You Want Anything From the Shop?: Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy and The World’s End

For those of you that don’t know, the movie-making trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost is amazing. With Wright in the directing chair and Pegg and Frost in starring roles, you can bet that any movie done by these three is going to be comedy gold.

It all started with Shaun of the Dead  (2004), an absolutely brilliant spoof/homage to the classic zombie horror films of George Romero. And what can I say? It’s a comedic masterpiece that effortlessly blends over-the-top and violent zombie goof and subtle forms of humor rivalling that of Arrested Development (2003-2006, 2013). There was actually a point when this film was played regularly on one of the movie channels, and I would watch it every day. And every day, I would catch a new joke that I had missed in previous viewings. I’ve watched the movie with director’s commentary, and I can watch the Funky Pete television redub over and over again. It’s one of the very few movies that, were I to review it, may get a perfect score.

And honestly, Shaun of the Dead is in my Top 5 favorite films of all time, I think. It just does everything right, and it paved the way for this comedy trio.

Then, in 2007, another gem directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost was released entitled Hot Fuzz. This time, it was a spoof/homage to all of the buddy cop films of the eighties and nineties. And once again, it was brilliant. Though, I have to say it’s a bit less subtle than Shaun of the Dead. It starts off a bit slow, but by the end, it’s so ridiculous and action-packed that you can’t help but crack up. Plus, it features some disguised appearances by Peter Jackson and Cate Blanchett. All in all, it’s also brilliant and hilarious, but I still like Shaun a bit more. But either way, if you haven’t seen one or both of them, you must. Now. Seriously, go watch them both now. In fact, go watch them both now, even if you’ve seen them before.

So, considering the amount of praise that I rain upon these two movies, imagine my excitement when a new Wright/Pegg/Frost movie was announced. This new film was to be called The World’s End (2013). And to make it even better, a few select theaters were actually going to marathon all three movies the night before The World’s End’s release. And I managed to get a ticket. So, in addition to a free shirt, I got to spend six hours watching what has come to be known as Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy.

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And as you might imagine, it was a great experience. Two of my favorite movies and then a third by the same guys. How could it not be great?

Usually, being my cynical self, this is where I would explain how it could not be great. But not today. For you see, the first two movies were just as good as they’ve always been, even after all this time. And The World’s End was highly enjoyable as well.

The film follows a washed-up drunk named Gary King (Pegg) that decides to get all of his childhood friends back together to conquer his hometown’s “Golden Mile”, a pub crawl that will take them to twelve pubs that they had attempted, and failed years before. And then shit gets really weird.

You see, unlike Shaun of the Dead and Hot FuzzThe World’s End doesn’t appear to really be spoofing or paying homage to any particular genre. I suppose you could say that it pays homage to science fiction, but it feels more like they were trying to be a bit more original with their story this time around. No part of the story can really be considered a spoof of any other film. It’s more of a sci-fi/comedy with an original story that’s a little similar to previous sci-fi films. Now, this definitely isn’t bad, it’s just not what I expected.

The first part of the film is spent almost entirely on character development. That’s not bad, but that means that it takes a little while for the plot to actually take off. And when it does take off, it’s very suddenly. It’s just Gary and his friends drinking, joking, and arguing and then, suddenly, the sci-fi elements just kind of appear and the rest of the movie is about that. It’s a bit jarring.

I also like Simon Pegg’s character in this film considerably less than his characters in the previous films. In Shaun of the Dead, he plays Shaun, who’s just a dude that’s a bit down on his luck and stuck in his routine, but he’s ultimately a good guy that you want to root for. In Hot Fuzz, he plays Nicholas Angel, an ace cop that wants nothing but to uphold the law to the best of his ability and is, against his will, put into an unfortunate situation. How can you not get behind that. In The World’s End, he plays Gary King, a drunk that’s still stuck in his high school days that practically forces his friends into doing what he wants. He’s genuinely unlikeable until near the end of the movie.

The plot is really weird, too. Like I said, it’s an original story, and it’s a pretty odd one. But I do like it. It’s similar to one or two older movies, but it does put a pretty cool twist on it and makes it pretty funny, too. And in the fashion of the previous two films, Hot Fuzz a little less so, it also gets very serious in the third act, only to become funny again.

One thing that I’m very happy about though is the fact that Martin Freeman had a much larger role in this film than in the others. He had small parts in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. In Shaun, he only says one word. That strikes me as a waste of your Bilbo. But he’s one of the main characters in The World’s End. And I like me my Martin Freeman.

They also got Pierce Brosnan in there, too. And that’s just really weird to me. They had a James Bond in Hot Fuzz as well in the form of a moustachioed Timothy Dalton. And that was awesome. Mr. Dalton integrated himself perfectly into the movie and embraced the comedy so easily. He was great. Pierce Brosnan, though? He wasn’t bad, but he still seemed horribly out of place. And it was made even weirder by the fact that he’s not in the movie for very long. It’s just sort of, “Hello Pierce Brosnan… Good-bye Pierce Brosnan”.

And sadly, there were a couple other actors from the previous films that I was hoping to see, but didn’t. Those being Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, and Bill Nighy. I guess technically, Bill Nighy was in there, but he never appeared onscreen. He just had a voiceover. And that’s disappointing. And Moran and Bailey didn’t appear at all. That sucks.

The ending is also a bit off as well. It’s definitely not something you see coming, and it’s actually pretty dark. With a comedic edge, of course. But it’s still way different than the rest of the movie.

The one thing that I haven’t touched on yet is the effects. And they’re fine. There are some really silly ones, and a few that just didn’t look great. But for the most part, they’re pretty good. But there was actually a surprising amount of shaky cam during the action sequences, and if you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know how I loathe shaky cam. In fact, there was actually a lot more shaky cam in Hot Fuzz than I remember as well. Except in that case, it’s hard to tell why it was there. The people behind the film seem clever enough to have used it simply as part of their spoof/homage. But it also could have been used for the same reasons that every action director hack resorts to it. I like to think it’s because Edgar Wright is clever, though.

I’m going to be quite honest here and just say that The World’s End is easily my least favorite of the entire Cornetto Trilogy. It’s still very good, but it just seems to fall short of the brilliance of the previous films in the trilogy. But the bar was set pretty damn high. Realizing that, it’s hard to be disappointed in it. I’m just glad that it was as good as it was and that the trio behind it hasn’t lost their touch.

Story: 8/10

Acting: 9/10

Cinematics: 7/10

Total: 8/10

Like I said, I like The World’s End less than Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. But that doesn’t mean that it’s bad or that you shouldn’t see it. Because you should. Personally, I look forward to purchasing it when it’s released on Blu-Ray.

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From Back In The Day, Episode 2: Star Ocean ‘Til the End of Time

For the few of you that are interested in reading this silly old blog of mine, I apologize profusely for the extreme delay in this post. But that’s what happens when your computer breaks and you have no money with which to replace it, so you have to wait four months for some French-Canadian dude that you know to give you one of his old computers that he totally doesn’t need anymore, and then you find out that your wireless internet adaptor doesn’t work with the new computer so you have to buy a long-ass ethernet cable, and then when you finally have a working internet connection, you find that you totally have no desire to write anything until today. So, for all of that, I am truly sorry. And hopefully, I will now be back to posting semi-regularly. But maybe not, because I’m moving again in a week. But I’ll try.

Anyway, on to the post at hand!

There was a point, not too long ago, when I enjoyed nothing more than a new JRPG to commandeer all of my free time. I mentioned in my Final Fantasy Retrospective that the RPG genre was and is my favorite video game genre, though the JRPG has fallen a little lower on my list of video game priorities. But back in those years, when to me, the JRPG was just the cat’s meow, two video game developers had their paws elbow deep in my wallet.

These developers were Gust, the developers of the Atelier, Ar Tonelico, and Mana Khemia series. The other was Tri-Ace, of Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean fame. And that’s the developer about which I would like to speak today.

It all started in 1999 in my local video rental store. Every week or so, my parents would allow me to rent a new video game for a few days. And back then, this was how I decided which video games that I wanted to own. And during this particular visit to the video store in 1999, I was walking down the PlayStation aisle and came across a new game entitled Star Ocean: The Second Story. For some reason, I had been led to believe that this particular game was a sequel to Lunar: Silver Star Story (the PlayStation remake. I had no idea that it had been a Sega CD game with an already established sequel. I was twelve and had very limited internet access, so how could I know?), one of my favorite games at the time. And the pictures on the back of the box even looked kind of similar. So, I grabbed it.

After popping Star Ocean into my PS1, I quickly realized that it was clearly not of any relation to my beloved Lunar. But at the same time, I also realized that this was far better than my beloved Lunar. It had detailed character sprites, rather than the squat potato people of Lunar (though Lunar had much better monster sprites, I will give it that). It had a fast-paced, real-time battle system. It had a complex story with multitudinous endings with a large cast of playable characters, all of which interact differently with each other. Star Ocean: The Second Story was and is a great game. And, more importantly for this post, it got me very interested in Tri-Ace.

From then on, you could say that I was Tri-Ace’s bitch. Every time a new game of theirs was released, I grabbed it immediately. Even Infinite Undiscovery, which I barely even played, because it was so bad (the last original game I ever bought from them was Resonance of Fate, which soured me to Tri-Ace altogether. I have no idea what they’re doing anymore). So, if I was willing to buy those turds of games, you can imagine how incredibly excited I was when a new Star Ocean game was released. It was called Star Ocean: ‘Til the End of Time. Even the title sounded poetic.

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The game certainly looked promising. I mean, even though the series had transitioned to 3-D character models instead of sprites, it still looked similar to the previous game, so my hopes were high. But as it turns out, this game would be the beginning of Tri-Ace’s descent into suckitude.

Except it almost wasn’t. That’s why this game still hurts me so badly. It was a great game until it suddenly wasn’t.

Firstly, Star Ocean 3 has a fantastic battle system. It took the great system from the last game and made it more dynamic and hectic. It had a pretty steep learning curve, however. It took me a long while to fully understand and master it. But once I did… damn. To this day, I think that Star Ocean 3 has my single favorite RPG battle system of all time.

Graphically, I’d say it’s about on par with the PS2 standard of the day. Some of the cutscenes and spaceships look amazing. Some of the character models, textures, and monsters look less so. Not to mention, the character that you control runs like a freaking weirdo.

The character interaction that made the previous games so engaging are still intact here, but the impact of them is considerably lower. In the previous game, you can get multiple endings involving the pairing up of any two characters, each getting their own little scene before the credits. In here, however, you can only pair up the main character with one other character. And that makes it far less interesting.

Speaking of the main character, what the hell is up with Tri-Ace and their characters’ names? The main character here is named, I shit you not, Fayt Leingod. That is the stupidest name of all damn time. Now, you could say, “Hey. It’s a fantasy/sci-fi game. That kind of thing happens. Haven’t you ever heard of Daenerys Targaryen? Or Aragorn, son of Arathorn? Those are equally odd names, and they fit perfectly!” and normally, you’d be right. But those stories take place in their own worlds with their own rules, and I can buy those names and accept them, even if I don’t particularly like them. But Star Ocean takes place in our universe. Fayt here if from Earth. He has a gal pal named Sophia. He meets another Earthling named Maria. So, how in the world did he end up with a stupid name like that? And that’s not even the worst of it. Throughout the game, you get new party members from different planets. They’re humanoid, sure, but they’re still aliens. Do you know what their names are? Peppita, Cliff, and Roger, just to name a few. Again, these are aliens with distinctly Earthling names. So where the fuck does Fayt come from?! I’m sorry to sit here and dwell on this, but it has bugged me ever since I first played the game! If Cliff had been named Fayt Leingod, I still wouldn’t like the name, but I could accept it. Tri-Ace has always been silly about naming their characters. In the previous game, the Earthling character is named Claude. Okay, nothing wrong there. That’s a good, Earthling name. But what’s his father’s name, you ask? Ronixis. While one of the aliens is named Noel Chandler. What the poop? And what’s the main Earthling character’s name in the fourth game? Edge Maverick. Ugh…

But seriously, I’m done bitching about stupid names.

So how is it, do you ask, that a game with my absolute favorite battle system can fail so hard in your eyes, O Wise Organ Miner?

Well, to properly answer your question, I have to tell you a little about myself. I am a gamer of the belief that, in most cases, story is king. Story trumps gameplay. I can have a game with the best game feel I’ve ever experienced, but as soon as the story becomes stupid, all of the enjoyment is completely sucked out of the game for me. Now, that doesn’t mean a game is automatically bad if it doesn’t have the best story. And it doesn’t mean a game is automatically good if it has a good story. There has to be a certain balance between the two, but given the choice between story and gameplay, I’ll take story every time.

So what that means here is that if I was a person that valued gameplay more than story, I would consider Star Ocean 3 a great game. But, I value story. And this story sucks. In fact, it takes a monstrous, watery dump all over the entire story of the whole series. Star Ocean, Star Ocean: The Second Story, and Star Ocean: The Last Hope (the fourth game) are all made worse by the story of this game. In fact, the only way that I can still enjoy the second one is if I straight-up pretend Till The End of Time simply doesn’t exist.

And what really sucks about this is that, until a certain point in the middle of the game, the story is fine. It’s not the best, but it was okay. But then, out of nowhere, the writers just seemed to think, “Hey, you know what would make this story a lot better? If we made this story a lot fucking worse!”. And what really, really sucks for me is that I can’t properly explain why this story sucks so hard without spoiling the whole game. But what I can say is that it takes the events from the first two games and the events thus far in this game, and makes them practically meaningless. In fact, now that I really think about it, the story is actually something that’s been told a hundred billion times, only in a much stupider way with way more plot holes. And it’s made even worse by the fact that, even if it is a cliché, it still had potential and could have been a cool story. And it’s made even worse by the fact that the ending comes so close to fixing it, but falls short.

And one last thing, the optional secret dungeon with over 200 floors is one of the most tedious and horrible things I have ever experienced in gaming and it leads to nothing but two of the most bullshit battles in gaming history.

And you know what the really fucked up part is? I still give Star Ocean: Till The End of Time a recommendation. Because in the end, it still has a battle system that, when mastered, is one of the most fluid and satisfying systems out there, not even equalled by the following game in the series. The Private Actions, though not as involved as the second game, are still great fun to see. And though the story really doesn’t rub me the right way, I can actually see others enjoying it… kinda. You need to decide for yourself.

Gameplay: 8/10: There were a couple things that I didn’t mention that take points away here, like not being able to fast travel and some stupid dungeons and puzzles.

Music: 6/10: I’d say it’s above average, but not very memorable.

Graphics: 7/10: Again, about on par with PS2 standards, but with some really nice ones, and some not-so-nice ones.

Story: 2/10

Total: 6/10


Die Bored 5: A Good Day to Die Hard

Quick! What’s the worst crime a film can commit? Is it being overly and unnecessarily violent with guts and organs flying everywhere for no good reason? No. Is it being too long? No. Is it being another Twilight movie? Well… yes, actually. But after that, what can it be? I’ll tell you.

It’s being completely and utterly forgettable.

I very recently went to go see the latest Die Hard movie, entitled A Good Day To Die Hard (2013), and let me tell you, it was just that.

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Now, I’m in the minority that believes that the fourth movie, Live Free or Die Hard (2007) was really goddamn fun. I loved it. In fact, I may even enjoy it more than the second and third movies (blasphemy, I know), despite how many Justin Longs were in it. I liked it enough to see it in theaters three times, one of which had Czech subtitles, which was awesome. I learned how to say ‘shit’ in Czech.

My point is, I was under the belief that, though completely unnecessary, a fifth installment in the Die Hard franchise might not be horrible if they could keep the odd charm of the last movie. But, seeing the previews, I could kind of tell that it would not be so. But, I thought the same thing about the last one, and I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe it would be the same this time.

I was about as pleasantly surprised by this movie as I would be if a baby suddenly shot me in the kneecap with a .45 magnum.

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Watch out for this little bastard. He’ll cap you.

A Good Day to Die Hard starts with our hero, John McClane, travelling to Russia because his son has been arrested there. Though, I really can’t be sure what he was hoping to accomplish by doing so.

But it turns out that John Jr. is actually a United States CIA agent sent to Moscow to protect a Russian scientist/imprisoned criminal that has information that can bring down an evil, corrupt Russian politician that is trying to kill said Russian scientist to prevent him from testifying against said evil, corrupt Russian politician. John Jr., as it turns out, only got arrested so that he can get close to Russian Scientist, take him into protective custody, and bring him to the US. John Sr. bumbles into this operation and action ensues.

And my Arceus, was it boring… yeah, sure there were plenty of explosions and car chases and gun fights and helicopters, but if you’re not invested or even interested in what happens before and after the explosions, the explosions themselves cannot possibly be entertaining.

Speaking of explosions, car chases, etc., where the fuck was the police during all of it? Believe it or not, Russia does indeed have law enforcement. You can’t run out into the middle of the street, punch a guy in the face, steal his car, use said car to drive off of a bridge and over all of the cars below, all while firing your gun at another car chasing an armored truck and not attract any law enforcement! Especially if you’re a foreigner, like John McClane is. Throughout the first action sequence, only one cop shows up, and is immediately shot and killed. Yeah, killing a cop does not attract more cops. Right.

You can try to make the same argument about the last movie. You can’t crash a car into a helicopter without attracting the fuzz. But in that movie, everything was in complete disarray at the time, and the police physically could not respond. But here, there was nothing preventing them from going after the vehicles currently crashing through every other vehicle. Oh, and all of this was apparently going on during a massive earthquake, judging by how much the goddamn camera was shaking during every action scene! Son of a bitch, I am so sick of this shaky cam bullshit in every action movie! Stop it! Seriously, give the shaky cam a fucking rest!

And then the plot itself begins to get really stupid. And maybe even offensive.

Without giving too much away, there were two big plot twists, and I had called both of them. But even if I couldn’t, they’re presented in such a way that I really couldn’t be surprised by them. Like, the first one. Someone is a traitor. And McClane figures this out because he asks this person how they got to where they were so fast, and they happen to say that they took the one road that John happens to know by name, and John just happens to know that said road “always has bad traffic”. He only knows this because earlier, he just happened to be taking a cab on this one road and his singing driver just happened to mention both the name of the road and the fact that it always has bad traffic.

Bullshit!

Where the plot gets potentially offensive though, is where they take a real-world tragedy and exploit it. According to this film, the real-life Chernobyl disaster was actually caused by a fictional character. It may just be me, but that makes me feel kind of sick. It’s like in L.A. Noire, where in your very own home, you get to catch the real-life Black Dahlia murderer. You know, the actual killer that real police with real police training couldn’t catch? It’s the same thing. And it just feels like an insult to the actual, living people that suffered because of those tragedies.

Also, just as a quick note, the acting, for the most part, was average. Except for John Jr., played by Jai Courtney. He sucked.

As longwinded as this review may have been, the truth is, I’m really having a hard time remembering anything from this film. As horrible as it may have been, it was also completely boring and forgettable. Take every other movie in the franchise. If you mention one of them to me, a few images or lines will pop into my head, whether it’s Hans Gruber’s face as he was dropped from the Nakatomi Building, or John McClane blowing up an airplane with nothing but a lighter, or Jeremy Irons being Jeremey Irons, or even Kevin Smith calling his basement a ‘command center’. Those are all just off the top of my head. And it’s been years since I’ve seen any of the previous four movies.

But I was struggling to find anything memorable about the fifth movie as I was leaving the theater! I had pretty much forgotten the whole thing by the time I reached my car.

And that is the greatest crime that a film can commit. Though don’t get me wrong. A Good Day to Die Hard, though a pretty big pile of sakra, is still quite a bit better than Lockout (2012).

Story: 2/10

Acting: 4/10

Cinematics: 4/10

Total: 3/10


With Your Help, We Can Possibly Save a Starving Review Writer

With Your Help, We Can Possibly Save a Starving Review Writer

I have some pretty cool news for all of my readers. I was recently given a position of sorts at examiner.com. I am a Playstation Examiner, and my first article was just published. This means that I will be posting articles and reviews to this new site, and may even get paid to do so, if I get enough traffic. So, it would be really super-duper if I could get a couple clicks from you. This first article is the first part of my three part review of White Knight Chronicles II.

Sadly, this means that most everything that I write about anything Playstation related will be posted to examiner.com rather than here and they will also contain none of the profanity to which you have become so accustomed.

But fear not! I will still be posting to this blog. Any movie reviews will be posted here, as well as any book reviews, From Back In The Day, etc. will still be posted here in the same curse-laden fashion that we have all come to love so much.

And as if you needed any more incentive to visit my new Examiner page, you can also finally find out the real name of The Organ Miner (because I’m sure you were all really curious about that).

http://www.examiner.com/article/the-good-the-bad-and-the-unfortunate-white-knight-chronicles-ii-part-1


Battle of the Accents: The Last Stand

What can be said about Arnold Schwarzenegger and his action movies that hasn’t already been said? At this point, any person can start watching any Arnold action flick and know basically what they are going to receive. I feel like I don’t even need to explain it here. Though very few of his films could truly be called ‘good movies’, nearly all of them can be called ‘buttloads of fun’.

After ending his career as governor of Cally-for-nee-ah, Arnold appeared in his first acting gig that lasted more than part of one scene in The Expendables 2 (2012), where he kicked some ass with Bruce Willis, a shotgun, and a Smartcar.

It was pretty glorious, I must say.

He tore that door off with one hand, because physics. It was pretty glorious, I must say.

It was a return to the ridiculous Arnold action of yore. And it was great fun.

Shortly after that, we were treated to the preview of a new movie. A new movie with Arnold in the starring role! It looked to embody all of the Arnold movie charm that we have come to enjoy over the years, with a couple small changes due to the fact the Mr. Schwarzenegger is over sixty years old. It was kind of cool to see Arnold back in the starring spot. This would be his first starring role since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003). And it would be called The Last Stand (2013).

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Now if you went into this film looking for some sort of complex storyline or gripping drama or anything else that is considered part of a “good movie”, well… you’re a butthead. But it seems there are a great deal of buttheads out there, seeing as this film has received a number of negative reviews, receiving a 59% on Rotten Tomatoes, only two percent higher than X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). Now, I’m not necessarily saying that it should be rated fantastically or anything, but a lot of review sites don’t seem to give it much credit and seem to go into it expecting more than a silly Schwarzenegger action movie.

But damn it, it wasn’t that bad. At no point was it trying to be anything but the aforementioned silly action movie, and it should be judged as such, which is what I am here to do today.

And I can say right now that, by that standard, it’s not bad. It does everything that it set out to do.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing wrong with it. I have some problems with Johnny Knoxville as an actor, and leading up the the release of The Last Stand, he seemed to feature rather heavily in all of the promotional materials. As you can see from the poster above, the only person featured higher than Johnny is Arnold himself. In fact, due to this weird advertising, I actually had no idea that Forrest Whitaker was even in the movie. And he’s one of the main characters! So why is Johnny Knoxville, a minor character, featured so heavily? Especially considering he’s in the movie less than just about any other main character. Is he really that big a selling point?

Now, as much as I don’t care for him as an actor, Mr. Knoxville was not too bad in here, mostly because he’s not in it too much. I think that’s the only way he can truly work. Based on his personality and the kind of roles that he takes, I think he would become grating if he were onscreen too long. But in The Last Stand, he’s in there just long enough so that his brand of humor did not become annoying and it simply added to the comedic level of the film.

Another odd, though not necessarily poor choice in casting was bring in Luis Guzman to play a police deputy. Mr. Guzman never really struck me as an action movie kind of guy. He didn’t do poorly in the role. But, in my opinion, it was difficult to see him as anything other than just Luis Guzman playing a deputy. That might sound weird, but I’m going to try and explain. Let’s take his role in another movie, Waiting (2005), where he played an irate line cook. Throughout the movie, I could see Mr. Guzman playing this irate line cook and find myself thinking, “That’s an irate line cook”. But in this role, I never really thought, “That’s a police deputy”, but rather, “That’s Luis Guzman playing a police deputy”. Make sense? Well, too bad, I’m not explaining it anymore. It’s good that he’s trying to take on different kinds of roles, but it didn’t necessarily work as well as it could have.

The rest of the casting was fine, but within that fine acting, we come across another weird issue with the film. The accents of the actors. Now of course, Arnold has his thick Austrian thing going, even though his character is named Ray Owens and where would a guy named Ray Owens develop a thick Austrian accent? But he’s been around long enough, and that kind of thing has happened often enough for us to overlook that. It’s just one of the quirks in his movies.

But then, we have the main villain, a Mexican cartel lord played by Eduardo Noriega, a Spaniard. Now, we’ve seen Spaniards playing Mexicans before, mostly in the form of Antonio Banderas, and it can work. But here, it does not. Again, the part is played fine, but his accent throws me off and makes me laugh. In trying to do a Mexican accent, Mr. Noriega ended up sounding hauntingly like Jet Li, a Chinese man.

There’s also Frank Martinez, a Mexican-American ex-marine, played by Rodrigo Santoro, a Brazilian man. He’s not very good, and his accent isn’t even close.

But by far, my favorite displaced accent has to be the one delivered by Peter Stormare, playing one of the bad guys. Mr. Stormare has a pretty strong Swedish accent, only in The Last Stand, he appears to be attempting a Texas accent. Instead, he ends up with some completely incomprehensible love child of both the Swedish and the Texan… And I love it. For the entire film, I found myself thinking, “Dude, what did you just say? Because those clearly weren’t words”. And let me tell you something. It was great. You have to realize that he’s a bad guy in an Arnold Schwarzenegger film, so what he says isn’t really that important. As long as you get what’s going on around him, he could say anything and the movie wouldn’t be any less entertaining.

But again, for the most part, the acting is just fine. You won’t find any Oscar nominees here, but it’s not bad either.

As for the action, most of it is just as you’d expect. There were a couple explosions, but strangely, none of them seemed totally implausible. They were both caused by an RPG. You know, a weapon designed to make explosions. The gun fights and the blood effects were all mostly realistic and they were all practical effects rather than CG. In fact, I’m not entirely sure there was any CG in the film. If there was, it was very little, and completely unnoticeable. And that’s something that I truly appreciate. The film did have some bad shaky cam moments, which I hate so very, very much. But there weren’t a lot, so I wasn’t bugged too badly.

But there were a couple times, especially during the driving scenes where I simply had to call bullshit. When it comes to action movies, at least to me, there are two kinds of acceptable action. Action like in Children of Men  (2006), where the action is all about accuracy in the physics and psychology, where all of the action seems completely real and plausible. And action as in Commando (1985), when twenty guys can be shooting at our hero and miss entirely, but our hero just waves his machine gun back and forth and takes out seven guys, where the action is more about flash, implausibility, and ridiculousness.

But it seems like, during some of these driving scenes, that the director tried to combine those two forms of action. And the result is, in my opinion, action that is a little too implausible to be real, but not implausible enough to be ridiculous and fun. And it doesn’t work. Roadblocks and police blockades are not that easy to get through. A tiny, flat little Corvette could not do that to two SWAT SUVs and only come out with a couple scratches on the hood. For the most part, the action is great. More than acceptable for the Schwarzenegger standard. But these couple of action sequences left me a little sour.

And lastly, there is something that I need to say about the story. Now, in an Arnold movie, story is not usually important… like, at all. But The Last Stand seemed to want to put a little more into it. And though that’s not a bad thing necessarily, I think they placed just a little too much importance on it. And as a result, we get a bit too much time watching Forrest Whitaker and the FBI trying to figure things out. And though I adore Forrest Whitaker as an actor, we didn’t need the scene where he questions the guy in the orange tracksuit or a number of other scenes involving the FBI. We came here to see Arnold Schwarzenegger kick bad guy ass and talk funny, and the time those scenes took could have been better spent on that.

But still, I could not help but thoroughly enjoy this movie. With the exception of a couple little missteps, The Last Stand was everything that it set out to be. The next Arnold action movie. We got all the staples: Arnold with a plain, American name and an unexplained accent delivering some silly and cheesey lines, foreign bad guys with a ridiculous plot, ridiculous action. It was a lot of fun, I have to say.

Story: 6/10: Again, this is based off of what you should expect going into it, not what makes a movie “good”.

Acting: 7/10: There was only one character that I outright didn’t like, and the accents, though horrible, were so much fun that I can’t in good conscience take a point off for them.

Cinematics: 8/10: There were some very good practical effects and little to no CGI, so it looks very good. But the shaky cam does hurt it a little.

Total: 7/10

The Last Stand in no way stands up to Arnold’s most iconic films, but it definitely holds its own and makes for nothing but an entertaining time.


From Back In The Day, Episode 1: Sweet Home (Famicom) vs. Sweet Home (1989)

Okay, so when I said that my first From Back In The Day would be about Star Ocean: Til The End of Time, I lied. But this subject is far more interesting, I think and may just awaken you to things you had no idea existed. So instead, you get this.

In the distant year of 1989, in January, a new horror movie was released in Japan entitled スウィートホーム (1989), also known as Sweet Home (1989).

 

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The English caption at the top of the poster there actually has nothing at all to do with the film.

It was graphic, gory, and involved shadows that melt people. But at its most basic, it was just a haunted house movie. It was certainly enjoyable, and the make-up, special effects, and puppets were all pretty impressive.

Later that same year, in December, and also only in Japan, a video game was released on the Famicom by Capcom. This game could really only be classified as a survival horror RPG, and is, in fact considered not only the first survival horror game, but is indeed a precursor to Capcom’s many Resident Evil games. It was challenging, filled with puzzles, surprisingly atmospheric, tense, and creepy despite its 8-bit limitations, and brutal and violent to look at. Unfortunately, because it was so visually violent, it would not see an international release.

Luckily for me, some enterprising internet dweller decided to translate it and release it for emulation online, so I got to play it. This video game is entitled スウィートホーム, also known as Sweet Home. Coincidence?

No. The film and the game share the same title, because they tell the same story. The Famicom game is a remake of sorts. In fact, it’s said that the film’s director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, was deeply involved in the development of the game.

So, having experienced both the film and the game, I thought it would be an interesting venture to compare the two.

Like I mentioned, they share the same plot. A group of people enter the ruined mansion of Ichiro Mamiya, a famous fresco artist, in order to recover and document a lost painting (or paintings in the game). While there, shit goes down and people melt.

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It’s sad that we never got to see this majesty on our American NES. Oh, but seeing Hitler’s head exploding in Bionic Commando is fine!

Both the film and the game are, in their own ways, grind-fests. The film is pretty damn slow at the beginning, but picks up nicely by the end. And the game, being a turn-based RPG, requires a lot of level grinding, even moreso than many other RPGs considering that if one of your five characters dies, they’re gone for good, healing items are so rare, and each character can only carry two items at a time.

Normally, I would really hate such a limited inventory, but in this case, not only does it work, but it really works. It does wonders to add to your sense of desperation, having to decide which items you need to bring with you at what time. It makes you really think about the survival aspect of this survival-horror game.

As much as I wish Capcom would have taken the random encounters and all of those other JRPG elements out, with the limitations of the Famicom, it’s hard to imagine what else they could have done to keep the horrific and tense nature of the game at the same level.

Visually, both the film and the game are done remarkably well. Though it almost seems like a joke to compare the two. The filmmakers had a great deal more resources at their disposal than gamemakers for the Famicom. But both did very well with what they had. Though, the overworld perspective in the game is a bit off. They use the same character sprite no matter which direction you face, so it always kind of looks like the characters are laying on their backs. It’s weird.

Where the game kills it though, is in the soundtrack. The overworld themes do a great job of making you feel uneasy throughout, and the battle theme is frantic, giving you the feeling that every battle is a desperate struggle, even when it really isn’t. I rarely remember the soundtracks to movies, mostly because the soundtracks to movies are rarely a point of focus to filmmakers. And I can’t remember a single tune from the film.

But there is one deciding factor here when it comes to determining which version of the story I enjoyed more. And that is how the story is told.

Now, without giving the plot away, I can say that it is not bad, especially for what boils down to a haunted house story. It’s disturbing and just plausible enough to work.

In the film, the story is pretty much a mystery until a character, which had only been in the movie briefly until this point, just kind of comes out and explains everything… and then he melts.

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Did I mention the melting?

And you know what, that’s acceptable. They only have so much time to tell a story and cultivate a sense of mystery, a sense of horror, and a body count. And at least he was in the movie for a short time before just appearing to tell us everything that we were wondering.

But the game goes above and beyond here. The story is told mainly through journal entries of the owner of the mansion, through hidden messages in his frescoes, and through corpses that talk to you. And though the character mentioned above is in the game, and does shed some light on your situation, he’s only a small part of it. For the most part, you discover what happened and why by yourself, through your own investigation. And that’s just brilliant. It makes the entire game multitudes more immersive. And that puts it over the top. You discover the clues, you uncover the horrific reasons behind this haunting, and you put it all to rest or die trying. Some guy didn’t just come out and tell you what happened.

And it is that factor that makes Sweet Home for the Famicom superior to Sweet Home the film. As strange as it might be to think that a mass of 8-bit pixels and noises can be superior to a film with real-life actors and special effects. But it’s all in how the story is told, and the way the game did it kept the pacing even and the atmosphere tense and dreadful. And though the movie is pretty good, that one factor makes the game more successful in the endeavor of telling this particular story.

Now, if anyone who happens to see this post wants me to do a full review of either the film or the video game, let me know. But if not, this is all you get on the subject of Sweet Home, and I hope you enjoyed it.


Organ Miner Thinks About Stuff: Star Wars Episode VII

As many of you have probably heard by now, recently Disney acquired LucasFilms from George Lucas for $4 billion. And immediately after this acquisition, they announced that they would be releasing a new Star Wars movie in 2015, which would, of course, eventually become a trilogy.

Immediately, the internet exploded. People everywhere began to voice their fears and skepticism at this bold move. “Why are they beating a dead horse? It’s going to be a complete disaster! It’ll be worse than the prequels! Is Disney going to turn Princess Leia into a singing Disney Princess? Will they make a full-length Jar-Jar Binks movie?!”

Now, I think it’s natural to be skeptical about this move, especially after how poorly the previous three movies were made and how… shall we say megalomaniacal Disney is as a company/empire. But there are a couple things that many of these dissenters seem to be forgetting. And these details, in my eyes, actually give Episode VII a fighting chance.

The first point is about Mr. Lucas and the prequels. You see, the reason the prequels failed as hard as they did was because George held complete creative control over every aspect of those films. And, being the creator of freaking Star Wars and its whole universe and mythology, nobody dared to question or challenge him on his choices. And that’s a recipe for disaster, no matter the medium. But, for Episode VII, Lucas is only involved as a consultant. He will not be writing and he will not be directing. That fact alone completely removes the biggest problem that the prequels had. As far as I can tell, George will only be there to make sure that the mythology already in place is not messed with. And I think that’s fair.

Also, a writer has already been selected in the award-winning writer of Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Michael Arndt. Personally, I love Little Miss Sunshine with a great passion. And the biggest reason for that is the writing. So, I am very confident in Mr. Arndt’s ability to do Star Wars justice. There are also a few prospective directors floating about. J.J. Abrams, who effectively turned Star Trek (2009) into Star Wars (so he’s already got that down pat), and Jon Favreau of Iron Man (2008) fame just to name a couple. And frankly, I feel like either one of those two could blow that shit out of the water.

The next concern that faces Episode VII dissenters is the involvement of Disney. They fear that we may see Donald Duck on Coruscant in the near future. But honestly, I doubt that. Disney may be evil, but they’re also smart. They realize that screwing with something like that will hurt their fanbase. Think about their acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel. Since then, we’ve gotten Brave (2012) from Pixar and The Avengers (2012) from Marvel. Both of those were exceptional movies. If Disney is smart, and it is, they will leave LucasFilms to do it’s own thing, just as they did with Marvel. And I see no reason why they wouldn’t.  If Disney acts the same way that they did with Marvel, then I think the only possibility of seeing Donald Duck on Coruscant would be as a one-off gag that was never meant to be taken seriously in the first place.

Now, I’m not saying that we, as a whole, shouldn’t be skeptical. It is definitely a possibility that Disney will get involved in the production of Episode VII and ruin everything. It is most certainly possible that no matter the writer or director or whatever, that these could be worse than the prequels. I understand and acknowledge that. What I’m saying is that there is just as much reason to be optimistic as there is to be skeptical. George Lucas is only minimally involved. They have a talented and proven writer behind it. So, while this new movie can be the worst thing ever, I think that it can also be the beginning of the Star Wars movies that we wanted in the prequels. We can’t know for sure until we get more information. But in the meantime, I don’t think we should be attacking the idea, as dissenters have. We should simply watch the development of this project closely. But, in the meantime, I am cautiously optimistic.