12.31.2012

Podcast: Lair of the Unwanted - Rockula.

Happy New Year's Eve! If you're not doing anything else, why not hang out with me, Jason Soto, and Nolahn? We had a fun time on this episode of Lair of the Unwanted having a Rockin' New Year's with Rockula. The intro to the episode in particular is pretty funny.



12.30.2012

2012 Year-End Wrap-Up.

Time for my epic year-end wrap-up. Most people put these lists in separate posts... but I don't have that kind of time, so it's all going up in one! First, I want to talk about the films I saw this year not from 2012. My only rule (besides "can't be from 2012") is that the movies could not be from the 50/50 List either, as I already made a Top 10 for that and it wouldn't be fair to the other films not from that project.


Top 10 Movies Not From 2012 Or 50/50 Seen This Year For The First Time

10) Murder Party



This was one strange dark horror/comedy. A group of pretentious artist friends put out fliers for a "murder party" wherein, if somebody showed up, they would get to murder the person. They really don't want to do it, but just want to impress a friend who will give them a large sum of money to help with any future projects. Unfortunately, a hapless, lonely, and naive young man answers the flier and finds himself caught up on bizarre night. It's a pretty slow (and strange) first hour, but that last 30 minutes or so are bat-shit insane. If you're a fan of horror/comedies, even odd ones, I'd suggest this one unknown little film.

9) Arahan



One of the most original action/comedies I've seen in a long time, coming right out of South Korea. A bumbling, naive police officer finds himself caught up in a world of kung fu and mysticism when the Masters of Tao begin training him after they believe he has a powerful Qi. Of course, another powerful warrior escapes from his imprisonment and goes after the Masters to try to find an artifact that could help him become a ruler of the world. Think like a live-action Kung Fu Panda, but in modern times and with people instead of animals, and where kung fu mysticism is actually secret. It's totally fun and funny and has some fantastic action.

8) Perfect Blue



The film that inspired Black Swan is equally trippy, if not more so. It's pretty much the exact same story except it's with a pop singer/actress instead of a ballerina. And this version blurs the lines between reality and dreams/hallucination even more. Unlike its remake, you really don't have any idea what's real and what's fantasy in this version. The animation style took me a while to get used to, but it's definitely worth a look.

7) Delicatessen



For a post-apocalyptic film about cannibalism and murder, you wouldn't expect it to be so charming and heart-warming. We talked a lot about this film on a past episode of DemPod, so I won't go into too much detail now. It has a great musicality and dark sense of humor to it, and it was a totally fun watch.

6) Operation Condor



Every now and then I get into the mood to watch some Jackie Chan. And I've discovered he's pretty hit or miss (no pun intended). But this wacky version of Indiana Jones with Chan is an insane amount of fun. The gags are great, the action is great, and the story is typical Indiana Jones-type fair. I've heard the sequel is terrible, though. But this one is a hoot.

5) I Love You, Man



I'm probably one of the last people on the planet to have actually seen this movie. But I could really relate to a lot of things in this film... not to mention it's just down-right hilarious. If you haven't seen it yet... do so.

4) We Need To Talk About Kevin



Is it a 2011 film? A 2012? Apparently nobody can make up their mind on that, but the majority have decided on 2011, so I'm including it on this list. It's a little too on-the-nose with its music, but it's an otherwise horrific look at parenthood and actually made me rethink wanting kids. And Ezra Miller is fantastic in it.

3) The Skin I Live In



Another we discussed on DemPod earlier this year, so I'll keep it short. This is one screwed-up movie with an excellent turn of events about halfway through. I strongly recommend it... but if you're a guy, be prepared to curl up into a fetal position.

2) Die Hard with a Vengeance



I really was the last person on the planet to have seen this one. While it might not be an overall better movie than the original, I think I might enjoy it a bit more. Samuel L. Jackson is great, and I love the city-wide chase and puzzles aspect to everything.

1) Archie's Final Project


And now to end on a movie only I've seen. It's a depressing topic, but the film is made in one of the most original, ADHD, and stylistic ways I've ever seen. This film is a trip to watch, but it also has the depth to back it up. Definitely, definitely check it out if you haven't.

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Now, before I get to this year, I think I should share what movies I haven't seen as of this post which might potentially alter these lists in the future when I do see them.

First up, some "good" movies I have not yet seen: Les Miserables, This is 40, Jack Reacher, Zero Dark Thirty, Hyde Park on the Hudson, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook, Flight, Cloud Atlas, The Sessions, Holy Motors, Argo, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, End of Watch, To Rome with Love

And now some proclaimed "bad" movies I have not yet seen: The Devil Inside, Red Tails, Journey 2, Project X, Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, A Thousand Words, Casa de Mi Padre, Wrath of the Titans, Chernobyl Diaries, That's My Boy, Step Up Revolution, Sparkle, The Apparition, House at the End of the Street, Alex Cross, Red Dawn, The Man with the Iron Fists, Oogieloves, Piranha 3DD, What to Expect When You're Expecting

With all that being said, let's get into it, shall we? I'll try to keep my rambling to a minimum in the following lists.

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Top 20 Favorite Performances of 2012


Note: These are my FAVORITE performances, not what I think are necessarily the BEST performances. If I were going with just the best, this would be a totally different list.

Honorable Mention: Anybody - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

With so many great actors, this underrated film rested solely on how good the characters were... and they really were.

20) Jack Black - Bernie (Bernie)

The overall film was just OK for me, but Black was perfect for the role. Probably his best performance.

19) Michael Shannon - Bobby Monday (Premium Rush)

Average, mindless movie, but I liked Michael Shannon as the bad guy who just wanted people to cut him some slack.

18) Quvenzhane Wallis - Hushpuppy (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

This was a great year for young unknowns, and this 5-year-old girl gave us one hell of a performance.

17) Edward Norton - Scout Master Ward (Moonrise Kingdom)

We all know I'm not a big fan of Wes Anderson, but I did kinda like this film, and Edward Norton was part of that reason.

16) Emma Stone - Gwen Stacy (The Amazing Spider-Man)

Like every other guy, I have a bit of a crush on Ms. Stone, and her turn as the charismatic Gwen Stacy was wonderful--not to mention she had amazing chemistry with Andrew Garfield.

15) Juno Temple - Dottie (Killer Joe)

Speaking of blonde cuties, Juno Temple acted her butt off in this film.

14) Stanley Tucci - Caesar Flickerman (The Hunger Games)

I was tempted to go with either Tucci or Wes Bentley for this spot, both having expanded characters from the book (Bentley even more so), but it's hard not to love Stanley Tucci.

13) Matthew McConaghey - Killer Joe Cooper (Killer Joe)

Matty McC had quite a year this year, but his performance here definitely overshadows his other films.

12) Karl Urban - Judge Dredd (Dredd)

Urban makes this film work as well as it does.

11) Dane DeHaan - Andrew (Chronicle)

Dane DeHaan is like the next Ben Foster. Yeah... I went there.

10) Samuel L. Jackson - Stephen (Django Unchained)

Stole every scene he was in... and unexpectedly so.

9) Tom Cruise - Stacee Jaxx (Rock of Ages)

The movie is god-awful, but Tom Cruise kills it. His performance deserved a much better film.

8) Daniel Day-Lewis - Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln)

Best actual performance of the year.

7) Javier Bardem - Silva (Skyfall)

Such an fantastic villain... and you never quite knew where he was going to take it.

6) Pierce Gagnon - Cid (Looper)

One of the most surprising parts of the film was this kid. Did they just happen to find one of the best child actors in the world with him or what?

5) Martin Freeman - Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit)

Even people who hated the movie agree that Martin Freeman was awesome.

4) Guy Pearce - Snow (Lockout)

It's hard not to love the snark.

3) Anne Hathaway - Selina Kyle (The Dark Knight Rises)

Best part of the film for me.

2) Fran Kranz - Marty (The Cabin in the Woods)

The character of Marty was basically the heart of the film. With any other actor, the film might have crumbled and not worked. Fran Kranz owned it.

1) Sam Rockwell - Billy (Seven Psychopaths)

If you've seen the film, there's no need to explain.

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Top 10 Favorite Scenes


Honorable Mention: The Battle - Breaking Dawn Part 2

It's not in the book... and it's actually really cool. But it's still Twilight, so I couldn't really justify putting it on the list.

10) Interrogation Scene/Chicken Leg - Killer Joe

This is the scene that either made the film or killed the film for people. It was so off the wall that I couldn't help but at least admire it. Starting with the slow interrogation of the parents, then the violence, then... the chicken leg... this is one intense and bizarre scene.

9) Self C-Section - Prometheus

Noomi Rapace gives herself a C-Section in a giant machine thing. 'Nuff said.

8) Garret Dillahunt Visits - Looper

The fantastic scene where a fellow Looper shows up at the farm to kill Joseph Gordon-Levitt... ending with a really upset Cid and a bit of gore.

7) The Imagined Climax - Seven Psychopaths

Sam Rockwell imagines what will happen at the final shootout in a cemetery... and it's violently hilarious.

6) Puny God - The Avengers

The shortest moment here, but it gets the biggest laugh. Hulk vs. Loki.

5) Riddles in the Dark - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Bilbo faces off against Gollum in a game of riddles, and both Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis face off  to figure out who is actually better in this scene.

4) The Dinner Table Scene - Django Unchained

When I was putting together this list, I had like 4-5 scenes from Django alone. But I had to narrow it down to one. I decided to go with this scene that begins with Leonardo DiCaprio dissecting a human skull before things get really intense.

3) Javier Bardem's Introduction - Skyfall

What begins with a single take of him getting off the elevator and walking down the long room while telling a story ends in something a bit... shall we say... "suggestive" between him and Bond.

2) Three-Way Climax Battle - The Raid: Redemption

Easily the best 2-on-1 battle on film. And it just goes on... and on... and on. And it looks amazing and brutal.

1) Don't Blink Questioning - The Master

I might not have loved the overall movie, but holy crap is this scene both amazingly well acted and intense.

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Top 10 Worst Films of 2012



10) Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2

It's actually the best film of the series, but as I just said in the last list... it's still Twilight.

9) Paranormal Activity 4

Really good characters and acting from the two leads. Terrible film.

8) Silent House

Good concept... really boring.

7) John Carter

Good concept... really boring.

6) Underworld: Awakening

I had actually forgotten I'd even seen this movie. Terrible, terrible film.

5) The Divide

Good concept and some good acting in parts... but such an awful execution.

4) Battleship

Yeah, it's not even really so-bad-its-good. Well, kind of. At times. But mostly it's just bad.

3) Rock of Ages

Ugh. A disgrace to musicals and to rock music.

2) The Lorax

Ugh. A disgrace to children's films and to Dr. Seuss.

1) Silent Hill: Revelation

My biggest disappointment of the year and easily one of the worst sequels of all time. How do you go from having one of the best video game movie adaptations to one of the worst? There needs to be a retcon of this sequel so they can just try again.

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Top 20 Favorite Films of 2012

Note: Again, these are my favorite films, not necessarily what I think are the best films. And I'm not gonna go into any explanations on these. I'll just let them speak for themselves.

Honorable Mentions: To Boldly Flee and The Cinema Snob Movie. These films were low-budget, independently produced, Direct-to-DVD flicks, so I didn't want to include them on the official list. But they are still very well done.































































































































12.29.2012

DJANGO UNCHAINED.

Tarantino referred to his previous film, Inglorious Basterds, as his masterpiece. How does one follow up one's own masterpiece and not be a failure? Why, make up your own genre, of course. Westsploitation. Is that a thing? I think Quentin Tarantino just made that a thing. Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz) is a dentist-turned-bounty hunter who needs the help of a slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), who knows what his next marks look like. Freeing Django, Schultz enlists his aid and eventually trains him to be his partner. But when Django reveals that he has a wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who was recently sold off to a new owner, Schultz vows to help Django get her back. But it won't be easy, as her new owner is Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who owns one of the most infamous plantations in the south.

First and definitely foremost... this is one long movie. It's just shy of 3 hours, and it feels it. Don't get me wrong--I'm not saying it's slow or uninteresting. I'm just saying I really felt that 3 hours in that chair.  What didn't help was a moderately slow start. To me, the start of a Tarantino movie is one of the best parts. It's always this slow, deliberate story or conversation. This was perfected, in my eyes, in Christoph Waltz's introduction in Inglorious Basterds. Perfect pacing. Perfect amount of tension and menace and build-up. So here, we get another introduction with Christoph Waltz, so the film automatically sets you up to want a similar brilliance. But, to me, that doesn't happen. Yes, there is somewhat of a discussion that builds up to a moment of shock. But something about it didn't feel very... Tarantino. I didn't have that same thrill at the start that his films always hit off with.

And from there it's pretty much a collection of segments that depend on who the bad guy is at the time. And the film sure does put a fair number of "boss battles" to face throughout. And more often than not, those are the best parts of the film. The last... I don't know... 30-45 minutes--starting from the dinner table scene through to the end of the movie--is purely outstanding. The dinner table scene and the scene near the start of the film when they first ride into the little town and invite themselves into the bar are two of the best performed and written scenes in the film (showcasing Leo and Christoph respectively). Those are some classic Tarantino moments... and I think my biggest problem with the film is that it's nearly 3 hours long and the film doesn't have nearly enough moments like those. Sure, they're sprinkled throughout, some suspenseful and some comical (the KKK masks scene is fantastic, as well). But I felt that, particularly in the first half of the film (prior to Leo and Sam Jackson showing up, and yes, it does take about half the film to get to them), the Tarantino dialogue wasn't up to par. And I often wondered how much of that first half was all that necessary.

All of that being said, however, the second half of the movie more than makes up for any low points the first half might have had. Hell, that last 30-45 minutes alone are worth the price of admission. The violence, comedy, blood, and mix therein is all pretty damn entertaining. Glorious, even.

The acting is all fantastic, as well, from start to finish. Christoph Waltz gives another solid performance for Tarantino. He's no Hans Landa, but he's fun enough. Jamie Foxx has a lot of fun with the titular character. Jonah Hill does show up, but it's barely a cameo. He's on screen maybe five minutes tops and he doesn't say that much. DiCaprio kills it in the dinner scene in particular (and the scene that follows), and prior to that, he shows us he's having fun as a villain. But who steals the show is, of course, Samuel L. Jackson. He has a pretty decent-sized role this time, and he is both hilarious and potentially menacing.

I thought the film had a bit of a rocky start, but it really grew on me as it went on. When the scenes hit, they hit hard and strong. While every moment isn't like a Pulp Fiction or Inglorious Basterds wherein they have amazing dialogues or monologues, there are enough throughout the film that are good enough to eventually make up for it. And the violence is exploitation-level fun and over-the-top. The comedy is great. The acting is superb. Is this Tarantino's best film? No. But that doesn't stop it from being really, really good.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

12.28.2012

50 Weeks/50 Movies: The Wrap-Up.

Well, I made it through another project year! Yesterday I posted my wrap-up for the Video Game Movies project, and now it's time to wrap-up the 50/50 List.

Fun Fact #1: Between the 60/60 and the 50/50, I have now posted a review every single Wednesday for the last 2 years and 2 months.

Of course last year, I posted up a whole ton of stats, such as number of hours watched and longest month, etc. But I don't think this year's project was even close to being as ambitious as last year's with all the Extras I had added in. So I'm not bothering with that this year. I will, however, rank months and films in some Top and Bottom lists!

But first, I wanted to share a few minor stats with you. Let's look at decades of films I watched. I saw one from the 20s, two from the 30s, three from the 40s, two from the 50s, three from the 60s, five from the 70s, fourteen from the 80s, twelve from the 90s, and seven from the 2000s. If I were to pick a favorite decade from these films only... well, if I wanted perfect track record, I'd say 20s, as that was only Sherlock Jr., which I loved. But that wouldn't really be a fair choice. Between the three highest counts, I'd say 80s and 90s are pretty even. I bought two from the 80s and one from the 90s, though eventually two from the 90s (I just haven't gotten around to the other one yet). If I'm forced to choose, I'll say 80s, but just barely.

And how many ratings did I dish out of each type?

Royale with Cheese - 6
A Keanu 'Whoa' - 20 (though I think my opinion on at least one film might have gone up since the initial rating)
I Am McLovin - 12
Stop Saying OK! OK. - 6
Feed Me, Seymour - 2
The Zed Word - 2
She's Gone From Suck to Blow - 0
A Hot Mess - 1
WTF - 1

Fun Fact #2: I ended the 60/60 List last year with the Jack Nicholson classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. This year, I ended the 50/50 List with Infernal Affairs, which is, of course, the film that inspired The Departed... co-starring Jack Nicholson.

But let's get to the part y'all really want to see... the lists.

BOTTOM 10 FILMS

Based on ratings and personal memory, I ranked my 10 least favorite films of the project. Though keep in mind, there were very few I actually considered poor films. Because to me, being boring or having me not care a thing about the movie or its characters are far worse crimes to me than the film being poorly made. I watch films for entertainment, so these films had the largest portions of least entertainment for me.

10) Lone Wolf McQuade

This is the one I hate putting on here, because by every account it should entertain the heck out of me. And Jason is going to murder me for its inclusion here. However, outside of a few scenes here and there (and those scenes in and of themselves are rather glorious), this film didn't really do too much for me. Sorry, Jason.

9) My Favorite Year

I just didn't find it funny. I thought Peter O'Toole was fantastic in the film, but besides me realizing that it's just Get Him to the Greek, there was nothing surprising about this to me.

8) Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

It had some really good ideas... but there was just some really poor execution. Amazing ending, though. I'll give it that much.

7) Black Orpheus

I honestly don't remember much about this film except chickens and masks. I think.

6) Out of Africa

It was a very beautiful-looking film, but I felt it was overly long and just not that interesting. And as I said, boredom is the worst thing a film can give somebody.

5) Rushmore

I am just not a Wes Anderson fan. Though I will say, I did kinda like Moonrise Kingdom. But I couldn't get into this one.

4) Friday the 13th - Part 3

The big argument between Joel and Jason on whether this or Part VI was the better film was infinitely more interesting than this film. Part VI all the way.

3) The Invisible Man

I realize this is the 3rd film from Joel's Month to appear on this list. Um... sorry, Joel. On the upside, I can promise this will be the last one to appear. I just didn't find it all that interesting, particularly since it's a story we've all seen done a hundred times since this version. The effects in this film were good, though.

2) The Red Shoes

There was a big dance number about halfway through, I believe, that was fantastic. Otherwise, I didn't care much about the film. Couldn't get into it.

1) Richard III

Despite its meta aspects, this was boorrrrrriiinnngggg. I couldn't get into the story, the characters, or the language of it. Therefore, I was just begging for it to end most of the time.

(Note: The last 3 films are prime examples of what I mean by they aren't bad films, but I just didn't care for them.)


TOP 10 FAVORITE FILMS

Please keep in mind that these aren't necessarily the films I think are the best; these are the films I was entertained by the most or just feel were my personal favorites throughout the project.

10) The Pusher Trilogy

I know it's kind of a cheat, but when you put them all together, they form one pretty dang solid experience. Let's just say it's a three-way tie.

9) Naked

This is one film I think I've grown to appreciate more the longer I think about it. And I haven't been able to stop thinking about it all year since I first watched it back in February. David Thewlis gives one of the best performances of all time in this film... in my humble opinion, anyway.

8) City Lights

While some gags go on just slightly too long, it's hard not to love this charming Chaplin film and some of the genius therein.

7) Peeping Tom

I'm with Steve Honeywell on this... I like this much better than Psycho

6) Hausu

Talk about a trippy movie. I definitely want to see this again just to experience how bizarre this movie gets. You've not experienced weird until you've seen Hausu.

5) Gymkata

And you've not experienced bad until you've seen Gymkata. I originally had this ranked much higher, but I realized I honestly couldn't justify putting it above some of the following films. It's damn entertaining, but it's almost blasphemous to put something so terribly made over the next couple films, no matter how entertained I was. (And I do now own this movie, by the way.)

4) Double Indemnity

One of my favorite full-length feature classics. I loved every minute of this movie and how it seemed to absolutely perfect the noir elements.

3) Sherlock Jr.

But it couldn't win me out over the brilliantly meta Sherlock Jr. While not a full-length feature, this is one that if you hate it, you just need to stop watching movies.

2) Grosse Pointe Blank

I was so surprised by how much I loved this movie. I don't yet own a copy, but I will in the near future, hopefully. While it's nothing special, especially in comparison to the last couple films, it's just damn entertaining. And it has a fantastic soundtrack, to boot.

1) Big Trouble in Little China

The second I watched it for Nolahn's Month, I went out and bought a copy immediately. And I've watched it a couple times since then, as well. I just hate that I hadn't seen this movie when I was younger, as I would have adored the heck out of it. Thank you, Nolahn, for making me watch this.


RANKED MONTHS

And now it's finally time. I'm sure you've been wondering... whose months did I like more? Where did you make the list? I decided to remove myself from the count since I only had 2 films anyway. Plus, I think this should be more about your lists that you gave me instead. After some careful calculating with your scored films along with how I feel now, I've ranked each month from least favorite to favorite in terms of the films I had to watch and how much I liked them. So here you go...

11) Joel

Again, sorry, Joel. But our tastes just don't mesh, it seems (though let's be honest, your taste doesn't mesh with most people's :P). Open Your Eyes was definitely a high point, though.

10) Travis

This month gave me the amazing Naked and the weirdly entertaining Hausu. But unfortunately, those weren't enough to counter the boredom endured by The Red Shoes and Black Orpheus. Videodrome was good, though I don't really remember much now except for the stomach vagina.

9) Jason

Sorry, buddy. You had some fun B-Movies in there, but while I overall enjoyed most of the films, the scores (and my feelings) weren't really all that high across the board. I will take away from this, though, that Snake Plissken is a total badass and Re-Animator is totally fun.

8) Rachel

Despite having my least favorite film of the project in this month, I overall enjoyed myself. I loved Much Ado. Titus was very strange, yet fascinating. And Scotland, PA was just damn fun.

7) Steve

I'm pretty sure it was Double Indemnity that got you super kudos here. Though Body Snatchers was good, the 70s version is better. I liked Devil's Backbone, but liked Pan's Labyrinth better. Peter O'Toole is the reason to see My Favorite Year... but I liked the overall comedy in Get Him to the Greek better (but not by much... didn't really love that film, either).

6) Dylan

The only reason you weren't higher on this list was Rushmore. The second half of Road House is fantastic. Trainspotting is rather respectable, though dark. And Point Break is... well... Point Break.

5) Jess

It was High Fidelity and Grosse Pointe Blank that shot you up into the Top 5. We already know my thoughts on Out of Africa, and Star Trek: First Contact was fun, though it did take me a while to get into it. But those Cusack films... great stuff. And I'm sad I hadn't seen them before now.

4) Kai

This was one of the most solid months. I don't think I outright disliked any of the films this month, although I didn't really care much for the majority of Pusher II. I did love how it ended, though. The rest of the films were great crime drama thrillers... and we all know we don't get enough of those.

3) Dan

The comedy and charm of City Lights. The dialogue of His Girl Friday. The smooth coolness a la Drive of Le Samourai. And... a western. Though a western with both John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. This was easily the classiest month of the year.

2) Nolahn

It was hard not putting you at number one, brother. Between having my favorite film of the project along with the brilliant badness that is Gymkata, it was hard not to put you at the top. Not to mention the hilarity of Three Amigos. It may have been Ruthless People that brought you down a bit. I remember liking it, but I don't remember much else about it, and it was the lowest rated of your month. But a fantastic month nonetheless. And I'll say... you were barely beaten out. And I mean by mere fractions.

1) James

But I had to give the top spot to James for having consistently brilliant films. Sherlock Jr. is amazingly meta and charming. Peeping Tom made me rethink Hitchcock. We Own the Night came out of nowhere, but had one of the best car chase sequences I have ever seen on film. I don't even like many westerns, but I think my words were something along the lines of "If I really liked the genre, Once Upon a Time in the West would probably be my favorite." And then... Suspiria. Well, you can't win them all. But even that film had that crazy freakin' soundtrack. Solid month of some generally solid movies.

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And that will about do it! That's all I have for you in this wrap-up. I hope everyone enjoyed the project this year and enjoyed me looking over your assigned movies. I know I had fun doing it, too. Unlike the video game series, I actually often looked forward to the next movie I had to watch for the project. It's been a good year!

12.27.2012

The Evolution Of Video Game Movies: The Wrap-Up.

It's finally over! This was probably one of the most ambitious projects I've done on the blog--ambitious due to the fact that nobody in their right mind would want to watch every major video game movie each week over the span of a year. It was pretty much the opposite of the 50/50 and 60/60 Lists, which are movies one needs to see. But I did this so, as the Nostalgia Critic would say, you don't have to. I also did it to find the ones you might actually want to check out in the legions of dreck. Because there were some good ones. I watched pretty much everything from every genre of film (including a handful of documentaries) based on every type and style of video game.

These are some stats from what I figured out over the course of this series wherein I watched 50 films (minus 4 films since they were documentaries and don't count):

BASED ON GENRE

Based on Fighters: 12
(Fatal Fury/Street Fighter x3/Double Dragon/Mortal Kombat x3/DOA/King of Fighters/Tekken x2)

Based on Survival Horror: 11
(Resident Evil x7/Alone in the Dark x2/Silent Hill x2)

Based on RPGs (including MMOs): 7
(PokeMon x2/Final Fantasy x2/Dungeon Siege x2/Dragon Age)

Based on Action/Adventure: 7
(Tomb Raider x2/BloodRayne x3/Hitman/Prince of Persia)

Based on Shooters: 5
(House of the Dead/Doom/Postal/Far Cry/Max Payne)

Based on Platformers: 2
(Mario x2)

Other: 2
(Cloak & Dagger/Wing Commander)

Ironically, some of the best and worst films come from the Top 2 categories--though statistically that would have to be the case due to the number of films of each type produced. And while Fighters are the most plentiful, they're also some of the most forgettable (which a few notable exceptions, of course). Though the Action/Adventure genre also produced quite a few duds. And while not entirely bad films, almost all of them aren't necessarily worth remembering. And Uwe Boll really likes his Shooters, as 3 of the 5 are his... and the genre doesn't fare well when the only two left are Doom and Max Payne. So looking at these two genres statistically, any future adaptations of Uncharted and Halo are almost destined for mediocrity unless you can get some really good talent behind the camera.

Going back to RPGs for a second, this was the most intriguing genre to me. This genre more than any other seemed to want to please fans the most but, at the same time, completely miss the point. The PokeMon films didn't know what to do with themselves and would play with themes that didn't match the world it was set in or the age group it was going for. Final Fantasy: Spirits Within is one of the biggest bombs and question marks of all time because it was made by the originators... and had nothing to do with the games. While on the other hand, FF7: Advent Children is amazing, but made only for fans and nobody else, so it really can't prosper in the mainstream. The Dungeon Siege films are crazy fun, but they're Uwe Boll, so they aren't great. Strangely, though, I found them to be two of his best and most entertaining video game movies. And then there was Dragon Age which, from what I read, put everything in the film, yet changed up everything so it didn't make any sense. And in the end, the overall film was rather mediocre. I feel that RPGs could definitely succeed translated into film if the creators figure out who the hell they're marketing to.

Then there's the oddity of the group--platformers. Prior to Halo and the rise of the FPS generation, platformers were considered the most popular games available. These are games like Mario, Mega Man, MetroidSonic the Hedgehog, Viewtiful Joe, Crash Bandicoot, Ratchet & Clank, Sly Cooper, Spyro the Dragon, Castlevania, Kirby, Earthworm Jim, Jak and Daxter, and the list goes on and on. Yet the only attempts at adapting these types of games was at the start with Mario? (Note: I think Sonic does have an animated movie, but we won't go there...) Granted, these are typically freakin' bizarre games and concepts, but you can't help but wonder why more companies don't try them, at least in an animated film. Even if you went to the least weird and most popular, Mega Man, Metroid, and Castlevania could all easily work as live-action films. Alas...

I also noticed that 99% of the time, sequels are far, far worse than their predecessors, even if that means the original was so-bad-its-good and the camp that made it entertaining was removed. I often found that sequels were some of the worst films on this list.

So now let's finally wrap this all up. Let's look at some Top and Bottom lists for the year. First up, let's take a gander at those I can't even recall. These are pretty much ranked in order of how much I can't remember a thing about them and how unremarkable they really are.



TOP 5 MOST FORGETTABLE FILMS

5) Wing Commander

All I really remember here is Matthew Lillard crushin' on some woman... who ends up dying. Poor Matthew Lillard.

4) Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

All I remember here is the terrible, terrible CGI shark at the beginning. And I thought I remembered the climax, but as it turns out... I was thinking of the first film. Yeah.

3) Alone in the Dark 2

Um... some evil thing is chasing some people into a bathroom, where they're all killed and another person sees all of it. I think that's how it opens. And that's about all I got.

2) Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture

The plot had something to do with the armor of the Greek god Ares. Or at least that's what I thought until I just looked it up, and it was actually his Roman counterpart, Mars. Alrighty then.

1) The King of Fighters

I literally remember nothing about this movie. I don't know who starred in it, what the visuals looked like... if it was even live action or animated (I think it was live action). Zero.


TOP 10 MOST ENTERTAINING FILMS (SO BAD IT'S GOOD)

So now let's look at the films that might not have been good, but I found them immensely entertaining anyway. I bet you can't guess what director shows up here more than 3 times.

10) Cloak & Dagger

It was the first film I watched for the project (and my grandpa has a speaking role appearance in it!). The tone of this movie was just so utterly strange. It was a very dark and disturbing movie, but everything was treated so lightly and kid-friendly. This film really is a sight to behold.

9) D.O.A.: Dead or Alive

Boobs. And it knows it.

8) House of the Dead

Uwe Boll's first American film, and it shows. It's not even close to his worst (or most entertaining), but it does so many strange things that it's hard not to have fun with it. From the video game inserts to the really bizarre slow motion and camera spins... this movie is something else.

7) Super Mario Bros.: Peach-Hime Kyushutsu Dai Sakusen

Easily the most bizarre movie on the list. Everybody knows when you really think about it, the Mario games are really weird. But what if you were to embrace that weirdness and try to make it all work in an actual world setting? You'd get this mind-melting film.

6) In the Name of the King: Two Worlds

Oh man did I have fun with this one. Yeah, it's Uwe Boll again. But it's Dolph Lundgren traveling back in time and/or to a parallel universe (it's not really made clear) and just not giving a damn. It's goofy and entertaining, though not nearly as entertaining as some of the following films.

5) BloodRayne

Yup, another Boll film. Nothing in this movie makes sense. The acting is terrible. The costumes are terrible. And I remember just laughing through the whole thing at just how silly things got.

4) Resident Evil: Retribution

You know what? I like the fourth and fifth live-action Resident Evil films, and I don't care what anybody says. That being said, I know they aren't great films. But man is this a fun one. I watched and reviewed this when it was in theater... and it's now out on DVD. This is easily the most entertaining of the franchise since the first.

3) In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

This film is so damn entertaining I can't even begin to explain. King Burt Reynolds. Prince Matthew Lillard. Farmer Jason Statham. Evil wizard Ray Liotta. Good wizard John Rhys-Davies and his daughter, Leelee Sobieski. Forest Nymph Kristianna Loken. And then Ron Perlman, because he's freakin' Ron Perlman. It's one of the most bizarre casts I've ever seen, and it is so amazingly fun.

2) Street Fighter

Of course!

1) Super Mario Bros.


I know some people don't agree with me here, and it may be a level of nostalgia I have for the film. But I think this movie is a ton of fun. I actually appreciate this film quite a bit, and I think it gets too big of a bad reputation. There are far worse video game movies out there now, and I hate that this constantly makes the top of people's lists just because everyone would expect it to since you're a movie critic and that's what all movie critics have agreed upon. Nope. Not me.



TOP 5 BEST FILMS

These are the five best films I can recommend to you if you're looking for good video game movies. Good ones do exist... but again, there is a reason I could only do a Top 5 instead of a Top 10. But first...

Runners-Up: King of KongEcstasy of Order. This is a tie for these two documentaries. Both of these films are the only two that got my highest rating in the entire project. But as they're documentaries and not actually adaptations of games, I didn't feel it right to include them on the official list. However, these are two great films that I strongly recommend checking out if you haven't. They would make a great double feature, as they both have quite a bit in common with each other. Great stuff.

5) Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children

This is a fantastically made film. It has gorgeous visuals and amazing action sequences. The music, taken almost entirely from the game, is beautiful. Unfortunately, I put it in my #5 spot because the entire film is fan service. If you haven't played Final Fantasy VII, then you're not going to know or care about anything going on in this film... which is sad, because it's really that good. So unless you want to do a little wiki research and then appreciate it for its visuals, you'll probably not care all that much.

4) Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie

An actually good Street Fighter movie that almost nobody talks about. No, it's not a sequel. the II in the title is in reference to the video game, not the film series. This actually came out before the live-action film. The animation is great. The action is done very well. And the story isn't all that bad. If you're hankering for a good Street Fighter film, don't pass up this little gem. (And that Chun-Li shower sequence followed up by the Vega fight is stunning.)

3) Resident Evil

While it has almost nothing to do with the games, it remains to be the best film of the series. It actually takes itself seriously and acts as more of a horror film than a campy action movie as the rest of the series does. There's a nice story, good characters, and fine thrills. Granted, some of the CGI is a little outdated, but the rest of it is solid.

2) Mortal Kombat

Speaking of outdated CGI, this movie is downright painful in that regard. But the rest of it is damn entertaining. This is about as close as you can get to a good adaptation of the games. It's funny, fun, and full of fan service. And the action is really good, as well. Oh yeah, and that theme song is one of the best movie themes ever.

1) Silent Hill

To wrap this up, most of you saw this one coming. And most of you who have seen this film will probably agree. Sure, some of the acting isn't great, especially in the first 15 minutes or so, but by God, the story and the visuals make up for it. This is a really pretty looking film, even down to the crazy, gritty, bloody things. It's so expertly handled in all regards. And the sequel made me appreciate this film even more.



TOP 5 WORST FILMS

Now for the moment you've all been waiting for. After a year and 50 films, seeing practically every major video game movie ever made and in chronological order... what do I feel are the five worst films?

5) Mortal Kombat: Annihilation

This is everything and more on how a sequel should not be done. When I was about to re-watch this film, I thought it was going to be so-bad-its-good quality. I remember kinda digging it for similar reasons when I was younger. But it's not. It's really not. This movie is just painfully bad. Truly, painfully bad. Nothing in this film is done competently. There's a reason most people consider this one of the worst ever made. And this is only my #5, folks.

4) Alone in the Dark

Uwe Boll strikes again. Even though most of his films are entertaining, they all most certainly are not. The acting in this film is atrocious. The voice-over is lazy, telling you everything that's going on as it's happening. The film goes on for 2 minutes at the start with an expository text scroll. The action scenes are done very oddly and poorly, like Boll doesn't know how to transition into a shootout. But as I said in the review, it's not the worst film I've ever seen; however, it's worst crime is that it's so unapologetically boring. And that's the worst thing a film can be, to me.

3) Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

I tell this a lot, but I actually saw this in theater and felt embarrassed while walking out. This is coming from somebody who saw all of the Twilight movies in theater by himself. It was that bad. The story is all over the place and makes no sense. The action is decent, but it never lasts more than like 30 seconds. Kristin Kreuk is nice to look at, too... but that's not even close to enough to save this movie. This film fails for Chris Klein's performance alone. What was he thinking? Bad. Just bad.

2) Silent Hill: Revelation

Easily the biggest disappointment of any sequel I've had in a long time. To go from the first film being what I think is the best video game movie ever made to the sequel being almost the worst ever made. There is almost zero things done right in this film. It's just terrible from start to finish in every regard. If you were a fan of the original film, skip this. It's not worth it... not even to know what happened at the first film's cliffhanger. It'll just piss you off even more.

1) BloodRayne 2

Bad. Just... bad. Terrible acting and characters (except Michael Eklund, who is hilarious in this... the only good thing about the film). Terrible directing. Terrible mood. Terrible lighting. Terrible editing. Terrible story. Terribly boring. This is my second least favorite Boll film next to Seed, and that says a lot if you know my feelings on that movie. This film is just painfully bad. And you know you're in trouble when your main character doesn't show up for 20 minutes into the movie. To me, this is hands down the worst video game movie of all time... thus far.


12.26.2012

50/50 Review #50: Infernal Affairs.

I'll come out and say it--I'm not a huge fan of The Departed. It's not because I think it's a bad film. It's not. I even liked it. But I only saw it for the first time maybe a couple years ago, which would still be at least 4 years after it came out. This movie had been hyped up like crazy. It was lauded as one of the greatest cop dramas of not only our time, but possibly of all time. I had 4 years to let that sink in when I watched it. Then when I did, I guess I missed something within the setup of the film and was totally lost and confused for the majority of it. I didn't know who was who or what was going on. I eventually caught on, but by that point, I hadn't become overly invested in the characters. It also didn't help that, not long before I finally watched it, a major character's death was spoiled for me (to avoid spoiling others, I'll say the elevator scene death). So the shocking twist that grabbed so many... had zero effect on me. Needless to say, everything was going against me when I watched that film. And I will be the first to admit that I need to rewatch it, and I will. But first let's talk about the original version.

The film follows pretty much the same story. Sam (Eric Tsang) is a Triad leader who wants to infiltrate the police. The mole that gets in is Lau (Andy Lau). At the same time, Superintendant Wong (Anthony Wong) sees potential in a new cadet named Yan (Tony Leung), who he sets up as an undercover cop in Sam's gang. Both moles are in their respective positions for years, moving up the ranks. But when each group realizes there's a mole in their organizations, both moles are tasked with finding out who the other is.

I don't know why, but for some reason, I really liked this version more than The Departed. I did start out slightly confused at different points as to what exactly was going on or if it was present day or a flashback or what, but that never lasted long. I know it's pretty much the exact same story, but I did like the tension that built up in finding out who the moles are... and its the moles who have to figure it out. I think what helps this one work out a little better than the other is pacing. This has a very fast pacing. The film is only 100 minutes, while The Departed is 2 and a half hours. Granted, I know it takes elements from the entire Infernal Affairs trilogy, but the primary story is the first film. I also really liked the whole morse code aspect, which is not in the remake. I thought that was clever and fun.

Another thing I really liked in this that wasn't in the remake was Lau's novelist girlfriend. She's writing a novel about a schizophrenic who starts to lose his identity. The themes between her book and what is going on in the film is pretty on-the-nose, but I really liked that aspect of it. It added a level of meta to the story, and you know how I appreciate meta.

On the whole, though, I really don't have much to say about the film. It was cheesy in parts with the melodrama of the music during certain scenes. But on the whole, I thought it was intense, it had a great sense of character and theme, and it had a great concept that it pulled off well. And the story wasn't bloated--it had a story to tell and it told it. It wasn't perfect, but it was still pretty dang entertaining and well made. Like I said, I'll go back eventually and re-watch The Departed (so you don't have to yell at me in the comments about it). But as for this one...


A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. And that will wrap it up for both Kai's Month and the 50/50 List! Kai had a rather solid month all around. 3 Keanu's and a McLovin! I'd say that's pretty dang good! As for this project, keep an eye out on Friday for the wrap-up post on the 50/50 as a whole. It won't be as crazy in-depth as my 60/60 wrap-up, but it'll have some good lists and fun facts. And that'll about do it!)

12.25.2012

Merry Christmas!

And for your aural pleasure... Put that cookie down! NOW!

(Unfortunately the amazing original video has been removed, but here's the original audio, anyway...)

12.24.2012

V.G. Movies #50: Resident Evil: Damnation.

[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 final film on the list.]

THE HISTORY

Finally, we come to the final video game movie! And how fitting is it that it's a Resident Evil flick (albeit from the animated film series).  There's really no special history here. I've gone over the Resident Evil games ad nauseam with all the other flicks. There's no real information needed that leads up to this sequel to Resident Evil: Degeneration. It just... happened. And it's no secret that I pretty much hated the first film in this animated "series" (there are only two films thus far, so it's hard to call it a series). I'm not expecting much of out this, but as usual... I'll try to go in with an open mind. Let's do this, shall we?

THE FILM

In the middle of a civil war within the Eastern Slav Republic, Leon (Matthew Mercer) is sent in to confirm rumors that bio-weapons such as Lickers are being used. And not only used, but controlled. As it turns out, the freedom fighters have been given a Plaga parasite which will help them control Lickers (at least until the Plaga takes over the person's body completely). But Leon is taken hostage by a couple freedom fighters named Sasha (Dave Wittenberg) and JD (Val Tasso) and has to work with them as they prepare to overtake the capitol building and overthrow their current president, Svetlana (Wendee Lee). All the while, Ada Wong (Courtenay Taylor) has been hired to get close to the president and find the source of the Plaga herself.

You know what? I was pleasantly surprised with this film. It was far and away much better than Degeneration. First, the CG animation looks pretty good, with the exception of a few characters. And the lip sync with the dialogue is off here and there. But on the whole, the movie looks really nice. The Tyrants at the end in particular look really cool and intimidating. Strangely with the visual style, though, they would do weird little things from time to time. For instance, sometimes they would go into a first-person perspective for a short period. And other little things like that. They weren't bad, they were just odd choices.

The action was very good and much better than Degeneration. While most of it was gunplay, there were a few highlights. First and foremost was a fistfight between Ada Wong and the president. Both the animation and the actual fighting looks really good in this segment. And again, when the Tyrants show up, they're such massive, hulking creatures, and they're animated so well that you feel every heavy step they take. So when one takes so long to take down, you can really believe it, and the suspense is high. And I liked the idea of being able to use Plaga to control Lickers, even if it meant your inevitable doom. And it added some really good action sequences later on.

Unfortunately, there were some pretty big negatives, as well. First, the character of JD was unbelievably annoying. He was this Russian wannabe-American gangster type. He would talk and act in these weird and over-the-top ways that it was really hard to not want to punch him in the face. And he was supposed to be likable. Second, almost everything that came out of Leon's mouth was painful. It's like they tried to be clever and witty, but it was just terrible. And not even ironically groan-worthy where it's at least cheesy. It's just bad writing. There's this whole bit near the beginning where he compares everything to the Wizard of Oz for some strange reason. And then he tries to give one-liners throughout, but they just don't hit. He only has one good line in the entire film, which is near the end when they're taking down one of the Tyrants. And that's about it.

It's definitely not a perfect film, but I was really entertained by it for the majority. It does go on about 10 minutes too long as it tries to wrap up every single storyline in this film while setting up cliffhangers for the Resident Evil 6 video game. It's like Lord of the Rings with all the endings it goes for. And that on top of a really long third act climax (albeit a fun one), it was just too much. The voice acting was solid, as well, even though JD got on my nerves. In the end, the decent story, nice visuals, and cool action won me over. Who'd have thunk?


I Am McLovin!

12.23.2012

The Demented Commentary #2: Season 5 (The Vlog).

Hey guys and gals... I'm sorry this took so long to get out. We actually recorded this weeks ago, but I was having trouble both with my computer and with getting it online. But I finally got it done.

So this is the Season 5 Commentary Track for The Vlog. I was joined by Sebastian Gutierrez, Dylan Fields, Jason Soto, and Tom Clift. We had a really fun time recording this. So if you'd like to hear a little inside, behind-the-scenes scoop of how and/or why things were done the way they were, as well as hear all of our reactions and thoughts on the events of this final season (and just be silly and goof off), please listen and enjoy!

This has been split into four 20-25 minute parts for your viewing ease.

PART 1: EPISODES 1-4 (Silent/Noir)



PART 2: EPISODES 5-8 (Zombie/Musical)



PART 3: EPISODES 9-11 (Adventure/Finale Part 1)



PART 4: EPISODE 12 (Finale Part 2)

(Note: This part was originally recorded within the Part 3 chunk, but I had to cut it in half for it to upload right. So the conversation that begins here is just in response to how the last part ended.)

12.20.2012

LINCOLN.

Keep in mind while reading this review that historical dramas aren't really my cup of tea. But I saw it because, well... it's Spielberg, DDL, and full of Oscar buzz. And I was honestly a little intrigued in seeing how Lincoln's life was handled. Most notably, I mainly wanted to see how his death was handled. The film follows Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) in the last few months of his life, but mainly in the month he strongly pushed to have the 13th Amendment (abolish slavery) ratified in the U.S. Constitution. During this time he struggles with his marriage as his wife, Mary Todd (Sally Field), continues to struggle with the passing of their son three years prior while their eldest, Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) demands to fight in the Civil War.

First, the positive. Daniel Day-Lewis was phenomenal in this film. I never once saw DDL. This was Abraham Lincoln surrounded by more modern-day actors in a film. If he wins the Lead Actor Oscar (and I believe he will), he deserves it. Hands down best performance of the year. And the other acting was pretty top notch, too. Tommy Lee Jones was awfully entertaining in the film, though he was honestly only playing Tommy Lee Jones. Still, it was a solid performance. Sally Field does incredibly well here, as well. And while Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a solid job, I felt his role was rather unimportant to the overall film. It added almost nothing except maybe one scene of drama between Lincoln and Mary Todd. He's barely in the movie as it is, and his whole fight to be a soldier pretty much amounts to nothing.

Unfortunately, the film is a bit overlong and quite slow in parts. If one of two things was happening the film was golden. First, if at any time Lincoln was telling a story (which he does quite often), I was totally entranced. He was totally captivating to listen to, and his stories were very entertaining and often humorous. Second, if Tommy Lee Jones was on screen (and usually yelling at or insulting somebody). If either of those things were happening, I was really digging the film. However, there are plenty of times when neither of these things are happening. And it felt like by the time we were maybe an hour and fifteen minutes into the movie, and I realized I still had over an hour left, I was dying. The story moved so slowly, particularly within that first half of the film.

Moving into some spoiler(?) territory, I was incredibly disappointed with the ending. I held out for two and a half hours just to see how the whole assassination and John Wilkes Booth thing was done. And what happens? A freakin' fake-out and you only end up hearing about it happening. How do you do a Lincoln biopic and not even show the shooting? And even worse than that, they pretend like they're going to show you but then you realize what they just did.

Besides that, though, this is almost assuredly going to win a ton of awards. Does it deserve them? Some of them, sure. Daniel Day-Lewis deserves an Oscar for this performance. And maybe another one here or there. But I don't think it deserves the sweep that is most likely going to happen. It's an incredibly well-made film. A brilliantly acted film. A superbly written film in its dialogue. It's just not my type of film. It was entertaining in parts, but too long and slow for my liking. And it was far more a film about passing the 13th Amendment than it was about Lincoln himself (there were entire chunks of the film without Lincoln in them). So for a score that looks at my entertainment over its own quality...


I Am McLovin!

12.19.2012

50/50 Review #49: I'm The Angel Of Death: Pusher III.

Time to wrap up the trilogy. In this review, I'll talk about the film alone and then give my thoughts on the trilogy as a whole. But first, let's look at this. This film follows Milo (Zlatco Buric), a drug boss in the previous tow films. He's trying to kick the habit of using drugs, but it's becoming incredibly stressful due to it being his daughter Milena's (Marinela Dekic) 25th birthday, and he has to cook for 60 people. Unfortunately, after a misunderstanding with a drug trade, Milo ends up with about 10k or ecstasy instead of heroin. While waiting for his heroin to show up, he decides to entrust the ecstasy to Little Mohammed (Ilyas Agac), who says he can sell it quick. But when he doesn't show back up with the money and makes no contact, Milo gets into trouble with the other guys and has to make a deal... with some disastrous results.

Unlike the other two, I really had to think on this one. When it ended, I wasn't sure what I thought or felt. This film, while so similar in structure to the other two, feels different. It's more personal. Milo was the villain of the original film, so to have you sympathizing with him here and wanting him to succeed was an interesting maneuver. Fortunately, Milo is also a pretty great character, and I loved him in the first film, as well as his brief appearance in the second film. Radovan, Milo's partner in the first film, also makes a rather memorable appearance in this film--which is pretty cool considering he's probably the best character in the entire trilogy. But still, while the film was equally as gritty, the personal feeling of the story made everything that much more gut-wrenching (no pun intended... if you've seen the film).

But in the end, I do believe it's probably tied with the first film to me, ranking-wise. The characterization here was superb. Milo is such a complex character that you do kind of feel for, so that makes the overall film that much more depressing and difficult to watch as he just continues to lose it and slip further and further out of control. And everybody just pushes him around, from his colleagues to his spoiled brat daughter. The dangerous, in-control drug lord from the first two films is only a glimmer here, instead replaced with an old man caught in a transitory period where he wants to better himself and is failing.

It is a bit of a slow burn, though. The first 50 minutes, I found, were quite slow, and I checked the clock a handful of times. But the last hour it definitely worth the wait. Like the first film, the slow build of drama until things start spiraling out of control is needed, and the spiral itself is both suspenseful and hard to watch. The entire segment with the prostitute deal was intense, and all I wanted was Milo to snap and beat the crap out of some people. And then the final 20 minutes or so with Radovan was crazy and disturbing (and if you have a weak stomach, beware). And the way it was filmed--in Refn's style of "calm, nonchalant violence" (as best as I can describe it)--is used perfectly in the film's climax.

To briefly discuss the trilogy as a whole, it's one of the most solid trilogies out there. It's not perfect, but it's really dang good. I did prefer the first and third to the second, though I still thought the second was good... just in a different kind of way. I like the complex characters these films present, and I like how all the movies are at least loosely tied together in the characters they share. And what might feel like a flatter character in one film will be expanded on in another, which will give entirely new meaning to that character in the other film. All the films have an open-ending, and they all have different emotions that they leave you with. The first film ends almost as if it's to-be-continued and a sense of dread. The second film ends with a glimmer of hope. And the third film ends rather depressingly--empty and hopeless. To me, my favorite ending was ironically the second film, as it wrapped up things with the story, the character, and theme while still leaving it open to what actually happens. The ending to this one (the third) is currently my least favorite, as it just ends on what's pretty much a symbolic shot. It's not bad... it's just not my favorite type of ending. It's an open ending, but unlike the other two, I didn't leave the film asking (at least too strongly) "what happened next?" And, ironically, that's what made me have to think about my feelings on the film more than the other two. So perhaps that means this was the strongest ending, and to that I can easily concede. I just preferred the other two (particularly the second).

Overall, though, this third installment was very good. The acting was really good. The writing--especially the characterization--was fantastic, as it was with all the films. The direction was tight, especially when it came to any of the violence. I love Milo and Radovan, so seeing more of them is always a good thing to me. I do recommend the film, though you'll want to start with the first one. It was explained to me that this is a trilogy experience, and it really is. You don't need to see each one for them to make sense. They all stand alone. But they work best when you watch them in order, as the character connections and expansions are what make this trilogy such a treat. They're good alone. They're great together. But as for this one on its own...


A Keanu 'Whoa'