Thursday, September 30, 2010

EASTBOUND AND DOWN - A BADASS TELEVISION REVIEW



EASTBOUND AND DOWN - A BADASS TELEVISION REVIEW

-By Mediasaurus Rex




EASTBOUND AND DOWN, HBO’s weekly half-hour television show has my complete attention. Initially, it comes on strong and abrasive, but there is no question about the fact that this half-hour show is funny. The humor is mean-spirited but sometimes whimsical. Mostly it is focused on how funny it can be when a human being lacks a moral compass. There is nothing to like about Danny McBride’s failed major league pitcher, Kenny Powers. Lots of screentime is invested in letting us know one thing: Powers is a despicable human being.

The pilot episode is a relentless, painful focus on the out-of-control piggishness of Kenny Powers. Powers’ entire existence is unforgiveable. Every facet of it is tarnished by sleaze and a general self-absorbed, trashy, world-view. The Kenny Powers story is that he was on top of the world, and he lost it all. His pitching speed dropped, and with that, (more) drug-abuse and irresponsible living set in.

The pilot episode is mostly concerned with Powers taking a job as a part-time gym coach to make ends meet. It is almost cliché how Powers’ teaching methods are limited to ridicule, profanity, and veiled threats of physical harm. Powers’ immediate response to a kid who tells him that his father said that he “ruined baseball” is to say, “If everyone wants to pick on anyone in class, aim for him because I ain’t watching.”

He is also one of the most misogynist characters ever to hold the position of protagonist. Kenny is interested in rekindling his romance with his high school sweetheart April (Katy Mixon), but his attraction to her is all breast-related. When introducing a different female friend to the principal of his school, he instructs her not to “suck him off.”

Over the next few episodes, more of Powers’ uncouth ways are paraded. His coke and ecstasy use with his drug-buddy Clegg (Ben Best) are a particularly disturbing revelation. (A line of cocaine up the nose looks painful enough, but when it is as thick as a banana slug?) Powers’ love/hate relationship with BMW dealership owner and televangelist-coifed Ashley Shaffer (Will Farrell) inches past the line of comfort as well. Even Powers’ relationship with simple sycophant and co-teacher Steve Janowski (Steve Little) is merely varying degrees of cringe-induction. All of Powers’ behavior has a purpose though, and the purpose is completely self-centered.

Powers has run aground in bland, white picket fence America with his jet ski (the panty-dropper) and a trailer full of his own baseball memorabilia. But he never drops his anchor completely. He holds back, knowing that the majors will call him at any second and he will be back on top. He wants it bad. He wants to live the life of a superstar again and leave all of these average people in North Carolina behind. This community would be better off if he would just take off and become someone else’s problem. But he has to learn a lesson or two on humility before he can leave.

The running voice-over is a hubris-dripping, self-worshipping book on tape narrated by Powers himself called I’M F*CKING IN, YOU’RE F*CKING OUT which Powers plays over and over to himself in his spare time. Powers knows that he has lost his mojo and that even if he had the skills to be back in the majors, it would still take divine intervention to make it happen. But he starts taking steroids anyway to “kickstart the training.”

With Steve Janowski, his fawning personal assistant/whipping boy, Powers plays every “catching major league attention” angle that he is capable of. As the first season continues, Powers indeed catches the break he needs to make it back to the top. The surreality of such a blessing lingers just long enough for the six episode first season to pull the rug back out from underneath him. Where will he go? Is he coming back? And what about his re-kindled relationship with April (and her breasts)?

Given that Powers is such a complete jerk, there is an underlying riddle in the show: can the audience ever connect with such a vain, profane, ignorant, mullet-wearing egotist? The beauty of EASTBOUND AND DOWN is that yes, yes we really can. The magic of this show is that through the fog of profanity, sexism, cruelty, and alcohol and drug abuse, the writers manage to humanize Kenny Powers with no real compromise to the afore-mentioned issues.

What seems like an insurmountable creative writing task is deftly handled by Jody Hill, Danny McBride, Ben Best and Shawn Harwell, the creative team behind EASTBOUND AND DOWN. Season Two’s first episode shows Powers re-established in Mexico sporting corn-rowed hair living the life of a cock-fighting kingpin on Janowski’s credit card. Powers demonstrates command over this new niche. He has a rooster that is a killing machine. He also rolls with a pair of thugs (one of them is the extremely foul-mouthed, height-challenged Aaron (Deep Roy)) that seem to be just as devoid of social skills as he is. Powers, riding his moped through the streets of Mexico, flipping off random people, maintains a general superhuman belligerence.

As far as Powers is concerned, baseball is over. He has assumed Janowski’s identity and he is living moderately in squalor. Kenny Powers is built for this kind of low-living. But he still has an ego. Kenny is tempted to bloom as a Mexican baseball player and cross back over to the states. The roids have sped up his pitch and he is going to make as much noise as he possibly can south of the American border. There is still a chance that he can catch major league attention and get back on top.

He is still haunted by April and her breasts, but there is a new woman who has caught his eye named Vida (Ana de la Reguera), and Vida has a nice rear-end. Powers has issues to work through, and they are as complicated as any battle of the flesh could be.

The opening episode of season two of EASTBOUND AND DOWN could aptly be titled “The Re-invention of a Total Douchebag.” Powers built his failed bridge out of middle-class, western America and he now has to do it again out of a crime-ridden neighborhood south of the border. Powers remains just as funny, self-centered, and completely irreverent as ever.

The rest of Season Two has a challenge, though. Will we be able to root for Kenny again? If the masterful storytelling of Season One is any indication, there is no question whatsoever. Soon we will all be rooting for Kenny Powers to transcend his “further behind the eightball” existence. But until that point, it is going to be a lot of fun and laughs watching this moral graveyard of a man swirl around the drain until we can honestly care again.



EASTBOUND AND DOWN OFFICIAL WEBSITE

EASTBOUND AND DOWN in the Mediasaurs Forums


Thursday, September 16, 2010

SHANK - A BADASS VIDEO GAME REVIEW









SHANK - A BADASS VIDEO GAME REVIEW
By: Mediasaurus Rex

“Still living the dream, eh Butcher?” – Shank

I have been on a SHANK bender. Nighttime hours have been blurring as I play this game into the ground. I can’t stop. I keep on playing the final boss fight over and over and over again, tuning up my reflexes. I am also dropping into really hectic battles and tuning up my Uzi to shotgun skills. This has to stop soon; I mean, I only paid $15 dollars for this game.

Let me back up. Two weeks ago was my birthday. One of my gifts was the download of SHANK by Klei Entertainment (EA is distributing). I already had a hook in my mouth and was being pulled into the boat by the SHANK demo I saw a week before that. I usually download a demo and let it sit on the PS3 for a few days, weeks or months and they get to it. Then I play it down and make a decision. SHANK was different. The stylized cartoon characters intrigued me. I’d seen impressive screenshots earlier of heavily-muscled men, some fit, some fat, all of them angular and clamoring for a piece of Shank, the main character. So in the case of SHANK, I downloaded that demo, watched the intro video, and went straight to work. It was so much fun that I played it through twice, back-to-back. My conclusion was that I wanted more.

Taking its plot cues from B-grade drive-in cinema, SHANK is an over-the-top revenge story. The depth and blackness of the revenge is revealed as the game progresses. I’ll just let you know that within grindhouse film and M-rated video game logic, Shank has every right to rip through his opponents with the ferocity he displays.

SHANK takes a bit to get used to controller-wise. On the Playstation, the cycling through of various weapons is initially difficult on the fly. The first time through the game I found myself relying heavily on the shotgun and the machetes. These are perfect tools for a side-scroller like this that piles the enemies on thick and hard. As I have matured in my gameplay, though, I lean much more on the chainsaw and the excuse to feed enemies grenades. Yes, you can grab a problem character and shove a grenade in his face and watch him pop!

In order for you to comprehend how satisfying this is, I need to really explain where the fun in this game lies.

Enemies are armed to the teeth with Gatling guns, grenade launchers, automatic rifles, flame throwers, and knives of all sorts. When they show up onscreen, you have the option of grappling with them, pouncing on them, shooting them, or hucking a grenade in their general direction. There are also propane tanks placed at points in the game that can really clear problem situations up messily. Sometimes there are dogs in the fray, and those mongrels will knock you out of any combo you might be working and pin you to the ground. With all of these enemies attacking you virtually nonstop, your health bar can take a serious beating, but there are power-up drinks showing up at regular intervals to keep Shank alive. Sometimes, I find myself really beating the hell out of a large opponent something unmerciful, because I know that when he drops, he’ll give me a power-up drink.

The varying degrees of mayhem that can be created are limited only by the player’s creativity. As you play through the game, you can unlock more, increasingly powerful weapons. There are chains for your fists, an Uzi, and opportunities to kill opponents with some of the heavy machinery that they died trying to kill you with. The combos get thick and complex. In short, you need to open 2-3 cans of brutal whup-ass, and then you need to work your way through a 12-pack or a 24 pack without getting touched in the process. I like to pounce on the first thug I see, stab him in the chest twice, then clear the area around me with a few shotgun blasts before finishing my pinned victim off with a chainsaw rip to his chest or two satisfying buckshots to his face. I find myself giddy as I wreak cartoon havoc on everyone in my path.

Shank moves from left to perpetual right, cutting his way through wave after wave of 2D enemies. Think original STREET FIGHTER or DOUBLE DRAGON or ROBOCOP. SHANK’s soul is reincarnated from parts of the original side-scrolling beat-‘em-ups of the late 80s and early 90s.

The scrolling is only part of the equation. Boss fights are a regular occurrence, and if you don’t know what to do, these guys will mangle you and burst your cartoony blood vessels. The death of Shank in a boss round means that you will come back with a hint floating across the screen offering some insight in how to drop your target. All of this is part of the grand revenge story that is concluded with a hard-to-kill final boss.

The cut scenes are on par with anything that is on Cartoon Network, and the hyper-violence adds to the entertainment value. Subject matter, language, and splatter ensure that if you have kids in the household, you can’t do this stuff until well after bedtime. But there is something about the art, the coloring, and the silliness of it all that keeps this game from being a dark study of man’s bleak nihilistic potential. SHANK is harnessed in a framework of fun, and that fun is so compelling that the fact that I have well-over 3000 vicious kills under my belt is completely trivialized. On top of all of this is a “hard mode” that has no checkpoints. You get killed mid chapter? Back to zero. Yeah, those developers at Klei know a thing or two about making it rough.

Couple all of this with Klei’s approachable SHANK blog (with wallpapers and a free soundtrack download) and their entertaining Twitter-feed, and SHANK is a gaming experience that blows a lot of 60 dollar games away. These guys care about their product, and they have lovingly delivered something to my living room that would have sucked at least a hundred dollars out of me one token at a time at the local arcade. SHANK is all about replay. It is all about those bite-sized moments of glory that those of us who clocked arcade time lived for. I used to take my allowance to the arcade and come away with amazing experiences that I could only replicate the next week when I got paid again. SHANK has that kind of feeling about it. When I finally beat that final boss after struggling with him through two separate gaming sessions, I had to go right back into it with him to make sure I’d actually done it.

With all of the unlocks, cut-scenes, and the cornucopia of fun ways to dispatch opponents (don’t forget that grenade feed), SHANK is the most solid fifteen dollar purchase you can make on the Playstation Network. A hundred hit combo unlocks a white ninja costume for you to wear. A hundred and fifty hit combo unlocks the red ninja suit. Also, a hundred chainsaw kills unlocks a Jason Voorhees looking suit to handle business in (my current favorite). Currently I am sweet-talking my wife into playing co-op mode with me so that I can secure more unlockable costumes.

I don’t have a rubric to grade games with, but if I did, this would be a 10 out of 10 hands down.

Check out Klei's SHANK BLOG


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RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE


RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE


I have been disappointed time and time again by the RE series. They always fall terribly short of whatever mark they are supposed to reach. And now, the fourth installation is here and it really delivers. But the delivery is a bittersweet headgame. Is this movie that valiantly rips off THE MATRIX, THE THING, (Snyder's)DAWN OF THE DEAD and several other films really good?
No, it isn't. But if you have been conditioned (as have I) to expect something weak, you are in for a surprise. RE: AFTERLIFE is a gun, Milla, and headshot worshipping exercise in high-end style over substance. Paul W.S. Anderson is comparable to Tarantino in this regard. Unplug your logic receptors and enjoy the beautiful, slo-mo mayhem. This film picks up right after the
last one, and the answer to the "clone issue" is a big money-shot. The presence of Astaroth is awesome too. What an awesome way to say goodbye to summer.

-Mediasaurus Rex

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I'M STILL HERE



I'M STILL HERE

Perhaps Casey Affleck's I'M STILL HERE documentary about the life and times of Joaquin Phoenix will be a light-hearted romp in the life of a fat, wannabe rapper. I kind of doubt it though. This sounds like one of the most painful, squirm-inducing films I have heard of in a long time. Apparently it details the unravelling of a man who once had the world by the tail. It sounds horrifying to watch. In fact, I would posit that this might very well be the most excruciating horror film to show up in 2010. Morbid curiosity is driving me here, however.

-Mediasaurus Rex

ROGER EBERT'S REVIEW
I'M STILL HERE OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

MACHETE - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


MACHETE - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW
By: SITHLORD


If you're familiar with Director Robert Rodriguez's past works, then you should already have a pretty good idea of what is coming. If not, you have to wait about 5 mins. Yes, 5 mins into the movie and you will know what kind of retro-80's directing, cheesy gore, wit 'n humour and naked lithe female forms await you throughout the rest of the film.

Is this a good thing?

Enter Federale Machete: Left for dead at the hands of drug lord Torres (Steven Seagal). Torres has a knack for keeping the same facial expressions throught the entire film. Several times, I thought he was going to ask to be called the Glimmer Man. Machete somehow survives and comes to America and becomes the unknowing pawn in a rather complicated border/illegal immigration/re-election/drug smuggling scheme. Machete is a man of few words (or texts). Reminiscent of Arnold in THE TERMINATOR.

Michelle Rodriguez plays an underground railroad mastermind selling tacos. Not kidding here. She is hot but she tries too hard to be perpetually serious and she tries too hard to be hot.

Jessica Alba is an I.C.E. (Immigration) officer trying to take down "The Network" being run by Michelle Rodriguez.

Cheech Marin shows up late in the film as the coolest Catholic Priest ever to grace a film.

Robert DeNiro and Don Johnson are present but the characters have little substance but are tolerable.

In the what might be the worst bit of casting, Lindsay Lohan plays the daughter of a Senator's aide. It could've only been worse if Paris Hilton was cast instead. I prayed she'd get axed in the film quickly by a manly machete blade.

The gore is over the top as are the action sequences. The humour makes fun of the whole illegal immigration mess as well as presenting obvious Mexican stereotypes.

Robert Rodriguez uses the scenes from the GRINDHOUSE commercial spliced right into the movie. Rodriguez has also stated he'd like his character, Machete, to be the first Mexican superhero. Not so sure about that as Zorro may be the first in my book. Never the less, Rodriguez has great taste in good-looking females, manly ways to dispatch adversaries and sloppy '80s editing.

There are several flaws in the movie, the cheesy gore not withstanding. However, of note are several homages to not only Robert Rodriguez's past works, but also that of Danny Trejo's (Machete) past films. An example of this a car's license plate reads "La Onda." Also, it may be a coincidence, but the 4 men in black with automatic weapons standing outside the church seem to reference Quentin Tarantino's KILL BILL Vol.2

MACHETE is the epitome of cool in a manly movie. The machete blade Machete wields is longer than a Scottish Claymore sword is awesome to behold. I felt the final showdown with Steven Seagal could've been more interesting and not so anticlimatic, but even so, its a fun film.

Intestinal bungie jump for the win!


-Sithlord



SHANK - A BADASS VIDEO GAME



SHANK - A BADASS VIDEO GAME
By: Mediasaurus Rex

Every now and then a game comes along that hits all of the right notes. I am going to posit to you that SHANK is that game. It has the side-scrolling beat-'em-up of classics like BAD DUDES, ROBOCOP and METAL SLUG but with a Cartoon Network look similar to SAMURAI JACK.

Violence? Guns, a chainsaw and knives. Spatter and spray. Grenades to toss and
unlockables like a gatling gun and a katana. Not for the little kids. But it is for the adults. Why? This thing is fun, fun, fun! The combo system and the weapon rotation is TOO EASY. That doesn't meant that the game is easy though. There are bosses in this game that will humiliate you. SHANK is on the Playstation Network and whatever network you use for that XBox trash.

SHANK OFFICIAL BLOG

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

HATCHET 2






HATCHET 2 IS COMING

Seriously, what fan of horror didn't like Adam Green's HATCHET? It was a ripping good time in the bayou with Kane Hodder, Robert Englund, Tony Todd and a bunch of actors (including the "jump to conclusions" guy from OFFICE SPACE). It was loads of old-school fun. It even ended with what seemed to be a frame by frame homage to the original FRIDAY THE 13th.

The HATCHET 2 project has been hard to land info on with basic trolling. However, the HATCHET 2 trailer has landed on Yahoo. Is that a belt sander? Victor Crowley is going to be putting in some work this October. With HATCHET 2 and the final installation of SAW, Halloween season should be just about perfect.

HATCHET 2 TRAILER

Friday, August 20, 2010

EXPENDABLES BODY COUNT - SIMPLY BADASS

This landed in the Mediasaurs email box a minute ago and it is pretty cool.

Click it a few times to see it better.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

THE EXPENDABLES - A BADASS SPOILERIFFIC FORUM REVIEW



THE EXPENDABLES - A BADASS SPOILERIFFIC FORUM REVIEW
By: SPINAL VILLAIN

The Expendables, a manly, spoiler-riffic BADASS movie review.


Sly Stallone returns in a much anticipated action movie that is sure to get many mixed reviews. And why would it get mixed reviews; meaning that some would hate it and others would love it? Because THE EXPENDABLES isn't just any movie. It's a MANLY movie. Manly movies are not meant for everyday Joes. This is a move that houses the biggest names in both past and present day action movies.
Now, if you're interested in long-winded scripts, thought provoking screen plays or Shakespearean dialogue, you might want stop reading here and go see INCEPTION. If you want a rockin', kick-ass time out at the theater, by all means, read on.

The team of Expendables is being called up for a job.
The mission is supposedly simple, set-up by DIE HARD action movie star, Bruce Willis, who plays Mr. Church(the irony of that is just overly hilarious), a shadowy fellow who offers the job to the two best teams. The other rival merc team leader enters and it's none other than the Governator himself. What ensues is laughable exchange of insults that is based on past movies and characters as well as real life situations. It’s a very enjoyable scene that gets downplayed in the commercials.

Stallone and Statham go on a recon mission that is soon botched and both decide to pass on the job as it is a suicide mission drafted by the C.I.A. intended to either get rid of the mercs or kill one of their own because the C.I.A. doesn't want to get their hands dirty for fear of a press field day if it's discovered.

After a brief, nostalgic discussion with Sly's friend and former teammate, Mickey Rourke, Stallone is struck with guilt because of the girl on the botched recon mission who is now being tortured to give information about The Expendables team. Stallone decides to do this Rambo-style and that a one man army is good enough to satisfy his grief. Long story short, his friends and fellow teammates tag along.

Jason Statham gets a large and prominent roll in this move. In fact, it's as much about him as it is Sly Stallone. Being a merc for hire is hard on Statham's love life and after a month of no phone calls, his girlfriend is already frolicking around in a short mini with some overly macho, easily intimidated ass-wipe.

The Expendables pulls out all the stops when it comes to fire power. The team uses state of the art guns to achieve their objectives. Automatic shotguns, throwing knives, night vision, custom gear and enough C-4 to orbit Ah-nuld Schwarzenegger, are all prominently displayed for an explosive cinematic experience that pays homage to the 80's and 90's action movies.

This movie does have its serious moments, like the waterboarding of the previously mentioned civilian girl to gain information about the Expendables team. And of course, it's Latin America we're in as well, so drugs play a role as well as corrupt American Officials.


The only major gripe I have with movie was Eric Roberts. His character looked like it was molded from a stressed-out, less slicked version of Pat Reilly (ex-L.A. Lakers coach). Most of the screen time he had was pretty much painful to endure. I was glad when Statham, Stallone and Li came back on screen because their manliness and humor brought much needed relief to my eyes and ears due to Roberts over acting and horrible dialogue. A high-school thespian could easily have been cast over Roberts, who, at one time was a great actor. What was director Sly Stallone thinking when he was viewing Roberts’ auditions?

The pros on this movie vastly outweigh the cons. And exactly why is that, you ask? Because I knew precisely what I was going into when I went to see this (besides my trolling from Mediasaurs.com). I knew it was NOT going to be INCEPTION or LORD OF THE RINGS. I knew, rather, it was going to be TANGO AND CASH (Stallone and Statham), or THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, or RAW DEAL or the like. I'm more than fine with that. Sometimes a little less is a little more.

Overall it's a manly movie with hardcore firepower, vintage fight sequences with modern execution, lots of C-4 and a couple of hot chicks to boot, as well as a dump-truckload of testosterone.


Guys night out just hit a new milestone.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

SPARROW'S THOMAS JAMES LONGLEY - A BADASS INTERVIEW



SPARROW'S THOMAS JAMES LONGLEY - A BADASS INTERVIEW
By: Mediasaurus Rex

There has been a lot of interesting underground noise about SPARROW, an urban legend horror film that recently was filmed in Poland. We have been clocking it in our forums, and we have seen a lot of pics from the set released. As its release gets closer (we're hearing Halloween), SPARROW is gaining even more of an underground buzz. The official SPARROW webpage is full if compiled interviews and tidbits. The film now has an IMDB page and an ambiguous teaser trailer. In our hunt for more, actor Thomas James Longley answered a few of our questions.





IMDB cites SPARROW as your first acting gig. Can you tell us about any other acting experience that you have had?
Well, I recently graduated from the National Youth Theatre in London, and before that I was doing a lot of stage work. I also did a few short films and commercials, but Sparrow was my first feature.

How did you get associated with the SPARROW project?
I was offered an audition by Shaun, the director, and eventually I had to meet with the producer. I then auditioned in front of him and he liked me, so I was offered a role. I was talking to Shaun the other day about this actually, and at one point I was being considered for Duncan. But Eric auditioned pretty darn well for that part, so I was bumped to Matt instead (laughs).

Can you give us a thumbnail sketch of the character Matt that you play in SPARROW?
Matt’s the nice guy—everyone’s friend—which is why he’s the leader, I suppose. He’s an all round fun guy, straight forward, but definitely in charge. You know, there doesn’t tend to be a lot of characterization in teen horrors, but Matt was sort of nicely understandable for me. Something to get my teeth into without there being too much to think about as an actor . . . which allowed me to do a lot of running about, shouting, looking scared.

Every movie set has its "ridiculous story" of either a series of mishaps or something really funny happening. Can you tell us the one for SPARROW?
Hmm, well there were a few days when there were a lot of technical issues, but I suppose the funniest was the amount of takes needed for certain scenes. I wouldn’t dream of giving too much away. Shaun would kill me. But there’s a scene involving Jack [W. Carter] that Faye and I were standing about for, since we were involved before and after it, that took a LOT of takes. It was very difficult for Carter to keep still, as I remember, and it went on all day. Thinking back, it was kinda funny, but it must’ve been so frustrating for him.

How many days was the shoot?
A month, but I was there for about three weeks of it.

What is your favorite horror film?
Oh wow! These kinds of questions are so difficult to answer. I loved THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT when I saw it. But I also really enjoyed SIGNS, you know, the M. Night Shyamalan film. Does that count as a horror? Oh, and there’s this little Canadian indie film called INCIDENT IN LAKE COUNTY that I really like. It’s quite similar to Blair Witch actually.

The official website basically states that SPARROW is about a bunch of high school kids on a camping trip where a historic murder has taken place. Can you add more to this?
To be fair it’s pretty standard teen horror stuff. But at the same time there isn’t really a lead character as such. And because of that, there’s a certain level of absence about the film—perhaps no obvious core—which allows the film to be more terrifying, more genuinely jumpy than an overtly based character piece with obvious leads. It’s hard to explain, but it’s quite clever, really. You’ll know when you see it.

Would you say that SPARROW is more BLAIR WITCH PROJECT or FRIDAY THE 13th?
Both, but possibly leaning more towards the latter. Without becoming too graphic, it certainly has a few surprises.

Is SPARROW more along the lines of psychological horror or will there be splatter as well?
I suppose the film could be split into different sections. For most of the movie that involves the teens, there’s a lot of developing tension, and it begins to get eerie. But of course, a few splatters are shown here and there. And then after a certain point, it sort of descends into chaos.

Is SPARROW drawn from an actual urban legend?
I’m not sure, but Matt, the writer, did say he was inspired by a few real ideas. Of course, it’s probably just an exaggeration of an already established urban legend. There are loads out there. So don’t go camping in the woods! (laughs)

How long has SPARROW been in production?
Wojciech Stuchlik bought the rights at the beginning of this year, I think, so not too long. Naturally, as the cast, we were brought into the production latest, so for us it’s all been quite the whirlwind.

How big was the budget for SPARROW?
Very small, actually. About £50,000, when I was last told. It may have risen since, though, due to post-production, but it was done really well and efficiently on a very small budget.

When can we see a US release of the film?
Well, it’s going to do the film festival circuit, so it should be hitting some pretty major US ones. Other than that, it’ll be released on DVD.

When will we be able to see a trailer for it?
It’s out now, actually. But it hasn’t yet been heavily promoted. It’s on youtube I think. [We found the teaser trailer here]

What is next for you as an actor?
Well, I have a few films I’m attached to, so I’m keeping myself busy. I’m looking forward to doing quite a few projects in the US, actually, so I’m excited. It should be a lot of fun.

Check the SPARROW official website here

SPARROW on IMDB here

More SPARROW production pics than you can handle here



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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

DEAN, DIRECTOR OF ZOMBIE PUPPETS - A BADASS INTERVIEW



DEAN, DIRECTOR OF ZOMBIE PUPPETS - A BADASS INTERVIEW
By: Mediasaurus Rex

ZOMBIE PUPPETS is an upcoming movie that summarizes itself like this on the OFFICIAL WEBSITE:

Once upon a time… the puppet town of “ Crystal Meadow” was attacked by the living dead! Faced with certain death, the cuddly puppets found help from Rags the Bunny, an outlaw who lived in the nearby puppet slums of “Pistol Ghetto”.

Together they learned life lessons, sang songs, killed zombies, and uncovered the cause of the Zuppet Apocalypse.


After hearing about this project from various dark corners, I did what needed to be done. I tracked down the director, Dean and hit him with questions that I and some members of the Mediasaurs forums had come up with. What follows are some of the most interesting responses I have ever gotten in an interview session.




The concept of ZOMBIE PUPPETS is both horrifying and hilarious. Can you give us a thumbnail sketch of its genesis?

Mexican Food and Angst. I was eating a meal with my family at Cocina Del Charro, a local taqueria, and I was basically ignoring everyone, racking my brain for a film idea that would work on a low budget, would be something I would want to see, something other people would want to see, and a film that some eccentric dude of questionable talent (that would be me) could make.

Bad idea after bad idea kept coming, and I got pissed (not drunk, unfortunately). Suddenly, an image popped into my head—it was Grover (from SESAME STREET, of course), his eye hanging from its socket and blood dripping from his lips. He snarled, “brains” and then bit my arm. I basically did a “spit take” with a mouthful of iced tea and announced to my father that I knew what movie I was going to make next, ZOMBIE PUPPETS.

My whole family started LOL’ing, and I went to work.

The promo art at the ZOMBIE PUPPETS website is fantastic, so much so that it could stand alone. Will there be any sort of graphic novel/comic book tie-in with the project?

Thanks, I am glad you like the artwork. It would be a crime not to make an outlet for it. PREPARE for some epic moves in this arena. The design team is experimenting with some transmedia web comic applications, and a graphic novel or comic book is definitely in the near future.

It looks like ZOMBIE PUPPETS will be an R-rated film. Is that correct? Can we expect splatter, profanity, and adult themes? Is it horror? Is it comedy? Will it be for teenagers? Kids?

R-rated, and more splatter profanity and adult themes than you can shake a stick at. It’s primarily a comedy, but it plays on horror clichés, and let’s be honest . . . teenagers and kids are going to see it, and love it, just like I saw ROBOCOP and every 80s video nasty when I was 9 years old. THANKS DAD! (Seriously, parental guidance strongly suggested!)

The film is also pretty sophisticated in how it blends the puppet and horror worlds together, so I hope audiences are both shocked and delighted by the effort we put into the screenplay and concept.

ZOMBIE PUPPETS is made for adults, primarily those adults who remember being kids, watching all the classic Puppet Movies of the 80s, and growing up with HE-MAN and other branded entertainment.

Hopefully everyone finds the idea of innocent puppet animal characters trying to deal with serious life and death issues—in song—freaking hilarious.

The concept and filming of such a project must be baffling. Where are you going to film it? Are you making the puppets? Are you having someone else do that? How many sets do you plan to create?

Puppets are a beast to deal with. Even getting a puppet to like, walk across the room takes 1-3 puppeteers to coordinate, so it takes forever. Also I have no background in puppets, so what the hell am I doing?! LOL. Basically, it’s hard as hell but totally worth it! I mean, if I wanted easy, I would have become a doctor, or a chemist.

The puppets are being designed by a team of really cool dudes out in the Philippines who are just completely the right guys for the job. The puppets are being built by the same dudes behind the Broadway musical “Ave Q,” and we will shoot the whole movie on location in the slums of Manila (Philippines) (sort of like CITY OF GOD meets THE MUPPET SHOW!) and on a few sound stages for the more YO GABBA GABBA style stagey sets.

All the casting /voice work /and some post production will occur state-side out of Los Angeles.

Can you give us some background on James the producer and yourself and how you came to work together on this project?

James and Dean both went to middle school together and were a couple of “brains” in the GATE class. (Gifted and Talented Education!), but in high school they sort of went their own ways. James smoked a ton of weed, lifted weights for 8 years, and became like 200 pounds (he’s now more reasonably sized), and Dean got straight D’s and became a competitive break dancer.

In their 20s James became a serial entrepreneur doing a bunch of tech nonsense, and Dean went to San Diego State and got a film degree. They re-united via the cliché power of Facebook sometime in 2009.

I (Dean) basically convinced James to jump into the film business by telling him it would help him get chicks. The joke was on me because James totally looks like a vampire and has no trouble getting chicks. :(

This is not the WHOLE STORY, but seriously, who cares about James and Dean?

ZOMBIE PUPPETS has "cult hit" written all over it, but what kind of movie aficionado do you think will be attracted to it?

I would say if you’re a fan of the retro 80s puppet movies, the MUPPETS, or any contemporary “hip” children’s programming (like YO GABBA GABBA), you will find something to like.

If you’re into zombies you will also find much to like.

At the end of the day ZOMBIE PUPPETS is being made for the early adapters, but I foresee it becoming the type of film about which a friend goes, “OMG, you haven’t seen this shit yet! Holy shit, get over here right now and check this shit out!”

Also, if this movie can get a young man laid because he reveals that his DVD collection contains ZOMBIE PUPPETS, and the girl goes “YOU ARE TEH AWESOME” and lays him, just like Sam from QUANTUM LEAP, I can finally leap home.

WE ARE CHANGING LIVES HERE!


I am sure that you have already heard comparisons to Jackson's MEET THE FEEBLES. How would you define the differences between PUPPETS and FEEBLES?

We clearly stand in the shadow of FEEBLES -- I saw FEEBLES in the 90s via bootleg VHS acquired from the comic-con, so I was very aware of what Jackson had accomplished with that movie.

My favorite part of FEEBLES is the DEER HUNTER section in the middle, which I always thought was the most entertaining and successful section of the movie, so any similarities will reside there.

With that being said, the movies couldn’t be more different. ZP plays more with the clichés of the horror genre and really tries to paint the picture of a utopian, Disney-esque world that is turned upside down.


How big is the voice cast going to be?

Probably between 6-10, with multiple characters being played by the same actor. As we finalize casting, I will keep you updated. I may even have a surprise or two.

Will there be any moments (as in SESAME STREET) where humans actually interact with the puppets? Will there be any "body-suit" puppets like Sweetums or Big Bird?

Yes! There is one human in the film, a woman with cat ears who plays “Polly Esther” the cat (the female lead). Oh, we gots body suits! Unity Corn the Unicorn and two top secret characters that are the bee’s knees :)

In regards to production value, are you aiming towards THE MUPPET SHOW or more in a Sid and Marty Krofft direction? Or do you have a different ideal?

You are right in the ball park here. To be lame I will say 80% MUPPETS and 20% Sid and marty Krofft.

I am definitely going for nostalgia here and not trying to re-invent the puppet genre. The fun to be had with this concept is taking what is familiar and placing it in a totally off the wall situation.

When can we expect a trailer?

Expect a trailer to ignite teh internetz Jan 2011.

How big is the budget for this project?

I am hoping to finish the whole project for well under six figures . . . but I might lose my mind and blow the farm on some crazy puppet epic.


(The above pic is of Rags, the star of ZOMBIE PUPPETS)



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Thursday, July 22, 2010

VALHALLA RISING - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW




VALHALLA RISING - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW
By: Mediasaurus Rex

VALHALLA RISING is a brooding Danish film that is downright mesmerizing to behold. Few words are spoken, religious symbols such a crosses and the full immersion into water are heavily used, and raw, vibrant hand to hand combat is reveled in. If VALHALLA RISING were packaged and sent back in time 30 or 40 years, it would have fit in perfectly alongside the works of Werner Herzog and Alejandro Jodorowski. In fact, VALHALLA RISING owes the bulk of its ruminating spirit to AGUIRRE THE WRATH OF GOD and EL TOPO. Sergio Leone’s meandering spaghetti westerns also figure into this pot of moody gumbo as well. The film is lean on time and dialogue and extremely heavy with ambiguous symbolic messages wide open to all sorts of interpretation.

Imagine my surprise when I settled in to watch VALHALLA RISING, expecting to see some more quirky BRONSON-esque antics courtesy of director Nicolas Winding Refn. However, VALHALLA RISING is about as far from BRONSON as possible. The differences are innumerable. The tone, era, and message of the films are in serious contrast. But both films demonstrate a deep comprehension of flesh on flesh violence. The opening words onscreen read, “In the beginning there was only man and nature. Men came bearing crosses and drove the heathen to the fringes of the earth.” The operative word here is “fringes” which also references the caliber of person that this film is concerned with.

Mads Mikkelson is One-Eye, a mute, tribal-tattooed, one-eyed prisoner who has spent the last five years of his life as a neck-chained combatant in some first century blood matches. He is the prisoner of a pack of gambling, multi-god worshipping pagans. One-Eye is brutal. With a reverse question-mark scar on the right side of his face and some hacked-up, gnarly scar-tissue over his left eye socket, he dispatches his victims with his bare hands or any blunt object he can find. “He is driven by hate, that’s how he survives, why he never loses,” muses one of One-Eye’s captors.

One-Eye manages a neck-breaking scene that is so horrific, barbaric, and original that it forces the viewer to consider how writers Nicolas Winding Refn and Ray Jacobsen came up with such a method of dispatch. The scenes of violence in this film display brain matter, disembowelment, and all sorts of splatter. The foley work is top-notch, and the fleshy impact an axe blade makes sounds so full and wet that those without intestinal fortitude, despite covering their eyes, are not spared.

Through a sequence of extreme bloodletting, One-Eye secures his freedom. Pulling on a leather vest that looks straight out of a Renaissance festival, he throws his lot in with a band of Christian Vikings who are off to find “New Jerusalem” and establish God’s rule there. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this film is that these Christian Vikings are just as vicious as the pagans. For a film lacking in dialogue, these guys really do bring the f-bomb. It is rather clear that wherever these bloodthirsty missionaries go, the theme is going to be much more like a BLACK ROBE remix than anything that Jesus was talking about in the New Testament. They speak of women and murder, yet pray fervently for God to work with them. The mood is reminiscent of THE MISSION starring a war-mongering Robert DeNiro. When this band of men finally lands on the shores of North America, there are different gods afoot, and these Christians really aren’t up to the task.

VALHALLA RISING starts in what appears to be the first or second century Scotland. One-Eye is fed and tended by a young boy (Maarten Stevenson) who soon becomes One-Eye’s voice. The first thing he tells the Christians that One-Eye was brought up from hell. The relationship between One-Eye and the boy continues to become more and more intimate as the film progresses. The film is broken into chapters with names like “Wrath,” “The Holy Land,” ”The Men of God,” and “Hell.” Such obvious, angsty religious posturing is left wide open for interpretation. As the chapters progress, the similarities of VALHALLA RISING to APOCALYPSE NOW are driven home with over-distorted guitar effects straight out of a ‘70s acid trip. One-Eye is on a definite mission, but we are left to interpret it through his barbarism and the directions he moves in. Mads Mikkelson completely pulls off this role which is a silent, dangerous yet possibly even more thoughtful beast than his Le Chiffre character in THE QUANTUM OF SOLACE.

VALHALLA RISING is absolutely beautiful. When a defeated foe’s head is hoisted and skewered on a spear, the landscape surrounding the shot is simply fantastic. The atmosphere is constantly cold and overcast, yet there are moments of heat and passionate red backgrounds as well. Vicious sequences enter and exit slow-motion to accentuate the on-screen savagery. Even the most banal scenes of walking, sitting or pondering are deeply saturated with a stunning natural beauty that makes every shot postcard-worthy. The only time the surrounding beauty is muted is during the boat ride to New Jerusalem, where fog and soundstage lighting take over. The message behind the atmosphere of the boat ride is obviously purgatorius, and once the boat lands, the lush, greenery is again everywhere. There is also a psychedelic nature to the narration of the film, with inexplicable foreshadowing and a general lack of coherent “real-time” information, thereby keeping the viewer constantly off-balance.

This is not a mainstream “action-film” by any stretch. VALHALLA RISING is an introspective journey that leaves the viewer perplexed and haunted. People are going to go and see this movie because the word on the street is that it is violent. The film does have some wincingly violent scenes, but such sequences are actually rather sparse. VALHALLA RISING is comparable to a heavy dirge. It is a poem that ponders existence and its purpose. It also ponders whatever higher power is out there and presents religion as the unmasterable puzzle that it is, fraught with misinterpretations. The philosopher Desiderius Erasmus once said, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” One-Eye is not only king, but he also beats some serious ass.


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Friday, July 16, 2010

THE HIT SQUAD - A BADASS DIRECTOR INTERVIEW



What follows is an interview with Chris Blundell, director of the upcoming pixilated film THE HIT SQUAD.

THE HIT SQUAD

Q. What gave you the idea to make an entire film pixilated like the video games we all remember?

A. First of all, it started as a matter of need. My artistic skills are a little limited, so doing them in low resolution seemed like a logical step. The lower the resolution, the less mistakes I can make. If I shot in HD then it would be a completely different project.

Secondly, as a kid I loved all of these pixilated stories of Monkey Island, Beneath a Steel Sky, Sam and Max; they had such character and charm that can only come across in very low resolution. As soon as Monkey Island got to game 3, it just felt different. With all the higher resolution graphics, it suddenly seemed strange that Guybrush wasn't smiling when happy or frowning when sad. Our imaginations were used less, and we became a little too distanced from the characters. That's why games are still being made in pixel graphics, even film licensed games like Scott Pilgrim Versus the World. They have a certain character that can't be done in any other medium.

Q. Chris, as writer and director, do you have anyone else working on THE HIT SQUAD? If so, what do they contribute to the project?

A. The Hit Squad core team is mainly myself with additional animators. My colleague Laura Mulhern has taken on a big proportion of production tasks also. But to be truthful, so many people have helped in so many different ways from funding the film, to giving me an idea for a fictional brand of cola that it's difficult to describe! Also Facebook and Twitter have been godsends!

Q. How long have you been working on this film?

A. I came up with the original concept about 2 years ago. I wrote 10 scripts as a TV series, discussed it with TV companies, and nearly got it commissioned. But it got shelved. After that I decided to revisit it and get it released. Since I decided to revive the project it’s been about 4 months, all of it screenwriting and pre-production.

Q. So is this an animated film? Or have you programmed all of the characters?

A. A bit of both! I use a piece of computer game making software to draw and animate all of the characters and backgrounds, but then I take all of the frames and run it through specialist animation software to be able to add certain effects and flourishes.


Q. How do you plan to distribute it?

A. We'll be taking The Hit Squad to film festivals throughout the next year, however we'll be releasing it online through various channels with a simultaneous DVD release which instantly means that we won't be accepted into Cannes and the like as they like to have the world premiere at their festivals. But it does mean that when it's out, it’s out for everyone to enjoy!

Q. Video games are a part of the genesis of this film. Can you cite which games/systems really played into THE HIT SQUAD idea?

A. I'd have to say the Amiga 500 as well as both the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo were the three consoles that the animation is inspired by. The Hit Squad are stuck in their ways, and their success stopped in the early 90s. So that’s why their world is represented in this late 80s, early 90s style. For the geeks out there, we work with only 256 colors which makes us VGA and officially 8 bit.

Q. 80s music is also a major part of this film. What is the genesis for this idea?

A. I just love 80s music, so over-the-top, so theatrical and distinctive. I'm originally a musician and I just think the 80s had such character that no one has managed to replicate since. The invention of synthesizers, drum machines, and turntables was the equivalent of taking a child to a toy store and saying "go crazy." A bunch of coke-fueled musicians suddenly just went mental. The Hit Squad is about what happened when the world got bored of that sound.

Q. Supporters have the opportunity to be a part of this film. Can you elaborate on that aspect?

A. For £40 (go to http://the-hit-squad.com) people can buy themselves into the movie. They can literally be part of a scene whether they're drinking at a bar or knocked over by one of the characters. We're pixilating people and putting them in the film. They send me a photo of themselves, and I or my artists get them pixilated and animated as an extra. For their £40 people also get a free copy of the movie on DVD plus their name in the credits! This is why the cast list is not officially released yet. We're still waiting on some confirmations, and I want to release the cast list all at once. But it will be worth waiting for!

Q. Including supporters, how many roles are in this film?

A. I counted the other day. It's 76 so far.

Q. So originally, you pitched the idea of a pixilated television show. Can you elaborate on that experience?

A. It was a real learning curve. I emailed a lot of different people and got loads of good responses. That's how I knew the idea was good. Unfortunately my screenwriting, storytelling, and character design skills weren't up to scratch, so that’s why the TV project died. I kinda knew it at the time; it felt really unfinished, and I think the TV companies knew it wasn't quite polished enough. Since then, I basically read everything I could about storytelling, screenwriting, directing, animation, and obviously, the 80s. It is only really these years later that I feel like THE HIT SQUAD has matured enough to be released.

Q. What is your next project after THE HIT SQUAD?

A. Funny, this is the second time I've been asked that question, and I haven't even released The Hit Squad yet! I do have another project in the planning stages. It will be something a little more sci-fi based, possibly a series. I'll be announcing my plans after The Hit Squad is released.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

TOY STORY 3 - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW




TOY STORY 3 - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW
By: MEDIASAURUS REX

The makers of TOY STORY 3 not only manage to bring the entire franchise around the corner with a boy who is too old for his toys but also to breathe even more fresh air into the series. By the third installment, a film in a series is usually so watered down and weak that it is a waste of time, but TOY STORY 3 handles its business as if all of the novel ideas that were percolating when the first movie was made never stopped bubbling over. The film doesn’t miss. There is no dragtime; there are no missteps. In a season full of nonstop cinematic blunders and outright moving picture failures, TOY STORY 3 stands above all and gives movie fans a reason to see a film in the theater rather than waiting for the DVD release.

The plot is simple enough. Andy is moving on to college, and he is cleaning out his room. The toys that made this ensemble piece series what it is are getting cut loose. Woody (Tom Hanks) is the only toy that makes it into the “college” box. The rest are all fair game for some form of separation anxiety. In short, the toys wind out in a day care, and on the surface, everything seems happy and loving. But beneath the utopian façade, something really ugly is brewing.

TOY STORY 3 manages to slip in some serious adult concepts and cloak them well with enough humor, whimsy, and fantastic CGI to make the end product feel relatively light. There is even a moment of such angst in the face of a force not dissimilar to DANTE’S INFERNO that completely humanizes every one of these talking playthings. Underneath all of the fun and adventure are messages about commitment, self-sacrifice, generosity, and forgiveness.

What is that ugliness brewing under the surface at Sunnyside Day Care? It is complicated and heavy with spoilers. Just keep an eye out for any character that looks like it escaped from Sid’s workbench in the original TOY STORY. That is the only hint that you need.

The adventure that Woody and crew go on is a hilarious one. Sarge and his bag of green army men are still around, and Sarge is still voiced by R. Lee Ermey, the ultimate typecast drill sergeant in the actor’s guild. Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles) steps up his game this time out and fully one-ups his “Look, I’m a Picasso!” move. The aliens from the claw machine are back and still relevant. So is Rex (Wallace Shawn), the dim-witted Tyrannosaur who has the personality of a much cuddlier creature. Even the Toyota truck from Pizza Planet makes a cameo.

The introduction of several new characters, including the Fisher-Price phone that we have all seen with its clown-cherub face named Chatter (Teddy Newton) are all welcome. Even Ken (Michael Keaton) of Barbie fame is a welcome meterosexual addition to the group.

What really holds this film together is the fact that Andy’s toys, from Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) to the Slinky Dog (Blake Clark), are an actual, working team. The previous two installations of TOY STORY have demonstrated this as well, and this current chapter in their plastic lives showcases it even further.

Can those geniuses at Pixar do no wrong? All of the Disney/Pixar films have been fantastic. Anytime I hear someone speak up about a Disney/Pixar film that they thought was weak (like CARS or FINDING NEMO) I can usually count at least five voices vehemently coming to the film’s defense. Pixar understands storytelling on the bigscreen. They also have a knack for delivering the kind of moral that would make grandma proud. With brash, rude CGI films like the SHREK or ICE AGE series out there making parents wince with their candid scatological buffoonery, it makes a film like TOY STORY 3 stand that much taller. Sight gags, pop culture references, and old-fashioned comic timing make TOY STORY 3 the kind of G-rated film that won’t have adults in the audience snoring, groaning, or looking at their cellphone clock.

Is there anything bad to be said about this film? There is a lame one-liner from Hamm (John Ratzenberger) that falls so flat that the audience might not catch it. However, that line is delivered after the credits are rolling at the end. Lee Unkrich who has put in co-directing time with Pixar/Disney in the past (TOY STORY 2, MONSTERS INC, FINDING NEMO) sure has earned the full director’s chair this time around. At a time when it is a complete chore to go to the multiplex and suffer through Hollywood’s most disappointing streak of mediocrity yet, TOY STORY 3 throws down and sets a standard. It presents a world of toys with consciousness as if this is the incontrovertible truth. It is the same standard that was set in TOY STORY 1. I just wish more movie-makers would strive for it.


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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

MICMACS - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW




MICMACS – A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW
BY: MEDIASAURUS REX

MICMACS, Jean Pierre Jeunet’s latest, brings all of his various traits of directorial quirkiness (witnessed in DELICATESSEN, CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, ALIEN RESURRECTION and AMELIE) into one film. MICMACS is an ensemble piece that is built around one of the most whimsical revenge stories I have ever witnessed. In the hands of almost any other director, this film would have wilted and crashed with such a stripped down, simple plot. But under the creative mastery of Jeunet, MICMACS is one of the most visually compelling and entertaining films out right now.

The film literally drops the viewer in the Sahara desert in its first frames where a man is killed by a land mine. The rest of the film belongs to that man’s son, Bazil (played as an adult by Dany Boon). Bazil is young when his father dies and is a problem at his local catholic school. He does manage to grow up, secure a job at a video store, and whittle away his long work hours mouthing the words of a French-dubbed Humphrey Bogart in THE BIG SLEEP back at a television screen. This existence is cut short by a stray bullet to the head. Bazil survives; however he is now slightly off socially and has a massive scar across his forehead. Consequently, he loses his life as he knew it. Now homeless and jobless, he has to start over.

Through a series of surreal coincidences, Bazil learns of both the company that made the landmine that killed his father and the company that made the bullet lodged in his skull. As MICMACS’ coincidence meter continues to fly off of the chart, it is revealed that both of these armories are across the street from each other. Furthermore, the CEOs of each company, DeFenoullet (Andre Dussollier) and Marconi (Nicolas Marie) hate each other.

Bazil meets and moves in with a group of creative misfits that live in a secret junkyard hideout and proceeds to plot his master plan of vengeance. Functioning much like a comic book team of superheros, Bazil enlists his new group of friends in his revenge plot, and they are just as quirky as the tenants in DELICATESSEN or the characters in CITY OF LOST CHILDREN. There is Fracasse the human cannonball (Dominique Pinon – a Jeunet regular). There is also a cute, skirted, bespectacled numerical fact spewer named “The Calculator” (Marie-Julie Braup). The Gepetto of the bunch is Petit Pierre (Michel Cremades) who makes toys and crude, cartoonish robots. The Contortionist (Julie Ferrier) likes to fold herself into refrigerators and boxes while flirting with Bazil. Remington (Omar Sy) is the resident writer with one too many flowery words to say. The group is rounded out by a matron and a patron: Placard (Jean Pierre Marielle) and Tambouille (Yolande Moreau). With bizarre yoga, strange measurements, and a constant reminder that all equipment that is ever used is recycled, this group of eccentrically superpowered vagabonds pulls MICMACS together to achieve a coherence that a lot of bona-fide comic book movies (like THE LOSERS) fail to achieve.

It is apparent that Bazil’s gang genuinely cares for each other. It is also apparent that if they are going up against arms manufacturers that there will be a heavy dose of explosions and bullets (showing that Jeunet’s lackluster ALIEN RESURRECTION time actually paid off). MICMACS doesn’t disappoint.

In traditional Jeunet style, the camera pans from crazy, unpredictable positions before landing to take in standard shots of scenery. Some of the most random concepts that dance across the screen are merely a part of the way the world of MICMACS works. Examples of this are the different barbaric ways rich people clean and consume prawns, Bazil’s recital of odd facts to stop his panic attacks (accompanied with animated SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK type cartoons), and Winston Churchill’s fingernail clippings. Some pretty solid CGI is used to accentuate various scenes, but it doesn’t overwhelm. MICMACS manages to convey a cluttered, surreal world without the busy visual detritus that Gilliam used to convey THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS. The feeling is similar, but Jeneut doesn’t rely on the fantastic quite as hard. MICMACS takes reality and bends it to that point just before the breaking. The world he presents is almost possible. MICMACS fits everything strange and normal together with an unnatural seamlessness that pushes the story along flawlessly.

MICMACS is a live wire of a film. It is French with English subtitles, so read fast or you will miss the onscreen magic. It never strays from its original revenge-based plot, and it explains all of its rapid-fire plot developments, occasionally rewinding the clock and representing scenes with the key missed details. It is entertaining, fun, and raw. This film is a hot-dogging showcase of Jean Pierre Jeunet at the top of his game.


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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

THE MYSTERY TEAM - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW



THE MYSTERY TEAM - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW
By: MEDIASAURUS REX

Finally, the long-awaited film from the minds of those silly kids at DERRICK’S COMEDY is up for mass consumption. The DERRICK’S COMEDY players, most notably Donald Glover, have been bending pop culture to their will of late. What started as a comedy troupe that pushed out a hefty, mesmerizing blitz of extremely to mildly funny YouTube videos went on to become the Internet hipster’s name-drop of choice, and caused a trending Twitter topic for the first black Spiderman (#donald4spiderman), has released a feature-length film, THE MYSTERY TEAM. This is what will most likely be remembered as the product that “made their mark.”

THE MYSTERY TEAM is a film about three high school seniors who want to still live their glory days as pint-sized detectives a-la THE LITTLE RASCALS. However, the R-rating on this film is a hard one. And while these guys are still living the glory days of solving cases like “sack-lunch fraud” and “two milks at lunch time,” the perverse world around them is closing in and forcing them to grow up.

The gag of a “forced maturing” runs through the entire MYSTERY TEAM film and is ground-zero for the bulk of the laughs. The film chooses at times to get dirty, and the dirtiness that is presented is so vile (such as the loss of a family heirloom in the vagina of a stripper) that the zaniness of the film is interrupted with hard, pornographic facts. Jason (Donald Glover), Duncan (DC Pierson), and Charlie (Dominic Dierkes) are also routinely verbally assaulted by Eric (Xavier Salazar), the ultimate foul-mouthed little kid.

What is a rather simple story is sidetracked and red-herringed so much that by the end of the film, all semblance of logic has been completely foiled. Jason, Duncan, and Charlie are hired for a dime by a little girl named Brianna (Daphne Ciccarelle) to find out who killed her parents. The mystery that Jason, Duncan, and Charlie soon find themselves completely consumed by runs deep and forces these arrested development case-studies to face reality and grow-up.

While working the viewer over with a haymaker of random witticisms such as the introduction and usage of hobo tips from a book called THE WANDERING TRAMP by S.A. Turkington and the use of catch phrases like, “Spill it, skillet,” the humor that should harness and bolster this film runs rather thin. Jason, the master of disguise, does wear ridiculous disguises and brutalizes accents, but such nonsense is only worth a smirk or two. Duncan, the boy genius, brings a host of silly facts to the table, but their demonstrated uselessness is ham-handed comedy at best. Charlie, the strongest kid in town, is a constant dolt-joke that never actualizes into anything. THE MYSTERY TEAM is some quirky fun, but it smacks of the type of cheap silliness that Sid and Marty Krofft presented on sugar-cereal soaked Saturday mornings back in the 70s.

The pacing of the humor in THE MYSTERY TEAM is much more like Chris Farley’s BEVERLY HILLS NINJA than something more frenetic like John Leguizamo’s PEST. Jokes about vomit, the consumption of dog urine, digging around in feces, and renting versus purchasing “eight balls of cocaine” are all grin-worthy, but THE MYSTERY TEAM lacks a specific scene that gives it comedy hall of fame rights, like the Baby Ruth in the pool from CADDYSHACK. Funny lines like, “Do you know what happens in jail? No TV.” are strong, but not strong enough. The mean-streak that this film flaunts is at times cringeworthy, such as when Leroy (Peter Saati) repeatedly tells his ditzy girlfriend Destiny (Kay Cannon) not to perform any fellatio while he is gone.

There is no question that THE MYSTERY TEAM is a comedy and built on the chassis of some great ideas. But it never completely finds its footing. It is a comedy in the sense that CORKY ROMANO or THE ANIMAL are comedies, but not in the sense of something great, like the aforementioned CADDYSHACK or even HAPPY GILMORE. THE MYSTERY TEAM is mostly a tedious diversion. Hopefully it is merely a placeholder before DERRICK’S COMEDY really delivers something worthwhile.




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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

SHREK FOREVER AFTER - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW



SHREK FOREVER AFTER – A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW
By: The Mad Hatter

SHREK FOREVER AFTER (also mercifully known as SHREK: THE FINAL CHAPTER) begins by introducing us to Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn). This little imp is known for duping unsuspecting patrons into sucker deals and has his eye on getting control of Far Far Away. He had King Harold and Queen Lillian (John Cleese and Julie Andrews) all primed and ready to swindle when Shrek found Princess Fiona.

That was the start of things for Shrek and Fiona (Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz) who have since added three little bundles of joy to their brood and like many new families, soon find themselves in a rut of feeding, changing, play dates, and time spent with the same old friends. It's enough to drive an ogre crazy, and it ultimately does. Shrek throws a temper tantrum during his triplets’ birthday party and storms off like an ogre.

It's around here that Rumpelstiltskin catches up with him and offers him one of his too-good-to-be-true deals. Shrek can go back to being an intimidating care-free ogre for a day. In exchange, 'Stiltskin will take a random day from Shrek's childhood. Doesn't sound so bad, does it?

Bad news for our smelly green hero: 'Stiltskin takes the day he was born. Thus, 'Stiltskin’s deal with Harold and Lillian comes to pass, and he swindles them out of their kingdom. Also Shrek and Fiona aren't married, he has no children, ogres are hunted within the kingdom, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) lives a life of servitude, Puss (Antonio Banderas) is fat and lazy. Essentially it's Bedford Falls with an imp playing Mr. Potter.

Shrek can undo it all, but he has a day to do so, otherwise . . . well . . . y'know.

More than one person has told me that it was all the pop culture references in the first Shrek movie that made it work so well. I've never bought that. I've always believed the fact that SHREK was based on a great story was what made that first film work so well. In many ways, it felt like the fairy tale that The Brothers Grimm forgot—a clever one that felt fresh in the face of all the animated sweetness we'd been handed for so many years.

Now, by this fourth entry in the series, we've all learned what happens when clever becomes complacent. It's bad enough that much of the winks and nods are ones we've already seen, but now they've all been grafted on to that same "what if?" story that we've seen far too many times. Even with that in mind, I still wanted to enjoy this Shrek offering a lot. But sadly the amount of times I laugh per film has been dwindling as the series has gone on. Now I'm only snickering at throwaway lines (Donkey to Gingerbread Man: "What you talkin' 'bout cracker?").

There is never a moment in SHREK FOREVER AFTER that you think things might not work out. Every new road block these characters encounter seems to come with instructions tacked to them on how they can be overcome. Ye, Far Far Away is still bright and beautiful, and yes, it's fun to hear the flute sample from The Beastie Boys' "Sure Shot" worked into a fairy tale. But that wasn't what made the first chapter work, and it certainly isn't enough anymore.

Then there's the continuing love affair with 3-D. While I loved what Dreamworks did with HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, there wasn't a single detail of SHREK FOREVER AFTER I felt merited a 3-D experience. Thus, I opted for a 2-D screening. While I can see a moment or two where the 3-D might have been nifty, there wasn't a moment I thought I was missing out. Memo to Hollywood: We're over the novelty; you officially have to try harder. Don't believe me? Look at the opening weekend box office for this film.

Indeed, watching Shrek work through his midlife crisis is about as entertaining as listening to Big Bird consider mutual funds or sitting patiently while Goofy gets his biopsy results. ‘Stilskin might have been a fun character on his own, and Puss seems to own every line he is given, but ten years on I have officially grown bored of anything and everything that happens in Shrek's swamp.

Sorry Shrek my man. Next time try buying yourself a sportscar. Might make for a more entertaining movie.


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Thursday, May 20, 2010

ROBIN HOOD - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW




ROBIN HOOD – A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW

By: The Mad Hatter

For the second time in a week, I bought a ticket for a film with chatter of bad buzz ringing in my ear. At least this time, it wasn't an entire week's worth of bad buzz. At least this time around, the chatter wasn't based on comparing a sequel to its original. And with ROBIN HOOD, I think that the negative chatter is not so much due to the movie being bad as people not getting the story they expected to get.

The story begins in the late 12th Century. Richard the Lionheart is in the final throes of his crusades when he gets killed in battle. As the battle continues to rage, four infantrymen break free from the stockade and head for home. The group is led by an archer named Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe). As they try to flee for home, they come across the king's guard getting ambushed by the traitorous knight, Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong).

Thinking quick, Robin and his men disguise themselves as the fallen knights, knowing it will ease their passage home. Amongst the guard is Robert Loxley who with his dying breath, begs Robin to take news of his demise to his father in Nottingham. He likewise entrusts Robin with his sword, asking he return it to its rightful place in his father's hand.

Successfully passing as knights, the men return to England and hand over the crown of the fallen king to the queen mother. The crown is swiftly passed to Prince John, the next in line, who very quickly shows his hand at being strict where it comes to his subjects paying their due taxes. He likewise appoints Sir Godfrey to go about collecting what he's due, unwittingly empowering Godfrey to hasten a French invasion.

Robin, meanwhile, is off to Nottingham where he meets Lord Loxley (Max Von Sydow) and his daughter-in-law Marion (Cate Blanchett). Upon learning of Loxley's death, they both convince Longstride to take his place in order to avoid having their property taken by the crown. Longstride agrees, and somehow, an entire town accepts him as Loxley even though they look nothing alike.

Sheriff of Nottingham? Peripheral character. Outlaw? Not so much.

Astounding feats of Archery? Once in a while. Mis-marketed film? You betcha.

The production of ROBIN HOOD was plagued with indecision, and that indecision has led to much dissatisfaction with the film. What we have here is an origin story, but you'd never know that from the bold title nor from any of the high energy marketing. At one point in the film I thought to myself, "Geez, it feels like we've been setting up Robin's back story for a while." Then I looked at my watch and realized the film had forty minutes left to wrap things up.

Had this film been billed as ROBIN HOOD: SECRET ORIGIN, reaction to it might have been a bit more favorable. As it stands, it contradicts every legend of Nottingham ever told. From Errol Flynn to animated foxes, no movie has ever put the man in tights into this particular narrative. That said, this isn't a bad movie; it just isn't what audiences are expecting.

Russell Crowe does a serviceable job even if he doesn't have much chance to rob from the rich and give to the poor. His accent is indeed slightly muddled, but I'll give him points for attempting one. In some ways, he is playing “Maximus-with-a-Bow,” but he doesn't hold the film back and is as good as he needs to be. Nobody in the cast is really given much to work with, but of everybody, Mark Strong seems to most understand what he's there to do.

Strong is the dastardly villain in this story, and it’s a role he's perfected well in the last eighteen months. After him, Oscar Isaac has his moments but doesn't have a clear enough part to dig in to. He's slimy, weaselly, and cowardly but never needs to be one of these traits for any longer than two minutes at a time.

Since ROBIN HOOD is Ridley Scott's film, I tried to consider where it would fit within his spectrum of films, and sadly it isn't as good as GLADIATOR or KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (the latter was hardly a hit with audiences or critics). For me much of the reason comes down to never tapping into the determination of either of those films. Both of them were stories centered on one man trying to rise to a challenge. ROBIN HOOD spends so much time with Longstride trying to take Loxley's place in many ways that by the time occasion comes for him to rise, we've stopped caring.

I enjoyed what I saw in ROBIN HOOD—bad marketing, and strange story be damned—but I don't know who else will. Those looking for Russell Crowe to kick ass and take names would be better served renting GLADIATOR. Those looking for the legend of an archer and his band of merry men would be better served renting Errol Flynn's 1938 classic. If you're looking for a decent tale of medieval life and a notion of where the whole legend begins, give this movie a look.


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Monday, May 17, 2010

LUCID DEMENTIA - A BADASS BAND INTERVIEW




LUCID DEMENTIA - A BADASS BAND INTERVIEW
By: Mediasaurus Rex

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Sheldon of LUCID DEMENTIA. I’d been playing their music rather regularly (you can get a feel for it here ), and the more I listened to them, the more I wanted to know about them. When I found some footage of them online with a giant demon-looking puppet I was hooked. Was LUCID DEMENTIA a goth puppet-show? Were the rumors that I’d heard of some horror/music hybrid accurate? Are they really opening for ANDROID LUST in Houston on June the first at a club called Numbers? Is their music part of the soundtrack to a horror film called SWEATSHOP? Who were these people, and when would I be able to see their stage show? I had to get to the bottom of the groovy beats and socially-conscious lyrics on the pronto. What follows is some really valuable information about a band that has the potential to really go somewhere.

Can you give us a brief history of the band?
Lucid Dementia, the Band, (actually, the full name of the band is “The Fall and Rise of Lucid Dementia as Performed by the Tribe of the Tantrick Puke Whores”) was [formed] in 1996. After the release of our 1st CD, Twisted, the title song ended up on an international compilation for Female Industrial Artists through COP International, which gave us immediate world-wide exposure. A local Club owner took us under his wing and got us started on the local stage, [an opportunity] which eventually spread out to [performances in] surrounding Texas Cities. Lucid Dementia has undergone various line-up changes, with mainly me, Luci (the puppet) and the drummer as the long-time stand ins. We have been on 1 tour outside of Texas to Colorado Springs and back.

How many members are in the band?
There are MANY “Dementians” (People that help the band in various forms, as well as ex-band members that are no longer able to play with the band but are considered to still be band members). Currently the official line-up number is 5.

Can you describe the genesis of your mascot (Lucid Dementia)?
When I wrote and produced the 1st album, I did it without regard for how I was going to perform it. I had recently been studying about Alfred Jarry and how he performed his Absurdist play “King Ubu” by using simple puppets and such, and that inspired what eventually became “Luci.” I really wanted to do something fantastic, and very different from anything else that was out there.

The story of Luci is this: (Here is a snippet)

“There is another place and another existence, and it cannot be described in human words or even imagined, but it is a place that is of a much higher state than the humans. It should be said here that in this existence, there is no sexuality, no male or female. Humans are known of at this place, and although they are studied, they are used as an example of what we would call evil, and it is against the law to behave in a human fashion. Luci De Mentia was found guilty of this crime and given the most severe penalty—to spend an unknown amount of time among the humans. Luci, in her existence, was a kind of queen, and the crime she committed, the human behavior, was ever so slight, yet again, in her existence, it is an abomination and actually rarely happens. Luci is imprisoned to the human existence, and she is not given a body; she is put here like a ghost. After being here for 13 years, Luci found a suitable body—a timid young man with an insane need to make music. His mind is unstable and makes for perfect manipulation. He is her grand puppet.”

Luci is in constant amazement that human beings, as unintelligent and primitive as they are, are able to walk on their hind legs.

What can the audience expect from Lucid Dementia (the mascot) in a live show?
Half the audience demands Luci, the other half demands Sheldon, so we try to give them both. Normally, we begin the show with Luci for 2 or 3 songs. She IS the lead singer of the band and performs like one. She WILL bite audience members if she can, and she is not above jumping into the audience if necessary. She has a hypnotizing effect on most audience members; some just become disturbed.

What can one expect from the band in a live show?
LUCID DEMENTIA performs a kind of hardcore industrial horror show. We don’t seek to shock audiences; we seek to amaze them. There is always blood, sometimes just drooling; other times there have been live vivisections or brain surgeries. It really depends on how much time the band has and how quickly we have to get offstage if there is another band playing after. We tend to whip audience members into frenzy, so it’s a really bad idea for a quiet, or laid back band to play after us. So far the only one that could pull that off well was Clan of Xymox.

Can you detail the rowdiest live show you have ever performed?
In San Antonio I once fell off a stage into a stack of speakers and messed up my leg really bad, then performed on one leg for the rest of the show. Later someone threw a bottle at my head. Holly had gotten into a car accident that night, and as we found out later, she was performing with a concussion. We once performed at a Punk House in Colorado , and I jumped off stage with Luci on, and a bunch of punks jumped on me and punched and kicked the crap out of Luci and me. That was pretty fun. The last time we did a live vivisection on stage, we had different girls from our dance fan club called The Go Gore Grrls on stage with us, and everyone was smacking each other in the face and hair with blood and gore.

You draw a lot of musical influences from across the board; what are you finding most influential on your music of late?
I used to live in an old house my Uncle built in the 50s and moved out about 5 years ago. Moving out of there and living in a normal house gave me a perspective on some messed up things that I went through while living there. So the next album we are currently working on is inspired by those experiences. It’s probably going to be 13 songs about ghosts. Musically, my core is punk—true punk music, not that pop crap that passes for punk nowadays but true in your face punk music. That is my back ground. This was back when there was no “Goth” or “industrial” or “alternative” but when it was all punk. To me, industrial was the natural evolution of punk music. LUCID DEMENTIA is part of the next evolution of industrial music. That’s what I try for anyway. I let everything influence me, and I hate to be tied down to any one genre. The new LUCID DEMENTIA music will be more aggressive. If I had to name my top current influences: Thrill Kill Kult, Ethyl Meatplow, Mindless Self Indulgence, (Old) Ministry, Cabaret Voltaire, and Hardwire.

There is a sort of b-movie/horror movie kind of vibe that you guys have; can you elaborate on your film tastes?
The name “Lucid Dementia” means “being very clear about issues that are very unclear.” LUCID DEMENTIA is a horror movie. Then again, life is a horror movie. Unless you are very, very lucky, sooner or later something really horrible is going to happen to you whether it’s getting tied down and tortured or dying slowly in a nursing home. I know it’s a horrible way to live, but when things are going well in my life, I start hearing the JAWS theme playing because I know it’s only a matter a time before the next horrible event happens. Can you tell I was tortured as a child? I’m big on Science Fiction horror movies: all the ALIEN movies, lately PANDORUM, and most zombie movies. The movie our music is in is pretty awesome (SWEATSHOP). One of my favorite things to do is watch a bad horror movie and make fun of it, so B-movies are great too.

TWISTED (my personal favorite) is a song about religion, right? Can you tell us the story behind this song?“Twisted” was the first LUCID DEMENTIA song I ever wrote. It is also the most lo-fi song ever recorded for LUCID DEMENTIA. It is also the most famous LUCID DEMENTIA song. It’s all about what everyone thinks “god” is, and pokes fun at how people fight over the concept of “god.”

What are the band's plans for the rest of 2010?
1. Play live as much as possible.
2. Record new music as much as possible.

How did your music get featured in that episode of CBS' NCIS?
They were looking for “poppy” gothic music. The fine folks at COP International recommended us, as well as other folks in bands they talked to. It’s nice to have fans in high places.

Your website says that you will be touring heavily for your next album. Will you be hitting the west coast?
We want to tour more than anything. We would love to start playing outside of Texas more. Right now the economy seems to be making that really difficult, as well as gas prices. A lot of venues have closed as a result of this. As soon as the demand is there, though, we will be everywhere we can.

Anything else you want to add?
Check out the trailers with Lucid Dementia music:
http://www.blogger.com/www.sweatshopfilm.com

LUCID DEMENTIA will be opening for ANDROID LUST June the first in Houston at a club called Numbers.


LUCID DEMENTIA OFFICIAL WEBSITE

The OFFICIAL LUCID DEMENTIA PRESS KIT



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