7.30.2012

V.G. Movies #29: Hitman.

[Welcome back to the Evolution of Video Game Movies series. Every week, I will be moving forward through time, starting with the earliest and ending with the most recent of video game movies. I will be detailing the histories of the games and how the films came about, and both my and fan reaction to the adaptations. Practically all of my background information is either common knowledge or from Wikipedia. So without further ado, let's move on to the next film on the list.]

THE HISTORY

I've taken notice that the more recent a game series was created, the less interesting of a story it has behind it. I mean, look at any of the old-school series I've discussed histories about... Mario and/or Donkey Kong, Final Fantasy, Pokemon, and even some fighters like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. But I would say the last "interesting" story behind a game series comes from Silent Hill, which was way back in 1999. Ever since, it appears game ideas are just a dime a dozen, and the concepts behind the stories and characters have just become... average. Uninteresting. A guy comes up with game, and that game is made. The end. At least for games that have so far become films. Does that make it a bad concept, though?

The first Hitman game came out in 2000 and followed, well... a hitman... named Agent 47. He's a bald assassin with a barcode tattoo on the back of his head. Though he's kind of a test subject, as well, and is trained in the art of perfect murder for a company called the International Contract Agency (ICA). The first game has 47 escape from a sanatorium and then has him do a series of missions that he begins to realize are all connected. And not only are they connected, but they're related to the sanatorium where he escaped from. And the twist is that he's actually been cloned and/or specially created using genetic material from all the people he'd just killed in order to make a flawless human.

A sequel came out in 2002 wherein 47 has run away to Sicily to seek peace from his former existence. The plot involves a priest getting kidnapped by the Russian mafia, and it's up to 47 to save him. By the end, 47 becomes a hitman once more. The next two games are intertwined with not only each other, but with the first game, as well. The third game is kind of a replaying of the original while building its own story that leads into the fourth game... which appears to be way too complicated to get into in this short amount of space. But the short version is that it involves 47 performing a last hit after his primary contact--a woman named Diana, who has been in all the games, as well--closes down ICA. He also gets help from a CIA agent named Smith who he helped out earlier in the game.

But, as is the case with the majority of video game adaptations... it's made by some foreign dude who has seemingly never played any of the games and, thus, have trouble getting aspects of the story, characters, tone, etc. right. (Seriously, though... I've noticed hardly any Americans make video game movies. Of the arguably 3 best--Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, and Silent Hill--two were made by an American (the same guy), and one by a Frenchman... not making a point, just an observation. Oh, and this one is by another Frenchman.) Anyway, I saw this in theater and remember being insanely underwhelmed and frankly kind of bored by it. But let's see if I feel the same now?

THE FILM

So... that was a movie. Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) is hired to kill Russian President Belicoff (Ulrich Thomsen), but for some reason--despite getting shot in the face--he seems to be alive and well. That's when his own company decides to put a hit out on him. They first attempt this by setting him up to take down the President's prostitute girlfriend, Nika (Olga Kurylenko), who supposedly saw him in the act. But when he realizes it's all a setup, he kidnaps Nika and goes on the run, only getting help from the likes of CIA agent Smith (James Faulkner). Meanwhile, Interpol agent Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott) is looking for him, as well, and trying to stay a step ahead... but finding that very difficult.

The thing that's always bugged me about this movie is the casting of Agent 47. Now, I've never played the games or anything, so I'm no expert. But even looking at the dude on the cover, my first 10 thoughts would not be "let's shave Timothy Olyphant's head and cast him." It's just... weird. I mean, I love Olyphant as much as the next guy. And honestly, he does his best with the role. It just does not seem... suited for him. Perhaps they wanted a more emotional 47, so they went with more of a character actor than an actor star? That would make sense... if 47 was written or directed as more of an emotional character than any role Jason Statham could have ever played. Though according to a little digging, Vin Diesel was originally attached, but when he dropped, Jason Statham was offered the role. He passed, and it eventually landed with Olyphant.

But what I noticed this time through was how nothing made any freakin' sense. Let's look at the character of Nika. She's kidnapped and threatened with death multiple times. She despises Agent 47. But he buys him a sandwich, and the very next scene she's walking around naked, being playful, and calling him charming. Then she kinda goes back to screwing with him. But he buys her dinner (in the process of committing a hit)... and the next thing she does is try to have sex with him. And for the rest of the film is relatively smitten with the guy. Is she really that easy? And are the Russian police and/or military that stupid? They invade this killer's apartment when Interpol tells them directly everybody will die if they do so. And then at the end of the movie, they just randomly send in a helicopter to shoot through the top of the church where they know 47 is at with the President (and/or double)... and they start shooting regardless of who is actually there, hitting the President's body (and/or double) more than anything else. And then the helicopter just flies away...

But then you have your general plot points that were hardly explained or left really confusing. Did 47 shoot the double, or was the double the one that was alive? And since when were doubles identical twins? What was the big plan with the doubles, anyway? When he shoots the bodyguard at the beginning, why does nobody flip out? Why does the second body guard just stand perfectly still, staring off into the distance? Why does the President just calmly look around, and then directly in the distance where 47 is? And you can't say because they were in on everything... because then why would they need to do the whole doubles business? I still don't understand the whole point behind the doubles. Why was 47 so shocked he was being set up if he apparently had this big elaborate plan from the get-go (he had to have the key that Whittier gets in his case when his room is raided, knowing he'd used it, etc., but at the point of packing for the mission, he wouldn't have known he was going to be set up). The places he hides his guns make no sense. What if somebody found them in the ice machine while he was away? What if his hit went into the wrong stall in the bathroom attack? And what if the Russian police dude didn't use the radio (unlikely, I understand... but still. Back-up plan)?


I will give it up to its visuals, though. The director has a nice eye. It's inconsistant, but it's definitely there... something to be said about his other works, as well--Frontier(s) and The Divide. There's some really good shots mixed in. And whenever there decides to be action, it's pretty decent. Nothing is incredibly fantastic, but it's fine. There are definitely moments where it could have shined--like the subway car fight with the other hit men. But it needed a better eye for action to really pull that off. And despite all the incredible plot and/or logic holes behind them, 47's methods of doing his hits were often entertaining. The ultimate plan at the end, while full of an insane amount of holes and/or contrivances, is a kind of Ocean's 11 kinda thing where a bunch of small pieces just fall into place, and you at least have to respect a cool factor, even if it doesn't make sense.


Regardless of all the negatives, it's not a terrible movie. It just had a lot of potential to be something much better than it was. I felt if it maybe went for more of an adaptation of the first game's story--an origin mystery--that would have worked a lot better. From what I've heard, a lot of the problems I have are not the director's fault. He had a different film ready, but at the last minute, Fox forced re-shoots and then brought in the dude who recut Live Free or Die Hard to recut this in order to make it more commercial... which completely nullified Gens' ideas for both this film and its potential sequel (including the character's origins). I did watch the unrated version for this review, which is bloodier and has a tiny bit more nudity... but that's about it. Nothing that would have shown Gens' original vision without the reshoots and whatnot. Oh well... I guess that's just Fox.



Stop Saying OK! OK.

7.28.2012

The Great Recasting Blog-A-Thon: Crazy, Stupid, Love.

So I joined in to this classics blog-a-thon not too long ago, and the idea was to take a more modern film and act as if it were made pre-1965. That means giving it a new director and cast. It sounded like fun, but... it turned out to be much harder than I originally thought. For my film, I chose a recent romantic comedy... Crazy, Stupid, Love. Now let's see how I fared with classic-i-fying it, shall we?


If you're unaware of the film (really?), the story is basically that Cal (Steve Carell) is getting a divorce from his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), as she feels the excitement has left their marriage. She ends up seeing a man named David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), while Cal is taken in under the wing of a player named Jacob (Ryan Gosling). Meanwhile, Jacob also begins a more serious relationship with strong-willed Hannah (Emma Stone), which might turn around his player days.


First and foremost, I should tell you what year I'm moving it down to. And that would be... 1940. It's a bit of a rough time period to have a story with plot points that center openly around pre-marital sex and/or one-night-stands, but let's go for it anyway.

CSL, to me, is a film more about its characters and their relationships and interactions than anything else. Because of wit these characters have, the dialogue they have to give out, and the independent women vibe it gives off, I went with director Howard Hawks, who I think could make this film an even bigger spectacle than it already is. Can you imagine how he would handle the already brilliant backyard scene at the end of the second act?

For the cast, I'm looking at some pretty big names here, a couple of them teaming up again from Hawks' own His Girl Friday of the same year. So let's look at it.

Cal Weaver (Originally Played By: Steve Carell)

This was one of the tougher choices, as it's hard for me to think of an actor from this time who does the equal parts schlub, drunk, comedian, and leading man to root for. But looking back on roles such as from It's a Wonderful Life and Harvey, I had to go with James "Jimmy" Stewart. Everyone loves good 'ol Jim, and I've seen him pull off everything this character requires (and more).



Emily Weaver (Originally Played By: Julianne Moore)

Julianne Moore plays a character here who obviously has a flawed past and wants to move on with a stronger future... but has trouble severing ties with the man who was once the love of her life. And she can have a bit of a sharp tongue while still being likable. I went with the leading lady from His Girl Friday, Rosalind Russell.



Jacob Palmer (Originally Played By: Ryan Gosling)

This one was a no-brainer to me. Gosling plays a womanizer; a smooth, cool player that oozes charm and charisma, but also someone who could keep up with a Hawksian-esque female. This isn't the first time this connection has been made, and although the character is supposed to be a little younger than this, I had to go with Cary Grant.



Hannah (Originally Played By: Emma Stone)

This was the hardest one for me. (Spoilers if you haven't seen CSL.) She had to be at least a decade younger than whoever played Julianne Moore's character in order to pull off being her daughter. And in the same respect, she had to at least look similar to that chosen actress. And then it had to be someone who could appear in a Howard Hawks movie, all the while keeping up pace with Cary Grant. And I think I pulled it off... I think. I'm going here with one Susan Hayward, who not only has the matching red hair as Stone, but a somewhat similar deep voice.



David Lindhagen (Originally Played By: Kevin Bacon)

David Lindhagen is a man with a toothy smile and good looks. He's a man that Julianne Moore essentially left Steve Carell for. He has to have a balance of smarm and charm (schmarm?), but he's not in and of himself an unlikable person. And to go that extra mile, it's an actor that everybody knows because he's seemingly been in everything, so that when you finally see him, it's like "Oh my God!" Therefore, I went with Humphrey Bogart.



And that's about it! There are other side characters, like Carell's son, his first fling (Marisa Tomei is prominent in the trailer and on the poster, but she's not primary in the movie), and his babysitter (and the babysitter's dad), but I didn't think I had to go that deep into it. So what do you think? Do you think this lineup would work? Would you see it?

7.27.2012

LKMYNTS: The Thirteenth Floor.

It's been quite a while since I've reviewed something that wasn't on the 50/50, on the V.G. Movies list, or a new release. But this had been on my instant queue for a while and I finally decided to check it out, and it was interesting enough for me to want to give it a shout-out. 1999 was the year of both The Matrix and eXistenZ, both similar flicks of the same year... so it's easy to see why this one ended up flying under the radar, having neither a major cast nor director. This flick follows a computer programmer named Douglass Hall (Craig Bierko) whose boss and friend, Hannon Fuller (Armin Meuller-Stahl), ends up dead... and the final call he made before his death was to Douglass, a call that just so happened to have been erased from his answering machine. Detective Larry McBain (Dennis Haysbert) is on the case, and all clues point to Douglass as being the killer. However, what their company had been working on was a virtual reality world that takes its user to the 1930s, and Douglass knows Hannon left a message for him in that world. So working with his partner, Whitney (Vincent D'Onofrio), Douglass must try to piece together what happened... which gets even more complicated when Jane (Gretchen Mol) shows up claiming to be Hannon's daughter.

The film starts off very rough. It's only moderately interesting at the get-go and it really doesn't start to pick up steam until after the murder mystery aspect starts up. In fact, I didn't think I'd even really like the film as a whole for a while. But once Haysbert shows up it starts getting a little more fun. And then things get even more interesting when Gretchen Mol appears and the mystery takes its first twist. Even still, it's a slow build in the first half of the movie, keeping your interest just enough but not exactly wow-ing you with too much.

The story takes a few twists and turns as it goes along, as should any good mystery. But despite some of the bigger reveals being obvious (at least to me), I found the film still really engaging by that point that it didn't matter. In fact, I have to give the movie props for doing a major reveal at the end of the second act rather than the end of the movie, which added a whole new part of the story to explore. And whereas some of the aforementioned similar movies might explore themes of spirituality and reality, this one brings it closer to home and explores themes of life, existence, and purpose. Do these virtual world people have souls? Are they just as real as the rest of us, in essence? I really liked that aspect of the movie and how some characters might respond to that.

The acting was decent. It wasn't anything super fantastic, but it wasn't bad. It was nice to see people acting multiple personalities (since virtual world people are based on real world people... or something like that). So Craig Bierko has to act a few different ways, and he pulled it off well. D'Onofrio was, well... D'Onofrio. And he's a lot of fun, especially toward the end of the movie. The best in the flick, though, was Dennis Haysbert, who plays his detective with a real snark to him that was cool.

In the end, I know I mentioned The Matrix earlier, but I'd say this is moreso a lovechild of eXistenZ and Inception. Maybe not the action of the latter, but definitely some shared concepts. As I said, it starts off a bit rough, but after maybe 15-20 minutes, you should be at least relatively invested in the flick. If you haven't seen it and you like the ideas and concepts presented in those other films, definitely check this out. It's not as stylish, but it's still fun.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

7.26.2012

The Hat Trick Film Diary: Days 2-4 + Trailer.

A little belated, but here's the rest of the film diary for the rest of the shoot. This past weekend (literally Friday-Sunday), I spent time wrapping up filming for The Hat Trick. If you missed Part 1 of the film diary, you can click here. Here are some highlights from the rest of the shoot:

Day 2

*This day only took an hour and a half to film, which we did at the Duck Pond of one of our local parks. Out of that 90 minutes, I got 14 minutes of footage and used about 8 of it in the final product.

*We were really lucky on conditions because for over a week prior to Friday, it had been raining almost non-stop. And when it wasn't raining, there were swarms of evil mosquitos. Fortunately, Friday gave us not a single drop of rain or a single mosquito.

*It was, however, hot as heck. It was around the mid-90s, and we were around water, so the humidity was probably even higher. I was wearing black pants, a long-sleeve shirt, and an undershirt underneath that. A couple of my actresses were also wearing layers of clothes--some of which was also black. Poor Nicolle had to wear this black plastic mask... she was happy when she finally got to get rid of that thing. Needless to say, we were dying and sweating like crazy that day within minutes.

*For the moments when the jewel had to be tied up to the cord, it kept coming loose in our pockets (depending on who was holding on to it). And it was incredibly difficult to get back together due to the shape of the thing. Fortunately we finally got it to work.

*I was initially worried about the Bench Scene, since that was going to be mainly a massive single take. I ended up splitting it into two parts so I could get a shot from the back. Both halves of the single take only took us two tries to get right.

*Another moment that deserves recognition is Nicolle flinging herself back into the grass... which also only took two tries to get right. But she was covered in grass and whatnot that she had to clean off between takes.

*When I bought the prop jewels, I bought a second because I knew with my luck something was going to happen to one of them and I wouldn't have a back-up. Sure enough, during a scene where The Hobo has to fine the jewel on her head underneath the hat... it slipped off and fell into the water. And it's not the kind of water you just go into and retrieve stuff from. This is why when you see the finished product, she is being incredibly careful about taking the hat off to retrieve the jewel. She felt horrible about the whole situation... which of course meant I teased her for the rest of the day about it.


Day 3

*I filmed this day completely on my own at my parents' house. Again, it took about 90 minutes, but this time I ended up with roughly 28 minutes worth of footage and used roughly 11 minutes of it.

*To get some of the shots and angles I needed--because I had neither a cameraman nor a tripod--I typically used a makeshift stand of trays and boxes that towered high.

*I found I need to practice more cardio after the staircase scene, since I had to walk or run up or down the stairs, then go back to where I came from and do it again. Basically, I was going up and down the stairs for about 5-10 straight minutes to get what I needed.

*The famous kitchen/countertop scene... this was actually not in the script until about 15 minutes before I made it out to the house, as I was trying to think of a little more I could add to the segment. This scene proved I needed to lift more weights, as my arms and shoulders were about dead from having to hold up my weight in the crab-stance (the push-up stance was fine). And yes, the entire countertop scene (with the exception of cut-aways to my hands or feet) was filmed in one continuous take. Also filmed in one continuous take is the "sound freak out" scene, though the movie cuts away twice briefly.

*The script originally called for the apples to be colored, like a Sin City effect. And I know how to do that effect, as well. However, the lighting turned out to be too poor that I couldn't pull it off.


Day 4

*There was maybe a total of 15 minutes of shooting with somewhere around 10 minutes of footage and I only used about 2-3 minutes of it or so.

*This day was used to film only one scene, which is the "Scooby-Doo Doorway" scene, as I like to call it. The reason it was filmed on a different day is I needed at least one other person to pull off one of the effects. And since nobody but me was there on Saturday, I had to wait until there were others there on Sunday.

*My sister was in the room on the right the entire time, so any time I ran in there, I would almost run right into her. My mother didn't enter the bathroom on the left until I needed her to grab the hat as I tossed it.

*This was the only scene in the entire movie where I used an actual tripod--my mother owned one, albeit a broken one. Its legs kept sliding down and we had to make sure not to touch anything or else the whole angle would be thrown off.

*This sequence had to be filmed twice. The first time you could see my sister's arm at the end when she tosses the hat from the room. But this fact wasn't caught until I was changed out of costume and had moved the tripod out of the way. The entire scene had to be redone due to the moved tripod, or else there would be a noticeable shift in the angle of the shot for the last moment. The first time, it only took her two times to toss the hat correctly. The second time... it took quite a few more (which can be seen in the bloopers during the credits of the film).


Trailer

Anyway, with all of that having been said, here is the trailer for the film. The actual short film itself (which is roughly 37 minutes long) will premiere online in the near future. (Note: The "order of appearance" credit at the end is for the actual film, not the trailer.)

7.25.2012

50/50 Review #28: Rushmore.

Something about Wes Anderson turns me off. His style has never attracted me, though I'll be honest and say I had never seen a full film. Even his one "The film Wes Anderson haters like" movie, Fantastic Mr. Fox, bored me. I fell asleep about halfway through and never bothered to finish it because, honestly, I didn't care. However, after seeing and loving Harold and Maude not too long ago, I was told that Anderson is clearly inspired by the film, which made me wonder if I should just give the guy a chance. Enter Rushmore. The film follows Max (Jason Schwartzman), a student at Rushmore prep school who is involved in so many clubs he's actually about to be put on academic probation for failing all his classes. But one day, he finds a quote in a book that leads him to a first grade teacher, Ms. Cross (Olivia Williams), with whom he immediately falls in love. But he also befriends a rich businessman, Herman Blume (Bill Murray), who eventually competes with Max for Ms. Cross' affections (though she has no affection for Max).

My biggest problem with this film is its overall emotional lacking. I know the film is supposed to have a lot of emotion and these character relationships are at the core of the story. But I honestly didn't give a crap about anything. Max was a little shit-head, but the film was directed in such a way that I couldn't even muster up enough emotion to really dislike him. I just ended up feeling distant; I couldn't connect or anything to him. (Also, the one story complaint I have is that I actually have personal experience switching from a private school after numerous years to a public one for high school, and there is absolutely no way he could be skidding along and barely making it through for so many years and then go to public school and do just as poorly. I can assure you he could go from a C or D average to A-B honor roll, even without trying or studying.) Anyway, that aside, the only person who I felt attempted some kind of emotional connection and to a degree succeeded was Bill Murray, who I liked in the film.

But there were some upsides, too. I liked the fact he keeps putting on school play versions of serious, adult stories and/or pre-existing movies (like Serpico). Though, again, something about the tone of the film didn't let me enjoy the ridiculousness of that to its full extent. Instead, it stays around the level of just being a humorous idea. I loved the way-too-short section of the film where they're at war with each other (the bees, the bike, the breaks, etc.). I wish that was a much larger section of the movie, because that was great. Also, Brian Cox was great but underused, and the Scottish kid was cool (could be the accent). And, again, Murray.

So... yeah, this did nothing for me. I didn't go into it expecting to dislike it. I actually wanted to like it. And throughout I kept trying to find stuff to like about it, but I was trying real hard at times... and that's generally not a good sign. Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate it. It just left me feeling rather indifferent. I had no emotional connection to any of the characters. I really couldn't have cared less what happened to any of them. They were dull, cold, and unrealistic, and I was mostly just bored with the film as a whole. It had some good moments, but nothing that makes me wanna see this again. (And now Dylan responds with "you suck.")


Stop Saying OK! OK.


(And that'll about wrap it up for Dylan's Month! Mostly a positive month. Next, though, we're moving back into some more critically acclaimed films with James' Month. First up? Headin' out west...)

7.24.2012

The Demented Podcast #43 - Movie Quotes, Undercurrents, Midgets, and BOATS!

I apologize for the lateness of this episode. I had a lot going on last week and this past weekend and couldn't get it edited (What? You say I've had this audio for 3 weeks?... shut up). Anyway, we're joined by Joanna Chlebus of Reel Feminist to discuss some neo-noir with Blue Velvet and In Bruges. I'll warn you now... this is a really long episode... probably one of the longest non-Battle Royale episodes we've ever had. But it flows well and has plenty of great discussion and laughs to be had. It's also incredibly NSFW. So enjoy! Joanna also attacks the Tower once again. Can she do better than her first attempt... or will she fail completely? Listen to find out! (Also, if you've commented lately and find it's not on this episode... it will show up in the future. Remember, we have a back-stock of episodes slowly coming out.)



Due to Podomatic bandwidth issues, I will no longer be placing the podcast player on the site. But you can easily listen and subscribe through iTunes!

Current Tower Leaderboard
1) Dylan Fields - 167 Points
2) Nolahn - 131 Points

Current/Previous Battle Royale Champions
(BR4) Stevee Taylor - 285 Points
(BR3) Dan Heaton - 176 Points
(BR2) Dylan Fields - 114 Points
(BR1) Rachel Thuro - 171 Points

That being said, enjoy! Thanks goes out to Kevin MacLeod's Incompetech website for great, royalty-free music. And thanks to Google for helping me find a website that will give me free video game audio samples.

7.23.2012

V.G. Movies #28: Resident Evil: Extinction.

[Welcome back to the Evolution of Video Game Movies series. Every week, I will be moving forward through time, starting with the earliest and ending with the most recent of video game movies. I will be detailing the histories of the games and how the films came about, and both my and fan reaction to the adaptations. Practically all of my background information is either common knowledge or from Wikipedia. So without further ado, let's move on to the next film on the list.]

THE HISTORY

When we last left off with the Resident Evil film series, we had a film that tried to pander to its audience by including as many hackneyed game references (names, characters, etc.) as possible, even if that meant altering the character or rendering them mostly useless. This film... gives you the finger instead. Whereas the previous film at least made attempts to connect itself to the series, this one all but removes itself completely. Even the character of Jill, who was introduced in the previous film, was removed solely for one reason, to which the filmmakers readily share: "We thought, rather than bring Jill back, put [Alice] with another game heroine."

The character being referenced here is Claire Redfield, who was not in the original script for this film. Claire was originally introduced to the game series in the second game, where she was one of two main playable characters along side fan favorite Leon S. Kennedy (who is not in this movie). Her entire story basically revolves around trying to find her missing brother, Chris, a member of the S.T.A.R.S. team. Of course, is Chris even remotely mentioned in the film? Of course not! But let's not jump ahead. Let's just get into the review.

(Oh yeah, and the film barely shows Albert Wesker, one of the primary villains of the games... but I'll get more into him with the next RE film.)

THE FILM

I saw this in theater and haven't seen it since. Maybe a couple seconds on TV or something, but that's about it. In the spectrum of the films, this one is the odd duck to me. And it's apparently the odd duck to the filmmakers, too, but I'll get into that momentarily. This film picks up a handful of years after the last, and Alice (Milla Jovovich) has left her friends and travels alone because Umbrella, particularly Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen), is after her. Meanwhile, Carlos (Oded Fehr) and L.J. (Mike Epps) have joined up with a caravan led by Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), and includes such people as Betty (Ashanti), K-Mart (Spencer Locke), and Chase (Linden Ashby). Of course, Alice eventually joins up with them, as well, and they find their way to an Umbrella testing facility... and stuff happens.

What's odd about this movie is that it has no plot. It really doesn't. There's no point to it. There's nothing really to be gained. Umbrella is doing experiments with the T-Virus to try and control the zombies, while Dr. Isaacs is mutating it to make it stronger. And the caravan is just basically trying to survive. After Alice joins up about halfway through, they decide to head in the direction of Alaska... but that's about it. They don't get there (at least not in this movie). And nothing of vast importance happens in between except the majority of the cast dies and the two "stories" converge at the end. The film's introduction to the real Alice is also a pointless and terrible scene where she's taken by a band of marauders and they attack her with zombie dogs. It has nothing to do with anything, and it's just terrible on the whole. It could have been removed with no consequence whatsoever. Strangely, though, I'll give credit where credit is due, and the film moves at a great pace, especially for a film with no plot. I was kind of multitasking while watching, and at one point I looked up and realized there was only about 10 minutes left.

The acting in this film is probably the worst in the entire franchise, as well. Particularly from the no-name characters, like the marauders at the beginning or some scientists who are just going to die soon anyway. And I don't mean like regular bad... but bad bad. It doesn't help that we're give a really poor script, too, so the lines they have to deliver are terrible to begin with. Hell, even the CGI birds were bad.

Now, I called this the odd duck of the franchise earlier. Let me explain why. With a few exceptions, this film could be removed from canon and nothing would change. The biggest differences would be the addition of Claire and K-Mart to the story, and (spoilers) the loss of Carlos and L.J. Wesker is useless in this film and is pretty much just reintroduced with a different actor in the next film anyway. This film loses both Jill Valentine and Angela Ashford with no explanation. As stated earlier, Jill was actually supposed to return, but the actress' schedule conflicted with her current film at the time--Eragon. Not exactly sure which would have been the better choice. Anyway, on top of their random, unexplained disappearances, the oceans have dried up and world has become a giant desert wasteland. Except that it hasn't starting in the next film, where it acts like that never happened. Also, this film ends with a clone army of super-Alice's... which the next film basically RetCon's in the first 10 minutes, not only removing that from the equation, but also Alice's telekinetic powers being explored in this film. In other words, with a couple character exceptions, this particular film is so far removed from both the game series and the film series that it makes you wonder why it even exists (outside of the whole money thing).

So there you are. It has terrible acting, no plot, forgettable characters, zero purpose in the franchise, but... a nice pacing. I will also give it this: the climax of the film is nice. They tie in a frequent baddie from the games--the Tyrant--and give us a pretty cool action sequence there (except for the crappy CGI part). And the setting of this scene, as well as the opening of the film, are a nice callback to the first film. Really, you only need to bother with this one if you're wanting to complete the series. This isn't a painful movie by any means... it's just... there.


Feed Me, Seymour!


(P.S. Oh yeah, and they gave Milla Jovovich terrible hair in this movie.)

7.21.2012

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

(Warning: I will have both a spoiler-free and spoiler-filled section in this review. But I will give bolded warning before I shift into spoiler territory at the end of the review.)


I'll let you know from the start that I wasn't going out of my mind in anticipation for this like most other people. I mean, I was excited to see it. I enjoyed the other two. But this wasn't my most anticipated of the year or anything. To give you perspective, let me share some quick thoughts on the first two films. Begins is a good origin story, if not somewhat disjointed feeling. Dark Knight is much more entertaining to me, mostly due to Ledger's performance. But it's a long film, and it feels like a long film. It gets to a point, especially whenever Ledger isn't on screen, where I'm wondering if it's going to end anytime soon. So both are entertaining, but neither are films I revisit terribly often. Which brings us to the final chapter.


Eight years have passed since the events of the last film, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has hung up the cape and cowl since the death of Harvey Dent has pushed Gotham to clean up its act. Unfortunately, much to the dismay of his butler Alfred (Michael Caine), he's basically given up on his personal life as well, having become a recluse. But after a cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Anna Hathaway) robs him, Bruce starts to get his interest back into investigation. This eventually leads him to a deadly mercenary named Bane (Tom Hardy) who has come to Gotham to be its reckoning. Meanwhile, a cop named Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works with an out-of-commission Gordon (Gary Oldman) to figure out what's going on with Bane, while Bruce also works with Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) to keep a bankrupting Wayne Enterprises afloat.


Yeah, there's a lot going on in this movie, which--of course--accounts for its nearly 3-hour runtime. One would assume due to the film's length that I'd feel similarly as I do with Dark Knight, if not even moreso due to the lack of Ledger. But surprisingly, this film flew by for me. The only times I ever checked my watch were because I was making mental notes at what was happening at how long into the film. I think a lot of this has to do with a couple of the characters.


First and foremost, this movie belongs to Anne Hathaway. She stole every scene she was in, and much like Ledger in the previous, the film suffered some when she wasn't in it. She was a fantastic Catwoman, and her casting just continues to back-up the "In Nolan We Trust" sentiment. Also, I really dug Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character in this movie. I really cared whether he would live or die and what was going on with him, so if there were any scenes that didn't have Anne Hathaway, but they had JoGo, I was more than likely OK with that (and considering he just about shares the same amount of screen time as Christian Bale, you get quite a bit of him). If there was one other person that stole this movie, it was Michael Caine. He's been great as Alfred in the past, but damn did he bring it this time. There was so much emotion and heart with his character in this film that he damn near made me cry at one point. And I'm not saying that the other characters were bad. They just weren't as interesting.


Let's look at our primary villain this time around. Bane as a concept is pretty cool. He's a powerhouse of the likes Batman doesn't typically deal with. He's stronger. He's faster. He's deadlier. But as a screen presence... he's not that interesting. His backstory that you get bit-by-bit throughout the film is really interesting. But when you watch the character on screen... not so much. Unless he's fighting Batman, then he's great. My biggest issue with him, though, was his voice. And no, I'm not talking about the "you can barely understand him" thing. Because I could understand him just fine. In fact, my problem was the tone of his voice. I don't know what Tom Hardy was going for, but it sounded like he was trying to be Sean Connery. Seriously. Anytime the dude talked, all I heard was Connery. It was just weird.


And I think that's why I had a problem with the first hour or so of the movie. Not Bane specifically, but the film basically opens with his introduction, and I was set off balance with his voice. I couldn't get over it. And then it moves into all the other stories and Batman is not really even a presence (though that's a plot point). Hell, Bruce Wayne is hardly a presence for a while. And a lot of it is just setup. There's good stuff mixed in, particularly with Anne Hathaway as previously stated. But it definitely took me a while to get adjusted to the tone of everything. But once I did, I was in. Because of that, I feel the film is pretty back-loaded. Most of the best parts are in the second half.


Now, I've also heard a lot of these or other issues or rough feelings toward the film are not necessarily resolved, but made better on a second watch. I've read that in a few different places now. Something just clicks better, I guess, once you know how things turn out. And I can see that... however, on a similar note, I do think the film is incredibly predictable. Not everything, but there are a lot of twists and turns to this movie, and a lot of them I saw coming a mile away. I'll discuss that further in the spoilers section, though. But for now, I'll just say some of the big reveals actually made me like the film even more.


But on the whole, I say it's a fine ending to the trilogy. Would I like to see another? Sure. Do I think this is an absolute, definitive ending to Nolan's universe? No, because there are at least a couple directions they could go in. I know it won't happen. I'm just saying there's always possible areas to take a story. But I honestly think I need to see it again. I felt that way as soon as I left the theater. The action was great. The acting--particularly from Hathaway, JoGo, and Caine--was superb. None of it got to Ledger levels of greatness, and the overall film might not be overall better thematically than Dark Knight, but something tells me I actually might revisit this one more often in the future.



A Keanu 'Whoa'


(P.S. I was tempted to go higher, but I think I need another watch to really get there. As for now, I just really liked the majority and loved the ending. And speaking of spoilers...)


-----DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DO NOT WANT MAJOR SPOILERS-----


-Rumors were abound even before the film came out stating that Miranda Tate was actually Talia Al Ghul, which I believe even bounced back and forth from Marion Cotillard herself whether or not it was true. Well, it was, and I did suspect it. Where the film tripped me up with the twist was that I still believed Bane was Ra's Al Ghul's son and that they would be siblings. I appreciate the way the film handled everything with this twist, and it made me like the film more. The motivations for characters became clearer, and the fact that it was all an extensive revenge plot--as well as a continuation of League of Shadows business from the first film--and Bane was just a protector helped make sense of the story.


-As stated previously, JoGo plays a cop-turned-detective named John Blake. Again, prior to the film, there were tons of rumors abound hinting that he was going to become Batman at the end of the film. And by God, there were a lot of hints and clues leading to that very twist throughout the movie. But as it turns out, he wasn't going to be the next Batman... he's Robin. Nolan has stated in the past, I believe, that he was never going to include Robin in his films, but he handled it in a very realistic and creative way. You never see him in costume, but this film was nothing less than his origin story. I bounced back and forth throughout the entire film trying to figure out if he really would become Batman or if he was gonna end up Robin. I couldn't quite figure it out, but I knew it had to be one of the two. And I was happy with what we got.


-The movie has been touted as being a definite ending to Nolan's Batman story, implying something terrible--like his death--would occur. And they surely build towards that throughout the film. But I knew that wouldn't happen, as there's a moment early on where Alfred basically telegraphs the ending by telling a story about seeing a thought-dead Bruce with a wife in a foreign country. This was the lesser of the twists, mostly because it was the most obvious. Still, I can't hate a happy ending for Batman.


Anything else I didn't cover? Hit me up in the comments!

7.18.2012

50/50 Review #27: Trainspotting.

I have a kinda funny background with this movie. When I was in my early teens or so, I had somehow heard of this movie--don't remember when or how, but I did. But I had somehow also mixed up what it was actually about with another movie. And I tried to find a copy of it. Back in those days we had these things called "Hollywood Video" and "Blockbuster" where you could go inside a shop and rent VHS tapes. Crazy concepts, I know. But nobody had copies of it... which was probably in my best interest, retrospectively. Now Dylan, who suggested this, told me that he figures, at best, I'll respect it--but he'll be damn surprised if I actually love it. Let's see if he's right, shall we?

The film follows Renton (Ewan McGregor), a heroin junkie who is trying to clean up. But he's finding quite a bit of difficult seeing that, you know, it's addictive and whatnot. But also his friends--including Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Tommy (Kevin McKidd), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle)--are really holding him back. The film also marks the screen debut of Kelly Macdonald, who holds one of the most interesting characters in the film... which I'll get to shortly.

So did I love it? The first 30 minutes, yes. The rest... no, but I still really liked it. It really comes down to balancing style and substance and trying to find a good balance while not abusing either (if you didn't catch it, I just made a substance abuse joke in a review of a drug movie... you can applaude me now). This marks my fifth Danny Boyle film, and I can say it's definitely a Boyle film in all positives and negatives that you can take that.

Let's start with the negatives. Danny Boyle tends to have narratively imbalanced films. This is even true of one of my all-time favorite films, 28 Days Later..., which completely shifts gears in its third act, but still works. Sunshine also has a third act shift, which doesn't really work much at all. This isn't quite a third act shift here, but rather a continual shift throughout. The first 30 minutes is a great dark comedy. And then the scene where Allison goes around screaming happens, and we have our first shift. It goes from dark comedy to just dark. Then from this extreme drama it turns horrific with the withdrawal scene and that freakin' baby on the ceiling. Then it's a mix of dark comedy and upsetting drama again, this time focusing more on crime. And I think a lot of this might have worked a little better had there been more of an actual story. There was definitely a plot, but no real cohesive story. Of course, a lot of this has to do with the fact that the film is based on a novel made up of short stories, and that's what the film comes off exactly like: a collection of short stories vaguely connected together on film, all with different tones and intentions.

This is most clear in the character of Diane, played magnificently by Kelly Macdonald. The first time Renton gets off drugs, he goes to a club with his friends with the idea of hooking up. This is where he meets Diane. But after having sex with her and sleeping over, he discovers in the morning that she's actually a 14-year-old schoolgirl, and he just had illegal relations with a minor. He tries to leave, by Diane blackmails him into seeing her again. And... nothing ever comes from this. We see his guilt in the big withdrawal scene, but she never really comes back into the movie, nor does the blackmail ever come to be any kind of important. And that's really a shame, because that was one of the most interesting story lines to me.

On the upside, Danny Boyle does a lot of things right, particularly in the style departement. First off, this film is gorgeous to look at (despite the grime). The camera angles, the use of red, the toilet scene--oh, the toilet scene. If you've seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, I don't want to spoil it for you. But it's a purposefully trippy moment filled with head-tilting wonder and some fantastic visuals. Also, every now and then, Boyle decides to make stylistic use of words and subtitles. Again, the beginning of the toilet scene, or just putting subtitles in one of the club scenes. And don't forget the music, which is quite fitting all around.

The best thing is the use of voice over. There's actually very little dialogue in the movie, at least in comparison to most films. The majority of the film is in voice-over narration by Ewan McGregor. And it's written particularly well and delivered even more solidly. It's what really holds the entire thing together, and I do admit that I'm a fan of voice-over narration if it's done well--and by done well, I usually mean it's either witty or meta (like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) or is otherwise amazingly well written in monologue-type format, such as this.

The acting is top notch all around. I barely recognized Robert Carlyle, who was just insane in this role. I think it was the mustache. But just as a random note, there are three future-Potter actors in this: Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle in HP2 and HP4), Peter Mullen (Yaxley in HP7.1), and, of course, Kelly Macdonald (Grey Lady/Helena Ravenclaw in HP7.2). That's about all I had for that. I just like pointing Harry Potter-related things out, especially since I can find nothing bad or otherwise interesting to say about the acting in this film outside of how spot on it was.

In the end, I do quite respect what this movie is and/or does. But at the same time, while I might not have absolutely loved the entire thing, I still really liked it. I mentioned earlier how Boyle tends to have uneven narratives, but I want to clarify that's not always to a detriment. It's just that this was very clearly a set of short stories attempting to be linked together into one complete story. And to me, it struggled to find cohesiveness. It was still pretty dang interesting, though, and the style of it is definitely what won me over. And I'm still glad I didn't see this when I was barely pubescent, as I can almost assure you I wouldn't have liked it--not to mention potential scarring (that damn baby...). But my taste is a bit better now... clearly.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

7.16.2012

V.G. Movies #27: BloodRayne 2: Deliverance.

[Welcome back to the Evolution of Video Game Movies series. Every week, I will be moving forward through time, starting with the earliest and ending with the most recent of video game movies. I will be detailing the histories of the games and how the films came about, and both my and fan reaction to the adaptations. Practically all of my background information is either common knowledge or from Wikipedia. So without further ado, let's move on to the next film on the list.]

THE HISTORY

This is going to be a short history. I reviewed the first film and discussed the history of the series here. There's no reason to talk about any of the other games, since this film is not related to any of them. Hell, it's hardly related to the first movie which this is a sequel to. But on the upside, it's still directed by Uwe Boll! And unlike the last one, I'd actually never seen this one prior to now. So let's take a gander, shall we?

THE FILM

I... wow. Um... OK. So, if you take out his currently in-production stuff and his early German stuff that nobody cares about, Uwe Boll has made a total of 18 films. Of those 8, I have now currently seen 8. There are 3 more to follow in the near future. Most people consider him to be one of the worst directors alive. And that's certainly true, but a lot of the hate on his movies, I feel, is a bit overdone (and he actually has one decent, well-made movie. It's called Rampage. Check it out). His movies are certainly bad, but most of them have a so-bad-its good quality to them--even ones that people proclaim do not (such as Alone in the Dark). So while his movies are horrendously bad, they still find ways of entertaining, such as with the first BloodRayne film. However, there is one movie that, bar none, is the absolute worst piece of garbage I have ever seen, and remains to be the only film ever to have pissed me off. Here's the review of Seed. It's by far the worst of his I've seen, and one of the worst films I've seen in my life (and I've seen bad). Now, all of that being said... BloodRayne 2: Deliverance... is easily Boll's 2nd worst film (that I've seen thus far).

Here's the best plot I can give you: We're in the wild west, and a reporter named Newton (Chris Coppola) comes in to town to hopefully get an exciting story to tell. And he kind of gets that when Transylvanian-born vampire outlaw Billy the Kid (Zack Ward) comes in to town and kidnaps all the kids, including young Sally (Jodelle Ferland), so that he can make a vampire army to send out onto the trains that will soon be coming through town. But all is thrown into disarray when Rayne (Natassia Malthe, taking over for Kristanna Loken) comes into town. After a scuffle, Rayne is helped by a man named Muller (Brendan Fletcher) and finds she has to team up with a band of gunslingers herself, including Pat Garrett (Michael Pare), The Preacher (Michael Eklund), and Franson (Michael Teigen). Together, they might just have a chance at standing up to Billy the Kid and saving all the children.

I guess we'll start with everything that doesn't make sense... which is everything. I'm no historian, and I know movies aren't meant to be taken as 100% factual (that's thrown out the window anyway when you have Billy the Kid as a vampire from Transylvania), but... come on. If you're going for a western, you could have at least gotten the feel of it down. Then there's the whole explanation of why he's kidnapping kids. According to one of the characters (and I'm paraphrasing slightly), "He needs to keep things looking normal until the train comes in! That's why he's taking kids hostage." Yes, because killing people on the streets, kidnapping kids, and holding them hostage will definitely let him blend in. There are places where there's absolutely no snow... and then the next scene has tons of snow... and the scene after that has no snow, etc. It's like the film can't make up its mind on what season it wants to be in. And let's not forget how every person in existence in the wild west knows of the existence of vampires, and even if they didn't, they aren't shocked in the least to hear it and are more than willing to do something about it if called upon.

One of the biggest issues this film has is pacing, though. Uwe Boll can't pace for shit here. For instance, Rayne doesn't even show up in this movie until 17 minutes in. That's about a quarter of the movie! You can't keep your main character out of the film that long--regardless of how dull she is. I mean, about halfway in, there's even a sequence that lasts about 20-30 seconds of two Native Americans canoeing down a river... for no reason. They're not characters in the movie. We never saw them before. We never see them again. It's not even a tracking shot for the camera to pan away from them to our main characters. It's just... there. And then, dear God, there's the third act. You have maybe a 5-10 minute sequence here, at best... and it's stretched out to 30 painfully dull minutes. Because, essentially, there are 3 things going on. You have Newton and the townspeople deciding on fighting back for the kids. Then you have Preacher and Franson standing with guns on them, preparing to turn and fire. And then you have Rayne in a barn, holding on to a rope to stop some of the kids from being hung (she sprung a trap), and Billy is there monologuing. They interweave these moments together, which is fine. But the pacing is so painfully off that it gets ridiculous. There are seriously moments of nothing happening and just people standing still for chunks of time. All the while, any realistic situation would have shot at Preacher and Franson for not dropping their weapons as ordered, or at Rayne for not just doing what she does anyway after standing there for 20 minutes.

Now, this was made the same year as Seed, which is pretty obvious. First of all, they share actors (Michael Pare, Jodelle Ferland, Michael Eklund). And I'll get to the acting in just a minute. But it also shares Boll's sudden fascination with having us not being able to see a God Damn Thing. He can't light for shit in this movie, and considering the majority of the film is at night, you really need to be able to light well. I could never tell what was going on, who was doing what, etc. That really didn't help with getting to know characters or following any of the action that there was (and there wasn't much. And of the action there was... it sucked).

OK, now for the actors. Natassia isn't a great Rayne, either; but where she differs from Ms. Loken is that Loken was dull, and Natassia is... weak. She's not frightening or vicious or intimidating, even when she's trying to be. Michael Pare was decent, though. I really have nothing bad to say about him. But there actually was a part of this movie that really bugged me at the time, though it went away when other characters were introduced. It started with Brendan Fletcher, who I think can actually be a pretty good actor (he's what really sells Rampage). But he's introduced, gives some exposition... and then dies about 3 minutes later. And during the whole execution sequence, we're introduced to a bat-shit crazy Sheriff (at least I think he was Sheriff) who was hilariously over-the-top. And then he dies like 2 minutes later. I was literally like "Dammit, Boll! Stop killing off the only interesting characters right after you introduce them!" But then we got the introduction of Michael Eklund as The Preacher. This was easily the best part of the movie, and arguably the only good scene in the movie. And it's kinda funny, considering I found Michael Eklund to be one of the few shining stars of another piece of crap movie called The Divide, which came out much more recently. Anyway, I strongly urge you to check out this scene... it's really a lot of fun. Just watch below.



So basically Boll did the worst thing possible with this movie. With a couple scene exceptions, this film is painfully boring. None of it shares any of the campy or weird charm of the first film. The pacing is way off, and there is a lot that could have been fixed with just a better editor. And he needed to learn how to light a damn set. As usual, actors are wasted, the script is terrible, and all logic is tossed out the window. It didn't anger me to the level Seed did, but it really aggravated me nonetheless. So with that, I'll leave you with what is actually the last line in the movie--no joke. "Life is like a penis: when it's hard, you get screwed; when it's soft, you can't beat it."


The Zed Word


(P.S. And it barely got that rating. The sad thing? Knowing I have one more BloodRayne movie to sit through... and three more Boll.)

7.14.2012

OH F*CK, TOM CRUISE!

So, I've been building up a theory for a little while now, but I wasn't sure if I was just crazy or what. But I recently watched the trailer for Jack Reacher, and I've finally decided to bring my theory to light.

Does Tom Cruise have a recent clause in his contract so that in almost every movie or trailer he's in, his identity must be obscured for as long as possible? It's like... it starts and you only see the back of his head, or maybe his face is obscured somehow (hair, shadow, etc.). Things keep going, and then... suddenly... he turns, or looks up, or the camera zooms in on him, and it's almost like it's supposed to be all "OH FUCK, TOM CRUISE!"

Let's look at some trailers first. I'll kind of order them from most relevant to least relevant (which turns out to be rather based on time).

TRAILERS

-Jack Reacher (see face: 1 minute in)
-Rock of Ages (technically: 58 seconds; officially/hilariously: 1 minute, 56 seconds)
-Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (see face: 58 seconds)
-Collateral (see face: 53 seconds)
-Mission: Impossible III (see face: 47 seconds)
-Mission: Impossible II (see face: 29 seconds)
-A Few Good Men (see face: 28 seconds)
-Interview with a Vampire (see face: 43 seconds, but not a huge focus on him anyway)
-Lions for Lambs (see face: 42 seconds, though this one doesn't really count to me, either)

MOVIES

I certainly won't be able to recall all his movies, but I know for certain that they play coy with his face at the beginning of Ghost Protocol (he's bouncing a rock off the wall, and it takes a while for him to turn and look). He takes a little bit to show his face in Minority Report, as well. I'm not 100% with Collateral, but from what I remember their was an air of mystery to his introduction. Hell, the majority of his cameo in Tropic Thunder banks on the hope that his face is obscured and it will take you a while to realize it's him and have an "OH FUCK, TOM CRUISE!" moment. Anyway, you get the picture.

It seems to be a more common thing as of late, like he just recently decided "Hey, let's freak people out who didn't realize I was in this movie!"

Has anyone else picked up on this phenomenon? And if you have, what other movies have you seen him do this in? And what do you think about it?

7.11.2012

50/50 Review #26: Point Break.

The general rule of thumb for the 60/60 and 50/50 was to watch films I'd never seen before. In this case, I'm relatively sure I'd only seen the majority of Point Break. But even still, it was so long ago that I barely remembered anything from it. That's why I allowed it as a choice, since it was basically like watching it for the first time anyway. The film follows a rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) and his partner, Pappas (Gary Busey). They work the bank robbery division, and are particularly focused on one case: the dead presidents robbers. Pappas has a theory that they all might actually be surfers, despite what their boss (John C. McGinley) thinks. But that leads Johnny to going undercover as a surfer to infiltrate the community. He starts off by taking some lessons from Tyler (Lori Petty), who inevitably leads him to her friends, including surfing guru, Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). And I'm sure you can figure out what happens from there.

Of course first we must bring up the acting. It is a Keanu Reeves movie, after all. He was rather perfect for the role. He might not have been the most logical "EFF. BEE. EYE. AGENT!" But he can definitely pull off the whole stoner surfer vibe (and how great is the name Johnny Utah?). And Gary Busey is having fun as his washed-up partner (no pun intended). He also sure likes his meatball subs. McGinley is also a lot of fun as their always incredibly pissed off boss. As for Swayze... This film also came out two years after Road House, so Swayze must have really been in a zen kind of mood around that time of his career. It was interesting, though, to see him play a character with similar ideals but use them in completely different ways--one to keep the peace, the other to upset it. But both Dalton and Bodhi are all about finding that inner peace.

The action is truly the standout in this movie, though. From the house raid where Keanu gets his ass kicked by a naked woman to the suspense of free falling from an airplane (once where you're not sure if the parachute is gonna open or not, and once where he's literally free falling). But best sequence in the film, though, hands down is about halfway through the movie. It starts with a car chase and then ends up on foot with Johnny chasing a masked Bodhi through yards and houses. There's even a moment where Bodhi actually throws a dog at Johnny to slow him down. And not just any tiny dog or anything. I'm relatively sure it was a freakin' pitbull. Who throws a shoe dog, honestly? And, of course, it ends with the most iconic moment in the movie (especially thanks to Hot Fuzz) with Johnny firing his gun up into the air. Such a fantastic sequence from beginning to end.

My biggest complaint is actually going to sound incredibly stupid. So I just want all of you to brace yourselves for this... there was too much surfing. Yeah, I know. I don't really mean overall... but at least in the first 45 minutes. I understand some of the scenes were important, and it wasn't really the fact they were there... but they didn't have to go on nearly as long as they did. And then there was the little night football game that dragged on a little longer than necessary. But if you know me, you know sports are kind of boring to me. So there were a lot of moments in the first 45 minutes where I was just like "OK, I get it... move on already." Also, the film broke a "Chekhov's Gun" rule. When Busey's character is introduced, he's having to learn how to pick up bricks blindfolded in the bottom of a pool as a training exercise. He even says "When will I ever need this?" You don't introduce something as out-there as that and then not have it come into play in a bank robbing surfers movie.

Overall, though, I dug it. There was some fantastic action in this movie, either because it was truly great or because it was just strange (naked woman, dog throwing, etc.). I could have done with a little less extensive surfing sequences, but I understand why they were there, obviously. Iconic moments, iconic lines... it's clear why this is a cult action flick. And it was made by a (now Oscar-winning) female director! Anywho... vaya con dios, mi amigos.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. Why do all my Keanu movies end up with this rating? I swear I don't do it on purpose.)

7.09.2012

V.G. Movies #26: The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters.

[Welcome back to the Evolution of Video Game Movies series. Every week, I will be moving forward through time, starting with the earliest and ending with the most recent of video game movies. I will be detailing the histories of the games and how the films came about, and both my and fan reaction to the adaptations. Practically all of my background information is either common knowledge or from Wikipedia. So without further ado, let's move on to the next film on the list.]

THE HISTORY

At the beginning of this project, I briefly discussed the origins of Donkey Kong when I talked about the rare animated Mario Bros. film. To give a little more detail, the game was released to arcades in 1981 to much success in both Japan and the United States. It eventually got ported to home consoles, as well. It became so popular, it even spawned sequels Donkey Kong Jr. and Donkey Kong 3 (not to mention the aforementioned plumber-related spin-off).

In the summer of 1981, a man named Walter Day traveled to over 100 arcades, recording the top scores in games. He then opened up his own arcade in Iowa named Twin Galaxies and published the top score records, thus making Twin Galaxies the home of video game records. And anyone and everyone knew that if you wanted to hit the national scoreboard, you needed to either do a live performance at a recognized place such as Funspot, or submit a tape to Twin Galaxies, as its hometown became the "Video Game Capital of the World."

In 1983, Twin Galaxies created the U.S. National Video Game Team, headed by Walter Day, and included 6 original members--including a man named Billy Mitchell. Billy Mitchell is known for breaking all sorts of records. He was the first person to get a perfect Pac-Man score. He was also known for having the highest scores in Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr., among other games.

And that pretty much leads us to the film. In the review, I will discuss both the film as entertainment and as a documentary. In the case of the latter, how truthful it is and the controversy behind some proclaimed editing tricks done to supposedly alter information and add bias towards and against certain characters in the film that might not have necessarily been true. So all that being said, let's get into it.

THE FILM

I actually reviewed this movie in this blog's early days... and going back to look at it, boy is it bad. So let's try it again. I'll start off by saying I'm not a big fan of documentaries. There are a handful I love, but I've never been big into non-fiction. When I first saw this film, I immediately fell in love with it. Not only due to the fact that it centered around video games, but because it actually had a story arch to it, something that most docs don't tend to have. Hell, it's basically a Hero's Journey. You know the Hero's Journey, right? The Monomyth? Those are typically your fantasy stories--Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc. There are special situations the lead character must go through, and there are certain character archetypes that will most likely show up. And let's take a look at some of those, shall we?

The Hero. The hero typically is a rags-to-riches story, where a lowly individual rises from a farm, the Shire, the closet under the stairs... and becomes something more. In this case, we have Steve Wiebe, a man who grew up with a competitive nature but lost a lot... including his job (though he eventually became a junior high science teacher). This turned him to play Donkey Kong in his garage. Steve is incredibly easy to root for. He's an every man--somebody everyone can see part of themselves in. Unfortunately, he is undone by his association to The Fool--in this case a man who goes by Mr. Awesome and is known to want disaccreditation on Twin Galaxies. Mr. Awesome supplied a motherboard to Steve so that he could aim to break the current world record. And he's more of a self-serving douche than anything.

The Companions. The Hero can't make the quest without them. These are his family--wife, children, brother, etc. They are all completely supportive of Steve, even if they think he's going down the wrong path. And Steve isn't perfect, either, sometimes ignoring his children for the sake of a high score. There's a moment early on when his son needs him to wipe his butt, but he yells at him to stop whining and just wait a few minutes for him to finish up the game. It's a bit funny on first glance, but when you think about it... it's a bit of a put-off. But on the whole, he's a likable guy, even if his family, particularly his wife, clearly just want him to move on with his life. One might also argue that his daughter is more an Oracle, particularly with her line about people ruining their lives to be in a World Record book--easily the best and most telling line in the entire documentary.

The Villain. This world record, of course, is held by an elusive figure named Billy Mitchell, renowned in the arcade gaming industry as one of--if not the--best. Billy refuses to have anything to do with Steve. However, whenever Billy gives his pearls of wisdom and his personal code of ethics, there is often juxtaposed footage of himself blatantly going against his own code. He is shown to be a total and utter asshat and completely hypocrite. He goes against everything he says he believes in. He clearly cheats by sending in a faulty tape that has a supposedly high score on it just to stay on top of Steve's score without having to show up. He's a coward, too, refusing to show up and play Steve face-to-face, afraid it will damage his reputation. Overall, he's just somebody who you just really want to punch in the face. And every villain needs...

The Henchman. This particular man is known as Brian Kuh, a 30-something individual who basically worships the ground Billy walks on. He considers himself nothing short of Billy's apprentice and will do whatever his master tells of him. He's a guy who, as portrayed, needs a reality check, or at least a long, hard look in the mirror. He's the type of guy who is almost more annoying than Billy himself, and you could tell if Billy had shown up, Brian might have started humping his leg like a cartoon dog. In a similar yet better path, you also have a Messenger-type, who is Steve Sanders. He's a personal friend of Billy's and let's him know everything that's going on with Steve... but he has no qualms about being friendly with Steve, either, and legitimately respects the man and wishes him well. He's a middle man, somebody to help keep the peace. He sees the good in all people but really doesn't have the power to sway one way or the other. Still a good guy, though.

The Old Wise Man. Of course no Monomyth would be complete without our Dumbledore, Gandalf, and/or Obi-Wan. Walter Day is here with his infinite power and wisdom, but he's not without fault. He knows when he's screwed up and he apologizes for such. But he is also the one everyone looks up to or at least respects, both on the side of good and evil. His song interludes were cute, though his lyrics were terrible and I'm not sure they played a relevant part to the overall movie. I think some of the extraneous footage of Walter could have been trimmed down a bit.

The Quest itself is entertaining. Steve begins as the lowly, jobless family man wanting to make something of himself. He discovers he's good at Donkey Kong and hits his first empass--beating the score, but having it be unusable due to his association with Mr. Awesome. Then he goes to have a showdown with Billy at Funspot, but Billy refuses to show... still, it's a minor win over the lesser bosses like Brian Kuh. But that's when the second empass hits with the faulty video from Billy. This all leads to a climax in Billy's home turf for the Guinness Book of World Records title... which I won't spoil if you have yet to see this film. The story is totally engaging. It even keeps my attention during the closing credits with a little extra information tossed in there.

Unfortunately, not all of the information presented in this movie is 100% true. In fact, there's been a bit of controversy surrounding this film because of it. For instance, Steve and Billy are much friendlier than the film made them out to be. And in fact, they've actually played one-on-one against each other. There were other people involved that were never mentioned. Some say Billy isn't quite the douche he's made out to be and Steve isn't completely pure as he's made out to be. Even the film's director has come out saying he purposefully fictionalized some of the events through editing, mostly because it was just more entertaining that way.

Because if you haven't picked up on it yet... the Monomyth is the building block of fantasy, after all. And some really well put-together, vastly entertaining fantasy, at that.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

7.07.2012

The Demented Podcast #42 - We're Kinda Cocky.

Today we're joined by Nolahn of the Bargain Bin Review for what is probably one of our best episodes... as well as one of our most offensive. Seriously, starting around roughly the 45-minute mark, this episode becomes incredibly NSFW (I'll give you a hint... the last episode focused on the female anatomy, so I guess it was only fair to balance it out). We had so much fun with this episode we had to do it twice! (More on that within the actual episode.) Otherwise, we're talking about book-to-film adaptations, looking specifically at the films (and their respective short stories), Minority Report and Rashomon. But we don't stay on either long, as Nolahn wanted to branch the discussion off and have a more detailed talk about when it's right and wrong to hate on a film, particularly if it's staying true to its source material. We discuss many different films, everything from Harry Potter and Twilight to ThorNarnia, Watchmen, Jaws, and more! But then it's time for Nolahn to take on the Tower once again. Last time, he became the first person ever to fail the Tower. Will he redeem himself? Or... will he make history as the first person to fail twice? Listen to find out! Also... if you aren't offended by the end of the episode, make sure to stay tuned after the closing music for a little something special...

P.S. Here are some links Nolahn mentioned he'd send for us to add to the episode for further reading:


Due to Podomatic bandwidth issues, I will no longer be placing the podcast player on the site. But you can easily listen and subscribe through iTunes!

Current Tower Leaderboard
1) Dylan Fields - 167 Points

Current/Previous Battle Royale Champions
(BR4) Stevee Taylor - 285 Points
(BR3) Dan Heaton - 176 Points
(BR2) Dylan Fields - 114 Points
(BR1) Rachel Thuro - 171 Points

That being said, enjoy! Thanks goes out to Kevin MacLeod's Incompetech website for great, royalty-free music. And thanks to Google fo