Archive for the ‘Grumplet’ Category

Henry Hatsworth – A Troubling Adventure

June 22, 2009

I’ll keep this brief.

Hatsworth suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. With its mix of action platformer and Planet Puzzle League game play — and lighthearted “tea and monocle” aesthetics — it aims to draw in the more casual crowd; yet halfway through the game the difficulty ramps up so much that I doubt the intended audience would have the patience to get even as far as I did. It doesn’t help that the game also contains some of the many game play elements that continually get my ire up, such as:

  • Checkpoints only at the start of a level section, so have fun playing the last 5+ minutes again if you happen to die right next to the exit.
  • “Upgrades” that merely keep you on even footing with the enemies, rather than giving you any apparent advantage against them.
  • Enemies that take too many hits to kill later in the game, without posing an equal amount of challenge to warrant such a high amount of health.
  • Bosses with too many “Gotcha” attacks and more phases than necessary.
  • and finally, Artificial challenge: the amount of Special Power you get from clearing puzzle blocks is significantly reduced during boss fights without explanation.

I have to admit that I was sour towards this game before even playing it, due to a rumor I had heard from the ListenUP podcast and a few other places. Supposedly, the second half of the game was not put through the normal play-testing regime so they could release it sooner. I’m not sure how true that is, but after experiencing the overly long levels and numerous unbalanced fights I can at least say the game should have been given a few more passes in the testing department.

So if you like games that are hard or just slightly broken, give it a look. If you’re a more sensible person however, stay away from Hatsworth. You aren’t missing much.

(grumplet) Drag Yourself to Drag Me to Hell

June 5, 2009

Director Sam Raimi exhibited some signs of campy horror withdrawal in his Spider-Man series – if you remember the operation scene with Dr. Octopus’ tentacles you know what I mean – and with Drag Me To Hell he gets to do what he really loves again. I hope he has more in store ‘cuz I love it too.

His first horror/comedy since Army of Darkness, Drag Me To Hell plays a lot like that goofy flick. A terrible, often invisible evil – a gypsy curse – torments poor dopey Alison Lohman who takes as many slapstick hits as Bruce Campbell did in Army. Campbell ought to be proud of his successor as Lohman is quite the trooper. She puts up with a lot of gross shit and it’s a lot of fun to see the abuse Raimi puts her through, physically and psychologically. As the curse puts her through the paranormal ringer she has to make some decisions and the way they’re all handled are hilarious.

ohhh somebody clean me~~

It’s classic storytelling that sets up all sorts of conventions, rules and gags that pay off in the end. Raimi shows what you can do with a simple idea (a gypsy curse) and how far you can take it. In today’s horror film atmosphere Hell is unique – there are no kids anywhere to be seen, no busty scream queens getting chopped to bits, no torture gadgets, it’s not boring, it doesn’t take itself seriously and it’s not a remake. It’s juuuust about a near-perfect horror movie… rated PG-13 no less.

There is one scene in particular that involves an anvil that goes so over-the-top it pulled me way out of the flick. It’s not even that necessary, it felt pretty throwaway. I guess that’s the one complaint I have with the movie. The other thing I was worried about, Justin Long as Lohman’s kind-hearted boyfriend, turned out to be nothing to worry over. I was lukewarm towards the guy before, but this is probably the best bit of acting he’s done. He manages to play the whole movie with a straight face. Not once does he crack a wry smile or wink at the camera – that’s for Sam to do.

So, yeah. If Raimi’s excellent work in the past, or the incredibly warm reception from critics doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. I grinned and laughed the whole way through. It’s a scary, funny, gross, fun fucking time at the movies Go to a theater with GREAT sound and drag as many people as possible with you.

ahhhh nooo I dont want to go to Lodi, NJ

(grumplet) Coraline: She’s a Peach, She’s a Doll, She’s a Paaaal O’ Miiiiiiiine

February 18, 2009

Stop-motion animation has always sort of fascinated me. With traditional 2D drawn animation, I’m already impressed with how much focus, dedication and vision it takes to breathe life into a film’s world. Stuff like the Escher scene from The Thief and the Cobbler fill me with a sort of awe that I can’t easily describe. I don’t think I’ve ever been passionate about anything as much as some of these people must’ve been to work on something like that.

So when you get into something like stop-motion animation, it just boggles my mind. PHYSICALLY building everything that you’re going to be using, then meticulously moving it bit by bit as you capture each individual frame… cripes. Stuff that used to be easy in drawn animation, like making a character jump, becomes a mystery I’m not sure I want spoiled when done in stop-motion. It’s not a common or popular art form, however. Like any type of animation, or entertainment for that matter, if the animator gets bogged down in the technical aspects of it and stops paying attention to story and character, you just end up with a technically impressive sleep-aid. I rented a collection of short films by famous stop-motion animators the Brothers Quay that I was eager to watch, but soon found that they had no interest other than just creating atmospheric backdrops for inanimate objects to move around in. It was extremely boring.

Probably the best known stop-motion feature in recent memory was Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, a musical with a distinctively gothic, quirky aesthetic and loads of creativity in its execution. The director, Henry Selick, whom everyone seems to forget, recently released another stop-motion film based on Neil Gaiman’s storybook Coraline. Helllllllll yeah.

psst behind you

(grumplet) The Happiness of the Katakuris: The Sound of Music with Dead Bodies

January 27, 2009

The premise of The Happiness of the Katakuris is like this: A middling patriach of a Japanese family leaves behind his mundane shoe sales job in order to open up a bed-and-breakfast at the foot of Mt. Fuji and drags his whole family along for the ride. However, when they finally get their first guests, each one ends up dying overnight. Desperate to stave off police suspicion and save the family business, they decide to bury the growing number of bodies in the nearby grounds.

Now, this sounds pretty macabre, like some sort of Asian “The Telltale Heart.” A conventional treatment of a plot such as this might be a quiet, haunting horror movie filled with chilling imagery, deadly silences and mounting dread that culminates into a terrifying treatise on guilt and paranoia.

But this movie was made by Takashi Miike, so it’s a musical comedy instead.

FAME! I wanna live forevaaaaaaaaaaa


(grumplet) Jacob’s Ladder

October 31, 2008

Something that we haven’t done a very good job with and I’d like to correct is the lack of holiday-themed articles here on Grump Factory. I attempted to make a horror-themed article for Halloween last year, but it ended up being posted quite late. That simply will not DO. So here I am, presenting a movie that deserves to have its place among modern horror staples: Jacob’s Ladder. So strap yourself to a gurney and come along with me!

squeak squeak squeak

Grumplet: Burn After Reading – It Was All Right

October 13, 2008

This year the Coens opt for lighter fare with the exploits of idiots in Washington, D.C. Though the story of adults way past their prime doing moronic things may almost be as depressing as the ultra-bleak No Country it’s nowhere near as good a film, and it barely reaches the comedic heights of The Big Lebowski. Still, it’s a decent way to see well-respected actors cut loose and act like stupid failures. Everyone is a failure in some manner and it seems only Frances MacDormand is aware of the fact. She’s a depressed gym employee who cruises online dating sites for unsatisfying trysts, desperate to be loved and wanted even though she sees herself as a droopy, undeserving hag. To fix that she wants cosmetic surgery but the money is way out of reach until her fellow employee, Brad Pitt having a ton of fun playing himself, finds a CD containing CIA information. They blackmail former CIA agent John Malkovich with it, take it to the Russian embassy, and get tangled up with bearded ladies man George Clooney. Tilda Swinton also appears as Clooney’s shrill mistress. That woman was born to play icy bitches.

Everyone does well in their parts especially Clooney and Malkovich, who seem to play exaggerated versions of their real-life selves. I thought for sure Brad Pitt would’ve been the runaway favorite based on the goofy trailer but some of his antics fell short, and I wasn’t the only one in the theater to think so. He’d wave his arm and repeat jokes like he was in an Apatow production, stirring no one in the (modest) crowd to laugh, whereas Clooney and Malkovich can just make an over-animated face and I’d snicker. They’re terrific and I missed them each time they were offscreen, and missed them even more when the plot gave them less to do. Eventually Malkovich’s scenes consist of him yelling “fuck” and its variations over and over, and that’s all he has left to do in the movie. Luckily, he’s an artist with that word, used with impact and precision.

Besides the goofy acting the other noteworthy thing about Burn After Reading is the soundtrack. The loud, foreboding music sounds like it was pulled out of Spy Game or Enemy of the State, or any dopey Tony Scott piece. It’s music for a serious movie, which naturally contrasts with what’s actually going on in the movie. The Coens are adept at parody – Lebowski skewers noir detective yarns, Fargo and even No Country are darkly funny – and Burn‘s their latest, a ridiculous stab at the spy/espionage genre. It’s not their best, but it’s not bad either.

It’s certainly better than Ladykillers.


(grumplet) Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog: A Geek Tragedy

July 23, 2008

If you’re an Internet nerd, this is old news. Joss Whedon, king of the geeks, found himself with some time on his hands during the writers’ strike. So what did he do? What any other person would’ve done in his place: create a self-contained three-act musical about the trials and tribulations of an aspiring supervillain.