Archive for the ‘mystery’ Category

Heavy Rain: You’re gonna carry that weight

March 3, 2010


God, where do I even begin. (The discussion below “spoils” the first hour or so of the game, so consider yourself duly warned.)


Suspiria: Sumptuous Scarlet Screams

October 28, 2009

It’s that time of year again! People dress up in silly/sexy costumes and put out ghost cut-outs and jack-o-lanterns and basically take all the balls out of Halloween. Well not here! You may remember last year I covered Jacob’s Ladder, a disturbing psychological horror film that served as a major visual inspiration for modern horror multimedia franchise Silent Hill (which has seen better days). This year it’s something closely-tied, yet completely different. While Jacob’s Ladder may be the father of Silent Hill, according to interviews of the Japanese staff of the original Silent Hill, Dario Argento’s Suspiria is very much the mother.



(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...


(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

Vertigo & North by Northwest: Bitches Don’t Know ‘Bout My Hitchcock

October 6, 2008

It’s with some film grump shame that I admit my experience with Alfred Hitchcock is limited. My early exposure to film was basically limited to what my dad thought was good and entertaining, thus my history with all manners of sci-fi, from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Deep Star Six. Once I became independent enough to pursue my own interests (Netflix lol) I began to culture myself in the filmmakers I wanted to see/thought I should see. Hitchcock wasn’t far from the top of the list. I’d only ever seen one of his films before, Rebecca, with Film Walrus and had a blast. It was an excellent movie with far-reaching influence, a fantastically twisted and layered story and even better acting. So I was definitely stoked to dive into the presumably warm waters of Hitchcock’s other work.

But was that really the case?


(grumplet) Apollo Justice – Just Great!

July 7, 2008

In the fourth Ace Attorney game Phoenix Wright loses his lawyer badge after the events of a shameful trial seven years ago. Now a questionably-dressed bum who plays piano (and when nobody’s looking, poker) at a divey restaurant, Wright passes the baton to pointy-haired Apollo Justice. His first client? Phoenix Wright! Aided by Trucy, a magician-in-training, Apollo must vindicate Wright and uncover the various behind-the-scenes mysteries that disbarred him seven years ago. Family, conspiracies, magic acts, panties and noodles cross and collide into what is technically the best game in the series yet.


There are four cases in all with really creative intertwining plots. The story doesn’t feel as ambitious as previous games probably because it doesn’t deal with the mythology established in those, which were all linked by the story of the spirit medium Fey Family and numerous prosecutors. It’s tight and entertaining nonetheless, thanks to a snappy localization headed by Alexander O. Smith, who noticeably sat out from working on the middle installments. The writing is even laugh-out-loud funny at times as the addle-brained Judge got me lawlin’ by his near-constant confusion, and the cast of characters, true to series form, is bizarre and lovable. Grumpy forensics detective Ema Skye, who snacks on chocolate “Snackoos” and is turned on by the mere hint of scientific evidence, is definitely a new favorite, along with a mountainous gangster who looks like the anime approximation of Marlon Brando wearing a baker’s apron. The new prosecutor Klavier Gavin also moonlights as a rockstar and air guitars in the middle of court proceedings, complete with accompanying soundtrack and a brilliantly detailed sprite animation that ought to pump some fists. And it wouldn’t be an Ace Attorney game without Phoenix Wright, whose presence reaches Metal Gear Solid 2-era Solid Snake levels of cool, confidence and control as the main force working behind the scenes of the narrative to help Apollo and Trucy.

some kind of trout woman

It helps that the gameplay flows easier from investigation to courtroom segments. Talking and presenting evidence finally makes perfect sense – the series’ usually goofy logic is gone so it’s tough to get stuck – and the game makes good use of the DS’ capabilities so cases stay fresh. When Ema’s around you take on the role of forensics analyst. You dust (and blow!) for prints, spray for poison residue and scan items with X-rays. Pretty cool immersing stuff. Apollo also has the ability to detect the nervous tics of witnesses to tell if they’re lying, an inventive way to show off the game’s new hi-res animations and illustrations although the Judge and some other returning characters from the GBA ports still sport their dusty old sprites. The music also gets a facelift, definitely the best since the first game. There are more complicated, rocking compositions with one musical case in particular taking special advantage of the DS’ SNES-like sound system.


I’m still sentimental over Phoenix Wright’s third outing, Trials and Tribulations, for the bittersweet Godot story and original cast of characters but Apollo Justice is inarguably the best, most fully-realized entry in what I consider the flagship series of the Nintendo DS. Hopefully the next game starring original star prosecutor Miles Edgeworth won’t drop the baton with its drastic design deviation (you can walk!). That would be a most unfortunate turnabout.

Grump Selects: Possession

August 28, 2007


It’s my pleasure to introduce Grump Selects, wherein Mora and I go on and on about the cream of the crop. Whether it’s a favorite movie, a video game, a comic or how we like our eggs done (over easy. if it’s scrambled it must be with cream cheese), it’s sure to be something that we both agree is utterly fantastic. It sorta goes against our credo – to nitpick and tear apart everything that blows – but that’s why they’re special. They’re gooood. We’ll still acknowledge the pockmarks but Selects will always be near and dear to us and, hopefully, to you too.

Our first Select is Possession, a movie so bonkers Mora had to share it with me by mailing the DVD just so I could see it. He wasn’t kidding. It is bonkers. It’s surreal. It’s HYPERBOLIC!! I don’t even know where to BEGIN!!!

Let’s start with Andrzej Zulawski, a Polish filmmaker (with an impossible first name) who’s had a MADDENING time making movies in his stupid censorship-crazed homeland. After a production of his was shut down by ASSHOLES in the government he fled to BERLIN OF ALL PLACES and wrote a movie while going through what was presumably a very messy divorce! Zulawski funnelled all of his anger and creative energy into the film, about a crumbling marriage and, perhaps, just maybe, if you’re sharp enough to pay attention to the FRINGES of the FRAME, the Cold War.

Entryways to... POSSESSION!

Released in 1981, Possession is the culmination of the frustrations of a NUT with a capital N. And a capital U and T too. MMM, CAPITAL LETTERS EVERYWHERE!!! This movie, starring Sam Neill (so young!) and Isabelle Adjani (a cute yet completely unhinged French actress) as the sparring spouses, takes everything to the extreme fucking edge. Seriously, if you think you know acting, think… again!! Dialogue isn’t delivered, it’s TIED to a BRICK and CHUCKED through a window. These two scream at the top of their lungs while throwing conniptions so violent you fear for the stability of their spines and their minds. If you think you know what OVER-THE-TOP is you don’t know a fucking thing. Hear me? A FUCKING THING.

…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell.

Maybe this happens to all couples. :(