Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Well, this was technically a movie.

A long time ago, there was a TV show on MTV called Jackass. Well, it was technically a TV show, since all it really consisted of was a bunch of idiots seemingly tried to kill themselves by willingly torturing themselves in front of a camera. This was one of the stupidest and most hilarious TV shows of all time that was later adapted into three feature length movies. Well, they were technically movies, since all they really consisted of were those same guys torturing themselves, only on film instead of video. These were three of the stupidest and most hilarious films of all time. And now there's Bad Grandpa, which is a feature length adaptation of a reoccurring bit that appeared in those earlier Jackass incarnations, where series star Johnny Knoxville put on old man makeup and tortured himself, grossed out everyone around him, and just generally made of an ass of himself.

Anyway... if you liked any of the earlier versions of Jackass, you'll like this. And if you didn't, then... well... lord help you, because I sure can't. I'm not saying Jackass is high art. I'm not even saying that Jackass isn't absolute shit intended solely to get a chuckle out of the lowest common denominator. I'm simply saying I love Jackass, I just saw Bad Grandpa in the theater, and I can't remember when I've ever laughed more in my life.

I will admit I had my doubts going in... and I realize how insane that sounds.After paying money to see three movies where they shoved a matchbox car up some guy's ass then sent him to a doctor to get X-Rayed and shaved patches of pubes from the entire crew and tricked one of the actors into gluing them to his face as a fake beard, I should have lost my right to be a discriminating film-goer, but I dunno. I never really loved the old man skits from the earlier films. They were a little too gross, and most of the bits relied too much on shocking or embarrassing real, unsuspecting people. But then I decided to check out the trailer, and ended up laughing so hard I turned it off because I didn't want another second more to be spoiled. And then I went to see it the next morning.

This wasn't exactly Jackass 4, but it's the closest we're probably ever going to get, and I'm happy to say it was very, very funny. I'll admit that it started strong and ended strong, but there was a bit of a lull in the middle. It was never boring and it never stopped being funny, but one of the things that kept the original Jackass trilogy from getting stale was the extended cast and the sheer variety of stunts and bits they threw in. This one is just Johnny Knoxville and the actor playing his grandson, and while they were both great, the Irving Zisman character was maybe a little too unlikable to really care his own movie.

But then again, that's also kind of the point, and it was very, very funny. I'm simply saying that if you don't have a strong stomach for this kind of uncomfortable, hidden camera comedy, you won't be able to hand this one, since it's the probably the darkest and most uncomfortable movie I've ever seen. But also one of the funniest. I don't want to describe any of the jokes or give any spoilers, but the big finale where the little boy shows off his talent during the beauty pageant was hands down the funniest thing I've ever seen in any movie ever. I don't want to build it up too much, but I was laughing so hard I literally had tears streaming down my face, and even now (about 45 minutes after the ending of the film, sitting in a Starbucks as I type this up), my eyes still hurt.

It was also strange for a Jackass movie to make an attempt at a real narrative, although this film had  a "plot" only in the strictest definition of the word. Basically, Knoxville plays an 86 year old man named Irving Zisman, who has to drive his grandson across the country to be reunited with his dad. Along the way they make various stops, where Irving gets his penis trapped in a vending machine, drive over a giant penguin stature, attempt to pick up every woman they come in contact with, and even attempt to strip during ladies night at a seemingly all black night club. Oh, and during the entire trip, they're carrying around the corpse of Irving's dead wife.

Does any of that sound funny? Well... it was, not only because of the shocking audacity of the gags and stunts, but because of the on screen chemistry by Johnny Knoxville and young actor Jackson Nicoll. This kid was good. It's hard enough being just a child actor, but the fact that he pulled off such a great performance in this kind of gross-out, hidden camera comedy was astounding. The plot about his custody battle between the old man and his real father was just a gimmick to have a bunch of poop and dick jokes, but it was surprisingly sweet and moving, mostly because this kid was so good and so lovable. And he was also really funny. There were scenes where he just walked down the street talking to random people, and I have no idea if he was reading from a script, voicing lines provided to him by some kind of hidden ear piece, or just ad-libbing on his own. All I know is he was fucking hilarious and held his own and even stole more than his share of scenes from his co-star.

But, of course, Johnny Knoxville made the movie. I'm an unabashed, unapologetic Johnny Knoxville fan. He'll never win an Oscar or win over the critics, so he'll just have to comfort himself with the praise from bloggers like me... and his millions of dollars. But to be serious for a moment, I think Knoxville is one of the finest and most underrated comedic actors of all time, and as a purely physical comedian, I'd put him up there alongside Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd, and I'm totally not fucking joking. A lot of people can be knocked on their ass by a bull... and a lot of people can make you laugh at that happening, but only Knoxville can do that and force you to keep your eyes on him and not the bull.

And this movie proves that he's also a damn good actor. And, again, I'm not joking. This is maybe the best performance as an old man ever pulled off by a younger actor. Of course, a lot of that had to do with the incredibly realistic makeup, but also because of the way he just carried himself, held his shoulders, walked, and just breathed. The guy can act. I doubt I'll see any actor this year give a more committed or fearless performance.

If I have any complaints about the movie, it's that it didn't really feel enough like a Jackass film, despite the structure and similar stunts. I expected to see at least some cameos by some of the Jackass crew, but nobody showed up. They couldn't even fit in Wee Man? It seems like a huge missed opportunity, and even though Knoxville has always been the star, Jackass just doesn't feel like Jackass without appearances from Steve-O, Bam, and the other idiots. And I'm sure they probably need the work. 

But at the end of the day, it's really just a bunch of dick and poop jokes. But that's ok because they're funny. I'm not recommending this movie, since it is what it is and you'll already know from my description and the trailer if it's for you. All I know is I laughed a lot and I wanted to give my props. Just go see it already.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Awesome Shout-Out

Well, this is about the nicest thing anybody has ever said about me:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Xbox Live World

Since I have nothing else to write about today, I'll just write about this.

I've always meant to watch the film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. It's considered to be a comedy classic that has been beloved and adulated and adored for the past half century, and it's full of some of my all time favorite comic actors, like Peter Falk, Phil Silvers, Buddy Hacket, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Johnathan Winters, Don Knotts, and who knows who else. I certainly don't now who else because I didn't get to finish it. In fact, I didn't even get to see Don Knotts!

Here's how Xbox Live movie rentals work: You pay four bucks or so to download a movie to your Xbox that is valid for about a month or so unwatched, or for about 24 hours or so after you first hit play. I downloaded the rental in HD because if I'm gonna see Don Knotts, I really want to see Don Knotts! It's a nearly 3 hour film so the file was 11 gigs and took forever to download, but that's ok because I set it to go before I went out to meet my sister for dinner. When I got home, I settled in to watch some great comedy entertainment.

And it was! Very funny, very entertaining, and surprisingly beautifully shot film, especially in HD. After about 45 minutes or so I realized something was missing from my night, so I stopped the film and walked across the street to my local market and got some Ben and Jerry's frozen yogurt. When I got home, I grabbed a spoon, popped open my froyo, and resettled in to finish the movie... but when I went to resume the film, it for some reason started from the beginning and it looked like crap. Then my cell phone chimed and I saw that I just received an email from the Xbox live genie confirming my purchase of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World for a total of about 10 dollars. What the hell?

Of course, I had received a similar email confirming my rental a few hours earlier, but I had approved that purchase, but not this one. So I was now being charged about $15 to watch It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.... in Standard definition. Well, I'm a snob and really prefer HD, especially after watching the first 45 minutes of the same film that way... and, to be honest, the SD version looked really bad. So I searched my Xbox for the HD version I had paid to rent, but it was gone. The SD purchase overwrote it apparently. I even deleted the SD version hoping I could find the HD rental, but it just wiped the film from my Xbox, which meant I was charged $15 for a film I couldn't watch.

At this point I had sailed passed annoyed and was actively angry. I looked over the purchase confirmation email, since those things usually have a line that says something like, "if you received this in error, please follow this link..." but there was nothing like that, so I had to search the Xbox live account site for help. After navigating the site for a few minutes, I finally followed a link to a live chat with a tech support person. I saved the chat and it was all time-stamped, and from start to finish the chat took 40 minutes... to not resolve my problem. I said what happened, and the person finally said he or she would have to escalate the problem to get me a refund. That took 40 minutes for some reason.

If you're interesting in reading that chat, and I don't know why anybody would, you can read it here.

So then I went to bed, and woke up to no emails... but I did get one about an hour ago (when I first started writing this manifesto), and they said they'd refund the purchase for the ten dollar film. I wrote back and said thank you, and noted that while I didn't want to sound ungrateful for that, I really should be refunded the price of the rental as well, since this purchase I didn't authorize overwrote the rental I did authorize.

So that's where that stands. And don't think me crazy for caring about that last five dollars. It's not about the movie. You should think I'm crazy because I'm doing this even though I don't care about the five dollars. It's the principle.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Grand Theft Auto V

Well, I beat it... that is to say, to the extent that anybody ever beats one of these Grand Theft Auto games. I completed the main storyline and watched the credits role, but after that it puts you right back into the open world of the game so you can keep on going with the side quests, finding the hidden easter eggs, or just plain having fun. Remember back when you used to beat a game and that was that? Now I beat a game but the menu still says I'm only about 60% completed. That includes all the missions, sure, but also the fifty different bridges I can fly under, the various stunt jumps hidden around the map, and multiple races on the street, water, and air.

I'm not complaining, since part of this game's appeal is how it's so huge it's virtually impossible to ever complete 100%... at least for me, anyway. I'm sure there were plenty of people who completed it within the first weekend of its release. Those people are called nerds.

Anyway, earlier in the month I already gave my initial opinion of the game after having played for a few days, and it hasn't changed: This is still the best GTA game of all time, which makes it a top contender for best game of all time ever. This game and this series are that good, that fun, and that mindbogglingly well produced.

But it wasn't perfect. I thought the story was lacking. In fact, the story kind of sucked. The dialogue was just as witty and laugh-out-loud funny as you'd expect from the writers at Rockstar, but the story structure was just too disjointed and, frankly, uninteresting. Don't get me wrong: A GTA game doesn't need to have a great story to be fun, it just needs to exist and it'll be fun enough, but this story was so overly plotted and made such an attempt to be epic, the fact that it didn't work is hard to ignore. The game opens with a bank heist gone horribly wrong, and then jumps ahead a decade or so later as we meet the robbers and see where they ended up. One of our leads Michael faked his death and entered the witness relocation program, so when Trevor, his former partner and another one of our playable characters finds out about his treachery, he vows to take action... but then nothing happens. They just end up teaming up for various GTA style missions. And then later on Trevor learns even more about how deep Michael's treachery really went so he vows revenge again... and then nothing happens and they just team up for more GTA style missions.

Then there are all these various villains who come and go and are hard to keep track of. As a game, it was fun that there was so much to do and the story kept things changing from mission to mission, I'm just saying that in terms of a story, it made no sense and was unengaging.

But who gives a shit about that since it was so fun to play, and even though the cut scenes didn't always make sense, the voice acting was some of the best I've ever heard -- especially Steven Ogg as Trevor, who ranks up there as one of the best videogame vocal performances of all time, alongside Ellen Mclain and Steven Merchant from Portal, David Hayter as Solid Snake, Robert Culp from Half Life 2, and Keith David for his appearance in every videogame ever made. But everybody was good, from the main characters right down to the crazy homeless people you find muttered on the street as you walk by. I also really enjoyed the voice of Michael's son Jimmy, who I thought was Jonah Hill, but was shocked to learn it was actually Danny Tamberelli who's most famous as little Pete on Pete and Pete. I'm glad he's still working.

There's also GTA Online, which has been live for a few weeks, and even played for a few days. From what I've played, it's good, but I don't really play online games, especially not ones that are as deep and extensive as this one. I like playing games alone, especially since I only play them when I manage to find some spare time in my day. I just don't have the time to invest in online sessions, especially not if I have to join a crew where other people depend on me. But I have dipped in and out, and it seems like fun.

Anyway... long story short, this is a great game that anybody who loves videogames should buy.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Videoclip of the Week

I offer the following video without commentary... because I have no idea what to say about it:

The Captains

The highest compliment I can pay to this film is that, while watching it, I wished it would never end.

Here's the gist: The Captains is a documentary written, directed, and produced by William Shatner, chronicling his quest to meet and get to know every other main Star Trek captain, including Patrick Stewart from Next Generation, Avery Brooks from Deep Space Nine, Kate Mulgrew from Voyager, Scott Bacula from Enterprise, and even Chris Pine who played the young James T. Kirk in those new Star Trek movies the young people seem to enjoy. Now, if any of that sounds the least bit appealing or fun, watch this movie because you'll find it glorious. But if any of that sounds awful, give it a major pass, and while you're add it probably give 99% of this blog a pass too. Why are you here?

As a "documentary," this film earns the title in the strictest, most literal possible way, since it's not so much a documentary as it is five different conversations intercut with one another, as well as footage of Shatner at a Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. In fact, the footage of Shatner walking around the convention floor and hamming it up with unsuspecting fans is probably the most fun stuff in the entire movie. The montage of him telling all the female actors that they were "the most beautiful woman to ever work in Star Trek" had me rolling on the floor.

But the rest of the film is pretty great too, at least... if you're a Star Trek fan, since it's just two hours or Shatner talking to other Star Trek captains. As the film began, I kind of got the impression it was just going to be a two hour film where Shatner throws his ego around -- and it was to some extent! -- but he revealed himself to be an astoundingly good interviewer. His questions were always interesting, but often profound and thoughtful as well, and even though this was certainly his film, his greatest strength was in knowing when to let his subject just talk. I seriously could've watched 7 seasons of just William Shatner conversing with Patrick Stewart, since both men are that interesting, that charming, that intelligent, and had amazing chemistry.

I also really loved all the bits with Scott Bakula, who seems like the nicest, most happy, and well rounded of the bunch. I actually wanted him to talk more about Quantum Leap, but that's neither here nor there, since he seemed like a really cool guy, and probably the one I'd most want to meet for a beer in real life. The moment where they both meet on camera appeared to be the moment where they both met for real... and if not, they are astoundingly brilliant actors since the moment felt so genuine and the mutual respect and admiration they had for one another was infectious.

Kate Mulgrew is still a lovely woman with a commanding presence, but I'd be lying if I said I was either a fan of her or of Voyager. But it was still an interesting conversation, and after Patrick Stewart, Shatner seemed to have the best chemistry with her, even though she admitted that before she took on the role as Captain Janeway she hadn't heard of William Shatner. They talked a lot about the theater and in trying to raise a family while forging an acting career. Interesting topics to be sure, but not ones I really cared about. But then again, I have no real affection for Voyager so the site of her doesn't fill me with awe as the other captains do.

Chris Pine is ridiculously handsome, which was accentuated by the fact that he was the only person on screen through the entire film that wasn't about 60 years old. He was also pretty funny and likable and smart, which is good because while his segments were entertaining, they didn't quite reach the levels of the segments with the other actors. Then again, he's a kid who just entered the world of Star Trek, which is something Shatner doesn't seem to find interesting, since most of the questions he poses to the other actors were about growing older, gaining perspective on life and their careers, and even what happens to us when we die. He didn't ask Chris Pine any of these questions, or, if he did, they ended up on the cutting room floor because his answers weren't interesting. However, I was impressed with Chris Pine and came away with more respect for him than I had before, since he really does seem very smart and very thoughtful about his chose career. I wish him well, even though I hate his two Star Trek movies.

And then there's Avery Brooks, who is my pick for the greatest actor to ever sit in the Captain's chair, which is an opinion that has gotten me a lot of flack, but almost always from people who never actually watched Deep Space Nine in its entirety and saw just what he did with that character over his seven year run. Anyway... Avery Brooks is a crazy person. He was completely incoherent, rambling, and insane. I literally didn't understand a single thing that came out of his mouth during this entire film. Sometimes he didn't even answer Shatner's questions with words, but with music, since his interview was filmed sitting in front of a piano. I seriously can't express in words just how weird this interview was, and it just has to be seen to be understood... but even then you won't understand it. It was incredibly entertaining, though, and even though he's a nut, he still seems like a kind soul. But the acting William Shatner did pretending to understand what Avery Brooks was saying is among the finest in his entire career, and he should get some kind of honorary Oscar or something.

If I have any complaint at all about the film, it's that the conversations weren't so much about Star Trek as they were acting and even life in general. That's fine, since the conversations were fun and interesting and enthralling, but I'm a Trekkie so I want every conversation at all times to be about Star Trek. Honestly, I don't really care about Scott Bakula's (or anybody's for that matter) theories on what happens after we die. I'd much rather hear his thoughts on, say, what he considers the main strengths and failings of his Star Trek series. And since the film also has brief clips of other Trek actors giving their opinions of their respective captains, I think there was a bit of a missed opportunity by not talking to more actors who played various captains during the run of every series and film. I think it would've been cool to see Shatner talk to, say, Ronnie Cox about his appearance as Captain Jelico, Picar's replacement during the two-parter Chain of Command, or even George Takei on how he approached the role of Captain during Star Trek VI.

But other than those small nitpicks, this is a really fun movie that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. It's funny, insightful, thought provoking, and even profoundly moving. There is one scene where William Shatner meets a trekkie who was some kind of paraplegic confined to a wheelchair who could only move his eyes and I'd be lying if I said that moment didn't make me cry. If you're a Star Trek fan, it's a must see, and since it's on Netflix Instant there's no reason not to go watch it right now. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, October 18, 2013


Gravity was an awesome and truly unique film-going experience. I really enjoyed it, I thought it was really well done, and I highly recommend it.

Now, if I was most people, I'd just end this review there, because that's really all you need to know: It's a good film that's well worth seeing, especially in the theater on the biggest screen possible. But I'm not most people. I'm an asshole. Well, maybe not an asshole -- although certainly enough people have called me one to lend legitimacy to the claim -- but I've certainly reached a point where I'm just unable to turn off the critical faculty in my brain that nitpicks the shit out of movies that should've known better. I guess that's why I have a blog. Anyway, while the first half of Gravity is brilliant, creative, visually astounding, and worthy of the critical acclaim and position at the top of the box office for the past couple weeks, the second half... isn't.

Here's the story: A NASA Shuttle mission gets destroyed by debris from a recently destroyed satellite, leaving two surviving astronauts adrift in space as they try to make their way to the nearest space station. That's it. That's the entire plot. But don't worry, because it's never boring and almost always magical in its visuals and riveting in its action set pieces. I'll admit that I was curious (or perhaps even worried) going in how they'd be able to sustain this thin a plot without it starting to drag or without resorting to cheating. Turns out, they resorted to cheating... at least in terms of consistency in storytelling and overall realism and believability.

I don't want to get into spoiler territory or discuss the plot points with an in depth analysis because part of the fun of this movie was in watching the suspense build. I actually don't even remember if I saw a trailer for this film before I saw it. I went just on word of mouth and the reviews I had read. But I will say that the debris field that destroyed the shuttle in the opening of the film goes into orbit around the Earth, and comes back a few more times, completely coinciding with every major plot point in the film, almost as though the debris itself had read the script and picked the most dramatic time for its next attack. After the third or fourth time this happens, it kind of stopped being exciting and just got kind of ridiculous.

As I said, the first half is brilliant and perfectly done, but the second half turns into the second half of a generic slasher film, where every time you think the hero is safe, the monster comes back! There is just disaster after disaster after disaster, until it just kind of ends with a finale that was incredibly entertaining and beautifully filmed, but completely and absolutely impossible. Wouldn't happen. Couldn't happen.

But other than those complaints, it's a brilliant film that's completely unlike anything you'll ever seen. Probably 90% of the film takes place in space, and it is the best space photography ever put on film. I don't know if it was all CG or if some of it was real, I just know it was gorgeous and filmed with such a scope that made me feel like I was floating in space along with the characters. If you're prone to motion sickness, this might be a tough film to sit through, especially during the scenes where the characters are spiraling out of control and we see from their perspective.

I also saw it in 3D, which I recommend as well since it added another level of depth and helped to show where every object was in relation to every other in the free fall of space. Also, the big set piece where the space station gets ripped apart and the pieces fly right into the screen was high on my list of the coolest fucking things I've ever fucking seen.

Director Alfonso Cuaron is pretty much guaranteed to get an Oscar nomination, and he'll probably even win, which would be well deserved because this was an astounding piece of work. The camera is always moving with some of the most intricate choreography I've ever seen with visuals that are, literally, limitless in showing the vastness of space. The film is also told in a series of incredibly long takes, which keeps the momentum going and the suspense building. Of course, most of these takes aren't really long tracking shots, since they were all clearly filmed on a green screen and built together from multiple shots stitched together with computers, but they were still dazzling in their complexity and choreography. There is one sequence where the main character is floating around a space station for an extended take and we see her from head to toe and I have no idea how that was filmed. It was flawless.

 But I think Cuaron's previous film Children of Men had the more impressive and complex long takes in film history. This guy is just a genius.

And then the acting was pretty good too. I had my reservations about Sandra Bullock, since while I've enjoyed her in movies like Miss Congeniality, I've never really cared much for her as an overall performer. This movie didn't really change my mind on her talents, but she did a good job. I don't think she lit the screen on fire, but she did her best with her particular talents, and maybe even added a lot to a character that was frankly underwritten and unlikable.

Why was this person in space anyway? There is some added subplot about how she's still overcome with grief after the death of her daughter years previous, and she has to deal with that loss before she can really deal with her current fight for survival and blah blah blah blah. That was completely unneeded in my opinion and added a level of melodrama that the actual drama didn't require. Also... if this woman was really suffering from this level of emotional baggage -- to the extent that the mission commander doesn't even know where she lives, has a family, etc -- how did she get into the space program? Any human is more likely to get into the NBA than they are to get into NASA. Becoming an astronaut is maybe the most rigorously selective employment process in the history of mankind, and I'm sorry to say it but this character wouldn't have made the cut.

Oh yeah, and George Clooney was also in there too. George Clooney is a wonderful actor, but there are some movies where he actually plays a character and others where he just plays George Clooney. In this movie he just plays George Clooney, albeit in a space suit.

But... I liked the movie. In fact, I kind of loved it and I plan to see it again, next time on IMAX. Sure the second half of the film gets a bit wacky and taxes your suspension of disbelief, but it never gets boring and it's always stunning to watch and gives you something you've never seen before in every scene. As space disaster porn it's probably the second best film of its kind, ranking just behind Apollo 13. This film might be a little more exciting and visually inventive, but Apollo 13 has the added virtue of being a true story, and one that doesn't cheat or drag in the slightest.

Anyway... Just go reread my first paragraph again then go see this movie. It's awesome.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Grand Theft Auto V Selfies

One neat little feature of GTA V is how your characters all have cameraphones. Here are some (not terribly exciting) pics I took around

Pacific Rim

It breaks my heart to say this, but Pacific Rim wasn't a very good film. It wasn't a bad film -- at least, I didn't think so, but I could definitely understand if somebody else thought so -- but it just wasn't very good, which is a disappointment considering the concept, the cast, the production values, and the director involved. It was just a bit of a mess, lacked any real plot or characters to care about, and was mostly boring.

Here's the plot: giant alien monsters are invading our planet from a different dimension via some kind of portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, so the people of Earth create giant robots controlled by pairs of human pilots to fight off the monsters and hopefully destroy the portal forever.

Sounds awesome, right? I mean... if you're a geek, that is. Director Guillermo Del Toro has long been a geek god, having crafted some of the best comic book and fantasy films of the past decade, from Blade II to both Hellboy films, to Pan's Labyrinth, all of his movies have been visual masterpieces, but also full of heart and story and characters we came to know and love. But this film kind of dropped the ball, and while there were moments when it felt like a Guillermo del Toro film, for the most part it just seemed like they came up with a cool concept, but then phoned everything else in. There was more character development in the first ten minutes of Pan's Labyrinth than there was in this entire film.

I don't remember any character's name, let alone did I care about their stories or backgrounds during the actual film. They were just that guy from Sons of Anarchy, who is actually a very good actor but you wouldn't know it from his performance here, that Asian girl, that guy from the Wire, who is also a very good actor but you wouldn't know it from his performance here, and I was never quite sure if his accent was supposed to be British or Southern. For real.

I did like the performance by Charlie Day, since he's a quirky actor who actually seemed to be the only one having fun in the entire movie. He was basically just playing Charlie from It's Always Sunny only as a scientist, but that's ok by me since that's funny in and of itself. His few scenes with the equally quirky and fun Ron Perlman were the highlights of the entire film.

But how were the actions scenes, you might be asking. How were the fights between the monsters and the robots?


They were ok. They were probably even really cool, and they were certainly the coolest things about the movie, although they were far too few and over far too quickly, since most of the movie was actually just people talking about the monsters and robots. Anyway, the fights themselves were pretty cool, but you know what would've made them awesome? If you could actually fucking see them. Why does every fight in this movie take place at night, in the rain? I'm not joking. Every freakin' fight in filmed in darkness under a layer of torrential rainfall.  I watched this movie to see robots fighting monsters... let me see that! And if that wasn't bad enough, the film's big finale takes place at the bottom of the ocean!

If they ever make a sequel to this movie... please... have it take place in the middle of the desert. The designs of the monsters and the robots looked cool, from what little I could make out. Why not let us actually see them?

This is what the entire movie looks like
There were a couple fight scenes that were just between humans, like the bit where the Sons of Anarchy guy had the stick fight against the new recruits, or when he had that fight against that Australian guy... and both of those scenes were better, more exciting, and more fun than any of the fights between the monsters and the robots... and that's just wrong. 

So as a film, this just fell flat for me because the characters were boring, the story was so slight as to be nonexistent, and the action sequences were so hard to follow, which is all a shame because the production values were amazing. The sets and computer effects were outstanding, and the cinematography by Guillermo Navarro was up to his usual high standard. This is the guy who has done the cinematography for every film by Guillermo del Toro, and even won the Academy Award for Pan's Labyrinth. All of his films have this amber hue that is really gorgeous, and this might be his best looking film yet.

It's just such a shame the film didn't really come together as a whole, so I can't really recommend it, even though I can't recommend avoiding it either if you're at all interested. I don't regret having seen it, and it's the kind of movie I can see myself rewatching again someday if it ever comes on Netflix or HBO, since it was cool and fun, just not as cool and fun as it should've been.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Movie Trailers

Whenever I'm bored, I watch some movie trailers... then I share my thoughts with you, so you get bored. Anyway, let's get right to it:

Big Ass Spider
Is this a real movie? Or is this an Asylum movie? It says it's coming to theaters, so I guess it's a real movie. Anyway, I'd be lying if I said this wasn't a ridiculously entertaining trailer. Every joke made me laugh, and it looks like it could be fun... as a trailer. I doubt I'll see it, but this trailer was funny. I'll check it out if it ever comes to Netflix instant.

Hercules: The Legend Begins
They should've called this movie "Hercules: The Legend Ends." This looks awful.

Hercules looks better.

The Monuments Men
This looks pretty great, and I'll probably see it in the theater. I have no snarky comments.

Ugh. This guy. I've never understood the appeal of this guy, and since this trailer doesn't have a single joke, I have to repeat myself: Ugh. 

I, Frankenstein
... huh? What the hell is this movie? What does this have to do with Frankenstein? Does anybody like Aaron Eckhart? Hey, you know what's interesting... Aaron Eckhart was in one of those Chris Nolan Batman movies, and Lt Eckhart was a character in Tim Burton's first Batman movie? Wait... that wasn't interesting. Anyway, this was one of the worst trailers ever.

Dear, Mr. Watterson
I'm not sure what this is about. I mean, I know it's ostensibly about Bill Watterson and his comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, but other than that it's good and people like it, what does this film's purpose seem to be? I agree that Calvin and Hobbes is one of the best comics of all time, and I agree that Bill Watterson is a genius, but I also know he chose to retire and refused to commercialize his characters in anyway beyond the publication of his strip in newspapers and collections... so I have no interest in this film because I doubt he would have an interest in it. And, really, two hours of people talking about why the love something is never as fun as just enjoying that thing on its own.

Hmm. Interesting trailer for what is probably a pretty good movie... but I don't find myself hooked by the story. However, I like that guy from Thor and Ron Howard has a pretty impeccable track record as a director. I think I've liked everything he's ever made, so I'm intrigued. Dunno if I'll see it in the theater though, or if I've already missed the chance for that matter. But it looks neat. 

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Alex Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Chris Pine. One of those actors is not like the others.

But whatever. Chris Pine is fine, and it's probably unfair to compare any young actor to Harrison Ford or Alex Baldwin, but still... He has yet to prove he can carry a movie. Having said that, this movie looks ok. Jack Ryan is a good character, Kevin Costner is always fun, and the fact that Kenneth Branagh is both directing and acting in it is intriguing. Oh... and Keira Knightly. Remember her? Anyway, I'll Netflix this one someday.

Yeah, ok. If this actually comes out in the theater, I'd maybe go see it just on principle. Who doesn't love Jackie Chan? I'm glad to see he's still working. He should be the new Jack Ryan.

Argento's Dracula 3D
Dario Argento is still alive? And he's making another movie? And it's in 3D? I really, really wished this looked good.

Video Clip of the Week: When the Saints Go Marching In

Been many weeks since I've done one of these, but I think it's time I brought it back... if only for an excuse to post this one. This is one of those videos that once it starts, I never want it to stop:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Room 237

Now here's a real piece of shit.

I try to be nice about these things. Really, I do. I try to see the best in everything and assign the very best of intentions. But lord was this movie bad, and it was the first film I've seen in a long time that actively made me angry. It wasn't just poorly executed, but poorly thought out and completely inscrutable from start to finish. In other words, a real piece of shit.

This film is ostensibly a documentary about Stanley Kubrick's seminal horror film The Shining, or, at least, that's what I thought it would be. I had heard about it when it was in production, and then I saw it the list of newly added instant selections on Netflix, so I decided I'd check it out. I'm a fan of The Shining and its production -- along with every Kubrick production for that matter -- has become the stuff of legend. But this wasn't a documentary on the film's production. In fact, I would be hard pressed to call this a documentary of any kind. It was basically just a film-version of the IMDB user comments page.

Here's the premise of this film: A half dozen or so people talk about their various crock-pot theories about this film's meaning and intentions. These half dozen or so people are never seen or introduced, so we have no idea who they are, what they look like, or what their credentials are. All we hear are their voices and idiotic, insane ramblings.

The first theory about this film's meaning is that it's Kubrick commentary on the genocide of the American Indian by the United States of America. The evidence presented? It's mentioned that the Overlook Hotel was built on an old Indiana burial ground, there is a photograph of a Native American chief on the wall in a hallway, and in the scenes in the food cupboard, a few cans of Calumet baking powder are seen in the background for a few seconds. That's pretty much it, and this theory is somehow discussed for about fifteen or so minutes and presented as irrefutable proof that Kubrick's entire film is solely about the genocide of the American Indian.

And that's just one theory out of about half a dozen, each more ridiculous than the next, all told with the utmost earnestness and conviction, if not the best sound or editing design. At one point one of the narrators apologized before excusing herself to quiet her child in the next room, and I'm not making that up. I'm pretty sure this film's audio was recorded entirely via Skype.

Another theory is that the film is actually about the Holocaust. Why? Because there is a reoccurring Eagle motif which somehow only signifies Nazism. Oh, and when this film discusses reoccurring motifs, they pretty much only show two examples, which anybody can tell tell you does not prove a pattern. Oh, and the number 237 itself (which is the room where Jack and Danny see that ghost) can be turned into the number 42 by multiplying 2x3x7, and since 1942 was when the Nazis formally decided on their Final Solution, therefore this film is entirely about the Holocaust.

And don't even get me started on the theory that this film is actually Kubrick's attempt to admit his culpability in helping NASA fake the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard, not only because the theory itself is wholly unsupported by any legitimate examples from the film, but because the Apollo 11 actually landed on the fucking moon.

I suppose in a way this film might as a commentary on the over analysis of film itself, but then I would have to be just as crazy and obsessive as the crackpots found in this movie... and I don't want to go there.

Do I have anything nice to say about this movie? Whoever edited together the footage from the Shining (along with some of Kubrick's other films), did a decent job matching it up with the dialogue. But other than that... this was a real piece of shit.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Grand Theft Auto 5

I can sum this game up in one word: Fuckin' really, really brilliant and awesome and amazing. Oops. I guess I went overboard and threw in a little too much detail, but then again, so did Rockstar when they developed this game. Long story short: This is the best GTA game yet, which automatically makes it front runner for best game ever.

Bascially, it's just fun. A lot of fun, in fact, and in ways the earlier GTA games lacked. Every GTA game has been fun, of course, but they've all lacked something or had some kind of odd control quirk that was just frustrating enough to be a constant annoyance. The earliest couple games were amazing, but the top down perspective was really hard to master and never really felt comfortable. The first few 3D versions had some terribly stiff control, making the characters feel ripped out of a Resident Evil game. And GTA IV, as brilliant as it was,  had a really floaty camera in the driving sections that made it hard to see where you were going, especially when you had to turn a corner. But this game pretty much perfected all that, and it's the first entry in the series about which I can honestly say every aspect is fun, from walking to driving to fighting to shooting. As a shooter this isn't going to compare to Gears of War, but it's the first time the series has been fun and not maddeningly frustrating whenever you are forced into a huge fire fight.

Another interesting aspect is the three character structure, opposed to how every other GTA game followed only one main playable character. When I first heard about this, I'll admit I was skeptical because it sounded needlessly complicated, since these games already had story structures that were notoriously hard to follow... but it works. In fact, having three characters to switch between at your leisure made things somehow less complicated, since you're able to take a break from one character's storyline while you play around with another one. Of course, there are also moments where the game forces you to play as one character or the other, often after one goes into "hiding" after a big heist, but the best moments are when all three characters team up on a mission and the game has you seamlessly switching between all three.

Here's one example of how this works: There is one mission where your trio has to abduct a guy from an office in a skyscraper. One character flies a helicopter, another repels down the side of the building, while the last one is on a nearby rooftop with a sniper rifle. After the cops come, you alternate between all three characters, flying the chopper, hanging from a rope with a machine gun, and across the way picking off the police with a rifle, and yet it somehow never got confusing or frustrating. It was just fun and exhilarating.

Or there's the mission where one character has to shoot down a jet with a bazooka, then another has to chase after the crashing plane on a dirt bike.

I'll admit that storywise the three character structure doesn't always work, if only because the writers never seemed completely clear on the dynamics between the three characters. Trevor, the psycho member of the team who is also the most fun and memorable, alternates between hating the other characters and professing his friendship. But who plays GTA games for the stories or characters? I don't. I play for the mayhem and fun, and that's where this game excels.

There's also an online game, which just recently launched and is nearly impossible to access at this point, but the couple times I did make it in didn't thrill me. But then again, I'm a loner, a rebel, and I don't play well with others. That's maybe why I like Grand Theft Auto.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Gangster Squad


I liked this one.

Anytime I see a trailer that makes me think, "that looks like fun," but then I skip it because the critics tore it apart, I always inevitably end up renting it and think, "that was fun." Long story short: This movie was fun. It wasn't amazing. It didn't do anything a couple dozen other movies didn't already do already, and probably better. It isn't going to change your life or offer a new way to look at the human condition. It won't even teach you much about real life gangster Mickey Cohen or the L.A.P.D. officers who took him down, since this was mostly a work of total fantasy.

 But it was fun, and it will entertain you for a few hours. Who could ever ask for more than that?

Well, critics, I guess. They don't go to movies for fun, but because it's their job. If I was assigned with the task of seeing and writing about every movie that came out every week, I might crack a little too and take it out on otherwise harmless movies that usually only fail in not being better... if that makes any sense. Gangster Squad is the kind of movie about which there is little more to say than "that was fun," so I think it's the kind of movies that critics pan because writing a bad review is easier and more fun than writing a positive review.

But we were talking about Gangster Squad: It was fun. Great cast, solid script, and some truly exception action sequences. Between this film and Zombieland, director Ruben Fleischer proves he knows how to put together one hell of an action sequence, since some of the set pieces in this movie were off the hook, especially the jailbreak scene midway through the movie, and the show-stopping shootout at the end. Great stuff. He's let down a bit by his script, which is mostly just a bunch of cliches strung together into a film: Showing how evil the bad guy is, assembling the team of heroes, the inevitable death of a colleague, the big showdown, etc. One of the reasons a film like, say, the Untouchables is so great is because there wasn't a single member of the team that the audience didn't care about, so when Sean Connery and that little account finally got murdered (SPOILERS!!), both deaths were truly heartbreaking. When some of the team dies in this film, meh.

The cast did their best, however, and helped the director elevate the mostly mediocre script. Josh Brolin was our lead, and he's never been bad. Sean Penn chews the scenery as Mickey Cohen, and proves that he must've taken some acting lessons from Al Pacino or something. I don't know if I'd call his performance nuanced or even all that great, but he sure was fun to watch. Portrayals of Mickey Cohen on film have always been that of an old, fat, nebbishy Jew, so it was kind of fun to see him as a spectacularly scary psychopath. Don't ask me which portrayal was more historically accurate.

The rest of the cast included Giovanni Ribisi, Nick Nolte, Robert Patrick, Holt McCallany, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, and Emma Stone. Now, that's a cool list of actors, and they all did great work, especially Robert Patrick as an aging gunslinger. That guy's always good and he stole every scene he was in. But can somebody please explain to me the appeal of Ryan Gosling? That guy's a bad actor, right? At least he was bad in this, which might be the only film of his I've seen. He's certainly handsome and looks great in the 1950s era suits, but every line of dialogue sounded as though he was reading off a cue card. I'm not joking, that's how bad he was. Thankfully his character was stoic and laconic, so he wasn't able to completely derail the film, but lord knows he was pretty bad.

Anyway, this was a fun, albeit slight cops vs gangsters movie that I recommend for fans of the genre, provided you've already seen LA Confidential, The Untouchables, or maybe even Mullholland Falls.