LKMYNTS: Excision.

I usually don't do this, but this Little Known Movie You Need To See comes with a warning--this film is definitely not for everyone. I've seen a lot of screwed up movies in my day, but this film actually had me going "What the... holy... !" To me, this film is like what would happen if David Lynch directed Welcome to the Dollhouse as if it were a French Extremist horror film. Now, my description will not come close to getting into the visuals of the film, but... just trust me.

The film follows disturbed teen, Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord). She is a total outsider--unpopular, frumpy, and overall unpleasant. She dreams to one day become a surgeon, as she's obsessed with blood and biology. She doesn't seem to care for much except for her younger sister, Grace (Ariel Winter), who has Cystic Fibrosis and isn't doing all that well. Unfortunately, her mother, Phyllis (Traci Lords), is an overbearing, short-tempered nutcase, and they don't get along at all. Even her father, Bob (Roger Bart), is overpowered by his temperamental wife. Her mom knows there's something wrong, but she won't pay for a professional psychiatrist, so she sends Pauline to their priest (John Waters). And she also butts heads with her math teacher (Malcolm McDowell), sex ed teacher (Matthew Gray Gubler), and principal (Ray Wise). The film follows the family drama through Pauline's eyes as she tries to survive on a day-to-day basis... but her mother just makes her psychological problems worse and worse.

Now, you might be thinking "This doesn't sound that bad." Well, I have yet to mention the bizarre, Jodorowsky-esque dream sequences of her glamorized self in gory or sexualized (often a mixture) situations. Or the fact she has wet dreams/orgasms to the thought (or dreams) of sexing up dead or dying bodies in puddles of blood. Or any number of other mixture of blood and sex that happens throughout this film. And then there's the third act, which I won't spoil.

The acting in this film is phenomenal. Of course, AnnaLynne McCord totally sells this psychotic teen persona. But what's great about it is that while something is definitely wrong with her, you can tell she also just wants to feel loved and accepted, and her mother could easily help turn things around if she just tried (or had the mental capability of trying). This is truly a mother/daughter story, and both are basically sociopaths in their own ways. And none of it would work if it weren't for Traci Lords, who acts the hell out of this movie. You want to strangle this woman from scene one. To bring in a Harry Potter reference, she would be like what would happen if Delores Umbridge was a mother. Traci Lords makes the role work, though, and doesn't take it over-the-top of like something from Mommy Dearest. Everyone else is good, too. It's fun to see John Waters as a priest, and Malcolm McDowell as the math teacher is funny. Ray Wise is just goofy.

Though the thing that I haven't mentioned yet... is that this is a comedy. A very, very, very, very dark comedy, but a comedy nonetheless. There are situations of pure drama, and everything in this movie is pretty horrific--particularly the ending (and no, it's probably not what you think). But even if you look on IMDb, its first genre billing is comedy (then drama, then horror). And I can see that. It's definitely more of a dark dramedy, as it's not really your laugh-out-loud, knee-slapper kind of fare. But the dark humor is there, and it can be awfully amusing at times, despite the fact the people you're watching are, at times, despicable and/or psychotic.

If you're a fan of twisted, bizarre, or just plain screwed-up films, this is one you need to check out. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I watched it yesterday (as of this writing), so it's definitely a conversation piece. People declare it as a new type of horror film, and I can see that. It's drama-horror, which is something you don't really see. The closest comparison I can make is We Need To Talk About Kevin, but way more extreme and unsettling (and, at times, amusing). Do not see it if you have a weak stomach (it's not like Saw or Hostel or anything--it's not "torture porn"--but there are some pretty disturbing images nonetheless). Do not see it if you're easily disturbed. But if these things don't bother you, definitely check it out. The acting alone is worth it.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. I just wanted to mention the make-up job they did on AnnaLynne McCord was amazing. Here is a picture of her normally. Here is a picture of her in the movie. Seriously.)


50/50 Review #46: Grosse Pointe Blank.

Blah blah blah ambiguous intro here... why haven't I seen this movie before now? Martin Blank (John Cusack) is a professional assassin who once worked for the government and now works freelance. After screwing up a hit, the company that hired him forces him to take another job to make up for it, which just so happens to be back in his hometown... where his 10-year high school reunion is taking place. With a little push from his secretary Marcella (Joan Cusack) and kinda-psychiatrist, Dr. Oatman (Alan Arkin), he decides to go and face his past. While there he meets up with an old friend, Paul (Jeremy Piven) and a long-lost love, Debi (Minnie Driver), who he stood up at prom and never saw again until now. Unfortunately, things aren't that easy. Another hitman, Grocer (Dan Aykroyd) wants to start an assassin's union that Martin refuses to join, so he hires a couple FBI agents (Hank Azaria and K. Todd Freeman) to catch him in the act to take him down. Meanwhile, another assassin (Benny Urquidez) is after him because of another previous hit he screwed up. And all Martin wants to do is make amends with Debi.

I'll just come out and say it: Easily in my Top 5 of this year's project. This movie was so much fun. The dark humor between the situations is great, which really shined in the climax where he's killing people in between a heartfelt discussion. And I loved the fact he literally tells everybody he's a contract killer the entire movie and nobody believes him. Just the idea alone that a guy who grows up to be an assassin decides to go to his high school reunion is fantastic.

This movie really works due to John Cusack's charisma and delivery. You believe his moral and/or psychological conflicts, but at the same time he's able to pull off the fact he could easily kill someone. And his little ticks, like never liking his back to an open area or a window was great. Similarly, Dan Aykroyd as the villain was totally unexpected, but it worked, since he was totally trying to be a smarmy businessman at the same time. Jeremy Piven wasn't in it a whole lot, but I loved his scenes and his chemistry with Cusack. Arkin is good in his role, of course, though his role is technically where the film falls apart a little bit. And Joan Cusack's character was a little hard to get into at the start, but she grew on me by the end. And Minnie Driver was just incredibly adorable in this film and had great chemistry with John Cusack, as well.

This is one of those "really positive... not much to say" kind of reviews. I really liked everything about it. The comedy was good--I did laugh out loud at least once. The action was solid and fun when there was some. The characters were really good. And the soundtrack to this movie was also pretty dang fantastic. I know this was kind of a lame review, but that's what tends to happen when you love a movie and don't have much to say without getting repetitive or boring. If you haven't seen it yet, do so.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

(P.S. And that will wrap it up for Jess' Month! Got to end on a high note, huh? This month was scattered. There were low points (Out of Africa--good movie, just not for me), high points (this and High Fidelity... ironic), and mid-points (Star Trek: First Contact). But on the whole, it was quite an enjoyable month! And next month we wrap things up with 3 flicks that are actually a trilogy... and then the original version of a modern American classic. So for December, it'll be Kai's Month!)


V.G. Movies #46: Indie Game: The Movie

[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.]


This is a tough one to discuss the history of, since the documentary in and of itself follows the history of these indie games. But I guess I can talk about indie games themselves. Basically, an indie game creator doesn't have all the restrictions of a mainstream game creator and can do what they want--they just have a limited (read: almost non-existent) budget to do it.

The idea began on PCs via shareware sites in the early 90s. These can be anything from flash games (the most prominent) to engine building titles. For instance, there were pre-built engines where you basically modified characters, stories, and/or landscapes in things such as RPGMaker or modified looks and fighting movies in Fighter Maker (both of which I've actually dabbled with back in the day).

But as mainstream games became more widespread, indie games suffered a bit due to a difference in both quality and availability. But then came the revolution that was online console gaming (XBox Live, Playstation Network, etc.). Due to this new turn in gaming history, indie games made a resurgence as the developers used these systems and methods to get their games out there. The expansion of social websites also helped grab casual gamers, as well.

However, earning a profit is a very difficult thing, as most profit for console titles will go to the distributors and web-based games usually don't catch enough speed to make much of anything. Most mainstream players still stick to mainstream titles, and indie game makers try to use this method as more of a jumping point than a commercial success.

So some people still succeed quite a bit, while others struggle to even get off the ground. Now for the documentary that shows all sides.


This was a very different kind of film than I was expecting. I suppose I expected something a little closer to King of Kong, though there are some tiny similarities here and there. But to fully talk about this film, I have to talk about it in parts. This film interweaves three games/stories that span three levels of completion and success, so that's how I'll be looking at it.

Braid (The Success Story)

Jonathan Blow came up with the game Braid after a friend looked at Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and pondered why there wasn't a game that could use time altering infinitely and could just rewind like a VCR. To date, Braid is one of the biggest independent game success stories both in sales and positive reviews. The documentary picks up already after the game has become a hit.

And this is the weakest of the stories, mostly because there's no story. For this film, Jonathan acts as more of a thematic focal point to the documentary--indie games are games that aren't meant to be the incredibly polished, big-budget, mainstream games. They're meant to have pieces of the creator's heart and soul. They will be very personal, taking pieces of their very essence and making something that, if it fails, it can crush/destroy the creators.

They show this story off and on for the first half of the movie but then drop it completely (bringing it back only at the very end, right before the credits, to restate the above theme to push it on home). But where this story really fails--besides the fact that it doesn't add much outside of that--is that it doesn't even match the theme itself. Jonathan comes off as kind of a pretentious douche. He's very "woe is me" about his success, complaining that all the people who praise it and love it do so for reasons that aren't connected to the real art and purpose of the game, so they miss the point. And the more success it has, the more annoyed and depressed he gets because these people just don't "get it." To me, this almost misses the point of this film, as he's bringing on this agony and depression himself since the game was almost an instant hit. Not to mention his reasoning for making the game is the least personal, and the path he takes to its release and success is (at least as shown in the film) almost conflict free, especially in comparison to the other two stories.

Super Meat Boy (The Rising Star)

Here we follow two guys: Edmund and Tommy. These guys live in different states, though they work on the game together. Tommy still lives at home with his parents in his childhood room, and Edmund is recently married, and they're on their own. Together they're making this game that promises to be a massive success--possibly even more so than Braid--but they're really pushing time limits and deadlines to get it out and to Microsoft so they can release it in time for a major sale on XBox Live.

This story was the most conflicting for me. On the one hand, Edmund seems to be a very cool, relatable guy who is very human and sincere. On the other hand, you have Tommy. Tommy has an insanely supportive family, although they are in debt. And he seems very grateful to them in wanting to pay off their debt if he makes money off the game. But everything else... he comes off like an ungrateful asshole. He's very similar to Jonathan Blow in that he doesn't want to hear good news or anything like that since he's making this game for himself and doesn't give a damn if people like it or not (but he says this in a very rude, obnoxious way). And he takes it even further. He publicly denounces some major gaming companies and declares all these popular, award-winning games are all crap and anything he does is infinitely better. He's an enigmatic character, because he's very smug, obnoxious, self-centered, foul-mouthed, and incredibly depressed individual... who really cares about his family.

But then you have Edmund. Edmund is very gracious and personal--in fact, he is really what this film is all about. Everything he makes he really puts his heart and soul and entire life into. Everything he's ever felt or loved or been hurt or scared by... he puts these things into his games because it's his passion. Art imitates life and whatnot, and his games are very close and personal to him, so if the game fails, you really believe that he could crumble. And while every person in this documentary is very depressed, he's the only one I actually felt for (though the next guy had some legit reasons, too... he wasn't nearly as personable to me... but I'll get to him shortly). The difference between Edmund and Tommy is exemplified perfectly in a scene where Tommy is flipping out about the game not showing up on the front page, while Edmund is chilling with his wife and trying not to think about it because--what's the point in getting worked up about first day sale numbers? Another scene where Edmund is laughing and enjoying seeing all these positive reviews and videos of people playing the game and loving seeing people enjoying his creation... then Tommy moaning about how none of that matters.

Besides the people, the story itself is not as interesting as the next one, but it's still decent. This one is definitely more focused on the juxtaposition of these two people and how they react to what's going on (and fortunately, the director decided to spend much more time with Edmund than Tommy). So in a way, this was both my favorite and least favorite story of the film, since I really wanted Edmund to succeed, but I wanted Tommy to fail and get punched in the face--though I couldn't have both since they were partners on the same game.

Fez (The Little Game That Could)

Fez was first announced back in 2008 to amazing reception. There was an award-winning demo released... and then nothing game of the game. At the start of its creation was Quebec-native (I'm assuming) Phil Fish and a business partner who helped develop the idea and whatnot. But I believe soon after the demo, the partner dropped off the project, leaving Phil to work on everything alone while making him deal with lawsuit issues, as it basically acted as a divorce and Phil needed to get all the rights from his partner who was refusing to finish signing all the paperwork. Meanwhile, his dad gets cancer, his parents get a divorce, and a hundred other really terrible things happen to this guy that slow production. And he's getting terrible, personal attacks from fans of the demo hating him since he hasn't finished the game yet (to which he lists off a handful of games that had thousands of workers that took 5 years, and he's just one guy). But now the PAX Expo is coming up and he wants to have another demo out at this point... if he can avoid a lawsuit and get his ex-partner to sign the forms so he can legally promote it on his own.

This is definitely the best story (and the most like King of Kong in that it tells a solid underdog narrative). You really want this guy to succeed, despite him having the luck of Job. (Things continue to go wrong throughout.) And despite everything, he comes out of it smiling, whether that's a forced smile or not.

Where this story is a little unbalanced is Phil himself. He's a very frustrated man, and understandably so. But he can be a little extreme and off-putting at times. We spend a good chunk of time, possibly too long, with Phil cussing out his ex-partner is frustrated rage that turns to murder threats. And at one point the interviewer asks what will happen if the game doesn't succeed, to which Phil responds "I will kill myself." And he's not kidding. He is completely serious in that he will take his own life if the results of this long venture are negative. And while I understand why they showed that in tying up with the film's theme, it really makes you uneasy. And between the suicide and murder threats, I really didn't know how to feel about this guy. But I did still really want him to succeed.


To me, the film was slightly unbalanced. There was also a little bit of redundancy and some stuff that just went on a wee bit too long. In other words, the film could have used a bit tighter editing. Though I did really like the section of the film that went into the history of stuff where it detailed how they made the games and the levels and all that. I was waiting for a while for them to get into that, but it happens right around the halfway point (right before the Braid story pretty much disappears for the rest of the film). But if this were a written paper or book, I'd say it needed one more revision. I still liked it, but it could have used a little more tightening up. And it didn't help that there are really 4 people in this movie (5 if you count Edmund's wife, but I don't) and 2 of them are unlikeable, while a third is questionable (albeit being an underdog and therefore root-for-able). But in the end, it's still a fascinating film, and if you're a fan of this kind of thing, I'd definitely check it out.

I Am McLovin!



I'm not really a Bond fan. Not because I dislike the films--I'd have to have seen them for that to be the case. I just haven't really sought them out. Prior to this, I'd seen Casino Royale and bits and pieces of some of the Pierce Brosnan flicks (not sure I ever saw a full one of those). So when I say I know very little about the franchise (outside of all the super famous lines and cliches), I mean it. However, when the trailer for this started showing, I actually felt myself excited. It actually looked pretty dang good. And then reviews started coming in confirming just that. And I knew I had to see it.

The film starts as James Bond (Daniel Craig) is on a mission to stop a bad guy from getting a computer chip that lists all the names of all the undercover NATO operatives. But during the scuffle, it seems like Bond is going to lose. Another agent, Eve (Naomie Harris), is aimed, but does not have a clear shot. M (Judi Dench) orders her to take it, and Bond is hit instead of the bad guy, who gets away. But Bond survives only to come back weeks later to a disheveled MI6 after he was declared dead and the MI6 headquarters are blown up. M and Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) rehire Bond, despite the fact he might not be ready or able to return, to figure out who is behind all of this. And that leads Bond to a man named Silva (Javier Bardem), who might just have a closer connection to M and MI6 than they first realized.

First off, I have to start with the biggest positive: the action. The action in Bond movies is what they apparently always have going for them, believable or otherwise. Here, everything was grounded at least somewhat in reality, but was still over-the-top fun. This can be anything from gunfire to explosions to chase scenes (with and without wheels). The pace in this film is so tight and fast that it barely feels like it's longer than 2 hours. I can't really say much more about it than that--and why should I need to? (Though I do love how the third act turns into Home Alone: 007.)

The film also seemed to act as a kind of origin story, oddly enough, introducing characters that I believe  long-time fans would really enjoy seeing. Now, I'm not one of those people, but I was aware of certain names and whatnot to where I gathered the importance of the introductions and was able to appreciate what it was doing, even if it didn't make me a giddy fanboy like it would with others.

Acting-wise, everybody did very well. Judi Dench is always fantastic, and I find Daniel Craig to be good for this style of Bond. The standouts to me, though, were Ben Whishaw as Q, who was nerdy fun; Naomie Harris, who was charismatic and absolutely gorgeous; and Javier Bardem, who was such a fantastic villain. To me, a film is only as strong as its villain. You can have a great main character, but if you don't have an equal or better villain to give that main character a strong conflict, you have nothing. It's the difference between Goldfinger and "Oh, just another Russian maniac who wants to blow up the world." And Bardem plays a guy who is always one step ahead and you know he's insane, and he plays him with just a little bit of flamboyance, but not to where it's distracting. (There was an elderly sounding couple who, at the climax of the film, said aloud "Academy Award winner!" in regards to Bardem. Now, I'm not sure if they said it in reference to this performance or in a more ironic manner... but either way, it was a compliment to his entertaining performance, I feel.)

The story didn't feel like a typical Bond film, at least from what I gather about them. This one seemed more personal, almost like last year's Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. It wasn't about someone who wanted power or world dominance. It wasn't all elegance and Bond Girls. It was about revenge and redemption, and it was gritty and hard-hitting. And I found the chemistry between Craig and Harris much more fun and believable than Bond would have with any typical Bond Girl. (And I wish Harris would have actually been in it more.)

So while I've heard debates on whether this was the Bond film since the Connery era or total shite, I feel this is quite easily the best Bond film I've seen (just keep in mind how many I've seen). It was fun, exciting, fast-paced, and had a really good story to pull it all together. I really recommend it if you were on the fence or hadn't gotten around to it yet. Even if you're not a Bond fanatic, there's definitely something to like here.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese



I have a love hate relationship with Twilight... in that I love to hate it. I've read all the books and always make it a habit to see the films in theater... even if I have to go by myself. And what's best about this series is that the more the film pulls itself away from the source material, the better the movie seems to be. And its best sequences always happen to be the added fight sequences in each climax that the books never had. And out of all the films, I was most curious about this one considering Breaking Dawn had the most aggravating and lamest payoffs (or lack of payoff) in any of the series. There was absolutely no way they could keep the book's ending and make it work as a film. It's too anticlimactic. Not to mention there was like zero story left after Part 1. The book builds up an epic fight by bringing in a bunch of vampires and having everybody train their skills for 300 pages before meeting on a field and nothing happening. Then everybody leaves and goes their own merry ways. With that being the only thing of the book left, how could this possibly be a film, much less a good one?

The film picks up where the last left off. Bella (Kristen Stewart) is now a vampire. Jacob (Taylor Lautner) has imprinted on her and Edward's (Robert Pattinson) child, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), and he will do anything to protect her. But one of their distant relatives, Irina (Maggie Grace) sees Renesmee and thinks she's an Immortal Child--vampire tots who have been banned from existence for hundred of years. She reports the Cullen's to the Volturi, the vampire governors led by Aro (Michael Sheen). When Alice (Ashley Greene) has a vision of their coming to kill all of them, the Cullen's must find some help to stand witness that Renesmee is not an Immortal Child and, instead, is a half-vamp.

I'm pretty sure this is the shortest film in the series at under two hours, but you know what? They pulled it off. By God, they took what is probably the worst section within the entire series of books and turned it into the best film in the series. I have no idea how that happened, but it did. Well, actually, I kinda know how they did it. They ignored most of the stupidity of the book and turned a lot of it into a guy-friendly flick. The romance is still there, but the gag-worthy melodrama romance and the constipation faces are kept at a minimum. There's only one short sparkling scene. Jacob keeps his shirt on for almost the entire movie, except for one really hilarious scene where he strips in front of Bella's dad. Similarly, there is a lot more legitimate humor in the film--yes, there's still some cheesiness to laugh at, but there are some actual, purposeful laughs to be had. And then... the ending.


I had the ending spoiled for me before I saw the film, though I'm not sure how I would have reacted had I gone in cold. I thought I'd be pissed. For those that are not aware, they add a huge battle sequence in the third act that isn't there in the book. And characters die--and I'm not just talking the little side characters they ask for help. I'm talking primary characters of the series. However, after the battle ends, you realize it was all a vision from Alice of what could come to pass if the Volturi decide to go through with an attack. They pull the "the whole thing was a dream" trick. In fact, it's very similar to the ending of this year's Savages that practically everybody hated. But somehow, and I'm not sure how (honestly, this time), they kinda sorta pull it off.


On the whole, though, the big battle sequence is pretty awesome. Had there actually been blood, this would have been one of the most epic vampire/werewolf grand battles on screen. But as it is, it's still pretty cool to watch, believe it or not. Everybody pretty much gets their moment to shine. And because a lot of the new vamps have powers, you get a lot of other cool visuals, too. I also still maintain that Alice is the best character in the series and the books should have been about her. She kicks some major ass in this movie.

This would be a good time to transition into visuals. Cinematography-wise, the film looked really good. This is probably the best of the films visually (in that regard). But then there's the CGI. I think the wolves have looked better in the past, and some of the extra powers could have used a little work. But the worst offense in this entire film, by far, is the CGI baby. Baby Renesmee is one of the creepiest freakin' things I've ever seen on film. It looks so bizarre and unnatural and seriously weirded me out anytime it was on screen. I couldn't help but feel that, even after she grew to her slightly older form, there was some weird CGI going on with her face. But maybe not... it could have just been the after-effects of seeing that baby. Ugh.

The acting is actually better almost all around. Kristen Stewart gives her best performance of this series here and actually smiles. Robert Pattinson doesn't do his constipated face very often. And Taylor Lautner really grasps just how stupid everything is, as he actually spends most of the movie trying to convince the other characters in the film what they're seeing isn't the most ridiculous or upsetting thing they've ever seen in their lives. Billy Burke continues to be the best part of the films, as Bella's dad Charlie is more engaging and believable than any other character (and he was criminally underused in this film). But then you have the other end of the spectrum. The one actor in this film who actually has acting cred--Michael Sheen--gives what is probably the most hilarious, cheesy, and over-the-top performance of the entire series. He's so goofy in this movie and adds a level of ridiculousness that fans who love to hate this series had previously only dreamed of getting.

All in all, the film is (somewhat sadly) actually good in quality. With some good humor, excellent action, and good directing, this film exceeds the other films by far (albeit not that difficult an achievement). That being said, this is still Twlight. The source material is stupid, the characters (with the exception of Charlie and Alice) are terrible, and the romance is beyond awful. Twilight is the bane of good literature--hell, it's the bane of cheesy romances. And the films aren't much better. But as far as they're concerned, this is the best and most legitimately entertaining of them all. But God, what were they thinking with that baby?

A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. Just to clarify, that rating is mostly based on entertainment quality, not film quality. Though I almost dropped it a whole rating for one reason...that closing credits sequence was by far the cheesiest and most groan-inducing moment of the entire series.)


50/50 Review #45: Star Trek: First Contact.

I knew a bit in advance the list of films for this particular month, and my knowledge of Star Trek at the time was a passing knowledge of the characters in the original series and the Next Generation (and the reboot film). So I decided that, since this film apparently takes place soon after the finale of Next Generation, that I would check that out. Unfortunately, of the 7 seasons, I only completed the first 4 (and the season premiere of the 5th) before getting distracted with other things... which was, coincidentally, a year ago this month. But did that cause any problems with the film?

The movie picks up as Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is having nightmares about being assimilated by the Borg--an robotic alien race who conquers entire races and brings them in to their own kind. As it turns out, the Borg have finally reached Earth, and the Enterprise decides to fight back. But when they get there, they notice the Earth has long since been assimilated and realize the Borg must have traveled back in time to do so in the past. The Enterprise then follows the Borg into the past to stop them and realize they've followed the Borg to the day before Earth receives First Contact... the term associated with the moment a planet gains the ability to perform faster-than-light travel and an alien race introduces themselves to the planet to let them know they aren't alone in the universe. So now it's up to Picard and Riker (Jonathan Frakes), and the rest of the crew, to stop the Borg and help Zefram Cochran (James Cromwell) finish his space mission so that First Contact can still happen and the future can happen as planned.

The first thing I noticed about the film is that it throws you into everything without so much as an introduction. It expects you to already know the characters (who they are and what they do and their relationships with each other) and a lot of the backstory, particularly with Picard and the Borg. Fortunately, the two episodes this movie heavily references are at the end of Season 3 and the beginning of Season 4 (the season finale and premiere, respectively), so I was at least familiar with the situation. But the first 30 minutes or so was still incredibly jarring. There's no easing in to the movie. It just throws you in media res. And even having the character and background knowledge that I did, I still felt off balance for quite some time.

It eventually does slow down and allow you to catch your breath, however, once they get to Earth and the initial Borg raid on the Enterprise has finished. And it's at this point that the film splits into two primary stories. On Earth you have Riker, Geordi, and Troi trying to help Cochran. On the Enterprise, you have Picard, Data, Worf, and Beverly trying to stop the Borg from assimilating the entire ship. Also on the Enterprise is Lily, played by Alfre Woodard. She was easily my favorite part of the film. The way she is able to give Picard some attitude without the repercussions of insubordination was fun. The sequence where she accuses him of wanting revenge and he snaps is brilliant. In fact, most of the good stuff came from on the ship. The stuff on Earth with Cochran was OK, but nothing special. And it was basically the same joke over and over--Cochran is a drunk who likes to play rock music really loud. I just often found myself really enjoying the ship story and wanting to go back to it when it was focusing on Earth.

The film isn't bad once you can get into it. The time travel aspect is full of plot holes, but that's time travel for you. As a fan of Next Generation, I already had a connection with a lot of these characters and was able to have a feel for them already. However, I do think the film was made for fans of the show only. I can't see an outsider (or someone who just watches the films) being able to watch this film and comfortably be able to follow or understand it perfectly. Every major plot point or character development is something that's built on from the show. I otherwise don't have much to say about it. I was entertained by it once the chaos of it balanced out, but it still wasn't perfect. Still, I liked it well enough.

I Am McLovin!

(P.S. Apparently I'm in the minority despite the positive rating, as from what I've read, this is a lot of people's second favorite after Wrath of Khan.)


V.G. Movies #45: In The Name Of The King 2: Two Worlds.

[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.]


This movie isn't nearly as baffling as its predecessor, though why Boll would make a sequel to one of his biggest bombs is beyond me. And if you remember, I actually kinda liked (in a this is cheesy awesome kind of way) the first film. I actually considered it to be Boll's second best film next to the non-ironically good Rampage. But a sequel he did make... that has nothing really to do with the games except I guess the setting. And it lacks all the totality of awesome casting choices of the first film. So I wonder how this one will turn out...


While the film might not have a giant, bizarre case, that doesn't stop the film from being a little wacky. The film begins in present day, where an ex-Special Forces soldier named Granger (Dolph Lundgren) helps out at a martial arts studio for kids and then goes home and drinks due to a failed mission where he lost his team. But then a witch from the medieval kingdom of Ehb shows up and brings him back to her time, as he is the man who will fulfill a prophecy. He is hired by a dubious king called Raven (Locklyn Munro) to find and take down a supposedly evil sorceress called the Holy Mother (Christina Jastrzembska). To get to her, he teams up with a female doctor named Manhatten (Natassia Malthe) and the king's best soldier, Allard (Aleks Paunovic). And, of course, not everything is as it seems.

Unlike the first film, this one only has two really bizarre casting choices. First is the time-traveling Dolph Lundgren as our hero, and the second is poor man's Ryan Reynolds, Locklyn Munro. It's not quite up there with King Burt Reynolds and Evil Sorcerer Ray Liotta, but it's still goofy seeing Locklyn Munro as a tyrant king. And while I do believe Dolph Lundgren more as ex-special forces than I do Jason Statham as a lowly farmer, I gotta say... I do prefer Statham.

But that's not to say Lundgren wasn't "good" here. He was cheesy as hell, and the film was damn entertaining for it. From his voice-overs to his wacky fish-out-of-water dialogue, I actually laughed out loud on more than one occasion from the silliness of everything. The worst acting here actually came from Dr. Manhatten (...sans the blue penis). She had some terrible dialogue and delivered it with such little emotion that it became so stupidly ridiculous.

The action/suspense scenes were goofy, as well. From Manhatten willingly throwing herself down the side of a hill (Princess Bride style) instead of just walking down to Dolph Lundgren being chased by a dragon... and the soldiers trying to hurriedly close and brace the door to a fortress with no roof to stop the flying dragon. Let's not forget Munro and Lundgren fighting each other with a flashlight and frying pan, respectively.

As is usually the case with Uwe Boll films, nothing makes much sense. But the difference here (and with the first film, as well) is that it seems both Boll and the cast are in on the joke. Everybody seems to be rolling with the stupidity, including Lundgren, who drops many a one-liner with the tone of man who knows how silly everything is. Because of this, the film is far more entertaining than it should be. Sure it's incompetent, but it almost feels purposeful.

This is not a good movie. Don't get me wrong. And if you're going to choose one in this series to watch, I'd suggest the first one (it's much stranger and more action packed). But if you've already seen the first one and are up for a bad movie night, it's worth checking out. I was entertained due specifically to the cheese and silliness and so-bad-its-good quality of the overall film, but it's not for everybody. But if I were to base this on entertainment alone and not the actual quality of the film, I'd have to go with...

I Am McLovin!

(P.S. Of course, if it were based on quality, it'd be lower. But it's not, so it isn't.)

(P.P.S. Semi-Spoiler, but does this film's twist mean that Jason Statham is Dolph Lundgren's father? That's... odd.)


R2D2... The One With A Picture Of Me, Tom, And James.

It's been a couple weeks since the release of the Vlog finale, so pretty much anybody who is anybody has seen it. That means it's OK to finally release this picture. Here's the picture of me, Tom Clift, and James Blake Ewing... at a Starbucks in Austin, Texas. For more information on this trip (at least my perspective), read here!


50/50 Review #44: High Fidelity.

I was looking forward to this one quite a bit. I'd heard about how great it was endlessly for years, so it was hyped up quite a bit. But was that a good thing? The film follows Rob (John Cusack), a total asshole who owns/runs a record store with Dick (Todd Louiso) and Barry (Jack Black) and keeps failing in his relationships, yet can't figure out why. His latest break-up was with Laura (Iben Hjejle), who left him for a douche named Ian (Tim Robbins). Rob also likes to make Top 5 lists, so he recounts his Top 5 worst breakups and then revisits them to try and figure out what exactly is wrong with him. The film also co-stars Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lisa Bonet, Joan Cusack, Lili Taylor, and Sara Gilbert.

When the film started, I really wanted to like it. But John Cusack was making it really, really hard. His character was just so unlikeable (and, at times, loathsome). His sad-sack, oh woe is me attitude mixed with his music snobbery and general elitism wrapped in a shell of total asshattery made me almost shut down completely and, sadly, give up on the film. But at some point, and I'm honestly not exactly sure when (sometime in the first 25 minutes or so), it turned from annoying to strangely charming. I stopped wanting to smack the guy and started becoming hooked in to his personality and stories and lists. And I was so pulled into the film that, before I knew it, it was over. Like the main characters in a favorite film of mine--Attack the Block--Rob went from "Is this who I have to follow for the whole movie?" to "this guy is truly fascinating."

And there's no doubt about it that Rob is a total ass, but he does grow as a character and learn from his mistakes by the end. And the journey to that point is pretty entertaining. What I loved the most about the film is how inspiring it is. I'm not really all that knowledgable about music, so the majority of what they were talking about was like "Um... OK." But to me, the movie isn't about the music itself, but rather what the music represents. You can take "music" and substitute it with anything you love. The film is all about passion. Finding passion in what you want, whether that's a relationship, a job, or a side-gig. And coming from a guy who has found himself in a professional rut, as someone who has been trying to figure out what he really wants to do with his life, I found the passion presented in this film to be equally inspiring and personal.

On a more base level, the acting was well done. John Cusack was really believable in the role, and (of course) I did love all the meta, breaking-the-fourth-wall aspects of the film (which was basically the whole movie). Jack Black was incredibly entertaining in a very Jack Black role. He pretty much stole every scene he was in. And Tim Robbins was really funny, and I totally was not expecting him to pop up (that first fantasy sex scene where he's introduced had me going "Whoa! WTF? Haha." (Or something similar.) Though if I could make a trade, I'd cut out Joan Cusack (as I'm not really sure what her overall purpose in the film was) and add in more Todd Louiso, who definitely deserved more character development.

Overall, though, I did end up really liking it. I don't think it's perfect, but it is still really creative and entertaining. Perhaps if and when I watch it again, I'll get into it faster knowing I won't actually hate John Cusack the whole time. It's good stuff, and I really don't have much else to say about it... so I'll go ahead and stop there.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. Yes, I thought about doing a "Top 5" list with this review, but I figured it's probably been done to death at this point.)



OK, so I don't usually get overly personal in my reviews. I might share a quick prior experience with a franchise or something like that, but nothing truly personal. That's going to change here. But first, the plot. In the world of arcades, video game characters hang out with each other, whether it's in other games or at this main lobby/station. They just have to be back to their own games by the time the arcade opens back up in the morning. Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the bad guy of an arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr. Everybody treats him poorly because of what he is, and after 30 years of it, he's had enough. After a character in his game tells him they'll only accept him if he wins a hero's medal of his own (never thinking he could actually pull it off), Ralph leaves his game to attempt just that. First he ends up in a new first-person shooter called Hero's Duty led by Calhoun (Jane Lynch) and steals a medal, but he quickly ends up in another game--a candy-themed go-kart racer called Sugar Rush. There, he meets an outcast "glitch" named Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), who he ends up attempting to help with her own issues. Meanwhile, Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) teams up with Calhoun to get Ralph back before the next morning and they pull the plug on their game... and to stop the alien creature Ralph accidentally brought with him from Hero's Duty. (The film also stars the voice of Alan Tudyk as King Candy, the ruler of Sugar Rush.)

Note: What follows is not meant to be a pity party or anything. It's just a tiny bit of my life story.

When I was younger, I had almost no friends. I went to a private school from Kinder through 8th grade, and everybody knew everybody. And that meant if you didn't have friends, you probably weren't going to. I had one friend growing up, though his other friends weren't the nicest to me. I was bullied--both verbally and physically. And it came to a point where even the one friend would join in with them at times. It got so bad around Jr. High that I would go home crying almost every day. I felt like an outcast, like nobody gave a damn about me. I was different. I was made to believe nothing about me, from my looks to the things that I liked to even my name, was worth anything. And I was afraid constantly to be... anything.

I couldn't go out and play with anyone, as I had nobody to go out and play with. So I turned to video games. Eventually, those video games led me to the internet, where I started to become a part of a video game community. The internet was a place where it didn't matter what you looked like, because you could be whoever you wanted and you were among other people with similar interests. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, I found myself a part of yet another community where I had only a friend or two and everybody else treated me like some pariah. And, again, even those sparse friends would one day treat me poorly, and I'd be left with nothing except my video games again.

Fortunately, by the time I reached 11th grade, the bullying stopped almost entirely. I found a group of friends who also loved geek culture--video games, anime, etc. They embraced who they were, and being with them helped me to embrace who I was. I found that I wasn't bad or wrong or incapable of being accepted. I learned it was OK to be who I was, and they still appreciated me. And although to this day I remain an easy target, I'd learned to roll with the punches, as most of it comes from a place of comedic affection.

All of that being said, I think it's understandable why this film made me emotional. I knew exactly how both Ralph and Vanellope felt, being outcasts from their societies and feeling unable to escape from that. To turn to video games for help, only to find them not as helpful as you would expect. And to eventually find their place, make friends, and find acceptance not only in society but in themselves. This film rang so true with me on an emotional level, and when it came to a certain moment where the two characters came to blows with each other and you see the hurt and panic in Vanellope's eyes and voice, I had to hold back my own feelings (no, I didn't cry).

Besides the emotional connection, I obviously felt connected to it on the video game level. If you couldn't tell through my weekly video game movie series, I have a connection to the medium. And although it's definitely not as strong as it once was, the idea of characters travelling from one world to the next was insanely cool to me. And to see actual video game characters we know and love interacting was great. If I have one complaint, however, it's that the movie didn't live up to its potential in that regard. You see characters from and references to Pac-Man, SonicStreet Fighter, Q-Bert, Mario, and plenty more, but it's mainly in the first act, and they don't have any major part of the plot. We mainly stick with the three new games made up for the film. (Though I'm surprised that, with Disney's connection to Square-Enix with Kingdom Hearts, no Final Fantasy characters popped up in the background. I know they aren't arcade characters, but neither are Sonic or Bowser, so...)

But it still works for what it is. And the humor is good, too--that is, if you're a fan of puns. If you absolutely loathe puns, there's not much in the humor department for you here. Especially once they get to the Sugar Rush game, it's pun-central. It kind of reminded me of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs in that regard. Though Jane Lynch is very Jane Lynch, so you have that going for it, too.

What really works for the film is its animation. It holds so true to video games of all styles and ages. For instance, the regular people in the Fix-It Felix game move a bit laggy, because that's how they act in the game. From the look of the characters to how they move and speak and interact, so much effort went into making this film special. They weren't just going to toss in video game characters just because they could. They were going to make this a love letter to arcades and arcade games. You can clearly tell the creators of this film loved what they were working with.

Although the film isn't absolutely perfect (and you can see some story elements coming a mile away), it hit me with an emotional power punch connected with a nostalgia factor and I couldn't help but love this film. I would have liked to have seen more of the film take place outside of the Sugar Rush setting and see more established game characters, but the film really, really worked for what it was setting out to accomplish. The emotion, the animation, the humor, the characters, the overall world... this movie was fantastic, and I will definitely be seeing it again.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

(P.S. Oh, and the Paperman short was very charming! I liked that, too.)


V.G. Movies #44: Tekken: Blood Vengeance.

[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.]


Um... nothing really new that I didn't share with here. Though in regards to the film itself, the game company wanted to make a film version of the game that didn't suck (like the live action one), so they decided to do it with animation. They also stress this has no ties to the live action one, as they want to distance themselves as far from that as they can. But that implies this one is good. So... is it?


There are a handful of game-based films out there that have both a live action and animated attempt at adapting. Sometimes you get something like Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie. Other times you get Resident Evil: Degeneration. So where does this fall? The film follows a teenage schoolgirl named Xiaoyu as an evil corporation forces her to work for them and transfer to a public international school to get close to a young man named Shin. But along the way, she meets another girl named Alisa who also seems to be interested in Shin (and, as it turns out, is a robot who works for another corporation). There's something special about Shin, and it might have something to do with an old family blood feud between Jin, Kazuya, and Heihachi.

I will say that, up until a certain point, I was actually really digging this movie. The story itself was interesting, and the mystery behind what was going on kept me intrigued. And then the characters were fun and the interactions between Xiaoyu and Alisa were entertaining. Where the story lost me was around the third act when it started to be explained. Things got very weird, and I'm assuming you have to be familiar with the games to actually understand what's going on. I honestly lost almost all interest in the film at this point, as I had zero idea what was actually going on anymore. It's not very well explained at all.

On the other hand, the animation is done incredibly well--sometimes to the point where the backgrounds look live action. It wasn't all totally perfect, and some things looked more "finished" than others, but on the whole, it looked really nice. Similarly (on a visual level), the action scenes were really entertaining. There weren't many at the start. In fact, there are only maybe 3-4 by the time the film reaches the climax. But then literally the entire last 30 minutes is a stretch of fight sequences that just keeps going... and going... and going. It's also at this point that even the fighting was getting to be uninteresting. Some of it worked, but at that point, it should have been toned down a bit (or maybe it was a fan service thing). But the other fights prior to that last 30 minutes are tons of fun and looked great both stylistically and animation-wise.

All of that being said, I don't have much else to say about the movie. I think it was good in quality and had actual talent involved. The story and action were really interesting up to a point (which is, at the very least, the majority of the film). And, as I've said, the animation was done very well. This is just a weird film to review, because I think it might work better for fans of the game than outsiders (similar in a way to Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children). There's nothing that upset me about the movie or that I strongly disliked, but I can't really get fully behind it, either. So... it is what it is.

I Am McLovin!


A Demented Special: Top 10 DemPod Moments.

Hello dear listeners. Did you start the show later on in its run? Have you ever wondered where some of our multiple running jokes originated? Have you wondered possibly what kinda brilliant things you've missed? Or do you possibly just want to relive some classic moments of the show? Well now's your chance!

Some of you might have heard we're going on hiatus for a while. While that's true, we still have a few things up our sleeves to put out before then. First up is this episode. A while back, I polled everyone on what their favorite Demented Podcast moments were since the beginning of the show. Y'all spoke, and Steve and I took your suggestions and mixed them up with our own choices. Then we figured out which order to put them in. What we have here is the result.

I went back and got the sound clips from all these events (and edited some down for convenience--the only one that really gets the shaft... no pun intended... is #5, which had to be really shortened down for time purposes). So, yeah, it's basically a clips show, but it's clips of our Top 10 favorite moments from all 50 episodes (or at least like... 47 or 48 episodes, which were the only ones out when this was put together). So without further ado, here you go!

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

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.


LKMYNTS: The Cinema Snob Movie.

It's no secret that I'm a fan of the That Guy With The Glasses website. Through them, however, I discovered Brad Jones (aka The Cinema Snob). Strangely, his Cinema Snob videos are the ones I watch the least on his site--I actually prefer the stuff where he hangs out and goofs around with his friends. But for those who don't know, the character of the Cinema Snob is a fake movie snob who pretends to be a pretentious film lover, but reviews some of the worst films (usually exploitation and bizarro porn) that are available. And Brad's knowledge of b-movie and exploitation directors will rival anyone's. So when he announced that he was doing this film where he gives the character's origin story, I was intrigued but not overly excited. Then I saw all the behind-the-scenes footage and eventually the first trailer, and I knew I had to see it.

The film follows Craig Golightly (Brad Jones), an exploitation film screenwriter, is working with his friend Neil (Jake Norvell) to fund their newest idea--a blaxploitation flick called Black Angus. But when the biggest film hotshot in town, Dan Phillips (Ryan Mitchelle), refuses to fund them, they have to turn to a rich high school companion of Neil's named Gene (Noah Antwiler). And he even gets him a legitimate black guy to star as Black Angus, a street-wise albeit cultured theatre actor named Vladimir Jackson (Orlando Belisle). Unfortunately, Vlad is contracted under Dan, who also lets Craig know that he can't film his movie even with Gene's funding because Dan owns shooting permits in the town. So Craig has to change his look and go undercover into Dan's pretentious film club and get in good with them before asking for the shooting permits. But soon after Craig begins getting close with a woman in the group, Nancy (Jillian Zurawski), everything starts getting a little... bloody.

Even as somebody who is barely familiar with the character and the regular show, I found this easy to follow. You don't need to know any background or connection because, smartly, Brad Jones wrote this so that anybody could watch and not be lost (while still keeping in jokes for the long-time fans). Unless you're a hardcore b-movie fanatic and trivia junkie, a lot of the references will go over your head (as they did mine), but that's part of the joke itself, and it works. And if you do get the references, I'm sure that makes it even better, so it works all around.

So the writing is quite smart. The film itself acts as an over-the-top commentary against pretentious film snobs, an issue I've dealt with plenty in the past (and returned the favor in my own way with my now famous Troll 2 review). One of the characters in the climax of the film brilliantly rants about how not all films are created equal, and you should not judge and criticize certain films on the same scale as the more arthouse and Oscar-bait types. They're not made for the same reasons. Some movies are just made to be fun. You don't go into a gore film and complain that you didn't like all the gore. You don't watch a b-movie and then hate on the acting. That's not the point. And this film truly explores that well, even to a meta degree. I don't mean to get pretentious here, but the early part of the movie references Kaufman, while the second part of the movie takes a very Kaufman-esque turn in that what it's referencing and toying with is exactly what it becomes. And I love when stories do that.

And then you have the acting, which I think is fantastic. The film turns out some really fun performances. Jake Norvell's Neil is such a goofy character, and I started laughing any time he showed up simply because he was always eating something different every time he appeared. Noah Antwiler's Gene had some great lines and stole every scene he was in. Though, hands down, Orlando Belisle stole the entire movie. He's actually not in it much, but his character was hilarious in his conflicting nature (the way he talked and acted versus what was actually coming out of his mouth). And he had one of the biggest Kaufman-esque turns in the movie, as well (though to, I admit, a surprising/unexpected result). Jillian Zurawski plays an almost anti-Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She's quirky, but in a realistic "fuck hipsters" kind of way. (And you get to see her topless. Just throwin' that out there.) And I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention Ed Glaser as one of the side characters of the film club--he's hilarious just by facial expressions, and he gets even funnier when they finally talk to him. Finally, Brad continues to show how he shines as an actor, and he's easily able to carry the film.

If you're a fan of low-budget movies, b-movies, or exploitation movies... or you just get frustrated with pretentious film snobs... definitely check out this film. At the moment, it can be bought through Walkaway Entertainment (where you can also find the trailer if you'd like to see that, as well). It also comes with a commentary by the filmmakers and producers (and Jake), a cast commentary, and a comedy RiffTrax-style commentary by That Guy With The Glasses creators Doug and Rob Walker. And a blooper reel. It's a smartly made and pretty funny film, and it looks great for low budget. If it sounds interesting, definitely check it out.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese


50/50 Review #43: Out Of Africa.

This... is one really long movie. Going in, I knew very little about the film except the setting and its stars and that there's a romance. And now that it's over... all I'll probably remember is the setting, it's stars, and that there was a romance. Karen (Meryl Streep) moves to Africa with Baron Bror (Klaus Maria Brandauer). But after he sleeps around with others and leaves her, she begins a love affair with Denys (Robert Redford).

And that's the story of this just shy of 3-hours movie. I'm a sucker for a good romance (I said good romance. Not like Twilight or any of that crap). At least for me, a romance is as strong as its female lead and as fascinating as its male lead (I suppose for a LGBT romance, it's as strong as its main character and as fascinating as its romantic lead). Where something like Twilight fails (and it fails in many, many places... but speaking from a romance perspective) is that Bella is about as weak as you can get in a main character of any variety, romantic or otherwise. She's a cardboard cutout with a hole at the head for women to poke their faces through and take her spot (I won't get into the whole "terrible person" thing). And then you have Edward, who is just not a fascinating character, either. He's a creepy, sparkling, asshole stalker. And both of these characters exist purely for the other. They have no lives outside of this romance, and everything they do revolves around it--it's even brought up within the books themselves at one point. The story is a feminist's nightmare.

Don't worry, I'm not going to say this is Twilight in Africa. Not even close. Robert Redford has the best character in the film, and I'm constantly drawn to his charisma (as always). But there's one scene in this movie that basically says everything I felt about this relationship and about Karen. They're sitting by the fireplace, and Redford wants to go on a Safari. Streep doesn't want him to go since he just came back from one. They argue, and Redford accuses Streep of confusing what she needs with what she wants and how she always has. And Streep doesn't help her case when every word out of her mouth shows how she lives to be in a relationship--that's her sole purpose in life. If she's not married, she needs to be looking to marry. You can call it a view of the times, but it bothered me. I had a lot of trouble getting behind her character and didn't find her very likable (except when she was interacting with the natives). So what I'm getting at here is that the movie was fascinating and enjoyable when Redford was on the screen. But when it was just Streep... it took a lot more work to keep itself going for me.

One thing that really helped was the setting. The visuals of this film were gorgeous, from the landscapes to the wildlife. Anytime the focus was brought to the scenery or, say, the lions (particularly the lions), my attention shot up considerably. Also, as stated before, anytime there was attention given to the tribespeople, I found myself interested. I liked the deal she makes with the boy with the hurt leg. Anything to deal with that was fascinating. Unfortunately, that didn't come up all that often (at least considering the running time).

Otherwise, I'm struggling finding much to talk about. Redford is great, but he's barely in the film until the last hour. Up to that point, it felt like it was going to be a long haul with only some occasional good scenes (anything in the previous paragraph). It's definitely not a bad movie, as evidenced by its multiple Oscar wins. It just had a romance I had trouble with due to a character I couldn't entirely get behind, and a length that was far too long (...and don't get me started on the accent). But the setting, visuals, and overall culture of it was great. If anything, see it for that. Well, and Robert Redford... but that's kind of a given.

Stop Saying OK! OK.


V.G. Movies #43: Mortal Kombat: Legacy.

[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 2010, a man named Kevin Tancharoen decided to make a short film entitled Mortal Kombat: Rebirth. This short film took a more gritty, realistic approach to the series, giving real-world backgrounds for characters rather than supernatural ones. He did this in order to use it as a pitch to Warner Bros to make a new Mortal Kombat film. The short became incredibly popular, and although talks for the new film are still in the works, what he got instead was a web-series.

Each episode was to focus on one or two characters at a time, giving their individual backstories in preparation for the possible upcoming film. However, upon putting the episodes up on YouTube via Machinima, the creators received mixed reactions. The web-series went back to the supernatural elements instead, shying away from the realistic approach the original pitch gave. Some theorize that, while the first few episodes hit the realism note, episodes 4 and 5 enter a territory so drastically different that many think Warner Bros forced Tancharoen to alter his approach slightly and test fan reaction to the supernatural. This theory is backed up due to the fan backlash and the fact episode 6 hits the realism roots again and is deemed one of the best episodes of the series.

It didn't help that the show was soon censored down to remove all the blood and uber-violence that has become a staple of the franchise. While Machinima promised fans that they would be releasing uncut versions later on, they never did. Fan suspicions became true when Warner released the uncut Blu-Ray of the entire first season (which is what I'll be reviewing today).

Despite its rocky start, the web-series is planning to have a second season, bringing in more classic and fan-favorite characters, such as Liu Kang and Kung Lao. But right now, we're focusing on the first season. How does it all hold up together when it's put all together? Let's find out.


I actually did watch episodes on YouTube when they first premiered, but due to a lack in a proper schedule, I fell away from it for a while. I did eventually go back and watch some of the last episodes posted up, though I'm not sure I ever entirely finished it out. Even still, I don't remember most of it that well. But this is going to be a different kind of review. As this is a series, I'm going to review each segment separately and then go into how it works as a whole. So let's start this.

Episodes 1 & 2 - Jax, Sonya, And Kano

Kano (Darren Shahlavi) is making sure a shipment goes out for their cybernetics division when Sonya Blade (Jeri Ryan) tries to take them on alone. She gets herself captured so that her partner, Jax (Michael Jai White) and boss, Stryker (Tahmoh Penikett), have to come to her rescue.

The first episode is mostly set-up with a little action near the end. But it's the second episode in this arc that makes it worth it. The action, particularly between Jax and Kano, is top notch and hard hitting--especially a particular money-shot at the end of the fight. The next best thing is the aftermath of the fight. We get the origins of how Kano got his eye and Jax gets his arms (though you only see the former). On the whole, those are the two best parts of these episodes. The weak spot, unfortunately, is Sonya. She's not given much to do in either episode. She fires one bullet the entire time and never fights, so she's no better than some damsel in distress. But overall, the story was a good start to the season--not perfect, but let it go in a really good direction.

Episode 3 - Johnny Cage

Johnny Cage is a failing actor who is afraid his time in the spotlight is coming to an end. But after some producers screw him over, he's offered a proposition he might not be able to refuse.

After such a gritty opening, this is a weak follow-up. It starts off with some fake E! True Hollywood Story on him. The majority of the episode after that is footage of some reality TV show he's trying to pitch. There's barely any story to the episode, and just when it gets good (when Shang Tsung shows up), the episode ends. Also, because of Shang Tsung, this is the first episode that dabbles in a bit of the magical side of things, though just at the very end. I also had an issue with the actor who played Johnny, as he looked like a mousey Ricky Martin than any kind of action star. So, yeah, I didn't care much for this one.

Episodes 4 & 5 - Kitana and Mileena

Shao Kahn (Aleks Paunovic), with the help of Shang Tsung (Johnson Phan) and Baraka, take over a kingdom run by King Jerrod and Queen Sindel. The king escapes, and Kahn marries Sindel and adopts her daughter, Kitana (Samantha Jo), as his own. But he also has Shang Tsung make a more sinister clone of Kitana, fused with the DNA of the same race as Baraka, that they name Mileena (Jolene Tran). Sindel takes her own life to fuse her soul with Kitana, but in the process makes both Kitana and Mileena be raised by Shao Kahn... to some disastrous results.

I can understand the hate for these two episodes. These episodes take everything that Mortal Kombat: Rebirth promised and spat it all away. It takes away all the gritty realism and, instead, makes it not-as-gritty fantasy. Two of the coolest things about the short film was how they handled both Reptile and Baraka, making them disfigured serial killers. Here, Baraka is just an Orc-like creature from another dimension. And to top it all off, half of each episode here is animated. It doesn't help that the entire thing is just a narrated montage instead one basic story.

But looking at them alone, they still only kind of work. The budget is low, and even the beards look fake. The animation is decent, and almost all of the blood comes in those segments (and there is quite a bit there). The action during the live-action segments is mixed. On the one hand, the fighters (either the actresses or stunt doubles) showed they had skill. But the way it was filmed made it painfully clear they weren't even coming close to hitting each other, despite the reactions of being hit. So mixing together these two viewpoints, I can say these are overall not terrible, but mediocre episodes that just don't quite come together. And I agree with the theory that Warner stepped in and forced the creators to do this instead, since these two episodes are so drastically different (in every way) to every other episode.

Episode 6 - Raiden

Raiden one day appears during a lightning storm in the yard of a mental institution. Of course, everybody thinks he's crazy and they force him into treatment as he won't give up the guise that he's Lord Raiden and must get out to stop Shao Kahn by participating in the Mortal Kombat tournament.

This episode begins with a note from the creator stating that this episode is the perfect mix of realism and mysticism that fans expect of the series, particularly since the massive amounts of complaints over the last two episodes. And he was right. If they're going to include the mystical elements, this should be the degree to which they do it. It was the perfect amount of gritty realism and hint of magic (that mainly come in how the episode opens and closes). The actor is fantastic, and the visuals are done very well. It's just a fantastic episode, and arguably the best of the season. I also love how he gets his trademark hat at the end.

Episodes 7 & 8 - Scorpion and Sub-Zero

Hanzo Hasashi (Ian Anthony Dale), also known as The Scorpion, is a loving family man who also runs a samurai clan. As they await the arrival of the Shogun, Hanzo gets a message that the Shogun needs to see him immediately. But when he gets halfway there, he discovers the Shogun dead and frozen in the snow. That's when a member of a rival clan, code-named Sub-Zero (Kevan Ohtsji), appears and admits he is now going to wage war on Hanzo's clan. And because Hanzo has left his village defenseless, it is currently being raided. So Hanzo must defeat Sub-Zero and get back to his village before it's too late for them and his family.

The Raiden episode might be the best overall, but these two are my favorite. These two episodes have the strongest story and the strongest characters with Hanzo and his son. You really feel for Hanzo as you get to know him through the setup of Episode 7. And then you get the fighting in Episode 8 (which is done incredibly well, I might add), and you can feel the drama and urgency behind it. Sub-Zero does show some supernatural abilities, which I both like and dislike, as it conflicts me on the realism aspect of everything (though at least by the end, you realize there's a reason he can do it). But really, this is kind of how the Kitana and Mileena episode should have been handled--a similar style to this would have worked well with that story. The ending is also kind of iffy as more blatant mysticism is brought it, but it's cool how a framing revenge plot ties in. Overall, it's not as balanced as the Raiden episode, but where it succeeds, it really succeeds.

Episode 9 - Cyrax and Sektor

Cyrax and Sektor are two members of the oldest and deadliest ninja clan in the world. However, the clan is changing with the times, and the Grand Master teams up with the Cyber Initiative (run by a pre-episodes 1 and 2 Kano). The two men are to be transformed into deadly robots as practice before the whole clan is changed to the format, as well.

This was the one episode I hadn't seen. It's a good idea, but kind of a weak execution. And I say this only because it felt way too short and incomplete. It's not a bad episode, really, and the action is good. But after the emotional stakes of the last two episodes, this one seemed to fall flat. There was no connection to any of the characters. And once the two turned cyborg, everything was mainly middle-grade CGI, so even the fighting was iffy. They hit hard, but I just didn't care about what was happening. And then it ends. So like I said, it had some good ideas, but the execution could have been better.

Final Thoughts

Out of 9 episodes, 5 are really good. The other 4 are a big lacking, mainly due to stylistic differences, poor writing, and iffy casting (at least in the case of Johnny Cage). Since they don't need to be watched altogether (they're basically just shorts that barely connect), I'd suggest that, if you're interested, you only need to check out Episodes 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8. But definitely check out Mortal Kombat: Rebirth if you're one of the few people who still hasn't seen it. That was amazing, and I wish this could have followed a little more closely with that. But as it is, this was suitable, and I will check out the next season to see where it goes. If I had to rank the episodes individually, I'd do it (from best to worst) as 6, 7/8, 1/2,  9, 4/5, and 3. But as a whole, it gets the following...

I Am McLovin!