Friday, February 28, 2014


Murder mysteries are something of a misguided film genre.  The fun does not really come from the final reveal and clever twist, but rather the guessing game of "oh, maybe it was the butler", "maybe it was Colonel Mustard", "maybe it was actually Professor Hyde White".  Once you actually do learn the truth of what is going on, unfortunately, either it will be a massive twist too ridiculous to be treated with anything other than scorn*, or a huge disappointment.  "That's it?  It was just that guy?"  I feel like murder mysteries honestly should not even be used on film**, they're much better served to some kind of interactive medium.  Something where the viewer or reader can really watch closely, follow the clues, take notes, and come up with the answer themselves.  In film, you're not supposed to actually follow any clues, you simply watch - hopefully with your suspension of disbelief at full power - while the plot twists itself into a pretzel.  The whole thing is a barrel full of red herrings, then at the end you have to be shocked, because it wasn't the maid or Colonel Mustard or Professor Hyde White, it was actually the dog.  Didn't see that coming, did you?

"Non-Stop" is not the clever sort of murder mystery.  It is a movie built upon an impossible premise involving a villainous plan that is either the most complicated and brilliant scheme ever concocted, or more likely, the hero is simply insane.  The idea is that Bill Marks, a depressed alcoholic air marshal played by Liam Neeson, must stop a would-be hijacking of a plane orchestrated by a villain so devious he must only be the Joker.  Every twenty minutes, the unseen criminal demands over an silent series of text messages that he or she must receive $150 million or he or she will murder one person on-board this plan every twenty minutes.  However, Bill is the only person receiving the texts, and the account is in his name. Things grow more complicated and absurd from there, as Bill Marks is slowly framed for hijacking the plane, bodies pile up, and the word "terrorist" is thrown around a lot.

Ultimately the Who-Done-It? is hardly worth your time, and worth less of your brain power.  Go see "Non-Stop" and then spend about five minutes actually reviewing the events of the film, and you'll realize it was all built upon nothing.  There was no brilliant plan, just the illusion of one built by a lazy screenwriter.  The Done-It-er is just one of the suspects, it honestly could have been anybody, and being able to guess who depends more upon random luck than sharp viewership.  Every action the criminal makes was a fantastic coincidence, often more than impossible, and even then, once the plan is laid bare, it actually makes no sense at all, inevitably collapsing somehow after the criminals were able to impossibly predict every move by the hero for the first hour and a half.  But if all you want is to see Liam Neeson shooting people while barking orders at scared passengers, then "Non-Stop" will probably be a mildly satisfying movie.  But even after your mild satisfaction concludes:  what will you have left?  Time wasted on this Earth, gone forever, and only rapidly fading memories of mediocre entertainment.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What I've Been Reading - February 2014

Earlier this month I had the specific displeasure of watching "Vampire Academy".  Weeks later I still remember that experience, mostly thanks to midnight terrors and the occasional emotional breakdown.  It was a bad movie.  A really bad movie.  Theoretically "Vampire Academy" was a Twilight teen fantasy, but instead was so much less:  mainly a hideous drive through slut shaming and various other high school nonsense.  Things so profoundly stupid that only a fifteen-year-old girl could possibly think they are important - also the reason why everybody uses fifteen-year-old girls as a base standard for moronism.

Anyway, at some point I felt it important to revisit my own high school experience.  Was I also a vapid bitch with no comprehension of or interest in other people beyond a slim validation of my ego?  When have I not been that?  More importantly, I discovered that I could barely remember high school at all.  I am fairly certain I went, I have a diploma, and at some point learned trigonometry, but the entire four years is a giant blur of discarded memories.  I had a few friends at the time, I think, I went to classes and had some truly excellent teachers, I had my first drink and kiss... But honestly, the whole four years was wasted time.  College was real living, high school was waiting for it to end.

Early on in Freshmen year I took one look at everything high school was and declared immediately that the entire thing was total bullshit and I would have nothing to do with it.  So rather than joining some tribe of nerds, geeks, jocks, or whatever cultures network TV sitcoms content that I am suppose to join, I did my homework quietly and read.  I had a book with me constantly, and if I was not in class, I was reading.  And sometimes if the class was poorly taught, I would read in class, and then get to sent to detention.  Which was pretty awesome since it was a nice peaceful hour where I could really focus on the text while the delinquents and future drop-outs around me nervously sneaked text messages.  Obviously high school fought back, I got my face punched in once to protect a paperback volume of Tolstoy.  But I ignored them and their punches, and kept on reading.  Then I graduated and went home.

Which leads me to the point of this post:  three great books that I read in high school that you should read now.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Godzilla (2014) Trailer

It has been about a dozen lifetimes since the advertising lead-up to the 1998 Roland Emmerich "Godzilla".  You may not remember the movie fondly, but the advertisers sure did know how to make you excited for a giant monster attacking Manhattan.  The trailer I remember most was merely Godzilla's ears rolling up out of New York Harbor:  impending doom for the entire area.  The brilliant bit though, was that they never showed us what Godzilla looked like until the movie came out.  Which was not only a great way to build suspense, but a fantastic way to avoid revealing that Godzilla looked like a silly lizard with a Jay Leno chin.  And of course that the 1998 movie was really about Matthew Broderick's love life and a "Jurassic Park" stage show within Madison Square Garden.

Anyway, now it is 2014, and Hollywood is going to try again.  Here's the official trailer for "Godzilla", coming out this May:

Good news:  the movie stars Bryan Cranston, and not some boring young dude as you would expect from a cookie-cutter blockbuster in 2014.  We do not get a good look at Godzilla immediately, but that's to be expected, and encouraged to provoke suspense.  From the trailer it also seems that Godzilla will actually get to destroy things.  That city looks positively wrecked in the commercial.  Not sure what any of this has to do with the Monolith Theme from "2001" though.

One clever detail that I love is that the trailer implies that the Pacific nuclear tests were made to kill Godzilla, they were not what made him.  And if a nuke is not going to work, what will?  Definitely not two missiles like the 1998 movie.  Nothing will work, because this is Godzilla, and he is going to buttfuck San Francisco, and we are all going to love it.  Hopefully some of the other creatures we see growing are a foe for Godzilla to wrestle, because the world needs a new kaiju flick.  Let us all root for the big green monster come this spring.

Monday, February 24, 2014

RIP Harold Ramis

Today Harold Ramis one of the great comedy writers, actors, and directors of the 1980s passed away at age sixty-nine.  Ramis is probably best known to audiences as Egon from "Ghostbusters", the ultra nerdy and dry brains behind the Ghostbuster operation.  Ramis' character was prone to announcing the inevitable destruction of the Earth with flat scientific calm, contrasting himself with the ironic disinterest of Bill Murray's Peter Venkman.  It actually somewhat fit their professional relationship, Bill Murray might have been the star, but Harold Ramis was the man behind the scenes, building all of these amazing movies.

Harold Ramis was involved in some way in virtually every great comedy of the 80s and early 90s.  He was one of the three writers of "Animal House", he wrote and co-starred in "Stripes", he directed "Caddyshack" and "National Lampoon's Vacation" and "Groundhog's Day" and "Analyze This".  There is no way on Earth that Harold Ramis was not somehow involved in one of your favorite comedies of all time.  And if somehow you've missed every one of his movies, then you have actually been dead for the last forty years.

Unfortunately Harold Ramis' last directing credit was the abysmally awful "Year One", which luckily can be forgotten.  Especially when you consider everything else this man brought to the world. 

Sorry if this post is not very funny, because without Harold Ramis, the world is a much less funny place.  I guess this means that the long-delayed "Ghostbusters 3" will forever be cancelled, unless of course somebody can build a real Ghost Trap and capture Ramis' spirit for us.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bayonetta: Bloody Fate

Years ago film adaptations of video games actually made sense to me.  They were almost never good but they made sense.  Up until arguably last console generation, video game graphical power was never quite strong enough to fully realize the stories their creators wanted to tell.  Until the PS3, a video game would always be an inferior method to telling a story at least visually than a film or cartoon.  Looking back to the early days of video games, some titles simply had no stories at all, or their stories were told entirely in ancillary materials.  There was no way to actually experience the stories of Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter without watching them in a non-interactive medium.  This is why the "Mortal Kombat" and "Street Fighter" movies were so well-regarded (also Raul Julia as Bison helped).

Today, however, video games come jam packed with production values through their teeth.  On the PS1 you might have had to suffer through sprite-based games with no voice acting and cartoony exaggerated expressions to fully learn the dark tragic story of "Final Fantasy Tactics".  That's no longer case.  With triple-A releases, everything is voice-acted, and voiced-acted competently, everything is in full 3D, and everything has production values equal to, or perhaps ever greater than a Hollywood movie.  "Bayonetta" was one of those titles.  The creators, Platinum Games and director Hideki Kamiya, had their own bizarre extremely trashy vision for a story about an SnM nun/witch/prostitute slutting her way across a European city filled with evil(?) angels while performing shameless high kicks in a tight outfit and eventually throwing God into the Sun, and they managed to get it all right on camera for their audience in full HD - unless you were watching on the PS3, in which case that story was interrupted by a constant barrage of load times.

Of all of this, of course, makes me wonder why the Hell "Bayonetta: Bloody Fate" exists.  "Bayonetta: Bloody Fate" is a GONZO-produced "Bayonetta" movie that was released to Japanese theaters last fall, adapting the story of the original video game.  Which you might recall if you've read my review* was the very worst part of "Bayonetta" (aside from the loading), and made absolutely no sense.  I suppose the main reason for "Bayonetta: Bloody Fate" is to be a ninety-minute commercial for "Bayonetta 2", coming out on the WiiU later this year.  It does not exactly follow the events of the game, but all of the main beats are still here, with all of the characters remade into cartoons.  They fight angels, they go through ludicrous action beats, they allude to sex but never get close to actually having any, so its everything a "Bayonetta" fan could want.  So its a great experience... unless you are not a "Bayonetta" fan.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Winter's Tale

"Winter's Tale" is the kind of bad movie that can only be made honestly.  A bad movie like "Pompeii" is easy to make, and they are a dime a dozen - all you have to do is not care at all.  About anything.  However, "Winter's Tale" is a bad movie that could only be made by a great deal of care, probably far too much care.  People complain that Hollywood movies are too generic, too soulless, and built entirely for marketing and money.  But if this industry is as purely mercenary as say, soft drinks, how could a movie like "Winter's Tale" get made?  Or more so, get a wide release?  You need one person at the helm really pushing forward to make their unique creation be born, completely regardless of marketability, their career, or even common sense.  You do not get bad movies like this every day.

Akiva Goldsman has had one of the most bizarre careers in all of modern Hollywood.  Up until "Winter's Tale" he has been a screenwriter, and his work has had this amazing ability to either be critical acclaimed, or legendarily awful.  Somewhere on Goldsman's resume is a notice that he's won an Academy Award for writing "A Beautiful Mind", but probably someplace much further down, in much smaller font, are the facts the he wrote "Batman & Robin" and the even worse "Lost in Space"*.  Well, despite of the acclaim "Cinderella Man" might have received in its initial release, I'll note that very few of Goldsman's creations have aged very well, even the ones that made money and won Oscars.  My conclusion with this guy is that his Oscarbait is probably as tepid as his generic genre flicks.  Ultimately history will probably remember him only as the writer of "Batman & Robin", which in a roundabout way, is his greatest creation.

"Winter's Tale" however, might actually give "Batman & Robin" a run for its place in history.  This is Goldsman's first time as a director, and unfortunately, his talents clearly do not lie in natural conversations or orchestrating chemistry.  More so, he seems to have pulled every string he possibly could, cashing in all of his industry clout that he's collected over the decades, finally to get his one dream project finished.  "Winter's Tale" is a very dreamlike movie, in that it makes very little sense, the plot shifts dramatically, and completely impossible things happen constantly.  Goldsman has taken his studios and financiers for a ride here, they are not going to get very much money out of this project.  Filmgoers will be confused and lost.  I suspect even the author of the original 1983 novel (which I haven't read, but I suspect has to make more sense than this) would probably be confused by this adaptation.  "Winter's Tale" is so strange its existence is almost a dare to all movie lovers.  "Come watch me, you will not believe your eyes."  Well, I took up the dare.  And I'm still not sure what it is that I just saw.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Jon Snow vs. The Volcano.

"Pompeii" is easily the stupidest movie of 2014 so far.  Frankly, the movie is an embarrassment.  The actors seem embarrassed to be apart of it, I'm embarrassed to have seen it.  Luckily "Pompeii" was directed by perhaps the only man on the planet incapable of feeling shame, Paul W. S. Anderson, director of such meaningless things as "Alien vs. Predator" and the Resident Evil series.  The movie could not be more shameless and ignoble if it were a porn.  If it were a porn, it probably would have had a more sophisticated and interesting plot.  Essentially what you are looking at is the basest and most manufactured movie, possibly ever.  The only competition is "Battleship".  There is not a trace of creativity anywhere.  Wit, human drama, historical authenticity, even just a sense of fun, none of it can be found here in "Pompeii".  Keep moving folks, this movie is deader than the city it's named for.

I wish I could describe the storyline of "Pompeii" as anything more than "'Gladiator' meets 'Titantic'", but I get the terrifying suspicion that this marketing combination is exactly the reason this movie was made.  I can see a group of soulless husks in a meeting room, all in finely tailored suits, throwing around movie ideas.  "Eh... 'Titanic' was successful like fifteen years ago, we should probably rip that off now, what was another movie made around the same time?  'Gladiator'?  Hmm... 'Gladiator'... 'Titanic'... how do they meet?  Roman disasters... Roman disasters...  Oh!  Pompeii!  Get that Paul Anderson guy on it.  No, not the good one, he has too much self-respect for this.  The guy who farted out 'The Three Musketeers'."  So what you have is a star-crossed love story between a gladiator fighting for his life and an upper class girl about to be married off to a dickish rich man, which is all settled explosively when the City of Pompeii gets hit by an iceberg.

The problem is that "Gladiator" was a brilliant movie, and "Titanic", as cheesy as it was, is still extremely well-made and competent.  "Pompeii" is a movie without any intelligence or particular quality of any kind, so it can merely copycat those much older movies, while giving no impression it understood on any level what made those movies popular.  Do you want an enthralling and dramatic story of a gladiator facing off against an empire?  How about a inspiring romance in a doomed historical disaster?  You will be disappointed from either perspective.  Hell, maybe you're simply a big fan of the Tommy Lee Jones "Volcano" movie from 1997* - then you'll be horrified to learn the volcano business lasts about a half hour and considering the mediocre screenplay, you'll probably be rooting for Mt. Vesuvius.  The bad romance movie gets in the way of the action movie and together they get in the way of the disaster movie.  A great movie can combine genres into something cohesive.  A bad movie, like "Pompeii" just muddles itself into absolute stupidity.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Trailer

Yup, I'm back to making posts about trailers.  Sue me.  This looks really cool.  The trailer for "Guardians of the Galaxy" aired last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live.  Luckily thanks to the magic of the Internet, you don't need to watch that whole show to see the movie clips*.  Here it is:

Despite being a Marvel movie, it appears that there are no Superheroes involved.  I've never heard of any of these people, but then again, I had never heard of Iron Man before 2007.  It looks like a live action SciFi anime, a little bit like "Space Dandy".  Talking tree, green-skinned lady, a raccoon, and a some dude as the lead who insists that everybody call him "Starlord".  The focus here seems to very much be comedy, featuring the use of Blue Swede's Hooked on a Feeling, (the only pop song I know of to feature a chorus of cavemen).  It all looks like truly fantastic and unpretentious space opera action, with an incredibly weird universe of CG space creatures.

Ultimately though, I think the message is clear:  DC tried and failed to make a colorful universe of aliens with "Green Lantern", and now Marvel is stealing their thunder.  Now they have two superhero team franchises, and DC cannot finish one.  That has to be embarrassing for them.

* Just ten years ago I remember suffering though an episode of the short-lived FOX soap opera, "The O.C." just to see the first trailer for "Star Wars Episode III".  I'm sure Jimmy Kimmel could put on a better show than the problems of rich spoiled Southern California teenagers, but still:  Thank Jesus for Youtube.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Irrational Games Shutting Down

Out of nowhere, Ken Levine today announced that Irrational Games, developers of "BioShock" and "BioShock" Infinite" is "winding down".  "Winding down" appears to be a euphemism for "firing everybody and closing the doors forever", with Levine and a small core of fifteen employees getting shuffled off to some unclear new project within their parent company, 2K.  Levine writes with a surprisingly optimistic tone, obviously hopeful for the future, which seems somewhat inappropriate considering this means the loss of one of the best development houses, and the unemployment of much of gaming's finest workers.

Irrational will linger forward for a few months at least to launch the final DLC for "BioShock Infinite", Burial at Sea Part 2, starring Elizabeth in Rapture.  Then apparently there will be some handshaking ceremonies, a few open meetings, and then that's it, no more Irrational.  No more of the company that made "System Shock 2", "SWAT 4", and something called "Tribes Vengeance" that I had never heard of until I did some Wikipedia research.  Its extremely sudden to say the least, since Irrational had just released one of the most successful games of 2013 in "Infinite", and was supposedly making another BioShock game for the PlayStation Vita.  (My suspicion, that game has never really begun serious development and will never be made.)  As for Levine, he appears to be falling into some kind of meditative mode, hoping to make smaller games with more narrative replayability, all of which is very vague, meaning we may not see much out of this director for some time.  The BioShock license will almost certainly be revived eventually by 2K, just probably not anytime soon.

I would not assume that Ken Levine is closing Irrational out of choice, my gut is telling me the actual truth of Irrational is not quite so rosy as we're hearing.  "BioShock Infinite" spent years in development, missing several release dates, and the final product, though very good, seemed a little too streamlined, as if it was the final conclusion of a much grander ambition.  Perhaps it did not churn out the profits that 2K needed, or even that Levine needed, and the only financial choice was to quit while they were ahead.  Either way, its very depressing to just five days ago finish one of the greatest games ever made, "BioShock", and then come home to discover its creator studio is disappearing.  I was looking forward to what Irrational was going to bring.  I wish everybody the best of luck.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


When your expectations are zero, it is impossible not to exceed them.  "RoboCop" is better than I thought it would be.  My eyeballs did not melt away in their sockets, so as remakes of Paul Verhoeven movies go, that means the new "RoboCop" is doing better than "Total Recall".  Looking at this movie here, I could see some real talent behind the camera.  The production values are impressively done, especially when you consider how disposable this product was.  Even for a split second about twenty minutes in, I had the insane thought this movie might possibly have been decent.  Then the main character came on screen and those illusions were badly shattered.  But no matter what I say from now on, do not tell me I did not give this movie a fair chance.

"RoboCop" is one of the most fondly remembered movies of 1980s.  I was born a decade too late to have jumped in on the "RoboCop" craze in my formative years, but later in life I managed to see all three of the originals, and despite my Nineties handicap I love all of them.  Nobody told me that "RoboCop 2" and especially "RoboCop 3" were supposed to suck, so I accidentally violated several laws of the Internet Collective by enjoying them*.  All these movies were great entertaining soft SciFi action.  Paul Verhoeven was never a director who took his movies very seriously, he was a very silly man.  And the original "RoboCop" is a very silly movie.  There's a car named the 6000 S.U.X., the climax features a bad guy falling into toxic waste and then melting, and then there is the main enemy robot, the ED 209, who is defeated by attempting to walk down stairs and then whines like a turtle on its back.  This is juxtaposed with a frighteningly accurate vision of Detroit's future, where the city has fallen to be hardly better than a Third World Nation, and corporations have taken over the territory once held by governments.  You know, nothing like now.  Verhoeven knew how to make a movie fun - just enough satire to be funny, but still a great straight-up action film.  Even when being purposefully ridiculous, he could make a smart action film.

The new "RoboCop" is utterly toothless.  The immediate problem would be that dreaded PG-13 rating, the first warning sign that the entire production is going to play things as safe as possible.  But "RoboCop 3" was PG-13 and still featured corporate executives jumping from windows and samurai cyborgs, it was still a fun movie with teeth.  This new "RoboCop" though is made baby-proof on every level.  The satire is almost non-existent, the violence is toned down, and every script choice seems built specifically to be as non-controversial and bland as possible.  There is at least some difference to the story by making the new RoboCop more human.  Was this a creative new spin, or a safe choice, avoiding the disturbing prospect of a movie starring a man literally eaten alive by machinery?  Ultimately you will find this to be a disposable action movie, perhaps slightly better-made than some, perhaps not an out-right insult to the original trilogy, but still merely a product.  You can take RoboCop put him in a shiny suit of CG and bland modern scripting, but what you will always leave behind is the personality and the soul.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Last year "BioShock Infinite" crash-landed onto this planet, creating a tidal wave of universal praise and success.  While nearly every person loved the game without reservation at the time, I was well-ahead of the times and was forced to point out that despite fantastic presentation, well-rounded characters, and a very well-written storyline, the game was lacking in several respects.  Because I'm that awesome of a game critic.  It was basically nothing but a linear shooter, with very little customization, mindless repetitive gameplay, only two guns equippable at any time, and so much shooting that emptying a man's head of brains was as routine as brushing your teeth.  It was still a great title, but it was no classic.

The problem clearly was that I was not playing "BioShock", the Original Flavor, one of the best games of the last console generation*.  It might be clearly graphical inferior and considerably more lonely since you are going through this dystopian fantasy city without a beautiful princess, but it is superior in every other respect.  In the past console generation video game storylines and atmospheres have reach whole new levels of sophistication and creativity, to the point that it almost feels like gameplay is falling behind.  "BioShock" is one of those just incredible gaming worlds, an inexperience completely unforgettable, and unlike "Infinite", has actual depth and complexity beyond shooting racists with a shotgun.  You still get to shoot insane techno-zombies with a shotgun, but when not shooting people, other gameplay things happen.  Its bizarre that "BioShock" is an older game by six years, and yet feels far more advanced that its sequel, almost as if it was built specifically to fix my complaints with "".

The story, as I'm sure you know since the game is six years old, and I am roughly the last person on the planet to play it, is set in an underwater city called "Rapture".  Once a paradise for unlimited free market experimentation, an overdose of biological mutations and Ayn Rand novels have driven its populace insane.  After a plane crash, a faceless voiceless player character is trapped in the steampunk madhouse, and must shoot his way out to escape.  Along the way you must battle the leaders of this city, who are hardly more sane than the populace they control.  Rapture's obsession with genetic manipulation has created a small galaxy of "Plasmids", essentially magic spells you can use, which allow you to either electrocute your foes, set them fire, or any number of other effects.  Plasmids also ruin your face, are extremely addictive, and will drive you insane.  Just about every object in the game can be manipulated with a "hacking" minigame, that allows you to turn enemy robots to your side, or poison healing stations to murder foes who attempt to use them.  It is all a very varied and interesting gaming adventure, one of the very best to appear on our old PlayStation 3s and Xbox 360s.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The LEGO Movie

I, like all boys who grew up in the 20th century who did not need to fight in depressing African civil wars, spent my childhood playing with LEGOs.  For that reason, I was inevitably going to love "The LEGO Movie", as I suspect so will all children and former-children.  So there's really no point to writing a review at all.  The movie has LEGOs in it, therefore we love it, THE END.  Once upon a time we all built a garish multicolored spaceship out of spare parts and cannibalized bits from Star Wars sets, and now that there's a movie about those toys, we are going to have fun, no matter what.  Luckily this movie is not a pretty LEGO model of an "Episode II" Jedi Starfighter that looks amazing for five minutes and then immediately collapses*, but rather a brilliant piece of engineering that will legitimately entertain its entire audience, no matter the age.

"The LEGO Movie" is filmed entirely in CG animation made to look like stop motion modeled off of LEGO bricks.  This movie is built out of 3,863,484 digital blocks and objects, with every single character and effect created out of computerized LEGOs.  The characters walk with the jerky impossible motions of a little human without knees, moveable elbows, or fingers.  Every figure has little thumb-prints, dog-chew marks, realistic wear and tear, and natural fade on their painted faces.  Fire is made out of flat red plastic shapes, the water is blue blocks, smoke is white blocks, and the food is little circles.  It makes for a dazzling visual effect of an entire world made out of blocks.  There have been LEGO cartoons and video games before all playing off the natural humor of these characters living in a world made entirely out of toys, but they have never managed to reach the beauty of this movie, with whole cities, no a whole universe, made out of a Danish miniature construction set.  The only things that are not LEGO in this movie are a variety of real-world objects set to scale with the rest of the people, such as the villain's superweapon, a tube of Krazy Glue.

Most of the plot and comedy is a lovingly satirical mix of energy, character, and visual puns, similar to that of the "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" movies.  That should come as no surprise, since "The LEGO Movie" is directed by those movies' main creative team, Phil Lord and Chris Miller.  So again we have a loveable loser being thrown into a manic world of constant humor and very subtle parody of film tropes, just enough to make the movie feel fresh while still being loving towards its material.  The entire movie is just one constant attack of entertainment, which even the nastiest and most embittered grouch could not resist.   I cannot say that "The LEGO Movie" is superior to "Meatballs 1", but I am certain this latest creation will end up again fondly displayed on Hollywood's mantelpiece, a fun adventure that will please everybody.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Monuments Men

Boy, do I hate being right all the time.

"The Monuments Men" is a movie with an ambitious plot, an ambitious cast, and an ambitious pedigree, which by all rights should be a brilliant historical drama.  Instead it is a muddled, often dull, and a mess more bloated than Hermann Goering.  It is the hardest kind of movie to ultimately review, something that very nearly works, but fails so clearly and utterly.  I am like the poor English executioner that has to set Joan of Arc ablaze.  She's a nice girl, well-spoken for a peasant, meant-well.  But she's still a French symbol of resistance and a heretic, and she's not going to set herself on fire, is she?  So now I have to put the torch to George Clooney's bonfire.  He really did to himself:  he had plenty of time to figure out the tone and sort out his disparate story threads into a unified whole, but he didn't.  I like George Clooney, I want to like this movie.  But Clooney isn't going to tell the world not to see this movie, is he?  Its time to cook some hot dogs on his charring corpse and tear this movie down.

The overall plot of "The Monuments Men" is actually an interesting element of World War II that is rarely brought up in popular culture or even considered:  the battle for European cultural artifacts plundered by the Nazis to pay for their empire*.  As Allied bombers were smashing Europe into bits, it became clear that the Allies needed a more organized policy to protect art and creative works that had been stolen by Adolf Hitler's cronies.  "The Monument's Men" focuses on the most marketable part of the story:  a ragtag team of artists and scholars led by George Clooney to hunt down stolen treasures before they were forever lost to history.  At its most banal, it could have been a 1940s "Ocean's Eleven", a fun heist movie with a historical backdrop.  At its most dramatic, it could have been one of the best movies of 2014.

Obviously however, throughout the filming of "The Monuments Men", nobody actually knew what kind of movie they were trying to make.  They wound up making many of the same mistakes as last year's historical disaster, "Gangster Squad", though not as severe.  The cast and story is too jumbled, at times it feels like George Clooney was directing six or seven movies at once, then threw them into a blender.  It jumps between silly comedy, old-timey Hollywood adventure, Oscarbait drama, and action beats, all without ever coming into a cohesive whole.  The problem with movies is that they cannot simply be the sum of their parts:  they have to be devised together into a coherent story, or otherwise you'll be wasting good parts by throwing them next to mediocre scenes.  And that's exactly the problem we have here.  A couple scenes are downright genius, many are merely forgettable, and some are so hopeless as to be painfully boring.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Vampire Academy

"Vampire Academy", as its poster proudly states, is from Mark Waters, the director of "Mean Girls" and his older brother, Daniel Waters, the writer of "Heathers"*.  So for a film adaptation of yet another young adult supernatural fantasy series - there appears to be eight more supposedly "massively successful" ones every week - "Vampire Academy" has everything going for it:  a man who directed a clever and unique high school comedy about vapid girls, and a man who wrote a clever and unique comedy about murdering vapid girls and blowing up a high school.  This could be a great dark comedy, perhaps putting a more silly and more disturbing spin on "Twilight" wanna-be's.  But its not.  Its everything those Twilight-spawn have been and so much less.  Obviously both of the Water Brothers left their talent at home, because "Vampire Academy" is a fucking piece of shit.

"Vampire Academy" is such a bad movie that this review is  going to be a special challenge for me as an author, because I need to explain how bad it is.  You knew it was bad just by reading the title, but you're still not prepared for how unholy this production is.  I've seen some bad movies this year already but compared to "Vampire's Academy", things like "Devil's Due" were a joy.  I'd watch "Devil's Due" seven times as my teeth were torn out by Nazi doctors with knives for fingers than watch "Vampire Academy" ever again.  I spent this whole movie with waves of agony spreading down my whole body, as my hairs stood on-end, my eyes teared, and my mouth hung wide open while I muttered under my breath over and over "what the fuck? what the fuck?"  Usually when a movie is bad, its bad in typical and predictable ways:  lazy screenwriting, bad acting, poor special effects, a simple lack of care.  But "Vampire Academy" is the kind of bad that leaves me in awe.  It does everything wrong, but then goes the extra mile to be completely unwatchable and hatefully stupid at every turn.

As you would expect, "Vampire Academy" has all the standard elements of cookie-cutter teen fantasy garbage.  It takes place in a weirdly convoluted and overly complicated mythology featuring three classes of vampire, five schools of magic, and an entire secret undead society ruled by twelve noble houses with an elected monarchy, all somehow centered on a high school.  Naturally at the core of this universe is our protagonists, this time two girls with a special destiny that everybody in this series must obsess over.  But it manages to be worse than most teen fantasy novels, as most of this mythology is simply window dressing to an empty and insultingly bad storyline about jealous girls being bitches, boys, shopping, and other high school nonsense.

If you want to see a movie where supernatural beings spend most of their time plotting to be popular at high school and rotating disposable boyfriends, go see "Vampire Academy".  If that doesn't sound like a movie you want to see, welcome to being every single person on the planetNobody but the stupidest and most selfish brat of a teenager could enjoy this movie, and we should consider purging that population if they keep unleashing filth like this upon the planet.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fanwank Corner: Why Jesse Eisenberg is Not Lex Luthor

Okay, let me weigh in on this issue:  Jesse Eisenberg is a terrible choice for Lex Luthor.

Now that I've thrown myself balls-deep into madman comic book fanboy* territory, I need to back up and actually explain myself.  Jesse Eisenberg is not a bad actor, he's a very good actor.  He will not put in a lazy performance for the next DC Superhero movie, and its possible they'll manage to put something thematically together that can make sense for whatever particular story they're cooking up.  I have some faith in Eisenberg, but I really do not have faith in Warner Bros and their "Man of Steel" team, who again, made "Man of Steel".  I have no idea what they are currently thinking with this project, it seems to be absolutely all over the place.  It doesn't even have a title yet, "Superman vs. Batman" is just a placeholder, and probably factually incorrect since now Wonder Woman is involved.  And if we're talking miscasting, forget Einsenberg and Luthor, Wonder Woman is the real tragedy**.  Ben Affleck as Batman has gotten far too much buzz - Bruce Wayne isn't exactly the hardest role in the world, and Affleck will probably be fine.  But getting Lex Luthor right?  That takes a very careful choice, and they blew it.

So far David Goyer, Zack Snyder, and the other faces involved have yet to actually comment on the Eisenberg choice beyond some double-speak about "new and unexpected directions".  There's no trailer yet since the movie seems to be slowly edging closer and closer towards Development Hell, just recently they had Chris Terrio, screenwriter of "Argo", completely rewrite David Goyer's draft.  So whatever idea they have for this new Lex Luthor might already be in flux, or maybe they have no idea at all what they're doing, they just cast Jesse Eisenberg because he's a young actor and was the most attractive nerd they could think of.  Obviously the idea is not the Lex Luthor we all have in our minds:  not the wacky supervillain mad scientist fiend of the Silver Age and Gene Hackman/Kevin Spacey fame, and definitely not the ruthless capitalist mastermind of modern comics and cartoons.  Are they really going to go with making Lex Luthor an Internet entrepreneur, a Mark Zuckerberg?

Maybe it will work.  I am not convinced.  There might be some interesting ideas behind this, but it feels much too topical, too clever for its own good.  And really to explain why this is a poor choice, I need to explain who Lex Luthor is.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Superbowl XLVIII Reaction

I only cried once.

There really cannot be too much hyperbole about it:  that was the worst game of football I have ever seen.  I've personally played in schoolyard games where I got tackled about eighty times by an eighth grade fat kid after every single snap because my older cousins thought I could be a lineman at eighty pounds, and that was better than Superbowl XLVIII.  My dad once took me to a couple of XFL games - remember the XFL? - in old Giant Stadium.  The New Jersey Hitmen managed to put on a better show than the Denver Broncos did, and the Hitmen couldn't even kick the extra point upon touchdowns, they were that incompetent.  The Puppy Bowl was better.  Goddamn Tim Tebow in his obnoxious commercial spots managed to put together a tougher performance then our entire offensive line.  It was a disaster, a humiliation, and I am on the verge of utter destitution.

The game was such a brutal defeat that I made a bet with my sister before the game started that Denver would win.  She still hasn't asked for her money.  She knows how bad this hurts.  How do you clean tear-stains out of an orange Broncos T-shirt, by the way?

This post isn't really going to be about the game, its going to be about the television event that was Superbowl XLVIII.  Besides putting together what was a simply unwatchable game - even the Seahawks fans got bored and declared victory after the half, and then proceeded to riot throughout all of Seattle - it was a big show, and a lot happened.  I was not even going to talk about the game, but I am feeling so horribly awful right now, with the skies torn asunder all throughout my state, pouring out snow in apocalyptic fashion to fit my mood, I feel like I should go ahead and write about things.  This is how I cope, I write.  Its either I write this post or I hunt down Richard Sherman with a combat knife, and I suspect that's probably not the healthiest way for either of us to settle our differences.

So here's what this post is going to be:  brief summary of the game, a quick review of the commercials, and a little bit about the halftime show.  Then once I'm done writing this I shall return to my fetal position and weep bitterly until August.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


So tonight is the Superbowl, the greatest and most important television event in all of human civilization.  Normally on this blog, I wouldn't bother even mentioning its existence, because we focus on the more geeky fields of movies, anime, video games, and Doctor Who, but this year is special.  Why?  BECAUSE THE BRONCOS ARE GOING TO WIN.  WOOOOT.  LET'S GO BRONCOS!!!!  PEYTON MANNING IS GOD'S ONLY SON, HE WILL SLAUGHTER THE SEAHAWKS WITH THE FURY OF A VOLCANIC ERUPTION.

See, I'm a nerd, I accept this.  I have a Japanese sword, I keep Pokemon toys on my desk, I did a Let's Play once, there is no excuse for my level of geek.  However, I watch football, because I'm also an American Man, and hearty cholesterol-thick blood flows through my veins.  If the moment comes, I need to be ready to drop all my anime and join the marines to kill Nazis, Communists, or the Redcoats for Freedom, so to get myself mentally prepared, I watch the NFL, the greatest sporting event since gladiators fell out of fashion a few thousand years ago.  But remember:


Saturday, February 1, 2014

February 2014 Look-Ahead

I'm introducing another new feature on this blog.  This is the Monthly Look-Ahead.  So that you, being helpless consumers lost in the stormy seas of several billion or so pop culture items, can know exactly what to see and what not to see, or what to play or not to play.  To elaborate, its me using my gigantic and incredibly fashionable brain to predict what is going to be good and what is going to suck in the world of movies and video games.  Of course, that gigantic brain is wrong about 30% of the time when it comes to predictions, so maybe my hubris will be struck down with lightning from the heavens and "RoboCop" is going to be the best movie of 2014.  I doubt it.

So first up, the motion pictures:

"The LEGO Movie" (February 7th) - Its LEGOs, in a movie, having an adventure.  Its a movie I have to see.  Having been born up as a male (so my parents claim) in the last half century, I have played a lot of LEGOs.  I used to build capital-class starships out of my 5,000 LEGO box, which were solid as bricks and would have made for excellent blunt weapons against zombie hordes.  And in case you weren't sold already, the movie has Batman.  It appears to be a fun and not-very-serious comedy, for example the evil villain attacking LEGO world is using glue to seal the pieces together in the greatest of childhood playtime heresies.  There is a chance it might come off as juvenile, but I think its going to be a great ride.

"The Monuments Men" (February 7th) - George Clooney is directing and starring in this World War II drama featuring a band of elderly out-of-shape art scholars running up to the front lines of the Allied advance through France to save precious artworks and artifacts from Nazi destruction.  So it appears to be something of a comedy with some interesting historical and cultural questions, like is saving some dusty artwork really all that important when compared to fighting a war for freedom and whatever else the politicians are using to justify your death this year?  However, there is a pretty big omen of disaster floating over this production.  It was originally scheduled for a December 18th release, well within Oscar country, but then got delayed two months, surrendering any hopes for awards, into the relatively mediocre month of February.  This will either turn out to be perfectly fine, or the 2014 "Gangster Squad".

The Last of Us

There are two classes of paranoid survivalists in the world:  one are right-wing paranoid Second Amendment-loving dudes living in compounds in Montana, and the other are nerds fantasizing how awesome life would be if most of society was filled with mindless rotting corpses.  At least, the crazy Montana dudes are imagining a scenario that might actually come to pass - we're only two more NSA leaks away from accepting we're now living in a police state.  But as for the George A. Romero-style apocalypse?  Not so likely.  There are plenty of things that might reasonable wipe out human civilization:  asteroid impacts, super plagues, Miley Cyrus singles, but zombies are purely the realm of fantasy.  It sure doesn't stop that nerd from planning exactly which mall he's going to fortify, without realizing of course, that he could no more live without a constant Internet connection than plants can live without sunlight, and extremely toned finger muscles but flabby thighs are not exactly the physical form one would need to survive legions of the undead*.

Who is actually going to survive the zombie age?  The paranoid Montana guys.  Because they have the guns, they have the moral certainty come from years of racism and bible-thumping, and they're used to living in hellish post-apocalyptic landscapes such as Montana.  This might explain why in "The Last of Us", you only spend approximately fifty percent of your time actually killing ghouls, and use most of your bullets on heavily-armed bandits.  Now that civilization has fallen, the age of the fucktard Neo-Nazi has come.  They've been seething with rage against every aspect of liberal democracy for generations, so they're well-prepared to take over once us rational humans become green-skinned freaks moaning for "brrraaaaaaaaiiiiins".  "The Last of Us" is that great struggle to survive across a world gone mad.  Not quite because most people are zombies now, but that most surviving humans were dangerous assholes even before Armageddon, and now they have even less to lose.  But don't worry, you also fight some nerds too, only they're a little more zombified.

"The Last of Us" is a truly fantastic game, one of the very best titles to be released on the PlayStation 3.  And you'll need a PS3 if you want to fight nerds or Montana dudes, because its an exclusive title.  Everybody, of course, already knows how great this game is, since along with "BioShock Infinite", its widely considered the best game of last year.  Normally I wouldn't dare attempt a stealth-based Survival Horror game, but the reviews were so glowing I could only resist for six months or so.  And just like I suspected, I survived for exactly four minutes in my first major encounter against zombies, because I am absolutely terrible at this game.  But still, I persevered, littered about a million corpses of myself across the ruins of the fallen United States, and finished the game, allowing me to now talk about one of the most impressive gaming experiences I've ever had.