Archive for July, 2009

(grumplet) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: SNOGGING

July 30, 2009

Anyone who talks to me about the Harry Potter movies or read my rant in the comments section for Magus’ grumplet about Order of the Phoenix knows that I had a venomous dislike for David Yates, the man who had been handed the keys to the Harry Potter kingdom. Here was a man with absolutely no experience directing a theatrical feature film, let alone a huge, effects-laden installment of one of the most lucrative franchises in the world. While that alone was not enough to damn him in my eyes, the dull, lifeless adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was. Not only had it left out certain crucial details that would become important in future installments, but it also seemed to have no regard for the heart of the book, Harry’s inner turmoil, and instead focused on soapbox political allegories and rah-rah student rebellion. While all of this was present and indeed a necessary part of the original work, it seemed like David Yates missed the point. It’s true that the absence of the screenwriter of the previous four films, Steve Clowes, couldn’t have helped things, but the amateurish direction by Yates missed the mark. And with the usual 150-minute runtime cut down to a brisk, 120 minutes, it seemed like Warner Bros. had found its perfect stooge for cranking out another Harry Potter installment on time and on budget under the studio’s thumb.

Inbetween the release of Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, a couple things happened. Steve Clowes returned from his sabbatical to adapt the sixth installment, Yates was tapped by Warner Bros. to direct all following Harry Potter installments, beating out other hopefuls like Alfonso Cuarón, and the decision was made to cleave Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in two so that proper respect could be paid to sending the series off (and, of course, to allow WB to milk their cash cow to the bitter end). My heart understandably sank. Not only was Cuarón, the director of my favorite installment of Harry Potter, not returning, but that Yates hack was getting the glory of finishing up the whole thing. C’est la vie, eh? It was with a heavy heart and extremely low expectations that I entered Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, almost daring Yates to do his worst.

You must be very careful while entering a giant's anus, Harry...

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(grumplet) Moon: One Small Step for Real Sci-Fi

July 23, 2009

You might remember me bemoaning the state of serious science fiction in my Virtuality post. (Which about as many people read as actually saw the program!) Wellllllll… in the back of my mind, I was looking forward to a movie that had been teased to me for the past six months: Moon. It premiered to generally good buzz at the big film festivals and of course it took forever for it to finally show in Kansas City. And hey, it has a Kevin Spacey A.I. and was directed by David Bowie’s son! So as soon as I was able to cajole my dad into paying for the tickets, off we were to the barren, lonely landscape of Moon.

Is this hip enough for you?!

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(grumplet) Up: Up, and Straight Up My… Heart~

July 18, 2009

Sorry this has taken so long to make it up here on Grump Factory, but the theater, she is an expensive beast! And between taking summer school on the weekdays (BAH!) and rising ticket prices (it’s $10 here!) the local AMC 30 has a difficult time coaxing me out. Why, it would take a miracle for me to carve out the time it would take on a weekday to get a decent ticket price to go see a movie. Well, a miracle or a Pixar movie.

SO THIS ONE TIME IN WEASEL SCOUT CAMP

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Street Fighter 4 – Return of the Street Fighter

July 16, 2009

Nostalgia, like much of Capcom’s recent output – Mega Man 9, Street Fighter II HD Remix, the Bionic Commando remake and reboot – drives this latest release as part of a plan to win back the audience who walked out on Street Fighter 3. With an unfriendly parrying system and unfamiliar cast that game proved too difficult for most players to pick up. The marketing, and most of the reviews, of Street Fighter 4 suggests it’s here to fix that, with Guile, Blanka, Dhalsim, Zangief and all the characters you remember from Street Fighter 2, along with classic fighting gameplay even “casual players” can enjoy.

Cammy, Vega, Zangief and all your favorites return – including some all-new fighters and stand-outs from the Street Fighter Alpha series – and the whole package is as polished. However, the whole “casual-friendly” idea is a gross misconception. This game is as hardcore as it gets. Street Fighter 4 is just as, if not more difficult to master than the third game. Kick, punch, jump, block, duck, quarter circle forward to throw a fireball … a glorious throwback, right? In reality, a complicated, bloodthirsty beast lurks underneath, waiting to shatter your patience and if you’re easily susceptible to rage, your controller too.

Gomen ne? Gomen ne? Gomen ne? Gomen ne?

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Grumplets: Michael Sheen and the Excitement Machine

July 9, 2009

Frost/Nixon (2008)

By far Ron Howard’s strongest film even if it is kind of unremarkable as a whole. W., released the same year, makes a much more reviled president look sympathetic too. Add to the fact that politicians today do far, far, far worse things than Nixon ever dreamed of. Still, I suppose he set the precedent, and if we are to believe Frank Langella’s excellent performance as the magnificent bastard he felt pretty bad about the whole thing. And that’s why you should see the film. Langella may not exactly look like Nixon but it’s one of those performances you can’t look away from, and at times the lighting is set in such a way that he does seem to resemble the bastard. The movie reaches greatness when it centers on interviewer David Frost and Nixon warring with words. Whenever Langella or Michael Sheen’s Frost are on screen the movie crackles with energy that could light a city block. The  supporting cast is extremely one-note: Kevin Bacon loves Nixon, Sam Rockwell hates Nixon. But they do their part.

Bolt (2008)

Pretty lousy! Though I thought it was nice when the cat taught the dog how to be a dog. Otherwise, it’s a jumbled up Truman Show, Aladdin, Homeward Bound thing with annoying pigeons. Bolt finds out reality is a lie, learns how to enjoy being himself and three animals go on a long journey to find Bolt’s “person.” Too bad Bolt’s person is the blandest girl in the world with a voice that pulled me out of the movie every time she talked. The other voices? Nondescript. So John Travolta is Bolt – who cares? I thought one guy was James Woods but it turned out to be someone else doing a James Woods impression and someone else was Malcolm MacDowell and I had no idea during the movie. So what’s the point of casting “names” then? The message of the movie rings extremely false too, as it celebrates the mundane over the special. The girl quits her blossoming acting career for her dog? Yeah, that sounds honest.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)

Wow. Um. I didn’t bother with the first two movies – that shit looks so boring – so I admit I was kind of lost when characters and situations were never properly introduced. I guess the rambling narration at the beginning was supposed to help with that but it didn’t really. So I guess it’s a war between vampires and werewolves? Where the vampires are clearly outclassed by rampaging, rubbery-looking werewolves because they’re too busy staring at each other in Jedi council meetings the entire time? For fucking VAMPIRES these pusses show no backbone. Or fangs, really. Bill Nighy, as the vampire leader, is the only one with a pulse, looking fucking insane the entire time he’s onscreen. He hams it up very well, so it’s a shame everyone else BORES. There’s not a humorous bone in its body considering its stupid premise. Underworld is a key part of the Twilight crowd diluting the vampire fiction pool. I mean, fuck, Interview with the Vampire is cooler than this shit and that has Tom Cruise making kissy faces at Brad Pitt while they raise a hideous young Kirsten Dunst together. This is just boring, I even nodded off a few times. The sets c0nsist of the woods and what looks like some half-assed Helm’s Deep. The whole thing looks Sci-Fi Channel cheap.

Most interesting thing about it? MICHAEL SHEEN IS THE MAIN CHARACTER. I thought that guy looked familiar under all the filth and hair. That’s some range, Mr. Frost.

Virtuality: Virtually Ignored

July 6, 2009

After the new Battlestar Galactica shuttered its doors earlier this year, it left a palpable hole on television where a serious, thoughtful science fiction series should be. Dollhouse is too uneven to fit the bill. LOST is too twisty, zany and soapy to match it, either. Fringe, as much as I enjoyed Season 1, is too mainstream and procedural. Where’s that hard-nosed space travel show I, and so many others, desperately need?!

Well, it seemed Ronald D. Moore’s fellow BSG and DS9 and alum, Michael Taylor, who was responsible for a DS9 episode “The Visitor,” one of the only episodes of television to ever make me cry, had his own ideas for a new series; one that would take the Star Trek staple of virtual reality and give it an edgy twist. And his take on things interested Ron Moore enough to attach his name to the project, practically assuring that someone at the major networks would also catch interest in it. After all, Moore spearheaded a universally critically-acclaimed series that, while never quite breaking out into a huge mainstream success, garnered a sizable cult following and a permanent place in geek culture. His next project could be the one to explode into the mainstream consciousness! Or it could be Virtuality.

TO BOLDLY WATCH WHAT NO ONE'S INTERESTED IN WATCHING

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Transformers: RotF – Revenge of Michael Bay

July 4, 2009

The first Transformers film was a bit of a surprise. Mainly because it was a competent product — from Michael Bay of all people! — that seemed to satisfy the throes of Transformers fans (for the most part). I’ll tell you now: I did not grow up liking the Transformers. I got a few of the toys at some point, but they never really got their hold on me. Same goes for the cartoons, which I never saw until Beast Wars; which was decent, but again, did not hold my interest. So I came into the first movie not really expecting anything, and I thought it was okay. Not the best silly action movie of ’07 (see: Spider-man 3), but it was okay!

So the sequel has gotta be a step up right? ‘Cause that’s what sequels are all about! It’s gotta have lots of explosions, and a big fight in the desert that takes up a lotta time! And maybe some silly jokes, and John Turturro too!

“Hey, you were just describing the first Transformers,” you might say.

Boy, are you in for a surprise~

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