bad when he spends numerous episodes traveling Snake Way, then falls off and has to start back over from the beginning.


For me, that’s one of the biggest things I didn’t like about the first season: It’s way too slow. The first episode kinda drags introducing Gohan and getting lost in the woods, but then Raditz shows up and it picks up considerably. But that only lasts for a few episodes. Then nothing happens for the majority of it afterward. The bulk of the saga is spent prepping to train for Nappa and Vegeta. The main focus is on Gohan living on his own and his evolution as a person. And that part I really liked, even if, as I said, it got repetitious later on. The thing I didn’t like, though, was that once all of that was said and done, it basically skips the actual training. Goku gets to King Kai’s and there’s a few episodes of easy training, and Piccolo finally starts personally training Gohan, where there are a few introductory episodes. And the others get to Korin Tower—again, a few intro episodes. But after that, there’s a huge jump forward in time and training is over. So it’s like we spent all that time getting ready to train, and almost no time showing the actual training.


But I’m sure I understand why this was done. They were saving the fun action for when Nappa and Vegeta showed up. And this is where the season really picks up. While Nappa and Vegeta aren’t the most entertaining villains (again, another reason I’m not big on the first season), the fights are great to watch. Vegeta is better when he does like Piccolo does and joins the good guys later on in the series. The constant rivalry between Goku and Vegeta later on is more entertaining than he is in the first season.


But what I love about the first season is the relationship between Gohan and Piccolo. Gohan was always my favorite character (until the Cell Saga ends, and then he just gets lame. I never got big into the Buu Saga and all of those, though mostly because I think I started getting more of a social life around the time they were airing those episodes). Anyway, I loved Gohan’s evolution from a whiny little four-year-old kid into one of the most powerful fighters in the series. And then there’s Piccolo’s evolution from evil baddy to father figure. And all of that starts in this season.


As far as more of the technical things, the first season was never known as the best with voiceover or scripting. In fact, it’s incredibly cheesy at times, in both aspects. But from what I remember (and what I’ve read), it gets better as it goes on. And the animation is great. There are a couple issues here and there (Vegeta’s hair), but otherwise, it’s top notch. The action is bright and fast and amazing. And watching the uncut version, there is even some good blood and whatnot that I didn’t see originally growing up.


I know I said some negative things about the season, but it is really enjoyable. There are some laugh-out-loud moments, and other moments where you just have a huge grin on your face because something awesome is either happening or about to happen. And I think this series is where I got my inclination to end chapters in my books with massive cliffhangers, because almost every DBZ episode (especially those when there are epic battles going on) ends with something insane (“Will the world blow up? Will everybody die? Find out next time… on Dragonball Z!”). And the thing is, these are real cliffhangers, because those examples may sound like jokes, but those things can and do happen in this series. The show is known for characters dying (only to be resurrected to die again later) and for massive landscapes and/or entire planets being destroyed. I would get annoyed sometimes, because I’m re-watching these on DVD via Netflix, and I’d get through the last episode of a disc and get impatient when I realize I’ll have to a wait a few days before I get the next one.


The first season ends at a weird spot (nothing really conclusive… actually already having started up the next adventure), but I can’t wait to start the next season. The Frieza Saga is one of the longest sagas, and although it’s known for its episodes of nothing but powering up and things never seeming to come to an end, I’m excited. It’s the season that introduces the Super Saiyan, which is awesome. So once I’ve finished season two, expect more of my thoughts!


As for now… completely ignore the Dragonball Evolution “movie” and go out and rent Dragonball Z (or something like that).

4.12.2009

ADVENTURELAND.

I’m almost happy this movie didn’t get more advertisement than it did, because the advertising it did have made it seem like a big comedy, the next Superbad. And it couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the 80s, and James (Jesse Eisenberg) just graduated college with a literature degree and plans to go to Europe as a graduation present before heading off to grad school in New York. But when his dad gets demoted, he not only loses the money to go to Europe, but nearly loses the chance to go to grad school. So he’s forced to get a summer job so that he can pay to live in New York. His old friend Frigo (Matt Bush, AKA the kid from the AT&T rollover minutes commercials) get him a job at a theme park, Adventureland, where he’s hired by owners Bobby (Bill Hader) and Paulette (Kristen Wiig). He gains a new friend, Joel (Martin Starr). But he also starts to fall for fellow co-worker Em (Kristen Stewart). Of course, it’s not that easy. Between maintenance man Connell (Ryan Reynolds) and sexy co-worker Lisa P (Margarita Lavieva), their relationships and friendships will be tested.


Like I said at the start, this movie is much more a drama than a comedy. Sure it has some comedic moments (usually in the form of Matt Bush, Bill Hader, and Kristen Wiig), but the majority of the movie is about how freakin’ miserable everybody is. But unlike movies like Knocked Up, where I thought it got too serious, the drama in this movie didn’t bring it down any, for me. It stayed at a healthy level of both drama and comedy—it wasn’t too serious to make the comedy seem random, and it wasn’t too funny to make the drama seem like too much of a downer.


My only issue with the story was that it did focus a lot on the crappy lives of these characters, but outside maybe Em and James (and more specifically Em), it didn’t go into a whole lot of depth about it. It was as if the entire cast of characters was trying to be fully developed, but fell just short. However, there’s only so much you can do in the time frame of the movie. But I don’t think adding scenes would have worked either, because then it might have come off as repetitive. That’s why I don’t think it was a huge issue, and why I think just hinting at a lot of it instead of blatantly coming out with it worked much better. And by the end of the movie, I honestly didn’t care about it anymore, anyway.


As far as acting went, everybody was brilliant, for the most part. I think maybe the role was written for Michael Cera, because Jesse Eisenberg channeled him quite often. However, I don’t think Cera could have pulled off some of the scenes the way Jesse did, particularly at the end. And Kristen Stewart? She’s completely redeemed herself from Twilight (not that she was particularly terrible there, but just for being associated with it in general). She was great in this, showing all necessary emotions. And she was incredibly sexy, to boot. I also want to see more of Matt Bush and Martin Starr in the future. I’ve seen Martin Starr in tiny roles in the past, but the guy deserves better. And the only thing I’ve ever seen Matt Bush in are the rollover minute commercials, where I think he’s hilarious, too. It was also interesting to see Ryan Reynolds in this type of role. It’s not his usual quipster, sarcastic, funny man. It’s a more serious and subdued role, though he was great in it.


I think what I liked most about the movie was that, although I don’t remember too much about the 80s (I was born in 86, so I was still rather young at the time), I could still associate myself with a lot of the happenings. James reminded me a lot of, well, me… except without the pot… or the parties and drinking… or the select group of women wanting to be with him. But like James, I’m a college grad with an English/Lit degree, who wants to travel the world, and is quite awkward when it comes to the opposite sex (at least in matters of dating). Though I was right there with Joel, too, at times. And other things, too. Anyway, the point is, I was able to identify with the movie and the characters quite a bit.


I’ve seen very few good movies in theater so far this year (that were actually movies for this year, not last year’s just taking their time), but I’d wager that this is one of the first “great” movies of the year so far. Depending on the rest of the year, I might end up putting this on my Top 10. I didn’t know what to expect going in, but I think that made it better.


So to end this review, I want to share two anecdotes about the man sitting next to me during the movie. First, I knew I was in for a rough time when the very first trailer starts, and it’s for the upcoming Spanish film Sin Nombre. The man proceeds to say, once the trailer is over (and keep in mind, this is a foreign movie with a completely Spanish title), “Looks like it might be pretty good… except it looks like it might have a lot of subtitles.” I knew that if I ever got closer to slapping a stranger for idiot statements, it would be too soon. So the movie’s not very far in, and it shows them driving up onto their driveway or whatever, and the guy points out the car and goes “A Panzer? You don’t see those everyday.” That’s because the movie takes place in the freakin’ 80s, you Dumbass. Anyway, the point is… well, there isn’t a point. I had a stupid guy sitting next to me. And he talked (and breathed) quite loudly. But the movie was brilliant, and that’s all that matters.


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Royale With Cheese

DRAGONBALL EVOLUTION.

Warning: Spoilers below for anybody not versed in Dragonball lore or who actually cares about this movie.


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This movie has been rumored for nearly a decade, and I’ve been waiting for it the entire time. But the question on everybody’s mind has always been the same: How are they going to take such an epic story, even just one of the sagas, and turn it into a movie? Apparently there’s a list of stories that are damn-near unfilmable, as that’s all anybody ever heard when Watchmen was coming out. Well, I like to think Dragonball/ Dragonball Z/ Dragonball GT nears the top of that list. And I’d like to say this movie proves that, but… dear God, this movie didn’t even try. It has to be one of the most atrocious adaptations I’ve ever seen, topping out over Eragon (and that’s saying something).


Let’s start out with this movie’s plot. Goku (Justin Chatwin) lives with his Grandpa Gohan (Randall Duk Kim), who trains him in the martial arts. He also deals with high school bullies and daydreams about his dream girl, Chi Chi (Jamie Chung). And on Goku’s 18th birthday, Gohan gives him the 4-star Dragonball, his most treasured artifact. But an evil alien who had once attempted to destroy the world 2000 years ago, Lord Piccolo (James Marsters), along with his shape-shifting gal-pal Mai (Eriko Tamura), are hunting down all 7 Dragonballs so that he can summon the dragon and bring back Oozaru, an ape-demon who helped him before. So Goku teams up with another ball-hunter (tee-hee), Bulma (Emmy Rossum), and together they hunt down Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat) so that Goku can get some training as they hunt down the remaining Dragonballs. Oh, and uh… Yamcha (Joon Park) shows up, too… though he’s not worth a whole hell of a lot.


All that being said, let’s talk about how this movie rapes its source material. Let’s start with Goku… just Goku. First of all, this movie is obviously supposed to take place in the Dragonball (not Dragonball Z) timeline, so Goku should be quite a bit younger. Second… high school? Goku never went to any school except Master Roshi’s. And he certainly wouldn’t taunt and fight bullies. He also wouldn’t pass up food in order to go to a party. And that brings us to Chi Chi. Goku is too na├»ve and childlike to be daydreaming about girls. He shouldn’t even be attempting dating until Chi Chi starts to basically force herself on him. He also has prophetic visions every time he touches a Dragonball. And here’s where it gets fun… Goku has no tail. He’s also not Saiyan (WHAT?). He’s just a human form of an ape demon that crashed onto Earth via meteor. He also apparently only transforms into Oozaru during an eclipse on his 18th birthday, not during any ol’ full moon. And Oozaru isn’t a big ape monster. Instead, it’s… well, it’s basically a guy in a normal-sized rubber suit. And Goku can gain control of himself as Oozaru and transform back to normal at will.


Now let’s look at the villain. Piccolo looked the part, so kudos with that (well, at least make-up wise. The outfit was all wrong). But that’s about it. I’d argue the logistics of Piccolo being in league with a Saiyan 2000 years ago to help destroy Earth, but since they, you know, cut that whole Saiyan thing, Piccolo was just in league with an ape monster. There’s no real explanation of where Piccolo came from (just a mention that he was in some kind of hell dimension—Buffy flashbacks!—and is now seeking vengeance). Though… if he’s hunting the Dragonballs to summon Oozaru, yet he knows Goku is Oozaru and will transform at the eclipse anyway… why is he after the Dragonballs again? It just doesn’t make sense. Oh, and Goku calls his race “Nemeks”… whatever those are. Namek, maybe?


Other characters? Roshi does keep his perversions, and he does have silly moments, but otherwise isn’t really Roshi (and it doesn’t help that he lives in what appears to be an apartment building in a ghetto). Bulma is more like Lara Croft. And Yamcha… why was he in this movie again? He doesn’t even fight. Chi Chi fights (numerous times)… but not Yamcha. And no disrespect to Ernie Hudson, but why is a black guy playing an old Asian monk? Anyway, one of the biggest issues about the characters isn’t in the characters that were in the movie, but one that wasn’t. I can understand not including Tien, Choazu, Puar, Oolong, or any of the like. But where the hell is Krillin? He’s Goku’s best friend. You set up the Chi Chi relationship… hell, you set up a Bulma/Yamcha relationship… but you cut out KRILLIN? It can’t be that hard to find a short, bald Asian guy.


Other things of note:


-The movie has also apparently sunk into the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Not that that’s a bad thing (Avatar rocks), but that’s just not the world of Dragonball.


-The Kamehameha can not only light candles, but it can also be used as a healing spell to resuscitate somebody. Who knew? I have to say, the ending use of it would have been much cooler (he did the KAME-HAME-HA! Pretty well) had he not flown into the air after the blast. All that did was make it look much less impressive than it would have been otherwise. And since when did Goku ever not stay in one spot while firing it?


-You can only use the Dragonballs from the “dragon temple,” using a stone thingy.


-Shenron (the dragon) is kinda like a slightly bigger Mushu from Mulan (okay, so he’s not that small, but he might as well have been).


And there’s probably a lot more that I’m forgetting, too. But I don’t want to bog down this review on just the adaptation aspect. This movie sucks on a normal aspect, as well. Because there are some movies that, if you’re not cognizant of the source material, you might still find enjoyable. This is hardly one of them.


The movie is too short, first of all. Without credits, it’s only about 70 or so minutes. That’s insane for such an epic story (hell, that’s insane for a normal movie). And this short time span causes numerous issues, one of which is character development. For instance, it seems we’re supposed to believe that Bulma and Yamcha fall in love about 15 minutes after we first see them together, and in what is probably their second scene together in the entire movie. But we also don’t care about any of the characters. We don’t know anything about the story or what’s going on. Everything is rushed. They’ll go to a new location, only to leave right after, making you question why they were there to begin with. The eclipse goes from being 2 weeks away to 1 week away to 2 days away, 1 day away, today... all within a short time span with no montage to show us time has passed. And the hunt for the Dragonballs only takes about 20 total minutes of the film, and that’s only getting a few of them. Most are gotten off screen by Piccolo.


And that leads into one of the worst issues to rise from the time cramp. Piccolo—who is supposed to be one of the most feared villains in the entire Dragonball storyline (note: Dragonball, not DBZ or onward), the character who is so dastardly that later, when he starts caring for Goku’s son Gohan in DBZ, the character change is epic—is barely in the movie. He probably has about 5 minutes of screen time total. And when he’s not on screen, Goku and gang are all panicked about Oozaru the whole time, barely even mentioning Piccolo, even though he’s, you know, the only actual current threat as far as they know. But by the time the climax comes (and it comes fast… it doesn’t even feel like you’ve watched an entire movie by the time it gets there), you feel no threat by Piccolo. He’s just some green guy.


But I know what you’re thinking. The Dragonball series’ were all about the awesome fighting. How is the fighting? To that question, I will answer with another question: There’s supposed to be fighting in this? A couple of the fights look slightly decent at times. But on the whole, they’re incredibly short. There’s maybe a total of 5-10 minutes of actual fighting in the entire movie (and 10 minutes is pushing it).


As for the other stuff? I think the actors did what they could with the awful script and dialogue they were given. It’s not like the anime was top-notch on script and acting, but this script was just bad. And who the hell was this movie’s editor? They need to be fired immediately. What a poor excuse of a final cut. Finally, the special effects. I’ve read some stuff about people dissing the special effects. But I didn’t think they were too terrible. They weren’t amazing, but they were good… except Oozaru. That was just crap.


Overall, this movie needs a reboot immediately. It had maybe one or two entertaining moments, but that’s it. I heard they’ve already given the Greenlight to a sequel, but it desperately needs to be a reboot. The Piccolo saga was at the end of Dragonball, so I’m assuming they were using this movie as background (the little background they gave) so that they could get into the more interesting Dragonball Z territory. But cutting Krillin and changing everything else will make DBZ territory impossible. I mean, it starts off with the Saiyan saga, for crying out loud. And they completely made the whole Saiyan thing impossible with the backstory they gave Goku. And if they can’t even find a guy to play Krillin, there’s no way they’re gonna go out of their way to find a talented kid to play Gohan. And if Piccolo is any indication, they’d destroy Vegeta. Reboot it and give us the movie we deserve (keep James Marsters, recast everyone else). I didn’t wait nearly a decade for this poor excuse of an adaptation. And although this still wasn’t as bad as The Legend of Chun-Li, I’m still glad I didn’t have to pay to see this.


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The Zed Word

4.09.2009

Short Review: Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist.

Premise: After his girlfriend dumps him, Nick goes out with his mostly gay punk rock band for a show. There, he meets Norah, who, in an attempt to prove to Nick's ex that she does indeed have a boyfriend, unwittingly asks Nick to be her boyfriend for five minutes (not realizing who he is at the time). This all ends up leading to a night in New York chasing after Norah's drunken best friend who got away from Nick's friends that were supposed to take care of her, as well as trying to find the secret and ever-elusive band "Where's Fluffy?".

Starring: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Ari Graynor, Alexis Dziena, Aaron Yoo, Rafi Gavron, Jonathan Wright, and Jay Baruchel.

My Reaction: How can a movie with such a great cast of mostly underrated actors go wrong? I'm still trying to figure that out, actually. Like I said, the cast is brilliant, including a couple fun cameos from John Cho and Kevin Corrigan, so the acting chops are there. The charisma and chemistry are abound. I'm in love with Kat Dennings, though Alexis Dziena reminded me way too much of Miley Cyrus in this movie for my liking. And Rafi Gavron reminded me of a buffer Anton Yelchin, and without the annoying voice. And I always love Aaron Yoo. There's nothing really wrong with the story either (and it has some great metaphors). The music is okay, but nothing to come home screaming about... though that might not be a good thing in a movie that strongly relies on music, as shown via its own title. There just wasn't anything about the movie that blew my shirt up, so to speak. There were some good moment, some disgusting moments, and even some great moments (I particularly thought the last 15 or so minutes of the movie was the best, starting at the recording studio up through to the end). Otherwise, it was just... alright. Kat Denning's puppet show version of the film on the DVD extras, however... freakin' awesome.

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I Am McLovin!

(P.S. I'm starting to wonder if Judd Apatow is like the American Harry Potter. It's like every comedy/dramedy these days has at least 2-3 actors that have been in at least one of his films).

4.04.2009

FAST & FURIOUS.

Alright, so I’m gonna start off by getting the ‘bad audience’ bit out of my system. It was sold out, which I haven’t been to a sold out movie in ages. I was packed in like a sardine, and the dude next to me really liked his elbow space. Like, you know, over the arm rest and into my ribs. Then the jackasses behind us (I swear it was the entire row) kept making stupid jokes half the time. And they weren’t even whispered or just mumbled among themselves. These were called out loud for all to hear. And they weren’t really remotely funny. Just a bunch of douches who thought they were being cute. Then there was somebody at the far back of the theater who really had a thing for his laser pen. Throw in a couple instances of screaming children, too. And finally, what is a packed theater experience without at least two people sitting far ahead of you texting the entire time, shining the light of death for all the theater to see?


And I’m sure if you’ve been keeping tabs (I doubt it), you’ll have realized that usually, when I have a bad or annoying theater experience, I usually have a pretty bad review to follow it.


Not this time.


No, not even all of that mess could have taken away the great fun that Fast & Furious gave. For those fans of the series, this installment takes place after the second film, but before Tokyo Drift, about five years after the original film. Dom (Vin Diesel) and his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are living in the Dominican Republic, stealing gas to sell on the street… but from currently moving envoys, of course. But after a terrible occurrence, Dom is forced back into America where he eventually meets back up with his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and the newly reinstated FBI agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker). Together, though for completely different reasons, they must infiltrate a drug cartel. Lots of stuff happens from there.


The movie starts off with a bang, though we’ve seen a lot of it in the trailers. It’s the scene with the big tanker truck that Dom and Letty attempt to highjack, which turns out a bit more… explosively than originally planned. There’s also a nice tie-in to Tokyo Drift during this segment with one of the aforementioned movie’s main characters, showing how Dom knew him (as mentioned at the end of said movie in Vin’s brief cameo). And from there, the action continues on, switching over to yet another scene we know from the trailers—O’Conner chasing down a man through the streets for information. So straight off, our adrenaline is already pumping like crazy.


And the movie has its quiet moments, but usually just to set up the plot of the action sequence to come. Though there are some character development scenes sprinkled in, as well. But for the most part, the movie is just a ton of action. And the action is gloriously splendid. They really amped it up, from busy-street racing to underground-tunnel racing. Not all of the action is car-oriented, of course, but the majority of it is. And if you’re going in for the racing action (and you know you are), you’ll be more than satisfied.


If I had any complaints, it would be that Jordana Brewster’s Mia was hardly in the movie, and she could have used a much bigger role, especially considering the rift in the relationships caused by the events of the first film. So by the time anything is really settled between Mia and Brian, it’s slightly hard to take because of her lack of screen time and re-connection with Brian. My other complaint would be that I got confused with what was going on a couple of times, but that could have just been the fault of the distractions due to a bad audience.


There’s really not a whole hell of a lot to say about this film. You’re not going for a masterpiece of acting. You’re not going for a masterpiece of plot. It has a decent story with some average action movie acting, but some really awesome action and some pretty funny moments, too. I might dare say it’s as good as if not better than the original. The only thing the original might have over this one is more character development and/or interaction. But on the whole, this one was pretty damn good.


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A Keanu 'Whoa'

4.02.2009

P.E.S.T.... With A Twist.

EDIT: Totally forgot a movie I need to review. Added it to the top of the list.

Alright, so I'm not going to talk about the movies coming out this weekend and which ones I want to see, etc. To get that out of the way now, I want to see both Fast & Furious and Adventureland. But I'm going to see the former tomorrow, because not only do I think it's pretty awesome myself, but my sister wouldn't have taken no for an answer anyway.

So my pre-emptive strike here is to let everybody know what I've been up to lately and what you can expect within the coming month. I haven't posted very often lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been watching movies. In fact, I've been watching quite a few, and I owe you guys tons of reviews. So on top of tomorrow's Fast & Furious review (which will probably be posted up either within the last hour of the day or the early hours of Saturday morning), you'll be getting numerous others... and possibly even a new round of the new quote game.

So what reviews can you be expecting soon? Well, at least in some form or fashion, you will be seeing the following movies/documentaries/TV shows reviewed by me, most likely within this month:

- 16 Blocks, the movie where Bruce Willis plays a down-and-out, nearly retired version of John McClane, and Mos Def makes one of the worst acting choices in history by trying to sound like a mentally handicapped, nasally Elmo.

- Daywatch, the sequel to Nightwatch (not the crappy Ewan McGregor movie, but the Russian mindfuck movie).

- How to Lose Friends & Alienate People... how much does my love of Simon Pegg extend?

- Funny Games, the US remake, not the original... though I hear there's not much of a difference. I'm not sure if that's a good thing.

- Special, an upliftingly depressing film about a loser who starts getting superpowers. But not really.

- Dragonball Z: Season One... with the movie coming to a theater near you in about a week, and coming to your computer about 2-3 weeks ago, along with a slew of 'worst movie ever made' reviews, I decided to give in to nostalgia and start rewatching the series I had once been addicted to many years ago.

- In the Mouth of Madness, the movie that shows us what would happen if Stephen King had the insane fanbase of JK Rowling (see: next), disappeared from existence, and then had John Carpenter make a movie about it.

- We Are Wizards, a documentary about the Harry Potter fandom and how you shouldn't fuck with them.

- This Film Is Not Yet Rated, a documentary about good filmmakers and how you shouldn't fuck with them.

- Death Note & Death Note II: The Last Name, two live action movies based on the amazing anime (and manga) series. But do they live up to the original(s)?

- Son of Rambow, a movie I watched and reviewed ages ago but have yet to post it up. At this rate, it'll get posted by the time they make a sequel to it with the same actors, but far past their prime.

- Sex Drive, a film I have yet to see, but will hopefully arrive via Netflix in a couple days.

- Confessions of a Superhero... see the status of 'Sex Drive', the plot of 'Special', and the quips in my notes on the aforementioned 'documentaries'.

And... that's about it. Like I said, I owe y'all a lot. I better get crackin', huh?