9.30.2012

The Vlog: Season 5, Episode 7 (Sing (Die) - Part 1).

It's finally here! The first musical episode! I probably spent more time working on these two episodes than any other episodes I've ever done (since it took a lot more pre-production work, too). We've also now gotten halfway through the season and are officially out of the "black-and-white" section of the season. Anyway, here you go... I hope y'all like it! Let me know what y'all think in the comments!

9.29.2012

LOOPER.

Going into Looper, I didn't expect a whole lot. My expectations weren't through the roof or anything. I was excited to see it much like everyone else. I really like Brick and JoGo and Willis. I love time travel movies. All I'd seen were the trailers and only knew anything about the film from what I learned there. So I figured I'd dig it. I figured it's be good. I didn't expect... this. In roughly 60 years from now, time travel is used by the mob to send people back 30 years to be killed by what are called Loopers--people who are paid to kill and get rid of the bodies of people sent back from the future. They are so called because if they last another 30 years, they must close the loop by getting rid of their own future self and being set up nicely for the next 30 years of their existence. But something is happening in the future that shaking things up, so when Looper Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is sent his future self (Bruce Willis)--who does not appear in protocol outfit--Old Joe has a chance to escape, and Joe has to right everything before his boss, Abe (Jeff Daniels), finds either of them and puts them down. The film also co-stars Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Noah Segan, and that-guy Garret Dillahunt.

I actually didn't even get into the heart of the story. That's just the basic setup. I didn't want to get into it because I loved the twists and turns this story takes. It goes in places you would never expect, especially from the trailer... which really gives away almost nothing of the story. Hell, I didn't even know any of these other people were in the movie. Just seeing Dano and Daniels appear threw me (forgive me)... for a loop. I'd seen the trailer a dozen times, and this is the most blind I've ever felt in a theatrical viewing of a film. So perhaps that had a lot to do with my reaction.

The story itself is great. It's not just a chase story as the trailer would have you assume. That's there, but it's certainly not what drives the film. I mean, I don't believe Bruce Willis even shows up for about 30-45 minutes into the movie. It takes its time and sets up the world and the characters and the situations they're in. And even when everything starts going down, it still takes its time keeping you invested in the drama and the characters rather than relying solely on adrenaline and action. And I can honestly say that I had no idea how this movie was going to end. There were a number of different ways that came to mind, and any of them seemed they could happen. But the one it did go with was the best option for the film.

The acting is really good all around, but the one who stole the show was Pierce Gagnon. "Who?" you ask. He's a real young kid that plays Emily Blunt's son in the movie. He was so good it was almost creepy. I mean, this kid is star-bound; easily the best child acting I've seen in a long time. For such a young age to pull off what he had to was insane to watch.

One of the big things I love about the film is that its characters and their situations and the world they live in are so rich and complex. I don't mean Primer complex or anything. It has nothing to do with the time travel. All of that actually (mostly) makes sense. The world, for instance, is so incredibly detailed. From how buildings look in the background to details on a truck to... anything, really. It seems everything has a purpose and the filmmakers could tell you a story for every little visual detail in the film--why something looks or works the way it does, even if the film never gets into it. And then the characters are amazingly well done. Every character is both a good and a bad guy. You understand where each one is coming from. You want everyone to succeed and fail because you know what it means if they succeed or fail. But you want them to anyway. The movie makes you feel for all of these people, and there's no real clear hero or villain/good vs. evil going on here. It just so happens that, for instance, for one character's heartfelt mission to succeed, it means another's must fail and vice versa, etc. etc.

Do I still have a couple questions? Yeah. But as far as I'm aware, this is one of the most well-crafted sci-fi/time travel dramas in years (and it is more than just time travel... there's a whole sci-fi/fantasy element to it, as well with some mutant/telekinesis stuff). Of this writing, I can say it's going to end up in my Top 5 of the year, which is funny considering I wasn't hyped about it at all going into it. It was just very fresh and original and incredibly well done all around.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

9.28.2012

DREDD 3D.

I was never sure what to think about this movie from the trailers. It looked pretty. Karl Urban looked like a cool Dredd. And the story reminded me--like many others--of Raid: The Redemption. So how did it really stack up? Here's the story: In the future, America is down to one Mega-City filled with 800,000,000 people. This city--MegaCity 1--is kept in some form of control by the Hall of Justice run by Judges, the law enforcement who are Judge, Jury, and Executioner all in one. One of the best is Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) who is assigned to take on a rookie named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to see how she stacks up on a day on the job. She borderline failed all exams, but she's also a psychic and can be useful. So as soon as they go on the job for the day, they pick an assignment at the Peach Tree living quarters--a giant tower slum run by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), who just so happens to be in charge of distribution for a new drug called Slo-Mo. But instead of letting the Judges escape with any kind of proof of this, Ma-Ma locks down the tower and orders anyone willing to take the Judges down.

So, in other words... it's Raid: The Redemption, but without the martial arts. Actually, my comparison here is similar to that of the book versions of Battle Royale to The Hunger Games. BR is the better of the two; it's grittier, cooler, and has the better action. The Hunger Games puts a more clearly sci-fi twist to it, brings it down a few notches, keeps it entertaining, but handles a very similar idea in a different kind of way. So in this comparison, Raid is Battle Royale and Dredd is Hunger Games... but without the love triangle.

Likewise, my thoughts that Karl Urban looked like a cool Dredd was spot on, too. He plays the character perfectly, and he's just a total badass. The way he handles the situation and never loses his cool is great to watch. Even in the middle of all the chaos, he treats it almost like just another day, and he never forgets that he's assessing Anderson. He constantly asks her for her thoughts on what to do and then tends to go with it, giving a really interesting dynamic. Olivia Thirlby plays Anderson well, and she does get some badass moments of her own (I loved the mental interrogation scene and wished that was a little longer, even). And Lena Headey was menacing in a very down-played performance. Still, it was Karl Urban that completely steals the show, as he should. And no, he never takes off the helmet.

The one character I couldn't figure out my thoughts on, though, was a guy named Kay played by Wood Harris. He's one of Ma-Ma's top lackeys who gets arrested by Dredd and Anderson near the beginning and is basically held in their captive for the majority of the film. But here's why I couldn't figure out if I liked this or not: he was clearly a smart and sadistic character, but for at least the first half of the movie... he's just background fodder. He doesn't try to fight back. He doesn't try to escape. He doesn't try to get anybody's attention when they're trying to hide and/or stay silent. He just stands or sits there with the two Judges not making a sound, seemingly willing to do what they ask. At the same time, though, he does eventually start playing some mind games (mainly with Anderson), and it's more like he's just biding his time--but how did he know he had time to bide? And why risk it when the entire building is coming after these two? Anyway, it just seemed like a bit of a forced plot point, and it's a big one, which didn't help my thoughts much.

I also figured this movie would be pretty... and it was. The aesthetic of the film is nice. It's gritty when it needs to be and shiny when it needs to be. Overall, they gave it a really great look, from the sets to the costuming to the CGI Slo-Mo. And speaking of that... one worry I had was that they would over use the Slo-Mo. They didn't. In fact, practically every Slo-Mo sequence in the film is shown in the trailer. If I had any complaints about it, it's that I would have liked to see it used just a little differently. For instance, there's a scene where some guys are forced to inhale it and then tossed over the railing to fall down the building. This could have been a great vertigo-inducing fall sequence, but it's never used to its full potential here. They kind of do it again, and much better, later on, though. That kind of made up for it.

Unfortunately, where this movie lost some of its points was in the action department. Perhaps it's just because it's so easily compared to Raid that it's even harder for it to live up to those action stylings. Most of the action in this movie is gun-related, which isn't incredibly exciting for a whole movie of it. Where it does regain points, though, is with those badass guns. The Judges' guns are sweet, able to do so many different things that it helps to really keep variation throughout. So I guess my complaint here is that it goes from one gun setting action sequence that lasts 30 seconds to a non-action sequence that lasts 5+ minutes to another gun setting action sequence that lasts a minute, etc. It felt like the balance of action to "walking around corridors" wasn't quite right... but it was almost there. (But don't get me wrong... the action that was there was a lot of fun in the realm of violence and excitement.)

Overall, it was a solid effort. Of course I'm going to say I prefer Raid over this in the action department in terms of this story. But in terms of characters and whatnot, Dredd is a total badass, and I could watch Karl Urban as Dredd all day. He was just so much fun. And Olivia Thirlby was good, too. Will I be going out to buy it the second it hits the shelves? Probably not. But if it comes on TV or a friend wants to check it out, I would definitely stop to watch it again. And I would check out a sequel, too, if Urban reprised the role. It was fun.


I Am McLovin!

(P.S. The 3D was pretty good. There were some excellent shots with it... but it's not necessary to see it with the 3D. Still, you won't be disappointed if you do. It's done quite well.)

9.27.2012

Fun With Tom And James.

For those of you who are somehow unaware, Australian blogger Tom Clift is making his way across North America, going to film festivals, and meeting as many of his online friends as he can. Months ago, he started showing people his tentative schedules, and plans were made to meet up. Well, one of the time and dates was going to be in Austin, and as that's only about a 2-hour drive for me, I figured "Totally!" Even more surprising, however, was when the mysterious James Blake Ewing of Cinema Sights, also a fellow Texan, decided he would meet up with us as well. And so we compared schedules and found the best possible day to meet up. And so we did. Here's how it went down (at least from my perspective):

The drive to Austin was mostly uneventful... except for some peculiar song choices on the radio. At first, every song had to do with killing, being killed, or death. Getting flashbacks to something like the  Final Destination series, I really began praying that the mysterious, HAL9000-esque James was not going to murder us.

But then, I kid you not, this song came on the radio:



I couldn't help but laugh, and everything was right in the world.

Anyway, the plan was to meet at the Ritz Drafthouse theater at 1 PM. I pass the theater, get a parking spot in a lot down the way, and wander back in the direction of the theater... and can't find it. I'm literally going in circles for 10 minutes, unable to find this Drafthouse theater that I know I had just seen. (It was tucked away in a little alcove area that I kept missing for some reason.) Eventually, I hear a familiar Australian voice call my name from across the street and see Tom waving. I smile and start walking towards him as he motions to a guy who looks like [description deleted] that I could only assume to be James. We said hello, shook hands, and began our wandering of downtown Austin.

We begin talking as we're walking, and Tom suggests finding a little diner or something so we can sit and eat and have a little discussion before our 3:30 showing of The Master. We do and end up getting sat at a table right next to the door. I got this chicken sandwich and Tom got a ridiculously huge burger, while James didn't eat because he's [reason deleted].

A picture Tom took of his ridiculous burger.
We sat there talking for at least 90 minutes--everything from Tom's TIFF experience to our favorite films of the year thus far and more. (I kept bringing up Cabin in the Woods, and James kept bringing up directors we'd never heard of. Tom kept making us both jealous of the movies he's already seen, mostly thanks to TIFF.) At one point James quotes 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Soon it was about time to head on over to the Drafthouse, and so we did. We got our tickets, found some seats, and just hung out for 20-30 minutes or so waiting for the flick to start. I ordered a totally insane milkshake just because it sounded too ridiculous to actually exist (vanilla ice cream mixed with root beer, chocolate, peanut butter, caramel, malt mix, and topped with crushed popcorn. Dear God was it good). And, believe it or not, the irony of ordering a milkshake to PT Anderson's follow-up to There Will Be Blood didn't hit me until later. But I drank it up!

After the movie ended (with the theater in total and complete silence for at least 2 minutes... probably due to confusion), we three amigos headed out onto the street where the sun blinded us. We hung out on a street corner among other peeps and talked about the movie. And this is where things got interesting. We were approached by not one, but two different homeless guys asking for money, to which we had none to offer. And then, because both Tom and James' back were to the street, I was the only one to see this... but a guy who looked exactly like this started walking around the nearby intersection:


He had the purple beanie and all. He walked down the crosswalk and past us; a few minutes later, he came back looking lost/confused and made his way back across the street where he was originally. And I never saw him again after that. I thought at least James had seen him, but apparently not. He was all "I'm sorry, Dave." (Or something like that.)

Then I asked James a very important question and/or favor as Tom made a phone call. Surprisingly, he agreed. So the three of us made our way to my car. But before we get there, these two really hot girls stop us and ask me to take a picture of them. I guess I'm just approachable like that. They thanked me, we made out for a while, and then they went on their way (one of those things isn't true). So anyway, we goofed off for about 10 minutes in the parking lot before wandering back to the streets of downtown Austin where we were bothered by more homeless men (I blame Tom and/or James. I attract hot girls).

Speaking of hot girls, as we were wandering from one end of downtown to the other, a hot Asian girl stopped the three of us and gave us these Judge Dredd badges for free and then asked us to take a picture with her so her boss didn't think she was just slacking off all day or something. And then she let us leave. It was rather strange.

From there, we found ourselves heading further than we'd traveled thus far to hit up a Starbucks. And there we sat for the rest of the night running the gamut discussing film types and topics... everything from artistic, pretentious flicks to mainstream to bad bad to A Serbian Film and Human Centipede 2 (ironically, neither of which I brought up). By the end of the night, I don't think there was a single film genre or director we hadn't covered. We even talked about my 50/50 List and what I had coming up after we ran out of other movie things to talk about.

Strangely, I noticed (again, with James and Tom's backs to the door) that more and more flamboyantly gay and lesbian groups entered the shop. I thought nothing of it, of course--this was Austin, the most liberal city in Texas. And then a rather tall transvestite came in, and that's when I knew something was up. That's right, ladies and gents. The three of us found ourselves in the middle of a gay pride parade! When we eventually left Starbucks to head our separate ways (after taking a picture together, of course), James and I had to dash across the police-guarded street before the parade hit this far down so we could get back to our cars. What a way to end the day!

Now, I know what y'all are saying: "Pictures! Pictures or it didn't happen! We want to know that James isn't a robot and/or that he actually exists!" And I will show you a picture... in November. Why November?

Well, I hinted at it earlier, but James agreed to appear in the final episode of The Vlog, which will be airing on Sunday, November 4. That's right. If you want to finally know what James Blake Ewing looks like, you must tune in to the Series Finale of The Vlog, and you will finally see video evidence. Until then, any picture is embargoed. (And if you haven't been watching... I suggest getting started! It's awesome!)

And that's it!

9.26.2012

50/50 Review #37: Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956).

I went into this expecting to do nothing but compare it to the 1978 version, which was an early favorite of mine from last year's 60/60 List. And as much as I both wanted to and tried not to... I found it was really hard to. They're, of course, the same story... but explored so differently. The film picks up with Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy), who has made his way to another town and making the authorities think he's insane. He tells his story of how his hometown was taken over by pod people, and they were going to slowly start taking over the world.

The pods themselves are really freaky, mostly because they remind me somewhat of Little Shop of Horrors, and that still causes plants to freak me out despite it being my favorite movie of all time. And although this film had a visual freak factor to it, that's the one area I did prefer the 1978 version. That version just had an amazing and gorgeous visual style and use of dream-like camera angles to add to everything. I loved the look of the '78 version, so that was hard to get past while watching this one. But still, while it didn't bring anything special to the table in that regard, it worked well--and sometimes better--elsewhere.

This is a nicely paced, taut noir thriller (much more than the horror it's labeled as). It's not as slow of a burn as the one that follows it, from what I remember, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat. Funnily enough, I was fighting falling asleep (due to tiredness, not the film) near the end, right around the time the characters themselves are fighting falling asleep so as not to turn into pod people... so there was a bizarre meta quality to watching this film that made it that much more intense.

Of course there's the comparison of endings, as well. The '78 version has the classic downer/shocker ending, which is fantastic (and a bit preferred). This version has a happier ending. Though apparently the happy ending was a studio choice, and the original ending was supposed to be in the scene right before it where Miles looks into the camera and says "You're next!" I'll admit, that was really creepy. And that only added to the exploitative nature of the film. In a way, it reminded me of something like Reefer Madness, where it was a fictional event used to scare people into thinking a certain way. In this case, it was used as a parallel with the red scare/McCarthyism (ironic, since the lead character is played by Kevin McCarthy). You can't trust anybody! And soon, if you're not careful, they'll come in the middle of the night while you're sleeping and take you and your family and brainwash you! Again, I know that was the entire idea behind it, so it works. It just felt, at times, a little beat-you-over-the-head with it, particularly toward the end.

Otherwise, it was a really good little film. Again, it's both easy and difficult to compare it to the '78 version. In a way, they both have their pros and cons. And I can't say which one is better. I think I prefer the '78 for both its ending and its visual style. But this version is much tighter in its pacing. I'd recommend checking it out if you like any of the other versions. It's a different enough cut of the story to keep you engaged, and it does get really creepy at times--mainly with the pods. Good stuff.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. That will do it for Steve's Month! It surely was an interesting month! It spanned the gamut of feelings, from eh (My Favorite Year) to good (Devil's Backbone) to really good (Body Snatchers) to new favorite (Double Indemnity). But now it's time to move on. Next month I'll be going into some bizarre, potentially dangerous territory. That's right, it's time for Joel's Month.)

9.25.2012

THE MASTER.

Oh, The Master... a movie that seems to say so much and nothing at all simultaneously. Likewise, it's bringing out reactions from fans where they want to talk about it but can't find the right words. First, let's see what this puppy is about. Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix) is an ex-Navy guy who is now a drunk and a sex-craved lunatic who can fly off the handle at a moment's notice. But one day he meets Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the titular Master, who wrote a book called The Cause that introduces a whole new cultish religion and/or belief system that is gaining both followers and controversy. Albeit wary, Freddie slowly becomes one of the group while continuing to fight his own demons... as well as Dodd's wife, Peggy (Amy Adams), who doesn't seem to agree with Freddie's inclusion in the cause. (And she may or may not be kind of the mastermind behind everything.)

This is definitely a character study through and through. The acting is brilliant in this film, and you're fascinated with what will happen next and how these characters will react. Unfortunately, to me... only one of these characters is all that interesting. Joaquin Phoenix gives a brilliant performance, and you never know what he's going to do next in the film... but I found myself not really caring about him as a character or his story. There was no empathy. Nothing. In fact, I couldn't even get into the movie until at least 15-20 minutes in after Hoffman joins the film. (For reference, the part that hooked me was the first interview scene between the two guys. Hands down the best scene in the movie.) But even then, the latter half of that scene eventually pulls away from Hoffman and puts more focus on Phoenix's background and this relationship with this girl Doris... and my interest began to wane again. Outside of Phoenix's random jolts of insanity, I just couldn't get into his character. It didn't help that he's incredibly hard to understand, at least in the first half of the movie. So, of course, Hoffman was the character I loved watching. I just wish it would have ended with... more.

And I think "more" is the main issue with the film. The story is incredibly lacking. Everything else is great, but the story just isn't there. It introduces so many points and never follows through. A character sets up an affair with Phoenix that never goes anywhere. Hoffman's son's ambivalence toward the cause is discussed in one scene but never goes anywhere. And there is just so much like that throughout. There's no payoff to anything. And I don't necessarily need payoff in everything, especially if ambiguity is done well. But here... I don't think it is. And when your film centers around the battling minds of two insane people, you would expect some kind of explosive ending, maybe something like the bowling alley in There Will Be Blood. Nope. The film just... ends. No real resolutions. No major conflict. No tension. It's just... a choice is made and the film ends.

The movie is even vague on its themes. Even discussing the film afterward with Tom Clift and James Blake Ewing, we had trouble figuring out just what this movie's intent was. What's its purpose? What's it trying to tell us? And I still haven't really come up with an answer. The best we could come up with at that time was a study in the extremes of insanity. You have the uneducated hot shot wild card with Phoenix and the more charistmatic, enigmatic, intellectual force of Hoffman. Otherwise, I'm not too sure. To me, though, the biggest potential draw is the idea that the majority of the film might not even be real. Early in the film, Phoenix's sanity is questioned when he's accused of having visions, to which he responds it was only a dream. And there were a handful of moments throughout the film that build on this (the female nudist gathering and the phone call in the theater moments, for instance). I guess when you're weak-minded (and/or insane), you can be swayed to see anything a certain way.

This is also a movie not to watch with Mother. It is an incredibly sexually charged film. Freddie is like a teenage horndog delinquent. He'll literally have sex with anyone or anything... age, relation, marital status, and the fact it's just sand does not deter him in the slightest. He thinks about sex awake and asleep, as we (again) do see some hallucinations he has. And don't forget a masturbation scene and a handjob scene. Oh, and this film is not above fart jokes, either. There is more than one in this movie.

Overall, this is a movie to see for its performances (and, if nothing else, that first interview scene which is just phenomenal). It's, of course, shot beautifully, as well. But the acting is where it's at. You're definitely not here to see it for a story. So if you need a solid story for your dramas, look elsewhere (though there is a fair bit of comedy, so that does help). I can definitely see this win awards for Phoenix or Hoffman, though I wouldn't go so far to say Best Picture. It just doesn't come all together for me in the end. There are a couple lines, I believe in the same scene and/or back-to-back, that pretty much sum up the movie... and I'm sure it was on purpose. The first is "I could fall asleep, wake up, and not have missed a thing." The second is "He's making this whole thing up as he goes along; don't you see that?" And I do see that.


I Am McLovin!

9.24.2012

V.G. Movie #37: Tekken.

[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

So... another fighting game movie. This game came out in 1994 in arcades in in 1995 on the Playstation. The story of the game revolves around the King of the Iron Fists (Tekken is basically "Iron Fist" in Japanese) fighting tournament run by the owner of a major conglomerate. The winner gets *pinky to mouth* One billion dollars! One of the competitors is the estranged son of the man who runs the tournament, wanting vengeance. Apparently his daddy threw him off a cliff when he was 5 to test his strength or something. And then he made a deal with a Devil to survive and get the power to defeat his father. Years later he, of course, eventually beats him and throws him off the same cliff.

The second game picks up two years later where Kazuya (the aforementioned son) is now running the big company, making it even more evil and whatnot than it was before. But then an animal rights activist named Jun is sent to arrest him. And Heihachi, Kazuya's father, survived the fall and is training to defeat his son. So to get rid of his father, Kazuya throws another tournament. But when Jun finally confronts him, she's more in love with him than angry and ends up becoming his baby momma. Heihachi eventually reaches Kazuya in the tournament and, despite Kazuya being re-possessed by the Devil thing, Heihachi defeats him by throwing him into a volcano.

The third game picks up fifteen years later. Heihachi sets up a "Tekken Force" to protect his company and is responsible for a lot of the current world peace. But then a creature called Ogre appears and starts dispatching a lot of fighters. It targets Jun, knocking her son Jin--also the son of Kazuya--unconscious. He wakes up to find his home burning and his mother missing. He travels to Heihachi for help and training, though Heihachi has started feeling the need for world domination again upon the rise of Ogre. He trains Jin for two years and then starts the next tournament in hopes of bringing out Ogre. Jin eventually defeats the monstrous Ogre, but is shot down by Heihachi and the Tekken Force. Devil revives Jin, possessing him, and sends Heihachi plummeting down a long fall (which he survives). Jin flies away with some feathery wings. (Note: Many consider Tekken 3 not only one of the best games of the genre, but one of the best games of all time.)

And I think that's about as far as I need to go, since the film's primary character is a teenage Jin, so I would assume it only goes up to this point in the game series... you know, if it even has anything to do with the games... which I doubt. They almost never do. Though I've heard, at the very least, the film isn't that bad. So let's find out, shall we?

THE FILM

In the first five minutes, this film disregarded any story, character arch, and background the games have to offer. You know... all that stuff I just finished detailing after 10 minutes of wikipedia research? Yeah... ignored completely. In the future, WW3 has basically decimated the world, and now the world is run by a group of mega-corporations collectively known as Iron Fist. One of these corporations is known as Tekken, which resides in Tekken City. Jin (Jon Foo) lives in the slums outside Tekken City and is popular amongst its people as a former street fighter. But when his mother Jun is killed, Jin wins a "people's choice" spot in Iron Fist tournament so he can get closer to those he deems responsible for her murder--Heihachi (Cary Tagawa) and his son Kazuya (Ian Anthony Dale), the leaders of Tekken.

Even after only 10 minutes of background research, I feel offended at how absurdly different this is from the game's rather simple storylines. I mean, seriously... they had to try hard to change this up. I mean, on it's own it's not terrible. It's not original in the lightest, and it's a little dull, but it's not terrible. But they seriously went above and beyond to make this as different as possible from the games.

The writing is pretty crap, too. And not just the dialogue (which is silly and bland simultaneously), but character actions and motivations, too. And some really cheesy moments, too. (There's actually a scene near the end where a guy starts a slow chant of "Jin," followed by another guy, and then the entire crowd.) I couldn't really get behind Jin, either. He was an irrational hothead who, really, never learns much. And he blatantly cheats on his girlfriend with no repercussions whatsoever. Also... if Tekken wasn't already a fighter-to-the-death tournament, what's with Yoshimitsu? He's an armor-clad samurai dude who fights with a sword. I mean, first, that's not fair to anybody he fights against with all that armor if they're just trying to knock him out. Second, how's he going to just knock out his enemy rather that kill him if all he does is sword fight?

There's just not much I want to waste my time on with this movie. The action is decent, though nothing to scream about. But there's also no stakes. Every fight has no weight to it. Any character that you might have some connection to never fights another one. It's either two nothing characters or a nothing character and a major character, like Jin. So you either automatically know the outcome or don't care because it doesn't really matter.

This is just another bizarre example of a movie deciding its own story will be better than the source material... and it's really not. I mean, I guess with something like this, altering the source material can maybe work if what you have is really good. But it's not. And really, the only people--besides people like me--who will watch this movie are Tekken fans. But this movie isn't made for Tekken fans, because it's nothing like the games. So this film falls into the pit of "a movie made for no one." I think the best thing about this is the fact Cary Tagawa is in it (Shang Tsung, FTW), and he sports a ridiculous hairdo (which is taken from his game counterpart). Otherwise, not really worth it. Ignoring the fact it's a God-awful adaptation, it's not terrible, but not good, either.


Feed Me, Seymour!

9.23.2012

The Vlog: Season 5, Episode 6 (Vlog Of The Living Dead - Part 2).

And here's the wrap-up of the 2-part zed word genre. I must say, this is one of my favorite "Previously On"bits... for reasons that will become obvious when you watch it. Also, one of my favorite editing jobs of the season is in this episode, near the end... though most of the credit goes to the camera persons for giving me what could have been otherwise incomprehensible footage and letting me have fun with it. Anywho, enjoy! And comment!

9.19.2012

50/50 Review #36: Double Indemnity.

My first and until now only Billy Wilder flick was The Apartment... which I didn't care much for. I didn't hate it, I just wasn't all that impressed and thought it was a bit uneven. So when I discovered today's latest flick was Billy Wilder, I wasn't exactly jumping through hoops to watch it. But should I have been? This 1944 noir classic follows an insurance salesman named Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) who, one day, goes to renew some auto insurance for Mr. Dietrichson (Tom Powers). But he's not home, and, instead, Walter meets the man's wife, Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck). Lust hits them quick, and it's not long before Walter realizes Phyllis actually wants to put up accident insurance on her husband and then knock him off to get the money. Walter wants nothing to do with it... at first. And then he begins using his inside knowledge on how they can pull the perfect murder and get twice the amount of money using a double indemnity clause. And everything seems to work perfectly... until Walter's boss, Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), starts to suspect something and begins inspecting the case further.

So far Steve has been been off in his estimations on how I'd react to his suggestions. He thought I'd love Devil's Backbone. I thought it was pretty good. He thought I'd really like My Favorite Year... I didn't. And he thought I'd like this one alright, but that's about it. And yet again, he's wrong. I absolutely loved this movie. Like... added to Top 3 favorite classics kind of love. I might let it sink in a little more, but my gut reaction was putting it in my number 2 spot, right behind 12 Angry Men (which is my current favorite classic). There was hardly one thing about this flick I found bad.

The writing, first and foremost, was astounding. I was hooked by the time Walter and Phyllis first met and every single word that came out of their mouths were double entendres. And as the film went on and became darker, the wit slowed down, but the fantastic lines still rolled on. I loved lines like "how could I know that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?" and "I couldn't hear my own footsteps; it was the walk of a dead man." There were so many fantastic lines in this movie that I could literally keep going for the rest of this review.

What really helped those lines, though, were the actors and the directing. At times, I was reminded slightly of His Girl Friday and the quickness of the dialogue and the wit that came with it. I loved not only the speed of the delivery, but how strong and meaningful all the lines in this film were. My copy of the film had an introduction before it, and the guy stated that this was easily the best performances in the careers of everybody who participated. I'm no classic film buff by any means, but Hell... as far as I know, he's right. Everybody did so well.

I loved the framing of the shots. There's an intense moment where Keyes is leaving Walter's place and Phyllis is dropping in, but they can't be seen together, so Phyllis is hiding behind Walter's open door with Keyes just on the other side. That's a great shot. I love the decision not to show the actual murder, but instead you hear it. And then all the shadow shots, which I suppose are usual for the genre.

The use of noir voice-over is so natural as it has a perfect, in-story reason for it to be happening. There are some nice twists at the end that caught me off guard. The reversal of the match lighting in the final scene. I know I'm gushing, and this doesn't make for a very entertaining review. If you want negative, the best I can give is that maybe there were 1 or 2 scenes that dragged for a minute or so too long, but that's about it. Great writing, great suspense, and just all-around great flick. I guess I kinda liked it.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

9.18.2012

Top 10 Disney "I Want More" Songs.

This is a continuing mini-series where I detail my favorite songs from Disney animated musicals via specific categories. Next on this journey is what I call the "I Want More" songs. These are those songs where our lead characters longingly wish to be somewhere/someone/something more than they currently are. This is the song that basically sets up what will happen a little later when they eventually gain that wish. The "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" moment, if you will.


TOP 10 DISNEY "I WANT MORE" SONGS

Honorable Mention: When Will My Life Begin (Reprise 1)

The reason this is just an honorable mention is this reprise isn't actually in the movie. It was cut for time purposes. But it's a very lovely rendition of the main version that is a lot less tongue-in-cheek and more straightforward about what Rapunzel wants in her life.




10) A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes (Cinderella)

A very sweet song, but as I'm really not a huge fan of this movie (not due to the film, just due to a lack of exposure in general), I only found the song through research. After listening to it, it's lovely... but it doesn't resonate with me like a lot of the other songs do.




9) Go The Distance (Hercules)

I liked this flick when I was a kid. But in retrospect, it is kind of a mess. Still, this is a pretty decent song. However, it isn't very long or detailed, and it really cuts to the point and gets him to his destination without much struggle or even a lengthy montage. And that kind of makes it not hit as hard as some of these other songs. But still, it's a nice one.




8) Just Around The River Bend (Pocahontas)

Another one I haven't seen, but I knew the song this time. I'm not crazy about the song, but it's nice in that the entire thing is one long metaphor for her behavior and life. She's struggling with her decisions and if she should coop up and become a wife or continue with her adventurous life and keep flowing. It's a much more female empowerment song (as, of course, she chooses to not go with the guy and instead live her own life and make her own choices). It's interesting in that she wants more... but she's not sure exactly what it is she wants beside the ability to want and achieve more.




7) Almost There (The Princess and the Frog)

This was a song I didn't much care for when I first heard it, though I think it was mostly due to a drastic animation style change that went with it and caught me off-guard. This is another song that's a little different from the lot. Tiana isn't longing for what she wants. She's working hard for it. There's no "if, ands, or maybes" for her. She knows what she wants and she's gonna get it, no matter what. So we're treated to a number about what she wants to achieve.




6) I've Got A Dream (Tangled)

This is another song I wasn't too sure about the first time I saw it. For the type of song it is, it's way too happy and silly and not the typical ballad-types they usually are. But it's really grown on me over repeated viewings. Not only is this a song about what Rapunzel wants, but what a whole bunch of minor side characters want. Is it a little goofy? Yeah. But its heart is in the right place. And strangely, when I read early reviews, this was one of the songs most people really liked. So there has to be something to it! (And it's not entirely pointless, as entire moments later in the movie are set up in this scene.)




5) When You Wish Upon A Star (Pinocchio)

Yup. It's only at #5. Sorry! Still, it's such a classic and beloved number that I couldn't fathom putting it outside the Top 5. I really don't think I have to explain it further. Though I couldn't find a video of it from the film, so this is the best I got:




4) TIE: Belle (Reprise) (Beauty and the Beast)/One Jump Ahead (Reprise) (Aladdin)

I tied them for fourth because both are incredibly short. They'r both just reprises of their Character Introduction songs that build into how they feel about themselves and their current situations. Belle's is a bit grander (and has a funny, smart-ass beginning to it), but I love Aladdin too much not to include it. So here they are together.







3) I Just Can't Wait To Be King (The Lion King)

This was originally going to be the #2 spot, but after some further, ahem, reflection... I just couldn't put it over what's there now for this particular category. Similar to "Almost There," this is an upbeat song about what our protagonist already knows he's gonna have by strives to exceed at anyway. He wants to be king and he, well, can't wait. It's pretty self-explanatory. Though has anyone ever noticed that Zazu is destroyed much more in this one song than Mufasa is in the stampede scene, yet Mufasa dies and Zazu is left without a scratch?





2) Reflection (Mulan)

This is such a great song. Mulan is basically having an existential crisis. She wants to honor her family, but she also wants to be herself. And she's starting to question who she really is and how she can just be herself while adhering to the social norms and familial respect. It's easily the most adult song on this entire list based on its themes alone. And I love the symbolic shot of her wiping the makeup off and you see half her face normal and half her face in the makeup, and then she wipes the rest off and turns to the dozen reflective surfaces around her. A really strong song and a good scene to go along with it.




1) Part Of Your World (The Little Mermaid)

It's pretty much the ultimate "I Want More" Disney song. Sure it's more childish than, say, "Reflection." But it's such a strong ballad. And it has some strong pre-Brave red hair animation going on, to boot.

9.17.2012

V.G. Movie #36: The King Of Fighters.

[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 actually first mentioned this film way back in February when I reviewed Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture. You see, the Fatal Fury franchise eventually, along with the Art of Fighting franchise, spun off into the King of Fighters franchise in 1994 when the first KOF game was released by SNK. The first game centers around a guy named Rugal Bernstein who hosts a martial arts tournament so he can trick the best fighters into coming and losing so he can turn them into statues for his collection. Coming in from the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting franchises were its leads Terry Bogard and Ryo Sakazaki, but they aren't the leads here. Instead, the King of Fighters main hero is Kyo Kusanagi, at least for the first few games.

The games were so immediately popular that a manga was made based on the first game--and eventually others followed. The series has actually continued in popularity to the point where games are still coming out, and the last KOF game was the 13th edition, which debuted in 2010. It wasn't much of a shock that, with the brilliant success of all the Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and D.O.A. movies that this one should be made, as well. Wait...

THE FILM

Wow. When one of your first thoughts about a movie is "Uwe Boll could have done better," I think you're in trouble. The story makes no sense, but here goes... a crazy dude named Rugal (Ray Park) steals a magic mirror and magic necklace that allow him to enter a parallel dimension where a select group of fighters play in an ongoing fighting tournament called King of Fighters. They tend to get there by these high-tech earpieces that transport them to this other dimension. Anyway, Rugal keeps summoning the fighters one at a time so he can defeat them and turn them into statues or something. An undercover agent name Mai (Maggie Q) teams up with Kyo (Sean Faris), the son of a very important man who is in a broken mental state, because he can help defeat him or something. I don't know why, honestly. They also get help from a man named Iori (Will Yun Lee), who will be Kyo's archnemesis in the future, a woman named Chizuru (Francoise Yip), and a CIA Agent named Terry Bogard (David Leitch).

It's more complicated than all that, strangely. This movie is almost entirely backstory and whatnot, and I really didn't care. I had trouble following anything it was talking about. I was never quite sure who certain characters were or what their purpose was. It was all just a jumbled mess.

The cinematography in this film is a disaster in and of itself. It's like it took notes from the school of Battlefield Earth and then failed out... but made this movie anyway. Yeah, there are dutch angles a-plenty. But it will take them even a step further. There are some truly bizarre shots in this film. Some not just angled, but almost completely diagonal or sideways. I don't think you're supposed to have to tilt your head to watch scenes in movies. And sometimes they would match this up with movement or action scenes that made things very disorienting. I mean, the action seemed like it could be cool... but I almost never knew what was going on. And it wasn't even a shaky cam thing like a lot of action flicks these days. It was just really poorly shot and edited scenes. I was so bored I kept falling asleep during the last 30 minutes, which is nothing but one long action sequence.

It didn't help that the film's characters were so uninteresting. I mean, yeah, I mentioned earlier about how some are hardly explained. But then there are just strange things like the casting of Kyo. He has a Japanese father and is Japanese-American. He's not adopted, either... he's supposedly purely Japanese. But they couldn't have gotten a whiter dude. He's so white he once played the grandson of Betty White. At least in Legend of Chun-Li, Kristin Kreuk is part Asian. The only Asian this guy has in him is the food they had on set that day probably. Otherwise, Ray Park chewed the scenery like crazy and was... interesting as the villain. I don't know how good of an adaptation he was, but the guy who played Terry Bogard was actually fun. He was easily the best part of the movie and had all the best lines.

In the end, this movie is just boring, confusing, and poorly made. And I can only assume it's nothing like the games. It's more just confusing backstory plopping in dutch and/or sideways angles for an hour followed by 30 minutes of poorly shot action sequences. I mean, really... the three movies this most reminds me of are Battlefield Earth, Dragonball Evolution, and The Legend of Chun-Li. That hurts just thinking about it.


The Zed Word

(P.S. It only got that high because I liked Terry... and the idea of dimensional travel to fight, even if the movie makes no sense about it.)

9.16.2012

The Demented Podcast #47: We're All A Bunch Of Racist Bastards.

I apologize for the really long episode, but... yeah, it's a long one. We're joined by Joel Burman, the current Shepard of The LAMB--The Large Association of Movie Blogs. He's here to talk about "versus" films... those films that have two characters with big personalities and/or intellects facing off against each other. And to show this, we're discussing Gangs of New York and Inside Man. It's a lengthy discussion, but that's not all! Joel then plays a lengthy game of The Tower. Does he impress us yet again... or does he stumble hard? Listen to find out!

Due to Podomatic bandwidth issues, I will no longer be placing the podcast player on the site (and ask that nobody else links directly to it, either). But you can easily listen and subscribe through iTunes!


Current Tower Leaderboard
1) Dylan - 167 Points
2) Rachel - 155 Points
3) Dan - 152 Points
4) Tom - 143 Points
5) Nolahn - 131 Points
6) Joanna - 93 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.

The Vlog: Season 5, Episode 5 (Vlog Of The Living Dead - Part 1).

After such an epic episode last week, where could we possibly go from there? Greatness, that's where! Almost every Episode 5 has been very memorable for one reason or another. For instance, the Walking on Air/Floor is Lava sequence of Season 1 or Dylan's Kai Monologue of Season 3. Will this join the ranks? (As for the genre, talk about weird timing considering what I just reviewed last.) Enjoy! And leave some comments!

9.14.2012

RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION.

I say it with almost every review, so why stop now? I see every one of these in theater, regardless of knowing I'm not going to love it. I've never played any of the games all the way through, but I do know about a handful of the characters and the mythos. Not like it matters, since the movies are hardly anything like the games. Every film has made more money than the last while getting worse than the last (though, and I can't believe I'm saying this, with Paul W.S. Anderson back in the director's chair, Afterlife was kind of a step up from Extinction). Anderson returns again for this one, but will this be yet another step up?

The film picks up exactly where Afterlife left off. Alice (Milla Jovovich) has supposedly killed Wesker (Shawn Roberts) and saved Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), K-Mart (Spencer Locke), and Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller) from the Arcadia ship. But then a mind-controlled Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) shows up to attack with Umbrella troops. She's blown into the water and wakes up in a Russian Umbrella facility that tests real-life scenarios in fake re-creations of major cities (and some suburbs) with thousands of clones and some zombies and whatnot. But now Wesker is apparently alive, and he and his right-hand lady Ada Wong (Li Bingbing), who have defected from Umbrella, want to get her out of that facility and to safety so she can help them retake the planet before humans become completely extinct. They send in a retraction team including Leon S. Kennedy (Johann Urb), Barry Burton (Kevin Durand), and Luther West (Boris Kodjoe), whom she met in the previous film. But things get a little more complicated when they run into Becky (Aryana Engineer), a young girl who believes Alice is her mother. And due to the whole clone situation, we also get to see Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), One (Colin Salmon), and Carlos (Oded Fehr) again.

I'll be honest, of all the sequels, this film easily has the coolest concept and story. Granted, it's basically a rehash of the first two films (and there are a lot of connections to both of them). The return of One and Rain hark back to the original film, while Jill takes us back to the second. There's also the return of the Red Queen, which brings us back to the first film, and the idea they need to get out of an underground facility. But they're traveling through "cities" and need to escape before a bomb goes off, much like the second film. Despite rehashing old ideas, it worked, because this is easily the best film since the first one. Though there are still plenty of problems with it that stop it from being as good as the first, and put it closer to the quality of the second.

The story, despite being better and more interesting than others in the series, is very rushed. It felt like the film had just started by the time it was over. I suppose it's a good thing I wanted more, though maybe not so much since I wanted more due to it being lacking. Oh yeah, and Claire, Chris, and K-Mart are nowhere to be found in this movie. I think Claire and Chris are mentioned once (K-Mart never), and it's only when Alice asks where they are, to which I don't believe she gets a response. In essence, this and the last film felt like Anderson is slowly trying to naturally retcon the series... and I would think that's the case... if it weren't for how this movie ends, which seems to retcon a previous retcon. But I won't get into that.

A lot of the issues I had here I also had with Afterlife. For instance, this film has some fantastic action sequences, particularly in the first half of the movie. The entire bike chain/gun fight zombie attack sequence was pretty awesome. But there is just way too much slo-mo in this movie. I think if you cut out half the slow motion in this film, we'd lose 30 minutes of the movie. There were a couple scenes it was used well, but on the whole, it felt like 75% of the movie was in slo-mo. There were also some incredibly ridiculous moments where I felt somebody off to the side needed to press an "Easy" Button, because I kept thinking "Well that was easy." There's one particular moment in the climax where Alice is fighting Jill and she does something you knew was going to happen the whole time... but it's done with such ease that the people sitting next to me actually said "why didn't she do that hours ago?" Just way too many cop-out, easy defeats in this film for my liking for what are essentially "boss battles." There were also a ton of really illogical, almost physics-defying situations in some action sequences. And I don't mean like kung-fu kind of things, but like "cars don't work that way" or "bullets don't work that way" or "bodies don't work that way" kind of situations.

Anyway, as I said earlier, I've never really played through the games, but I know enough to know what fans will be pissed about and what fans will let slide. I think, for instance, they might let Barry's portrayal by Kevin Durand slide. It was average enough. And Li Bingbing was freakin' hot in this movie. Ada Wong doesn't do a whole lot, and she has some nice action scenes, but damn was she nice to watch. The biggest blunder here is Leon. Holy Hell was that a disaster of a character adaptation. They got a guy who looks very little like the character, made his hair look freakin' stupid (because that style doesn't fit that actor's face), and then make him one of the least interesting characters in the movie. Leon has pretty much become the face of the games. He's a badass. And here... he was lame background fodder that couldn't even get the look right, much less the personality. I'm also relatively sure they don't know what Las Plagas are (the whole Moscow/Las Plagas attack sequence is probably the worst scene in the film).

The acting is your typical Resident Evil fare. Shawn Roberts' Wesker is campy as hell, and fun for being so. Sienna Guillory can't act her way out of a paper bag (she is awful). I wish Kevin Durand had been given more, because he had potential to be a fun, snarky character. Milla Jovovich is the same as in every other movie. To be honest? This movie belonged to Michelle Rodriguez. She stole almost every scene she was in. And she was basically playing two roles here--a good guy and a bad guy. And the good guy character was so against her type that it was actually refreshing and really funny (and I'm sure purposefully done as such for that reason). She had some good lines and is really entertaining.  I'm glad they brought her back, because she really was the best thing in this movie. Though the little girl, Aryana Engineer (coolest name ever) was actually a pretty good little child actor, especially for this series.

One more thing I want to mention before wrapping this up. The film starts out really solid. We start with a slow motion sequence being played in reverse of the attack on the Arcadia during the opening credits. It's done very well and looks really cool. But then that ends and we cut to what is apparently a pre-requisite for every movie in this series: the Alice Recap. I wonder if Milla is getting tired of giving the same damn speech in every film, just slightly altered to include new events from the previous film? And it goes on for about 5 minutes this time before cutting back to the opening sequence, but playing it forward this time (and shortened, thankfully) before opening up in the suburbia sequence shown in the trailers. So yeah, the first five minutes are really cool. The five or so that follow are very been-there-done-that (literally). And then it goes back to being decent again, at least for a little while.

This is a very, very flawed movie... but I still actually liked it. There is a lot about this movie that doesn't make sense. Plot and logic holes galore. And there's too much slo-mo. But I still really liked the idea behind the story, and some of the action was pretty dang cool. And Michelle Rodriguez was great. If you're a fan of the series, I don't think this one will disappoint too much (unless you're a major Leon S. Kennedy fan). But if you're not a fan of the series, this one won't convert you. Would have liked more, but still pleasantly surprised.


I Am McLovin!

(P.S. The 3D actually wasn't that bad. There were some sequences when it was actually used well. Not the greatest 3D film ever, but better than most these days.)

9.13.2012

Top 5 Disney Character Introduction Songs.

It's time for the second post in this Disney musical mini-series. If you didn't see the first one, here are my thoughts on villain songs. Anyway, for the rest of this, I figured I might as well go in chronological order of when these typically show up within the films. Now, I'm not going to bother with an opening songs category, as usually--not always, but usually--the opening song is a much smaller ditty like "Arabian Nights," and the first big show-stopper is the second song (a notable song that differs from the rule could be "Circle of Life" in The Lion King). In fact, that second song is usually what I call the "Character Introduction" song. These are the songs that let us get to know our main character and/or characters and the world they live in. So let's get on with it...


TOP 5 DISNEY CHARACTER INTRODUCTION SONGS

Honorable Mention: "Daughters of Triton" from The Little Mermaid. In 45 seconds it tells you so much about the characters. Sebastian is a cocky, stuffy musician. King Triton is a hot-head... and has a weird fetish for alliteration. And Ariel, by not showing up on her debut, is a bit self-centered. But because it's rather short and incomplete, I couldn't put it on the list.



5) This Is Halloween (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Like another song on this list, this one almost perfectly encapsulates the setting of the film while giving you a look at both the secondary characters and introducing you to the primary character. It also really sets up the tone of the film and really shows you how important Halloween is to this town, which of course is going to be uprooted a little ways in.



4) Honor To Us All (Mulan)

What I love about this one is that it's much more interested in sharing and introducing culture, since the culture has such a major part of what drives the story. Mulan wants to keep honor in her family and wants to make her father and grandmother look good, even if that means doing things she's not comfortable with or good at. It's a strong setup for how the world works, how women are perceived, what drives Mulan, and who a few of the other characters are.



3) When Will My Life Begin (Tangled)

This film is loved by many, but even those same people give it flak for not having the greatest songs. But I'll tell you what... I don't think this song in particular gets enough credit. I will spoil this now, but this song is going to be appearing on more than one of my lists in this little mini-series. Why? Because it's an incredibly multi-faceted song. It's doing so much in its 2-and-a-half minute run-time (and it has a couple reprises that go along with it, as well). In this particular case, you get a very catchy song that introduces us to our main character (and one of our secondary characters with the chameleon). It's a very tongue-in-cheek song full of so much cleverness and irony. You get a perfect idea of who this girl is, what she feels about her situation (even if she won't say it out loud--which says even more about her character), and what she wants most in the world. It's a fantastic introductory song for this character and her own personal setting that really illuminates everything you need to know about her before the story kicks off.



2) One Jump Ahead (Aladdin)

I love this song. It's so much fun, and it perfectly sets up our hero and his monkey friend. This song is a more... direct way of letting you know about the character. Aladdin sings about why he's doing what he's doing, and all the other characters--who apparently know him and his ways--sing about exactly what kind of guy they perceive him as. Thief. Scoundrel. Cunning. Quick. Clever. It's all there, told to you in song and shown to you at the same time. What's really great about it, though, is that after all of that setting up and stealing of the bread and whatnot... what follows shows his true nature as he gives up the bread to a couple starving children, proving that he's not the ruffian and street rat everybody else considers him.



1) Belle (Little Town) (Beauty and the Beast)

It's not only a perfect character intro song, but a perfect intro song to the film in general. It sets up practically every major human character (it doesn't show her father, but it mentions him). It's a perfect mix of telling us (through song) exactly what kind of people they are with showing us their personalities and letting us gather it ourselves. And it tells us what kind of people live in her town, which basically sets up the mob mentality later since even they admit she thinks very differently from the rest of them.

9.12.2012

50/50 Review #35: My Favorite Year.

As one of the characters quotes in the movie, "Death is easy. Comedy is hard." Indeed. The film follows Benjy (Mark Linn-Baker), a writer for an SNL-like show. When a drunken, promiscuous old action movie star named Alan Swann (Peter O'Toole) is going to guest on the show, it's up to Benjy to keep him in line and make sure he makes the show on time. And there's a few subplots thrown in, as well, included a gangster who is upset about one of the sketches.

Sound familiar? It should. The film is basically Get Him To The Greek as if it were directed by Woody Allen (though this isn't an Allen flick--the comparison comes from a clear love of movies that permeates through the story, witty dialogue, a Jewish lead character, and a New York setting). And I couldn't stop making that comparison while watching. And similarly to the aforementioned film, the drunken, promiscuous celebrity is the reason to see the movie. Peter O'Toole's performance in this film is phenomenal. Almost all the humor in this film comes from him.

Here's the tricky part, though. Humor is such a subjective thing that what one finds funny, another will certainly not. Unfortunately, I didn't find much of this movie funny. I chuckled maybe twice in this movie and really only smiled a couple more times than that. In fact, I was more bored by the film than anything, and I found I was constantly checking the time.

The story is a little disjointed, as well. Outside of the main story, there are a few subplots, as I mentioned earlier. There's the subplot about a sketch they want to do about gangsters, but it's apparently based on a real gangster, and the man isn't happy about it so he keeps sabotaging things and attempting to hurt and/or kill the show's star. There's another sketch planned about the three musketeers since Peter O'Toole's character plays an actor who does a lot of swashbuckling films. There's a minor subplot about a character who never speaks for himself but through other people. And there's a subplot about Benjy trying to get together with one of the women he works with, who doesn't want anything to do with him. That subplot literally goes nowhere and has no real affect on the story whatsoever. It's basically dropped about halfway into the movie. The other subplots all come to a head in the climax, but I didn't find it all that funny or exciting of a scene.

Besides a few pacing issues, it's really not a bad film. It's just that comedy is so subjective, and in this case... this style just wasn't for me. I thought it felt forced and needed to be more consistently wittier and with faster dialogue or something. It felt like a movie that was made to be snappy but didn't quite go there. But I did get a couple chuckles out of it, and Peter O'Toole is excellent in the film. If anything, see it for him. (And for the record, with the exception of a couple scenes... I didn't overly love Get Him To The Greek, either.)


Stop Saying OK! OK.

9.11.2012

Top 10 Disney Villain Songs.

[I plan on making this into a mini-series involving different types of Disney songs and whatnot, so keep an eye out for newness over the next couple weeks.]

Last year I did Musical Mondays throughout the year. And while I did that, I often mentioned how I adored Disney musical villain songs (in fact, my #1 song on the countdown was one). So while the topper of this list might not exactly be a shock, I decided I'd give a solid look at the songs and give what is at least my current feeling toward them.


TOP 10 DISNEY VILLAIN SONGS

Note: I have not seen Hunchback of Notre Dame. I know a lot of people really like "Hellfire," and I've seen it through YouTube, but while I find it a good, dark psychological look at a twisted character... it's just not fun and catchy enough for me. I also have not seen Pocahontas, and while the likes of "Savages" is catchy... there's something about it I couldn't quite get behind.

Honorable Mention: I've gone on record as saying that while I love Tangled, "Mother Knows Best" is by far the worst Disney villain song ever written. However, there is a reprise late in the film (at the very end of the second act) that is much better. It's really hard to find a good video of that, and it's only about 30 seconds long anyway, so I'm not going to bother. I just thought I'd give that a special mention.

10) I Want To Be Like You (The Jungle Book)

This song maybe-sorta implies racism, and it might not exactly be what most people think of when they think of villain songs. But I count it. Louie is definitely a villain, albeit a fun-loving one. But it has all the tropes. He's making a shifty deal with the naive hero, and the naive hero is definitely in potential danger. And it's incredibly fun and catchy.




9) We Are Siamese If You Please (Lady and the Tramp)

Whereas the last song is maybe racist, this one definitely is. I haven't seen this movie in YEARS (like, I was probably a toddler the last time I saw it). But everyone remembers this song. These cats are just evil little creatures!




8) Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmations)

This is the first of two songs on this list where the villain song isn't really sung by the villain (this is the only one, though, where the villain doesn't sing any part of it). This is a song about the villain... and it's arguably one of the most famous villain songs.




7) Les Poissons (The Little Mermaid)

This one is just goofy, sadistic fun. From the perspective of a French chef, the song has him singing about what he's gonna do to all of the food he's going to cook and serve in very violent, disturbing ways. Made even the more disturbing due to the fact Sebastian is watching the entire time. It's a very minor villain song, but it's still worth mentioning. And it's super catchy.




6) Friends on the Other Side (The Princess and the Frog)

This is the newest song on the list, and it's the best song from the movie. Why? Um... it's an updated "Poor Unfortunate Souls." Seriously. Just listen to/watch it. It's not as good as the aforementioned song, but it's bright, colorful, and catchy while being dark and ominous. Oh, and it's sung by Keith David. And that's awesome in and of itself.




5) The Mob Song (Beauty and the Beast)

This is a song I always forget about when thinking about Disney songs. I'm not saying the song is forgettable. It's a very good song (and Pocahontas' "Savages" is basically just a poor rehash of this song... maybe that's one of my issues with that song?). Just give it a go.




4) Prince Ali - Reprise (Aladdin)

Jafar was originally going to have his own song in the film, but it was eventually cut. Instead, all Jafar gets is about a very short reprise of "Prince Ali" that is dark and a lot of fun as it turns it around on Aladdin.




3) Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)

This is the second song I alluded to early where it's a villain song that is more about the villain than sung by the villain. Though Gaston does have some very strong and memorable lines in the song. It's just an insanely catchy and very fun and light song in comparison to a lot of the darker, more sinister fare on this list.




2) Be Prepared (The Lion King)

Everything has been said about this song. It almost always makes either the #1 or #2 spot on this kind of list (it typically flip-flops with the following song depending on the person). It has such strong, symbolic visuals. And don't forget that Jeremy Irons actually stops singing 2/3s of the way through due to his voice giving out and hands it over to Jim Cummings... and you can't tell.




1) Poor Unfortunate Souls (The Little Mermaid)

'Nuff said.

The best video of this is not embeddable, so this will have to do: Click here.

9.10.2012

V.G. Movie #35: Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.

[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

Ah, Street Fighter. How I missed thee. I've already reviewed two films based on your franchise. There was the animated one that is actually pretty good. And then there was... you know. I give a decently detailed history of the games in the first link there, so I won't go much there. Instead, I'd like to focus on a certain character... Chun-Li. In the animated film, Chun-Li is central to the story and is pretty accurate to the games. In the first live-action film... she's not. Accurate, I mean. It's hard to tell what was central to that movie.

Chun-Li was introduced in 1991's Street Fighter II, the game that launched the series' success. She was the first female character in the series, and she had to be pretty tough to stand up to all those insanely over-bulky dudes. She mastered the Chinese martial art of kenpo, and she was strongest with her legs, doing mostly leg-related maneuvers (most famously the helicopter spin kick).

Her basic game story is that she is an undercover Interpol agent seeking revenge on M. Bison for killing her father. She goes after both him and his criminal organization, Shadaloo (or Shadowlaw). She finds out Shadaloo's involvement through an old friend of her father's Gen, and even gets some help from an Air Force member, Nash. Though in a non-canon spin-off series called Street Fighter EX, Chun-Li is a cop investigating the disappearance of her father, rather than his death.

Now, I saw this film in theaters. Let me tell you what... I've seen all the Twilight films in theater by myself. But it wasn't until this film that I actually felt embarrassed for having paid money to see this in a theater. I literally was trying to duck out of the theater without anyone seeing me--even strangers. In other words, I definitely knew what to expect going in the second time... but I'm not sure that helped.

THE FILM

I was originally going to attempt to write a whole new review from my original, which I wrote 3 years ago when the film first came out. I even re-watched the film. But as it turns out, I pretty much say it all and still agree with every word of that previous review that there's very little to add to that. So what follows is a slightly modified version of that very review.

The film is incredibly convoluted. Years ago, Chun-Li (Kristen Kreuk) witnesses her father being taken away by an evil businessman named M. Bison (Meal McDonough) and his bodyguard, Balrog (Michael Clarke Duncan). As she gets older and her mother passes away, a scroll is sent to her that leads her to Bangkok and find an old martial arts expert, Gen (Liu Kang...er... Robin Shou) to eventually seek her revenge. Meanwhile, an Interpol agent named Nash (Chris Klein) and Detective Maya Sunee (Moon Bloodgood) team up to investigate the deaths of all criminal businessmen within Bangkok... of course, all connected to Bison... who is trying to run the city... or something.


The acting was awful from everybody, except maybe Michael Clarke Duncan (and talk about really odd timing on my part). But he's such an uninteresting character, it doesn't matter. Though Chris Klein needs to be punched in the face for the performance he gave. Oh, and big, bad-ass assassin Vega? Yeah, played by Taboo. You know, of the Black-Eyed Peas. You know, the one BEP nobody cares about. 'Nuff Said. The script and all of its dialogue was atrocious, including the voice over. You know how they say not to do voice over in movies because it acts as a cop-out? A visual telling over showing? Well, I’d never understood that (because I’ve always seen voice over done well) until I saw this movie. Most of it was so completely unnecessary, and the film would have been better if they’d have shown the struggles or whatever it was that was being narrated instead of just saying it happened. For instance, there's a whole montage sequence detailing Chun-Li's struggles and personal evolution, but it's over in about 2 minutes and detailed mainly through voice-over instead of seeing any actual change.

The characters are nothing like their game counter-parts. Chun-Li here is made Chinese-American just to go along with Kristen Kreuk. And she's not Interpol or even a cop. She doesn't really have any job. She just... is. And the closest she gets to looking like her game counter-part is one scene where she has her hair up in her trademark buns. Balrog is supposed to be this massive boxer, but Michael Clarke Duncan shoots more guns and missile launchers than anything else. Also... how the hell was that M. Bison? It looked, sounded, and acted nothing like the character. It was almost more of a rip-off of Robert Patrick in Double Dragon than anything remotely similar to Bison. I don't know much about Nash as a character, but I can't imagine Chris Klein was even in the same realm of existence, much less anything else. (Seriously, his performance in this film is somewhere between Nic Cage and Tommy Wiseau.)

The story is all over the place in general, and there were also so many different illogical happenings, so many different things that just didn’t make sense. I don’t even know where to start listing things… from thick, plastic bathroom stall doors that shatter like glass to a white baby growing up in Chinese slums and ending up with an Irish accent. Or of how a girl can be raised in China (looking less and less Asian as she gets older) and end up speaking perfect English with no accent and also fails to comprehend Chinese characters on a scroll (of course it’s explained as ancient Chinese, but still). And then there’s how the police are able to figure out name and complete backgrounds of somebody who they only have a blurry picture of when most cops can’t identify murder victims that they have the actual bodies of. Not to mention one of said cops and said person in the blurry picture suddenly find one another randomly having had no previous contact and act as if they’re old buddies (which they aren’t). The list just goes on and on.

The only two redeeming values (and they aren’t very redeeming) are the action sequences and Kristen Kreuk’s incredible hotness. But the only action scene that’s more than 30 seconds seems to be the climax battle, which includes one of the cheesiest and most poorly done special effects I’d seen in a long time. With current technology, there was no need for it to look as awful as it did. But still, the action sequences were still, while not the best I've ever seen, rather entertaining... even if the wire-work was insanely obvious and it was clear they sped up the frames to make it look beter. And her helicopter spinkick moment was lame. But the best part of the movie was when Chun-Li goes into a club and seduces another woman. It lasts all of 30 seconds or so, but it’s hot. However, everything is soon ruined when you realize the song in the background (or at least the background song that follows it… I wasn’t paying that close attention to the music at the time) is an almost beat-for-beat rip-off ofTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II “Ninja rap.” Seriously, it’s like they put “Go ninja go ninja go!” on repeat, but then exchanged the words for “Street Fighter!” It was so cheesy and lame that it was nearly laughable.

This film is an utter mess. It unfortunately doesn't reach the cheese levels of the first live-action film, but is just laughable due to how absolutely nothing makes any logical sense and just looks ridiculous. And the terrible acting. I watched the "Unrated" version this time... but there's only less than a minute extra added, and I honestly couldn't tell any difference. If you want a good Street Fighter movie, check out the animated one. Hell, I'd even say to watch the original live-action version before this one. You'll get more so-bad-its-good entertainment there, at least. This one is just... not that good.


The Zed Word

(R.I.P. Michael Clarke Duncan)