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.
Questions? Email me here

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.

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

Saturday, August 16, 2008

LOST BOYS 2 - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


There has been a lot of negative press on the Internet about this movie.


Every site that I go to that has a review on it rips it to shreds. They say it is stupid. They say it is contrived. They say it is a waste of time. They are disappointed in how the film turned out. They rail against Cory Feldman and Angus Sutherland.


I am here to set the record straight.


Lost Boys 2 The Tribe is a horrible film. It is ruined on almost all points. But what needs to be said here at the beginning of this review is that the original Lost Boys is too, a sucky movie.


People have their reasons for loving the Lost Boys. I have mine. It is fun. I was raised near "Santa Carla," and I know that area well. It is also set in the height of the 80s. Metal was in. Long hair was in. These vampires just looked too cool. Corey Haim and Corey Feldman were over the top, and it was a great way to have a few laughs and kill some time. Sure Jason Patric, Dianne Weist and Keifer Sutherland have all gone on to do better things, but originally, the movie was just some silly fun.


I posit that this movie is more of the same. It is stupid, silly fun for the next generation.


I had a blast watching this movie.


Initially, it seemed that the movie was taking itself too seriously, but when I saw a portly, shirtless man playing his saxophone, I knew I was in the right place.


This movie mocks itself, and mocks everything else around it. You know that these vampires are just punk kids, as you knew in the first one. In this one, the juvenile vampires like to disembowel each other for laughs. With guts hanging out at a party, one vampire yells that he could have gotten laid if this didn't happen. This is just as silly as the vampire punks walking into the video store on the Boardwalk and telling the girl at the counter that they are just there for "one thing."


Whatever to all of that.


When Corey Feldman takes the screen, it is over. He is still using the same overly-deep voice that he was using in the first one, except now he is almost 40 years old.


How can you not like this concept? The Frog Brothers are still in the game! Actually, the other brother is AWOL (Lost Boys 3?). But think of Edgar Frog on the Boardwalk in Santa Carla, and then moving into a trailer outside of some surf community in SOCAL with garlic and crucifixes all over. Think Edgar Frog still strapped in the 80s and you are there. He is still reading comics and still ready to kill anyone at the sign of vampiric activity.


That is all I need to tell you.


Lost Boys 1 sucked.


Lost Boys 2 sucks.


If you liked part 1, you shouldn't have a problem getting into part 2. It hits all of the same notes. The language is a little rougher, but it is the same thing. The sexual energy in this film is ramped up, but the obligatory sex scene is PG rated. Pop culture references are still intact, as they were on Corey Haim's wall. When Chris (the protagonist) forcibly leaves a "vampire party," one of the vampires yells at him to, "Stay the hell out of Malibu, Lebowski!" Also, the opening showdown with Tom Savini is there for people who are really in the know.


Corey Feldman should get an academy award for this thing. He is an actor mocking himself, and he knows he is doing just that. There is a trickster power in this that cannot be denied.


Overprotective siblings and out of touch elders are explored here as well. So are mild crushes and motorcycles. The only strikes against this film are budget constraints and the straight to DVD thing. I would posit however that every special effect in this film is as good if not better than the original.


Some people are complaining about Angus Sutherland and the way he speaks his lines. I would counter that his step-brother Keifer wasn't anything special in the first one. I distinctly recall him yelling the horribly written, "You're dead meat!" Bad lines or bad delivery? The point is still the same: There is a pretty boy vampire with a point he is trying to get across.


Take your serious hat off and enjoy this film. It shouldn't be hard, because your serious hat was off when you enjoyed the 1987 episode.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Clone Wars

Star Wars Clone Wars.
Does anyone give a rip? This Mediasaur is trying to find it within himself to care about another Star Wars. This is also a Mediasaur that defended Episodes 1-3 in the face of multiple Tyranosaurus/Mediasaur hybrids.

Jabba's son has been kidnapped?

Everyone looks like they took an anime pill?

The Mediasaurs want faith, but their lack of faith is disturbing at this point. Perhaps you can help the Mediasaurs to see the light? The Mediasaurs were even at the Toys R Us SW figure release on Friday the 25th of July. Still not feeling it. We did go and see how many people put their free General Greivous figures on EBAY though. RIDICULOUS. Help us to have faith in this mess.

Here is the thing: Star Wars is over. I wrestle with this absolute fact every time a new Star Wars franchise is unlocked, but the fact remains. The films, the six movies are canon. Everything past those films is a nonsensical addition or money grab. Every Timothy Zahn book doesn't count. Every episode of Droids or Ewoks do not count. The Cute little Clone Wars cartoon series that was horribly animated for the Cartoon Network does not count. If it is too crappy, Lucas steps in himself and tells you things like, "The Holiday Special does not count."

Why am I so gung-ho to delete these mediocre offerings from the Star Wars universe? How can I just step in here as a Mediasaur and kick days of footage and thousands of years of so called history to the curb? The answer is simple: There is no point to all of that crap.

The big-screen movies are canon. Furthermore, they come with roman numerals before them so you know what order they are supposed to be watched in. One should be allowed to power through those movies and feel that they have completed something. They have completed something. The story is done. I personally have powered my way through those movies more times than is really necessary in one lifetime. I know my Star Wars well. So why, when I went to Toys R Us to see the new toys revealed at midnight on July 25th did I feel like such a noob? Why, as I stood in line with one child per every ten forty year old men (I had a child with me by the way) did I feel so out of place? Why, when a bunch of dorks broke out in an all out war about individuals like Darth Cereal, Darth Peppercorn and Lord Bungeecord did I have no idea who they were talking about? I'll tell you why: having exhausted the main STORY, the franchise has nowhere to go. Now they are about doing just a little more than SELLING PRODUCT. I originally watched these movies because I liked them. Not because I was going to run to the store afterward to buy some toys made by Lego and Hasbro. This means Marketing.

In order to sell people stuff that they have no real need for, you have to cultivate consumers. The dorks at this TRU release were typical of the target population--geeks who care about the superficial aspects as facts that they can master and then argue about with other geeks. These people are ripe for all of the new, pointless Star Wars trash that is coming out. I had no idea what they were talking about because I could give a rip

The six movies are plenty.

Now, some smart individual is going to state to me that this new CG Clone Wars movie that drops this month should be counted as canon because it is on the big screen. I say that you sir, are wrong. I do not expect this movie to move me, and this is why: Are we getting episode II.5? No, we are getting a computer generated cartoon.

Listen: if you see a real actor in a laser battle with light sabres swinging and droids shooting, there is a connection you can make. You read the actor's face (even if he is stiff) and you see things happening that are in a presentation that smacks of some sort of reality. But if you generate all of the things that I have just mentioned to you through a computer, the viewers are stuck with just the spectacle. I argue that CG stills fall short in attempts to communicate "human" feeling in the faces and gestures of characters. There is still something very artificial about CG. And so we lose the emotional connection. An authentic Star Wars movie works because it is part spectacle, part plot and one part (attempted) emotion. (I am saying that the emotion is weak, because frankly, the acting needed a tune-up. However, there was some acting. There was some emotion.) But this CG movie that is coming is going to be all spectacle, plot and no emotion.

If you are struggling with this, watch any Shrek, Kung-Fu Panda or Pixar movie and you will know what I am talking about. PLOT is what drives those films. Spectacle is solid too, but the emotional connection is forever lost because they haven't figured out how to mock a human completely yet. They are getting close. Final Fantasy Advent Children was a step in the right direction. What I would argue is that CG technology just doesn't mirror or transcend true reality yet. The imagination is a powerful thing though, and the spectacle that will be generated in this upcoming Star Wars CG film is going to have a ridiculous amount of spectacle.

Furthermore, it isn't even from 20th Century Fox, who has brought the original canon to us. This is some more Warner Brothers Cartoon Network stuff.

Oh, I will see it. There is no question that I will, but it isn't canon. Don't you forget that. This isn't like waiting in line for Episode I, II or III. This is more like going to the theatre to watch an extended episode of Droids or Ewoks. It will be a cool diversion, but it is not canon.



-Mediasaurus Rex

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