Wednesday, April 28, 2010



While CELESTE have been around since 2005, I hadn’t heard of them until very recently. I saw a thread about them on a message board where everyone had good things to say. I went in with no expectations, gave it a download, and damn, I am very impressed. From the first note on this album, I was hooked, and it isn’t until the fifth track that I even realized that I had been sitting there listening for about 20 minutes; it’s that engrossing and comprehensive.

Try to imagine if CULT OF LUNA were a black metal band, and if CONVERGE were a slower, more post rock styled band. Mash those together and you might have a decent enough starting point to pin down CELESTE’s sound. They label themselves “Black Metal/Hardcore/Metal” on their MySpace page, so take that for what it’s worth. I can’t really compare this band to any other band out there, and that’s exactly why they’re awesome. It has been so long since I have heard a legitimate new sound in this style of music, so instead of trying to compare and contrast them with other bands, I’m just going to speak freely on why you should check this album out.

On Morte(s) Nee(s), CELESTE are clearly in complete control of the chaos they’ve created. This music is harsh and grating but not without structure. You won’t find any melody here, but it is ripe in discord which adds a feeling of immense atmosphere to the music. Repetition is the key here, and they just keep pummeling you with dissonant octave riffs until you are lulled into some sort of hypnotized trance. There are many layers to every song, but I never felt lost. There aren’t any verses or choruses on the album, but the songs ebb and flow together and within each other so well that you’re never left sitting there thinking, “What was the point of that song?” This album is cohesive and answers to many metal fans’ objection to the lack of cohesion in today’s scene.

I really like the production of Morte(s) Nee(s). It is clean, but it doesn’t feel polished. I feel like I’m hearing them playing live through a really nice PA and with a great sound engineer. The amps sound natural, without too much compression, and the kick drum slices through the mix to keep you on beat if you ever get lost in a song. The vocals are fierce and scathing in a higher register, with a passion that not many have in their vocal approach. Every member gives a stellar performance, so I’m sure they didn’t rely in any way on some studio magic trickery.

The only complaint I have, if I have to have one, is that most of the songs sound the same. They use the same writing methods and similar notation throughout the album, but it’s all so good. I generally don’t like to listen to just one song when I listen to music, but I put on albums that I want to hear from front to back. This album feels like one long song to me, and I have no problem with that, but if you like variety on your album, there isn’t too much here.

I feel dumb for being so late in the game on CELESTE. They have 4 releases now, and I’ve just heard of them last month. If you are a fan of any style of modern heavy music, I think there is something for you in this album. They aren’t aligned to any set genre, so there really is a lot of crossover potential between many types of musical fans. Do yourself a favor and check this album out. Did I mention it’s free? Head over to their label’s website where you can download or stream Morte(s) Nee(s) and all of their other releases for free, and if you like it enough, they take donations for however much you feel like giving. This is one of the better albums I’ve heard not only this year, but in a long time.




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Sunday, April 25, 2010



I might very well be the biggest Woody Harrelson fan on the planet. A dope-smoking pacifist who convincingly chameleons his way through a series of military/lawmen/psychopath roles, it is clear that Harrelson has mastered his craft.

Too bad the film itself sucks. Every comic book notion and every seedy crime film twist has been harnessed to make the plot of DEFENDOR. It works but on a lame TV Movie sort of level.

However DEFENDOR is another master thespian-cementing step for Woody; this time he is a mentally challenged, marble-hurling, wasp-siccing, crime-fighting vigilante named DEFENDOR. Think of Mickey Rooney’s character in BILL but with a 6 foot stature, a few more brain cells, and a superhero complex. His character, Authur Poppington, is in way over his head with crooked police, human trafficking, Serbian gangsters, a family that loves him, and a heart-of-gold hooker with a dirty smoker's voice. The problem is that the movie is so trite, so cliché, and so improbable that it never grows legs and walks.

Nothing new is presented in DEFENDOR, but we get to see Woody really, really act. Too bad Elias Koteas is once again playing a morally bankrupt character. Too bad Sandra Oh is limited to playing a conflicted psychiatrist that is underdeveloped as a character. Kat Dennings is also wasted as a mouthy, meth-headed streetwalker. They are all flat except for Woody who uncannily becomes this retarded DEFENDOR character and rises up against horrible plotting and film pacing to deliver a solid performance. When this movie hits its final moments of the third act, you've seen the solution to all of the problems coming for quite some time. Woody just has to act his way through it. He does a fine job of it too. It is just too bad that the rest of the movie is nothing but meh.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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Monday, April 19, 2010



"What the f*ck have you done lately?"

That line comes from Mark Millar's comic book series, "Wanted." In a nifty, self-aware way, it's at the centre of the film KICK-ASS which is also adapted from a Millar comic series. The mantra of a group of kids who know they are capable of more, it's a shot to the chest for any of us who stand on the sidelines and don't have the guts to stand up for what's right. And it gives a shockingly violent movie a lot of heart.

The film starts with Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), an unspectacular teenager yearning to be something more. Inspired by the comic books he surrounds himself with, he decides to go vigilante and fight crime as a superhero. Small problem though—he has no powers and no training. During his first act of justice, he gets pummeled within an inch of his life. The up-side is that to save him, doctors had to graft a lot of steel plates onto his skeleton, leaving him rather impervious to pain.

His next time out goes much better; not only does he win the fight, but he gets massive YouTube exposure thanks to gawkers with their camera phones. Dave is now much more than a mere mortal; he's Kick-Ass, here to save the day, your cat—whatever you need.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Damon Macready and his daughter Mindy (Nicolas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz). After being framed and sent to prison during his daughter's infancy, Damon has grown a tad overprotective and angry. He wants vengeance on Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), the mob boss who set him up. He reaps his vengeance by becoming "Big Daddy," loading up on weapons—lots of them, legal and wildly illegal alike—and thwarting Frank's business at every turn. Oh, and he trains his daughter to help him.

Know those girls that would rather play hockey than play with dolls? Mindy is like that; but replace the hockey stick with a butterfly knife. She becomes Hit Girl and with Big Daddy, reaches out to Kick-Ass to make him a better hero.

The three of them start taking on Frank's goons, leaving him with precious few resources. So Frank turns to his son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who suggests the only way to find a hero is to become a hero. Chris follows the Kick-Ass formula of grassroots heroism and becomes Red Mist, an internet phenomenon in his own right, hoping that Kick-Ass, Hit Girl, and Big Daddy will take the bait and reach out to him. Maybe then he can crawl out from under his father's massive shadow.

Aaron Johnson draws us in as the titular character, Kick-Ass. His body language perfectly captures a kid whose guts have decided to do something extraordinary but whose brain still isn't convinced. He's that guy you see on the high dive at the pool, arms wrapped around his torso, taking ages to decide whether to jump or take the climb of shame back down the ladder.

Great as Johnson is, he is damn near upstaged by Moretz and Cage. It's their relationship that makes the film a winner. They kick ass better than Kick-Ass kicks ass, but behind the cowls and capes, they are a father and daughter whose relationship is very loving and very real. Cage hams it up appropriately (often doing his best Adam West meets William Shatner), but there is never a moment where we doubt his devotion to his daughter. He isn't putting her through this to follow in his footsteps; he only wants her to be able to protect herself. You can see in her eyes that she knows this isn't completely normal. But she loves her dad, and he hasn't let her down yet, so she follows his lead.

These characters are all reasons enough to see the movie, but it's watching them come out and play that makes this an intense experience. Despite being less than two hours, the film is loaded with action sequences, all of which are expertly choreographed. Hit Girl is at the centre of the best ones which is what makes them slightly more unique. Not since Gogo Yubari swung her mace in KILL BILL has a schoolgirl amassed such a bodycount.

Much has been made of how the film earns its R rating. Hit Girl uses language that would make a sailor blush, the violence is pretty intense—bodies cook, limbs are lost, bullets fly—and none of it has artistic merit. But I don't believe that makes the film overly exploitive. It is based on a violent comic book after all. It just means that the film isn't for young kids.

Intensity aside, what KICK-ASS does best is get the human element right. Kick-Ass' ambition, Hit Girl's devotion, and Red Mist's isolation all work. These kids are not caricatures; they are very human and very relatable. You look at their faces, and you can see the unrest and desire. Deep down in all of them, they know they'd rather be the one in the middle of the fray than a spectator standing on the sidelines with a camera.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010


[Originally entitled HOT TUB TURD MACHINE]
By: Jakob

Although it makes more sense in 2010 to make an homage to 1980s teenage sex/romantic comedies than it did in 1998 with THE WEDDING SINGER, enough time has passed now to really play-up on the decade's cringing sense of nostalgia. HOT TUB TIME MACHINE only succeeds in this due to the fact that a lot of the original films weren't really as good as we remember.

They are all, however, better than HOT TUB TIME MACHINE.

The film tries to do too much with as little effort as possible. The results are predictable—a total and unremitting mess. Here is a list of the top-ten flaws in HOT TUB TIME MACHINE:

1. Too many main characters
The premise of the film is three men, Adam (John Cusack), Lou (Rob Corddry), and Nick (Craig Robinson), hitting their mid-life crises return to the site of their wildest party weekend—a ski hill pointedly reminiscent of the one in BETTER OFF DEAD—where they are transported back to 1986 by way of a hot tub. Tagging along is Adam's nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke), who serves as straight man on their hijinks-ensuing quest.

Along the way we watch as the three men make peace with the past and their current crappy lives, and Jacob comes out of his Second Life-playing, basement-dwelling shell. Only he doesn't actually come out of this shell, but we're meant to understand he does, EVEN THOUGH WE'RE NOT SHOWN IT.

On paper the premise is awesomely radical to the max. The problem is these kinds of stories only work well with one or two main characters, either as a buddy movie or an ensemble but with additional members of the cast relegated to the background. This is especially important when so much time is spent on gags aping scenes and characters from '80s films, not to mention the on-going shenanigans of Crispin Glover's accident-prone bellhop, the ski-patrol douchebags, or the unnecessary cameos by Chevy Chase as the mysterious repairman.

We don't have time to watch Jacob learn how to talk to people (girls) without texting, Nick work through his marital problems, Lou his existential problems, Adam his, uh, marital and existential problems. There's really only enough time to tell the story of two of the main characters. Though enjoyable to watch as ever, Cusack's character Adam doesn't bring anything to the table. You really feel like he's only there because Cusack was in BETTER OFF DEAD, and he's needed to make the gimmick work.

Nick's story is equally unaffecting. Perhaps without Lou's and Adam's stories, more could have been done with his frustrated musician character other than a nod to the Chuck Berry scene in BACK TO THE FUTURE.

Really, the only two character arcs of any worth in the film are Lou's and Jacob's. The characters are the only two with a genuine connection and a need to grow from mutual antipathy to love and appreciation. If their stories had been given room to develop, the movie could have worked. We would have actually seen Jacob evolve from an antisocial basement-nerd into a socially functioning young man instead of just a few weak gestures in that direction.

The film needed streamlining in the character department whether the Lou and Adam characters had been blended to suit Cusack or the role of Lou had been given to another actor.

This last point is important because . . .

2. Rob Corddry is NOT Jack Black.
Rumor has it Jack Black turned down the role of Lou because the character has no redeeming qualities and is ultimately unlikable. Black contractually only plays characters who are ultimately sympathetic it seems. Yet when Black (who Lou was very clearly written for) turned down the part, the character was not changed to suit Rob Corddry's strengths (which are?).

The thing is Black could have given the character some more depth and elevated Lou from a one-dimensional douchebag into a character whose journey was worth my time to follow. You don't realize what you've got until it's gone. Much like you don't realize you'd ever write a review lamenting the loss of Jack Black's acting ability until you do.

3. Homophobic humor
It’s difficult to tell if writers of HOT TUB TIME MACHINE are merely homophobic or if the gay jokes were a misguided attempt to capture the spirit of '80s comedies and their off-color humor. There are some really unfortunate jokes in those old films—Long Duk Dong in SIXTEEN CANDLES comes to mind—but rewatching them now, there isn't the malicious intent this film seems to harbor. When Lt. Harris stumbles into the gay bar in POLICE ACADEMY, the humor is in his discomfort. Also the leather-daddies are portrayed as powerful individuals deserving of, at least, a back-handed sort of respect. In REVENGE OF THE NERDS Lamar's literal limp wrist becomes a strength in the games. Both of those films poke fun at homosexuality, but it's in a friendly manner. In HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, being gay or being confronted with homosexual situations is portrayed as the WORST THING THAT COULD POSSIBLY HAPPEN EVER. The joke goes beyond showing Nick and Lou in uncomfortable situations and moves the humor to a mean-spirited place.

4. Patriarchical messaging
There is a running gag in the film where the character Nick is seen to be "less of a man" because he'd made the "progressive" gesture of hyphenating his surname to Webber-Agnou when he got married. The predictable outcome of the film is he returns to the present as "Nick Webber" again, this time with a wife who worships him. The message that millennia of women taking their husband's names somehow did not lessen them in the same was as a man taking his wife's name is subtly yet staggeringly offensive.

5. The young dudes > the old dudes.
Mostly seen in brief flashes in mirrors, the actors who play the 20-year-old versions of Adam, Lou and Nick are more compelling than their 40-something counterparts, yet they are given almost no screen time. Every time I caught a glimpse of the young Lou, I wished I were watching a film with him in it.

Furthermore, the elements for a brilliant homage/parody of an '80s teen-romp are all there, But they are wasted potential.

6. Blaine and Chaz are wasted.
Every '80s comedy has the privileged douchebag nemesis to the main character(s). Often they have names like Blaine and Chaz. Sometimes they actually have the names Blane (PRETTY IN PINK) and Chas (BACK TO SCHOOL). These characters, with their perfect hair and neck-constricting collars, are an integral part of these films. They are the challenge our hero(s) need to overcome on their quest to coolness, losing their virginity, or winning the girl.

It was brilliant to see these archetypes recreated so perfectly in HOT TUB TIME MACHINE as Lou's ski-patrol rivals, but it was only to be disappointed later as they were cast aside to make room for Cusack's relatively pointless storyline.

The rivalry between Lou and the militaristic, RED DAWN-worshiping Blaine should have been the central story in the plot and not one of three equally developed (or ignored) threads. Also, in keeping with films like CAN’T BUY ME LOVE, Lou's love interest really should have been Blaine's girlfriend whereas she was a character who existed outside that storyline altogether.

7. Jacob is wasted
Continuing with the theme of wasted potential, something HOT TUB TIME MACHINE excels at, Clark Duke's Jacob is another prime example. Really, aside from Crispin Glover, Duke turns in the only truly enjoyable performance in the whole debacle. Corddry's Lou is too seedy and weak to truly identify with or respect on any level, and Cusack's ambient charm can't quite disguise the fact that he's phoning his performance in. But Duke is enjoyable and entertaining in every scene he is in, further argument that the plot should have been built around him and Lou instead of the de facto focus, Cusack.

There is also the classic set-up, as mentioned in point 1, for Jacob to come out of his shell. Separated from technology and texting devices, he's going to learn how to communicate with real live girls, right? That's what the point of making him a Second Life-addicted nerd is right? Not really.

There's not much point to a lot of his character's set-up. They sort of touch on the idea he's been changed by his experiences in 1986, but the pay-off either ended up on the cutting room floor, or they didn't bother to fully flesh-out the scene figuring the audience could fill-in the formulaic plot-points for themselves. Well, yes, the audience can. Sure, we're pretty smart on the whole. But that doesn’t make up for what is increasingly missing from Hollywood films—basic storytelling.

8. The ending is bullshit
I'm sure I won't really be spoiling anything if I tell you that when they make it back to present day, it's an alternate timeline where all their lives are vastly improved (similar to BACK TO THE FUTURE). I will be spoiling it slightly if I tell you Lou stays in 1986 and makes everything better for everyone. That's great, right? Except he's the only one who benefits from the new and improved 24 years! Yes, they all have better careers and personal lives, but they don't have memories of any of it. It would be heartbreaking to have only the memories of two-and-a-half broken decades but photos on your walls of the perfect life you could have lived.

We all wonder about those other lives that might have been, but to have PHOTOGRAPHIC PROOF taunting you every day . . . that's a subtle kind of hell I'd never considered before. And it's a hell that might actually have made an interesting film in itself as Adam and Nick's lives slowly revert to the crap they left behind when they realize they don't have the memories and skill sets built-up over 24 years to function in their "new" lives.

9. What is Chevy Chase doing in this movie?
Okay, Chevy Chase, once you recover from how old he's suddenly become, is great. But the PLEASANTVILLE-esque mysterious repairman character is one more element too many. They had a choice to make: Crispin Glover's bellhop or Chevy Chase. They didn't choose. Both are in here.

To be fair, Glover is used excellently, and just the right amount of time is spent on him. That's about the only successful turn in the whole film. But this is at the expense of the Chase character feeling like the straw that breaks the camel's back—too many ideas, too many strong characters, no balance whatsoever.

10. Anachronisms—musical and otherwise
THE WEDDING SINGER is clever in that the filmmakers never say exactly when in the 1980s it is supposed to take place. So when MIAMI VICE (1984) seems to be contemporary with THRILLER (1982), it's not really a problem. It's almost an "alternate-universe" take on the '80s.

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE is set specifically in 1986. A lot of the details are spot on, but the occasional song or prop item strikes me as out of place. Though NEW ORDER's "Blue Monday" is a perennial classic, it might be more believable for Blaine and ski-patrol's "fight song" to be a song that was actually popular in Middle America in '86. New Wave and pop were dead by then. Bon Jovi and hair metal were freakin' huge. Given Blaine's patriotic stance, "Born in the USA" might be an acceptable choice. I think the intent was that Blaine listens to "faggy" pop music instead of rock (Lou's defining music), but guys like Blaine don't really listen to New Order unless it happens to be a current top-ten hit. There's also an absurd tacked-on sub-plot where Lou fronts "Motley Lou" (replacing Vince Neal), and, it's implied, writes "Home Sweet Home," a song released in 1985. Google tells me the yellow Sports Walkman was actually released in 1986. But I swear it wasn't until '87 or '88 before anyone actually owned one. An older model perhaps would be more accurate though less iconic and recognizable in a 2-second shot. Although this is the kind of nit-picking that used to drive me mad watching movies set in 1962 with my dad, I still feel like more attention to anachronisms was paid in films like BACK TO THE FUTURE and STAND BY ME than was paid here.

One thing I'm thankful for, that this film helped me realize, is that if I ever do find a hot tub time machine, I'm throwing a Terminator in and making sure director Steve Pink is never born. I never would have thought about that before.

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Friday, April 16, 2010



GOD OF WAR 3 is so ridiculously good that I had to hack, slash, and pummel my way through the entire game before coming back and writing another review installment. The game sticks with the vengeful spirit of the franchise and either maintains it or ratchets key elements (such as onscreen violence) up a notch or two. Furthermore, as the game progresses, it gets prettier and prettier. No wonder it took Sony three years to bring this to the table. They cut no corners whatsoever. If Kratos is in a castle, it is opulent. If he is in a forest, the greenery is idyllic. If he is dodging balls of lava, you feel the heat. In my first time through, I found one glitch that forced me to fight an extremely harrowing battle again. The glitch (which I will mention when I chronicle that part of the game) and a button issue (which I address at the end of this episode of the review) are the only problems that I have experienced so far. Otherwise gameplay is seamless. The controllers respond perfectly, and the story that is being presented is fascinating.

In my personal life, all other media intake has ground to a standstill. Compared to GOW 3, movies, music, and television really sound like muddled voices calling to me from the unseen end of some underwater tube. But alas, in my gushing, I digress. I will do my best to keep my reporting on Kratos’ adventure as free from big spoilers as possible.

Part of what makes Kratos work so well is that he is a proxy for everyman. Kratos is a man who is in too deep and is lashing back at everything. He accidentally slaughtered his family while in a blind rage, he has an issue with the gods, and he is going all in with his Blades of Exile because he has NOTHING TO LOSE. Kratos represents a man who simply doesn’t give a damn about the consequences. He is free in the sense that he has already lost everything and died as both a man and a god yet still functions. “Death cannot hold those with purpose,” is what Athena says to him. Kratos has a singular purpose, and that is to wreck each and every beloved character in classic Greek mythology.

Kratos has been to hell and back in each incarnation of the GOW series, and he goes back to Hades two more times before GOW 3 ends.

Part one of this review ended with Kratos finishing off Poseidon. Directly after that and Gaia’s betrayal, he dives headlong into the River Styx and enters Hades to knock out the god of the underworld. Before Kratos can put his Spartan boot up Hade’s brimstone ass, he has to deal with waves and waves of enemies and puzzles.

Hades looks like a portly lead singer for a GWAR-type metal band. He has a vented, horned helmet on his head, and his shirtless torso is punctured with randomly placed needles and spikes. Hades carries himself like a cross between SOUL CALIBUR’s Astaroth and the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE’s Leatherface. Hades is a big, beefy man with a well-fed belly and this crazy new weapon called “The Claws of Hades.” The atmosphere of the battle with the god of the underworld is gloomy and drab. The aforementioned claws that he uses against Kratos glow as they rip into all that are in their path. Hades swings the claws in such ways that Kratos is both jumping and not jumping, like some form of hellish incarnation of DONKEY KONG. The hunks that Kratos rips out of Hades’ flesh (starting with an entire pectoral muscle and also featuring a hacked out love handle) crawl back to him, and need to be snuffed out before he can rebuild himself. More and more chunks are pulled from Hades until he resembles the Mutoid Man from SMASH TV. The arms of the damned reach out of the ground like Polanski’s REPULSION and Kratos has to get his scorched earth on. Every battle with each god that Kratos works through is varying degrees of epic warfare and hand to hand combat; Hades is no duckwalk.

Fresh out of hell, Kratos now tracks the sun god Helios to the city of Olympia which sits at the base of Mount Olympus. On his way there, he runs into Gaia one more time. Apparently, after Zeus wrecked her arm and threw her over the side of the mountain, she spent her time at the base of the mountain mustering up her power to get back to her battle with the gods. Kratos is done with the dirt-woman though, and he finishes wrecking her arm and shoves her out of the way. What is cool about this is that it is such a minor part of the game. Kratos has a brief moment where he actually puts the Titan known as Mother Earth in check. The urgency of Kratos’ murderous rampage has no time for minor Titans like Gaia. Zeus is Kratos’ target, and his intensity has caused him to become a complete revenge machine. Gaia is in the way, and Kratos has other enemies to slash through.

One such enemy is the Chimera that blocks Kratos’ attack on Helios, the next god up to bat. The Chimera is a freaky-looking snake/goat/lion creature that breathes fire. This goofy but dangerous abomination proves to be more of a headache than Helios himself. The fight is surprisingly difficult. The Chimera stands between the ballista that must be fired at the sun god and Kratos. Kratos forces Helios’ crash-landing and before he can reach the god, a bunch of Olympus guards cover Helios 300 Spartan-style. When a pissy Cyclops shows up, a couple of well placed slashes to the brute demonstrate that Kratos is now able to hop on the back of the Cyclops after it is damaged and control him like those little pig-brats with battle axes did in GOW 2. This method of cutting through opposition is one of the coolest aspects of GOW 3. This dispatching of Helios may be one of the weakest god-takedowns in the game, but it is worth it. With Helios’ head ripped clean-off, Kratos now has a portable flashlight-noggin that lights up dark areas and hidden treasures throughout the rest of the game. Furthermore, the head can be used as a stunner to flashburn nearby eyes.

Speaking of weapons, another cool part about this installation of the GOW franchise is that Kratos comes in armed with some of his previous tools. Most notable of these are the wings of Icarus (he killed Icky in part 2). These make for some spectacular flying sequences that help Kratos cover all sorts of vertical ground, both up and down in this version.

GOW 3 feels like the previous episodes of the franchise. The only complaint that I have heard is that the game is a “mash-fest.” The only reason a person is really going to mash the buttons to get through a situation is that they don’t know what they are capable of. Like any fighting game, the mashing of buttons might get the job done, but precise attacks guarantee it. The L2 button lets Kratos cycle through his growing list of magic weapons that he is amassing (such as Helios’ well-lit dome). The L1 button is used to inflict damage with standard weapons like the Blades of Exile or the Claws of Hades. As the game progresses, the PS3 controller becomes fully armed. Magic is released from the R2 button, and if I have one complaint about the game, that would be it. Perhaps it is the way that I hold the controller, but I tend to bump the R2 button randomly against my knee, and when magic is all you have to get a bunch of harpies and satyrs off of your back, you don’t want to misfire it over some BS real-time controller mishandling.

This game exceeds all of my expectations. I will publish another installment in the next bit as I work my way through the game a second time. Replay value? You have no idea.

-Mediasaurus Rex


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Thursday, April 15, 2010


By: The Mad Hatter

I didn't run to see Dreamworks' latest animated feature right away like I usually do for new releases I want to see because I’d heard a lot about it here and there—how a lot of people really loved it—and the unfortunate side effect of such ravings is that my expectation bar gets set way up in the clouds. Funny thing though, when I finally did see HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON two days ago, it didn't just meet that lofty bar; it soared far above it.

The film begins in the Viking town of Berk which routinely gets raided for sheep and other food by various species of dragon. The people pride themselves on being dragon slayers and defending their home turf, especially their leader, Stoick (Gerard Butler). However, every chain must have a weak link, and in Berk it's Hiccup (Jay Baruchel). Hiccup is Stoick's son and desperately wants to join the fray but is just far too small and clumsy in most people's eyes. He's reduced to working in the blacksmith's shop with Gobber (Craig Ferguson).

During one raid, Hiccup steals away and sets up a bola-firing contraption. He actually manages to snare a Night Fury, the most feared dragon of them all, but when he tracks it down, he can't bring himself to kill it. He frees it and watches it fly away into a canyon. When Hiccup gets back, Stoick reluctantly enrolls him in dragon training where Hiccup's crush on a real slayer-in-waiting, Astrid (America Ferrera), goes into overdrive while watching her prowess. It's here that he is told that dragons will go for the kill in battle, every time. This leads Hiccup to wonder why the Night Fury let him walk.

Hiccup returns to the canyon and discovers that the Night Fury's tail has been injured, thus handicapping its ability to fly. He also discovers that with patience and respect, a human can befriend a Dragon. Thus he earns the friendship of the Night Fury, a dragon he eventually names Toothless. Once the two have bonded, Hiccup engineers an artificial fin for the dragon’s tail, enabling it to fly again. And it lets Hiccup fly with him.

In Toothless and Hiccup, Dreamworks have added characters to their stable that are instantly relatable and loveable, no small feat as they've been trying to do that since Shrek first stepped from his outhouse. For this I give full credit to directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois. These gents were the creators of LILO & STITCH, one of Disney's last great 2-D animated films, a fact which obviously can't be mentioned in the marketing.

Amusingly, this film made me take a step back on my crusade against 3-D. By now my stance is well-known: 3-D is a gimmick, a cash-grab that I really don't want to encourage. However . . . HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON has been specifically rendered in 3-D from the get-go, and thus it feels intentional and actually rather thrilling, especially during the flying sequences. During such moments, there are daring, sweeping camera moves and exciting POV shots that took me up out of my seat and momentarily gave me the rush of what it could be like to ride a dragon. It almost pains me to say this, but indeed, if you don't see this in 3-D, you aren't getting the full experience.

Along with the thrilling action and the two scoops of laughs, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON got me because of an overall sweetness that isn't manipulative. Every dragon is given a lot of character, especially Toothless (who incidentally, reminded me a lot of my own black cat in many of his mannerisms). Hiccup's relationship with his father is something we've seen before, but for some reason it feels truly genuine here. Likewise the budding bond between Hiccup and Astrid is sweet to watch, since they have a delicate chemistry with each other.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON reminds me of being young and finding the guts to go on the highest fastest roller coaster with your hands held up in the air. It's brave, it's exciting, and it's the sort of experience movies so seldom deliver. I can't recommend it highly enough and do myself hope to see it at least one more time in a theatre . . . maybe twice.


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Wednesday, April 14, 2010




Note: Saw the 2-D version.

******HEAVY SPOILERS*******

I am aware of the bad hype surrounding this movie. It's hard to avoid with remakes; more often than not they fail to deliver.

Suffice it to say, this movie is hardly an exception.

The movie begins with a small story explaining the current state of things in the world and on Mt. Olympus. This is actually a good thing as it explains in more detail how the Kraken came to be.

The movie progresses very quickly. We barely see Perseus as a child, and the next thing you know, he's on a quest for revenge against the gods. Silly as it sounds, I actually found this aspect quite refreshing as this is one of the few movies in the history of cinematography that doesn't revolve around a man trying to save his wife or girlfriend or just some hot piece of ass. Nope, Perseus is all about his cold-dished revenge against the god Hades who killed his father, mother, and sister.

As Perseus departs Argos (the city doomed to die by the Kraken), he now has an entourage to help him in his endeavors against the gods. Draco, the head of the entourage, is an unlikely face, and I had to look twice until he spoke (he has an unmistakable accent); it was Mads Mikkelson who played Le Chiffre in CASINO ROYALE. Once I realized it was him, I was waiting non-stop at the edge of my seat for Mikkelson to hit Perseus in the nads. It never happened.

Much of what was in the original has been redone or re-imagined. Some of it works; some of it falls flat like bread with no yeast.

Medusa's back story gets explained a bit better than in the original version. But the effects for Medusa are too over the top, and she is far too pretty to be the queen of the stone age. The original Medusa was slow and ugly; this one is fast, agile and actually not so bad on the eyes. I didn't like it.

Calibos is a huge sack of fail.

The Stygian sisters didn't really hit he mark either. The scene was shorter than I would have liked, and their seeing eye was actually a large eye held by stringy flesh. I preferred the glass orb from the original movie.

Perseus's gifts from the gods are actually limited this time around to a single sword. The sword is cool-looking and only opens up for Perseus, but that's it. In the original, we get to see Burgess Meredith drop the sword through solid marble "without leaving the slightest blemish on the blade." I was hoping for something along those lines to show us how crafty the gods are at forging, but alas, another disappointment. No shield, except from Perseus’ entourage, and no helmet or red cloak.


Things I liked in the movie:

The boat ride to Medusa's prison was pretty cool. It provided a slightly more tense and epic feel—one of the few in the movie.

A few notable laughs are made in an attempt to lighten mood. They are mostly just mild chuckle worthy jokes, but at this point, it's almost all we got.

Many of the effects are good and easy on the eyes.

The most epic owning of a man's wife I have ever seen in a movie. That's the Zeus we all know and love!

Things that just didn't work:

Zeus' body armor—why does Zeus need to wear armor like he's on a quest for Excalibur while he's in Olympus? He doesn't even adorn the ridiculously shiny armor when he leaves Mt. Olympus!

Calibos—you'll see.

Hades—one of the worst voices in a movie I have heard. It sounded like he needed an inhaler the whole time.

Perseus' love interest gets tossed about in the desert sand and rock while escaping from larger than life scorpions, and when it's all said and done, her little white mini dress is still so white it should be the display for a Clorox commercial. Furthermore, her knees and elbows are not skinned, dirty or bruised at all—cinematic fail.

We never get to see the Kraken really destroy Argos, as in the original.

Perseus is a fisherman with no weapons training AT ALL, and he bests a professional soldier the very first time he trains. Next thing we know he's doing back flips off of walls and ridiculous sword play—bogus.

Overall the movie is decent to look at and with a few laughs here and there. We almost get a feeling like we are going to get our money's worth, but that feeling is short-lived.

Save your money people; you’ll thank me later.

-Spinal Villain



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Thursday, April 8, 2010


(pulled from the forums and dusted off for your consideration)

I have seen this piece of crap movie, and I don't know if I will be able to contain my anger on the subject.

There is a cute twist thrown in at the end that sort of makes you go "hmmm," but it doesn't diffuse the improbable nattering that happens through the rest of the film.

I guess Jude Law is playing himself, a father who is distanced from his kid and hooks up with a lounge singer/crack-whore/totally rebuilt woman that looks like a soft-featured man.

Forrest Whittaker is on such thin ice in my mind that I am speechless. Let's not forget that this man starred alongside Stayin' Alive in BATTLEFIELD EARTH.

Let's not forget his string of horrific films, most noteably STREET KINGS and PANIC ROOM. I did like his turn in THE SHIELD though. I liked it a lot. I haven't seen THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND or whatever that was, and maybe I should. Let's also not forget that his career-starter was FAST TIMES. This is a man who could be doing a lot better than slumming through movies like this.

I cited somewhere that REPO MEN was unoriginal all the way back to Monty Python's THE MEANING OF LIFE. Wouldn't you know that there is a scene in REPO MEN in which a TV is playing the particular Monty Python scene that I cited?

Liev Schreiber is another guy who shows up in nonstop trash. I say nonstop because people all want to cite what a great job he did as Sabertooth in WOLVERINE. But truth be told, WOLVERINE is trash. If he put in any worthwhile work, it was in THE OMEN and a movie called TWILIGHT that has nothing to do with vampires
Other than that? What's he got? THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE? DEFIANCE?

The REPO MEN story is ridiculous. America files for bankruptcy. You can sign on to get new body parts for ridiculous prices and low monthly fees. If you miss 4 payments, they come and repo your stuff.

The opening scene shows Jude Law putting on surgeon garb before he extracts the organ. But you never see that again. These guys are doing back-alley organ-abortions.

Law's wife wants him out of the repo biz, so much so that she divorces him. You think that the plot will pick up when a freak accident forces Mr. Law to get a heart from the company that he repos for, right? Think again.

Law runs around with his rebuilt crack whore and tries to function, and the repo men are coming, specifically the aforementioned LAST KING OF SCOTLAND.

Whittaker's and Law's onscreen relationship is one of the most unbelievable pairings I have ever seen, and I put that on COP OUT. Apparently they were friends in the 4th grade and have gone through the military together. Apparently they are really close. But you know what? A convo that they have at the bar where Whittaker jokes about having to repo his own grandfather shows that these two people don't really know each other. They are casual at best.

FX? Great.

Plot? Stupid.

Acting? Ok.

There is also an OLDBOY homage at the end. Law has to go down a hall and cut through a zillion people. He uses knives, a hacksaw, oh, and a HAMMER. It is too obvious, and it feels lame. If I wanted to see someone cut through a hall of people, I would watch OLDBOY.

I give this move 5 mad faces. Meaning I am completely pissed off.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010



Un prophète (A PROPHET) is a sharp, French prison flick that continually hits the refresh button on the prison film genre. Superior Machiavellian hustles, sex, drugs, and a completely exploitable prison system make this two and a half hour epic worth every minute. There is no glorification of prison society in this film. The reality that is presented is a desolate one where even beneficial prospects are bathed with grim shadows. Somehow, all of this negativity is delivered with a modicum of hope, driving the film through to its optimistic ending.

When 19 year old Malik (a convincingly skittish Tahar Rahim) shows up in a French prison system for a 6 year stint, he is so inexperienced that the countdown to his “welcome to prison” thrashing is ticking overtime. The beating that Malik takes is relatively mild, but the stage is set. Malik has nothing and is no one. He is serving time for “attacking cops,” but this is all we know about him. He has no family, no friends, and he is illiterate. Malik has absolutely no connections and nothing to lose. Not only that, but he is a half-breed “dirty Arab,” and this leaves him with no strong racial ties. This cements his position at the bottom of the food chain. What Malik does possess is a natural intelligence, and his new prison life feeds this intelligence with a series of barbaric, twisted lessons.

One could look at Malik’s prison moves through a video game lens. He has to kill sub-bosses and go on missions before he can win the game. The sub-bosses and missions get more and more hectic as the film continues.

Scenes that lightly smack of such American prison films as AMERICAN ME and ANIMAL FACTORY permeate the landscape as Malik attempts to find his way. Like the main characters in these films, Malik finds himself free-falling into an amoral hole that offers little hope and no spiritual redemption. He has to go through this vortex, and as he does, Malik literally grows up and becomes a man before our eyes.

Brooding, elderly Corsican thug, Cesar Luciani (Niels Arestrup), forces Malik to kill a snitch named Reyeb (Hichem Yacoubi), and his return is protection. Malik can’t get out of this obligation; when he tries to, he is choked out with a plastic bag over his head. The scene in which Malik murders Reyeb is so riveting and stressful that it is a relief when the blood finally sprays.

After Malik becomes a murderer, he is saddled with Reyeb’s ghost who resides in his cell, much like the victims congregated in the theater in AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. Reyeb becomes Malik’s smoking buddy, offering odd pieces of information and assuming the role of a powerless guardian angel. The title of the film can be loosely applied to this and other more subtle scenes of spiritual significance. Malik is protected physically by Cesar and his thugs, but his tormented inner man gets some level of peace from the ghost of Reyeb.

Cesar’s treatment of Malik is that of vicious, fatherly disdain. Malik listens closely to Cesar’s henchmen and eventually learns their Corsican language, thus becoming bilingual and moving deeper into Cesar’s circle. There are perks to being Cesar’s eyes and ears such as a television, DVD player, and a visit from a prostitute, but despite these comforts, Malik’s prison existence is still uncompromisingly bleak.

Malik earns a day pass, given for good behavior in the French prison system, and is forced to hustle for Cesar outside of prison while doing a little multi-tasking hash dealing for himself. The jobs that Cesar has Malik doing on the outside tend to involve precarious situations and terse conversations had while staring down the business end of a gun. However, Malik’s life outside of prison is presented as bright and exhilarating. When Malik takes a short business flight on a plane, his childish wonder and lack of decorum are a treat to watch.

In prison, Malik’s only bright spot is the education that he starts with his friend Ryad (Adel Bencherif). Ryad teaches Malik to read and write. This aspect of their relationship comes to an end soon when Ryad is released. Then Ryad becomes Malik’s hash-slanging lieutenant on the outside, but their relationship is tainted by Ryad’s recurring testicular cancer and the chance that he will die and leave his wife and child behind. Through Ryad, life on the outside is presented with the “two sides of the same coin” view. Prison has its problems, and so does freedom.

The French prison game isn’t all brawn and force (though such methods are employed) it is mostly cerebral, laced with copious amounts of treachery and overt verbal intimidation. When Malik cinches all of his loose ends together and makes his play, it is electrifying to watch. Vengeance is dealt, and while it is subtle, it is crushing. But this isn’t a film that ends on a bummer note. There is hope in its final frames, making the whole mechanism work seamlessly.

A PROPHET presents prison in the hopeless sense of a film like MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. The standard prison gladiator themes from American films like LOCK-UP, UNDISPUTED or even PENITENTIARY are absent in A PROPHET. Battery-filled sock beatings are administered and punches are thrown, but this is definitely not the ripped Hollywood prison machine that we have grown accustomed to. Malik is a skinny, chain-smoking kid who can barely grow a moustache. None of the other prisoners in this French penitentiary are swollen with muscle either. Moreover, outside of a few hefty bellies and a few taller than average men, these are some of the least formidable-looking inmates ever presented in a prison film.

Director Jacques Audiard keeps the pacing almost unfairly brisk. As plot elements unfold, some of it happens so fast that the viewer is only left with fragments of past offscreen moments. Stuff happens before the camera gets there. This method of plot-delivery keeps the viewer off-kilter. Violence seems to be around every corner, and moments where the tension seems to have been lifted explode with the unexpected. Freeze-frame, floating word introductions to new characters remind the viewer that A PROPHET also considers style and isn’t solely concerned with its intricate storyline.

Unlike the typical prison film, A PROPHET’s plot focuses on the strategy of the takeover and isn’t entirely reliant on the brute force behind it. It is thick, balanced, and displays the raw, morality-free survival mechanism that kicks in when men are behind bars. It is a haunting, intelligent, fast-paced character study that tells us in a new palatable way that prison is still both a life and soul-killer.

-Mediasaurus Rex

MEDIASAURS' A PROPHET thread in the Forums


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Tuesday, April 6, 2010



The 1980s was arguably the best decade for science fiction and horror films. One needs to look no further than BLADE RUNNER or THE THING. Those films can't be reproduced. In short, no one should bother to talk an executive at 20th Century Fox about a BLADE RUNNER prequel. But a remake-happy-moron did get to the execs at Universal Studios, and a prequel for THE THING is gearing up for an early 2011 delivery date. Universal Studios has been failing hard lately, and this will be another chapter in their book of stupid decisions. Apparently the prequel will be a study in what the hell that Husky-alien was doing at the Norwegian camp before a pre-BACKDRAFT Kurt Russell poured scotch into the back of his chess-computer, schooled Wilford Brimley, and lit everything up with a flame thrower. I suppose the prequel footage will show the Norwegians slashing their wrists and freezing to death. WHO CARES?, WHY?, and PLEASE STOP are all swirling in our heads right now.

-Mediasaurus Rex


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Monday, April 5, 2010


By: DEREK, vocalist for THE FACELESS

HOUR OF PENANCE, a brutal death metal band from Italy, first caught my attention with 2008’s The Vile Conception. The pulverizing combination of extreme speed and unrelenting aggression was great, but the lack of diversity in tracks left more to be desired and at times felt robotic. Now they have returned with Paradogma, released March 31 on Unique Leader Records.

This album is a BEAST, sickeningly fast in all aspects, churning out inhuman performances from every member of the band. If you like fast blast beats in your death metal, you can stop reading here and go pick this album up. The drummer, Mauro Murcurio, is a sadist behind the kit, cranking his appendages up to 11 on this one. The speed also harbors one of my chief complaints with the group though.

On The Vile Conception, I felt that I was listening to the same song over and over again. Every time it was an excellent song, but music this brutal and this fast can grow tiresome to even the most seasoned listener. I am stoked to say that HOUR OF PENANCE seem to have come to the same conclusion and slow it down at times on Paradogma. They’ve introduced slower parts into their songs that you can actually bob your head to without getting dizzy, and it really highlights the intensity of the rest of their onslaught as shown in the excellent track, The Woeful Eucharisty. The track, Malevolence of the Righteous, brings things down to a crushing mid tempo the entire way through to give you a breath of fresh air before pummeling you into another dimension for the rest of the album.

We’ve established that the drums are insane, and the same can be said for the guitars. These guys never let up, and keep it interesting throughout. They remain technical without becoming a noodling, self-indulgent wankfest but never abandon their original goal: to make you want to destroy any and everything around you.

Although with most music, especially metal, the guitar gives the standout performance, in HOUR OF PENANCE’s case, I have to say that that award goes to the vocalist, Francesco Paoli. This guy is, in my opinion, the best vocalist in death metal today. I have never heard anyone achieve such speed and clarity, and he does it with style. For those of you who aren’t so familiar with this style of music, if you thought BONE THUGS were fast, think again.

I haven’t had a chance to read the lyrics, but I doubt HOUR OF PENANCE is rewriting the book here. Based on the song titles, it seems to be an assault on Christianity, which is always a good, somehow still not played out, lyrical theme. Also brought to the table are some ethereal wailing cries that really add atmosphere to the overall sound of the songs as in the epic closer, Apotheosis.

I only have a couple, very minor gripes with the album. Borrowing heavily from NILE and BEHEMOTH, HOUR OF PENANCE definitely wears its influences on its sleeve. It even has that Middle Eastern feel at times that both of those other bands have pioneered and mastered. That isn’t to say that the style isn’t enjoyable, but when those parts hit, it’s hard not to dock them for it.

Another problem comes with the production. Everything sounds good—I’m probably even happier about the actual sounds on the album (the drums actually sound real this time!)—but the mix is disappointing. With a band whose best performances come from the drummer and vocalist, I find the snare drum and all of the vocals to be quite low in the mix compared to everything else (it’s all quite loud). Hiding the elements that set HOUR OF PENANCE apart and above the rest of the bands out there just doesn’t make any sense to me.

Paradogma is likely to be a big hit on the death metal scene in 2010. If you like scorchingly fast ferocity, look no further. Sure, the songs can be hard to discern from one another, but at least every song has the formula mastered. This is NILE or BEHEMOTH on crack. This is brutality at its finest. If this doesn’t make it onto my top 10 list this year, I don’t even want to know what’s in store for me.


Track Listing
01. Paradogma
02. Thousands Of Christs
03. The Woeful Eucharisty
04. Malevolence Of The Righteous
05. Caged Into Falsehood
06. Incestuous Dynasty Of Worms
07. Adversary Of Bigotry
08. Incontrovertible Doctrines
09. Spiritual Ravishment
10. Apotheosis

DEREK, vocalist for THE FACELESS


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Sunday, April 4, 2010



When I was a kid, I collected comics HARD. I was a Marvel fan first and foremost. I had the AMAZING SPIDERMAN delivered to my door for years. But there was one corner of the Marvel Universe that was completely broken. It was a stupid, unspoken zone that no one read or cared for. It was a corner that couldn't decide whether it was a modern-day story or a lame re-imagining of less-than-Greek mythology. That corner was THOR. THOR rarely showed up in the rest of the Marvel Universe because he was completely unrealized. He is now a part of the AVENGERS, but the Avengers could assemble fine without his foppish golden locks. Is he a Norse god or a modern individual? Depends on what comic you read. Why make a movie about this putz? Shouldn't Branagh be directing some cool Shakespeare film? THOR is destined to suck.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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Friday, April 2, 2010


By: The Mediasaurus Rex

There has been a nonstop promo blitz for this for the past several weeks. The idea of
remaking a mediocre film is rather typical of Hollywood these days. The movie is out,
and apparently it is in a mediocre 3D.


We haven't seen it yet, but the review is coming.



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