Wednesday, December 31, 2008

DRIVING GAMES

MEDIASAURUS REX SPEAKS
12/30/08
DISCUSS DRIVING GAMES WITH ME HERE IN THIS THREAD
It is becoming more and more apparent that I need to throw all of my resources into a PS3. It has obviously won the "gamers battle" with the XBOX 360 and it has obviously won the battle between BLU-RAY and HD.
Most importantly though, it has a cool little game called BURNOUT PARADISE. I am an oldschool BURNOUT fan. I mean seriously. It started wayyy back when BURNOUT 3 was dropping and I played a demo down. I played it down and down and down. Then I backloaded it and picked up BUNRNOUTS 1 and 2. I have been hooked ever since. Why? Steering is perfect. None of that GRAN TURISMO drift. The explosions are INSANE and the competition with the AI can be completely brutal.
What triggered this BURNOUT PARADISE attack? Well, I downloaded FLAT OUT for the PSP. I played through a bit of the demo, and I realized then and there that driving games are all beautiful, but they all suck. I have rarely felt that I am in true control of what I am doing. This loopy feeling has plagued me since the days of DRIVER. But hey...you watch the PARADISE video. You will see what I am talking about.More of my musings can be found HERE. Furthermore, you can catch me in our FORUMS.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

MEDIASAURUS REX SPEAKS!

So here is how this is going to have to work...

There is going to be a regular column of a paragraph or 30 on the http://mediasaurs.com/ main page. That column will then get archived here, in the MEDIASAURS BLOG when the next one goes up. It is really rather simple.

If you want to contact me, MEDIASAURUS REX, you can through this blog, the main page or the forums attached to the top of the main Mediasaurs page.

BRAND NEW FOR 2009: You can also peruse through my other writings at http://peterdemmon.blogspot.com/

And in all of this, you will see that I am trying to assimilate all of my online personae under just a few umbrellas.

Obviously, the news that hits this blog (outside of movie reviews) will be slightly dated. If you want to be on the razor's edge, then you should be at http://mediasaurs.com/.

So I guess I will get going with this thing now...

Here is Yesterday:


MEDIASAURUS REX SPEAKS
Part of a new thing that we are going to be doing around here is going to be my regular musings. I say regular because I might miss a few days here and there. However, I will be in here as close to daily as possible with a pop-culture musing or rant. The picture to the left is of me. I am not a "gangsta" I just happened to be very cold and crabby one morning when this was shot. I will find a better one and replace this soon enough.MILK is an interesting film. Robert Downey Jr. accused Sean Penn of going FULL-RETARD in TROPIC THUNDER. Well, in MILK, Sean Penn goes FULL-GAY. This film will hurt you, and it is meant to.
We watched CLOVERFIELD last night. It was exactly what I was expecting. It was an ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK/BLAIR WITCH/ALIEN/GODZILLA hybrid. Lame? Hell yes. Entertaining? HELL YES. Someone give that kid who played HUD a Grammy or Oscar or something.
More of my musings can be found HERE. Furthermore, you can catch me in our FORUMS.

Monday, December 1, 2008

MAX PAYNE - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


Recently a friend of mine was looking at this blog. He asked me point blank if there are any movies I like. I had to think for a second. Is this Mediasaurs blog that negative? I am merely trying to tell it like it is.
We are in a time where there is a LOT of crap coming down the pipe. We are in a time where the ugliest of movies are heralded as breakthroughs. I really want to go forward twenty years and do a search online and find out what really resonated in this time as "decent." Movies are sucking harder and harder these days, and sometimes it is good to watch a movie that does what it is supposed to do. Max Payne follows the classic rules, and it is like walking the same route home every day for several years. You know how it works, and it isn't really bad, or specatacularly good for that matter. You might see something that you haven't seen before and you still have to look both ways before you cross the street.
When Max Payne dropped, it got destroyed by the critics. So horrendous was the destruction that I didn't bother to even watch the thing. I have always had a problem with Marky Mark, and I just chalked this up to some more of his ROCK STAR/SHOOTER/PLANET OF THE APES bullshit.
Well, I have now seen Max Payne, and I have to tell you all something: This is a good movie.
Production values are at the top. The plot is secure, and the acting is where it needs to be. Furthermore, the effects in this film are so far over the line that you will be mesmerized every time they wake up the effects machine.
THIS IS WHAT VIDEO GAME MOVIES SHOULD BE.
This is a franchise that was obviously respected by the powers that be.
Now I have to hit you upside your head with a caveat before you start buying serious stock in Marky Mark and this rendition of a Playstation 2 game. The caveat is that this movie is completely predictable. There is a definite template that they are using, and they stay within the lines of the objects that they are coloring within. You have seen this story before. You won't be able to count how many times that you have seen this one before, and you will find yourself in the middle of a mind-set that you have explored for as long as you have been watching movies with drama, angst and guns.
Max Payne is a loner. His wife and kid were killed and something inside of him broke. The case went cold, and since he is a cop, he blames the system that he is working within. He is doing his own detective work on the side, still trying to put the whole thing together.
As he does all of his research that he is told not to do by every sane-looking person in his life, he gets closer and closer to the truth. This movie is tedious until this point. What we are all waiting for is the snap. When Max Payne finally snaps, it is a sight to behold. There is a moment when he is flat on his back, freezing with a bullet in his leg. There is one thing that he can do, and as a viewer, you really hope he reaches into the right pocket to do what he needs to do. And I will be damned if he doesn't do just what you are hoping he will do. This is when the bodies pile up and the effects take off. I am dancing around this because I don't want to spoil it.
In retrospect, the snappage that Max Payne goes through is on the PG-13 side, but it is satisfying. Slow motion bullets and snow blister your eyes, and in the end a sequel could come your way.
I have no idea why Max Payne was crucified by the critics. This is a video game movie, and it adheres to the rules like an anal-retentive librarian.
If you go into Max Payne expecting something new, you will be disappointed. If you go into it expecting a boiler-plate action film with bullet-ripping special effects, you are going to get one. On my most serious note, I have to wonder: What were they expecting? This is a good movie.
Yeah, I said it.
-Mediasaurus Rex

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

KILL SWITCH - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


Fortunately, I have totally dodged the Steven Seagal bullet. I mean a complete barrel-roll here, I have missed it all. I had a friend who always told me that I should watch some antagonist named "Screwface" in MARKED FOR DEATH. I never got it though. I put in some Youtube time and have learned recently that I missed nothing.
So when I heard that there was a straight to video Seagal movie in the mix, I went into it headlong.
You have to forgive a lot of things in KILL SWITCH. You have to forgive Seagal for being fat. You have to forgive Seagal for the lame plot. You also have to forgive him for the tacked on ending that makes no sense whatsoever. Forgiveness is also something you should consider when you listen to Seagal push a Cajun accent out of his overfed mouth.
The biggest thing that you will have to forgive is the editing of this film. In the opening scene, one of the two heavy antagonists in the film is Seagal-booted out of a window. We see this happen twelve times. It is editing overkill. Twelve is the magic number in this film. Twelve punches to the face is the standard. Of course, it is one punch, and it is replayed from every possible angle. Body shots don't matter as much, but if it is a face shot, there will be twelve hits/replays. Twelve is the magic number in this film. The first time I noticed this kind of editing was back during the Van Damage/Pyun cinematic masterpiece CYBORG. Double edits were employed to let us feel every punch two times. It must be noted that the film hails from 1987. Now we are more than 20 years past such a landmark and the best that a film like KILL SWITCH can offer is excess in the replay edit zone?
A lot is there to forgive, and a lot is there that is unforgivable. An example of this would be the films nonstop misogyny. Women are either killed or ridiculed in this film. Seagal, who wrote the screenplay, has no idea what to do with women. He knows that they need to be in the film somewhere, but outside of cannon fodder, creatures eager to hustle gratuitous nudity, targets for depraved sex-maniacs and ball-breaking Federal agents, he is at a loss.
The plot is a miasma of bad flashbacks and a new Zodiac killer. Straight up: I am not going to bother explaining it. Seagal sleepwalks through the role and there is no way that a man this fat can be as agile as he fronts. A lot of the fight scenes are so kinetic that there is no way to know who or what happened. The fight scenes are boring, and this is the unforgivable.
KILL SWITCH is the martial arts equivalent of a bad porno flick. The purpose of watching the action film is to see the fight scenes. Steven Seagal is not some Shakespearean actor, he is a tall, fat man who mumbles a lot but knows some fancy moves. The purpose of the film is to enjoy his brand of combat. Pornographic film is similar. These are not Shakespearean actors, these are people who will use their bodies as objects for the gratification of the audience. Plot and dialogue aren't the issues in a porno. The "action" is the issue. Now this is a crass parallel to draw, but it is fleshly accurate. If a movie starring Steven Seagal is basically a porn film with fight scenes rather than dirty sex, then this movie fails.
Another piece of this grand unforgivable failure is the dehumanizing of Seagal himself. I argue that every A-list male actor has had their ass kicked onscreen. This is a part of the humanizing of a male action star. It is also a part of the connection that an audience needs with an action star. If this connection is never made, then the actor in question will always be limited to acting in movies that are not "human" and thereby demoted to the realm of "silly." Steven Seagal has a reputation as an ass-kicking machine. What he needs is a movie where he gets his ass kicked, HARD. All of the other Hollywood leading men have taken such beatings. Daniel Craig, Mel Gibson, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Clint Eastwood, Nardo, and more have all taken this beating. They have all in turn moved up the ladder in Hollywood. Seagal hasn't (as far as I know) taken that beating yet. Until that point, he will be limited to straight to video silliness like this. Steven Seagal isn't willing to show any part of his humanity. Part of the currency in a good action film is to know that the protagonist can get dismantled. This is more than just a good shot to the face or tousled hair. A good protagonist in an action film has to experience real pain and the potential of losing. Seagal never steps into that realm. KILL SWITCH fails horribly because there is no way to remotely take it seriously.
This film is lousy all the way to its tacked on ending. I must have gotten lost in the edits somewhere. In the film, he seems to be living with this one female police officer and he has no time for her. Then at the end he has 2 kids and a french woman (wife?). I don't recall a reference to her earlier in the film and it seems to be tacked on so we can see the french woman's breast before Seagal shuts the door.
Let's all hope he keeps that door shut and doesn't come back out. I mean this with all sincerity: I can't take another Seagal movie.
-Mediasaurus Rex

Sunday, October 12, 2008

APPALOOSA - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW



For all of its bluster and good reviews, this is really a simple film.

This film is also a western. It also feels like a western, and has the dust, tumbleweeds and tobacco smoke to prove it. Every western cliche except a Gatling gun is displayed or referenced, and that is no exaggeration.

But then again, there is a lot that is left to talk about, and that is probably what the critics are lapping up.

APPALOOSA is quite simply the story of two manly men and the natural intimacy of their relationship. There is very little back story to explain this relationship. You have no way of knowing how long Virgil (Ed Harris) or Everett (Viggo Mortenson) have known each other. Ed Harris and Viggo Mortenson are acting HARD in this film, and the closeness is conveyed subtly. There are many moments when they are weighing in with each other on directions to proceed where all that is exchanged between them is a glance, and they act as if quite a bit was said verbally.

But the film is flawed on many, many levels. The most obvious is that of the chauvinistic, and we will get into that in a bit.

The film starts with a character named Bragg (Jeremy Irons) shooting a Marshall and his two deputies to death in cold blood. Bragg does this in front of all of his yes-men, and the plot is officially in place.

Virgil and Everett then come to town as guns for hire. They take the vacant Marshall and deputy opening and proceed to put bullets into people until they jail and secure a court date for Bragg.

There is a different problem that these two men have to work through though, and that is the person of Allison French (Renee Zellweger). Allison has shown up in Appaloosa with a dollar in her pocket and a coquettish look in her eye. Virgil is soon head over heels for this woman...but there is something about her, something wrong.

It is still hard to determine if it is Zellweger's acting or the flawed character she portrays, but every time Allison is onscreen, the mood is uncomfortable. Ed Harris in his direction of the film proceeds to hammer the viewer over the head with a lingering shot of a cougar at a crucial moment to let us know what kind of a Judas Allison really is.

It must be said that Ed Harris has been trying for years to ascend to the level of badass, and he has finally arrived. The alpha male moment where he stares down the posse of men outside of his jail and tells them who he will shoot first, second and third is powerful. He pushes his will forward, and the posse doesn't free Bragg which is what they came for. This is reminiscent of the same sort of chutzpah that Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch demonstrated in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, but with the teeth of a man who will take on the entire crowd, rather than stoically block the way.

Ed Harris' grizzled face, and Viggo's ridiculous facial hair become templates of the only real reason available in this film. They both speak little, but the words that they speak cut right through to the essence of the film. These are men who have seen it all, and know how to handle anything that comes their way. They know how to handle anything except a sophisticated headgame spun by a woman like Allison. While explaining to Everett how he is compromised as a gunfighter, Virgil says that "feelings get you killed," referencing a level of compromise in his own life that he is apparently unaware of. The feelings-free life that Virgil aspires to is the life that Everett appears to live. But, Everett isn't completely above his feelings either, and this brings about the death of the relationship.

The plot is basic and the camera lingers too long at points, pushing this film to a point where it is uncomfortably longwinded. Some of the scenery seems to be captured simply to be captured, rather than framed as a picture. Plotwise, it is a given that Irons' Bragg is sentenced to death, and of course he weasels out of it. On the sexist tip, the women in this film are clamoring for men to lead them, and have little power outside of their own sexuality. This film is a bleak yet weak capture of compromise, lies and whoring. The strength is in the relationship between Everett and Virgil, and this too, is tainted by the same three issues.

The relationship that Everett and Virgil have is a powerful one, and it is tested beyond normal boundaries. These two men demonstrate that in some ways, a woman cannot come between them, and in other ways she can.

Jeremy Irons plays sleaze the way he has for the bulk of his career. You want to see him take a bullet in his smug face. You want to see his manhood taken from him, and when your moment comes, it falls short. Lance Henriksen plays a co-starring role as a different gun for hire and does his part well. When the bullets fly, it is percussive and quick. This isn't a drawn out western with lots and lots of reloading. The players know how to shoot, and the bodies get dropped pronto. In some ways, this western feels different because of the conservation of ammo. There isn't a lack of tension however, the film has a undercurrent of potential brutality at all moments. Virgil is defined early on as a hothead, and the moment to see that hotheadedness put to use at a later point in the film is horribly wasted. No actor in this film is just dialing it in, but then again, they are all given too little to work with.

Another complaint is the rating of the film. This is the lightest R-Rated film I have seen in years. An extra f-bomb was awkwardly thrown into the script to secure this rating; this film is definitely a soft PG-13. Bullets don't WILD BUNCH through victims. There is a lack of the modern western splatter that we have all become accustomed to.

The simplicity of the plot is where this film stumbles. Another rewrite, and this could have been something to contend with a film like the UNFORGIVEN. Where it stands though, this is merely a film that is about a half a head taller than the rest of the films in the theatre today.

More of my musings can be found here.
Questions? Email me here

Friday, October 10, 2008

JOY RIDE 2: DEAD AHEAD - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


I worked in a mom and pop video store. I know trash. I have watched a great many B-movies hoping for a little bit of good within the garbage. Lots of times, this hope is rewarded. It is no secret that JOY RIDE 2: DEAD END is a straight to video B-movie with the "trash" moniker all over it. The unfortunate part of this is that the movie truly is trash. I was hoping that I would find some of the less repulsive aspects of this trash and present them to you. This film isn't just trash, it is a fast-food bowel movement.

For the record, the original JOY RIDE is a lot of fun. Paul Walker and Steve Zahn take a lot of pain from a trucker named Rusty Nail who they play a prank on. The movie is over the line and silly. A piece of the original fun was the fact that Ted Levine gave his voice to Rusty Nail in the original. For those of you who are unversed, Ted Levine has got a strange, nasally voice. Ted Levine was the Buffalo Bill killer in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. He also has a recurring stint on tv's MONK. The truth of the matter is that I watched this JOY RIDE 2 piece of trash with the hopes of hearing Levine's voice tormenting whomever it was on the other end of the CB radio.

Levine is a no-show.

The only strength of this movie is its dialogue. But the dialogue is even fouled at times by its own attempt to be hip and cutting edge. When one character yells "Rage against the machine motherf*cker!" at a passing, dust-kicking truck, this comes off about as flat as any junior high band tuning session. It grates. Rusty Nail has some good dialogue though. He should, because he is all mouth and very little physical presence. An example of this would be when he grabs a man and pulls his jaw off on the spot and quips, "Did you see his jaw hit the floor?"

The original JOY RIDE was comedic at times and very sedate in its violence. Yes, there was violence, but a lot of the tension was ratcheted up with offscreen deeds of carnage. This new version takes the viewer front and center to several acts of violence that are so over the top that they are hard to take seriously. I as a viewer was knocked into the position of wondering how the special effect took place more than a comprehension of the conveyed dirty deed.

The opening scene features Rusty Nail and his murdering of a "lot lizard" prostitute. The scene is heartless, sadistic and exploitative beyond most reason. Here is where I have to interject an interesting fact about Rusty Nail's character. There is something strangely wrong with his sexuality. This was apparent in the first JOY RIDE and it is brought home in this mediocre sequel. The first JOY RIDE featured Rusty killing a man in a hotel room that Paul Walker had sent him to. Rusty had expected a woman there, found a man and proceeded to kill the man with extreme viciousness. Then there is a scene where Rusty commands the two male protagonists to walk into a diner while naked and order hamburgers. This is all silliness and for the most part, harmless.

The characters in the original JOY RIDE were rather dim, but likable. Lelee Sobeiski was even in the mix. She was dim too, but in the end, I believe she lived. They all made it out. However, the threat of death was throughout the film, and there was a body count. This new one has two males and two females. The body count is high and one couple is eventually erased from the quotient.

The standard horror pattern is followed. The punk/outsider mouthy kid gets taken out, and so does his slutty girlfriend. It is rather touching that they met on MYSPACE and slightly before both going their separate eternal ways, they admit that neither is like who they seemed like online.

The good girl lives through it all, with minor damage taken. The worst she has to do is a strip tease in front of Rusty Nail's truck before learning that it wasn't Rusty Nail's truck, but a different sleazy trucker who complains that, "Your titties are too small anyways! I like them super-mongo jugs! Yeah you heard me! Circus boobs!" It is a disturbing, funny piece of dialogue, and it is about par for this movie's budget.

There is no logical reason to explain why these stupid kids get caught in Rusty's web. Their car breaks down on the side of the road and they find this abandoned (?) house. They set-up is completely TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but instead, the kids find 1971 Chevy Chevelle Hardtop. They leave a phone number and hit the road. Wouldn't you know that the house that they raided was Rusty Nail's? Wouldn't you know that he is all about vengeance, and that he will literally blow his sexy classic musclecar to bits to get his point across? Rusty Nail is a menace, but honestly, it would have been more interesting if he had managed to kill every one of these kids. The kids are expendable. The car is the only thing worth caring about here. The most painful scene in the film is the disrespect to the classic car, and not to these useless punk kids. This is horrible filmmaking.

Menacing ridiculousness ensues. Rusty demands Nik (Kyle Schmid) the "third-wave emo punk" to dress in drag and walk around a trucker outpost that looks like one of the camps in ROAD WARRIOR and ask for some crystal meth. Shades of some sort of strange rape haunt this scene with no payoff. Rusty grabs the kid and throws him into his truck during this passage. My only complaint is that they should have tried a little harder with the character development. When Nik reveals that all of his piercings and tattoos are fake, we need an explanation.

I suppose that the climax is when Rusty Nail has the two boys tied up, seated at a table playing a deranged game of craps. Rusty chainsmokes in the shadows and demands that they roll the dice. The pseudo goth kid rolls a five and Bobby the jock (Nick Zano) gets a tire jack to the kneecap. Then there is a roll of a four which means that the initials "RN" are branded into Bobby's chest and so on. The scene is overdone and hard to believe. Nik is crying and blubbering. His piercings are falling out and he is apolgizing for them being fake. Nik eventually takes a vertical rebar plunge to the skull and takes his fake tattoo and piercing secret to the grave.
What is the purpose of all of this mayhem? There is no real explanation. There is also no explanation as to how Rusty Nail survives a truck drop off of a cliff that is on par with the end of DUEL. It is a boring crash at the bottom too. They should have at least put some money up for the traditional demonic explosion, like say...the end of THE CAR.

I have nothing else to say. I have dealt with cinematic trash before, and this is definitely some of it. There is nothing special here, and believe me, I know how to find ingots of gold in a pile of feces. There is no gold here, this is the excreta of the uncreative. I am sorry I wasted my time.

More of my musings can be found here.
Questions? Email me here

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

GUITAR HERO AIR ROCKER GIVEAWAY


The Mediasaurs are going to have their first giveaway soon!
Continue going to http://www.mediasaurs.com/ to find out how you can get one of JADA TOYS' GUITAR HERO AIR ROCKERS for FREE!
Check in on our forums and read about the ideas that we are throwing around on the subject!
-MEDIASAURUS REX

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

MIRRORS WITH SPOILERS - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW



Expectations can make or break a film. Lately I have been exploring the dark side of expectations. I have been going into films that I know completely suck, and having a good time with them. THE BANK JOB is an example of this. There is no argument that THE BANK JOB sucked. I went in expecting suck, and was mildly surprised by it. I found the experience enjoyable. I tackled MIRRORS in a similar fashion. But sometimes, suck is suck, and there is no way to redeem the absolute suck that is present.

MIRRORS which made 29 million in the theatres is going to make probably just as much in its DVD release. How is it that this film was given this chance? FELON, starring Stephen Dorff, Val Kilmer and Sam Shepard is superior to MIRRORS on all fronts, yet it went straight to video. The movie distribution question will always puzzle me. The chances of stumbling across a movie like FELON in your travels are rather limited. The chance of stumbling across MIRRORS a few months ago was a FOREGONE CONCLUSION. I couldn’t escape the trailers and the advertising blitz. How does a movie like MIRRORS catch the big cinematic pass and other, superior films get stuck in the straight to video grind? This question plagued me all the way through my viewing of MIRRORS.

The key to watching MIRRORS is to remember that it got incredibly low ratings. Remember that the critics disemboweled this film and slathered its intestines across the road as a warning for all headed in that direction. With such a warning, and a careful step over the film’s dirt-covered spleen, you might have a good time with it. If you read this review in its entirety, you probably won’t.

The opening credits are mesmerizing as the New York cityscape is mirrored against itself in all sorts of different ways. It is beautiful. Then the story girds its loins and gives you a pretty uncomfortable, improbable, barely-adhering-to-the-plot neck slashing.

Next we meet Ben Carson (Keifer Sutherland), a grizzled ex-cop who is working through his alcoholism, job loss and a marriage separation. Ben gets a job guarding an old department store that was burned down (with a ridiculous body-count) and the story is underway.

The title of the movie is “MIRRORS,” so we all know that it is a matter of time before the mirrors start to act up, and they do. Lots of loud noises and quick edits make scenes that in and of themselves wouldn’t be frightworthy downright uncomfortable.

Soon, the evil in the mirrors contacts Ben Carson and sends him looking for someone named ESSEKER to solve its problem. Ben also notices that the Department store was built over an insane asylum that is still (with mirrors)intact. This is a blatant nod to POLTERGEIST. And if you know POLTERGEIST, then you know that the evil that has been built over needs to be assuaged. The rest of the film is geared in this direction.

The stupid-horror-film tics mount as Ben shoots his gun at mirrors in the department store and the holes close, but when he tries to do this in front of his wife and kids, the holes remain there, and Ben looks completely out of his mind.

Ben also has a habit of seeing reflections turn and say things to him while he is with other people. This is fine, but he does so much jumping and screaming, that the over the top recoil and then apologies afterward are downright stupid.

Ben’s sister gets attacked while doing her obligatory nude scene. It makes me question the value of Amy Smart as an actor. She had so much promise back in the early 90s when she was in STARSHIP TROOPERS for thirty seconds. The attack on Amy Smart has been done better and with less of a budget. Most recently, that method of killing was seen in HATCHET, and let me tell you, the HATCHET was much more memorable.

Ben’s estranged family starts taking strange mirror attacks as he gets closer and closer to the truth. The parallels between Ben’s son and the mirror creatures to Carol Anne in POLTERGEIST is so blatant that I probably shouldn’t type about it anymore.

If this evil entity in the mirror was actually observing Ben’s life, it would realize that the attacks on his wife and kids are counter productive. In the name of cheesy, over-budgeted CG horror, the assaults continue. Ben’s wife also suffers from serious continuity errors with wounds on her face that appear and disappear for no reason.

*SPOILERS FROM NOW ON*

Esseker is the name of a little girl with acute schizophrenia. She was committed to the madhouse under the department store that burned out. Through a series of quick edits that were done better and more skillfully in 13 GHOSTS we learn that her treatment worked. She was put into a room with mirrors for a period of time and the evil left her and jumped into the mirrors. Now that evil wants her back. Ben does some research and calls in some library favors and learns that all of the patients were killed and Esseker died in that mass murder. There is a dirty cat and mouse/red-herring plate served and soon we learn that Esseker isn’t dead! Esseker is now a super-nun at some monastery that has no mirrors! Ben has to bring her back to the department store by gunpoint to bring this painful third act to a close.

This third act is the most irritating of the whole film. Of course, the evil jumps back into the Esseker the nun, and of course she now has the power of a power lifter with a belly full of Red Bulls. Ben is thrown through wall after wall and pumps bullet after bullet into this muscled, EXORCIST-throwback nun. After explosions and the virtual collapse of all mirrors within a specific area of New York city, the battle ends. Esseker must be dead, though we don’t get to see her corpse. This leaves a seriously brain-damaged door open for MIRRORS2.

The last scene hearkens to better horror films. Ben steps into the light and looks at the police and rubberneckers. Then it dawns upon him that they can’t see him. As he looks about, he realizes that everything around him is opposite and backwards. He is actually in the mirror reality. Seriously, what does this mean? Ben is now in a mirror dimension? How does he get out? Is there an actual explanation to all of this? The ending is pretty, but broken. It is a nod to superior movies that recognize that the evil has won. I am reminded of just about any zombie movie I have seen in my lifetime. The MIRRORS ending is possibly worth the 90 or so minutes that you will suffer through. The ending will most likely fail for you though, because now that you are expecting this weak and contrived conclusion. I went in with no expectations and no spoilers. I can’t say the same for you though.

MIRRORS received horrible reviews across the board. Going in with the lowest expectations made this film slightly enjoyable. This is a film that had a budget. The FX are solid. The shots are good too. However, knowing the “lowest-expectations secret” damns you to an unenjoyable experience. The upshot is that I have taken the bullet for you. Don’t bother with MIRRORS, this is some of the worst crap on the market.

More of my musings can be found here.
Questions? Email me here

Monday, September 15, 2008

KICK-ASS 1-4



This isn't the type of comic book that I used to read as a kid.

The comics code insignia is nowhere to be found on the cover of this series. Good thing too, because the amount of blood, profanity and references to pornography would have really wrecked those people of old when were trying to get EC Comics in line last century.


John Romita Jr. is a comic book artist that I have been aware of my entire life. His contributions to THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN were apparent when I was a kid, because I totally remember his name. His father was also a heavy player in the Marvel Universe as well. I know that a lot of people were miffed when John Romita Sr. stepped in for Ditko wayyy back when, but that is ancient history.


The Spiderman stories of old are done with here. KICK-ASS is a brutal flip on the whole scene. It starts with a kid strapped to a chair much like the end of any number of issues that I recall with Spider-Man. Usually, Spider-Man was beaten into some sort of submission and chained/tied to a chair while barely conscious. The moment of truth was coming, the badguys were about to unmask him, and something always happened.


We don't know what is going to happen to Kick-Ass when he is in such a chair. Kick-Ass, the high school dork turned self-styled super-hero in in deep though. We do know that he has wires hooked to his testicles and he his being interrogated. This comic doesn't shy away from that which is winceworthy. A stream of urine dribbles from the chair that Kick-Ass is tied to. This is all we know because he now starts to monologue. He gives us his story, which by issue four is still unfolding.


Dave Lizewski (Kick-Ass) wants more, and he likes comic books. So from his completely media drenched reality of comic books, video games and Internet porn he makes himself a superhero suit and goes out at night to see whatever it is that superheroes see. He also sets up a training regimen and puts on a little weight by eating red meat and fish.


Winceworthy is a word I coined 2 paragraphs ago, and that sums up his Dave's first encounter with crime. He gets beaten, with a level of violence that is reminiscent of HEAVY METAL magazine, and then he gets stabbed. Stumbling with thick patches and fountains of blood drizzling from his ruined body, he steps in front of a moving car. The damages are completely over the top. Broken legs, a crushed spine and candidacy for a series of metal plates in his head is how issue one ends. Dave's broken body is left in a puddle of blood, positioned like a chalked out corpse.


I read this comic and truly considered the human body as a balloon merely keeping our life fluids in place. The beating that Dave takes in issue one is obviously setting up his return to the superhero stance where he cannot be beaten again. Dave is becoming something, and it is very interesting.


It must be noted at this point that KICK-ASS is being filmed as a movie right now. Nic Cage has a role in the film that I can't even determine at this point. This is where the viral magic of this comic book comes to life. The movie is being filmed with elements of the plot that haven't been released to the general public yet. Interesting. It is unfortunate that it is Nic Cage, because he is a complete and utter hack who destroys everything he reads and touches. But once again, I have hope for the hopelessly sullied actor.


Even more interesting is this viral film put out by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. to further whet our appetites:




This footage coincides with the fight that Dave/Kick-Ass gets into after he has healed up from his first beating.


With nonstop pop-culture references, viral marketing and a movie slated to drop next year, it is time for you to thank me for putting this concept in your head now. This is obviously something that people are going to be chattering about incessantly in about a year.


The comic continues. Dave was apparently found beaten without his suit on. He is initially happy that this happened because he doesn't want to have to explain to his loving, widower father what he was doing in a superhero suit, bleeding to death on the street. There is a backlash though, and the high school kids place a homosexual hustler template on Dave. Dave is constantly swaying from feeling completely cool as a vigilante super hero and at other times feeling like a complete outcast/loser/geek. His internal monologue (which is from his electroded testicle frame of mind) is raw and painful. He has a Kick-Ass Myspace page with thousands of friends while his own page has only 8.

He answers a woman's MySpace request to talk to her abusive ex-boyfriend. At the apartment in question, Dave is once again in too deep. This one seems to be the situation that will kill him. However, a masked ten-year-old girl with machetes shows up and proceeds to butcher everyone in the apartment. Kick-Ass is now possibly on the hook for five murders. He chases the girl to her partner, another masked man who tells Dave to f*ck off.


What does this mean? It implies that the Dave doesn't have a monopoly on the masked vigilante market. The masked little girl is a disturbing vision, a real foul-mouthed killing machine. Dropping not only f but c-bombs as she slashes her way through her life. She is being trained obviously to become something monstrous by this older masked man who allows her to hit the car compactor button after an interrogation which clouds a comic panel with blood and guts.
Kick-Ass is rough, hard and completely profane. Kick-Ass is also a lot of fun. This is comic book violence as over the top as possible without going in the direction of say...LOBO. The viral nature of this whole thing, and the concept that the story is fully in place and scripted are enough to get anyone with a thirst for pop-culture knowledge in a frenzy. This isn't the kind of comic I read as a kid, and thank God I am now an adult.



-Mediasaurus Rex





Sunday, September 14, 2008

BURN AFTER READING - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


BURN AFTER READING is a lot of fun. It is a comedy and it hits the comedic notes. This is a comedy that doesn't have Will Farrell or Ben Stiller written all over it. This thing is sophisticated. It is quirky. It is disturbing. It will also kick you out of the theater with a desire for more of these people and their ridiculous lives.


Summarizing this film is difficult. J.K. Simmons sums it up as one big clusterf*ck at the end of the film, and he is bang-on.


Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) is a CIA guy who has been demoted in his organization. He quits. He starts to write his memoirs. Through a chain of silly, mentally challenged events, his rough draft (on a CD) winds out in the hands of Chad (Brad Pitt) and Linda (Frances McDormand).


We know that Linda wants to have some serious cosmetic surgery to keep age at bay and to secure a decent man in her life. She has a plan, and it is going to take some money. Chad works with her at the gym, and he is just a happy-go-lucky guy who is out to have fun. Extorting some cash from Osbourne Cox is fun, and Chad is all over it. I have to tell you right now, that this is one of the dimmest roles Brad Pitt has ever done. He even had more brain cells as the boy toy in THELMA AND LOUISE.


Osbourne's wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton) is having an affair with this guy named Harry (George Clooney) and somehow through all of these characters, a lot of bed-swapping and general self-serving intentions, everyone is infected and bothered by the extortion plan of Chad and Linda.

The Coen brothers like their darkness, and this movie brings it to you. Things that are nice get snuffed out. Things that are dark and evil seem to prosper. Most interestingly is that a lot of effects and budget were spared by the constant updating of J.K. Simmons who is some high up CIA mucky-muck. Major parts of the plot are revealed in the Simmons briefings. The tool is a good one, because the briefings are funny and deflating at the same time. Simmons' reactions to the antics of these characters are basically what ours (the viewers) are. This is an interesting play on the whole presentation of the film.


In the end, this is a story about nothing. Nothing is something that the Coen Brothers like to look at and consider. THE BIG LEBOWSKI is an example of the nothingness that I speak of. In the end, all of the riddles are solved and perhaps (outside of the obligatory low body-count) no one outside of the directly affected characters will notice much of a difference in the rest of the world. All of the plot mechanisms, all of the dastardly deeds, all of the violence, it all folds neatly into a package that really doesn't matter and can be shelved somewhere. Most of the loose ends are tied up, and the CIA makes sure that there are no bodies to be found.


There will be deep scholarly examinations into the societal finger-wagging that the Coen brothers have done here. There will be a lot of studying of the dialogue and the nuances of the various characters. Oh yes, this film has "study me in film school" written all over it.


For matters of brevity, and quite honestly, because the film required multiple viewings, I am going to cite the one thing that is crystal clear about this film: The actors put in their work.


Malkovich is completely pissed off in just about every scene he is in. He has fury and pent up aggression mastered here. He drops f-bombs like he means them. His dialogue is hurled at everyone in his vicinity, and it is quite apparent that he wants this well-crafted profanity to penetrate and hurt. Malkovich is a machine.


Frances McDormand is heartbreaking as a simple woman living in complex times. Her inner spirit is gentle and longing. Her exterior is worn and her body language is perfect. She puts her heart on the screen for us, and it is a damaged, beautiful thing. Frances McDormand becomes the character Linda Litzke and it is impossible to look at her while she is onscreen and think of any other character she has ever played. This is not the woman from DARKMAN. This is far from FARGO. She has found this character and served her up raw.


Brad Pitt's Chad is mesmerizing. When he is onscreen, you have no choice but to stare at him. He has it all under control. His character is dim, and the part that he plays in the film is a stretch, but Pitt takes to this Chad character well. Almost too well. The crime is that there is not enough of an explanation of Chad and his inner-workings. This is only something that comes to you in retrospect, because while he is onscreen, he is slowly showing you bits and pieces of this concoction. Brad Pitt gives us Chad in every way you have seen in the ads for this film. He does it, and he is complete with it. Chad is a wonderful character, no one else could have done this.


George Clooney's Harry is so full of energy that he is literally twitching when onscreen. He is twitching and chewing the scenery and stealing every scene he is in. His gaze is so intense and his actions are so animated, that it is hard to recall that he usually stands around in nice suits and lounges through most of his films. Furthermore, this isn't the porker that you remember from SYRIANNA. This is a man who has ripped his body into some lean shape and is literally buzzing around your head like a zealous, fecal-happy fly.


There are others as well, and they all deliver their roles like champs.


Is it a good movie? Sure it is. It is fun. Will you survive the wait till it drops on DVD? Yes you will. It is a movie that requires multiple viewings. It will also leave you trying to piece together a sequel...something...anything just so you can see this machinery work together again.


More of my musings can be found here.
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METALLICA: DEATH MAGNETIC



Right out of the gate, I have to stress to you that if there ever was a Metallica fan at any time, I am that individual. I saw them open for Ozzy back when Burton was still alive. That should be enough background info on me for you to trust what I am about to put down here.

Next detail is this album cover. This is by far the stupidest album cover I have ever seen from these guys. It is stupid. It would be half-cool if this were a concept album, but that isn't what is going on here. Metallica doesn't have a message. The message that they are pushing with this stupid album cover art is...I have no idea.

Rick Rubin produced this. Rick Rubin knows how to produce good stuff.

Metallica used to be angry. The movie SOME KIND OF MONSTER explored their pitfalls with success and how weak and milquetoast they have become over the years. Personally, I dropped out by the time AND JUSTICE FOR ALL dropped. Why? They had promised me in multiple metal magazines like HIT PARADER that they would never film a rock video. But it was apparent that they were on the path to more and more cash. The street level wasn't enough for them. They needed to get pretty and commercialized. In my mind, they became a write off. I went elsewhere for my metal. I have always come back for a listen though. I have touched bases with one or two songs on each of their albums that they have dropped over the years. I have heard the weakness and the over-production for years. I have learned to hate Bob Rock. But the truth of the matter is that they are no longer angry.

SOME KIND OF MONSTER was a revelation to myself and everyone else how far Metallica has fallen from their original metal posturing. But what I saw in that film was a hunger to bring it all back. The ST. ANGER album was forgivable in the sense that they were becoming. They were arriving in the direction that seemed to be the promise of visitation to their roots. I listened to FRANTIC for about a week before I parked it.

And now DEATH MAGNETIC is here. It has all of the strength and hope of an earlier album, but then it is missing something too. It is strong. There are crunches and levels of speed that I am sure these guys really had to work at to bring to the table. There is a groovy instrumental called SUICIDE and REDEMPTION that is supposed to remind us of the glory days of ORION or CALL OF KTHULU, but it is missing somewhere.

The problem with this band this time around is a big one. It is the center of the Metallica universe. It is what seems to have been the problem for quite some time. It is also a problem because it is actually a person. That person is James Hetfield.

James Hetfield doesn't have it anymore. His voice seems to be all treble and no bass. He barks out his lyrics in THAT WAS JUST YOUR LIFE fast and welded together. Every syllable links to the next, and there is no way to really understand what he is saying. This is similar to the delivery on RIDE THE LIGHTNING'S FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE. However, Hetfield isn't delivering as strong. His voice has wimped in some way. Perhaps it was all of those singing lessons he took in order to make pop-crap like ENTER SANDMAN, but whatever the case is, the man sings like his throat hasn't quite figured out that he is a castrati yet.

James Hetfield has lost his balls. It isn't just in his delivery, it is also in his songwriting skills.

Metallica misses most heinously with their lack of anger. Granted, they haven't just stepped back and wimped completely out like HELMET did, but they are well on their way. The guitars are heavy, and delivered like the speed metal chugga chugga you remember. The lyrics are a little more thought out than they have been, but they are still choking on cornball like the line, "Love is a four letter word" from THE DAY THAT NEVER COMES. These are some musicians on the career track. They have nothing to say.

ALL NIGHTMARE LONG has a solid crunch to it. It starts off faking you out and making you think that it is going to be some sort of ballad, and then hits the double-bass pace. It is frenetic and it really sounds like it is going to deliver. Then Hetfield opens his mouth and the song is completely discounted. "Luck...runs...out." Hetfield is seriously the worst thing that happens again and again and again. This is unfortunate, because Hetfield is going nowhere.

MY APOCALYPSE is the only song with Hetfield singing on it that I am actually going to load onto my MP3 player. I am also going to load up SUICIDE AND REDEMPTION, but the rest of this album just isn't there.

BROKEN BEAT AND SCARRED starts with a little bit of funky guitar work. But the hook that they are swinging with was done better by Living Colour with CULT OF PERSONALITY. I have to hand it to Metallica on the time changes though. They change up like none other. These are some accomplished musicians. But is it enough to make them relevant? I say no.

THE UNFORGIVEN III is painful. It starts with strings and a piano riff. I suppose this is to make anyone who bought into Metallica's foray into classical with that S&M trash feel like they are a part of the show. This isn't up to the standards of the original UNFORGIVEN which was more like the howl of a person who realizes that all is completely lost. This isn't up to the standards of the UNFORGIVEN II which was amusing because Mary Ann Faithful came in with some seriously croned out "la-la-las" at the end. This is a song that should have been saved for a b-sides and other forgettable trash album.

THE JUDAS KISS is amusing, but it bogs down in its own complexity. Perhaps after twelve listens to this, I will find something memorable about it, but as I listen to it for the 5th time while typing this, it seems, "stock." I say "stock" because that is how Metallica referred to their music that wasn't cutting it in SOME KIND OF MONSTER. This is a stock piece of music. So bland is this piece of metal that it is hard to find where to nod your head in standard music appreciation. It is all over the place and it needs a re-write.

Lars is on the job on this album, crashing away randomly as he always has. He has also straightened out his little snare-drum issue he had on the last album and simply dug himself in as a guy who knows how to pound the skins. Lars delivers.

Kirk Hammet brings signature riff after signature riff to the table. I have always liked Kirk Hammet. Yes, he is a hired gun, but he puts in work. When it is time to put in work, this guy is making sounds with his guitar that simply don't sound possible. He knows how to bring the speed and he knows how to slow it down and bring a strong crunch.

Robert Trujillo is there. I love this guy. He brings the bass when they let him. It seems that he has been tuned out though. He is prominent in THE DAY THAT NEVER COMES. It is too bad that Hetfield is too busy ruining this song with his heartfelt, ball-less singing. Trujillo is the best thing that has happened to Metallica in decades, and they are sitting on him, and holding him down. Trujillo has a moment at the beginning of ALL NIGHTMARE LONG as well, but then he gets mixed out once the American Metal Pedal gets stomped. The only song that Trujillo gets to hold it all the way down in is the limp-wristed UNFORGIVEN III. In all honesty, I got onto this album to hear Trujillo bring it the way I know he can. All I can say is that Metallica have a leash on this guy and they are choking him out. It is too bad, because Robert Trujillo could really do something for these guys and they aren't letting him.

Rick Rubin produced this. Rick Rubin knows how to produce good stuff. If Rick Rubin hadn't produced it, this album would safely be defined as "sucky." I truly believe that it is Rubin's work on the boards that has made the bulk of this album above banal.

Am I a victim of high expectations? I don't think so. Metallica has been sprinkling sugar on their crap and calling it good metal for years. I was hoping for a step away from their radio-friendly trash that they have been doing. But I should have qualified that hope with the fact that it shouldn't be a mere two clicks above mediocre either.

-Mediasaurus Rex

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

FIDO - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


Fido is a film from 2006 that got past the bulk of us, including me. It is a zombie film that pushes all boundaries yet remains strangely sweet until the end.

Set in what seems to be the post apocalyptic 1950s, the viewer is forced to accept a GRIP of improbability before they can enter the storyline.

Apparently there was a big zombie war. After learning to shoot zombies in the head, scientists later learned how to make zombies into menservants. This is all through the use of a collar that is placed on a zombie's neck. If the red light is on, the zombie is open to taking orders and serving their master. If the light turns green, then run for cover, because the master just became the dinner.

Obviously, this fickle level of zombie security goes haywire regularly. This is a complete failure within the script. It is an easy out for the writers (there were 3 of them) to move the plot along. Collar malfunctions and the beating on of collars or just the yanking off of collars becomes the main way to propel the plot.

The story is about Helen Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss) and her desire to fit into her neighborhood. So she gets a zombie as a manservant. Her husband (Dylan Baker) is completely detached and living in a zombie-inspired, golf-medicated fantasyland. Her son Timmy, is lonely and neglected. He latches onto the zombie whom he names Fido, and the adventures begin.

The adventures basically lead to an indictment of corporate America. Along the way however, we are treated to a concept of sweet (is that even possible?) necrophilia. We see a kid get shot, and we know that another kid is being killed by a zombie based on his screams. We are also treated to a series of splatteriffic headshots, dismemberment and traditional zombie cannibalism.

How are such levels of gore and shocking material conveyed with such a gentleness? It all has to do with Timmy's relationship with Fido. We have to accept that the world that Timmy lives in is a violent one. Timmy has had to process an apocalypse and the concept of the dead coming to life. So when he is out with his class shooting at targets and being coached to aim for the head, the audience is lulled. This is LEAVE IT TO BEAVER with zombies in the background.

I am hard pressed to recall if there is any profanity in this film.

In the end, as I mentioned, it is a corporate America takedown. It isn't bad, and it isn't good. What the film IS however, is completely hypnotic. The old cars, the pastels and the array of beautiful clothes that Carrie-Anne Moss wears all symbolize a part of America's past that is gone. This part of our history seems unscathed, even with a completely horrible zombie template.

In the end, necrophilia seems OK, especially when feelings and love are present. The necrophiliac theme (as hinted at by the above poster) is so sugar-coated, that it took awhile for me to determine the abomination taking place. It wasn't as simple as any number of zombie pulp short stories that I have read. Sex with the dead is still sex with the dead, no matter how animated and "into it" that corpse might be.

Fido is a diversion. It is a conversation starter. I suppose it could also be a conversation finisher. It is light, and should be treated as such.

More of my musings can be found here.
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BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


Yes, this is a film from last year, but it deserves a slight review.

How old is Sidney Lumet? Here is a hint: OLD. Now when I reach my second childhood, I hope that my product is a little more gentle than this film. I would like to die known as a gentle soul. Lumet has made it clear with this film that he is not a gentle soul, but he is one of the profane, the vulgar and the perverse. I went through this film a second time recently just to make sure it was what I thought it was, and yes, it is. This is one of the most mean-spirited films I have ever watched.

In brief, Andy and Hank are brothers. Andy is Philip Seymour Hoffman and Hank is Ethan Hawke. They both have money problems. Andy's is from embezzlement and an apparently out of control heroin addiction. Hank's is a divorce and an expensive school for his daughter.

Andy hatches a plan to rob a jewelry store. The problem with this plan (which is what I needed the second viewing for) is that it is their' parent's jewelry store. The second viewing showed me just how ON IT Philip Seymour Hoffman is as an actor. The deal is that he isn't letting Hank in on the owners of the shop until he has Hank on board. With Hank on board, it is mesmerising to watch Hoffman dodge and duck his way out of getting his hands dirty with this at all. The entire onus is on Hank. Hank follows suit and proceeds to foul the job up beyond all levels of foulness.

If this isn't dirty enough, there is Gina Hanson (Marisa Tomei) who is Andy's wife. However, she is having an affair with Hank. She spends a lot of time in the bedroom in this film. She spends a lot of time in various stages of undress. It is unfortunate. Marisa has acting chops, but Lumet was worried more about her breasts I think. Her character is a catalyst, but ultimately, she is naked window dressing.

Rounding these heavy players out are Albert Finney as the father of the Hansons, Rosemary Harris (Spiderman's Aunt May) as the mother and Amy Ryan (from the Wire) as Hank's ex.

It is no secret that everything goes totally wrong in this film. Sideways. The robbery is botched, and fingers are pointed and the stress is ratcheted over the top.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is devastating as a man under ridiculous pressure. The pressure that is on him is compounded, and split and then compounded again. He is ultimately left with a few choices to get out of his situation. He is so destructive in his methods that suicide seems to be the option that will be plucked. The direction that Philip Seymour Hoffman takes is one that is much more street. He goes headlong into the problem and solves it with brute force and bullets.

This is a film about failure. Failure of family. Failure of business. Failure of marriage. Failure of the police. Failure of escapism. Failure of remorse. Failure of crime. Everything good and bad fails in this movie heinously. The success is the movie itself. However, as I cited already, this is one bitter, mean-spirited film. I can't even determine what mood you should be in when watching this. if you are bummed out, this will make you even more bummed out. If you are happy, then this film will be your buzzkill.

But it is acted and scripted like a serious work of art. When Philip Seymour Hoffman's Andy realizes that his wife has been cheating on him with his brother, he goes through the motions. He goes through the motions of a broken man. He tosses the furniture and he pours a bowl of pebbles onto a glass coffee table. So slowly and half-heartedly is his destruction of his domicile that I was reminded of Steve Buscemi's missed strike in THE BIG LEBOWSKI right before he has a heart attack in front of the nihilists. Andy's motions prior to the house-toss were precise and done with purpose. Andy has lost all hope at this point. He is ready to survive, but half of him is dead. Hence the title. Andy becomes a dead man walking. He is in hell, and he is going to take everyone with him.

Do I suggest that you watch this movie? Perhaps for art's sake. Other than that, I would warn you to stay away. This is a rough, rough ride. And Sidney Lumet? That man is well on his way to hell too for foisting such an ugly view of life upon us.


More of my musings can be found here.
Questions? Email me here

Saturday, August 30, 2008

CLONE WARS: THE FANBOY KILLER - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW





Finally, after much side-stepping and smack talking, I have seen the new CLONE WARS movie.


It is, with excruciating, painful reality, every bit as horrible as all of the negative press out there says it is.


Truly, this is a film that was custom made to viciously assault the loins of every last Star Wars fanboy still hanging on since the prequel trilogy.


This being said, and my being one of the aforementioned fanboys, I girded my loins with steel and went into this bastard addition into the SW universe with a specific mission: FIND SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT IT.


I have to give it to Harry Knowles right out of the gate. He said that the soundtrack was not entirely John Williams, and that was detrimental. He was right. There are battle scenes that don't need cute drum beats, but the standard blast of horns that Williams has been delivering for decades.


The characters were off too. Samuel Jackson's voice was actually lent to the project, but as I watched and listened, he sounded completely subdued. It wasn't the Jackson delivery that we all know. Yes, his part in the film was simply that of a delivery system for a plot point, but he sounded completely bored out of his Windu head. The Anakin looked nothing like Hayden Christensen. The Obi-Wan did that stupid "two fingers forward, lightsabre back" pose that we all learned to hate in Episode 3. But the worst, absolutely most annoying thing to ever hit the Star Wars universe by far was the introduction of Anakin's Padawan, Ahsoka Tano. So irritating was the patter between Anakin and this pixie with a painted face that I had to stop myself from yelling back at the screen for her to shut up. The patter between Anakin and his Padawan was the same old cutesy Star Wars patter with no real point. It was a bunch of I told you so mixed with obvious musings regarding the surroundings. This is the part of the movie that I stamp FAIL on and hammer the back of the stamp with a brick for emphasis. It is such a horrible part of the film that it knocks the legs out from under it, and leaves it struggling on bloody, broken stumps trying to stand.


The battle scenes are epic. It is nothing short of money. Money money money. This film oozes with battle sequences that are dizzying and worthy of the Star Wars canon. The problem with such grand battle sequences isn't the sequences at all, it is that they are completely CG. There is a discount that comes with this film because of its complete CG nature. People walk and talk funny. Physics are strained and can be strained because everything in the tapestry is malleable. This universe HAD to have its battle sequences in order. There was no excuse. This HAD to work. however, it isn't the Star Wars universe that we know. The people are not the people we know...the feel, texture and look of things are off slightly. There is never the free moment to detach into this film. I posit that the CG presents itself as a bad translator of whatever the Star Wars universe was supposed to be this time around. The CG is the trickster, and the trickster has been programmed by some people who were off the mark. This makes the entire film a sort of chore, visually. This being said, I must reiterate that the battle sequences are spot-on. Whether it is outer space, or heavy cannon-fire, it works.


There are things about this universe that obviously show some care and dedication to the Star Wars craft however. There is a medical droid. There are IG-88s in Ziro the Hutt's hangout. There is the Cantina Band once again. Unfortunately, the music that they are playing isn't remotely catchy. There are bantha bones in the sand. The Jawas are pesky. There is a "death star droid" who actually talks and plays a few headgames. A crash landing by Anakin on Tatooine references the (superior) crash landing in Episode III. No one could have done Christopher Lee's voice for Dooku, and I hope that he was paid handsomely, because he delivers. C3P0 and R2D2 are there, and proving to be more and more useless with every new layer placed on the original Star Wars template. The different hairstyles of the clone troopers is amusing too. The stupid banter between the "roger roger" robots has been taken to a new level of retardation however. The hints at this being a spectacular film are all in place, but there is no foundation for them to grip and flourish under the two suns of Tatooine.


Now I have to confess to you something that happened to me whilst watching this film. I fell headlong into a lustful fit over the evil Sith woman, Asajj Ventress. There is something about her vampiric skin-tone and shaved head that drew me in. She looks like she is in her 70s in earth years, but holy nerf-herders, what a woman. She exudes power. She struts with two light sabres and cuts through steel in ways that make Qui-Gon look like a sissy punk. She is a mesmerizing character, and I only wish that there had been more of her onscreen.


However, with every good turn, there was an equally bad turn in character choices for this film. Now I must address Ziro the Hutt.




Ziro the Hutt was even more offensive than I had heard. CHUD.COM even referred to this character as "Homo the Hutt." In my searching for a picture for this blog, I came across the CHUD article, and saw that I wasn't alone in my assessment of this creature. Ziro the Hutt is fey beyond words. Ziro the Hutt also has a southern accent. This leaves anyone who has paid attention to Truman Capote in the past bit with a bad taste in their mouth. Ziro emulates Truman Capote in such an offensive way, that I was forced to master the accent on the drive away from the theatre. It was so obvious and so blatant a stereotypical homophobic mockery that I am really at a loss for words. The only thing that I can think of is that (and I hate even bringing this up) as Lando was the bad black man of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, he redeemed himself. Later for his prequels, Lucas introduced PANAKA and MACE WINDU as black characters who were actually good. I can only hope that Lucasfilm is going to swing the balance back and bring in some less stereotypical homosexual characters in the future. What a mess this aspect of the story was. Completely unnecessary, and built to offend or at least question. I am still aghast.

The bottom line? This movie is the worst of all Star Wars big-screen attempts. The absolute worst. It would have been better served as shown on the Cartoon Network before the inevitable upcoming Star Wars cartoon show. I went in braced with all of the hatred of the reviews that I had read beforehand. I went in after hearing some of the worst word-of-mouth about a film in a long time. I went in looking for the good of it all, and I did find some things to hang onto. I found them, but they aren't worth much. I hope that this is the end of it. I still like the Star Wars universe, but continual dilution of it with stuff like this is the kind of thing that will brings me to fear that they will continue in this craptastic direction. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.

More of my musings can be found here.
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WEEZER: THE RED ALBUM


So the newest Weezer album Weezer, a.k.a. The Red Album, has dropped down on my iPod. This is classic Weezer at it’s finest starting at the album cover. For the third time they have another self-entitled album with a picture of them on the front with a solid color backdrop; if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, right?

Red opens up with the single Troublemaker. When I first heard this song I said to myself, “Oh, new theme song.” Its clever lyrics will make anyone that caused their 8th grade math teacher half the trouble I did filled with nostalgia and bliss. My new theme song was slain by the next track on The Red Album and Weezer’s masterpiece, The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn). This song ranges 10 musical styles with some of Weezer’s best lyrics and music. This song is Weezer’s Bohemian Rhapsody; it’s just that good.

Now we’re on to the third track and the first song/single released from The Red Album, Pork and Beans. This song is catchy but is also the classic Weezer problem; their label always “wants” them to record more-commercial material. This is a good song but it’s not quite the geek rock I love from these guys. It feels like it belongs more with a slightly rebellious stereotypical cheerleader than a good D&D sess with my friends and I as we awkwardly talk about girls. The music video is cool and makes a bunch of Internet references about anything that could be seen on youtube. Next up is Heart Songs, sensitive guitar guys rejoice, this one’s for you. This is a pleasant song making references to songs and or records and the musician that wrote them that influenced Weezer front man Rivers Cumo. Kudos Cumo on the pretty song, but I feel like this one would have been better left for you playing for some girl you trying to swoon or a bonus track. Halfway through the first half of the album we’re treated with Everybody Get Dangerous. It’s good but not incredibly brilliant, feels like a story toppers jam. It reminds me of Darkwing Duck whenever I listen to it, “Let’s get dangerous!” To start the later half of the album we have Dreamin’. I love this song a lot. It’s a classic movie montage song at it’s finest. I catch myself singing it down the street and as I write this. Catchy simple lyrics will have everyone you know singing along soon enough.

Thought I Knew is a reworking and re-recording of a song from Brian Bell’s side band, The Relationship, that he also takes up the mic for lead vocals. This is a great example of Weezer’s instrumental and vocal switching and a fun song that anyone who’s gone through a bad break up can understand. Cold Dark World is the turn on the album like all the other Weezer albums where it takes a more mellow twist. This is a song for my fellow shoulder to cry on guys, pick up a guitar and win her heart with this one.

Automatic is the second to last song and is rather interesting. It doesn’t sound too much like Weezer but their vibe can be felt throughout. To finish out the album we’re given The Angel and The One. Much like all other Weezer album enders it’s softer than most of the album and slightly a ballad. It’s a track that relaxes and makes you think of that special someone. This is a great way to end this journey and fully reminds me of why I listen to this band and love them.

The Red Album is great with more of a personal feel from the band. Every band member steps up to lead vocals not to mention instrument switching and it’s refreshing for those old time Weezer fans. Perhaps this album is not for the first time Weezer listener, I’d prescribe Pinkerton for those cats. It does deserve a listen though. There’s some real great songs here that belong on the best mix CD’s. I think Cumo put it perfectly in Troublemaker, “I'm a troublemaker, never been a faker Doin' things my own way and never giving up.” Keep it up Weezer, we’re all listening and waiting.


-Tully Gibney

Thursday, August 28, 2008

DEATH RACE - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW

Let me start off by telling you that there is no way to gauge how hyped I was for this film. This is a review about the value of camp. This is a review that gives you part of my life's essence. This is a review about the truth and about the effect of film and how it shapes a man into the type of deranged cinephile that I have become.

TWENTY-FIVE OR MORE YEARS AGO I spent the night at my friend Chris Lemon's house. On that fateful evening, we watched DEATH RACE 2000. It is a mean-spirited little movie about the future and a bunch of fiberglassed silly-cars plowing their way across the land hitting everything bi-ped in sight. Bonus points are for old people and babies. It is a twisted vision couched in profanity, boobs and lots and lots of 70s splatter. There is a pre-muscled Stallone in there. There is a stoic Carradine in there. I had never seen such a crass thing, and it took me weeks to process the assault.

A few years ago, I picked up DEATH RACE 2000 on VHS and began the mastery. The bottom line is that it is a mediocre film all the way across. The upshot is that it knows it is mediocre and it plays that mediocrity to the hilt. It goes slapstick. It is silly. It is mean. It has nothing really positive to say. It is just there, for giggles and juvenile snorts. DEATH RACE 2000 is a piece of crap is what I am trying to say here. There is no reason for anyone to seriously watch this film, unless they are hopelessly nostalgic, as I am.

And now we come to the 2008 re-imagining of DEATH RACE. Right out of the gate, I have to cite a few things. I LIKE Jason Statham. I think this guy is where it is at. Forget Kung-Fu, this guy is a brawler. In all of his movies, he does a pretty good job of beating people into submission with his fists. I don't remember the plot for THE BANK JOB but I do remember Statham WRECKING FOOLS in that movie. The man is formidable, and that is half of my ticket sale right there. Here is another thing: I like Joan Allen. I do. She is this frail looking creature, but you know she is spunky and vicious when she needs to be. Lastly, I like cars. I like them big, loud, fast and violent. DEATH RACE was tailor made for my ilk.

DEATH RACE is a BLAST. It is some of the best fun I have had in a theatre in a long time. I was rolling with other Mediasaurs, so that was cool; but the hype was in the air, and it was kinetic.

The plot is really rather simple, suitable for a movie about a DEATH RACE. This guy gets framed, yanked into prison, forced to race and then there is a sub-plot about his attempt to escape. But then the movie takes it too far and tacks on elements of serious film. A serious film has a protagonist with emotions. A serious film has a guy with real-time odds he has to deal with. But these are out of place in DEATH RACE to begin with. Furthermore, they are never integrated in a convincing way. The half-assed realism bookends the movie.

What needed to happen was a complete disconnect from all semblance of reality. They needed to go headlong into this ridiculous, violent world and stretch it all. DEATH RACE never reaches out, grabs the brass ring and assumes the 100% reality-stretch position. They did a good job of stretching big parts of the reality, but the whole tapestry needed to be worked over. All of the scenes in prison, all of the car races, all of the violence, death, explosions, tobacco smoke and splatter are part of the reality-stretch. Anything that happens outside of the prison are attempts at some so-called "real-reality." This is a mistake on Paul W.S. Anderson's part.

Paul W.S. Anderson is a hack by the way. EVENT HORIZON and RESIDENT EVIL are the movies that come to mind when I think of this clown prince of Hollywood. The mad ass-hatter. I want to hate him because he screws up time and time again. This time though, I have to say that he pulled in at about 89%. The original DEATH RACE 2000 ended with a final fatality--the news guy. This DEATH RACE ends with a strange Zihuatanejo/SHAWSHANK vibe in a wrecking yard with Tyrese, Statham, Statham's baby and a shimmying Natalie Martinez. It falls completely short. The stuff that got you there did not, however.

DEATH RACE is socially conscious. All of the races are broadcast online in their crimson glory. The roads are mapped out like video game tracks with power-ups. I am amazed that DEATH RACE isn't on the PS2 or 3 as I write this. That movie had "video game" written all over it.

DEATH RACE is completely sexist. The women aren't racing in this. no, they are bussed in from a nearby women's facility. The camera ogles them and that is all they are there for. It is only obvious that Joan Allen had to be the HBIC in this movie, or else the issue that I just brought up would have sunk the film completely.

DEATH RACE is violent, but not over the line. There is a line in R-rated movies. mainstream Hollywood movies know that line, B-movies do not. DEATH RACE maintains the the A-movie violence line. The violence is processed, clean and edited perfectly. There are no lingering guts on the walls and no chunks of brain on the dashboard.

DEATH RACE is frenetic. The racing passages are awe inspiring. The speed communicated by these heavy metal killing machines is really convincing. The bullets flying and the slow motion shots of cars whizzing by as spent shells hit the ground is dizzying. All sorts of things regarding motion are captured on film and it works.

DEATH RACE is predictable. You know who is going to get hit. You know who is going to get hit hard, and who is just going to be a passing casualty.

The bottom line? DEATH RACE is FUN. Hang your brain at the door. Go into this thing looking for eye candy, violence and some wicked one-liners, and you are set. If you go in trying to analyze this thing as a serious film as the rest of the critics have, you are going to dislike it. This isn't a serious movie. And when it tries to be serious, it fails. Perhaps one more rewrite and we could have had campiness all the way through. We were almost there though.

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