Archive for the 'Movies' Category

12
Aug
08

Major summer update!

The nice thing about going a while in between posts, there’s a lot to talk about when I do finally get around to it.

First off, there were a couple more disturbed individuals who blamed their criminal behavior directly on video games. A 18/19 year-old (stories differ on his age) man in Thailand stabbed a taxi driver to death either because he could not afford to purchase GTA IV or because he was copying behavior in the game (again, the stories vary), which has led to the banning of the title in that country. Spain and Malaysia are also considering a ban in light of the crime.

It’s already been said elsewhere. Blaming the media a mentally imbalanced person consumes for their actions is alarmist bullshit. Why isn’t anyone asking if this kid’s parents were abusive? Why aren’t they held accountable? The kid played a violent video game that millions of reasonable and well-adjusted men his age have played without incident. But because this killer called out the game by name, he’s suddenly less accountable? Le sigh.

Then two arsonists in Atlanta cited GTA IV as their source for how to make molotov cocktails. And obviously, they wouldn’t have been able to firebomb cars if they hadn’t played GTA IV. Again, where the hell are the parents of these little hooligans?

On to less infurating news.

The 20th anniversary of Madden NFL was released today. I don’t really care about this franchise, since they just rehash the same game every year. Go somewhere else if you want coverage of Madden ’09. Anywhere else, really.

The episodic adventure games based in the Homestarrunner universe debut this week. I honestly lost interest in the eponymous website a while ago, but SBEmails used to be a staple of my Mondays. The humor just isn’t as fresh these days. I’d love to see an episodic adventure game based on Zero Punctuation. Essentially you’d just go around as Yahtzee, and the puzzles would revolve around deconstructing a game for being clichéd, implementing clumsy game-mechanics and calling JRPGs stupid.

I rented and played Soul Calibur IV and Ninja Gaiden II in the past couple of weeks. I wasn’t terribly impressed with either of them. Both games are good, in their own right, but just aren’t my thing. I feel like Soul Calibur IV would require way too much of my time in order to be brilliant with any one of the characters. Ninja Gaiden II is essentially the Devil May Cry series minus all the spikey-haired heros and melodrama, which are replaced with a lot more dismemberment and gore. And tits. See Yahtzee’s review below of Ninja Gaiden II. He says it better, faster and more British than I ever could:

The Olympics are in full swing, and you know what that means! Another horrendously bad multi-platform Olympics video game tie-in that you PRAY your grandmother won’t buy you because she doesn’t know any better. I have caught Olympics fever though. It’s nice to know that no matter what time it is, no matter how many infomercials and crappy soap operas are on daytime television, somewhere, there are world class atheletes competing. And I can watch them do it.

The big video game highlight of the past two weeks has been the release of Braid. This game was completely under my radar, but is now one of the top-ten rated video games on the X360 platform on Metacritic. Which is an especially big accomplishment considering it’s a puzzle platformer released through the Live Arcade. The big controversy surrounding its release has been the $15/1200 MS Points price point. Trust me, the game is worth every penny. I played the demo, and then immediately went to GameStop to buy a MS Points Card with my store credit. It’s beautiful, it’s unique in it’s game mechanics and story line. It’s this year’s Portal. Seriously, if you love video games, even if you don’t typically enjoy this genre, you must play Braid.

That’ll wrap it up for gaming news!

Movie news right quick: Go see Wall-E if you haven’t already. It is adorableness in its most pure form. The Dark Knight is worth seeing despite mostly ho-hum ham-fisted performances, because Heath Ledger’s Joker is one of the most powerful and disturbing performances I have ever seen.

On a personal note, I have taken a job in NJ and will be moving at the end of August. Wish me luck!

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25
Jun
08

Movies, and television, and games, oh my!

Ahhhh… summer. Action movies take over the theaters, the rare blockbuster game is released, and summertime television series are back on.

Apparently the comic book industry has figured out they can make a shitload more money making movies than they can selling comic books. I’ve seen both Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk this summer, and there’s still The Dark Knight and The Spirit to go this year. Personally, I don’t understand why everyone orgasmed over Iron Man. I mean, it was decent, and Robert Downey, Jr., was pretty fantastic in it. But, I liked The Incredible Hulk more, even though the acting was overall worse than in Iron Man. I think it’s because the action sequences are a lot more intense, and that’s what I was looking for in my super hero movie. Plus, all the tie-ins to other Marvel properties are pretty awesome.

Plus, Wanted looks like it may be another of the popcorn-munching action movies that I’ve had such a penchant for this summer. Bonus: Angelina Jolie, who I’ve always found very hit or miss, looks quite hittable in this movie.

Angelina Jolie in Wanted

This year was a strange one for television due to the writer’s strike. We got a lackluster season finale for Scrubs as it (hopefully) prepares to move to ABC. The Battlestar Galactica finale was intense, but with regard to the statement in the ad campaigns that “All Will Be Revealed,” the writers really punked out. In fact, they didn’t reveal anything. And gods know the when the next season or half-season will be begin. Psych starts back up July 18 at 10/9C, which is my favorite summer show. It’s highly entertaining, and I’ve loved Dulé Hill since The West Wing.

As the focus of this blog, it’s only proper I mention some recent high-profile video game releases. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots has garnered high praise across the board. The major criticism seems to be the extraodinarily long cutscenes. I have one word for the complainers: Xenosaga. Alone in the Dark and The Bourne Conspiracy were both games that I was anticipating, but both have scored much lower than I’d anticipated. A series of new maps was also included for free in the most recent PC patch for Call of Duty 4: MW. This breathed some welcome new life into the title. Xbox 360 gamers had access to these maps a while ago, but they had to pay extra for them. Chinatown is easily my favorite map of the bunch – moving in and out of all those buildings at high speed is a real rush, and due to the closed nature of the map, grenade and n00b tube spamming is kept to a minimum. Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precepice of Darkness was also recently released. All-in-all its a solid game, complete with all the humor you’d expect from Tycho and Gabe, and a great summer distraction. Another title that was pretty much under the radar for me has been getting solid reviews. Battlefield: Bad Company has landed some solid reviews, and I’m considering picking it up. I do wish it was coming out for PC, though.

I also recently wiped my iPhone clean of all music and resolved to put newer and less-frequently-listened-to music on in lieu of all the stuff I’ve been listening to since high school. Forever the Sickest Kids have won a place in my heart. If you’re into extremely catchy techno/emo hybrid, or techmo, as I will henceforth call it, they will win a place in yours as well. Also, I recently discovered a band called Elbow who apparently have been around since 1990. To me they’re a mix of Peter Gabriel and Radiohead. If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, be sure to check those guys out. I’ve also been giving Chevelle’s latest album Vena Sera a fair shake, and I’ve got to say I’m enjoying it, despite a chilly critical reception. It’s not brilliant, but it’s entertaining.

Finally, I’m just about finished reading through all of the Hitchiker’s Guide books for the second time in my life. I’ve got to tell you; they’re a lot funnier now than they were when I was 14.

Alright, those are the things I’m checking out entertainment-wise right now. What’re you guys into this summer?

11
Jul
07

Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I went to a midnight showing of the new Harry Potter flick last night with Jen. I did a midnight showing for the Goblet of Fire when it came out two years ago. It was mostly a good time. The crowd was excited, but controlled. And the movie was good. Not as good as Prisoner of Azkaban, but very well done, and exciting. But last night something was different. Maybe it’s just that seeing a midnight showing of a Potter movie in the Edina suburb of Minneapolis means that most of the crowd is white-bread kids who enjoy one-upping each other on how excited they are over Hermione and Ron getting it on. Maybe it’s just that I’d been up since 6:30 that morning and I’m getting too old to go to midnight shows. Whatever it was, my first impression of Order of the Phoenix was somewhat surprising, even to me:

Utterly underwhelming.

Just to get it out of the way, I’ve not ready any of the Harry Potter books. Honestly, I think I had a better opinion of the movie than anyone who had. According to some testimony from my fellow movie-goers, the movie completely missed the mark on recreating the narrative from the book. So, I’m not even going to speak to any inconsistencies with the source material.

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILERS AHEAD!

If you haven’t read the books, or seen the movie, then you’ll want to stop reading here, because I will make references to key plot elements.

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILERS AHEAD!

But even evaluating the movie in its own right, I was not all that impressed. I expect entertainment media like movies, novels and video games to draw me in. Maybe it was the fact that the girls to my left kept squealing, but I found it very hard to really be absorbed in the story that was unfolding on the screen. Dolores Umbridge, the dictator in pink, makes life a living hell for the students at Hogwarts, and she does an outstanding job of eliciting pure, unadulterated rage from those of us who have a particular distaste for oppressive regimes. Likewise, the refusal of Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, to acknowledge the return of He Who Shall Not Be Named, was equally frustrating, and produced a bad taste in mouth similar to whenever I see footage of Alberto Gonzales before the Senate. Problem is, I didn’t really feel bad for the other characters, so much as an extreme hatred for Umbridge and Fudge, who was were so resolute in their ignorance and hatred that they couldn’t help but invoke, in my mind, images of the Klan and Hitler.

On that note, ultimately the movie failed to make me really care what happened to the characters at all. The character development was weak at best, and felt forced and unnatural at its worst. And honestly, the whole movie felt that way. All of the emotions that Daniel Radcliffe was supposed to be conveying as the deeply troubled Harry Potter felt, well, acted. Scripted. Fake. It’s why I couldn’t muster more than a shallow smile as Umbridge’s newly-appointed enforcers (namely, Draco Malfoy and those jerk-offs from Slytherin) were continually thwarted as they attempted to discover where Dumbledore’s Army was practicing Dark Arts defense magic. That’s why I failed to care when Umbridge forced the students to write with quills that burned moral absolutes into the flesh of their hands. It’s why I barely even noticed when Sirius Black bit the dust. Shouldn’t I have felt at least a shimmer of sorrow as he faded into the mist? Probably. But I didn’t, and that’s not my fault. It’s the job of the filmmakers to make me empathize with Potter’s grief and rage.

Not too mention that there were plot elements that were never explained in their entirety, although I suppose that could be chalked up to the fact that the book is over 800 pages long. But come on, why hasn’t Draco Malfoy been questioned about his father’s involvement with Voldemort? Why is his father hanging at the Ministry of Magic like he wasn’t there the night Cedric was killed?

I think the worst part of the whole experience is that often the audience would burst into laughter or delighted squeals at seemingly random moments. I was often confused and distracted by their emotional response. Every awkward silence between the characters was apparently meant to be a joke. And Ron getting jealous about a mindless giant taking a childlike fascination with Hermione, and weakly shouting, “leave her alone,” means that they’re finally going to make babies or something, even though their love-affair is nowhere to be found in the books, and their characters are supposed to be 15 years-old. It’s as if the audience really, really wanted to love this movie, so they forced the laughs and the screams, just so they could tell their friends how super awesome the movie was and OMG! you have to go see it because Harry kisses Cho! With tongue and everything!

Look, in spite of all this criticism, I’m not saying that this movie isn’t worth your time. It was entertaining, albeit at a somewhat superficial level (i.e., the magic battles were pretty sweet). Then again, maybe it’s just because I was a tired, grumpy old man last night. But I wouldn’t want you to go into this movie with grandiose expectations just to be let down. Expect a movie somewhere between the gearing up of the series that Chamber of Secrets was, and the slick action of Goblet of Fire, and you’ll be in the right mindset to watch this film.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars – A better than average entry for the series, but not great, and certainly not as outstanding as Prisoner of Azkaban.

13
Sep
05

Wedding Crashers

Honestly, I hadn’t even planned on seeing this movie. It looked horribly degrading to women and has, what I still feel, is a pretty rediculous premise. Two guys in their late twenties, played by Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, make it their hobby to fabricate elaborate identities so that they can crash weddings in order to seduce women.

I think it’s that the premise is so rediculous that makes the movie so brilliant. The film delivers pretty much nonstop laughs, through a mix of one-liners, slapstick, and crude sexual jokes. For instance, Vaughn’s character has to attempt to conceal that the girl sitting next to him is jacking him off under the dinner table while sitting and talking with that girl’s entire family.

Wilson and Vaughn both deliver outstanding performances, and Christopher Walken is his typical creepy self as the father of the girls that Wilson and Vaughn have picked as their “victims.” Will Ferrel has an amusing cameo as the founder of the “Wedding Crasher Method.”

This is by far the funniest movie of the year that I have seen, and is highly entertaining. Go see it if you haven’t, and go see it again if you have.




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