Archive for the ‘2009’ Category

Notes From a Review That Never Was: Terminator Salvation

August 5, 2010

Duhhh

What a mixed bag. In some ways better than the jokey third movie, in other ways, worse. It’s all pointless of course, a cash-in,  begins nice and bleak with a man’s execution.

clumsy. intro with worthington and carter…. drrrr. then thrown into the future.

bale grunts and screams.

worthington stumbles out of the wreckage ALIVE!! and screaming. who could he beeeee?

jumps off a chopper into the ocean – why?? oh to rendevous with a submarine somehow. meets his superiors.

MICHAEL FUCKIN’ IRONSIDE shows up and brings some 80s sci-fi credibility.

finds out he’s gonna meet Kyle Reese – “a civilian.” meets his fellow soldiers. and Bryce Dallas lookin’ chunky.

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Favorite Films and Video Games of 2009

June 7, 2010

We’re halfway through 2010! You know what that means!

Time for another shitty overdue list!

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Year in Review – 2009: SMELL YA LATER

May 20, 2010

There’s been several reasons why this list is late. First of all, thanks to limited theatrical releases, it becomes necessary to wait until home video for a lot of potential “movie of the year” candidates to make themselves available. And then there’s the increasingly common practice for big studios to make deals with services like Netflix, which I use almost exclusively for home video, to give them greater streaming options at the cost of instituting a mandatory 28 day waiting period after home video release for availability in their system.

And then there’s the obvious: 2009 was just a so-so year for movies. It’s sort of ridiculous that the year that saw the highest-grossing movie of all time also had one of the weakest outputs in recent memory. Yeah, good movies got released, but almost none that really galvanized me emotionally. It took some doing to make this list. Originally I wasn’t even sure I could come up with 10 movies I liked enough to put on my list. Even then, there hasn’t really been a clear winner, in my mind, so ordering them became impossible. Any ranking I could give them would just be arbitrary and pointless at this point, so I’m presenting them in no particular order.

Also, this year I had no job, so next-to-no money with which to buy those expensive $60 coasters we call video games. I mostly took a look back into older games, such as the Phantasy Star series, which you can read my thoughts on in earlier Grump Factory posts. When it came to new games, I enjoyed the SMT: Persona remake on the PSP, and the reimagined Silent Hill on the Wii. Left 4 Dead 2 is great fun if you can find 3 other people to reliably play with. Aside from that, my time was spent playing games from 2008 or earlier, so hopefully Magus can give some better insight on gaming in 2009. Just don’t listen to anything he says about Monster Hunter. Ever.

Now, on to the movies!

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Blahvatar – Cameron’s Courageous Catastrophe

January 4, 2010

Dances With Wolves, Stargate, Atlantis, The Last Samurai, Last of the Mohicans, Fern Gully, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, The Day After Tomorrow... with a new hat!

After three hours of  nature tours, massaging six-legged horses with fiber optic cables and the big, dumb, obligatory Good Guy vs. Bad Guy brawl, the pure and innocent Na’vi send the evil human race back to their “dying world.” The campaign on Pandora was humanity’s last hope for survival, yet after all of Avatar‘s crybaby tirades about respecting life and walking in the Other’s shoes, you’d think it’d go both ways. But no, humanity’s sent off to die like the bunch of greedy losers we are, because replacing one potential genocide with another makes everything okay apparently. It’s suicidal, self-loathing smugness on par with The Day After Tomorrow.

According to James Cameron we all deserve to die,  and since everyone’s heralding his boring, corny mess as a masterpiece, rewarding it with over $1 billion and counting worldwide, maybe he’s right. Just kill us all right now.

Something happened to James Cameron since Titanic. Something bad.

Maybe he rented Halo one afternoon and decided “Ah, I can do this, too, but with more tie-dye”, in a bizarre cannibalistic twist, since Halo and the rest of the video game medium lifts so heavily from Camerons’ milieu — y’know, bald space marines in dropships, of which there is no shortage in Avatar. It makes sense then that Cameron would come full circle and produce the longest, dumbest video game cutscene in history and put it before us, daring to call it a revolution in cinema.  The man’s courageous for sure, serving us Krusty Burgers and calling them steamed hams when they’re clearly grilled.

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The Princess and the Frog: JAMMIN’ WITH THE BIG BOYS~

December 24, 2009

Let’s face it, when people think of animation, they don’t think of Akira or obscure Czech stop-motion animators or even My Neighbor Totoro. They think Disney. And with good reason! Classic Disney animated features such as Fantasia, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty are among the most technically accomplished and beloved animated movies ever made. Hell, there was even a bit of a renaissance in the late 80s and early 90s when Disney was spurting out movies like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. (Can we include The Great Mouse Detective in that, too? {:3) But the momentum couldn’t last, as the features started to become pretentious and a drag (Pocahontas), adapted from sources that were increasingly incompatible with Disney’s values and audience (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and eventually abandoning their musical roots (Atlantis: The Lost Empire). When the best you can come up with is Roseanne as a cow (the most modest creative leap I’ve ever seen), perhaps it is best to just tear it all down and start anew. And that’s exactly what Disney did, shutting down their fabled 2D animation studios in favor of computer-generated animation features. Unfortunately, it seems the stagnation and creative bankruptcy went deeper than just the medium of animation, because I’ve hardly heard any recommendations from people I trust for Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons or Bolt.

Thank god that Disney had partnered up with Pixar, eventually buying them up. Pixar honcho John Lasseter was wisely put in charge of Disney’s animation studio and mandated a return to the stuff that Disney was known for and actually good at. And it would star a black characterWAIT WHAT

sick how they're promoting bestiality

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(grumplet) Where The Wild Things Are – That’s It?

December 2, 2009

I watched the trailer for Where The Wild Things Are a couple of times convinced I couldn’t wait to go see it, and that upon seeing it I would enjoy it greatly. Director Spike Jonze’s name ensures a stylish, existential journey. With his cockamamie track record how could I not get excited? In reality I waited a month and a half or so to finally see it, paid $12.50 for the ticket, nodded off through a good chunk of it, then walked out feeling ripped off. And sleepy.

2009 has been an uninteresting year so far, so I’m a bit miffed the one movie that grabs my attention – and my dough – ended up pretty boring. It starts out well. Max in the wolf suit, running around, freeze frame, scratchy font title – groovy. All the character introductions are handled well. When Max stumbles upon the monster village, it’s mysterious and frightening. When he proclaims himself king and gets on James Gandolfini’s good side, I was still along for the ride.

Once the second act begins the movie treads water, forever. It turns into plodding whatever, a dirt clod war that goes on way too long and an unsatisfactory emotional climax. It’s pretty basic stuff. Max befriends monsters, Max betrays monsters’ trusts, monsters get mad, they eventually come around and make up with Max. If you asked me for many details I couldn’t provide them. One of the monsters befriends some owls, another feels ignored and … feelings get hurt. Whatever was happening onscreen, I couldn’t buy into it.

uh, still waiting for the movie to start

I tried to focus on something else to admire like the set design or the camerawork or cinematography, and besides a lot of nice shots of the sun with Luke Skywalker-y silhouettes against it, there wasn’t a whole lot there to grab me either. The movie looks drab. The monsters look a step above Fraggle Rock creatures. I realize the technology must be far beyond what Henson did, so why are the results practically the same?

The writing failed to grab me. The voice actors, with the exception of Gandolfini, sound as bored as I was. The soundtrack starts up in fits and bursts, keeping things kind of interesting, but only because the soundtrack is the most interesting thing about the whole thing. Looking at the trailer now after seeing the movie I realize it’s the Arcade Fire song that kept my attention.

If it wasn’t for the dull, forever-long second act Where The Wild Things Are would’ve been something special. It ends on a nice note, something the rest of the movie could’ve used. The movie’s clearly not for kids – the ones in the theater were restless and clearly had no idea what was happening onscreen – and the adults were just as nonplussed. After watching the final product I can understand why studio execs reportedly panicked over Jonze’s cut. He didn’t deliver a bedtime story, he made a sleeping pill.

(grumplet) Muramasa: The Demon Blade – Not Bad, Not Great

October 8, 2009

Muramasa: The Demon Blade continues Vanillaware’s mission to deliver gorgeous 2D gaming. After their PlayStation 2 action-RPG Odin Sphere, and now this, it’s clear Vanillaware gives all their attention to the beautiful, painterly visuals of their games. When it comes to the actual video game part of their games, well, things get iffy.

Muramasa gives you two characters to play as: Kisuke, a warrior without his memory, and Momohime, a princess possessed by the soul of a vengeful swordsman. Each character plays similarly, the only difference lies in their stories, neither of which comes across very well. The plot itself is a ghost, a non-entity. Once in a while you get a break from fighting and go around talking to NPCs who say the same thing over and over.

That’s about it as far as story goes. The presentation is barebones at best, no cutscenes or anything. Most of the time it isn’t even clear what they’re talking about anyway — blame it on the original Japanese script or a lack of interest in the whereabouts of Momohime’s soul. I usually say “Who cares about story in a video game?” but if you’re going to try, at least try harder than Muramasa.

Looks good, plays okay

The game itself fares better, playing a lot like a traditional side scrolling beat-’em-up fitted with numerous RPG-like elements, since that’s the thing to do to stale genres. It’s easy to rack up tons of combos, zip left to right in the air, crash down on enemies, switch blades to attack all enemies at once, recover using items all the while gaining experience points and tons of new swords, items and equipment. The battles are fun and keeps you constantly busy, though they are randomly generated which can grow wearisome. When stuck at a boss all I had to do was forge stronger swords and grind to get by. Typical skills like pattern memorization and timing didn’t really matter — it was all about the grind.

It’s also all about managing your inventory. You can forge tons of swords but only equip 3 at a time. Recovery items are unique in that you can only eat them when Kisuke or Momohime feel hungry, which can be tricky in the heat of battle. A degree of strategy between battles comes in handy. Actually, the most impressive part of the game’s presentation for me was the eating. There are various eateries throughout the game where your character can sit down and enjoy a fine, prepared meal. A plate of shrimp tempura is so lovingly rendered it got me watering, and bit by bit it disappears with each bite. The game has charm for sure, but charm can fuel a game for so long.

Muramasa is fun in short bursts. Playing for long stretches got me antsy for something meatier, more involved. I can only slash the same few enemies through the same few vistas for so many times. The vistas are gorgeous for sure, and I’d be foolish not to  appreciate Vanillaware for their dedication to 2D, I just hope their next game is something I can really sink my teeth into and not something so … vanilla.