Thursday, December 15, 2011

Miracle on 34th Street

Of course, I'm talking about the original. I have a lot of thoughts on the remake, but they are far too scathing and long-winded to put in here. So let's talk about the Christmas movie. Let's face it, it may not be everyone's favourite, but it is without a doubt the best one out there. It has influenced every single Christmas movie to come after, with its message about commercialism, faith, the magic of childhood. Hell, even Bad Santa took from here (the drunk Santa at the beginning, lol).

My favourite scene is when Kris starts speaking Dutch to the little girl.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bad(der) Santa

An instant classic in my books. When I saw this in theatres I knew I hadn't seen the last of it. In fact, this movie has worked its way into my family's vocabulary; it isn't uncommon for someone to get a present from Bad Santa come Christmas. It's a hard sell for a Christmas movie: alcoholic man poses as Santa in hopes of robbing a mall, and takes advantage of a child by moving into his house and allowing him to believe that he's the real Santa. He's just the worse kind of asshole and the best kind of anti-hero and the fact that it has one of the most heart-warming endings is a true sign of talented filmmakers.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Simpsons: Holidays of Future Passed

This years Simpsons' Christmas special was surprisingly good. I say this mostly because I haven't really watched this show in years and last time I did it wasn't that funny, but this particular episode reminded me of the good ol' days, when there was a lot of humour and heart mixed together. Also, I've always been fond of the future episodes. There's not a whole lot to say about this one, other than I ended up watching it twice and it got funnier the second time because there were a lot of jokes in this episode and you won't catch them the first time around, so there's a lot of re-watch value for future holidays.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Joyeux Noel

This is not a feel-good holiday movie, this will probably do little more than depress the hell out of you, but I can't recommend it enough. It's such a moving story, and it's true. I mean, not completely true, but there was a cease-fire called during Christmas in WWI and I can imagine that what went down was probably pretty close to this movie's version. What I really love about this movie is that it's about humanity, it's about the bonds we chose to build and destroy between each other and why we do it and to what end. It's just fantastic. Also, it's pronounced "jwhy-uh no-elle." I never realized people couldn't pronounce this until I heard the Nostalgia Critic attempt to say it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer

This might be the one Christmas special that everyon is familiar with. It's based on the song, of course, which was based on a add-campaign (which you might not know). It's imagery has been co copied and parodied over the years that it's hard for me to know if I've ever actually seen this before. It doesn't really hold up all that well though. I mean, I can't really stand any of the songs, but I guess the charm of this is more the look of it, the silly puns, and the wacky characters - and of course it has a nice moral. It's a classic, but it's not my favourite.

Some of the parodies on the other hand though...

Friday, December 9, 2011

While You Were Sleeping

I'm not that big on romantic comedies, but I unabashedly love this movie. I saw it a few times as a kid and it always stuck with me. It's just a really sweet movie that never feels forced, with Sandra Bullock at the height of her adorable awkwardness - and best of all it does NOT follow the romantic comedy plot (hating each other at first, predictably falling in love, only to have some sort of fight/misunderstanding and make up in the end). The focus isn't just on the boy and girl falling in love, but also on the family. I'd call this one more of a holiday film than a Christmas one though, because it starts at Christmas, has a New Years party and ends in January, but who really cares? To me that just makes it the kind of movie one can enjoy all year round. I absolutely recommend this film, especially if you're a silly girl like me.

Aw, someone made a music video for this movie <3 (Actually there are, surprisingly, a few fan videos for this film. I just happened to like this song the best.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011


This is a surprisingly good version of Dicken's A Christmas Carol - and anyone who celebrates Christmas knows there are more of these than any single person could watch in a lifetime. Oddly enough though, I didn't like it all that much the first time I saw it, even though I liked the effects and thought it was funny, it wasn't until watching it again today that I really appreciated it. Some things I quite like is how this film not only plays with setting, but the structure of the story, having the ghosts come at night, and giving the ghost such incredible characterizations (Christmas Present - or Krista as I like to call her - is my favourite). Also, this movie, just because when it was made, is an interesting time-capsule of yuppie life in the late 80s. American Psycho anyone? If you like A Christmas Carol, then check this out; BUT (and unlike Gremlins, this time I am really serious) this is not a kids movie.


It's sad not just because it's a good tear-jerker, but also because of how eerily well it still applies to today :(

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

White Christmas

Of course I've heard Irving Berlin's song White Christmas, I had never seen the 1954 movie until today. That's right, there are Christmas movies even I haven't seen. For the most part it's your standard slapstick musical film from the 50s, except for the first 10 minutes that take place during WWII and cemented this song in my mind as one of the most depressing Christmas song I had ever heard.


The rest of the movie's pretty camp, and I'm not entirely sure why they think Vermont's economy depends on snow in early December, but it has some fairly decent songs and some pretty impressive performances. This is a good movie to play at a Christmas party when you just want something playing in the background.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Santa Clause

I don't think I'm wrong in saying this was "A Christmas Story" of our generation. It was the first really original Christmas movie I and many of my friends ever saw. It did a lot of interesting things, like it's techno-gadget North Pole. Though as cool as their depiction of the North Pole is, I can't help but be creeped out by the elf children. Even as a kid they rubbed me the wrong way. Also, I'm pretty sure their system is completely based on slavery. I was worried I wouldn't find it as funny or charming as I did when I was younger, but on the contrary. There was a whole new batch of jokes I never got as a child, like innuendos to drug use. It's just a really nice Christmas movie that anyone can enjoy. Also, I love how the main focus isn't on some weird villain wanting to take over Christmas, or whatever, but on the relationship between the father and son.

Monday, December 5, 2011


This movie is just fucking weird, and I don't mean its plot is weird - although, Jesus Christ, did anyone proofread this??? I mean, the more I watch it, the more fault I find with it, and yet I still love it and continue to watch it (probably because it has a high nostalgia factor to it). Yet I don't mean it's so bad that it's good... it's just really fucking weird. It reminds me a bit about Die Hard, in that it's an incredibly violent film that just sort of happens to take place on Christmas. Christmas has nothing to do with the plot (other than the fact that Gizmo is a Christmas present, but that's a pretty weak excuse), it just makes for pretty set-pieces.

And then there's this fucking gem:

I don't think I can recommend this film in good conscious. Unless you saw this in your childhood, it's not going to have the same effect on you as it did on me and my friends. That being said, please don't let your children watch this.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas

 A brand new Christmas film to watch! And it is already on my holiday playlist. This really is the perfect Christmas movie, taking every aspect of Christmas specials (musicals, claymation, magic) and combining it with that special kind of Harold & Kumar humour. Also, it might be the best 3D movie I've ever seen, because it actually takes advantage of the medium. They constantly had things coming out of the screen. Also, NPH was brilliant - as always! I worry some people might find the sub-plot with the toddler getting high to be a bit disturbing, but she was just so cute that it never got to me.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown

The Charlie Brown DVD had two episodes on it, so I might as well review the second one as well!

I'm not sure if I've ever seen this one before, parts of it seemed similar, but if I saw it as a kid, then it certainly wasn't memorable as before. The plot of this Christmas special is the same as the last one, focusing on how Christmas has become commercial and its true meaning lost. Only this time it's Sally's existential crisis, which all culminates in her botching her Christmas pageant performance. It's not the best Christmas special I've ever seen :s

I'll stick to the original... err...

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Although made for Children, even as an adult I find enjoyment is this. Not in the story or the characters really, but from the music. I mean, just listen to that opening, such a beautiful and haunting Christmas melody. The soft jazz soundtrack will be stuck in your mind come every December (though mostly because you will hear it being played in EVERY MALL EVER). Despite the fact that this movie really captures a part of my childhood (I can't even count how many Christmas plays I've been in), I still can't get over the fact that Charlie Brown is the blandest main character in the world. Also the religious aspect of Christmas actually plays a role in the plot, and I'm not so big on that - even if, again, it totally reminds me of my own childhood. Okay, maybe I'm just trying to distance myself from my childhood now...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Die Hard

Die Hard is one of my favourite movies, so of course it's only natural that it's one of my favourite Christmas movies as well and always a great movie to start the Christmas season off with. It's one of those movies where the time of year has nothing to do with the plot (I mean, offices can have a multitude of excuses to have parties that Germans can break into), but the fact that they chose to set it during Christmas is genius. Remember how clever everyone thought when Tim Burton juxtaposed Christmas with something sinister in The Nightmare Before Christmas? Well Die Hard did it first! Then of course it's also just a great example of a near-perfect action movie (the amount you like this movie is directly proportional to how much you enjoy Alan Rickman's overacting).


Oh Alan, we <3 you. Anyway, this is a great Christmas movie and if you haven't seen it yet, 'tis the season (mother fucker!).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

H2O: Just Add Water

Time to change pace, so let's review an Australian TV series marketed to preteens. It's about mermaids.

See, I have this habit of getting high and just picking something at random on Netflix to watch. Sometimes I get a surprisingly good series (this is how I discovered Justified) and sometimes I get... mermaids. To be fair, I did sort of know what I was getting into. It was pretty clear this was meant for kids, and feeling a little nostalgic for my childhood when I watched shows like this all the time, I went for it; but I'm at such a loss as to what to make of this series, that I just have to sit down and work it out on paper (or on a screen anyway).

The setup.

Three girls, who I might as well call 1,2 and 3 (because I have such a hard time telling apart their personalities it's painful) manage to get the power to turn into a mermaid every time they touch water through the most improbably series of events I have ever seen. Observe:

A bully tricks 1 into going onto boat that won't work (because someone stole the spark plug from the engine) and then sets her adrift because she was there. No really, that's the reason he gives. Suddenly 2 jumps into the boat, spark plug in hand, they restart the boat and they steal it (this theft has no repercussions). For no good reason they pick up 3 who is walking by the water. Even though they don't like 3 and she doesn't want to step foot in the boat, she goes with them. Then, like utter morons they take the boat out to sea, because three teenagers taking a small one engine boat works so well in real life.

I have to stop right there because we're five minutes in and I'm so frustrated with these girls lack of personalities that I need to focus on that for a minute. It took me a surprisingly long time to realize that the reason they have no personalities is because they are Mary-Sues. It suddenly occurred to me that the writers are almost being clever, because this way any girl watching can easily put herself into the shoes (or fins) of any of the protagonists. However it's only clever from a marketing point of view. I mean, we're not just dealing with three girls who have no personalities beyond one of them being really organized, one of them not, and one of them being slightly dumber than the other three. Honestly they're all airheads. They're also almost identical too, except for one who is not blonde.

I know it seems silly to complain about characters in a children's show, but how can the producers justify creating such cardboard "role-models" for kids? Why even have three main characters if they're all the same person? And why does 3 bitch about being on the boat so much when NO ONE MADE HER GET ON THE BOAT???

Right, so of course they run out of gas, but luckily they don't have to discuss who they will eat first, because right away they see an island on the horizon (one which, of course, has a spooky legend surrounding it) and paddle over, where instead of staying on the wide open beach where they can easily be spotted, they wander into the jungle. Just because.

Ladies! It probably took you half an hour to get there, this island will be the first one searched (and it is), just sit put! But no, they wander, get lost and one of them falls down a hole. Then another falls down the same hole. Then the last just jumps down the hole. The only way out of the hole? A pool of water which may or may not lead to the ocean. So of course one of them decides to swim into a submerged cave not knowing whether or not it's a dead end, but hey, it's a kid's show and she survives - but while the three are in the pool the full moon boils them or something and they become mermaids - but not right away, because... uh... Oh look a rescue boat!

The payoff.

Believe it or not, I actually think if this plot had been given to a completely different crew, one that didn't still think it was the 90s, this show would actually be rather clever. For starters, they can't control when they turn into mermaids, immediately turning every little girl's fantasy into a precarious situation. Also, one of the girls not only hates this change at first, she doesn't even know how to swim and refuses to go into the water for about three episodes. I also like all the moon business, which seems incredibly original for a mermaid story. It's poorly written and horribly acted, but I can't help but imagine at one point in production there was actually someone who gave a damn.

Unfortunately, nobody else gave a damn. This show had no foresight in its execution. Characters make ridiculous leaps in logic. Plots make little to no sense in the real world. For no reason whatsoever there's a bully character who instead of going to jail for attempted murder keeps coming back episode after episode (though he does have a story arc which, believe it or not, is also quite clever).

The morals being taught to any kids who watch this are particularly noteworthy. Such great tips like: never call the police, solve this shit for yourself; be sure to always wander into the unknown instead of waiting for help; don't tell your parents your secrets. This last one kills me. They don't want to tell anyone (except their buddy Lewis, who of course is a 16-year-old scientist/filmaker/genius/incredibly understanding sexually frustrated boy, even if all we really see him do is fish) because they're afraid of becoming a science experiment, but why not tell their parents? Their parents won't turn them in, and I assume would only help them. I just feel like in a kids' show, kids should be encouraged to share their deep dark secrets with their parents even if it's something they're ashamed of (and if you don't see why, then you are a fucking idiot).

Final thoughts.

It's horrid... but I can't stop watching it. Part of that is because I'm constantly shocked at just how much less the producers seem to care with every episode and it's akin to one's interest in watching a train get derailed... and then release a deadly gas... and then explode... and then burn down an entire forest... and then cause the extinction of several species... and... and I think you get the point. This show is so bad, I actually kind of... eh... enjoy it. Also, I think Angus McLaren (who plays Lewis) is genuinely funny... and kinda easy on the eyes (the character might be a kid, but the actor's only three years younger than me, so lay off). I don't think he has much to work with, but I can't help but feel that McLaren had a lot of fun working with three hot girls who were half-naked all the time. He certainly seems to constantly be hitting on all three of them even though his character is only supposed to like one of them. Of course, maybe he just can't tell them apart either.

P.S. Does anyone else find it strange that this show is essentially titled Water: Just Add Water?

Friday, August 19, 2011

American Psycho

I'm going to be completely honest here. I have a fascination with serial killers. Ever since high school I've been an avid reader of true crime novels and whenever I have a chance I'll watch a documentary or (sometimes) a docudrama about a serial killer. So it really isn't surprising that American Psycho is one of my favourite movies. Strangely enough, I had never bothered to actually read the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, so while preparing to do this review I thought I'd give it a read and compare the two.

The film.

Suffice to say, there's enough violence and sex in this movie to make your head spin. You clue in almost immediately that it's all a commentary on consumerism and our inability to see people for what they are beyond the facade they present the world. This is done by introducing the main character, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), as a rich and classy business man who almost immediately begins to threaten young women. At around the five minute mark although we haven't seen anyone die, it's strongly insinuated that this guy is a serial killer. Oddly enough, Bateman is strangely likeable, though this might have more to do with Christian Bale than the writing or the character, because in the novel I can't say I like him at all.

Obviously not all the violence is suggested though and most people know this film based on its reputation of being extremely violent and full of sex. Actually, one of the things that always amused me about this film is that it got more criticism for having a three-way than all the gore. However the sex and violence is not just for the sake of sex and violence and if you actually pay attention to Christian Bale's performance (and not just stare dreamily into his eyes...) you realize this is a film about an entire society being raped and pillaged for the sake of the high class (the yuppies).

The ending probably throws people off the most. We are so conditioned to believe everything that happens on film that when that belief in reality is threatened we just... can't accept it. People get really frustrated by the ending and (yeah, I'm gonna spoil it, so go watch the movie and come back in two hours) whenever I show this movie to someone they'll say: "Oh, so it was just in his head." Well... was it just in his head? Or do we live in a society so concerned with appearance that we don't want to admit an attractive, rich and high society man can do something so monstrous? Not to mention the fact that a pile of dead bodies in an apartment tends to lower market value and that's never a good thing. American Psycho is really trying to get you to question society and appearances and the things we take for granted.


The book.

Something I never really got from the movie was what a slow boil this story is. It takes a long time (nearly 100 pages) for anything violent to happen and although Bateman will often tell someone he's a murderer or he'll inform the reader that he's done violent things, it's something you can almost ignore as an offhand joke. In fact, it's a huge plot point how little people care about what Bateman does behind closed doors. If you picked up this book not knowing Patrick Bateman was a serial killer, well, the first murder will shock the hell out of you. In fact, the first murder (a pathetic homeless man and his dog) really got to me, because the switch from the calm narration to him slitting the hobos eyes is so seamless and natural that it really makes you feel sick. After that the switch happens so often that you become disoriented and more and more desensitized to it. For that reason alone I think the book is more successful than the movie, but I don't want to dismiss the movie - obviously the book has more depth.

I was actually surprised by how faithful the movie was to the book. Most of the dialogue is lifted straight from it, and although a lot of the book is left out of the movie (really, I'm assuming, because of time), what scenes do appear are rarely changed. A few notable exceptions would be the scene where Bateman goes on a date with his secretary, this happens in the book, but the films amalgamates four separate chapters of the book to make this scenes (one of which is extremely violent chapter, strange when you consider that Jean survives unscathed - in fact, she ends up marrying him and bearing his son - though this is only hinted at in the novel). There are some stranger changes, like a lot of the names have been changed for no reason whatsoever. Paul Owen becomes Paul Allen, Timothy Price becomes Timothy Bryce. I mean, really - why??? You can almost accept it as a comment on how all the characters in this novel are essentially interchangeable and therefor their names don't matter, but you lose the pun with Tim Price's name ("Price, you're priceless" is probably the most repeated line in the whole novel). The story-line with Luis (the gay man Patrick goes to strangle in the bathroom and mistakes this as a come on) is much longer in the novel, that first encounter just being the beginning, and I feel it's a shame that it's dropped because the parallels of Luis and Bateman have trouble figuring out what is reality and what is a fantasy is interesting.

Moving on to the characters. Every time a character is described, we get incredibly detailed descriptions of what their wearing, but as far as physical descriptions go, the most we get is that a few of the women are blonde. This had a lot to do with the consumerism motif. Everyone has essentially become clones of each other, their personalities either having been erased or just turned into a shallow bastard only concerned with the price and look of something. The movie loses this, because the very nature of film we see what the characters look like and we can tell them apart but the book is incredibly disorienting and the repeated motif of no one being able to recognize anyone and names constantly being mixed up becomes a lot more powerful.

The debate over whether or not Bateman's violent acts were just in his head becomes a lot more complex in the novel. There are three occasions where Bateman says in the narration that he's dreaming (once he confirms he is, and once he says he thinks he is, and a final that the dream is falling apart). Also, the scene where he goes back to Paul Owen's apartment and finds all the dead bodies missing raises more questions, because his description of the building is completely different, leaving you to believe he might have just gone to the wrong building.

One thing that I could shake from my head while reading this was the character of Tim Price (played almost unnoticeable in the film by Justin Theroux). This character is so unforgettable in the film that I was having a really hard time figuring out why he was so prominent at the beginning of the novel. For the first 50 pages or so Price and Bateman are always together - then quite suddenly Price freaks out in a club, announces he's leaving, and runs down a dark tunnel into an abyss. I have never seen a character just mutiny from a novel before and I felt there had to be some deeper importance here. So, here's what I've come to: Timothy Price is Patrick Bateman. Or to be more specific, Tim Price is the ideal Bateman wants to be. Price is the only person Bateman ever honestly compliments (calling him the most interesting person he knows), embodies the Wall Street mentality, his very name means money, and Evelyn is having an affair with him. It isn't until Price disappears into the darkness of what I can only presume is Bateman's mind that his mask starts to fall and the novel gets increasingly more and more violent - and when Price returns at the end the violence ends. I feel as though Bateman being this empty thing must create an alter-ego to survive in this world, and of course this is what Evelyn is in love with. However, it isn't until the end of the novel when Batemen realizes he can co-exist in this world (married to his secretary) that he allows Price to come back. Also, to add to Bateman's split-personality disorder, during the big chase near the end the narration suddenly shifts from first to second person, as though Bateman is literally writing himself.

That or he's batman.

(Though seriously, there is a part in the novel where someone calls Bateman "Batman" and I can't tell if it's a typo - because there were some typos in the edition I read - or a joke. Either way it made me laugh out loud on the bus, and honestly it's never a good thing to be seen laughing out loud while reading American Psycho on the bus...)

Which is better?

First of all, reading this book has given me a greater appreciation of the film while also making realize just how tame this movie really is - and in fact for that reason alone I find myself leaning more towards the film. The problem here is that yes, the book is better, it's everything the movie couldn't be and a hundred times more, however I don't think I could in good conscious recommend this book to anyone. I said earlier I like reading about serial killers, so I've read my share of horrible descriptions of real murders, but my god everything in this novel is just so much worse.

Bret Easton Ellis is a sick, sick man. He's said in interviews that writing this novel was his way of working out his demons. Well thank god he worked them out on paper because this man must have been full of so much hatred it is shocking. He hated 80s society so much his brain created an alter-ego to literally ultra-violence it to death and it is really hard to read if you yourself do not have as much contempt as Mr. Ellis (and trust me, I got a lot of contempt and I'm still blown away).

Then there's also the matter of the book and movie's depictions of Bateman. They're very similar, but fuck me Christian Bale is incredible. In the book Bateman is just this disembodied pathetic empty evil creature, but Bale... well, I think you get what I mean here.

So yeah, the book is better, and if you have the stomach for it and really loved the movie... ugh... I still can't recommend it. Just... be wary. The first line of the novel is: "Abandon hope all ye who enter here" and the last is: "This is not an exit." This in itself should tell you this novel is something you can get into, but you cannot escape.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

30 Minutes or Less

As I mentioned in my Tron: Legacy review, I have a hard time thinking of anything to say about mediocre films - well the same goes for films when I can't find any flaws. I'm sure someone out in cyberspace will contradict me on this one, but 30 Minutes of Less was pretty much flawless. ANyway, I'm trying to commit myself to writing reviews on a regular basis, so I thought I'd jot down a little review for y'all (keep in mind I've been suffering from a delirium inducing cold, so my opinion of this film might be based on a hallucination).

What really struck me while watching this movie was how easily it could have been a sinister and dark action movie. When I saw the trailer I though it was a funny concept, but watching it I was surprised by how well it balanced that edge between comedy and OH MY FUCKING GOD THERE'S A BOMB STRAPPED TO THAT POOR KID!!! There are much darker elements at play as well, such as Dwayne (Danny McBride) hiring Chango (Michael Peña) to kill his father (Fred Ward) - or really just the character of Dwayne in general.

Now, I have a really dark sense of humour, so this movie really might not be for everyone, and judging by the low score it received on IMDB (6.8 as of this review), I don't think I'd be wrong is saying a lot of people disliked this film - but I laughed my fucking ass off. I really thought it was incredibly well writing and the casting and acting was perfect. I mean, Jesse Eisenberg just has to look at you with those puppy-dog eyes ad you feel sympathy for him.

The ending was a little weird. We never find out what happened to the Major and the fates of Dwayne and Chango are a little... questionable. Also, this movie barely overtook the 80 minute mark and being that this film isn't raunchy (scenes with Juicy aside) I can only imagine the stuff that got cut out was probably too violent. Well, I'm sure we'll be seeing the unrated version soon and I'll find out what we missed in the theatres.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Battle Los Angeles

Or World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles, but certainly NOT Battle of Los Angeles.

When the trailer for this film was released, I was really keen to see it, because the trailer was just so good; however I still had some apprehension and didn't actually see this until someone bought me a ticket. Then... well my opinion on this film was so confused that I didn't really know how to explain it.

Someone would ask me what I thought about it and I would say: "It's great and it sucks." Finally I said that one too many times and now I have to try and explain myself, the only way I know how - through a timely review!

The Genre
The essential problem facing this movie is that it decided to mix two extremely different genres, which at first don't seem all that different to begin with - which might be why the filmmakers thought it would work really well. I'm going to get back to this topic later, but what I want to say here is that in my mind, this is two movies. One is an alien invasion movie, and the other is a hyper-realistic war film.

The alien invasion movie is really good.

The hyper-realistic war film? It fucking sucks.

You guys have had military training... right?

To begin, I am not in the military, and I don't consider my five odd years in cadets as any form of military training; but I have been around the military my entire life and watch quite a lot of war movies. It was actually driving me insane how stupid these people were acting. I don't want to go on a long rant of everything they fucked up (that and I saw this movie months ago, so my list is a little incomplete), but the thing that really killed me was the lack of radio silence.

So, you're a soldier and are thrown into an urban battlefield against an enemy whose biology and technology are completely (and literally) alien to you... and you aren't maintaining radio silence? Hello! They could have any number of surveillance equipment we know nothing about. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't the military play it safe on this one? The first scene I saw these idiots pull out their radios I wanted to start screaming at the screen, and when it became a plot point I just wanted the soldiers to get their just desserts for being so STUPID.

Arg! Who are these people!?!

One of the most painful things about this movie is the lack of character development. The movie suffers from what can only be called Army Boy Syndrome (ABS?). When you put a bunch of young men in IDENTICAL uniforms it gets really hard really fast to tell them apart. I knew which one was Aaron Eckhart, but the rest of the boys were just soldiers in my head. When the audience can't tell the characters apart - they stop caring about them.

There are ways to introduce military characters properly. For starters, focus on less of them. Three or four are really all the side characters you need in an action movie anyway. Then, spend more time introducing the characters. This movie really, really, really wanted to get to the aliens, which makes me think the characters were really a last-minute addition to this movie. As though Christopher Bertolini wrote a great script about Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez fighting aliens, only to be told afterwards to add fodder for the aliens to kill. And there we have it, I can't think of these other people as characters, only fodder to die.

Hiveminds... or Whatever

The big "twist" at the end of this film is that all the robots/spaceships that the aliens used are controlled by one super computer/mother-ship/thing, and if you take that out you've essentially destroyed the alien army.

You know. I'm not really complaining about this point. I sort of groaned inwardly when it happened, but it wasn't a complete cop-out. Unlike in Independence Day, for example, destroying the mother-ship didn't destroy the ENTIRE alien army, just the one in Los Angeles.

What does annoy me is just what a tired and silly cliche this is. I refuse to believe any civilization would base their technology around relying one thing to control everything.

Suffer the Children

I never thought children in a war movie where it would be illogical if they weren't present would feel so damn out of place, but my god I wanted them to lose these kids. I think part of this has to do with them having no character, so like all the other soldiers, I could have cared less about them. The worst moment really comes when Eckhart gives the little boy the inspirational speech at the end. Oh gag me. That was so out of place it was painful. I bet you any amount of money that scene was also added as an afterthought, possibly because the studio wanted more emotion in what, frankly, is a film lacking all emotion.

Why This Works

By this point you're probably wondering why I think any part of this film is good, but hear me out. As alien invasion movies go, it's the most original one I've seen since... fuck, I can't even think of an alien invasion movie that isn't a War of the Worlds clone. This is the first time I've thought: "Yes, this is what would happen if aliens invaded us."

The reactions are genuine and completely logical (radio silence aside). I not only believe this is what it would (essentially) look like, I also completely buy it being the U.S. military who figures out how to defeat the aliens. Because, let's be honest, they do have the best military in the world. Their serious misstep was hiring a horror film director instead of getting down on their knees and begging Ridley Scott to direct what could, in some twisted world, be renamed Black Hawk Down 2.

The concept for this film is so good that I honestly have a hard time hating it. I really want there to be sequels, where hopefully they can fix up some of the stuff they clearly rushed through this first time. Or at the very least, alien invasion movies should take a cue. Ground combat in an urban environment is exactly what alien invasion movies NEED.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Heavy Rain

I've never reviewed video game before, but I thought it was worth a shot.If you haven't played Heavy Rain before, be aware that I'm going to be pretty liberal with spoilers here.

The Controls

Now, I actually played the demo before buying this game - officially the only demo that ever sold me on a game. I couldn't believe the sheer trivialness of some of the tasks presented to the player and the ridiculous button mashing games to achieve such tasks as "walk around the dumpster" or "walk up the ridge," but my god when it came to the fight scene it all paid off. The fight scenes are fast-paced and in real time, so if you fuck up you seriously fuck up and will either spend the rest of the game with horrible scars - or fucking *die*. Unfortunately the fight/action scenes and few and far in between and most of the time I'm doing button mashing to "draw a picture," "make an omelette," "juggle" or my personal favourite: "use the toilet."

In conclusion, I hated what I had to use the controls for a lot more than I hate the controls - although that fucking electric wire scene should DIE.

The Plot-Holes

This is pretty much the reason I wanted to write this. I couldn't believe how inconsistent this game was, or how much they just never bothered to explain. After spending about five minutes on the Internet I read a lot of these problems stemmed from the fact that many scenes were cut, as well as any connection to supernatural - but this means huge plot points in this game go unexplained. Where was the editor on this?

For example: why the fuck would Ethan black out and wake up with origami figurines in his hands? The first time it happened I thought he'd been drugged - but no, apparently not. Apparently he was just having a mental breakdown and would dream about children drowning because... well... uh... ??????????????

Or how about: Shaun's mom tells the police about Ethan's blackouts, directly connects it to the origami killer and then thinks they're not related. Well if you thought that then why the fuck are you telling the police you essentially think your husband is a serial killer???

Ugh, I could go on, but there's more to bitch about.


Is this kid retarded? No, really, I'm sorry I'm not being PC, but does this child have an underdeveloped brain? Or possibly have some sort of brain damage? Is there a history of schizophrenia in the Mars family (actually, that would explain Ethan a little better)? Why the fuck does this kid wander off like that in the mall? Then look all confused that he's wandered across a street and then get all giddy at the sight of his father and RUN INTO ONCOMING TRAFFIC!!!!!!!!!!!! I was kind of happy this kid got taken out. Darwin at his best!

Also, not to hark on the plot holes, but ETHAN GOT HIT NOT JASON!!! How does the person who took the full impact of the blow walk away without so much as a spine injury while his son kicks the bucket?


Meet, quite possibly, the most useless and superfluous character in the history of video games - which is unfortunate, because she wasn't a bad character. She was strong, smart (well...), cool and could kick ass pretty nicely, but what is her point? Madison suffered the most from the cuts made to this game. Her entire back story was red-conned, making her character more of a question mark than anything. Why does she dream of people attacking her? Why is she an insomniac? Why does she instantly go gaga over a guy who, frankly, looks like a bit of a drug addict? Why can't her hips stop swaying? Why does she have the be nude when you introduce her? Why does she keep helping Ethan escape from the police? *Plot-hole* How does she get her motorcycle back after doing this? Wouldn't the police have confiscated it, maybe looked up the license and registration? When she knows the police are after Ethan, why doesn't she suggest he move to a room that isn't under his own name? How come all her chapters involve date-rape, dancing or trying to get it on with Ethan? WHY ARE YOU IN THIS GAME!?!!?!?!?!?!


Apparently there's an entire smorgasbord of ways to fuck up and kill characters, which is something I was not aware of until I let poor Agent Jayden get... well, sliced and diced. It was a strange moment of realization and horror that there were consequences to failing the button mashing. I had been operating under the assumption that the game had a logical conclusion to reach and therefor you could not fail. I did not realize how much time and effort was put into multiple endings. So when I got to the end, and for about a minute couldn't revive Shaun, I was almost on the brink of a meltdown that I had gone through that only to fail at the ending (he came around, go happy endings!). The point is, the twists and turns this game has to offer not only allows you multiple play-throughs, but it gives the game a tension I've never actually felt in a video game before. I was invested in all these characters - yes, even Madison - and I didn't want bad things to happen to them.

That being said, I cannot believe I only let one character get killed. This is unheard of success for me and video games.

Heavy Rain, the Movie Game: The Movie!

As I started playing this game I almost instantly started thinking about what a movie adaptation would be like, and almost as quickly decided there should never be a movie adaptation, so of course when I saw it listed on IMDB.Com a part of me died. Here's the thing, this video game is a movie - only it's about ten times better than a movie because it's interactive and your actions decide the outcome. Talk about defeating the purpose, if this movie is ever made it will flop horrendously at the box office. No matter how good they make this movie, it would still only be a movie, all the outcomes predetermined and completely cut off from audience interaction. Besides, this story isn't all that great, and the director would have a hell of a time trying to gloss over all the plot holes that might bypass some players who pick this game up at random.

My point is, film adaptations of popular video games are inevitable. But to all you who would rather wait for the movie than spend the 10 odd hours it takes to play: play the game, you'll get way more out of it that way... that and you can kind of play your own serial killer game... "I have decided Scott Shelby shall drown. I will not try to save him."

Monday, March 7, 2011

In Defense of Dragonball Evolution

(Originally posted in my LiveJournal on 2010-01-28)

Uh... that's not a sentence I ever wanted to say. It sort of turns my stomach and makes me feel sick. I just can't help it, when people bitch and moan about a movie and then get the facts wrong it drives me nuts.

First things first. This:

Is a terrible movie. It's not even in the category of being so good it's bad, it's just bad. It's illogical, annoying and just poorly executed... Anyway.

Reasons not to hate this movie over:

Bulma's hair isn't blue/green/turquoise/purple:
Yeah, okay, let me stop you right there. Just the very fact that I just listed four colours should be some indication that the anime never had much reverence for her hair colour. Akira Toriyama always gave her purple hair. So yeah, who gives a shit what colour her hair is, it's hardly important.

Goku should be Asian!: Why? While the planet Dragon Ball takes place on is Earth (I don't wanna be a total geek and start naming chapter and episodes, but Bulma and Popo do visit Jupiter at one point, and of course the moon is present), but Goku doesn't come from Earth. He's from another race on another planet and the only genetic trait Saiyans seem to share with Asians is black hair.

That stupid pot: I don't think they did a very good job explaining it... well they didn't do a very good job explaining ANY of this movie, but the 'plot-pot' does come straight out of Dragon Ball. The big difference is in Dragon Ball it's a huge plot-point that actually makes sense and is also... a rice cooker. Yum.

How can Goku become Oozaru without a tail?: I'm pretty sure I've heard it from the horses mouth that they decided against giving Goku a tail (which is so retarded because the tail echoes the entire basis for this manga exist - ie. Journey to the West).

But I want to give the movie the benefit of the doubt. We never see Goku naked (thank Kami!) and for all we know it's his deep and dark shame he just doesn't talk about.

There are no high school dramas in Dragon Ball: Yeah, putting Goku into any form of formal education - or just plain education for that matter - is ridiculous, but doesn't anyone else remember Gohan's high-school adventures?

Reasons to hate this movie:

No Vegeta:

Okay, that might just be me. Obviously Vegeta had nothing to do with the King Piccolo Saga, but if they're gonna just skip through volumes and volumes of graphic novels (about 14 to be exact - 36 if you wanna count the alien/high school stuff) and take whatever story bits they want, why not just skip to Dragon Ball Z? You're hardly gonna leave anyone in the dark here, most people who like Dragon Ball are only familiar with Dragon Ball Z, so just do the Saiyan Saga and be done with it!

No Krillin:

You wanna know why the King Piccolo Saga was so tense in Dragon Ball? Because Krillin got murdered! He was the first main character to die (heh, and come back) in the series, and they completely erased him from the canon.

Plot Rape: There's just too much... far too much... to go over...

[Edit: I also included my psychotic ranting from the comments!]

They might not have thought they were filming Inglourious Basterds, but they thought they were doing something good. All the actors were signed up for three movies, for crying out loud, and James Masters... my god that man must be on drugs. I can't even count the number of times I heard him go on about how Shakespearean the role was and blah, blah, blah... there's no way he ever read the manga.

I'm pretty sure that the first draft of this movie incorporated a lot more from the manga, you can sort of see these things gleaming through, but either the director or one of the producers (I'm gonna say Rick Thorne, because he was behind Elektra and several other comic-based movies I hated) changed as much as they physically could in order to make this appeal to a wider audience... despite the fact that I think Dragon Ball is the most universally loved anime spanning over every possible category of 'audience'...

The whole thing felt like a hack job. It's barely over an hour long. How many scenes do you think they had to cut out for that to happen? What would the movie have been like if it had been released as written? Worse? Better? I have no idea, this whole things frustrates me.

Ugh, and what's even more frustrating is that Stephen Chow was offered the directors seat... STEPHEN FUCKING CHOW!!! He could have saved that fucking movie. I guess he had better shit to do, like going to the horse's mouth and making 'The Journey to the West'.

Ugh, I don't even know what point I'm trying to make, you've got me ranting. All I know is that everyone involved with this showed up thinking they were gonna make a great TRILOGY of movies, realized they were all being ass-raped, and stuck around to collect their pay-checks.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Fantasia 2000

I’ve never reviewed an older film before, but I felt I had something to say about this movie and damn it, I’m gonna say it.

Let me turn back the clock. It’s the mid-90s, and I own a VHS copy of Fantsia, one that I watch ad infinitum. It is my favourite movie as a kid and when I found out there was going to be a sequel I was ecstatic. I saw it at the iMax downtown… and the disappointed still shakes me to this day.

So let’s break this down to the segments and the presenters and why this movie blows mouse balls.

Symphony no. 5

Ah, Beethoven. Would Fantasia be complete without it? Of course not, he’s the one composer to make it into both films, and rightfully so. However this intro to the movie sums up nicely what is wrong with the entire movie. To begin with, it’s three minutes long. This entire film cripples itself by keeping all its sequences to about three (or less) minutes. There are only two exceptions to this, I’ll get to those later. One can argue that our attention span has decreased over the years, but I’m gonna stop you there and disagree.

Let me reiterate. Fantasy was my favourite movie as a kid. I watched it over and over and over again. The sequences in that film were about 10 minutes or more each and they never had any trouble keeping my attention. Even the opening of Fantasia, my least favourite part, was far more griping than this shlock. With the first movie the opening actually has music being transformed into image, here we just see… I dunno, butterflies. Are those supposed to be notes? This is so hack it’s painful.

Pines of Rome

This sequence would have and should have been incredible… if it weren’t for the fact that it’s mostly CGI. I remember this sequence being in the trailer and being really excited to see it in IMAX, and let me try to explain why. Even as a kid I could tell that the animation in Fantasia was better than any other animation I had ever seen. I thought I would witness CGI getting pushed beyond anything I had ever seen before… and who knows, maybe on a technical level it was, however to my eye all I could see was lazy animators using CGI instead of showing off the traditional hand-drawn animation it hints at but doesn’t exploit.

CGI truly is the bane of this film, especially after you learn just how innovative the original Fantasia was.

Rhapsody in Blue

This one is actually brilliant and wonderful and by far the best thing about Fantasia 2000. So of course they shove it 15 minutes into the movie, thus making it forgettable and somewhat obsolete in the eyes of the producers. I just don’t understand why they’ve buried this one, this is the only sequence that manages to truly translate music into image and dares to run longer than 10 minutes. It’s funny and full of heart and I could watch it as many times as I watched the original Fantasia without getting bored.

I actually get angry by how good this sequence is compared to the rest of the film because it makes me realize that the filmmakers were fully capable of recreating the magic of Fantasia and yet for some reason they just didn’t.

Bette Midler

… Really???

The Tin Soldier

Here we have another sequence butchered by CGI. I just can’t tell you how much I dislike mixing CGI with traditional hand-drawn animation. I think both are valid forms of art, don’t get me wrong, but I firmly believe that using CGI in a traditionally animated film is nothing but a crutch – especially when you have films like Fantasia and Pinocchio and Snow White to look at and see the amazing things you can do without CGI and photocopiers and all that bullshit.

Also, this story just kind of bores me. Our hero, the Tin Solider, doesn’t do anything. He just goes along for the ride and ends up back and home. Where’s the conflict? Where’s the tension? This sequence has more McGuffins than that Due South episode that actually labels all the McGuffins!

Mind you, I did like the rats.

James Earl Jones

My favourite intro of the film, firstly because James Early Jones is made of rainbows and awesome and secondly because he asks what everyone watching had been thinking for about 40 minutes: “Who wrote this?”

Carnival of the Animals

I would like this a lot more if it didn’t last less than three minutes. The animation here is incredible. This is the CGI-less animation I crave from Fantasia and it’s great… but again the producers think we’re cats and cut to Penn and Teller as fast as they can.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

I was pissed off when I realized what was happening 11 years ago and I’m pissed off now. They reused The Sorcerer’s Apprentice… THEY REUSED THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE. It’s bad enough that this film is half the runtime of the original, but when you realize that it’s not even all-new footage you come to the startling realization that this film is barely 60 minutes long, about 50 minutes of which is actual animation.

This is the only other sequence that dares to hit that 10 minutes mark. We are essentially watching an hour-long TV animation. And this is the point of the film where you realize just what an uninspired money-grab Fantasia 2000 is. It also doesn’t help that this is one of the sequences from the original I never really liked (probably because there are no women present). Listening to the commentary you come to realize that the producers couldn’t picture Fantasia without this sequence, and I have a hard time figuring out why. Fantasia is supposed to be about visualizing music, watch half an hour of the original Fantasia and you’ll understand that tenfold, and yet the people who made this film thought Fantasia was about a cutesy story involving a mouse.

Now, let’s step back a moment, Walt Disney actually envisioned Fantasia as being a movie constantly being rereleased with a mixture of old and new sequences, so it was essentially a quilt of animation and music… but c’mon guys, that idea clearly got thrown out the wayside around 1940, so don’t try to give that as an explanation. The Disney studios called in this film, and reusing this sequence is ample evidence of that.

Pomp and Circumstance (Noah’s Ark)

I thought I would hate this sequence, this mostly stems from the fact that it’s a bible story and the original Fantasia is so wonderfully secular, but honestly it’s my second favourite sequence. This captures more of the spirit of the classic Disney short than any other part of this damn film. The humour and slapstick here is so subtle and it’s damn near perfect. It still feels a little rushed, like all of this film does, but I feel that mostly because I enjoyed this segment so much I wish it had been longer.

The bad part about this segment is that this is the point where I finally get into the movie and think: “You know what, maybe the rest won’t be so bad.” Then I am immediately told that there’s only one segment left.

So much rage!

Firebird (A.K.A. Ferngully)

This is supposed to be their ode to the final sequence of Fantasia… and you can tell, because it kinda rips it off, utterly and completely. At least this piece has character and, despite the blatant CGI, has incredibly beautiful animation. Here we have CGI used properly in animation, where it helps but does not completely overtake the hand-drawn animation.

The Elk is probably my favourite character in this whole film. Whoever animated that Elk should have won an academy award. Bambi, step aside, this Elk’s eyes show more emotion than you ever did while you were calling for your dead mother.

In Conclusion

Walt Disney set out to make the greatest animated film of all time when he made Fantasia, and he did. Roy Disney set out to make the greatest money grab of all time, and he failed.

Is Fantasia 2000 is completely waste of celluloid? No, Rhapsody in Blue is incredible and Noah’s Ark is cute and Firebird is quite beautiful and worthy of ending the film, but it bothers me how hack this film is and how little the creators cared about what they were creating. They had a chance to continue the greatest animated film of all time… and they called it in.

What makes this movie worse is watching the documentary that comes on the DVD about Musicana, a sequel to Fantasia that nearly began production in the 80s. Just seeing the concept from that film was more riveting than watching Fantasia 2000.