Archive for January, 2011

The Smashie Awards 2010

All right, folks! The moment you’ve been waiting for! Explosions! Gunfire! Karate! Nunchucks! Robots! Pirates! Ninjas! Vikings! Tubas! It’s the Smashie Awards 2010!!!!!

10. Crank 2: High Voltage

Damn it!

You know what? Forget it. A-Team? Expendables? Tron? Kick-Ass? Anybody good with those? Yeah? Me too. Good. Moving on.

In all honesty, it’s been a pain picking out ten this year for two reasons. 1) Because I didn’t attempt to watch all the major action movies this year, and 2) because most action movies are swapping out action sequences for… more character development. Like how “Iron Man 2″ was hyped to be the year’s biggest action movie, and most of it was just Tony partying and making jokes about strawberries and radiation poisoning. The pacing is off all over the place lately. Even “The Expendables” spent an unnecessary amount of time on the story when there should have been more punching of explosions.

Anyway, until times change back, I’ll just put the Smashies on the back-burner and do what every other blogger does:

Talk about my favorite movies.


My Five Favorite Movies of 2010

5. Predators

I can’t believe it took “Predator 2,” “Alien vs. Predator,” and “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” before we finally got a movie that was worth calling a sequel. And as blasphemous as it sounds, I liked it a lot better than the first movie. But that’s the way it should go. Much like “Aliens” and “Terminator 2″ before it, I think “Predators” is one of those rare sequels which is better than the original (sorry, Arnie.)

I also think this is the movie “The Expendables” should have been, where they literally drop all the action stars into a situation that requires them to fight for 90 minutes. In “Predators,” a group of trained killers, mercenaries, and convicts are thrown into an alien game preserve where they have to outsmart several Predators and their twisted hunting methods. The movie doesn’t waste any time throwing us into the action, and once the movie gets deeper in, we start to find out that each person is here for a reason. It’s like the movie “Cube,” but with less math and more fire. Adrien Brody’s great as the new Schwarzenegger, Laurence Fishburne’s all kind of crazy awesome, and there’s even an old-fashioned samurai sword fight. Followed by more fire. Why shouldn’t I love this movie?

4. Alice in Wonderland

I really enjoyed this movie when it first came out (and I really don’t think there’s a better-looking film this year) but all the little things kept nagging at me. When did Wonderland turn into “Lord of the Rings?” Why doesn’t Alice just eat a mushroom and stomp on the Jabberwocky? Why can’t the Cheshire Cat just vaporize the Queen? Why is there even a plot?

After a few viewings, however, I had to remind myself that Wonderland is a place that only exists in Alice’s mind, and that as she grows older, Wonderland becomes this meta-physical world Alice uses to fight her own personal battles. After realizing that, the movie became a lot cooler, and I understood that the film wasn’t supposed to be any more logical than Alice herself. It’s a really fun movie to psycho-analyze. And if psycho-analysis isn’t your thing, at least there’s always Helena Bonham Carter and her gigantic head screaming for a warm pig belly while monkeys hold up her furniture.

3. How To Train Your Dragon

So how did this get here instead of “Toy Story 3?” Don’t get me wrong – I love both movies. But while TS3 is a great way to end a franchise, I thought I’d give this spot to “Dragon” just because it’s a great beginning to a new franchise.

What absorbs me into this movie is how they explore the whole viking vs. dragon lifestyle. It’s like “Pokemon,” where every dragon is different with special abilities, only unlike Pokemon, it doesn’t make me want to go brain-dead. I want to see these dragons in action, and I want to see what the characters do about them. And it also helps that with Chris Sanders as director, all the animation is a treat to look at, so both visually and story-wise, nothing in the film loses my attention.

I can see this movie spawning a few sequels, but unlike Shrek, I can’t see those sequels wearing out their welcome as quickly since there’s a lot left to work with. Out of all the Dreamworks Animation films, this one has the most heart.

2. Inception

What’s to say about Inception at this point that hasn’t already been said? Here’s a movie where they put a twist right at the beginning of the movie, and then twist the twist a couple times at the end. Of course, it’s so complicated that if you miss one minute of the movie, you’ll be lost for the rest of it. Still, it’s the originality and the pace of it all that works. I like Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page, I like the special effects and action sequences, and I like the overall story.

I also like how this is one of the few movies that really lived up to the hype for me. I’ll admit “The Dark Knight” isn’t in my top five Batman movies, so when I when I heard the praise for “Inception,” I figured that was the Nolan fans over-hyping everything. But nope – I walked out and had to agree: this was a pretty sweet movie.

1. Scott Pilgrim vs The World

No surprise here, as I mentioned before that this is one of my new favorite movies. The plot moves quickly, the dialogue is memorable, the characters are hilarious, the soundtrack is fantastic, and it’s one of the few action movies where the battles really do get better and better.

But much like Alice or Inception, it’s another movie I can appreciate on a meta-physical level. As the director stated, “Scott Pilgrim is like a musical, only instead of breaking out into song, everyone breaks out into fights.” So it’s a really clever way of taking a story about dealing with complicated relationships and turning it into “Kung Fu Hustle.” Or rather, I like to think of it as a spoof on romantic-comedies done in the style of a video game. There’s plenty of ways to look at the movie and enjoy it on different levels. In any case, it’s an experience.

I also think this movie is the best thing to happen to absurdist comedy since “Airplane” or “The Naked Gun.” Every time I watch it, I see something new in the background (like Young Neil eating money off the ground, or a stove that comes with a laugh-track.) And the best parts never seem to run dry. I can watch the Vegan Police high-five over and over again and it never stops being funny (I think their enthusiasm is contagious.)

Anyway, I think in the end, the story’s all wrapped up very nicely – and in a very different (but just as creative) way as it was in the book. It’s a feel-good film that gets me pumped every time, and after my umpteenth viewing of it, I’m still laughing.

January 28 2011 | Movies | 2 Comments »

Acid Drive… Engage!

I can’t stop watching this.

January 19 2011 | Awesomeness, Videos | 1 Comment »

5 Disney Villains Who Got Off Easy

A while ago, I blogged a small article about the Five Disney Villains I Feel Sorry For. Lately, I’ve been wanting to do another article that focuses on the opposite – where the villains do their nasty deeds, and barely get reprimanded for it. No humiliating defeats, no karmic retribution, no falling off buildings, no time spent in prison – sometimes Disney just likes to end their movie without tying up the biggest loose end and here’s my picks for the five that get the most on my nerves.

5. Stromboli (Pinnochio)

His Crimes: Prone to violent fits of rage, Stromboli has been known to lose his temper over trivial problems in his marionette show – and has gone as far as to attack his performers on-stage. When Pinnochio helps him put on one of his most successful shows, Stromboli decides to lock the living puppet in a cage and force him to perform under the threat of turning Pinnochio into firewood.
His Come-Uppance: Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy help Pinnochio escape Stromboli’s puppet show of the damned. Pinnochio later returns wearing blue face paint and inspires the other puppets to revolt against their master. Stromboli is curb-stomped to death on his own stage.
No, wait – that didn’t happen: My mistake. Pinnochio just escapes. Stromboli still has his puppet show and his incurable rage. He was also apparently very successful before Pinnochio even came along, so all he’d have to do is chalk the boy puppet up to a “one night only” thing. After venting his frustration for a few days, Stromboli probably bought himself something very nice with all that money he made from the first show and continued his comfortable life as a traveling puppet gypsy guy.

4. Si & Am (Lady and the Tramp)

Their Crime: They destroy the entire house, fake injuries, and blame it on the dog. Lady gets put into a muzzle and some stuff at the zoo happens. I can’t remember since I haven’t seen the movie in forever. But I do recall she almost gets eaten by a crocodile because of it.
Their Come-Uppance: After spending several years in prison, Lady escapes, comes into a small fortune, and spends several more years creating a new identity for herself so she can exact her revenge. She then finds both cats and strangles them in their sleep with her own muzzle.
No. Wait: They high-five each other with their tails, the scene fades, and that’s the last we ever see of them.

3. Lady Tremaine (Cinderella)

Her Crime: Guilty of holding her step-daughter Cinderella captive for many years, forcing her to act as a scullery maid in her own home and encouraging her step-daughters to treat her like dirt. This in turn causes Cinderella to grow up and hallucinate about talking mice and pumpkin-mobiles. And when the Prince comes looking for Cinderella, what does Lady Tremaine do? Lock Cinderella in her room, of course. She hates the little girl’s guts, but refuses to let her leave. That’s all kinds of twisted.
Her Come-Uppance: Cinderella’s mice break her out of her room, and Cinderella gets to go be a princess. Yay! That’ll show you, Lady Tremaine!
Or does it?: Oh, wait. No. Never mind. All in all, this is just an inconvenience on Tremaine’s part as she no longer has free room service. After several years of slavery, she doesn’t even get so much as a slap on the wrists for the abuse she’s inflicted on the poor girl. In fact, it took two straight-to-video sequels before anyone even put her in her place by turning her into a scullery maid. But because that happened in a parallel reality after a bizarre time-travel caper, it doesn’t count.
Alternate Come-Uppance: If I recall, birds pecked her eyes out in the original story. Why did Disney leave that part out?

2. Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmations)

Her Crime: Arranged the kidnapping of 99 Dalmation puppies with intent to murder and skin them for a new fur coat. I have no idea what she intended to do with the 99 puppy corpses, and we probably don’t want to know.
Her Come-Uppance: The puppies escape and, during a high-speed chase, her car goes off a hill and crashes, costing her tons of money. She then goes to jail for theft and is promptly eaten by guard dogs while attempting her escape.
That didn’t happen!: You’re right. She’s still alive, and not arrested. She just crashed her car (for being a “crazy woman driver” as the trucker puts it) and the puppies got away. And being incredibly wealthy, she probably just bought a new car the next day. But what about the puppies? Surely she didn’t follow them, or find out that they returned to Roger and Anita, right? Well, imagine this – you just pulled off the theft of 99 puppies, lost them all in a humiliating fashion, destroyed your car, are severely pissed off, and then you found out that Anita’s husband just wrote a song about you and it’s getting tons of radio-play. The first thing you’ll want to do is blow off steam by marching down to Anita’s and giving Roger a piece of your mind, only to find… all 99 puppies that you just lost. So what’s to keep Cruella from having them kidnapped again in an insane revenge plot? Or suing Roger for his song and taking his Dalmation Plantation for herself so she can mass-produce doggy coats? No matter what, nothing after the end credits bodes well for the dogs.

1. Edgar Bergen – Fun and Fancy Free

His Crime: Here’s an oddball of a villain that most people don’t even consider. In the second half of the anthology film “Fun and Fancy Free,” Jiminy Cricket decides to attend a party after finding an invitation in the house he’s hanging out in. From there, the film becomes live-action, and we’re introduced to Edgar Bergen dressed in a stupid hat as he entertains his guests by telling them the story of “Mickey and the Beanstalk.” Innocent so far, right? Well, here’s the thing: his guests include two puppets and a little girl. And the puppets have been drinking heavily. So let’s re-paint this picture: Jiminy Cricket found an invitation in a little girl’s room to come to Edgar’s party, where the little girl is being entertained by three full-grown and very drunken men, two of which are hiding under the couch controlling those creepy puppets. Maybe the puppets were invited too? Nope. Their names are on the invitation as hosts. All three men threw this drinking party for the sole purpose of luring in this little nine year-old girl. This is arguably one of the most disturbing things ever put into a Disney movie.
Their Come-Uppance: Jiminy Cricket recognizes the situation and runs home to tell the little girl’s parents who immediately call the police. All three men are hauled away in paddy-wagons and the girl is returned to her family.
Really?: No. Jiminy starts drinking too and joins the party. Fortunately, the giant from the beanstalk story makes an appearance in the real world and startles Edgar so much that he faints.
So what’s the Problem?: Most people recover from fainting in minutes, and it doesn’t change the fact that when Jiminy leaves the party, the little girl is still at the mercy of the two puppeteers under the couch. On the whole, “Fun and Fancy Free” is a fun movie in itself if you ignore the horrifying truth that this poor girl isn’t going home tonight. This is what happens when half the Disney animators get drafted into war.

January 15 2011 | Movies | 1 Comment »

Mini-Game Reviews: End of 2010

Throughout the year, I’ve started many reviews of random games I’ve played. Many of those reviews got side-tracked by my projects, so I’ve decided to consolidate as many of them as I can into one post. This isn’t a complete list – just random games I can remember off the top of my head in no particular order.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game (PS3)
Got this one for Christmas last year. Really fun. Although I remember one of the opening levels sucked a lot. We spent most of Christmas morning just running around stuck in a hotel and chasing Slimer. But once I got the game home and continued playing the rest of it, it got so much better and a lot more fun. Otherwise, it’s a great game. All the original cast reprises their voices, the dialogue is written by Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis themselves, and there’s some really epic battles later on in the game (you get to fight in the Civil War and then defeat a Giant Slor.)

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (PS3)
Here’s one that had great word-of-mouth, but when I played it, I was disappointed. I did like how they were trying to give it an authentic movie feel, but all of it was lost on me since 90% of the game is still nothing but endless gunfights. And the AI drove me crazy since these guys kept moving out of my sights before I could finish lining up my shots. Seriously, who brings hundreds of enemy mercenaries to a dig-site anyway? This isn’t WW2, and this isn’t the Third Reich I’m fighting. There’s logically no way to organize all these henchmen throughout the jungle.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)
This one was a huge improvement for three reasons. 1) When I aim my gun, he always points it in the right general direction, making the gunfights a lot easier. 2) The number of enemies are now more realistic and the gunfights aren’t as tedious, and 3) the action sequences in this one are freakin’ sweet. It’s a lot more fun to play this time around.

Assassin’s Creed (X-Box 360)
I only played the first three missions. They were all the same. Climb tower. Find vantage points. Pick pockets. Fight guards. Kill man. Run away. By mission four, I asked my brother if the rest of the game was like this, and he said yes. So I switched over to “Kung Fu Panda.”

Kung Fu Panda (X-Box 360)
Hurray! Licensed game from Activision! Pretty standard movie-based platformer. Nice in-game fur effects. About halfway through, Activision shut down our King’s Quest project, so I quit playing this game in protest (that’ll show ‘em!) I finished it later after they re-instated our commercial license.

Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (PS3)
BATMAN: “I’m Baman!”
SCORPION: “I’m Scowpian!”
BATMAN: “I come over the house!”
SCORPION: “We’re best fwiends!”
Only three people in the world really know the meaning behind that.

Katamari Damacy (PS2)
I think the whole point of this game is to unlock the last level and roll up the whole world. Before that, there’s just no point. All you’re doing is running over cheese and buttons. Screw that. I want to run over a giant octopus and a rainbow!

Dark Forces (PC)
I used to be so pro at this game when I was a kid. I could describe an exact walk-through to someone with my eyes closed. Then I pick it up again after all these years and get stumped. Everywhere. Some things just don’t come back as easily.

The Hobbit (PC)
Finally got around to finishing this. Good game. Follows the book well. Turns Bilbo into freaking Kratos but it’s all in good fun. I like the last level where they turn the Battle of Five Armies into a ridiculous Rube Goldberg puzzle.

Mass Effect 2 (PC)
Ah, the big one. I had to finish this one twice because I had both my Paragon and Renegade saved over from the first game. This time around, the whole game’s about putting together a team so you can fly into a suicide mission. It also features the first time in years where a mainstream game can land you in an un-winnable state. If you forget to do certain things before going to a certain place, you stand the chance of losing team members to random accidents during the end-game. It’s pretty awesome like that, actually. I still like how my entire crew will justify every evil decision I make.

Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People (PC)
Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner: Fun episode. Decent opener for the season.
Episode 2: Strongbadia the Free: Awesome episode. All the characters turn their houses into different countries and you have to go around invading them. I love it.
Episode 3: Baddest of the Bands: Epic episode. Features cameos by Limozeen!
Episode 4: Dangeresque 3: Cool episode. The whole game is shot in the style of a home movie where all the props are cardboard and the bloopers are left in.
Episode 5: 8-Bit is Enough: TROGDOOOORRRRRRR!!!!!!!

Back to the Future; Episode 1 (PC)
My first impressions of the new BTTF game are pretty positive. It has the feel of the movies, lots of great dialogue, some excellent remixed music, and has lots of fan-service (but with twists.) Marty’s voice is spot-on, and Christopher Lloyd still delivers. My only quirks: the animation can be a little blocky, and the puzzles are way too freaking easy. What gets me is that they actually put several hint systems inside the game – as if anyone would ever need them. But back on the plus side, this is probably the best season-opener of any Telltale series. And since the season-openers are almost always the weakest episodes, I can’t wait to see how the rest of the season turns out.

January 10 2011 | Video Games | 9 Comments »

Movie Reviews: December 2010

TRON: LEGACY

So what’s a Tron?: Tron is a security program designed for the purpose of protecting Encom’s servers from the scourge of the Master Control Program. Inside the computer world, he appears as a human covered in neon lights who plays frisbee.
So this movie is about Tron then?: No, he’s barely in it. But because he has a cool name, he gets to have the movie named after him.
So then what’s the deal with this movie?: It’s a sequel made 28 years after the first one, which is just enough to confuse all the movie-goers who didn’t even know the first one exists. It has Jeff Bridges playing the Dude from the first movie and getting trapped in his own version of Reboot’s Mainframe, causing his son to come rescue him. It’s pretty awesome. I love the action sequences, and Jeff Bridges plays two different kinds of bad-ass in it. There is a bit of a lull in the movie during the middle part, but the rest is all pretty good and kind of goose-bumpy.
Dude. Reboot vs. Tron. Think about the possibilities: That’s too much awesome geekiness for the world to handle.

Tangled

Why is it called Tangled?: Disney’s marketing department decided boys don’t want to see movies about girls and changed it from “Rapunzel.” So they went with a hair-pun. To me, that’s like calling The Little Mermaid “All Wet” but what’s done is done. Incidentally, the marketing department also hid the fact that it’s a musical. This is sad, because the world needs to know that they’ve gone back to using Alan Menken songs, and we’re free of Randy Newman’s tyranny.
And how is it?: I was apprehensive at first because I was only going in with all the word-of-mouth this movie was getting. But now that I’ve slept on it… holy smokes, it’s really good. This is exactly the kind of movie that fits in with all the real Disney classics. It has the humor, the characters, the story, the musical numbers and atmosphere which all make it work (and the lack of pop-culture references.) It’s also animated in a way that makes it look like a 2D movie if you squint your eyes and pretend all the textures and shadows aren’t there. I enjoyed it the first time, but I have a feeling I’ll like it a lot more when I see it again.
Nitpick: My biggest complaint is that while they’re trying to re-invent the Disney animated musical, they’re still falling back on too many old Disney ideas. There’s a lot of throw-backs to other Disney films like “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast,” and during the boat scene, I kept expecting two eels to capsize them. And while the songs are good, only about two of them are catchy while the others fall back into “generic forgettable musical number” territory. But so far, none of this was enough to actually ruin the movie experience for me.
The Best Part: The horse steals the show. I won’t spill too much, but this is the first time I’ve seen a wacky horse side-kick who was more than just comic relief/transportation. This horse is like if Boba Fett and a Velociraptor had a baby horse, and if Batman kidnapped that baby horse and raised him to be awesome.

January 02 2011 | Movies | 5 Comments »