Tag Archives: Movies

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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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


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.


A Freaking Skateboard?!?!: The Amazing Spider-Man

As you may or may not recall from my Avengers (2012) review, I’m not the most knowledgeable person ever when it comes to comic books. The most exposure I got to comics was through my older brother, who was a mild collector. He only followed a couple comics, and as a result, those were the only franchises to which I got any exposure. There were two big ones that I can remember. One was X-Men, which remains my all time favorite comic property. The other though, was Spider-Man. And he’s a close second.

I have no small amount of love for Spider-Man, even if I don’t know his every story arc. He certainly gets an honorable mention in the award ceremony of my childhood.

Even if I don’t know Peter Parker and Spider-Man intimately, with the amount of love that I have for them, chances are I know his origin story, having seen it in comic form, cartoon form, and movie form. In fact, I’m willing to bet that every single person that has even heard of Spider-Man knows his origin story. Everyone. So with that in mind, let me ask one simple question.

Is there any reason why we would need to hear it again?

Oh… Apparently so.

When I first heard that a new Spider-Man movie was in the works, I got cautiously excited. Even though Spider-Man 3 (2007) was a total disaster, Spider-Man still had a lot of great stories and villains that could be adapted easily to film. The past three movies had been building up Curt Connors/The Lizard as a character. Heck, maybe they could even find a way to un-ruin Venom (my favorite comic book character ever. So as you may imagine, I’m a little bitter about how Spider-Man 3 ended). And with a new cast and director, perhaps the franchise could be saved.

And then I heard that they were just doing the origin story again…

After hearing that, I had honestly, 100% lost interest in seeing The Amazing Spider-Man. I didn’t necessarily think the movie would be bad, but again, it was a story that everyone knows front to back, so really, why do I need to see it again? But then, my older brother wanted to see it for his birthday, and I wasn’t going to say no to that.

Sadly, I was not amazed by The Amazing Spider-Man. But let’s start with what I did like.

When the movie started, I was actually optimistic. I knew Emma Stone was going to be playing Gwen Stacy, and I think Ms. Stone is a respectable actress, despite some poor choices in roles. Plus, she’s very attractive without striking me as slutty or bitchy, like most famous Hollywood actresses. I also discovered as I watched that Sally Field was playing Aunt May, which I initially thought was awesome. Also, Denis Leary was in there, and I can’t help but like him, despite not actually being able to remember seeing him act in anything before. But the perfect casting decision came with the character of Uncle Ben being portrayed by Martin Sheen. That was a fantastic choice, and he plays the part exactly as I would imagine Uncle Ben to be. I also knew that The Lizard was going to be the main villain, which is cool, since he kind of got gypped in Sam Raimi’s films.

Not all of the casting was so spot-on however. Rhys Ifans plays an acceptable Curt Connors, but it’s nothing noteworthy. I certainly didn’t care for Andrew Garfield as the titular character and by the end, I hated him. And it also turns out that, though Sally Field is an exceptional actress, she couldn’t play Aunt May for shit.

A few of the action sequences were pretty cool, and the cinematics are definitely ahead of Raimi’s films. I was really glad to see Spider-Man using his web shooters more aggressively in this one. I feel like that was more Spider-Man’s style than the more martial way he fought in the Raimi trilogy.

There was also one really cool scene where Spider-Man is down in the sewer searching for The Lizard. You’ll know which one it is if you see it. This scene would turn out to be my favorite part of the whole movie and one of the few moments that I genuinely enjoyed.

So yeah, I begrudgingly admit that there are a couple things to like about this movie. But in this humble blogger’s opinion, despite a few good things, everything else is a mess.

Despite some very solid choices in the casting, the actual script was so poorly written that it’s hard to tell that these were actually really good casting choices. The dialogue is so corny and even downright bad that it made Sally Field, an Academy Award winner, look like that guy from Troll 2 (1990) acting-wise.

This guy.

There were so many terribly cheesy lines that I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and groan. It’s like the screenwriters really had no idea how a real human boy might talk. But, what really gets me is that, amid all of the turbo-cheese that was being spewed all over the place, the filmmakers decided to take out the most important corny sentence in all of the Spider-Man universe. You know, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Nope, nowhere to be seen (or heard, as it were). I wouldn’t have such a problem with it if the rest of the dialogue was at least believable. But since they relied so heavily upon really corny dialogue, why would they take out the line that basically makes Peter Parker decide to become Spider-Man? Sure, Uncle Ben says something similar, but it’s not as direct or poignant or effective.

Speaking of Uncle Ben, remember how I said Martin Sheen was the perfect choice for the role? Well, he still is. But too bad he’s only in the film for about a frame and a half! Peter’s aunt and uncle are barely in the movie. It spends so much more time on the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy that Aunt May and Uncle Ben hardly even get to appear. And that’s not the way it should be! Not in Spider-Man’s origin story! Uncle Ben should have more screentime than even a costumed Spider-Man, he’s that important to the origin! Yes, Gwen Stacy should be a big part of the movie, but not a bigger part than Uncle Ben. The way they did it, Ben’s whole part in the story comes out, in chronological order, to this: “Okay, Peter’s dad, I’ll take care of Peter”. “I don’t like Aunt May’s meatloaf”. “Be a good person, Peter”. “Oh, shit I’m dead”. And though his part was acted very well, that kind of makes the crime of minimizing his screentime worse.

What’s really fucked up though, is that after only a few scenes of Spider-Man chasing after guys that look like Uncle Ben’s killer, he seems to forget that Uncle Ben even existed. It’s like his death is completely brushed off and Peter becomes happy and flirty again, which completely obliterates any effect that Uncle Ben’s death had not only on Peter, but on the audience.

I have one or two big problems with The Lizard as well. One, whenever he was in Lizard form, he went out of his way to be nude. Just as a point of reference, here’s what The Lizard looks like in the comics:

It may not be the most impressive outfit ever, but my point is, he’s not naked. I’m not asking for any weird, purple pants, but I would’ve liked to see his iconic lab coat for more than a couple seconds. That’s more of a personal nitpick, though. Honestly, I think The Lizard in the film, from the neck down, actually looked pretty cool. Though why he has retractable claws is a mystery to me.

But then, you look at his head and it ruins everything cool about The Lizard. It’s like they tried to make his face a little more human, but in the process, they made him look more like the Goombas from the Super Mario Bros. movie (1993). What, do you think I’m kidding? Here, I’ll show you.

It’s kind of uncanny, isn’t it? The shape of the eyes, nose, and mouth are all nearly identical. Even the teeth are pretty similar. The Lizard just looked so stupid! How am I supposed to feel any menace from that? I couldn’t take him seriously for even a second.

There are honestly a great deal of little problems in the way that the story is told, the way that characters act, and even in some of the special effects that really hurt the movie, but for fear of having this review get too long, I’m not going to list them. If I talked in detail about everything in this film that I dislike, we’d be here forever. But there’s one more humongous problem that I’ve been saving for last.

You may have noticed that, thus far, I have mentioned the title character very little. That’s because I hate what they did to him so much, that it had to be saved for last.

They completely ruined the character of Peter Parker and by association, that of Spider-Man. Peter has always been one of the most relatable characters ever. An outcast, timid, and awkward nerd, tormented or ignored by his peers. He was also a scientific genius, which is a trait that both this movie and the Sam Raimi movies seem to forget. And when he became Spider-Man, he was snide and sarcastic, but was ultimately a good, moral person. In The Amazing Spider-Man, the only way that I can describe Peter is as a hipster-douche. It’s kind of hard to describe without seeing it. He kept doing things that Peter Parker would never do! He would never pick a fight with Flash just because he knew he had super powers or beat the shit out of a subway full of innocent civilians. Things like that. And when he became Spider-Man, his hipster-douchiness transferred over. Spider-Man might make a sarcastic comment about a villain’s costume or a carjacker’s lack of hand-eye coodination. You know, silly things like that. What he wouldn’t do, however, is shoot a guy in the nads with his web or scream, “CROTCH!” as he did a silly wrestling move where he shoves his junk into a guy’s face. Those kinds of things are idiotic, and even cruel. And that’s not Spider-Man.

Also, why the fuck is Peter Parker riding around on a goddamn skateboard? Maybe it’s just me, but I was so fucking bugged by this fact. They made him ride a skateboard!

But by far the biggest problem I had with this new Spider-Man was the fact that he kept revealing his fucking identity! Seriously, over the course of this one film, he willingly reveals his identity to three separate people (unless I’m forgetting one). Three! Only one of which made any sense to me. He didn’t reveal his identity to that many people in the three movies before this one. He tells Gwen Stacy after knowing her for only a couple days, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why! Why would he fucking do that? Especially considering her dad is pretty much the guy in charge of catching him? What reason could he possibly have to trust her with something like that so soon? And he keeps taking off his mask! And running around unmasked! He puts on his mask only to have it taken off again a minute later. He does it so much, that there’s pretty much no point to wearing the mask in the first place. Logic to Peter Parker, a secret identity isn’t really secret if everyone knows your identity!

I honestly feel like I’m not conveying my full chagrin here. I highly dislike this movie. And I’m clearly not in the majority here. I’ve seen a couple reviews really praising this crap. All of the people that I saw the movie with, with the exception of my older brother, really enjoyed it. Someone even said that the argument could be made to call The Amazing Spider-Man the greatest superhero movie ever made. And I just don’t see it. I thought it was shit. In fact, I’m going to say something that I know will earn me some nasty looks. I liked this movie less than Spider-Man 3. And that’s really saying something.

Story: 3/10: It’s a story that’s been told a million times, but with less likable characters.

Acting: 4/10: Martin Sheen’s brief performance does bring the score up a bit, but the dialogue and overall poor delivery of said dialogue hurts it.

Cinematics: 6/10: There were one or two cool action sequences. Aside from that, there wasn’t anything that stood out as good.

Total: 4/10: As much as I personally want to rate it lower, I think this is fair.


A Horror Movie With Just a Dash Of Whedon: The Cabin in the Woods

I’m somewhat of a horror movie buff. At least, I was. In recent years, I’ve been considerably less inclined to see any movies, horror movies even less so. And that’s kind of sad, really. I have some vivid and very pleasant memories of going to see just about every horror movie that came out with my dad, from being awed by 28 Days Later (2002) to walking out of FeardotCom (2002) to seeing the remake of The Omen (2006) on the night that I graduated high school to laughing my ass off when Paris Hilton got impaled through the head with a pipe in House of Wax (2005). Hell, I pretty much grew up with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise (Freddy Krueger is still my favorite slasher villain of all time). So, the horror genre will always have a very special place in my heart.

But lately, I’ve found it very difficult to get excited about new horror movies, partly because my dad and I live in different states now, but mostly because it’s become near impossible to find a new horror movie with even a drop of creativity to it. Everything that comes out only seems to be a remake or just drivel. When the best horror movie that you’ve seen in the last, let’s say five years, is Scream 4 (2011), there’s clearly a problem. Perhaps I’ll review Scream 4 at a later date. But anyway, it seems the well has run dry for this particular genre.

Recently, however, I went to visit my father, and during that time, we decided to see a couple movies. One was Lockout (2012), and you already know my thoughts on that pile of creative fecal matter. The other was, if you haven’t guessed by the title of this review, was The Cabin in the Woods.

I remember not hearing too much about this film before seeing it, only that Joss Whedon was involved in some way (he was one of the writers). But that was enough to get me curious enough to see it in theaters (in case you didn’t notice in my Avengers review, I think rather highly of Mr. Whedon).

“My silly ginger beard gets more action than any of you.” – Joss Whedon

Even had I not known that Joss Whedon was involved, my dad and I had looked up some reviews before deciding to go, and they were all around pretty good. Four and five stars and 8s and 9s pretty much across the board. After seeing that, there was pretty much no way that we were going to miss it.

The film starts out like pretty much any horror movie ever, complete with Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth playing the stereotypical jock character. There’s also a stoner, a slut, a virgin, and a black guy. You know, the makings of every great horror movie. They all decide to take a road trip out to a creepy cabin in the woods (hey, that’s the name of the movie!) where horrible things are destined to happen to them. Seeing this, I was already disappointed. Joss Whedon is usually pretty good about avoiding the clichés. But there was something different and interesting going on behind the horror fodder. Richard Jenkins (the father from Step Brothers (2008)), and Bradley Whitford (the villain from Billy Madison (1998)) are working in some kind of studio where they seem to be influencing the environment around our favorite victims.  That alone made it different enough for me to continue watching.

And it turns out, I made a good choice there. For the first long while, The Cabin in the Woods continues like your general horror flick with a couple gruesome and comical deaths, all while the people in the studio are abuzz with activity, keeping up with the action. It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on back there until they come out and explain it, but it was fun trying to come up with my own theories.

It was a good time. It had been awhile since I had just sat down with the old man and enjoyed a cliché horror film.

But then, near the end of the movie, the whole thing decides to just go bat shit insane! They reveal the big plot twist and the movie just loses its fucking mind. And that’s when the movie goes from good to great. You can tell that, during this part, every single person involved in the production of the movie was just having a blast. And I had a blast as a result. It’s so much fun and filled with all sorts of violence and ridiculousness and ridiculous violence and explosions and Richard Jenkins. Ah, it was a breath of fresh, gore and satisfaction-filled air.

Sadly though, the ending is kind of ehhhh. I don’t know. When it came around, the movie just kind of lost all of the momentum that it had built up over the last ten or so minutes and left a sour taste in my metaphorical mouth (while the Sour Patch Kids left a sour taste in my literal mouth. Ba-dum chh… Nothing? Aw, you’re no fun). It wasn’t a horrible ending, and it didn’t retroactively ruin the rest of the film or anything like that. And I’m not even sure how they could have ended it in a more satisfying way. But still, I have to subtract a point there.

As for the technical stuff, there’s nothing truly noteworthy to say. The acting was satisfactory, with a couple notable performances, mostly by Richard Jenkins and the stoner guy. But none of it was bad.

“My male-pattern baldness gets more action than any of you.” – Joss Whedon impersonating Richard Jenkins

The same can be said for the effects. The make-up was good and the CG was passable. And the average CG did kind of give it a cartoony kind of charm, even if it wasn’t great.

All-in-all, The Cabin in the Woods is a pretty wonderful movie experience, even if its score isn’t the highest that I’ve ever given. While the acting and cinematics are maybe just a little above average with some standout points, the plot and the psychotic episode the film suffers at the end make it absolutely nothing but enjoyable. Give it a watch some time, I say.

Story: 8/10

Acting: 7/10

Cinematics6/10

Total: 7/10: In my head, this movie got a higher score, but the math don’t lie.

Note to Hollywood: More Richard Jenkins!