Tuesday, August 24, 2010

So, what sucks anyway?

I was telling my family about my blogs, and my brother was interested in this blog in particular. He asks me, "So, what movie would you say DOES suck?" And I didn't have an answer. That bugged me. I can't have a movie review blog that only reviews movies favorably! What good would that be? Not to mention totally boring! So I've been thinking about it, and here is what I've decided: most of the movies I see are good. Generally, I don't cough up the dough to see a movie in the theater unless I'm sure it's going to be worth it. But let me tell you some warning signs I've learned to pick up. If I see these things, it generally means the movie will suck. Therefore I won't see them, thus a review of them will not appear on this blog until I can use money as a fire-starter. Which won't be for a while.

First: if it's made by Lionsgate.

To be fair, Lionsgate has put out a couple good movies. American Psycho was pretty good. There was another one recently, but I've forgotten what it was. But in general, Lionsgate puts out movies like Crank and Hostel and Saw. I'm not going to see those. They suck. They are made for almost no money and put out quickly to get a profit. Here's how they do it: they include gratuitous sex and violence. The people in charge think of scenarios that will provide the most sex and violence, however outlandish it may be, and then film it as cheaply as possible. And they are successful. Because even though not everybody goes to see them, enough people do to earn a profit. These people are drawn to these movies FOR the gratuitous sex and violence. There's a word for this: exploitation. It's cheap, sleazy, and only making people stupider. It's the second-worst use for contemporary film. The absolute worst is my second item.

Here's the second item: any movie made by those two guys who make those parodies. The latest one being Vampires Suck.

There are a lot of people who think Uwe Boll should stop making movies because they're just terrible. Well, in my opinion, compared to these guys Boll is James Cameron. These two produce the most frivolous drivel in film history. Like, ever. There's no reason why they are still making movies. Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Superhero Movie, the list goes on. They receive epic low scores on every review site in the world, and yet people still flock to them. Please please PLEASE, everyone: STOP SEEING THESE MOVIES. They are a blight. They are a cancer to contemporary film. They suck beyond comprehension. And what astonishes me every time is that they skyrocket to the top of the release charts. To all of you who see these movies: you're so dumb -- you're perpetuating a terrible cycle and contributing to a terrible disease that is infecting theaters across the country.

Ok, I can already figure out what people who disagree with me will say. It makes them happy. But here's the thing. The people in charge of movies are driven by finances. Profit. Currency is their language of choice. When these movies do well, sometimes attributes of the movies are encouraged by producers to the point where intelligent movies are choked out in favor of exploitation or Vampires Suck. My fear is of a dystopian future where all movies fall under these categories. The same thing happened in the Roman Empire. Their entertainment became drivel and only appealed to the most base. And Rome fell, people. Think about that. How much would that suck?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

My niece Kaylynn summed up this movie well: "It was really dumb. But in a good way." It's true. I don't know how much I can analyze this movie. Let me try.

First of all, if you grew up in the era of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and many of your fondest memories from childhood involve huddled around a tv spending your weekend day and night trying to make that one infuriating jump or beat that one impossible boss, you really will enjoy this movie. It's a movie based on a comic inspired by video games. It's pretty much the greatest combination ever. For example: when Scott cuts enemies down, they explode into coins, a la games like River City Ransom (FYI, check out Mega 64's take on that game on IGN). Video game movies have a hard time adopting the source material because of silly things like enemies exploding into change, but Scott Pilgrim offers an elegant solution to the quandary. Things like this... this movie doesn't take itself too seriously and it is wonderful for it. It's a good thing it's not animated too: it wouldn't be as fun to watch. The jokes are funny because it's live action. If it were a cartoon, it would be cliche. Interesting, no?

I should talk about Edgar Wright. He's done some amazing films (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), but this movie is completely different. It's rumored that Wright has plans for an Ant Man movie, and after seeing Scott Pilgrim I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. This is Zen Master Steve saying "we'll see." Anyway, Scott Pilgrim is a complete change of pace. It wastes no time in getting silly, while the other two gradually built the silliness until... well, it was ridiculous. Wright makes good movies. And they're funny. Good for him.

Also, Michael Cera. Normally, he's George Michael Bluth (Superbad, Juno, one of his personalities in Youth in Revolt), but he's stretching himself a little more here. He does a good job. All the actors do. Ramona's great. Knives is funny. No one drops the ball here. It's solid all around.

Heart. This movie has loads of it. It's like a date movie for grown-up nerds. There's more of us out there than we think -- despite the film's weak box office opening. Despite how silly the movie is, you genuinely care about the characters. Anyone who has had a hard break up, rebounded with someone else, found the girl of your dreams... basically, everyone should find something to relate to in this movie. Anyone who has gone through puberty, anyway.

Plus, Scott's plight is really clever. If you wanted, you could look at the movie existentially and say Scott is facing Ramona's exes in her head, because she's trying to decide how he measures up. That's how you get the creepy guy from seventh grade and the vegan with super powers. "He's a vegan, which means he's just better than you." See? Basically, the movie just makes literal what Ramona is thinking and what Scott is facing. You get the idea.

Plus, I think it's kind of cool Scott faces Superman (Brandon Routh) and Captain America (Chris Evans) within an hour.

Is it a good movie? Yeah, but it's silly and dumb-but-in-a-good-way. Is it fun? Oh man. I think you'd be hard-pressed to have more fun in a movie theater this summer. With your clothes on, at least. Plus, it's set in Canada! Who doesn't love Canada? Really! Canada's awesome. Look at all the cool things Canada has given us: The Weakerthans (amazing), The Arrogant Worms (hilarious), William Shatner (awesome), Rachel McAdams (gorgeous), socialized health care (debatable)... the list goes on. Plus, in all seriousness, we're really lucky to have such a friendly northern neighbor. Can you imagine if we hated Canada and were constantly warring with them? Yeah, it's silly to think about only because there's no way! We're so lucky.

Ok back to the movie. If you grew up on video games, see it. If you're a nerd, see it. If you're on a date, see it. If you're a fan of the source material, it's probably worth checking out (I am as unfamiliar with the comics as I possibly could be). If you're a fan of Edgar Wright (or anyone else involved, for that matter) see it. If you're a testosterone junkie and want to see nothing but muscular men blowing up stuff, see the Expendables. Everyone else: see Scott Pilgrim. At very least rent it. Trust me on this: it doesn't suck. 3.5/5 Good, 6/5 Fun.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Christopher Nolan is my hero. This is important. Reader, you are currently reading a significantly skewed review. Every movie Nolan has made I've loved and adored with two exceptions: Insomnia and Batman Begins, which I thought were only "amazing." My friend noted this about Nolan: he respects his audience. He understands that there are movie goers who enjoy a compelling story told intelligently. What a refreshing concept. His movies are complex and his plots rich. He is a director who acts as a narrator and directly crafts events, characters, themes, and such to tell the story he wants the audience to experience. Here's where Inception comes in and why the reviews I'm seeing make me so furious.

There may be spoilers ahead. It also may be confusing to anyone who hasn't already watched the movie. If this is you, skip to the last paragraph.

Inception has been faulted for lack of character development outside of the main character, Cobb. I've read that it is light on character and heavy on effects. I've also heard of some reviewers saying meaningless comments to the effect that they wished they had slept through the movie. To all of you, I have this to say: you are idiots. Idiots, fools, morons. No one should care what you think, because you don't have anything worthwhile to say. Please stop making noise. You're embarrassing yourself. Really, just... shame on you. I don't pay attention to rotten tomatoes anymore because it's populated by writers who don't have two brain cells to rub together. I can't believe they're writing for money and I'm not. If I could have one wish, it would be to fly at super speed. If I could have two, it would be that every stupid person would be aware of their stupidity and be ashamed -- not compelled to share their opinion that isn't worth an uphill piss with a worldwide audience that could have a direct impact on a brilliant film.

Like I said, the reviews make me furious. Here's why: they missed the point of the movie.

A motif(look it up) of the movie is the main character uncertain whether or not he's in reality or a dream. Close to the end, he tells his subconscious poltergeist wife, Mol, that she is only a shadow of the real thing: she's a flat characterization of the wonderful woman she really was.

I think I read a reviewer talking smack about the film's editing. If I'm correct, I say this: "You fool!" One of the points Cobb makes to Ariadne is that in a dream, the dreamer often can't remember how they got to their current location. That's one way of telling a dream from reality. Often, I noticed each shot beginning with the characters already in the frame, making the shift from one shot to the next a little jumpy: I wasn't sure how the characters got to their current location. Example: at the end of the movie (spoiler) Cobb goes directly from the airport to his house; not to a car outside that takes them home -- there's not even a shot of them going in the front door. How exactly did he get there?

Wait a minute. The characters in the dreamers' subconscious are flat; the dreamers can't remember how they got to their current location. The characters who aren't Cobb are complex and compelling, but relatively flat; the editing makes the viewer a little unsure of how the characters got to their current location... do you see where I'm going? Nolan is deliberately crafting a movie that directly asks the viewer: is what you're seeing reality, or just Cobb's dream? Example: how can Saito make Cobb's problems go away with a phone call? It's pretty implausible, and not explained, but it would make sense if it was devised by Cobb's desperate subconscious. Is the whole movie just in his dream? You tell me.

To all of you who skipped ahead, here is the last paragraph. Visually, this movie is award-worthy. Easily. Jaw-dropping good, and that's not easy anymore. The story is creative, imaginative, utterly original, layered, and complex. The characters are complex but relatively flat, serving mainly as foils to Cobb. Luckily character development isn't the end-all be-all (YOU IDIOTS!!). In this case, the characters are a vehicle for the film's question: is this whole thing just Cobb's dream? Here's a hint: watch for his wedding ring. Thoroughly brilliant, completely fun, exactly the reason movies are ever made. Highly recommended. The more people to see this movie, the better. Don't listen to the morons out there bashing this movie, listen to me: this movie is fantastic. Totally fun and totally good. They don't get much better than this. Most definitely does not suck. At all. See it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Prince of Persia

I have not seen this movie. From what I hear and read, it is much more "fun" than "good." However, I really want to.

Video game movies usually suck. And I mean suck hard. But I believe that they're the future. Soon video game movies will enjoy the renaissance that comic book movies have recently. Eventually comic book movies will run low on source material and their moment in the sun will begin to burn, and I think video games are next. The trick is getting Hollywood and the people to believe. A nearly impossible feat thanks to the likes of Uwe Boll.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is one of my three all-time favorite games. That game, Half-Life 2, and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess are the greatest games ever made. Many Zelda fans think Ocarina of Time is the best of the series, and others think Majora's Mask is the best, and I say they're both wrong. Twilight Princess. Period. Is it too easy, or more intuitive? More intuitive. There are things about Ocarina of Time that just don't make sense anymore. When you're a kid and you've got nothing to do but waste hours of your life trying every possible thing to every possible item then you're bound to find hidden secrets. But games have evolved. Things need to make sense. There need to be clues. And Twilight Princess rocks. End of discussion. Half-Life 2 needs no justification. It's just amazing.

There have been talks about a Metroid movie. Cool, just get talent behind it. Get someone who knows the characters and how to write a good movie. There's been talk about a Metal Gear Solid movie. Why not? The game's practically a movie in itself. Just stop being jerkwads and let David Hayter get involved. What's the matter with you? You have someone in mind you think can do better? Really? Better than the voice of Solid Snake himself? You're idiots. Make a Half-Life movie. Get Robert Rodriguez to direct it. Hell, even if you got M. Night to direct it it would be alright. It could be his comeback. He knows how to startle, and Half-Life would be all about that. Can anyone imagine a Zelda movie directed by Peter Jackson? Or James Cameron? There are talks about a Mass Effect movie. I'm down, but concerned about what they'll do about the choice mechanism. It's an RPG, after all. If they got the right people behind it, I'd have more faith. Uncharted? Well, if you want an Uncharted movie why don't you just watch Indiana Jones? Nah, I'm kidding -- it might not suck. Bioshock? That'd be cool. Whatever. Just get talent behind it. Just because it has cool effects or is atmospheric or popular doesn't mean it'll be a good movie.

Comic book movies are now successful because they're now higher-quality movies. Strive to make better video game movies and the success will be waiting for you. From what I understand, Prince of Persia was made somewhat in this vain. For that reason, I want to see it. I understand it's far from a "good" movie, but that's ok. After all, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire does not an action-adventure director make. And Pirates 2 and 3... well, you know. But it can still be "fun." I've heard it's the best video game movie yet, and to me that means it definitely might not suck.

Angels and Demons

Ron Howard is a good director. He is. As a nerd, I'd love to see him direct a comic book movie. It'd have to be something grounded in reality because I get the impression that's what he does. So I'm thinking The Question, or maybe a Nightwing movie.

Even though he's a good director, with The DaVinci Code he missed the point. And I think he did with Angels and Demons too.

The DaVinci code was a book that aimed to pull back the curtain and reveal *gasp* Jesus the Human, rather than Jesus the Divine. The book was all about how Jesus had a lover, Mary Magdalene, and the church had covered it up by only including in the Bible the Gospels that showed Christ's divinity. And Mary Magdalene was actually the divine one. Basically. And Leonardo DaVinci knew it and could prove it. The movie kept Christ's divinity intact, but tried to incorporate the theory that he had a wife and children. The result was, well, it didn't really work. The Christians were offended by the blasphemy, and they that loved the book for it's controversy were mad because it shied away from the most crucial point.

I've had friends tell me of people who have told them to read The DaVinci Code because after reading it there's no way anyone could believe in God. Whatever. Say this with me: it's a work of FICTION. Plus, even if Jesus had taken a wife, wouldn't that be good news for all the married Christians out there who try to emulate Christ, as the term "Christian" implies? Whatever.

I know more about The DaVinci Code because I read the book. With Angels and Demons, I intentionally didn't read the book because I recognized the fact that a good movie was ruined by reading the book first. The book is almost always better. In a few rare cases, The Bourne Identity and Stardust, the movie was better. In my humble opinion. I know people who would argue the opposite. I just enjoyed the movies more than the books. Sue me. The point is: I didn't read the book because I wanted to come to the movie tabula rasa.

I guess there may be spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk. It's not like this review hasn't given you plenty of time to see it. It's been on DVD for months.

So what were the criticisms about this movie, again? Too serious, I remember that one. Well, it was pretty dark, and there was some silliness woven into it that seemed out of place. It was as if each time they solved a puzzle, they showed up just a few minutes too late. Predictable? Absolutely. Not to mention the head of security was surly and antagonistic for apparently no reason. He knew the truth just about the entire time who the bad guy was and told no one. I couldn't figure out why the Illuminati had chosen this moment to strike at the church and why they were targeting Ewan McGregor's character when he would be out of the Pope's seat in a handful of days. The answer was apparent to everyone in the room but me.

I watched the movie with my wife and my friend Ted who just graduating in Chemical Engineering. He saw the anti-matter bit at the beginning and found it ridiculous 'cause he's seen the real thing. What's more is he had the bad guy pinned from the start. I wouldn't believe it because, come on, he was Obi Wan. How bad could he be? But man was I wrong. I'm losing my touch. I need to stop playing video games and read more.

So back to the movie. Was it good? It was ok. Was it fun? Yeah, I had fun. I'm not rushing out to buy it, but it was a fair movie and a fairly good time. I'd give it halfway on the "good" meter and 75% on the "fun" meter. If you're into the church being evil and haven't read the book, give it a rental -- but maybe wait until it's on the Netflix instant queue. It might not suck.

To everyone who thinks Christianity has been at odds with Science since time immemorial: you're wrong. Some of the greatest leaps in science have been thanks to the work of monks and monasteries. In fact, during the Dark Ages the monastery was the only place to find learned men and women. Some monks, particularly the Irish, took it upon themselves to translate the works of Aristotle and other classic texts (and by "translate" I don't mean "censor"). For a long time, Christians regarded the study of nature a "second Gospel." It made sense to them that studying "God's Creation" would lead to evidence of the "Creator." Science and Religion have butted heads twice: Galileo and Darwin. Galileo believed the Earth revolved around the Sun, which is true. At the time, it was a wild claim. The church told him to prove it or he'd die for blasphemy. He couldn't. In the case of Darwin... well both sides are being pretty antagonistic. To everyone who thinks education has been hijacked by the devil and everything from science to literature leads to hell: you're wrong. Not only are you wrong, but your fear of thinking is only promoting the assumption that religion is coupled with ignorance. God doesn't disappear if man evolved from apes.