Friday, November 23, 2012

The Expendables 2

The first one was better.

That isn't to say this was a bad movie or that I was at all disappointed or let down, it's just that the first one was better is all. Maybe it's because the first film had more novelty and felt fresh while this one is just more of the same. Maybe it's because this film felt like less of an ensemble and more of a starring vehicle for Stallone. Maybe it's because this one had a weaker story and more muddled direction. Maybe it's because I'm a few years older and more mature. Maybe it's because I watched this one alone in my apartment instead of on opening night in a theater full of like-minded Stallone fans. Or maybe it was just because it wasn't a very good movie.

I dunno.

Anyway, I liked it.

If you liked the first film -- and I can't imagine that anybody would go see it unless they were the kind of person who was going to love it -- you'll like this one too, since it brings back almost all of the main characters and puts them through the same intense, over the top action. The I described the original film's finale as the best action sequence in movie history, but the opening of this one maybe tops it. This was seriously one epic opening battle that was ridiculous in all the right ways, perfectly creating one of the most epic introductions to some of history's most epic action stars. But then it kind of lost steam, and even though there was a lot of action along the way, it was never as creative or fun as that opening, nor as anything from the first film. It all just kind of played out with people shooting until they run out of bullets and then throwing knives into some merc's throat. In any other film review, that would be a rave recommendation, but for an Expendables film I just expected more.

I don't really remember the main plot of the first film (and that's as it should be!), but this one is about the team's search for revenge after one of their own is murdered in cold blood during a mission. But don't get too worked up, since the Expendable who died wasn't anybody from the first film, but a new character played by the very handsome but very bland Liam Hemsworth. Listen... if you're going to make your entire film revolve around a revenge story, you have to make it about a character we care about, not some new guy who was shoe-horned in just so he could be killed off in the first half hour. This would've been a much stronger story had they killed off one of the main guys, and at least that would've explained why none of them had much screen time anyway. I hardly remember Randy Couture or Terry Crews being in this movie at all, and Jet Li really only had a cameo before he disappeared all together.

There was also some woman added to the team which didn't really work. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with women in action movies, I'm just saying I didn't know who this actress was and that she was bland and added nothing to the story.

There was also an appearance or two by Chuck Norris, which sounds cool but it didn't really work either, since he was so awkwardly forced into the movie with no real explanation or thought. It was kind of funny how Norris basically played some god-like force or nature who showed up when the team needed him most, killed everybody, then vanished again, but it just didn't work for me. And having Chuck Norris repeat one of his internet meme "facts" isn't meta humor, it's just kind of dumb.

Much more fun were the expanded roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold. But then again, Chuck Norris's fame is kind of based on the fact that he's kind of a joke whereas these guys are famous because they're awesome, so having more of both actors is always great. I could've done without all the "I'll be back" and "terminator" jokes, however, since a little of that goes a long way.

And I don't know about Jean-Claude Van Damme as the villain. He was a lot of fun, but he didn't really do much and I never really knew what his plan was. But Van Damme is always funny, and his big fight against Stallone at the end was fantastic.

But the main problem -- and this is going to sound like a dumb criticism of a big budget action movie throw back -- is that the script lacked wit. The first movie was just as funny as it was exciting, but this one just fell flat in too many places. Here's one example: At one point Stallone and Jason Statham are running through the jungle when they are suddenly ambushed by a bunch of villains.

Statham: "Did you order room service?"

Stallone: "Not really..."

Not really? Not really?! That was really the best set up and follow through they had? Stallone should've said something like, "I really have to complain to the concierge."  Or, "Zagat's gave their service four stars," and then he could've thrown four ninja throwing stars into their throats. But all that happened was he said, "not really," then they stood around awkwardly until he pointed his finger at them at which point some sniper shot them all... which was a bit they ripped off from that movie The Losers anyway. But there were just too many moments like that, where I was left waiting for the joke or one-liner to come... and they just never did. This script just needed a punch-up.

Hey, Sly... if you're reading this, you can use that "four star" gag in The Expendables 3!

So that's the Expendables 2. I liked it and I recommend it for fans of the first film, as long as you go in realize some of the magic has been diluted every so slightly. But I still liked it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


This is the best movie I've ever seen.

Well... ok... it's probably not the best movie I've ever seen, but off hand I can't think of a better one, nor can I remember ever sitting in a theater and feeling the same sense of awe I felt while watching this one.

Yeah, that's right... awe. I can't think of a better word to sum up the emotional experience I went through watching this film.

Awe from the experience of being transported back in time to a perfectly realized 19th century America.

Awe at seeing one of my personal heroes brought to life so utterly and completely.

Awe at the heroism of so many men and women who fought to bring freedom to those who were literally bound in chains.

And awe at seeing how much the world has changed over a hundred years, but how little us Americans have changed with it.

I'm not saying this film was an allegory for  the current debate sweeping our country regarding gay rights, but you'd have to be a cold person to walk out of this film and not at least consider how so many people are still being kept in literal chains.

But that's what this movie is: a literal retelling of a week or so in our country's history that can be taken as an allegory for modern times if you choose, or just rousing entertainment if you choose that.

I honestly don't have much more to say about this movie, if only because when I think back on it and remember the experience of watching it, I get a little welled up with emotion. It was that good, it was that important, and all I really have to say is you should go see it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I just rented The Expendables 2.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stop Complaining About Christmas Music!

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here about Christmas music, but every year it starts earlier and earlier and it's just getting out of control. And, no, I'm not talking about Christmas music, but about people who complain about Christmas music.

Shut up already! Stop complaining. Just stop. Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop!

Since the invention of recording music and department stores, the two have come together every year about this time to fill our airwaves and sonic receptors with Jingle Bells, The Christmas Song, and All I Want For Christmas is You, buy Mariah Carey. Somehow Gimbles used to play that song forty years before Mariah Carey was even born. I don't understand it either. Anyway, my point is that this is not a new thing, and that entire familes have been making it a tradition to complain about this same cliche generation after generation.

And it just has to stop.

You want to know why every store, radio station, elevator, and hurdy gurdy man starts playing nothing but Christmas music? Because it's Christmas and because most people like it. Christmas music is nostalgic, fun, and pretty. And I say this as an atheist.

But I know what you're thinking... "But, Donald, it's not even Thanksgiving yet! It's too early!"

To this I say... what's a few weeks? And, really, even when it's the week before Christmas I hear people complaining about Christmas music. I don't understand this. What even makes Christmas music Christmas music anyway? The fact that it's about Christmas? Who cares? Who listens to lyrics? Bohemian Rhapsody may be a Christmas song for all I know, but I don't because the lyrics make no sense. I've never had a chestnut that was roasted on an open fire. I've never been on a sleigh ride. I've never tried to date rape a girl by convincing her that it was cold outside. These aren't things that in anyway reflect how I have spent the holidays with my family and friends.

But I still like Christmas music because it's fun and pretty and nice. You know... for the same reason I like music.

So stop complaining about Christmas music already. Just think of it as music and enjoy it.

And now you're thinking... "But, Donald, all this music all the time ruins and cheapens the meaning of the holiday."

No it doesn't. How could it? How could any meaningless external thing in any way impact how you choose to celebrate the holiday? It only can if you allow it to. Christmas for me is a time that I spend with my family, all of whom except for my sister and I are spread out across the entire country. Christmas is the one time of year we all somehow strive to get together and spend time as a family. That's what Christmas means to me (I don't know what it means to you, but it's probably something similar and sacred and special, at least I hope so), and no amount of Christmas music can change that. They could start playing Jingle Bells in April for all I care, or Toys r Us could start airing commercials where Joseph and Mary take little baby Jesus to Disney World and it wouldn't ruin Christmas for me.

All Christmas music does is add a nice soundtrack. If you hate Christmas music, maybe you just hate Christmas or just like to complain.

So just stop already and enjoy it or, at the very least, ignore it.

Well, except for any version of Santa Baby or that god awful "Merry Christmas, Baby" by the Beach Boys. Those are just terrible.

Quantum Conundrum

Why do videogame reviews still exist? I still read them and I still write them, but really... if you're interested in a game, go download a demo. And if you're a company who doesn't make demos for your games, go to hell. This is the 21st friggin' century already. Chop something together and put it out there. But, anyway, here's a little review for Quantum Conundrum, a game I actually beat the other day: I liked it.

I bought this after I played the demo. It's a first person puzzle game that is fun, clever, and very challenging. It's the kind of game that makes you feel proud after completing because there were times there when I never thought I would and honestly wanted to through my controller out of the window. The puzzles are very clever and of the variety that after you solve them, you'll wonder how it took you so long to work out what was pretty obvious all along. But sometimes the game is hard just because there are too many jumping puzzles. If they ever make a sequel, I'd recommend they trim those down a bit. Nobody likes jumping in first person games.

It's hard to avoid comparing this game with the Portal games, since it was created by Kim Swift, who was a lead designer on Portal, and since both games are first person puzzle games where you have to figure out how to get from one end of a room to the other, all the while encouraged (or discouraged) by the humorous narration of a nebulous voice in the heavens. Honestly, this games is no Portal, both of which were brilliant, since the graphics aren't as great, the puzzles aren't as intricate, the narrative isn't as compelling, and the script isn't as funny. But it's still very, very good... it's just not as good as Portal, but what game is?

But why are you reading this? Just go rent the demo and see if you like it. I did.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

I give this movie an A for effort, but a B- for execution.

I liked it a lot and thought it nailed both Spider-Man and Peter Parker as characters, but the film around them really fell flat and was just kind of bland. This is a big contrast to the previous trilogy by Sam Raimi, which were astoundingly entertaining films that completely ruined the characters from the comics. At some point somebody will finally tell a great, entertaining story that perfectly captures on-model depictions of Peter Parker, Spider-Man, and the rest of the supporting cast. Oh wait... somebody already did that: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in the comic books. But as adaptations go, this was a lot of fun and mostly respectful of the source material.

This movie is about, well, Spider-Man, so I don't think I need to recount the plot since the character's origin story has been told and retold so many times that by now it must be as well known as Superman's flight to Earth as a baby or the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents. Geeky high school outcast gets bitten by a radioactive spider, gets super powers, fights crime. Considering how this is a reboot of one of film's most popular and successful film trilogies, it was a bit odd how it was almost an hour before we actually saw the character become Spider-Man, but it's ok because this was really more of a film about Peter Parker anyway. But still, did we really need to spend that long retelling the same origin story once more? 

But once Parker finally did put on the Spider-Man costume, the action got pretty great and mostly non-stop. There was a bit too much CG (or, at least, a bit too much CG-looking CG, if that makes any sense), so I was never sure if there was ever a guy in a suit at all of if it was all digital, but the fights were still great and the scenes where he swung on his webs through New York City were astounding. I honestly regret not having seen this in 3-D in the theater because I bet it would've looked phenomenal.

Our star was Andrew Garfield, who was as perfect a casting choice as I could've hoped for. One of the reasons I never enjoyed the previous films was that I thought Tobey Maguire -- a fine actor -- was all wrong for the character. He was bland, flat, and lacking in any real charisma, but not so with Garfield, who just nailed it. I've never seen or even heard of this actor before, but now he's one of my favorites if only because he just captured the character I grew up reading. He was awkward when he had to be, but still charming and quirky, creating a perfectly believable high school pariah whose character arc has him becoming a hero. Oh, and he was funny too. Spider-Man should be funny.

The supporting cast was pretty great too. Emma Stone played the love interest Gwen Stacy, and she was very lovely and very charming. Dennis Leary showed up as her father, and he did his usual performance as Dennis Leary. He's ok. Peter's Aunt May and Uncle Ben were played by Sally Field and Martin Sheen, both of whom were great, but only Sheen was given much to do. Field was mostly wasted, but maybe she'll be given more to do in the sequel, I dunno.

Then there was our villain, Curt "The Lizard" Connors played by Rhys Ifans. I don't know what to say about this character or this performance since it just felt so disjointed and weird. Ifans is a wonderful actor who did a great job, but the Lizard was all CG so it almost felt like two different characters, and we never really got a sense of his motivations nor did I really understand his plan or what threat he posed. And, frankly, the CG was pretty weak and just looked fake. I hate to say it, but this wasn't a great villain, which is a shame because a villain is really only as good as the threat he's facing, so this kind of made the film fall apart slightly, at least on a emotional level during the climax.

But I still liked it. In fact, I liked it a lot. Director Marc Webb did a great job with the human characters, but maybe the action and the monsters kind of fell flat and eluded his talents as a director. The action scenes were neat and fun, but they often felt a little out of place, as though they were awkwardly inserted into a quieter, character-driven film. I still recommend it and I look forward to the sequel.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Day After the Day After

Does anybody care about my thoughts on the election? Probably not, but then again, nobody cared about my thoughts on Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, but that didn't stop me either.

Anyway, I'm glad that the better man won. Now, I didn't say the best man, just the better man, at least of the two, and by such a wide margin that I can't believe it was ever so close. But it was never really as close as the media would've had us believe. Even on election night I constantly checked between the main networks, CNN, Fox News, and my local Public Television station, and every one of them showed different electoral totals, and I'm not exaggerating. Of course this was because each station was being selective in their predictions, calling some state for whomever they wanted in order to keep up whatever narrative they were going for.  When I finally got annoyed -- disgusted? -- and went to bed, Fox News had Obama and Romney tied at 153, while NBC had Obama well over 200, and one other station had Romney in the lead.

So if we take anything from this entire election season, it's the utter failure by the media to act responsibly and report the truth without filtering it through the narrative that makes the best story. But that's just me.

But my guy won, and the proposed amendment in my state of Minnesota to change the state constitution to define marriage as a union between only a man and a woman was defeated by a wide enough margin that there is still hope that we are actually progressing as a civilization. Of course, there's probably another blogger somewhere pointing to those results as proof of our imminent doom as a society, but that blogger is an idiot.

INTERJECTION: The woman sitting next to me (I'm at a coffee shop, because that's where people write blog posts, right?) just looked up from her newspaper and exclaimed to me that over $6 billion dollars was spent on this election. I said that's a lot of money, and she said it sure is.

I have nothing else to say. Now I know why nobody cares about my thoughts on politics.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama's Back in Town

Congratulations to President Obama and Vice President Biden. In tribute to their victory, here's a a little video I put together this morning. And, yes, I know how stupid it is:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Very Important Endorsement

This blog rarely gets political, but I felt it was important to finally admit that we here at Blessed are the Geeks endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States. And if you happen to live in Minnesota -- or any state with a similar amendment on the ballot -- vote no to the amendment outlawing same sex marriage.

That's all.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Duckth Vader

Yeah, that's the best joke I could come up with, sorry.

Anyway, now that my Part-3-Athon is over, I can finally comment on all the stuff other bloggers have been discussing all month. As we all know, the Internet has been abuzz with the recent acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney for the low price of $4.5 billion. And I'm not being facetious when I call it a low price, considering how Disney bought Pixar for $7 billion or how Facebook bought Instagram (Insta-fucking-gram!) for a cool billion. All things considered, that's a hell of a deal, and I'd bet just the Star Wars Lego division will make that money back in just a few years.

But what's my opinion on this deal? Frankly, I don't give a damn.

I certainly find it interesting from a business point of view, but I'll be the first to admit I know nothing about business.

Am I afraid for the future of Star Wars? No.

I've heard from many people who are afraid for how the upcoming films and TV projects will be without the influence of George Lucas. Did those people see the prequels? I'm of the opinion that less influence from old George might be just the thing Star Wars needs for its return to glory. Don't get me wrong: I love the prequels. I own them all on DVD and on Blu Ray and rewatch them more than I rewatch anything. But they're not good movies, and they feel so far removed from the original trilogy that they feel like Star Wars as written and conceived in a parallel universe. So I don't see how any upcoming trilogy can really damage a franchise that, frankly, has been damaged and living on life-support for decades. And, really, the people who are complaining about Lucas selling to Disney are probably the same people who complained about how the prequels raped their childhoods. I hate those people.

So if I feel anything about this project, it's curiousity and a sense of excitement that we'll finally get more films. I think that's cool. If I have any hopes or desires for things I'd like to see in the new films, I guess my main wish would that they are all live-action and not CG. I enjoy the Clone Wars series (both of them!), but Star Wars just doesn't feel like Star Wars to me when it's not live action.

I'd also love to see the original cast back together, even if they're just in supporting roles. Mark Hammil as an aging Jedi Master would be amazing, and anybody who's seen Cowboys vs Aliens or Kingdom of the Crystal Skull knows Harrison Ford is still a badass. I haven't seen Carrie Fisher or Billy Dee Williams in forever, but if either of them are cast in the movie, that would be awesome. Billy Dee is still alive, right?

And, finally, I'd like to see an original story. Well, that's not entirely true, since a lot of stuff from the Expanded Universe is very cool. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't want to see a film version of the Thrawn trilogy, which is a suggestion I've read all over the internet. I seem to be the only Star Wars fan who thinks Timothy Zahn's trilogy of novels that continued the story after Return of the Jedi are awful. Zahn is a fine writer, but the stories are so trite and weak in conception that I found them to be far more obnoxious and lacking than the prequel films. Oh, and Thrawn is just a lame character.

But whatever they do, I'll go see it. I mean, it's Star Wars.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Part-3-Athon Recap

Well, I'm glad that's over.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: When I first had the idea to watch and review 31 different parts 3 from series where I've never seen parts 1 or 2, I honestly thought I'd be watching some good movies. Turns out, I was wrong -- for the most part, anyway. Still, I had fun and, I hope, entertained some people, which maybe made some of the misery worth it. But, as I said, I'm glad it's over. This was a lot of work.

I'm finally able to actually come home from work and not watch some gawd awful movie. In fact, as soon as it was November and I was completely done, I went next door to the Redbox and rented The Three Stooges. It sucked. I should've known better than to rent something with "three" in the title.

Anyway, here are some random thoughts and pointless statistics:

Movies watched: 30 (I had two videos devoted to Death Wish 3)

Best Movie: House of Frankenstein. (Second best would be Dracula III. Third best would be, maybe, Phantasm 3. After that... everything sucked)

Worst Movie: Shark Attack 3... maybe.

Most Hateful Movie: Feast 3. (As bad as most of these were, this is the only one that I regret watching.)

Movie that was so bad I didn't even review it: The Grudge 3 

Best Actor: Ian McKellan for Richard III

Best Actress: Mary Elizabeth Winstead for Final Destination 3

Best Director: Patrick Lussier for Dracula III

Best Boobs: Natassia Malthe for Bloodrayne 3

Most Nudity: Chained Heat 3 (It was basically a porno... but watch Bloodrayne instead.)

Best Appearance by Warwick Davis: Leprechaun 3

Longest Video: House of Frankenstein (11 minutes and 39 seconds)

Shortest Video: Demons 3 (1 minute and 51 seconds)

Most Popular Video: Wrong Turn 3 (1,667 views... don't ask me why. I don't get it either.)

Least Popular Video: Every Death From Death Wish 3 (82 views. I honestly thought this would be popular. Not sure why.)

Personal Favorite Video: I thought House of Frankenstein was pretty good, but I also enjoyed Basket Case 3.

In Conclusion: I dunno. I got nothing.