Monday, December 13, 2010
Right out of the gate I will mention I have always been a fan of the idea of a Cyber World. From the original Tron film up to the Reboot television series, the notion of a living world inside of our electronic devices has always fascinated me. So I have been giddy with anticipation for this movie, hoping it would not disappoint. Have my dreams come true? Let's take a look at what I felt worked, and what failed.
The original Tron was ground breaking at the time in terms of special effects, which puts a lot of stress on Legacy to recreate that effect for a new digital age. In that category I do not think it was able to bring as big an impact, but not for lack of trying. It's just hard to push the limits of computer effects in time where it's become such a staple of film making. While the visuals on display are indeed beautiful to behold, it doesn't go beyond what has been seen before.
Jeff Bridges's younger face being digitally recreated is an impressive step forward, but is still flawed. This particular effect does not quite look real enough just yet. They do their best to hide it behind helmets or shots from behind as often as possible. Linger on the digital face to long and you begin to notice how rubbery and fake it appears.
So that leaves the 3D effects, a format that audiences seem to have burnt out on recently after a number of poor 3D conversions released. Does Legacy push the boundaries of the format? Compared to other recent 3D films it still doesn't bring anything new. In fact portions of the film are in straight 2D, as stated by a text message that pops up at the beginning of the movie.
Were the special effects disappointing? Yes and no, sure maybe they didn't blow my mind but it did not hinder my enjoyment of the film. Overall it's beautiful to watch and a fun ride all the way through.
Next I'd like to mention the score of Tron Legacy written and performed by French artists Daft Punk. Their album Discovery is in my top ten favorite albums of all time, so when news broke that they were providing the score for Tron my only thoughts were "Hell yes." This is where the film does not disappoint. Their music syncs perfectly with the world being presented and helps bring it to life. One piece even shares similar themes to the now infamous booming score of Inception. All I have left to say on the subject is to and buy the soundtrack immediately.
Last is Legacy's story, which has been harshly criticized by others already. Looking through reviews you will see Tron Legacy's plot described as stupid, derivative, incompetent, and soulless. I disagree with such generalizations entirely. This is a science fiction story to the very core, and as a fan of the genre I was sucked into it. Is it the most unique story ever told? Not at all, but it changes things up enough to keep it interesting. It is a familiar tale told within a unique world, making it feel new again.
Ignore what some of the reviews might say, and simply go out and see this film for yourself. This isn't the type of film for everyone, but if it happens to be in your taste you'll find something to love for sure. So don't listen to what others tell you to think, even forget everything I've just said. Go and see it and find out for yourself. If you hate it then I'm sorry and understand why it didn't work for you. Tron Legacy might not have been everything I wanted, but it was all that I needed to enjoy a great film.
Final Grade: A-
Friday, November 12, 2010
Right away I have to say that I was actually looking forward to this one. The trailers were rather vague on plot details, aside from it being an alien invasion movie involving a light that sucks people up I had no idea what else to expect. I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up though.
This is another case of every major scene in the movie being shown in the trailers, while every other scene is nothing more than dull padding. Even some of the better scenes of the film are spoiled by the trailers.
So what is the story of Skyline? It is a mash up of nearly every aliens attack plot conceived, with very few original ideas thrown in. It's 50% War of the Worlds, 25% Independence Day, 15% Matrix, with the last 10% taken from any video game involving aliens. In the right hands that could make up a winning combination, but here it equals 100% boring.
What could have saved this mess would have been a cast of characters you could give a shit about, but instead they are annoying and unlikable. I cared so little about these people I can't even remember their names, and since I don't feel like taking the time to IMDB them I'll use the names I had given them.
Most recognizable would be Turk from Scrubs who plays almost the exact same style of character. Then there is his friend played by a guy I've seen before in supporting roles but is given a staring role here. He is meant to be the anchor for the audience, but he is so subdued through out most of the film it's hard to care about him at all. Next is his girlfriend played by Not Jessica Biel who spends most of the movie looking like Jessica Biel and whining about how she doesn't want to go outside. The only other worth mentioning is the guy from Dexter that isn't Dexter, who I'm sure is a talented actor outside of this project, but here fails to deliver emotion even when he is angry.
A majority of the special effects range from decent to meh, but my biggest gripe is with the over all design of the aliens. I think the Strause Brothers have been playing a few to many video games, since most of their aliens feel ripped right out of Gears of War, Resistance, etc. One creature even looks so close to something out of Matrix I would almost consider it a cameo appearance.
Now we come to the ending which ranks up there as one of the worst endings I have seen in a long while. I won't spoil it for anyone still wanting to waste their time on this garbage, but I will make one comment on it. To me it looks like they ran out of money toward the end, and to make up for they decide to show the final scene through still shots during the ending credits. This movie ends in a slide show, that is all I have to say about it.
Should you waste your time and money to see this movie? Absolutely not. Nothing happens through most of the film, in fact 95% of it takes place inside one building. The characters are dull and uninteresting, leaving the audience with no one to identify with. Watch the trailer and you will see everything that is worth seeing, end of story.
Final Score: D-
Friday, September 17, 2010
I can describe The Town in one word, intense. Portions of this film physically had me on the edge of my seat. It might sound cliche, but I can't think of a better way to describe this film. I missed Ben Affleck's first feature in Gone Baby Gone, but heard good things about it. After watching The Town I assume they were right, if it was any where near as good as this film.
The Town is about a bank robbery, and the people involved from the robbers, victims, and police officers. Ben Affleck's character is one of the bank robbers, who becomes involved with a victim of their recent heist. With the police on their trail, and his growing relationship with the woman puts a strain on his life. I won't go to much deeper into the story and risk spoiling some great moments in the film.
The cast here all bring their A game, with Affleck himself stealing the show with his charm. When it comes to the acting I can't think of a single weak link. I also have to heap praise onto Affleck again for directing this film. The direction is what really helps build the intense atmosphere that swells with every action scene.
Should you go out and see this film? Yes, and yes. Please go out and support this great film, you will not be disappointed.
Final Score: A-
With this release the Night Chronicles has officially begun. For those not aware of what the Night Chronicles are, it is a series of films being produced by M. Night Shyamalan. If that name alone makes you groan, then perhaps it will ease your mind to know Shyamalan himself will not be directing any of the films. The story concepts are from his mind, but his creative involvement ends there. This project is way to let new blood sit in the director's chair, and we can only hope they turn out better than most recent films with Shyamalan's name attached to them.
First out the gate is Devil, a psychological thriller about a group of strangers trapped in an elevator. Doesn't seem very thrilling you say? What if one of them could possibly be ... the DEVIL ?!? ... Eh that still sounds kind of dull if you ask me. Does the devil have nothing better to do then dick around with people on an elevator? Anyway, so how is it? Well it's ... okay. I didn't hate the movie, but I certainly didn't love it either.
My major problem with the film is how bored I was through most of it, and how little is shown in what is supposed to be a movie. The action only happens when the lights go out in the elevator, so you are left looking at a black screen listening to thuds and screams. It's supposed to create an atmosphere, but when you don't really care about any of these characters then why should you care if one of them happens to be the devil?
The entire movie can't take place in an elevator, so the movie also adds on a police officer on the scene who does his best CSI act trying to use logic to piece together who the killer might be. If this were a murder mystery it might have worked, and been suspenseful and interesting. However this movie is called Devil, who happens to play a major part to the plot so logic doesn't exactly fit into the equation. In the end all of the cop's deductions mean nothing, and are pointless.
The cast are nearly all fresh faces. I can't think of any time I've seen any of these actors in major roles before. For the most they all perform well, but with poorly written dialogue it's hard for anyone to really shine.
So should you take the time to check out the beginning of the Night Chronicles? I say check it out if you're at all interested, but if you could care less then the movie won't change those feelings. If you need something to watch this weekend, maybe skip Devil and watch The Town instead.
Final Score: C
Thursday, September 9, 2010
I took a bit of a break from reviewing movies last week for my trip to Dragon-Con, so to quickly sum up last week's releases, skip The American and go watch Machete. While The American is a decent film it can be extremely boring, while Machete is just a ton of fun. In fact go watch Machete again this weekend and stay far away from the movie I'm about to review.
I love the Resident Evil series, correction, I love the video game series. I loathe the film series that shares the same name. The first movie was tolerable, but since then each new installment has gotten worst than the last. Resident Evil Afterlife does not break this trend, and stands at the top as the worst of the bunch.
If you happened to watch the previous film you might remember a few of the incredibly stupid plot points introduced, such as Alice having psychic powers and forming an army of clones. Don't worry though they wipe out all of that within the first ten minutes of this film, by killing off every clone and turning the real Alice human again. Good thing they got rid of those idiotic ideas, but wait this leaves it open for even worst ideas.
What is the worst thing they could have possibly done at this point? Ride on the coat tails of the recent 3D trend of course. The creators of the movie seem to believe that using 3D means that everything must be shot in slow-motion so the audience can see the objects flying at the screen for long stretches of time. I hate it when slow-motion is abused to the point that it feels like padding to draw out the film's length.
I'll quickly mention the actors of the film, starting with the supporting cast. Everyone does a decent job with what little they have to work, and really most of them should have been the real stars of the movie. Then we get to the lead played once again by Milla Jovovich who continues to show no emotion, and speaking in the same dull sounding voice she always has. It doesn't help when the movie throws in pointless video logs from her character, forcing us to listen to boring dialogue that is poorly delivered.
I hate this movie and wish the series would finally die out, but like the zombies of the film it continues to rise from the grave every so many years to haunt me. Please do not waste your money on this piece of crap. I now give this the lowest score I have ever given a film since I started these reviews.
Final Score: F
Thursday, August 26, 2010
I can't say much about The Last Exorcism without possibly spoiling the plot, so I'll just get into the basic set up. Reverend Marcus has had a crisis of faith, and has begun to doubt his practices one of which includes exorcisms. He has hired a film crew to follow him as he sets off to perform his last exorcism, and reveal the tricks of the trade. Marcus is a performer, and puts on a show to ease the minds of the families and the victim who they believe to be possessed. However things turn out differently with this particular case, and he finds himself dealing with what appears to be a real possession.
That means this is another hand camera thriller similar to Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity. If you were not a fan of those films, then you most likely will not enjoy this either. I did happen to enjoy those films, and Last Exorcism isn't as effective as either but it does pack a few thrills of it's own. The actors come off as very convincing in this fake reality, aside from a few hiccups here and there.
My one major fault with the film is that it presents itself as documentary footage, but durring intense moments a sound track has been added to increase the effect. It does a decent job of building suspense, but it also ruins the entire atmosphere the film tries to present.
While the film doesn't pack very many jump out of your seat scares it is very creepy and unsettling at times. If you're looking for an early thrill before the rush of horror films leading up to Halloween then you might just find one in The Last Exorcism.
Final Score: B-
Thursday, August 19, 2010
It's been a busy week at the movies for me, three nights in a row of movies and all with a similar theme. That being that all three could be considered a different type of comedy. Starting with the spoof comedy of Vampires Suck, followed by the more witty comedy of The Switch, and ending off the week with a horror comedy in Piranha 3D.
This is a horror film that goes so over the top sometimes you can't help but laugh, and I believe that was the intent. This isn't really meant to scare people, but make you cringe and laugh at the same time. The plot here is an earthquake opens up a tunnel to an underground lake where thousands of prehistoric piranha have been living for millions of years. They then proceed to terrorize the surface of the lake were Spring Break is in full swing, giving the man eater fish hundreds of bodies to feast on.
I'll just say it right now, I enjoyed this film for what it was. A dumb gorey monster movie, that is a throwback to the old monster horror films of the 70's and 80's. Yes the CG is bad, but so were the rubber suits monsters were in past decades. The point is just to have fun with it, and watch these fish tear into these people in very bloody and brutal ways. The 3D is just a slight bonus, but I would have enjoyed it even without it.
Final Score: B
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I've had to review a lot of comedies this summer, and so the trend continues with The Switch. The concept involves a guy who replaces a sperm donor's seed for his own after an accident at his best friend's fertility party, and reunites with her years later were it becomes clear that her son is his. It sounds like a silly plot, and at first it is with the bizarre fertility party. Once that set up gets out of the way the film really opens up.
As a comedy Switch is pretty funny, but is also intelligent with its humor. Jason Bateman plays the same nice but sarcastic guy he always does, but he does it so well you never really mind. The supporting cast all perform well, but the real star of the movie is the young boy playing the son. This kid was adorable as a smart but neurotic little boy, who is just to cute.
This summer has been a bit crowded with a wide range of comedies from utterly stupid to surprisingly witty. The Switch starts off a bit stupid, but really turns it around with some great jokes. You should have a good time, and would be better off checking Switch out over Vampires Suck.
Final Score: B+
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
This will be a quick review, since this movie doesn't really give me much to talk about. Vampires Suck is from the same directors of craptastic films such as Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and Disaster Movie. That resume doesn't instill much confidence in their latest release. This time they take a swing at the recent Vampire obsession that has taken over pop culture, most specifically Twilight.
So how does this compare to their other steaming piles? Well it's about as funny as their previous films, meaning not very funny at all. At least I was unable to find much humor in their gags, because I know practically nothing about Twilight as it is. This is a film made for those fans of Twilight who know it's bad but love it anyway. These are all "in jokes" that only a Twilight fan can appreciate.
From a technical stand point Vampires Suck is actually their best made film to date. I believe this strength comes from the focus on the Twilight films itself, so it doesn't try and cram as many pop culture references into one movie as they usually do. I also have to give it up to the actress playing Kristen Stewart's part, who captures every pause, twitch, hair tuck and bland personality of that horrible character perfectly.
If you are a fan of Twilight and can make fun of it for what it is, then you will love this film. If not ... eh skip it, there is nothing here for you.
Final Score: C-
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Nerds and geeks rejoice, this movie was made with you specifically in mind and worships the ground you walk on. I count myself a member of Nerdom, this is Nerd Xing after all, so I'm a part of Scott Pilgrim's target demographic for sure. I can't let fandom blind my judgment of the film though, so I'll try my best to be fair in this review.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World is set in a world were life plays out like a video game, with Scott Pilgrim being the main character. Scott's life has become a bit complicated since he started going out with Ramona Flowers. Now he has to fight The League of Ramona's Evil Ex's if he wants to continue dating her. These fights play out as video game boss battles, and each one different then the last.
The cast is massive, but the main players are Scott, Ramona, and Scott's friends with the Evil Ex's playing minor to major roles. Nearly everyone is spot on as their given character, but I have one minor gripe in the casting. I'm not joining the "I hate Michael Cera Club" in fact I don't mind the guy, but felt he was slightly miss cast as Scott Pilgrim. As a fan of the source material, the comic, I felt major parts of Scott's personality and development were lost in his performance. He is perfectly fine for the film's version of the character, but disappointing that it couldn't have better matched the comic.
If you're looking for something fun, wild, and original then check out Scott Pilgrim this weekend for sure. Director Edgar Wright delivers a fast paced action comedy with a kinetic energy like you've never seen before. It is flawed and maybe not for everyone, but it's still one of the best of the year.
Final Score: A-
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Expendables isn't just a big, dumb and loud action flick. It is the biggest, dumbest and loudest to hit the big screen. This is a manly movie made for men, written by men, directed by men, and staring manly men. Really the only thing that sets it apart from any other action film is the cast, which is jam packed with action stars from the last few decades.
What is the plot of Expendables? Eh ... does it really matter? It tries to tell a story outside of all the action, but the writing just isn't there so it tends to fall apart. Until another big action set piece builds the movie back up again. The action is what you are looking for here, and this movie has everything you have seen before and then some.
How about the Expendables themselves? Well lets go down the list. First is Sylvester Stallone who represents the macho American action hero. Then there is Jason Statham as the fakey Hollywood type of Martial Artist, who also likes to throw knives apparently. While Jet Li steps in as the real Martial Artist who is the smallest of the group. My favorite of the group was Dolph Lundgren who is an insane bad ass, and It's awesome to just see the guy in anything. There are a few other guys along with two cameos from big name action stars, but none are given the amount of screen time as the rest.
So should you see The Expendables? Well you're not missing anything if you happen to skip it. It's just a big action flick with a lot of names attached to it. If you're looking for something a bit more fun and different this weekend maybe check out Scott Pilgrim instead. Also warning to any ladies who plan on watching Expendables, you may leave the theater with a pair of testicles due to the dangerous amounts of testosterone you will be exposed to.
Final Score: B-
Thursday, August 5, 2010
It's time to review another comedy, but this one is a special case. This particular film is a Will Ferrell comedy, which tend to be a different breed of movie. His over the top hi jinks can make or break a film, but shockingly this is one of Ferrell's more subdued roles.
The Other Guys is a buddy cop movie with a twist. Instead of the two lead cops being macho super cops from your typical cop drama, they are in fact desk cops. After a seemingly tame case involving building permit violations turns into a corporate scandal the cops find themselves under fire. This forces them to step up their game and take on the jobs of real cops.
Will Ferrell plays an oddball cop who enjoys doing paper work and is happy behind his desk, while Mark Wahlberg's character is eager to get out of the office and hit the streets like real cops. With Ferrell restraining himself for once it must have made Wahlberg feel the need to release his insanity. Wahlberg goes off the wall with his anger constantly, but that might just be how the character was written.
As a comedy The Other Guys is pretty damn funny, with lots of laughs from nearly every cast member. If you might be on the fence about the movie because of Ferrell's involvement I want to assure you this doesn't go down the same road many Will Ferrell movies do. It is a lot of fun, and one of the funnier comedies of the summer.
Final Score: B+
Friday, July 30, 2010
I am shocked anyone bothered to make a sequel to the original Cats & Dogs, which was made almost ten years ago. However I actually liked the first film, and have to say that I enjoyed this one as well. The story mostly repeats itself from the original, just the players have changed.
Beneath it's furry coat is a James Bond inspired spy film. If the film's subtitle "The Revenge of Kitty Galore" did not already make that clear. This Kitty Galore has a plot that will rid the world of dogs and allow her to take over the world, but not every cat agrees with her methods. So now both cats and dogs must work together to put a stop to her evil plan. Has it been done before? Of course, but they manage to make it fun and still tell a decent story.
Most of the characters are new, but a few from the original pop up here and there. However the main dog from the first film has had his voice switched from Tobey Maguire to Neil Patrick Harris. The change is barely noticeable, and it's always good to see NPH is anything even if its just a voice. Other than Nick Nolte being slightly hard to understand (what else is new?) the cast all perform well in their parts.
The only fault I have against the film are the visuals. They aren't terrible, but by today's standards they feel dated like the film was made only a year or so after the original instead of the actual ten years it has spent in limbo. With a bigger budget to polish the effects this would have been an A-List film, but it falls just shy of that high mark.
Final Score: B+
This is a hard one to review, because it is a bit of mixed bag for me. There is a lot you could really hate here, but also some really good laughs. I've said it before the best way to judge a comedy is the jokes themselves, but while Schmuck's jokes aren't bad they can become a bit annoying.
The general plot here is that Paul Rudd's character is trying to get a promotion at his work, but to impress his bosses he has to bring an idiot to a dinner they put on to amuse themselves. Steve Carell's character is literally thrust into his life and proves to be the right amount of bizarre and clueless that Rudd needs. Hilarity ensues, yada yada yada go see the movie if you really want to know what else happens.
This is where things can get a bit annoying, Carell's character while awkward and funny at first can become slightly grating as his idiocy keeps piling up more and more. I liked the character mostly, but I could see how it might become to much for others. His character reminds me of Jim Carrey from The Cable Guy, a strange guy who becomes attached to someone and seemingly destroys that person's life around them.
There is some fun to be found here, but it drags on a bit longer than it probably should and it dips into a realm of supremely stupid a few times. One thing I did love though was the score and soundtrack of the film, which includes a great Beatles song that fit the movie perfectly.
Final Score: B-
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Add another uninteresting movie onto the already crowded list of cliche and boring releases this summer. Salt does absolutely nothing new, and doesn't even do this old routine very well. It tries to fool you with twists and turns, but the problem is most of the audience should already be aware of what's going on.
Who is Salt? I don't know and frankly I don't care, but in the context of the movie Salt is Angelina Jolie. She does a decent job in the role of a quadruple agent, but the problem falls upon what little material she has to work with. You have seen Jolie do this all before, and to much better effect. The action is mediocre no matter how hard the music attempts to build suspense.
I honestly have nothing else to say on the matter of Salt, because there is nothing to talk about. I didn't hate it, but there was nothing to really like either. It is the definition of a "meh" movie in every way shape and form. Don't really waste your time with this dull film, and instead go check out Inception which dares to do something new.
Final Score: C-
Friday, July 16, 2010
What are dreams? In the world of Inception they become a gateway to all of our secrets. Through a process called Extraction mind thieves are able to enter the world of your mind, and pilfer those secrets. They are also capable of planting an idea into the person's subconscious, this method is known as Inception. That is the basic set up for the movie of the same title. Sound a bit confusing? Trust me it is, and you may find yourself lost more than once. It doesn't take much time to catch back up though.
Inception is the newest film by director Christopher Nolan after the successes of the Dark Knight two years ago. Nolan gives us a mind bending action thriller as it dives into dreams within dreams within dreams. Inception may not be his best movie, but it certainly is the best looking. After Dark Knight it seems Warner Brothers did not hesitate to throw buckets of cash Nolan's way, giving him one of the biggest budgets he has ever had. The 200 million dollar budget shows with a number of truly breathtaking scenes which you will question just how they were done.
The cast is packed with stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, and Ken Watanabe. They all perform well within their given roles, but none really stole the show for me. DiCaprio is main character, but I was never interested in any of his problems or history. In a few ways this is almost identical to his character from Shutter Island. I wish the minor characters were given more development, because I honestly could not even tell you their names.
It may have a few flaws, but it is still one of the best films of this mostly dismal summer. I won't spoil anything, but I will go ahead and warn you that it has a very polarizing ending. You might find yourself hating it simply because of how it ends. I understood it, but was slightly annoyed at the same time. It wasn't enough to turn me off completely though, but does lower it's score a tad.
Final Score: A-
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Remember that iconic scene from Disney's Fantasia titled "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" which stars Mikey Mouse wearing a wizard's hat and robe. In the short Mikey is the Apprentice of the Wizard Yen Sid (Disney spelled backwards, get it?) and while his teacher is away Mikey abuses magic in order to finish his chores with disastrous results. It is a true classic moment in cinema, and is also the inspiration for this film ... sorta.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice certainly has sorcerers and apprentices, hell it even uses that famous mop scene. However the rest of the film steals more from Arthurian lore than it does Fantasia. There is enough back story crammed into the first five minutes of the film to make an entire other movie. So here is the gist of it all, Merlin had three apprentices but one of them turned evil and joined forces with Morgan Le Fay. Merlin dies, but not before sealing Le Fay and passing on his ring claiming one day someone would inherit his power and end Le Fay for good.
Jump a thousand years into the future where his apprentice Balthazar discovers the boy who has inherited Merlin's power. Horvath the evil apprentice returns and seeks to free Le Fay, and so Balthazar must train the young boy to stop her return from happening. That sounds like a lot to digest I know, and the movie doesn't do a very good job of telling it either.
I have mixed feelings about the movie. Part of me enjoyed the Arthurian influence and the way it portrays magic, but another part of me was annoyed by the number of cliches that feel forced. It screams studio meddling in attempt to try and appeal to every possible demographic, and causes the plot to lose focus. There was enough entertainment to be found that it falls into a tolerable mediocrity.
All I can tell you is there is nothing here to miss, but if you have time to kill it won't piss you off. There might be some joy to be found here, but nothing you couldn't get from any other film out right now.
Final Score: C
Friday, July 9, 2010
There have been a lot of great animated films released this year, which puts a lot of pressure on Despicable Me to live up to expectations. Does it manage to do that? Well ... sort of. There isn't anything particularly terrible about the movie, but nothing really stands out to help it stand above the rest either.
Despicable Me's catch is what if a classic Bond style villain was the main character of a movie? Gru is a pointy nosed villain with grand ideas that never seem to work out, and The Bank of Evil is tired of his failures and refuse to grant him any further loans to fund his dastardly deeds. His plan requires a shrink ray that is currently in possession of another villain named Vector. He adopts three orphan girls as part of his plan to steal the ray gun from Vector.
It is a unique concept, but fails a bit in the execution. The two best things the film has going for it are the three girls, and Gru's minions who provide a bulk of the movie's best laughs. I couldn't do this review without mentioning those little yellow minions, who are still a mystery to me. Their origin is never explained, but all we need to know is they act as Gru's henchmen and do all the heavy lifting.
Margo, Edith, and Agnes are the little girls that Gru adopts for his plan, who slowly begin to soften up villain's heart. These three are adorable, and the young actresses playing them do a great job bringing them to life. After the awful child actor performances from Airbender last week it's nice to see some young talent really shine.
Animation is Despicable Me's biggest flaw, with rather dull character designs and flat textures keeping it from reaching Pixar or Dreamwork's level of computer animation. I did not see this in 3D, but a number of scenes were clearly meant to use a 3D effect to hurl objects toward the audience.
A decent family film that will provide a few good laughs. If you have already seen Toy Story and looking for something the whole family can enjoy, then give Despicable Me a shot.
Final Score: B
It has been twenty years since a Predator has appeared on screen outside of an Aliens VS Predator movie, but now the series finally continues with Predators. The plural title used in the same manner of the Aliens sequel because there are multiple predators this time.
Right away the movie opens with a soldier played by Adrian Brody as he finds himself falling through the sky when a parachute is suddenly deployed saving him from the deadly fall. The movie moves at break neck speed as more characters begin to plummet from the sky, and our cast has been assembled within the first five minutes. This group of strangers realize they are all soldiers, killers, and gangsters from around the globe and they have been brought to this planet to be hunted. Who is hunting them? A pack of Predators of course. Now they must fight to survive on this alien world.
From the get go it is clear that Predators is an attempted throw back to the original film. The jungle setting, the group of soldiers, and of course the stealthy predators. It doesn't hold a candle to the original of course, but it wasn't expected to. Predators still holds it's own as an entertaining film, and we don't get great action sci-fi movies like this very often. Adrian Brody and entire cast all perform their roles well, each with their own unique persona's that help round the group out.
My biggest complaint about the film would be the pacing that starts rapidly, then slows almost to a dead stop, before kicking right back into overdrive. It also suffers from an overuse of reaction shots from the cast. Every time the team discovers something new on the alien planet we have to see everyone of their faces reacting, and this happens multiple times over the course of the movie.
Aside from those flaws it was great to see the Predators in action, and was generally an entertaining experience. If you are a fan of the original Predator then you should enjoy this new installment, so check it out.
Final Score: B+
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Dear M. Night Shymalan, please stop. Just stop doing whatever it is that makes your movies so terrible. Unless you truly are an evil genius, and your goal in life is to bore audiences with films like Lady in the Water. So instead of writing another original turd you decide to take an existing franchise and write a story around that. Or in this case you took the first season of a cartoon and chopped it down to about one hundred minutes, then filled it with your inane dialogue.
So lets get to why Shymalan fails once again at providing an entertaining film. As with most of his movies it all comes down to abysmal performances from nearly every member of the cast. Shymalan has a gift at bringing the absolutely worst out of even seasoned actors, and Airbender fairs the same fate. The actors here are so dull and wooden he might as well have cast the trees from The Happening, they were obviously excellent airbenders to begin with.
I don't know everything there is to about the original series, but I do know these characters are capable of feeling joy and at times playful. None of the humor and emotion that brought the characters to life in the cartoon exists here.
The only hope this movie had was if the action sequences were to turn out well, but even those couldn't save it. Shymalan steals from another director I despise, Zack Snyder, by using his stop and go slow motion technique during nearly every fight. This breaks up the flow of a battle, and only draws attention to the less than stellar visual effects. Adding slow motion to the choreographed movements of the benders only drags out the sequences even further.
If you truly must see this movie for some reason, do not watch it in 3D. There is no reason to throw your money away because the 3D effect does not exist in this movie. This was simply another attempt to cash in on the 3D fad and grab more money at the box office. If it had been filmed intentionally in 3D the visual effects could have been spectacular, but this was forced into the format after the fact.
Final Score: D
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Hahahaha I'm sorry, I just can't stop laughing. People actually take this seriously? I could barely keep a straight face while watching, and it just begs to be riffed on. I know that I am clearly not the audience for this film, but I believe all movies should have a general appeal. However the Twilight "Saga" only attempts to appease those with a set of X chromosomes. Why the quotations on the word saga? Because I hardly consider it worthy of such of a title. Twilight is the movie equivalent of a boy band, and will hopefully fade from existence just as the boy band fad has.
Alright I'll take a moment to stop hating on, and mention somethings I thought were actually good. Granted that is a very short list. Generally the film is shot well, with quite of a few scenes showing off excellent levels of cinematography. However the movie shoots itself in the foot by selecting the worst music possible to accompany said scenes. Instead of music that would be appropriate for the scene it plays a song that would appeal toward an audience of teen girls.
There are a number of flash back sequences that tell the histories of a few side characters, and while they did not make me care about the characters in the slightest I enjoyed watching these moments over the actual movie. I'd watch a Civil War era vampire movie over this crap any day.
Now that I've gotten what I liked out of the way, back to trashing this garbage. The biggest problem with this movie is how damn boring it is. Nothing happens in this movie for almost two agonizing hours. The entire film builds up to this big battle against an "army" of vampires, but it only lasts for maybe ten minutes. Not to mention this so called army is only around twenty or so people, which I think classifies more as a posse than an army.
The acting is all over the place in this movie. If it's not the main character's abundant pauses with every line of dialogue, it's completely dull lines spoken straight off a script page with no emotion. There is one moment between the Jacob and Edward characters that felt genuine, and actually gave a bit of insight to the character's feelings. Then you realize how stupid it is that they hate one another over the worst girl on Earth.
Most likely if you are female it doesn't matter what I have to say about this film, you will go see it and love it despite its many flaws. So this prolly isn't going to change your mind. To any women out there who refuse to support this series I say rock on, and keep fighting the good fight. One day this will all be behind us, and we can forget the days when vampires sparkled.
Final Score: D+
Thursday, June 24, 2010
How unfunny can one movie be? Grown Ups feels like an attempt to try and answer that question. It felt like I was watching a Sandler, Rock, James, and Spade stand-up special in which every one of them bombed horribly. I will admit a few jokes made me chuckle, but there were far more misses than hits in this so called comedy.
So the plot here is the members of a basketball team unite after thirty years at their coach's funeral, and with their families spend a July forth weekend together. A weekend filled with slap stick gags, fart jokes, and the occasional funny jab or two.
When it comes to reviewing a comedy the best you can do is judge the comedy itself. I would call the humor of Grown Ups juvenile, but at times it reaches infantile levels. There are so many jokes that go out swinging and strike out one after another that the only thing that could have made them appear funny would be the addition of a laugh track.
It's a shame to see all this talent go to waste. All of these guys can be genuinely funny, and I'm sure they all had fun making this movie together. I wish I could have watched a making of this movie, instead of the film itself.
Final Score: C-
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Tom Cruise hasn't been in full on action hero mode in awhile, but he slips back into it effortlessly as the star of Knight and Day. Now I honestly couldn't tell you why exactly that is the movie's title, but it wouldn't be the first movie to use a title simply cause it sounds clever. The plot involves a woman, played by Cameron Diaz, taken on a wild ride by a super spy as he tries to prevent a rogue agent from obtaining a specific item currently in his possession.
Knight and Day is essentially an action thrill ride that hardly takes time to stop and catch its breath, but the fast pace is what keeps your interest. It can be confusing to follow at times, but it never ceases to be entertaining. The action is completely over the top, but somehow it makes you feel as if this man could actually pull off these insane stunts. It's no master piece by any stretch of the imagination, but it's fun and never dull.
The cast all perform adequately in each of their roles, with Cruise and Diaz taking most of the screen time. The chemistry built between the two over the course of the movie feels genuine. The villains don't exactly break any molds, but fill their roles as bad guys well enough.
Knight and Day is a straight up action flick with a bit of comedy peppered in from time to time. I never felt I had to turn my brain off to enjoy the completely impossible action sequences. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a fun time at the movies.
Final Score: B
Friday, June 18, 2010
Jonah Hex can be summed up in simply one word. Pointless. There is a beginning and an end, but the remainder is just one pointless scene after another. It's disappointing to watch a movie with so much potential fail on almost every level. Jonah Hex is of course based off the DC Comics character of the same name, but sadly that character is missing from this film. With so much interesting comic lore to draw from they decided to ignore it all in favor for something boring and cliche.
It starts off harmless enough setting up a revenge plot after Hex's family is killed by the antagonist of the film, Turnbull. Then instead of telling an origin story the movie decides to skip forward to the point where Hex has already become a notorious scarred bounty hunter. This is told through a sequence of comic book panels to remind us of the film's origin, but only serves as an insult to anyone who actually read the series. From there on it's one pointless scene after another, each one usually ending with a fiery explosion. This all leads up to the climax which also ends an explosion, at least the movie's consistent in that regard. So there you have the plot of Jonah Hex. Hex is seeking revenge, he farts around a bit causing explosions, then gets his revenge causing yet another explosion and the credits roll. I just saved you the price of admission right there, nothing interesting happens in the movie.
It's hard to place the blame on the actors when they have absolutely nothing to work with. In fact I generally liked Josh Brolin as Hex, and felt sorry that he had to play such a great character in this awful movie. A few of the actors don't get off so easily though, and simply don't try at all or have no talent to begin with. John Malkovich is devoid of any emotion that you would associate with the villain Turnbull and his goals. Meanwhile Megan Fox continues to somehow have an acting career based solely off her looks, with her entire character being as pointless as the movie. I can't even remember what her character's name was, she was that unnecessary.
Do not waste your time and money on this movie. Go watch Toy Story 3 instead, and watch Toy Story a few more times before you even think of bothering yourself to watch this terrible film. The biggest compliment I can give the movie is at least it's short. It has enough sense to not linger any longer than it has to, and risk further annoying its audience. I would call it a complete failure if it hadn't been for Josh Brolin. He was the only saving grace of this film, the rest of it can die in one of it's explosions for all I care.
Final Score: D-
Monday, June 14, 2010
Pixar returns to the series that started it all fifteen years ago. It's been a little over ten years since Toy Story 2, and a lot of changes have occurred in the process. Andy is no longer a little boy and will be heading to college soon, which leaves the remains of the Toy Story gang fearful for their future. After a misunderstanding the toys find themselves donated to a daycare center where a new adventure begins.
I was ten when the first Toy Story arrived in theaters, and like most kids my age I wanted a Buzz and Woody of my own. Having grown up with these characters there is an emotional attachment involved, and this installment really shines because of it. That doesn't mean that new kids just coming into the series won't find much to love here, but it's especially gripping to us who have loved it from the beginning. Besides, any parent who hasn't shown their children Toy Story at least once should convicted for depriving their children of quality entertainment.
The gang has been reduced in numbers, but all the main stays are here. Of course you have Woody and Buzz, but favorites like Ham and Mr. Potato Head continue to bring the laughs. Mrs. Potato Head also returns along with their adopted children the three alien squeeze toys from Pizza Planet. Newcomers from the last installment Jessie and Bullseye were a welcome addition and it's great to see them back. Rex and Slinky Dog round off the rest of the gang, though sadly due to Jim Varney's passing Slink is voiced by new actor. Thankfully Blake Clark is able to channel Jim Varney so well you could hardly guess they were different actors. The cast is great as always, even the new daycare center toys all feel unique and equally lively.
Pixar has come along way since the original Toy Story in terms of animation and storytelling, but they haven't lost their touch even when it comes to telling as simple a tale as this. After they released the original two in 3D last summer, it's no surprise that Toy Story 3 is also in the third dimension. Nowadays anything with a three in the title is just screaming to be made in 3D. I was never blown away by this addition, but it also was never obtrusive so I have no knocks against it. The animation retains the design of the original, but with a new polish that really makes the scenery and characters pop.
I'll stop gushing over this film and get right to the point. You must watch this movie, but if you are anything like me then you were already set on watching to begin with. If there is anything I would say to criticize it would maybe be that it can be a bit predictable, but in a satisfying way. You might guess what is going to happen, but it's what you want to see happen. With this much emotion attached to it there is also bound to be a number of truly tear jerking scenes, and no one could blame you for getting a bit misty eyed. I'm not ashamed to say I was. This Toy Story has come to an end, but who's to say when a new chapter may unfold. Hopefully it won't be another ten years before we see Woody, Buzz and the whole gang taking us to infinity and beyond again.
Final Score: A+
Friday, June 11, 2010
Another remake/reimagining of a movie from the 80's hits theater's this weekend, so it's time for another face off. This one will be Kid VS Kid, though a better comparison would be Karate VS Kung Fu. I am of course speaking of The Karate Kid, a classic underdog story about a young man who learns martial arts from a wise old mentor to overcome all odds. So lets get this battle started, fight!
I'll cut through all the small talk and just say it. These films have exactly the same plot. The 2010 version follows the same plot points of the original 1984 film. A boy and his mother move to a new place where he falls in love with a girl, gets his butt kicked by a bully, and learns to fight from an old man. The major difference being that in the 2010 version the boy has just moved to China rather than California. The second difference being the age of the two boys. In the original film Daniel was a High school Senior, but in 2010 the young Dre is only twelve years old.
So who wins if they're basically the same? They both do, I have to call this round a tie.
This comes down to the fighting styles themselves, with one being Karate and the other Kung Fu. So it begs the question, why is the 2010 version called Karate Kid when he doesn't even use Karate? Well they certainly never explain it in the film. There is only a brief mention of Karate early on, but is quickly tossed aside for Kung Fu. So it comes down to simply the nostalgia factor. Putting Karate Kid in the title in hopes to invoke fond memories of the original to lure you into buying a ticket. I still firmly believe calling it The Kung Fu Kid would have shared the same effect, and made more sense from a realistic standpoint.
So which is better? Karate or Kung Fu? Well I'm no expert of either so I can only judge from a visual basis. The choreography of the 2010 version is so well polished it nearly shimmers on the screen, but at the same time it's almost to good. You begin to notice how staged a fight feels the longer it continues, but that doesn't change how impressive most of them are to witness. Fights in the original were very fast and most ended in few seconds, but they still felt real.
I actually have to give this one to the 2010 version due to the amount of effort given toward creating some stunning moments.
Mr. Miyagi, played by the late Pat Morita, is best known for this unorthodox training methods. Simply saying the words "Wax off" and you immediately think of The Karate Kid, or giggle. Either way the term has become iconic. Turning everyday chores and labors into training exercises proved to be very effective. From washing cars, sanding decks, to the simple act of painting a fence. Each one served a purpose, a fluid motion for Daniel to learn and master.
The bond formed between Miyagi and Daniel grew stronger with each new trial, as they both began to fill a void in the other's life. Daniel lacked a father, and Miyagi's wife and child had passed away years ago. Together they completed each other.
Mr. Han, played by Jackie Chan, is the 2010 equivalent of Miyagi and both share similar characteristics. Both Han and Miyagi work as the handyman of their student's apartment building, and both use seemingly odd methods of training. Though Han's consists of mostly removing a jacket and hanging it from a post repeatedly. It has the same effect as Miyagi's chores, but doesn't really hold the same impact. It might have to do with it being a single action rather than a number of what first appear to be random labors.
The bond between Han and Dre is there, but just doesn't feel as powerful somehow. They feel like a true Teacher and Student pair, but the bond seems to end there. I have to give this one to Mr. Miyagi quirky sense of humor, and loving bond he shares with Daniel.
We end off this battle with the two title characters from each film. Daniel Larusso played by Ralph Machio, and Dre Parker played by Jaden Smith. Daniel is clearly angry that his mom has forced them to move across the country, but he settles into his new town fairly quickly. He makes friends and flirts with a girl right away, and comes off as a genuinely nice guy. Daniel is a smooth talker which helps build the chemistry between the love interest and himself.
Dre on the other hand is awkward, and is also upset by the move but comes across more as whining. This is where the age difference makes a huge factor. Dre is twelve so it may be natural for a boy his age to whine and cry, but it can also be annoying. The relationship he builds with a girl suffers from a forced feeling, and it can be a bit hard to take twelve year olds in love very seriously.
I have to give the win to Daniel for coming off as just being more likable.
Again the winner of this match off is the original 1984 Karate Kid. While the 2010 version shares similar elements it bogs itself down with to much extra padding that keeps it from surpassing the original.
The theme of this weeks releases seems to be nostalgia. With one being a re imagining of a movie from from the 80's and the other a television series from the 80's. The one currently in question is the A-Team, about a group of four men who became soldiers for hire after being framed for a crime they didn't commit. But you know that already, right?
So how does the film compare to the original series? Well I honestly am not the best person to ask for such a comparison. Having never seen a single episode of the show, with my only knowledge being that Mr. T was a star in it. Though it's safe to assume the overall plot is entirely new, with only the theme of four men becoming soldiers for hire linking the two together.
So lets move on to the characters starting with the A-Team themselves. These four guys are the reason you want to watch this movie. Each of their personalities are distinct and they pair well with each other, and it is their chemistry that keeps you invested. Liam Neason plays the leader of the team, Hannibal, and is just as cool as he is in almost every movie he stars in. The man has played everything from Dark Man to a Jedi, and he even trained freaking Batman. If Taken proved anything it's you don't mess with Liam Neason. I have to give much praise to Sharlto Copley who plays Murdock for brings an insane energy to the film and provides a majority of the jokes.
Now the downside of the characters for the movie would be the villains. The CIA acts as the main antagonists for the film, more specifically a man by the name of Lynch along with a few of his cohorts. These characters come across as frat boy douche bags who make jokes about how hot a chick is or how cool the explosion was. I hated every second these nimrods took screen time away from the more interesting A-Team.
Another strike against the movie is the story itself and how it is pieced together. The plot is so paper thin if you sneezed in the theatre it might blow the picture clear off the screen. It doesn't help that poor editing and bad pacing hinder it even further. I also have a major pet peeve with digital effects being used when practical effects could just as easily achieve the same effect with better results. The entire final action sequence of the movie is one huge mess of CG effects thrown together in the most nonsensical plan ever.
The A-Team has plenty of flaws, but the team themselves help keep it from falling into truly awful territory. Check it out for a bit of a fun and a few laughs, but don't be surprised if you find a few bits annoying.
Final Score: C+
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Noble Eagle vs Majestic Peacock. Storm Eagle controls the skies while Cyber Peacock manipulates the digital world. Will Peacock be blown away by Eagle's Storm Tornado? Or is Eagle the one shot out of the sky by Peacock's Aiming Laser? Vote in the comments to decide.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
I recently named Mega Man 2 my favorite NES game of all time, and it got me thinking about why I've stuck with the franchise for so long. One reason immediately came to mind, and that was the unique bosses that seemed to get zanier with each new installment.
So I decided to start up a tournament to pit these great boss characters against each other, and leave it up to the fans to decide the winner. I will post matches every week, and the victor will be decided by which character receives the most votes in the comments of that match. Cast your vote in the comments, and please only one vote per person. Pick your favorite character, or if you don't know who either character is then pick which one you think looks coolest or deadliest.
Two matches will be posted each week, one in the Robot Master League and one from the Maverick League. In the end the champions of each League will face off to determine the Grand Champion.
Friday, June 4, 2010
When I first saw a trailer for Splice my initial impression was this could be either really good, or really bad. It showed the potential to be a sci-fi thriller in the same league as the original Alien, but trailers can be deceiving. All the pieces of something great are there, but it all starts to fall apart as with each passing minute. I had hoped this would turn out well, but sadly it wasn't the case.
Where to begin ... Alright lets start with the science of it all. A lot of techno babble is thrown around at the beginning as they try and explain just what they are doing, but none of it comes off as real or plausible. Once you see what it is they are creating through gene splicing your first question is, what the hell is that supposed to be? Followed by, why? Their original creations appear to be tongue slugs, or at least that is the best way I could describe them. Poorly rendered squirmy slug things that resemble a tongue. Why did they create these things? Hell if I know, something to do with using them for medicine ... somehow.
Next up we have the characters who can not seem to pick one personality and stick with it. These people constantly flip flop their views over the course of the movie, and while you could say that is a human trait I'd at least like a little consistency please. The acting is meh, with no one really going beyond mediocre at best.
Then we have the main creature itself, a mixture of human DNA and a variety of animals. She is quickly developing for seemingly no reason other than the plot says so, and matures within days rather than years. The creature shows signs of being highly intelligent, but also continues to act out its primal instincts. It might have helped if they had given a clear indication to just what animal DNA was involve with the creature, but instead are left guessing why she might be acting the way she does.
Toward the final act things become a bit creepy, and enter seriously messed up territory again for no reason other than the plot said so. Nothing feels organic here, just forced scenes that appear to only be for shock value.
To end it all I'll just say I was very disappointed in the film overall. It took an interesting concept, and went nowhere with it.
Final Score: C-
In this spin off of Forgetting Sarah Marshall we have the return of Russell Brand's character, Aldous Snow, in full on rocker mode. Jonah Hill is back as well, but in a different role as any employee of a record label tasked with getting the rocker to a concert at the Greek Theater. This is sex, drugs, and rock n' roll cranked up to 11.
Russell Brand seems right at home in the role of the eccentric rock n' roller, and bringing his own signature brand of humor help bring the character to life. Jonah Hill tones down his usual wise cracking smart mouth attitude for a more dopey and awkward personality. Though the smart mouth still pops up at times, but only when appropriate and usually only to enhance the awkwardness. Sean P. Diddy Combs plays Hill's boss who feels comfortable in the role, and while he has a number of funny lines his performance is still a bit off.
It is hard to review a comedy when it comes down to one's personal taste, and for me Greek was my kind of humor. I know its drug use and raunchy situations might not be for everyone, I have to give my own opinion of the movie. Get Him to the Greek made me laugh, and fairly hard. In the end isn't that the goal of every comedy?
Final Score: A-
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
This is Mega Man's first appearance on one of my lists, but it will certainly not be his last. With so many different Mega Man games released over the years he is bound to pop up a few times. This is the one that started it all for me though, and it began with a rental from a local video store. I now own that very same copy I once rented so many years ago. Now lets get onto what makes Mega Man 2 so great.
Mega Man 2 is of course the sequel to Mega Man, following the title character as he faces off against eight evil Robot Masters. Defeating a Robot Master earns you that robot's powers which can be used to exploit weakness of other Robot Masters. After defeating all eight you must then face the maniacal Dr. Wily. Who is Dr. Wily? Well he resembles an evil Einstein who has a fetish for building giant skull shaped fortresses. This formula is repeated through almost every Mega Man title.
You play as Mega Man jumping and shooting his way through stages each with a different theme modeled after the boss representing it. At the end of the level you find the metal shutters that lead to the boss and pass through them to do battle. Defeat the boss and gain his ability then move onto the next robot who is weak against the power you just obtained, rinse and repeat.While that might not sound thrilling it was more than enough to hook me in.
The biggest draw Mega Man 2 has is the music, which is the best of any NES game in my opinion. The techno beats of Flash Man, the up tempo yet smooth Quick Man, and the tribal thuds of Wood Man's theme all unique and addicting to listen to. No theme is like another, and they become so catchy you can't help but bob your head to the music while playing.
Mega Man 2 is also a challenging game, so much in fact I have still never managed to beat it to this day. I have defeated all eight Robot Masters, but one of the stages of Wily's Fortress always proved to be my downfall. Perhaps one of these days I will acquire the skill needed to finally beat one of my favorite games of all time.
That does it for the NES, next time I'll head into super territory. Super Nintendo that is, where some familiar faces from the NES will make another appearance.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Mario 3 stands as a land mark of my gaming history due to it being the first NES game I ever owned or played. I was a little late getting into gaming, but will never forget one Christmas morning unwrapping the Nintendo Entertainment System that came with a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3. So I started with 3, then played 1, and finally managed to play 2 later down the line. All three are classics and amazing NES games, but 3 will always be special to me as that first game I ever owned.
The story of Mario 3 is nearly the same as every installment of the series, and will most likely continue to do so. The Princess has been captured, and it is up to our favorite mustachioed plumber to rescue her from the clutches of the evil Koopa King himself, Bowser. However in 3 Mario doesn't just have to deal with Bowser, but his children as well. The Koopa Kids act as the final bosses for each world, seven in total with Bowser himself waiting at the end of the eighth.
Game play follows Mario as he scrolls sideways through the stage, jumping on platforms and enemies and occasionally sliding down pipes into hidden areas. Power ups have always been a staple of the franchise starting with the Fire-ball Mario from game 1. The Fire Flower returns, and is joined by the Super Leaf which grants Mario a raccoon eared cap and tail that allows him to fly short distances and slow his falls. The tail can also be used in a spinning attack to strike blocks and certain enemies. A Frog Suit helps Mario navigate through water levels much easier, and the hard to come by Hammer Suit puts Mario in the duds of a Hammer Bros. giving him the ability to chuck hammers at bad guys.
Aspects of Mario 3 have continued to influence later installments in the series over the years all the way to the present. The overworld map with each stage placed upon the path with branching trails has been used in a number of Mario games including the recently released Super Mario Galaxy 2.
My most fond memories of Mario 3 involve the use of the Game Genie. For those of you who may not know what a Game Genie is, it was a device you attached your NES cart onto before inserting it into the system. It allowed you to hack the game and enable cheat codes. Yes, it was cheating, but who cares if you're having fun? I was just a kid who wanted to mess around with Mario and make him do even more crazy things. The best cheat to use was known as the "Sky Walker" code that allowed Mario to infinitely jump through the air. Most stages could be completely bypassed by flying over the entire stage from start to finish. Sure it was cheap, but as a kid I enjoyed playing with the Game Genie. I have sense moved on from using cheating devices on my games as I grew up and developed more skill as a gamer.
Super Mario Bros. 3 is not the last time Mario will make it onto one of my lists, but for the NES he ranks at number two. Second place isn't to bad, but what could possibly claim the top spot as my all time favorite NES game? Keep a look out cause it's coming soon!
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Films based off video games have a bit of a bad reputation, and for mostly good reason. When put in the same category as Blood Rayne, Mario Brothers, Double Dragon, Street Fighter, and Doom it's difficult to be very enthusiastic toward the concept of video game adaptations. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is definitely better than the films previously listed, but it does not escape unscathed.
Having played a bit of the Sands of Time game I'll start off with how the story differs from the source material. Other than both having a dagger with the power to turn back time to its wielder the movie's plot is completely different. In the movie the title character is a street rat ripped straight from Aladdin who is adopted by the King and becomes a Prince of Persia. Events occur that end with the Prince coming into possession of the magic dagger which thrusts him on an adventure. This isn't ground breaking story telling, but it manages to carry the film along.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays the lead role and while he doesn't exactly look Persian, he does manage to capture the appearance and personality of the character from the game. The rest of the cast is also comprised of mostly non Persian actors, but seem to fit well in their roles.
The film's major problems do not rest on the shoulders of the actors, but in how it is all presented. Awkward moments of slow motion break up of the flow of scenes, and prove to be utterly unnecessary. Shots of what are clearly computer generated sand dunes are glaring obvious among fairly well crafted set pieces. Portions of the film feel completely pointless and fail to move the plot forward at all. A number of other flaws keep The Prince of Persia from being truly great, but they aren't enough to make it terrible.
Final Score: B
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Look at how awesome Samus looks on that cover, now imagine you are a ten year old boy looking at it for the first time and how bad ass it must have looked. However this is not the original box art, but the reissue. I'm using this one because it's the one I owned, plus the original was very bland with in game graphics instead of artwork.
Little did I know that the slick looking bounty hunter on the cover that I admired so much was actually female. Hell the instruction booklet even calls Samus a "he" but if you were able to beat the game within a certain time limit you were rewarded with an image of Samus outside of her armor revealing she was in fact a woman. This makes Samus the first major female character I can remember playing as in video games. You would have thought as a young boy I would have been crushed by the revelation cause girls are stupid and can't be awesome bounty hunters, but instead I embraced the character. So what if Samus was a chick? She still had sweet armor and kicked a lot of ass.
Now onto the story of Metroid. Samus Aran is a bounty hunter sent to the Planet Zebes to stop a group of Space Pirates from using the lifeforms known as Metroids as biological weapons. It's a rather complex plot for an NES era game, though nearly all of that is told through the booklet and not the game itself. Samus must face the space pirates Ridley, Kraid, and their leader Mother Brain.
Metroid plays as a side to side platformer with a single large world, instead of being broken up into stages that must be defeated in succession you are given freedom to explore the planet's various zones as you like. Each zone has a primary color and design to identify it from the others, but this can also lead to confusion as portions of each zone begin to look alike. This can leave you lost and wandering for hours. With no in game map how do you manage to navigate this world? Do what I did as a kid, make your own maps! Grab some paper and a pencil and get to drawing.
With no option to save, and an awkward password system that barely seemed to work, this was another game that required an all nighter to defeat. I remember staying up with a friend until the crack of dawn fighting our way through Ridley, Kraid, and finally defeating Mother Brain. So we beat the game right? Wrong! After killing Mother Brain the planet is set to explode and you must escape through a vertical shaft of platforms. This was our downfall. All that hard work and we couldn't make it out in time before the planet blew up. The fact that I still remember that moment of defeat proves Metroid is worthy of my number three spot. A great game that I'll never forget.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
NES games had become so popular that other companies wanted to cash in on the trend. One such company was Scholastic Inc. best known for publishing children's book series. They released a series of books called "Worlds of Power" that were novelizations of popular video games. I own one and only one of these books, and that of course is Blaster Master. To this day it sits upon my book shelf in all its yellow paged glory. My love for Blaster Master began while spending the weekend at a cousin's house who happened to own it. I had never heard of the game until that point, but was sucked in from the first play through.
Blaster Master's plot revolves around a young boy named Jason who chases after Fred, his pet frog, down a hole. The frog had been exposed to what appear to be radioactive chemicals that cause the frog to grow to a large size as it disappeared underground. Jason follows and discovers a four wheeled tank named SOPHIA 3rd in a cave beneath the earth. So Jason does what any young boy would, he hops in the tank and takes off on an adventure to find Fred. You have to admire Jason's determination and loyalty to his pet. I had a number of pets growing up and I loved them all so I can see where Jason is coming from.
Game play is split between two sections. A majority of the time is spent in SOPHIA 3rd hopping to shooting through areas from a side scrolling point of view. Doorways are located in these areas which are to small for your tank and require Jason to go on foot. These portions take on a top down view as you maneuver Jason through maze like stages with a blaster gun in hand. At the end of the stage you will often be faced with a boss battle, either a giant floating brain, crab, lobster, or even your mutated pet frog.
Like a lot of NES games one of Blaster Master's biggest strength's is the music. With different themes playing for each area of the game ranging from good, great, and freaking amazing.
I rediscovered Blaster Masters years later after my first encounter, and fell in love with it all over again while playing through it with one of my best friends. Blaster Master will always be a part of my gaming history, and now thanks to the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console anyone can learn to love it as much as I do. So if you have a Wii go download Blaster Master now, do it! You won't regret it.
Never judge a game by its cover, and no game hits that point home better than Kickle Cubicle. From just glancing at the box it appears as nothing but candy colored kiddy fluff, but inside is a fun little puzzle and adventure game. The most fun I can remember having on the NES originates with Kickle Cubicle. Again this involved long nights of playing with one of my best friends, you know who you are!
So what is Kickle Cubicle about? Well from what I can remember an evil chicken wearing an eye patch, frosty the snowman, and a creepy clown have taken over the land of vegetable people and its up to Kickle with his freezing breath to save the day! Seriously that is the plot in a nutshell. The offical story may be slightly different, but who cares when the game involves kicking ice blocks into a clown's face? Movies like IT and Killer Klowns from Outer Space forever scarred me as a child, so any game that allows me to exact revenge on the evil bastards has to be on the list. Clowns are EVIL!
You control Kickle, a big headed child with freezing breath which he uses to turn enemies into ice blocks that he then kicks into water and form bridges to navigate his way through the area. Stages are simple at fist with few enemies and easy to reach goals, but it becomes more complex as you reach higher levels. Plus the addition of boss fights with said evil chicken and company can prove to be a challenge.
While most prolly have never heard of the game, my fond memories of it have at my number five spot. Keep on kicking Kickle!
Thursday, May 20, 2010
It's been awhile since a Saturday Night Live skit moved to the big screen, and for good reason. While not all SNL films are bad their track record has been hit or miss. So how does MacGruber fit with the rest? It lands in a strange middle ground, not terrible but not exactly great either. MacGruber is stupid funny, relying on raunchy jokes and gags to get the laughs. It just happens to do so decently well, and benefits from its R rating.
The cast all play their roles well, with Will Forte as the title character being as goofy as he should. Fellow SNL cast member Kristen Wiig does a decent job as the slightly awkward female side kick. Then we have the non SNL actors like Ryan Phillippe and Val Kilmer who surprisingly do not just phone it in. Phillippe's character is the opposite of MacGruber, being grounded more in reality and the contrast helps sell most of the jokes. While Val Kilmer as the film's villain seems to be enjoying himself and having fun playing the part.
MacGruber is not for everyone, but those looking for a bit of fun who aren't afraid of a few dirty jokes and 80's cheese then it will certainly deliver.
Final Score: B-
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
This will be the last space shooter on the list, I promise! When you are dealing with NES games you are bound to have a few of them in the mix. Out of all the space shooters for the NES, Life Force is by far my favorite and has the most memories attached to it.
Life Force is a spin off of the Gradius series, but with the addition of a second player joining your flight through space. This is the major reason why it holds such a high position on my list over the other space shooters. I remember to this day staying up all night with one of my friends playing together as we made our way to victory. One of the few star fighter games I can remember actually beating, but it was only thanks to the help of a co-pilot.
Similar to Gradius the game plays as a side scrolling space shooter, and like Abadox would switch up with up to down view. Another Abadox comparison involves entering the body of a giant creature, in the case of Life Force that would be the giant snake on the cover of the box.
So that is the last of the space fighters on my list, rejoice! Now lets move on to the top five, these have got to be good right? Right?!?
Monday, May 17, 2010
The Legend of Zelda is ... well legendary, so why is it so low on my list? In all honesty I did not really get into the series until much later. I did play the original though, but never owned the shiny gold cart. My time spent playing was at a neighbor's house, so I was never able to fully experience the game in my youth.
Even with the little time I spent actually playing the game I could understand why everyone loved it so much. It started a formula that has become a classic staple in gaming, one that many have replicated but never mastered as well as the Zelda series has.
Zelda plays out as adventure across the land of Hyrule's various landscapes and dungeons seeking out the shattered piece of the Tri-Force. With so many different types of areas, weapons and equipment the game had a lot to offer the player. It also contains some of the most memorable music in gaming. The game stands as one of the greats, but sadly it did not play a very big part of my gaming history.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Abadox: The Deadly Inner War is one of many space shooters on the NES, but Abadox sets itself apart from the others by sending the player inside the body of a giant alien and fighting its organs. The stages and enemies were all rather disturbing looking even for NES pixels. Even the box art was a bit graphic with the title appearing to be dripping with blood. If Abadox was remade today it would be slapped with an M rating for sure.
The game play was your standard side scrolling space shooter, but with the player controlling a little man in space armor rather than a ship. As always you collect power ups for your gun, giving it different forms of attacking. A few stages would switch out the side scrolling for downward scrolling segments.
Abadox is another game I spent sitting on the living room floor watching my Dad play, but I was able to get pretty far in this one. I'll still always remember one of the early bosses being a grotesque face with eyeballs dangling from their sockets as they swirled around firing shots at you. Good times.
Battletoads! Hell yea! Anthropomorphic animals were very popular in the 80's and 90's with the most famous being the Ninja Turtles. So what animal did Rare turn to when they hoped to take on the Turtle's games? Toads, but not just any toads these are Battletoads! Rare also managed to create one of the hardest games in history, in my opinion at least.
My earliest memories of Battletoads are playing in my cousin's den one Saturday evening, and never getting any further than the first stage because we could never figure out how to beat the laser canon boss. We were just kids, how were we supposed to know to throw rocks at the screen? I have sense gotten further than the first stage, but have never been able to beat the entire game.
Battletoads plays like any side-scrolling beat'em up, that is at first glance. As you advance further in the game it changes things up a bit. One stage you might be propelling down a shaft by a long stretchy line, then you might find yourself riding a high speed bike as it rockets forward. It is the high speed bike stages that always proved to be my downfall, requiring fast twitch reflexes and a good deal of memorization of the track.
The Toads may have never gained the popularity of the Turtles, but they did give us one thing and that was some kick-ass pause music. Battletoads, the only game to make pausing awesome.
This game along with a few others on the list stems from the majority of time I spent playing NES games with my Dad. Magmax is one those games I was never very good at as a kid, but would instead sit and watch my Dad try and beat the next level. I enjoyed watching him play almost more than playing it myself, plus I was able to learn where the enemies and power ups were located from watching.
Even though I wasn't the greatest at the game I couldn't resist it as a child. I mean look at the box art, it's a giant robot warrior fighting a three headed robot dragon. The robot also appears to be firing a beam from its crotch which destroys one of the dragon heads. What more could a kid ask for? Who cares if the actual game might not have represented such a confrontation in the same epic manner of the cover. As a side note, for the longest time I always called the game Mad Max, having mistaken the G with a lightning bolt through it for a D. This only raised further questions as a child when I began to ask myself why Mel Gibson wasn't in the game.
It was a basic side scrolling style shooter but instead of being in space you were on land. You start out as sort of a hovering tank like vehicle, but after finding upgrades through the game would take on a more human shape. A shape that was supposed to represent the robot from the cover, but sadly does not share the same awesomeness.
As for the story .... well I couldn't tell you a single thing about it. That was the problem with NES games, most of their plot lines were written on the back of the box or in the instructions. When you're a kid who has time to read? It has robots and robot dragons, nuff said, now lets play!