Archive for November, 2007

Grump Select – DEATH NOTE: Domine Kira

November 27, 2007

It’s time again to let you, the readers, into the most treasured lock boxes of our hearts and show you those things that we treasure dearly. This time, the spotlight is on one of the best manga we’ve ever read, DEATH NOTE. Another Halloween-y entry! After Thanksgiving. :|

…Just as planned.

 

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Uneven English Epic – Beowulf

November 18, 2007

Put this year’s 300 and 2001’s Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within together and you basically get Beowulf: an uneven animated movie full of dead-eyed, boastful shirtless guys. The comparisons don’t end there either.

Like Zack Snyder’s/Frank Miller’s 300 the story centers around an old civilization obsessed with heroism and glory. The men talk a lot, in really loud voices, about bedding wenches and bearing heirs – despite their longing glances at each other – and they take great, great, great pride in their killing arts. Beowulf (Ray Winstone) kills a lot and he’s not too shy to tell a souped-up story about his past victories. Similar to the cock-worshipping Spartans Beowulf wants his story told through the ages, long after his death in battle. The emphasis on storytelling would’ve been a nice bit of self-reflexivity if Leonidas and his THREE! HUNDRED! SPARTANS!!! DIDN’T ALREADY SAIL THAT BOAT.

And like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (I refer to this because I didn’t see Zemeckis’ previous animated effort – The Polar Express) it’s animated in an uninteresting, dull way (though I think Final Fantasy pulled it off better). Beowulf never leaps past the Uncanny Valley, especially in faraway shots where everyone looks like the video game characters they are. Close-up shots fare slightly better with more realistic detail in the skin, hair and clothing although their eyes are still dull doll’s eyes. This animation just isn’t interesting. It strives for realism but can’t achieve it. So, why?

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My Misanthropic Day at the Movies – No Country for Old Men

November 14, 2007

First, in my sci-fi class was Terry Gilliam’s fucking brilliant Brazil. I’ve seen before and studied it just as many times so it wasn’t anything new, but it’s still just as zany and as goddamn terrifying. Brazil is, basically, about TODAY, and it still astounds me how Gilliam was able to predict everything going wrong even down to my malfunctioning iPod. Better call Central Services.

Then I went to see The Spirit of the Beehive, a Spanish movie set during Spain’s Civil War about a sad little girl with a serious longing to die. Her family is absent the entire time – they’re never in the same shot together – so the girl has to turn to her imagination, much like Sam Lowry in Brazil, to cope. It’s slow and ponderous and, okay, pretty boring as the movie uses its 90 minute running time for long spells of silence and overstretched views of Spanish plains so it feels much longer than an hour and a half. Brazil is funny, this is just depressing.

Then I saw No Country for Old Men, the latest from The Coen Brothers.

Nope. No old men here!

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Dead Rising: Where the dead envy the shopping

November 7, 2007

Continuing on our rampage of belated Halloween horror, I finally (finally!) managed to finish Xbox 360 survival horror (?) game Dead Rising. I have to say, I wasn’t sure about the game when I first heard of it. It seemed like a sort of cheap, derivative idea. Chase zombies around a shopping mall? Gee. Where have I heard that before? But when I finally got my Xbox 360, I had a distinct lack of games to play for it, besides Hexic and a bunch of demos like Tomb Raider (ehhh) and Kameo (blehhh). I decided to root around the Xbox Marketplace for more fresh meat when I came across the Dead Rising demo. Sure, why not? I asked myself. I left it to download and went to go see some fireworks. When I got back, it was done and I booted it up. Whoa. This was actually cool! I could just run around and fuck up zombies with a bunch of wacky stuff! It ended up on the short list of birthday presents I requested. And I got it! Did the full game live up to the demo experience?

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Scream and Saw: Head-to-head Horror

November 5, 2007

It’s Halloween and it’s horror movie time here at Grump Factory. (Yes, it’s past Halloween, but what are we going to talk about? Thanksgiving movies?) I’m sure you’ve noticed, since Dracula has moved into the neighborhood. :(

It recently came to me how the trend in horror movies has shifted so drastically over the past decade or so. Nowadays it’s gore, gore and MORE GORE! Not that we were ever lacking gore in horror movies, and I’m not here to say gore doesn’t have its lovely place in scary movies. But sheesh, people. There’s a reason the current crop of horror movies are called “torture porn.” It’s not even really about scaring you anymore. It’s about filming, in detail, how the killers eviscerate their victims and keep them alive until the last possible moment where they finally slash open their carcass with a giant scythe and bathe in their blood. While that example may (or may not) be over the top, I think it’s fair to say that the horror movie that kicked this particular trend into gear was Saw, now in its fourth (?!) iteration.

But it wasn’t always like this. Remember that time in the 90s when horror could be tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic, post-modern and self-referential? It wasn’t so much about horror, but deconstructing horror movie cliches and subverting expectations, all the while delivering the thrills one expects from a horror film. While not the first movie to do this, Scream has arguably been the most successful of this breed.

Now to lock them in a cage together and the first one to kill the other gets the antidote to the poison!

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