The Hat Trick Film Diary: Day 1.

So I began work on a short film project today entitled "The Hat Trick." It's a (mostly) silent film in three parts. I say mostly because it starts out in color and with sound, but changes pretty quickly (there's magic involved).

The basic idea of the story is that a magical top hat finds its way into the lives of a handful of people and gives them exactly what they deserve. Each segment is its own story, but they all tie into each other, and each segment was inspired by a different silent work.

The first story gets the ball rolling as The Lady leaves her office for a while, leaving her Apprentice to clean up before she returns. But as soon as she leaves, The Apprentice stumbles upon the top hat and things slowly become more and more chaotic from there. Of course, this story was inspired by the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment of Disney's Fantasia. There's a lot of magical things involved here. And yes, I even have a broom involved.

The second story follows a Hobo and a Thief. The Hobo comes across the hat and wears it around a park. Meanwhile, a Thief has just stolen a precious jewel and tries to hide it before she's caught with it. However, it somehow finds its way transported into The Hobo's hat. Wackiness ensues as The Thief tries to sneakily steal it back. This segment was heavily inspired by Charlie Chaplin, so there's a lot of physical comedy and dramatic irony.

The final story follows a stingy, rich Man. After getting the hat himself, he goes home... only to find himself plagued by magical mayhem as a kind of payback for how he acted earlier on. This segment was, in part, inspired by The Artist--but mainly that dream sequence scene where everything is starting to make sound except for him, and it's driving him crazy.

Anyway, today I wrapped up filming on Part 1. It was a fun, albeit sometimes trying shoot. The bulk of it was just me and the teenage daughter of an acquaintance of mine (who will also be appearing in the movie in Part 2). The entire shoot took four hours (from about 11 AM to 3 PM). We worked in the office in a University where I used to work for about 3 years (and where I will be working again briefly in the near future), and I actually had to get special permission to film there, which was an interesting experience. I ended up with about 47 minutes of footage, which I'm assuming will be whittled down to maybe 20 minutes by the time I'm done editing it.

Some highlights:

*Having to watch for cast members to show up because the building was actually locked up, meaning I had to let them in when I saw them arrive.

*Realizing I needed an empty bottle of water and not having it... so going to buy a bottle of water from the vending machine, gulping it down in less than a minute, tearing off the label, and having it ready for use.

*Having no hallway lights for the "water fountain" moment and having to use the flashlight on my phone to end up with some pretty crappy quality. Oh well, it was only a few seconds long.

*Using a set piece with a logo on one side of it, and having to turn it in a different direction multiple (and I do mean multiple) times depending on the angle of the shot.

*Discovering that some seemingly easy shots were much more difficult than they first appeared. (Like walking away from a closed door to reveal something behind the actor, or tossing a hat onto an inanimate object from mere inches out-of-frame.)

*Realizing I'm not only racing the clock (my teen actress' ride was coming in 30 minutes), but that the battery on my camera was getting terribly low at the same time.

*Spreading thumb tacks over the hallway floor and hoping security (who I had learned earlier had not been made privy to my activities) would not find me out and kick me out for endangerment (after all... it was a near-empty building!).

*And, of course, filming some truly difficult shots (that I knew were going to be truly difficult) involving multiple shots, good timing, split screens, steady hands, and a helpful director standing right out of frame to help hold a somewhat heavy prop.

Anyway, the shoot went relatively well and I got some great stuff out of it. Some of the tough stuff came out really well. Others... well, let's be thankful they're quick moments. I hope that once I get everything in order and some music behind it, that it'll be pretty fantastic. And now all I have to look forward to are two more days of filming in the near future!


The Demented Podcast #41 - Gynecological Instruments For Mutant Women.

NOTE: I know this was due last weekend, but for some strange reason, my Podomatic bandwidth was insanely above the limit--not sure why, considering I (and nobody else, as far as I know) don't post the actual player on my page. But the bandwidth reset itself today, so although I normally post DemPod on Saturdays, I decided to put it up today due to it being late anyway.


We are finally back with our first regular episode of the season, and to help us kick it off is our old pal Dylan Fields of Man, I Love Films. He's on this episode, which was actually recorded prior to the previous Battle Royale, to discuss psychological thrillers, particularly of the medical variety. First up is Cronenberg's Dead Ringers. We follow that up with Almodovar's The Skin I Live In. And for pretty much the first time on the show, we actually speak for a while spoiler-free for the latter film and then give a spoiler warning for when we discuss the film post-twist (for this is not a movie you want spoiled in that regard). Then, of course, we move on into The Tower. Will this prior Battle Royale champion (of the second rendition) reclaim glory, or will he choke under the pressure? Listen to find out!

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

Current/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.


50/50 Review #24: Scotland, PA.

The last film of Rachel's/Shakespeare's Month is actually not only not in Elizabethan English, but also based on a play I've actually read/am familiar with. Here we take a more modernized look at the tragedy of Macbeth... by turning it into a dark comedy. Taking place in 1970s Scotland, Pennsylvania, this film tells a story surrounding the burger joint Duncan's, owned by Norm Duncan (James Rebhorn). Under him are married couple Joe 'Mac' McBeth (James LeGros) and Pat McBeth (Maura Tierney), who just want to move up in the world, especially after three hippies (Timothy Levitch, Andy Dick, and Amy Smart) give him the idea that he (Mac) could. So after killing Duncan, the McBeth's take over the business from his sons, Donald (Geoff Dunsworth) and Malcolm (Tom Guiry), and start to do really well. At least, until Lieutenant McDuff (Christopher Walken) shows up looking for answers. It also doesn't help that their fry cook, Anthony 'Banko' Banconi (Kevin Corrigan), is a little suspicious of them himself.

Updates of stories, particularly Shakespeare, are almost always a ton of fun. You always try to make connections to the source material, and it's always a hoot seeing how they make it work in the present (or at least in a more modern time period). I haven't really read the play in years, so I actually did a refresher before really getting into the movie. And I'd say it did a pretty bang-up job. Of course, I was disappointed not to hear even any attempt to add in even hints of famous lines "Double double, toil and trouble... Something wicked this way comes" or "Out, out, damn spot!"). But they still managed to play really well with the slipping mental state of the McBeth's. Oh, and I guess the curse of the Scottish play lives on... considering this was the one and only movie this director ever made.

The cast was fine with it, too. The language was updated, which on the one hand made it infinitely easier to follow... but at the same time saddened me that I didn't get to hear Christopher Walken do Shakespeare. Though Walken was fantastic and goofy, as per usual. Maura Tierney stole the show as the obsessive and then slowly-going-insane "Lady Macbeth" character. But somebody please tell me that I'm not the only one... who couldn't stop thinking about Mark Wahlberg anytime James LeGros was on screen, which was the majority of the movie. Seriously, as long as you weren't right in the guy's face, he looked almost exactly like him. Not to mention it would be a perfect character (or at least version of this character) for Marky Mark to play.

Otherwise I don't have many thoughts on the film. Of this month of Shakespearean films, it might not have been the technically best, but it was certainly one of if not the most entertaining. Again, that might have something to do with the fact I actually knew the play this time around. (Also, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the others weren't entertaining--except Richard III... sorry, Rachel--I particularly loved Much Ado About Nothing, and Titus was also bizarrely fascinating). But on the whole, while not perfect, this film was really fun.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. And that's it for Rachel's/Shakespeare's Month! It was certainly an experience! I honestly didn't know what I would feel going into this month, but on the whole it was pretty enjoyable... with just a little stumble here and there. Next month belongs to Dylan with a few of his personal favorites. So let's hope we're still friends after it's over.)


V.G. Movies #24: D.O.A.: Dead Or Alive.

[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.]


I'm gonna be on vacation this week, so I'm gonna make this easy on myself (and males and/or anyone attracted to females, you can thank me later). There's a fighting game series and a beach volleyball series. So here's all you need to know about the games:


Since it won't embed, please click here for all you need to know about the movie. And that about covers it. Silly action. Lots of cheesiness. Exactly what you'd expect it to be. Oh yeah, and boobs and sex appeal. Lots and lots of boobs and sex appeal.

A Hot Mess


50/50 Review #23: Titus.

A couple weeks ago, Nolahn wished me luck with this movie, telling me only to think of it as "the Bard does torture porn." And I must say... that's a rather apt description. Titus (Anthony Hopkins) returns home from war with some slaves, including Queen of the Goths, Tamora (Jessica Lange), and her sons, Chiron (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Demetrius (Matthew Rhys). Titus is offered the role of emperor, but instead nominates the elder son of the former emperor, Saturninus (Alan Cumming), who accepts. And not only does he accept, but he spurns his younger brother, Bassianus (James Frain), by demanding his wife (and Titus' daughter), Lavinia (Laura Fraser), to be his own. Of course this doesn't happen and Titus ends up taking Tamora instead, and Tamora, along with her Moor slave lover, Aaron (Harry Lennix), plan revenge on Titus and his family, including Titus' son, Lucius (Angus Macfayden), and brother, Marcus (Colm Feore). And a bunch of really messed up stuff follows.

When I say this story is messed up, I'm not being hyperbolic. (Warning: The following is pure spoilers.) For instance, there's a moment where Chiron and Demetrius kill Bassianus and then rape his wife--Titus' daughter--Lavinia. After they rape her, they cut out her tongue and then cut off her hands and replace them with twigs from trees. And later, they demand one of the guys cuts off his hand to release the hostages that are Titus' other sons... and this happens... only to realize they were lied to and his sons had already been decapitated and special delivered to Titus, along with his hand. So eventually, Titus pretends to have gone crazy and gets the emperor and Queen to come to a special dinner... where he kills his own daughter and feeds everyone (including Tamora and Saturninus) the bodies of Tamora's sons baked into a meat pie. And then everybody proceeds to kill everyone else. That's not even including any of the random orgies or any of the bizarre crap that goes on in this movie. (End Spoilers)

All of that being said, I really liked the story. Strangely, it didn't feel like a Shakespeare story to me at all, but that's probably because it was done so early in his career. The language was there, but it didn't have that same poetic flair that his other, more popular plays had. I've also read that the play itself is full of so many problems and plot holes and confused motivations, making it rather unpopular. But things seemed to have at least somewhat smoothed themselves out for this adaptation. The characters of Titus and Aaron, in particular, are really fascinating. Titus borders on sanity and insanity, while Aaron the Moor is probably one of Shakespeare's most dastardly, evil, and overall greatest villains. This guy is seriously demented.

And what really helped with that was the acting. As usual in these types of adaptations, the acting was done very well. Harry Lennix, who played Aaron, was superb. And, of course, Anthony Hopkins played crazy very well. But he still kept you wondering "...is he really crazy?" Finally, I was incredibly surprised with Colm Feore, who seemed to fit into this world perfectly and was rather fantastic in his relatively small role. So while everyone was great on the whole, those three were the standouts to me.

However, I can't talk about this movie without saying one thing: it's freaking weird. First and foremost, the film starts off with a boy in his kitchen playing with action figures. Then it's like bombs start going off and the house is collapsing and these roman soldiers burst in and grab him. They take him out into this random colosseum where there's some strange interpretive dance number, but with marching and spears instead of dance. It's very bizarre. And all of this goes on for about 10 minutes. And everything just seems to clash with the last setting-wise, and I was just so confused and fascinated at the same time.  The weird doesn't stop there. A lot of the visual cues are just out-there. I can't really describe it. But this is a Julie Taymor movie we're talking about.

The visuals are weird, as well, in the fact that it's mainly set in this strange fantasy realm where multiple timelines exist simultaneously, so outfits can be ancient, modern, or futuristic, there can be talk of swords and knives and others can use guns, among other things (using cars and horses, etc.). That being said, despite its weirdness and confusing nature, it's all gorgeous. As I said, this is a Julie Taymor movie, so it all looks fantastic. It's some truly beautiful cinematography and whatnot. To top it off, it has one hell of a music score to back it up. Even letting the DVD menu play for a while, the score had me hooked in and ready to start it based on that alone.

I can't in sound mind recommend this movie to everyone. It's definitely not for everyone. The Shakespeare language is there, but the biggest downfall of that is that there isn't the usual wit and poetic flow that he tends to have that makes it worth listening to. But the story is really interesting, especially if you like revenge stories or just really messed up stories. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Chan-wook Park ever decided to make a version of this. It seems to be right up his alley theme-wise. So yeah, it has the story, characters, visuals, and score that are really going for it. But for me, the biggest thing that brings it down is the fact it's over 2.5 hours of Elizabethan English that isn't interesting to listen to--at least for the most part (there are some great speeches in the second half of the movie, but they're few and far between). But if it sounds interesting to you, by all means, check it out. There are far worse ways to spend 3 hours.

A Keanu 'Whoa'


V.G. Movies #23: Silent Hill.

[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.]


In 1996, a team from Konami got together to create a Hollywood-like horror game. Some suspect they also wanted their own answer to Resident Evil. Strangely, the team who were attempting to come up with this game had been a team whose other projects never did well and actually planned on leaving Konami since they weren't able to assimilate into any other Konami groups, either. In fact, the group also had no idea how to move forward with Silent Hill besides their basic idea. However, while Konami wanted this high-profit, Hollywood-style game, the team decided to ignore them and do something a little more subdued, something that went for the emotions of the players instead.

Because of this, they went for something more psychological. Plot points were left ambiguous to keep players pondering things. The monsters themselves (including the famous Pyramid Head monster) are just physical representations of inner vices and/or turmoil of the primary characters. And the main character was even made an everyman to help the player really get attached to him and feel like you're the character rather than just playing a character. Funnily enough, to cover up a few questionable graphics, they added liberal uses of fog and darkness--which just ended up adding to the overall atmosphere of the original game.

The plot of the original game has you playing as Harry Mason, who is taking his daughter, Cheryl, on vacation around a town named Silent Hill. But on the way, he swerves to avoid hitting a ghostly apparition of a girl in the road and ends up in a wreck... and when he wakes up, Cheryl is gone. In an apparently empty, fog-heavy town, Harry ends up meeting with police officer Cybil Bennett, who also seems to be trapped in the town. He also ends up meeting a woman named Dahlia, who is the mother of the mother of Alessa, the ghostly girl from earlier and who he runs into a few more times. It turns out that Dahlia used her daughter in a cult ritual to become impregnated by their deity. But with Alessa fighting back, the birth doesn't happen and her soul ends up splitting in two--half of which is reincarnated into Cheryl, whom Harry and his wife adopted. And Dahlia has performed a spell to try and reunite the souls and birth the deity.

A few more games came out prior to the film release, but their stories aren't really necessary to know before discussing the film. So in the mid-2000s, production began on this film adaptation, and even before the release, there were some positives and negatives just from given information. The film gained director Christoph Gans, who worked on the lauded Brotherhood of the Wolf. It also got Roger Avary for a writer, who you may or may not know as the guy who worked with Quentin Tarantino. He received uncredited writing credits for both Reservoir Dogs and True Romance, and an actual writing credit for Pulp Fiction. All of this was rather positive. But then there was the news that this was going to be an entirely female cast. Normally one wouldn't see that as negative... except for the fact the main character is a dude. After a bit of the controversy spread and there was some backlash from the production company, Sean Bean's role was expanded. But would that actually help or hurt the movie? Let's find out...


I'm not a super fan of the games. I've tried to play the first one, but I didn't care for the controls and found it way too difficult because of that. However, I love the idea behind the games and the stories they present. So not only did I see this in theater, but I've been waiting for the sequel since the second it ended. Fortunately that sequel is finally hitting at the end of this year... let's just hope it fulfills my reasoning for wanting it. The film follows Rose (Radha Mitchell), who leaves behind her husband, Christopher (Sean Bean), and takes their adopted daughter, Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), off to Silent Hill. She takes her to this renowned ghost town because Sharon keeps having nightmares about it. But after a wreck, Rose wakes up to a fog-filled town and Sharon missing. And something in the town is not right. Every now and then a siren sounds and darkness spreads... and disturbing monsters appear. To help her through it is a police officer, Cybil Bennett (Laurie Holden), who followed her there. While they try to find Sharon and stay alive, Christopher teams up with Officer Gucci (Kim Coates)--who seems to know a lot more than he's letting on--to find Rose and Sharon, who don't seem to be in Silent Hill at all. The film also stars Deborah Kara Unger as Dahlia and Alice Krige as Christabella.

This is pretty easily one of the best video game movies available. Not only is it overall well made, but it's a pretty good adaptation. Does it follow the story of the game exactly? No. It takes its liberties--particularly in changing the main character and a couple names, as well as the backstory. But to me, the story still works and the mystery is strong enough to keep you intrigued until everything comes together near the end.

What really makes this film work is its look and atmosphere--even people who don't like the movie admit to how good it looks. First and foremost, Christoph Gans got the visuals down perfectly. The fog. The town itself. Both really look great and give a creepy atmosphere. And then the monsters themselves were done incredibly well. Taking a play out of the Del Toro playbook, Gans decided to take the "guys in suits" approach. In fact, the CGI in the film is only "as necessary," which was a fantastic move. The burning children, the armless man, Colin the Janitor (who has one of the best moments in the movie), the Nurses (another great moment), and Pyramid Head himself are all done practically, and the movie is all the better for it. We're not bombarded by crappy looking CGI monsters that take us out of the movie. Instead, the realism adds to the grit and terror of the scenes. And they used dancers and gymnasts and whatnot to add to the flexibility and bizarre movements the creatures needed to perform.

And as I said a second ago, there are some truly great scenes in this film. My personal two favorite are the ones I already mentioned. It's short, but I love the Colin moment a little ways into the film. Fantastic creature design there. And the Nurses moment is probably my favorite scene in the whole movie. She realizes the light makes them move... and then had to slowly travel in between them without touching them and then... yeah. Let's just say this scene has inspired more than one moment in my fiction writing.

The acting is... alright. Jodelle Ferland is incredibly creepy as Alessa, but... kind of unbelievable as Sharon. You can tell she was casted more for her portrayal of Dark Alessa than anything. Radha Mitchell does the best she can with basically shouting "Sharon!" through the whole movie. I was shocked when I realized, as I was watching, that Cybil was played by the same chick who plays Andrea in Walking Dead. It took me a like... a triple-take in this viewing to pick up on it since she looks so drastically different and even acts different. But, of course, what we really need to talk about here is Sean Bean. His role was added and/or extended for the film to add a more male demographic from the original script. Is he completely necessary? No, not really. There are a couple moments with Kim Coates that add a few layers to the story, but that's it. In fact, Rose now having to leave him behind for no reason adds a few strikes against her in my book. And then we get... the ending.

The absolute worst part of this movie is its last 5 minutes or so. And I'm talking even after the climax of the movie. It's really hard to screw up a movie in the denouement. I mean, you can have an open ending, and that can sometimes make or break it for people. But there is a difference between an open ending and... this. And it's because of this moment that I've been greatly anticipating the sequel for about 6 years now. But what they did here was unacceptably bad. Basically (spoiler alert), Alessa merges with Sharon to become one being again, then she leaves Silent Hill with Rose... only they don't leave the fog world and instead stay in this parallel dimension where Sean Bean can't see them. The end (end spoilers). It's unnecessary and makes no sense.

Otherwise, there are a few pacing problems here and there; the movie is a tad longer than it needs to be. And not necessarily just from the Sean Bean stuff. The film as it is could have been trimmed down a bit, and I think I would have actually started the film about 10 minutes in, right where the game starts, about a couple minutes before the wreck. It just adds to the mystery and disorientation of everything... and takes away the terrible acting and really rough scenes that happen in that first 10 minutes.

But on the whole, it's about as close to a perfect video game movie as we've gotten thus far. It looks great, the story is good, the characters are solid, and the atmosphere is excellent. I'd say even if you're not a fan of the game, but you like a good psychological scare or a freaky horror movie, check it out. And if the sequel is any good and redeems this ending, I might even like it a little more. Stay tuned for that later this year. But until then, this is still a pretty dang good video game adaptation.

A Keanu 'Whoa'


50/50 Review #22: Richard III.

It crossed my mind while watching Much Ado About Nothing last week that it might be of benefit to have read and/or at least know the plays before having seen these films. But by the time that one finished, I found that theory wasn't necessarily true. Now I'm beginning to rethink that conclusion. Altered to 1930s England, this particular story follows Richard (Ian McKellen), a man who wants to be king, so he has to kill everybody who stands in his way. At least, I think that's what it's about. The film also stars Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent, Robert Downey Jr., John Wood, Maggie Smith, Dominic West, and a thousand other people.

If you haven't inferred my main issue with the film yet, it's that I had no effing clue what was going on. And it wasn't a language issue, either. I actually understood pretty much everything. But for some reason, I couldn't follow the movie at all. I got the idea that Richard wanted to be king and had to get rid of his brothers and whoever else would ascend the throne before him... but that's it. I grasped the basic idea, but absolutely nothing else that was happening. I even tried to read the plot summary of the play on wikipedia, hoping that would give me an easier understanding in the most basic way possible. But no. For some reason, I found that just as confusing and hard to follow. Part of it had to do with the fact I couldn't figure out the characters, what their relation to each other was, what their individual motivations were, and what they were doing during any scene. And due to all of this, I had difficulty grasping the point of updating the setting to 1930s England (I eventually understood the Nazi symbolism, but that's about it). And the more I didn't get about everything, the more frustrated I became. And the more frustrated I became, the more I just didn't care.

The acting is solid, however. Also, the overall filmmaking is rather solid. My favorite aspect--something Rachel might have thought when suggesting this--was the breaking the fourth wall aspect. Richard talks directly to the camera throughout the movie, recalling the method of asides in plays when the characters remove themselves from the setting and speak directly to the audience. And since that goes into meta territory, I'm inclined to like it automatically. But on the whole, the acting, style, and meta qualities were really the only things I liked about it.

In the end, I just kept asking myself "What's the point?" That's the real question I wanted answered. I didn't follow the story because I couldn't grasp the point of whatever scene I was watching at any given moment. I didn't know how each individual scene played into the overarching narrative, what its point was in the grande scheme (except for the initial killing scenes, of course... later killings went back to the "I don't follow" category). And because of this, I feel having studied or known the story prior to seeing this film would have made it a much better viewing. By and large, I'm not blaming the film for my dislike, but rather my lack of prior knowledge (though to be fair, shouldn't a film be able to stand alone without needing said prior knowledge?). Or maybe I'm just a dumbass.

The Zed Word

(P.S. This is NOT a rating on the quality of the film; rather, it's just a rating on the level of enjoyment.)


V.G. Movies #22: BloodRayne.

[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.]


In 1999, a company named Terminal Reality released a survival horror game called Nocturne. I suppose what they didn't realize was that soon after, their very own game would inspire them to create another, arguably more popular, game. In 2002, they released BloodRayne, which took heavily from the aforementioned game. Both games have a half-vampire supernatural hunter that look very similar to each other, and both games have a secret society that acts similar to each other. 

The first game begins in 1933, as the Brimstone Society, whose purpose is to rid the world of vampires, decides to recruit Rayne, herself half-vampire. With the society, she goes on many missions and fights a bunch of monsters and people, including the Nazi army. The second game, however, has Rayne confronting her father, the King of Vampires, Kagan. She goes around killing off his other children who have created a cult, since she couldn't kill him. They created "The Shroud," which is an object that would allow them to go out in sunlight and begin a new age of vampire rule.

So, of course, Uwe Boll got his hands on the rights and turned it into something much unlike the games, setting it in the 1800s in Romania. Now, I've already actually reviewed this flick almost exactly 2 years ago now, so I'm going to just recycle that review. I've never recycled reviews before, but I figured, in this case... nobody would mind. (This review was actually one of the primary reasons I added one of my ratings to the rating system.) Anyway...


The movie is about a Dhampir (where the P is pronounced like an F)--a half human/half vampire--named Rayne (Kristanna Loken). Many years ago, her vampire father, Kagan (Ben Kingsley), raped and murdered her mother. Ever since, she's been out for revenge. Then we also have the members of a vampire-killing society--Vladimir (Michael Madsen), Sebastian (Matt Davis), and Katarin (Michelle Rodriguez). Katarin's father, Elrich (Billy Zane), was in charge of this society... that is, until he became a vampire himself. Anyway, this society protects powerful objects/body parts that can make any vampire super powerful, and--of course--Kagan is after them. But Rayne will get these objects herself if it means finding a way to get to Kagan and kill him.

The movie's story is all over the place. Half the crap in this movie doesn't make sense, and that's being generous. Hell, Billy Zane's character ends up having absolutely no point. He's in maybe 3 scenes which go absolutely nowhere, and then he's never heard from again. It wasn't necessarily confusing as it was just laughably bad. There's even a sex scene that comes out of nowhere, which is the infamous scene where we get to see Kristanna Loken topless. And then it's never mentioned again.

The acting is atrocious, as well. The majority of the cast is incredibly out of place. Ben Kingsley doesn't even phone it in; Hell, he doesn't even sleepwalk through it. He gives us what is probably the most boring villain in any vampire story, not to mention one of the laziest performances of his career. Michael Madsen is obscenely out of place, and his pauses in between his monotone speech makes William Shatner look like Alan Rickman (oh yeah, I went there). As for Michelle Rodriguez, let's just say I pull off a more convincing British accent than she does, not to mention I can keep it going longer. Half the time she talks normal. Kristanna Loken is guilty of the same, but it was more noticeable with Miss Rodriguez. I mean, Jesus, when Billy Zane gives the best performance in your movie... though I should have realized this when the opening credits actually said "With Special Appearance By Billy Zane." Yeah. Billy Zane actually gets the "special appearance" tag for this movie. That tells ya something.

I never find reason to talk about props and costumes in movies. If you're a regular reader of mine, you'll know that. But I have to comment here. The costumes, primarily the wigs, are so bad they're ridiculous. From Ben Kingsley's to Meatloaf's (yes, Meatloaf is in this movie. You know what they say, some Meatloaf Aday keeps the doctor away... or something like that). And the weapons? Never have I seen duller swords. My Sword of Gryffindor (don't be jealous) could do more damage than Rayne's arm swords. And Ms. Loken moves so slowly with them, she gives you plenty of time to take it all in.

This leads in to the action. This movie was a gore fest. Granted, the blood was incredibly fake, as were any damaged body parts (sliced limbs, bashed heads, cut torsos, etc.). The camera stayed on them long enough that you could tell how fake they were. And the bright fake blood didn't help. There's actually one scene that's pretty funny when there are a bunch of guys beating a ripped open corpse with their swords, but they're doing it so slowly and with such bored looks on their faces. It's like they were trying out for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World. Just going through the motions. But besides the gore, the action wasn't half bad. Sure, it was slow and not very fluid, as if the actors were too scared to play with their fake weapons, but it was still entertaining.

On top of all this, the script is terrible. Now, to his credit, Uwe Boll didn't write it. A woman named Guinevere Turner did. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the same Guinevere Turner who was partially responsible for the screenplay of American Psycho. And it. is. bad. The conversations are jilted, mainly for 2 different reasons. First, everything is expository. There is no character building conversations. Every single sentence has to go with moving along the plot, even to the point where transitions in scenes make no sense and are forced. The second reason is that there are absolutely no contractions. This movie is apostrophe-phobic, I guess, because every little syllable of every word must be said. And as I said earlier, the story makes no sense part of the time, giving us unnecessary moments of story (Billy Zane's character... or Meatloaf's character).

All of this being said, I have to say that I actually enjoyed the movie. Some will say it's painfully boring. Some will say it's just bad. And some say it's a total rape of the video game. But I haven't played the video game, and I think this movie is actually so bad it's good. With bad acting reading the words from a bad script with actors wearing bad wigs and doing bad action scenes with overtly fake gore, all to further a plot that nobody really cares about? It's just so bad it's hilarious. And yes, I did laugh at points from the badness. And the reason I think I enjoyed BloodRayne more than some of Uwe Boll's other works thus far, such as Postal or Far Cry, is because of its consistency. Postal actually has some truly good moments in it, so its inconsistency to be either good or bad made it hard to watch. Far Cry just tried too hard; it had good ideas, but a really poor execution. BloodRayne is just bad all around, a bad that is so bad you're not sure that it wasn't made like this on purpose. Even the cinematography is bad, which is why I had the initial thought from the trailers that it came off as a really bad Sci-Fi Channel Original. So what did I think of at the end? That I was wrong. I actually think it would have made a pretty decent Sci-Fi Channel Original, though it was still at that quality and did not deserve the theater run. The only reason it did was the star power, I'm sure.

If there was anything I didn't like about the movie, even in a so bad it's good kinda way, it was the ending. There's about a 2-3 minute flashback montage of a bunch of bloody/violent acts that occurred throughout the rest of the movie (some of it in slow motion), just in case you had tried to forget it by this point. And it is a bloody montage, indeed. Still, it serves absolutely no purpose other than to confuse, which it did. But that was just a minor quibble in an otherwise super-campy, super-bad, so-bad-its-good vampire flick.

A Hot Mess



Warning: There might be some potential spoilers in this review.


I'm a fan of the first two Alien films. Not an uber-fan, but I enjoy them. I wasn't one of those who were going out of their mind with anticipation for Prometheus. I think it looked cool and like it would be good entertainment, but I wasn't super greatness or anything. So when the mediocre reviews began pouring in, it didn't really dissuade me from seeing it. It just helped to shape my final expectations going into it. The film takes the idea that mankind has found their origins on the moon of a planet of another solar system. And it's Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) who discover this. They get Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) to finance the expedition, meaning that it will be overlooked by Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and an android named David (Michael Fassbender). But once they get there, they discover it's not exactly what they had in mind... and slowly, they begin to suffer the consequences of their curiosity. Idris Elba also stars as the pilot of the Prometheus ship.

Even though my expectations weren't grand, I still found them... out of place. The best comparison I think I can make is to say that this was less like Ridley Scott's Alien and more like Danny Boyle's Sunshine. The story itself is a slow burn that keeps its focus on philosophical ideas... and then pops in a "monster" in the third act. And all of this is equally the best and worst thing about the film.

The philosophical ideas and the themes delivered for the origin of man were explored rather well. Without getting into too much spoiler territory, I like how this both explained the origins of man, as well as the origins of the Xenomorphs of the original series. (But I'll warn you now--those going in expecting another addition to that franchise and/or formula will be saddened. This works as a kind of origin story, but you won't find any alien carnage.)

And I suppose that's where the film is a kind of let down. Not that it doesn't have that, but that it doesn't have... well... anything. The movie is over two hours long, and there's maybe 10 minutes of action or suspense in the entire film. The film acts like a slow burn that leads up to very little. A 15-second payoff before the closing credits. I wouldn't say the movie is overly boring or anything. It just takes its time exploring the aforementioned themes, but it never feels like the payoff is equal to the buildup.

So while the film is a good one, and the visual effects are outstanding and gorgeous, I guess I was expecting a little more. And this coming from somebody who wasn't overly expecting a hell of a whole lot to begin with, I can certainly understand why a lot of people have come out of this disappointed. The story is good. The acting is great. The action we do get is really good. But I just found some structural flaws and a few off character decisions that didn't gel well. In other words, what it did well, it did great. But as a whole, I wanted a little more.

I Am McLovin!

(P.S. Why age-up Guy Pearce and not just get an older actor? Was the only reason they got Pearce so that he could do the promotional viral video a while back? And they wanted to keep continuity between the two? That's the best explanation I can think of.)


The Demented Podcast #40 - Battle Royale 4.

After almost a month of no episodes, we're finally coming back at ya. There were a few reasons behind this, most of them scheduling issues. But we're starting off here with the fourth edition of the Battle Royale, where the Top 5 Tower players of the past season face off until there's only one left. As usual, the recording itself was at least 2 and a half hours, and I managed to cut it down to less than an hour and 20 minutes. It was mostly randomness, some connection issues, and few jokes (but the majority of the funny stayed in!). So here, Steve and I are joined by Rachel, Kai, Stevee, Jandy, and Jason. Will Rachel be the first person to win twice? Will Jason redeem himself for his first-round tiebreaker loss last season? Will Stevee or Jandy, both new to this, come out on top? In the nearly all-girls season, will the ladies represent, or will a guy be this season's winner? And most importantly, will Kai ever. stop. talking? (The answer to that last one is no. But we love it anyway!). As for the other questions, listen to find out!

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

Current Tower Leaderboard
1) Rachel (169 Points)
2) Kai (126 Points)
3) Stevee (108 Points)
4) Jandy (107 Points)
5) Jason (103 Points)
6) Nikhat (96 Points)
7) Lindsay (91 Points)
8) Joanna (83) Points
9) Jessica (FAIL)

Current/Previous Battle Royale Champions
(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.


50/50 Review #21: Much Ado About Nothing.

So, despite having a degree in English and Literature and having taught high school English, I actually haven't read all that much Shakespeare. Of course I know Romeo and Juliet rather well, as well as a little MacbethHamlet, Julius Caesar, and King Lear... but that's about it, and honestly I don't remember all that much about the latter two (I also know the basic stories of Taming of the Shrew, Midsummer Night's Dream, and Twelfth Night only due to other modernized adaptations). I never had to read anything else (excluding the sonnets), nor did I do so on my own time. So, needless to say, I had no idea what the story to this was going into it.

The story begins as Don Pedro (Denzel Washington) comes to reside at Leonato's (Richard Briers) for a while with his men. Amongst them is Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard), who immediately falls in love with Leonato's daughter, Hero (Kate Beckinsale) and must marry her. But while waiting for the wedding, the household plans to play cupid and hook up Benedick (Kenneth Branagh) and Leonato's neice, Beatrice (Emma Thompson), both of whom are shrewish bachelors-for-life. Unfortunately, Don Pedro's bastard brother, Don John (Keanu Reeves), plans to seek revenge on Don Pedro and mess up their plans, and it might work... if inept nightwatchman Dogberry (Michael Keaton) doesn't get in the way. The film also co-stars Imelda Staunton as Margaret, who I believe is a handmaiden to Hero (or something along those lines).

I'm sure when you think of Shakespeare, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, and Keanu Reeves aren't the first people to come to mind. I mean, seriously, somebody had to have this conversation: "We need a villain for this Shakespeare movie... and he must be brothers with Denzel Washington. I've got it! Keanu Reeves!" Seriously though, despite the unusual casting, it all rather works. Keanu is broody, and he doesn't talk a whole lot, which is probably why he gets away with it. Denzel is absolutely fantastic in the role and should probably do more Shakespeare, to be honest. Of course, Branagh and Thompson feel like they were transported from Elizabethan England and perform effortlessly. But it was Michael Keaton who I felt stole every scene he was in. He was quite hilarious and had me laughing quite a bit.

In fact, the movie itself had me laughing out loud at numerous points. It took me a while to get into the language--Elizabethan is tricky enough to get used to, but Shakespearean dialogue is so fast and so full of wit and puns that if you stop paying attention for a second, you'll miss out on the meaning of the conversation. Sure, you can get the gist of it, but you'll lose out on the wordplay (and I like my wordplay). But once I was focused, I was entranced. The film moved so quickly, it didn't feel like an hour and 50 minutes. And a large portion of that had to do with the film's charm and humor and overall language.

That upside is also the downside. At times things did move so fast I had a hard time keeping up or knowing what was going on. In fact, I had no idea what was going on in Keaton's first two scenes that I had to look it up. I actually thought he was a bad guy or thief or something like that, only to discover quite the opposite. And unless I missed something, I'm still not sure Don John's motivation outside of just feeling like he gets the short end of the stick in relation to his brother. And if that's the case, it's a weak motivation (not really a fault of the movie, I suppose, though). I mean, on the whole I followed the film fine, but there were scenes here and there that totally lost me and I had to get a quick summary to figure out what was happening.

It's just a happy movie. Even when it's being serious and dastardly plots are afoot, you know nothing bad is really going to happen. It's a great romantic comedy from Shakespeare (even if it follows the Shakespearean tropes of falling madly in love at first sight). The performances are great all around. A good film all around, and I do recommend it to those who like the genre (Shakespearean language or not).

A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. That rating is just coincidental.)


V.G. Movies #21: Doom.

[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.]


It's the year 1992, and a man named John Carmack has developed a new 3D game engine. And with that game engine came a new game with a strange origin. It was all-around inspired by three films: Aliens, Evil Dead II, and The Color of Money. Yes, that one with Tom Cruise. While ideas for characters, atmosphere, and story came from the former two films, the third brought us the famous title. In the film, Tom Cruise is asked "What do we have here?" to which Cruise replies "Doom."

So in 1993, a company called id Software released a first-person shooter game, Doom. In fact, it is the game that popularized the genre, making it one of the most popular gaming genres, even today. And if you don't know what first-person games are, they're basically when you see things from the eyes of the character (usually involving a weapon/gun immediately in front of you on the screen). The first game has you take on the role of an unnamed space marine who is posted on Mars. While acting as security for the UAC (Union Aerospace Corporation), a UAC experiment goes wrong. You see, UAC was experimenting with teleportation between the moons Phobos and Deimos. Unfortunately, they accidentally opened up a gateway to Hell itself. So you, as the space marine, are sent to Phobos to see what's going on.

The game grew so popular that it was estimated in 1995 that there were more computers with the game installed worldwide than Windows 95. This fact even made Bill Gates consider buying out id Software, but instead made a Win95 port to help sell the game and the operating system. A lot of its popularity came from it specializing in and popularizing the "deathmatch" mode--basically the origin of online competitive gaming, which is so popular today in such games as Halo and Black Ops.

The game wasn't without its controversy, though. With high levels of gore and violence--not to mention satanic visuals and themes--it was hit from multiple organizations (including many religious groups). It again gained controversy in 1999 when it was revealed that Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were avid fans of the game. They even compared their actions to things they could do in the game. This is why, in part, video games have been near the top of the list in teen violence arguments, but has since been scientifically debunked. Also, along with Mortal Kombat, this game was a large reason the ESRB came into play and video games now have a ratings system.

But none of that stopped the 1995 sequel, Doom II: Hell on Earth. It picks up where the previous left off, and the space marine realizes Earth has been invaded by Hell, as well. It was received well. A couple other games came out, not direct number-wise. Doom 3 didn't come out until 2004, and it was a reboot of the franchise, disregarding the stories of the previous games. Why a reboot? It's said to take advantage of new-gen technology. But it also didn't hurt that a movie was in the works... a movie that is adapted from said game.

Universal and Columbia Pictures originally had the rights, but the film was never greenlit. So when they lost the rights, it was given over to Warner Bros. in the promise they would greenlight it within the year. And when that didn't happen, Universal re-bought the rights and began production in 2004. John Wells, the film's producer, was fully aware of how many video game films have sucked, and was adamant this one be done well and even include a first-person shooter sequence, since Doom without first-person would be a "miscarriage of justice!" He had high hopes and a lot of good ideas for how the film should be, making it similar to the game. He even said that if this film did well, they would immediately greenlight a sequel. But apparently the director didn't agree, since the opening weekend barely grossed $15m--the following weekend only adding another $4m--and a sequel was quickly forgotten.

Now let's find out why.


I actually saw this one in theater... but I don't believe I've seen it since. Maybe a quick scene here or there, but that's it. The only thing I remember is the fan backlash on how it was nothing like the games' story. This story follows a group of marines as they're called to investigate a quarantine issue on a science facility on Mars. It's led up by Sarge (The Rock) and also included Reaper (Karl Urban), Destroyer (Deobia Oparei), Duke (Razaaq Adoti), Portman (Richard Brake), The Kid (Al Weaver), Goat (Ben Daniels), and Mac (Yao Chin). When they get there, they meet up with Reaper's sister, Samantha (Rosamund PIke), a scientist at the station. Of course, they slowly begin to realize that the experimentation going on went wrong, and now monsters are attacking and killing/transforming everyone.

I've never played the game, but I know it's a poor adaptation of the story just from what I know. The biggest thing about the game is that you're fighting demons from Hell, due to an open portal to said place. Here... it's just a virus gone wrong that can either turn you into a super human or make you a monster... depending on how much evil is in your soul or genomes or something like that. Also... fun drinking game: any time the movie says the words "game" or "hell," take a shot. It's quite aware that it's based on a game that involves Hell, but instead of adapting it as such, it instead would rather make references to what it could have been.

The acting is pretty piss-poor here, too. The Rock is often picked on in this feature, and yeah... he's bad. But in my opinion, Rosamund Pike is worse. You know, she actually turned down Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to do this flick (well, this one and the most recent Pride & Prejudice, also considered a poor adaptation. Yeah, she makes great choices, huh?). To be fair, Goblet of Fire is arguably one of the worst adaptations of the series, anyway, so she was screwed no matter what. The best performance here is from Karl Urban. He's not great, but he's better than the rest.

Another fun fact--Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg were offered the chance to give the script a treatment, specifically to better the dialogue. They refused. Good on them. But the script did need a few more revisions. In particular, there's a lot of head-scratching moments surrounding the character of Sarge. Not only does he seem to continually contradict his own orders, but he just goes nuts for no reason in the third act. He wasn't infected or anything. He just... snaps. There's no build up to it, nothing to explain it. Just one second he's fine, and the next... he's a raving madman. It's really bizarre.

There is something really fun that comes out of this, though: the 5-minute first-person segment near the end of the film. Unlike the rest of the film, it plays up the fact it's based on a Doom video game. It's bloody, action-packed, silly, and very cheesy. It totally doesn't take itself seriously, and because of that, the whole sequence is a lot of fun. There's another similar moment a little earlier where The Rock gets the BFG and goes "Big... Fuckin'... Gun." And then his reaction to shooting it is great, too. These moments play to the fans, unlike the rest of the film.

On the whole, the film isn't bad bad. It's just... not good. Even technical stuff like the lighting and the camera work (outside the FPS segment) is poor. The acting is laughable and the characters, particularly Sarge, make no sense. And if they were going to make so many damn references to Hell and even have a religious character and portals involved... why not go that route to begin with? Why do the whole virus thing? That just doesn't make sense, especially since it's clear they want to at least attempt something fans would appreciate. A lot of people consider it one of the worst video game movies. I don't. It's just wildly mediocre.

Stop Saying OK! OK.

(P.S. This same director isn't done with me yet, either. I happened to see his next feature in theater, as well... and not since. And that one is infinitely more painful... but we'll get to that in a few months.)


MonthWatch - May 2012.

[I'm going to keep a monthly tally of the movies I've both watched for the first time and as re-watches. I think it'll be interesting to see what all I've watched at the end of the year and how many. That being said, let's do it. Here's the next month.]


The Avengers - Awesome.
Dark Shadows - Not so awesome, but entertaining enough.

Pulp Fiction - Hadn't seen it in a while and just felt like checking it out again.
Shark Attack 3 - Made some friends watch it. They both hate and love me more because of it.
Troll 2 - Ditto.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life - For V.G. Movie article. Bad.
Role Models - Still hilarious.
Of Mice And Men (x6) - Showed it in class, of course. Great adaptation.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse - For V.G. Movie article. Worse than I remember, but not god-awful.
The Nines - Still awesome and mind-bending.
Chronicle - I liked it as much this time as I did in the theater.
Snatch. - See: Pulp Fiction.
Little Shop of Horrors - Rachel Thuro got me in the mood for this one. And yes, I sang along.
Dodgeball - Had to prep for a Faculty vs. Student dodgeball game the next day.
Bulletproof Monk - I dunno... just felt like it. It's not a great movie... but whatever.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 - Wanted to watch both back-to-back, so I did. This one is fun, but I don't super duper love it.
Kill Bill Vol. 2 - I actually liked this one a lot more than I used to (it used to be reversed, where I preferred Vol 1).
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children - For V.G. Movie article. Confusing plot, but some of the best animation and action sequences you will ever see.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol - Rare that I re-watch a movie in close proximity to its last watch, but it was there and I was in the mood.
The Skin I Live In - For DemPod. The first hour makes a lot more sense the second time through, and I still really, really liked it.

The Re-Animator - For 50/50. Wacky fun.
The Caller - It was alright. Great concept... only decent execution.
Haywire - Eh. I was bored. Awkward action, horrendous acting, bland lead character, nonsensical story, and... I just didn't care. 
Shame - Great acting... but at this point almost all I remember is Fassbender's wang and possible incest.
Lone Wolf McQuade - For 50/50. It had some moments of greatness.
Underworld: Awakening - For MILF. Really bad.
Merantau - Fun Indonesian martial arts flick. The story isn't great, but the action is.
The Monster Squad - For 50/50. I needed to see this as a kid, but there was still a lot to like.
The Grey - For 50/50. Conflicted emotions. Not what I was expecting.
Alone in the Dark - For V.G. Movie article. I've seen worse Uwe Boll... but this was still bad.
Escape From New York - For 50/50. Snake is awesome.
The Woman in Black - Decent film. Good acting. Though I couldn't stop watching Dan Radcliffe going "It's Harry Potter... It's Harry Potter..."
The Secret World of Arrietty - For MILF. Not perfect, but a good addition to Studio Ghibli's pantheon.
Jason Lives: Friday the 13th - Part VI - For MILF. Really wacky.
Man on a Ledge - Not perfect, but entertaining. I don't think it deserves all the flak it gets.
Goon - Really boring first half. Good second half. It was alright overall.


Theatrical - 6
Re-Watch - 98
First Time - 100
TOTAL - 204