Archive for March, 2009

Watchmen – Not a Total Disaster

March 12, 2009

The following review contains big fat spoilers for the movie and original graphic novel.

freshen your breath with crest
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2008 Round-Up Review – Kept You Waiting, Huh

March 9, 2009

2008 was nowhere near as stellar a year for movies as 2007, but any year without There Will Be Blood, No Country, Michael Clayton, The Mist and a new Ghost in the Shell movie will suffer.

BUT. 2008 was one helluva year for genre film. Probably the best since 1999 or 1982. Those years gave us The Matrix, Iron Giant, Blade Runner, Wrath of Khan… y’know. Classics. 2008 has some serious future classics as well.

First let’s go backwards. The worst of the lot:

Worst Movies:

Rambo – In my review I wondered if I would ever warm up to this big stupid, bloody gore-stravaganza. I’ve liked dumber movies. And well, I kinda did warm up to it. Not a whole lot, mind you! It’s no great piece of art by any means but it’s worth seeing for… for… for the carnage. Yes. That’s it. It’s almost… cathartic? Is that cliche? Well, then, it fits. For a movie so full of cliche – bad guys kill good people, good guys kill bad guys – it executes every single one of them visceral aplomb. Recently, in the comments section I defend Stallone as someone who knows exactly how to pander to a sick, depraved audience. Genius or not, he knows what he’s doing. Just look at who he’s casting in his next movie, The Expendables. Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, Forest Whitaker, Jason Statham, Jet Li, ARNOLD … Bastard’s got my money again.

Quantum of Solace – I warmed up to Rambo’s idiocy, but I grew even colder towards James Bond’s latest escapade. I actively hate Quantum of Solace more and more with each passing day, my thoughts coalescing into a ball of climactic hotel-destroying fury. A misfire in every possible way. Dull villain, wafer-thin plot, pointless Bond girls – a boring Bond. Way to squander that reboot, fellas. Can’t believe ya did, but ya did. At least there’s still Bourne.

Pineapple Express – Hey, we got a weekend, some weed and woods in the backyard. Let’s make a movie!

Harold and Kumar 2 – Poop poop poop poop poop poop outdated George Bush jokes poop poop poop poop poop celebrity cameo poop poop poop poop poop. $10.75 please.

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Year in Review – 2008: It… It… It… Had Its Moments

March 4, 2009

Wow, 2007 was an amazing year for entertainment, wasn’t it?! So it was inevitable that 2008 was going to disappoint. Yeah, there were some bright spots, but 3/4s of the way through the year, I worried whether or not there would even BE TEN MOVIES I LIKED, let alone say they would be in my top ten. The crop of prestige films at the end of the year also largely failed to impress. When I’m rooting for Frost/Nixon at the Oscars, things are grim, folks. But hey, when you get down to it, there were some good things in 2008, too! A few really good things! In the mainstream, even!!! Let’s get to it~

Top Ten Movies

10. Let the Right One In

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: a vampire that looks like a little girl moves into a quiet Swedish town and befriends the troubled boy next door. The boy starts to develop a tender romance with the vampiress even while dead bodies drained of their blood pile up all around him. And she just may be the answer to his problems with his school’s sociopathic bullies. What’s that? You haven’t heard that one before? Maybe that’s why the movie’s so good. It’s a breath of fresh conceptual air that’s aided by the fact that, hey, it’s a pretty well-done movie. And the little kid bullies are surprisingly more frightening and creepy than the vampire. The chilly Swedish setting is a perfect match for a chilly undead body. Just… be sure you invite her in. D:

9. The Fall

After years of production that were almost more interesting than the movie itself (the director Tarsem had to piggyback filming the movie onto the commercial shoots that actually made him money; an elaborate ruse to make everyone think the lead actor was really paraplegic), The Fall finally came to theaters. Where nobody watched it. Which is a shame, since if there’s any reason to see the movie, it’s to watch the stunning cinematography. It’s one of the most gorgeously-filmed movies I’ve ever seen, with outlandish costumes, exotic locations and at least one thing that will make you ask, “How the hell did he do that?” Guaranteed. The fact that there’s a story (featuring a disabled stuntman, a trusting little girl, and the adventures of Charles Darwin and his monkey companion) almost comes second to the visual splendor heaped upon this film. Watch this movie on the biggest screen with the highest definition that you possibly can.

8. Cloverfield

When something is marketed as heavily as Cloverfield was with the whole “What could it possibly be?!” mystique behind it, it’s almost begging you to be disappointed. But Cloverfield definitely delivered a thrilling, even heartfelt experience. It’s clear that this was a love letter to monster movies of yore (Gojiraaaa!!) as much as it was an exhilarating vision of where monster movies can go from here. Yeah, there’s shaky cam and some people thought the characters were too obnoxious to be “realistic,” but I take exception to that. The whole “found footage” conceit may remind people too much of The Blair Witch Project, but I thought it only helped in making me bond with the victims that were being put in such impossible straits. Too many horror movies lose sight of the fact that to make people scared, they have to make people care about the characters they’re putting in harm’s way. Well, mission accomplished, Cloverfield. I hope your theme song gets played at many more Oscar ceremonies to come!

7. Funny Games

There are movies you watch and they slide right off of you, designed to be disposable, destined to be forgotten. Then there are movies that worm their way into your mind and stick to your gullet, their ideas festering inside you for days, weeks, even months to come. Funny Games is more in the latter category. It’s a sick, deplorable look at a couple of WASPy psychopaths torturing an upper class family with their deranged mind-games. And god, do I love it. While it seemed other viewers and critics were just revolted and turned-off by the movie’s ideology and storytelling devices, I ate it up. I think it’s a jolting, incendiary,  fourth-wall-breaking work of cruelty that more people should see than, sadly, ever will. I’m not saying they’d like it, but then again, a movie like Funny Games wasn’t made for you to like it. For me, it just seems to be a happy side effect!

6. The Wrestler

Director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain) isn’t known for his sympathetic characters. And try to imagine someone less sympathetic than Mickey Rourke. Give up? I thought so. But even when the movie makes you look at Rourke’s ground-beef buttocks, the down-on-his-luck wrestler just trying to reclaim his lost fame and the love of his estranged daughter is compelling. More than that, it’s magnetic! You will cry tears for the beatings this man is willing to take, emotionally and physically. Marisa Tomei’s middle-aged stripper character drops some lines about The Passion of the Christ, and with good reason. THIS is The Passion of the Christ for the rest of us. And, dammit, Mickey deserved that Oscar. Maybe next time, Pork Lips.

5. Speed Racer

You might be looking at this and asking yourself, “Why the hell is a self-proclaimed grump putting Speed Racer in his top five?!” Because it’s easily one of the most entertaining movies put out last year. It reaffirmed my belief that popcorn movies CAN be entertaining. The candy-colored cornucopia of whirling, zooming racing action, the bizarre Wachowski touches, the overly-earnest acting… WOO!

4. The Orphanage

Again, a movie little-to-no people saw in theaters, but still one that deserves to be sought out on video. I’m usually not one for ghost stories, but this happens to have brains, scares and, surprisingly enough, heart. It’s an impressive horror movie that can have me gripping the armrests in anxiety one minute and blubbering womanly tears the next. And it’s a foreign film, so you can show it to your friends and be all snooty and cultured!

3. The Dark Knight

Oh, wow. There’s been so much ink spilled on this movie, digital or otherwise, that I’m not even sure what I can add to the discussion. You’ve heard of this movie. You’ve probably seen this movie. You probably loved this movie. Well I do, too. My dogs are HUNGRYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

2. WALL-E

waaaaaall-eeeeeee

1. Rachel Getting Married

I went into this movie with close to zero expectations. I had seen a commercial on TV for it that featured Anne Hathaway saying something snarky to her sister, so I imagined something like Ghost World but set at a wedding. Boy, I was pretty far off. Rachel Getting Married is an incredible film about a recovering addict that gets released from rehab days before her sister’s marriage. She’s the black sheep of the family, and with good reason, since she’s more of an emotional hurricane than a woman. In the short time she’s there, she manages to dredge up the family’s dark history and reopen old scars while at the same time remembering how lucky she is to have a family at all. Now, the story’s meaty, but that’s not all the movie has going for it. Apart from the heavy themes and terrific acting (you stole that Oscar, Kate!), the execution of the film is fairly unconventional. Shot more like a documentary than a fictional film, not only do you get all the grittiness of a handheld camera, but there’s also passages of the film that seem to almost set the main plot to the side and just ride the flow of a family gathering. You get to see all the goofy toasts at the practice dinner, the dancing at the reception, hell, there’s even a sequence where they challenge each other to see how many dishes they can fit in the dishwasher. Some people might roll their eyes at sequences like these and call them boring filler, but I disagree. I think this would be an very different, poorer film without them. This isn’t just a film about the literal story. It’s a film about family, and all the little candid touches they fit in work beautifully in reminding the viewer of their own. It’s like the movie’s ads said. “This isn’t your family. But this is your family.”

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Big Bang Mini

March 2, 2009

Hi, I’m Philip Armstrong, aka Loki, aka Cooltendo. You might have read my internet comic about Mario and Link and Metroid over at http://www.drunkduck.com/Nintendo_Super_Squad/ It’s cool if you didn’t though. I asked Tim and John if I could share some thoughts I had on this game I played on their blog and they said yes! Here they are, please enjoy.

Big Bang Mini makes you cool. Not just cool for a DS owner, or cool for a person who plays games in general, but bona fide leather-jacket-tight-jeans-rock-star cool. When Big Bang Mini is nestled in your DS you strut.

If you’re anything like me this isn’t your normal attitude when it comes to games. I shudder at being labeled a “gamer.” Upon entering a Gamestop I tend to cower into my coat, shielding my face, afraid that I’ll be lumped in with the meathead “dude you just shot off that guy’s face!” brand of capital “G” gamers or with the Japanese obsessed weaboos who are expounding on the finer details of Ar Tonelico II with a disinterested clerk.

Lord forbid I ever take my DS out in public. I take advantage of the system’s portability primarily to move from the couch to the toilet without having to interrupt my game. I would never allow myself to be seen playing outside for fear of the silent judgement of strangers.

Not so with Big Bang Mini. It’s the kind of game that you play hanging around the bus stop or food court hoping that someone will take notice and ask what is that you’re playing.

“Oh, you know,” you reply, having prepared yourself for this very moment, “just a puzzle shooter mash-up travelog where you fling fireworks towards all sorts of crazy targets. There. I just exploded a surfing punk-walrus.” If you’re lucky you just might get the kicker response: can I try? Next thing you know you’re the life of the party, king of the crowd, Mr. rock star cool guy.

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