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