Friday, December 31, 2010

A Special Review for a New Year!!! Video Game Assessment: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KotOR) (2003)

Okay, there are some things I really hate to admit, but here's one of them: I'm a pretty big fan of Star Wars. Now, don't get me wrong, I hate a lot of Star Wars stuff. I literally cannot stand the Prequels, most of the books suck, the comics are mostly terrible, and the video games which all make me kind of want to vomit up piles of blood... that and I black out for long periods of time after partaking of any of those activities and wake up with gore all over my hands, a toy lightsaber that seems far too dented to be good, and a Jar Jar Binks mask...

...uh... moving on... I'm not proud of being a Star Wars fan in this day and age. Star Wars has gone pretty far downhill since around... oh... let's say eleven-and-a-half years ago. I wonder what could have happened then...? Well, I obviously have no clue at all.

See my problem is that there is a lot of bad Star Wars out there. I mean, besides the Original Trilogy (and not really even a good portion of Return of the Jedi), what else can a Star Wars fan do?

Well, here's the answer. This game and its sequel are the sole shining lights in an age of terrible darkness for the Star Wars franchise and its fans. I understand that sounds like quite a hefty charge to be making, but understand that I do not make this fact-based argument lightly, nor do I let nostalgia of Star Wars get in the way. I freaking HATE the Prequels. Let me say that again so that everybody can truly understand me here. Most of the games suck (although some of the early games aren't terrible), especially those games that have come out most recently. You people who like The Force Unleashed and its sequel are the garbage of society giving a man named George Lucas more money than he should have ever had on a franchise that is bloated beyond reason, a terrible fat monster... and it has needed to be put down for a long time.

Yeah, I'm talking about the death of Star Wars here. This video game and its sequel are the last good things to come out of Star Wars and they will always be. I'm not biased here either, this is the truth. Mr. Lucas doesn't seem to have a mind for anything more than money, and it's sad. It's sad to see something that I've loved ever since I was young being mutated into a terrible monster that needs to be stopped by any means.

I'm not going to rant too much longer on how terrible Star Wars has become. I'm going to be doing that when  (and yes, I do mean WHEN) I review some of the terrible things of this franchise. But in the meantime, I'm going to stop talking about the terrible things, and instead start talking about something great in a sea of crap.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, usually known as KotOR is something amazing to come out of this bloated franchise. It does what so many other things have failed to do. It captures the spirit of the Original Trilogy without riding its coattails and trying to make everything more COLORFUL, more INTENSE, MORE CGI-ish, and more "AWESOME". It relies on storytelling, great and memorable characters, and the universe of Star Wars really brought to a new life. This video game feels like a movie. Hell, I'd take this game as a movie over almost anything else crapped out these days.

The game was released originally in 2003 for the Xbox and PC. It was developed by Bioware and published by the behemoth LucasArts. When this game came out it was overshadowed by more hyped games, but soon maybe even in spite of those other games, gained a following. It was a great RPG (role-playing game), and it was made even better by taking place in the Star Wars universe. Hell, this game became 2003 Game of the Year almost universally. Do you know how many other Star Wars games have done that? Exactly zero. And yet, and I think this shows just how "committed" Mr. Lucas is to "art", this franchise was cancelled, despite being intensely popular, and featuring some of the best overall video games to come out in their respective years because the games didn't sell as well as the more hyped and more intense games LucasArts were publishing at the time. So, instead of hyping this legitimately good franchise up, they abandoned it. And don't even talk to me about the MMORPG of The Old Republic coming out. That is a blatant money-maker and nothing more. They call it a "sequel" or "spiritual sequel" to the KotOR games, but all it is is a cash-in on a few legitimately good games. Stupid MMORPGs...

Anyway, I guess I should review the game now and tell you why this game is one of the best I've ever played. First and foremost, even if you have little knowledge of the movies, this game is great.You don't need to know the movies to know this game because it takes place 4000 years before the movies. No, that's not a typo. I did type 4000 years right there. So, no characters ever mentioned in the movies are in these games. Yeah, you see a lot of alien species that also happen to be in the movies, but you see some alien species that are never featured in the movies at all.

The story is a basic one, but it works really well. The Jedi and the Sith are at war after the devastating conflict of the Mandalorian Wars tore them apart. The new Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Malak, who took the title from his own master Darth Revan after he attacked and defeated the previous Dark Lord, will stop at nothing to capture a young Jedi woman, Bastila Shan, who happens to be incredibly powerful in a rare force technique called "Battle Meditation". He intends to capture her and turn her to evil to be able to use her power against the Republic so that he can take it over for himself. There, it's a basic good versus evil story, the heart of the Star Wars franchise. It gets pretty epic and works really well.

The characters are what drive the story and they are really what makes this game not only memorable, but fantastic. Bastila Shan, the young Jedi woman, Carth Onasi, a captain in the Republic's navy, Jolee Bindo, a failed Jedi, Canderous Ordo, a tough Mandalorian mercenary, and HK-47, and assassin droid with a distinct personality, comprise just some of the crew of characters you meet along the way. They also happen to be the best characters. This game is fully voice-acted and features some of the best voice acting of its time that I have ever heard. The characters are believable and feel real in their own way. They're every bit as memorable as Han Solo, C-3PO, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, or R2-D2. They have this feel of Star Wars realness to them. You come to like them and hate them just as you might like or hate real characters. The voice acting helps so much too. It makes the character-oriented story work beautifully.

The graphics and gameplay are good. They may not be the best of their time, but they still stand up well today. I could easily play this game and compare it to other, very recent games, and be happy playing this one over a more recent game. That probably sounds a little ridiculous. Newer games should be better, but that's often not the case. KotOR is in a class of its own for me. I love the game. I love how well it worked. I love how everything comes together and makes sense. I love the combat system and the gameplay. The graphics, story, characters... they're all believable and fantastic. The settings are wonderful, ranging from a huge ecumenoplis of Taris, to the desert world and familiar landscape of Tatooine, to a throwaway planet spoken about in A New Hope, Dantooine, to a water planet called Manaan, and the world of the Wookiees, Kashyyyk. The settings are simply fantastic. Of note are Manaan and Taris, which are absolutely gorgeous pieces of programming. They both make you feel like you're actually on the planet while you're playing. You may think I'm kidding, but I always have a hard time keeping myself from simply staring off into the distant ocean when I'm on Manaan or looking up at the huge skyscrapers of Taris. It's absolutely gorgeous, and needs to be seen to be enjoyed.

This game happens to be one of my favorites. The sequel is my absolute FAVORITE video game of ALL TIME, and only because it takes everything from this game and makes it better. The characters are better, the settings are better, the gameplay is better, and the story is better, but that doesn't take away from what this game accomplished and how well it was received by both Star Wars and video game fans alike. There are many reasons why this game is one of the best games ever made despite LucasArts and its time limitations and the cut content lurking within this game (Yes, there was even more content made for the game that was never implemented because LucasArts instituted a Christmastime deadline for this game, which means things had to be cut. This means that this game could have been even better. What the Hell, Lucas?). This game brought back the nostalgia of the Original Star Wars trilogy without compromising story for Jar Jar Binks "hilarity", overly stupid lightsaber duels, podracing, terrible acting, or needless characters, and insipid dialogue.

This game, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, is Star Wars to me. Hell, to me this game is more Star Wars than 2/3 of the movies, which is a travesty, I must say.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Movie Appraisal: The Thing From Another World (1951)

The Thing From Another World is a horror and science fiction classic film directed seemingly jointly by Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby that was remade by John Carpenter into The Thing (1982). That's all you really need to know. The opening title sequence is pretty much the same as the remake to this film, which tends to be the better known movie. The Thing happens to be one of my favorite films of that genre, so I was very interested to see how this movie holds up.

It's pretty good actually, but also very different from The Thing. I had known this before seeing the movie, but it is kind of weird seeing just how different they both are, even with many elements remaining the same. They both take place in the Arctic. They both heavily involve sled dogs. They both go to a crash site. They both fight the alien off with fire.

Now, I'm not going to say that this film is better than The Thing. It isn't. It's very good for the film it is. It's actually quite good for a science-fiction horror film made in the early 1950s, much better than I would have ever thought. I can see the kernels of good ideas all around this film, but without the technological know-how as to how to execute a lot of those thoughts, the movie comes off as sometimes awkward, and not even a little scary.

This is something to remark upon actually. This film is not exactly scary, but it can be unsettling in points, especially when the audience cannot see the alien. Once the audience gets a good look at the alien and sees he's a guy in a suit who looks a little confused, it really takes away from any horror within the film. The unsettling mood of the movie before that point really changes once that alien gets his first big appearance.

This film also has a big deal of tell, don't show, which is frankly exactly how most of these early horror movies are. They describe dead men in great detail, or the horror of the alien, and that works. They didn't have the technology or desire to show off gruesome bits and I thought it worked out well. The alien, once melted out of the ice block, is simply not as scary as they describe. I know in the theaters back then, it would have been a huge payoff, but today the alien simply does not stand up well. He looks a little silly.

The acting is okay, but it's always okay in these early sci-fi horror movies. It would not ever blow me away, and certain characters seem incredibly awkward when they're not supposed to. Margaret Sheridan (playing Nikki Nicholson) is the biggest example of an actor/actress in this film simply not seemingly knowing her lines, or not acting correctly or something. Most of her lines, especially her early lines in the film, come out awkward and hesitantly, and it really did not work in connection to who her character was supposed to be.

The story itself is quite interesting, and the film is actually worth a watch if you enjoy classic sci-fi or horror films. If you're into those films already like I am, you kind of know what to expect. It's better than most and the science parts of it are actually remarkably well-done. I liked them a lot. It was a thoroughly entertaining movie.

As for characters, most of the main characters are fantastic.They all have their own personalities and are quite well acted. The scenery is also well-done, as in the portrayal of the cold they constantly have to be aware of. I liked that when the plane came landed the few times it did. It looked awesome and felt like something epic. Also the landing site of the flying saucer was well done and a great scene as well.
All together this film is a very well done classic that should be watched by any kind of enthusiast for films such as these. If you enjoyed the remake, you'll more than likely enjoy this one too, even without Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, and Keith David. Just don't expect any body horror, although there is some amazing scenes with fire to watch out for.

"Watch the skies, everywhere, keep looking! Keep watching the skies!"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Movie Appraisal: Below (2002)

What a strange movie. I'm not entirely certain how I should review Below. Should I review it as a World War II movie? A submarine movie? A horror movie? A psychological horror movie? A ghost movie? Or some combination of all of those? I just don't know. I don't know what genre this movie is trying to be besides regular creepy.

Below reminds me of Event Horizon in many ways, except it's not even close to as good and is a bit more psychological in some aspects. I don't think it's a bad film per se, but it isn't a great film either. The acting shouldn't even be talked about. The characters were forgettable. The plot was a bit ridiculous. The horror wasn't fantastic (although it was decent), and the best thing this movie had going for it was the claustrophobia.

As a World War II movie, this one has just enough of that era's plot to get by. Honestly though, I can see a movie like this taking place during any era. The few parts that are really World War II era specific aren't done incredibly well. I like the era talk and what I'm supposed to believe are the era's clothing, but besides that this movie really has nothing to do with the era it supposedly is in.

As a submarine movie, it's not a bad flick, showing the claustrophobia and nervousness in such tight quarters. I actually think that the claustrophobic elements in the film are the best things in the film. Most of the imagery involving the limited space is quite well done.

This movie is not really a horror movie. Oh, it has elements of horror, but it's more a thriller... and even that is being generous. It does have a jump scare from time to time and it wants you to believe it's building up the scares for the climax, but it's not. It's just playing games and pretending to be something it isn't. Sad really.

Psychological horror? Ha! This is weaksauce psychological thriller material at absolute best. This is the kind of film that would make Jacob's Ladder laugh with rage! Anybody who even compares this film with a gem like Jacob's Ladder is confused and probably insane.

I guess there are ghosts? I don't really know... It's never explained, which is fine, but it's also not done well which isn't fine at all. I do like the banging coming from outside the submarine. I thought the sounds were very well done, but the imagery really does leave something to be desired. As a horror film it falls apart, but I think it would stand up fairly well if it were a creepy radio drama. As I said, the sounds are actually fantastic.

This is not a great film and I don't have much to say about it. It's decent, but there are so many better films out there... why would somebody watch this over any other given movie? Hell, I only watched this because I was going to watch and review The Beyond by Lucio Fulci and I couldn't because my television was in use. So, I had to freaking settles for watching this on my laptop. Yeah. That's my story for watching this piece of crap movie... Anyway, it's not unwatchable, just not great. Watch it in the background while you're doing something else and you'll have much more fun than if you're watching it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Movie Appraisal: The I Inside (2003)

The I Inside is a psychological thriller. It really is. I know I've been a little careful about naming genres, but this movie is in no way a horror film, but a thriller film? Yeah. That pretty much hits it on the button. It's a good film too, full of something most movies today don't seem to have. But I'll get to that. I'll get to everything.

The movie starts off with a man waking up in a hospital. That's always a bad sign in movies, especially movies like this. It makes them easy to predict. Hospitals seem to be the place to go for these types of movies. I guess it makes sense, but still... these kinds of psychological films are so easy to predict. The story moves on from there as the main character Simon (played by Ryan Phillippe) goes forwards and backwards through time seemingly trying to figure out his own mystery.

The acting here is phenomenal. It's incredibly good, but also feels very strange. Everything feels off. The way the characters act feels strange. They don't exactly seem like real people through the way they're acting alone. But it makes it a fun ride, seeing how they act, and how it is so different from what a person in a normal movie might do.

The character of Anna (Piper Perabo) is one I think I should linger on for a few lines. Her character is incredibly mysterious and really kind of creepy. The way she acts is both off-putting and far away from what her character looks like. There is a disconnect there and it is fantastic to watch. It's understandable once the end of the film comes around, but it is fascinating to watch throughout.

Not to give any spoilers away, but this movie reminds me a lot of Stay and Sublime, both of which I reviewed in October. It reminds me of Stay because some of the plot elements almost seem copy-pasted between the two movies. It reminds me of Sublime because of the hospital setting. The I Inside is nowhere near as horrific as Sublime, but with both being in hospitals, it's hard not to see some similarities.

The film's plot is a gorgeous and anachronistic flow. It always feels subtly off, but it tells the story it's meant to tell. Everything works together and flows beautifully. Some of the things I'd like to compliment most are the gorgeous cuts through time. It's done so well and so nicely that I really did enjoy those parts.

The movie itself wasn't amazingly engrossing. Simon is a hard character to like simply because of the way he looks, like some reject from a pretty boy reality show. The main female character of Claire (Sarah Polley) is also hard to like for the same reason. The film feels like a soap opera in parts, especially when those characters share time on screen together, but it makes sense that it would, and despite the fact that both of those characters are fairly unlikable, I found both their stories fascinating nonetheless.

Then I noticed Stephen Rea. I like this guy. I think he's pretty awesome. He was in The Reaping though, so that takes down his credibility some. Even though he was in that awful film though, I still like him. He does a good job here. I enjoyed his performance, even if he did seem like he was phoning it in at points.

The filmography of this movie is all over the place. I liked the time transitions and some of the "gorier" shots (even though there really is no gore in this film) come off quite well. But when characters are simply speaking or nothing is really going on at all, the shooting style is strange and off-putting. It really took me away from the film.

The I Inside is the kind of movie I like in theory, but not usually in practice. I did happen to like this film. It's not the best film out there, but the acting is solid. The story is one I liked even if it is way overdone. I didn't love the ending because it made the whole film pointless. The ending was a bit like the ending to Stephen King's Dark Tower series, except that there was no payoff, no real reason to watch the film at all. You can watch the first ten minutes of the film, shut it off, and would have never missed anything. It's annoying when a film does that. So, yeah, this film lost some points in the clichéd ending.

Oh, one thing I don't think I've ever mentioned in a movie before, and it needs to be mentioned in this one, is the writing. The writing was singlehandedly the best feature of this film. Whomever wrote this film did a phenomenal job. The words flowed from the characters and felt real regardless of how the actors took it. Half of why I complimented the acting so much is because the writing was just so good. Two characters that seemed particularly well-written were Travis, the orderly, and Mr. Travitt (Stephen Lang), the heart transplant patient. Those two characters were funny and witty and simply awesome. I would watch a film about their adventures together, doing stuff and kicking crime in the face or something. It would be so awesome. Then Travitts has a heart attack and Travis swoops in with snarky comments easily saving his life. Yeah... oh... um... I'm supposed to be reviewing this movie, not writing fan-fiction for it...

Anyway, this is a good film, not as good as Stay for instance, but not as bad as Sublime either. It's somewhere in the middle, and it was a nice film to watch, even if it wasn't perfect.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Movie Appraisal: The Objective (2008)

The Objective is a difficult movie to categorize. It could be psychological horror, but it really isn't. It could be about aliens, but... that also doesn't really fit right with me. Is it a thriller? A soldier movie? No, it's not really either of those things... So, my difficulty in categorizing this film really left me asking a lot of questions of what exactly this film was about or why it was about it.

Not that it is a pointless film by any means. It's a decent film with some decent acting, and some very nice filmography for the most part. I guess my problem is it never really blew me away with anything. I could predict exactly what was going to happen from the very beginning of the film.

Soldiers. Fight for survival. Dying one by one. Sand replaces water. All overused ideas. All things easily predicted when the film opens. I complain about these things because it could have been done so much better. There were some VERY good ideas. One of the scenes in particular that stands out in my mind is a scene with binoculars where one character is looking through said binoculars (infrared ones, I believe, or night vision, or both. I really don't know the correct terminology here, so correct me if you see this film and I said something wrong.) and sees enemies charging at him, but he sees nothing with his naked eyes. It was very well done. Very dramatic. It was one of the few times this movie saw fit to really show some tension.

Most of the rest of the movie is... well, kind of boring. There are interesting parts, and some of the characters are quite interesting as well. The movie really wants you to care about the characters, but about half of them seem very empty. And the ones that do exhibit actual emotions and come into their own are soon killed off in radically terrible ways. The deaths in this film are terribly done. One second they're alive and the next second they're dead. It was kind of disappointing. Maybe the director was trying to show that in war things happen quick, but it really came off as sloppy filmmaking in my mind... or maybe a bad script... or not enough of a budget for good visual effects.

Speaking of the visual effects... they're pretty bad. Actually, they're very bad. It took me out of the movie when I saw some particularly jarring examples of bad CGI effects. The soldiers' bits were fairly well done though... as were the shadow effects, but the actual meat of the film, the whole "objective" is a bit of a let down. Well, it was to me. the film turned from a kind of neat, if not well-acted psychological horror film to an "UFO" film in seconds. It was pretty badly done. It would have been better to focus on the psychological horror than the UFOs, but I guess that's because I really dislike UFO films, because they mostly suck.

This film pales in comparison to other better films, but it isn't bad. I thought it was engaging and interesting. I can draw comparison to two movies in particular. The first is actually the movie that led me to watching this one: Sauna, and the other film is Dreamland (2007), which has a nonlinear and hard to follow plot, but for whatever reason reminds me of this movie. I think it's because of the way the films were both shot and the use of military stuff in both... but that's about it. The Objective reminds me of Sauna in very vague ways... mostly about the soldiers on a mission. The differences are that this movie has much worse acting, much worse visuals, and is in English, which instantaneously  makes it less classy. (Although there is an Australian, who happens to be the best character in this film in my opinion. So, that classes it up a bit.) But seriously, Sauna is a much better movie in every way and should be watched long before this movie is.

The main character in this film is a particularly good case in point of the bad acting. It's almost painful to watch his performance. But maybe that's just me.

I guess this is the point where I prattle on about the plot. Haven't I taught you already that the plot rarely matters in a movie like this? Fine, I'll do a hasty explanation. The CIA sends in an agent to get some information in a very remote region of Afghanistan. The CIA agent then recruits a few military men and they go off in the desert with only a young Afghani man helping them. They find out eventually their equipment doesn't work. And strange things seem to be following them to their OBJECTIVE. See? Did that explanation of the plot really help explain this movie at all? No. No, it did not, but I included it anyway. You're welcome.

So, in short. This is a completely average film in almost every way with exactly one memorable scene in it. It has no real category of movie to put it in, and it seems to be confused about what it wants to be. Check it out if you're really into weird films that are kind of creepy... sort of... or if you're into anything that has psychological horror at all... but otherwise stay away from this forgettable film.

I will admit one thing though: The Objective is the perfect name for this film. I've never gone out of my way to compliment a movie title before, but this one is very appropriate.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Movie Appraisal: π (Pi) (1998)


"...Press Return"


π or Pi is a movie primarily concerned with knowledge. It is a very good film, reminiscent of some of the greatest films I've ever seen. It is a great film, full of imagery and emotion. It is about a man who is crazy in the  obsessive kind of way. He probably suffers from some kind of autism. He shows his descent into something beyond madness. It is a fantastic film to watch even if it makes very little sense.

It reminds me of Jacob's Ladder sometimes, especially the scenes that take place in the subway and his room. Quite a few scenes are also heavily reminiscent of Eraserhead (1977) and Un Chien Andalou (1929). There are quite many surreal images throughout the film, and there is also plenty of body horror to go around. Another reason this film reminds me of the two latter films is because of the way the film is shot. It is in black-and-white, and tends to look like a much older film. Some of the filmography looks a bit more recent, but on the whole it is hard to see how this movie wasn't shot in the 1970s. It is very well done. I loved the imagery and the way the character is shown as going increasingly insane in his search and eventual finding of a very important number.

This film is confusing. The soundtrack sounds like some kind of hardcore science music, which is actually quite fitting, although I've never heard a soundtrack quite like it before. The narration from the main character, Max, is fitting, but also out of place in some areas of the film and a bit distracting. I've never been a person who loves narration in film. I think that the film should speak for itself, and if this film was allowed to speak for itself and would let go of its narration, it would be a better albeit more confusing film.

It's also a very disturbing film. The body horror is there. It may not be prevalent, but it does exist. Some of the ant imagery and the slime-goo stuff is kind of creepy, if not downright disturbing. The issues with migraines throughout also are very different. I have migraines, but I never get the hallucinatory and very hardcore migraines that Max has to suffer through. It can be hard to watch at points, and a lot of the more gruesome imagery does very much remind me of Jacob's Ladder. Honestly, that movie and this one seem to be almost like siblings to one another. Jacob's Ladder is the better film, but this movie is trying very hard to be as memorable, as exciting, and as bat crazy as Jacob's Ladder and it does a very good job.

It's not perfect. The shooting of the film seems a bit amateurish, much like the filmography of Eraserhead. But it does a good job showing Max's life falling apart into some kind of insanity. The other characters throughout the film do a good job of changing. They become likened to monsters at points in the films and it's a little terrifying to watch. I must say that the acting throughout the film is one of the reasons to watch it. It has some absolutely fantastic acting. The acting really does make this movie quite a good film.

I did mention that I do have a few issues with this film though. Mostly simple things that kind of bug me. Lenny, a friend character of Max, whom he meets in a diner early on in the film, is a Hasidic Jew who studies the Torah for the true name of God. He works on number theories for finding the name in the text. But he's never heard of the simple Fibonacci Sequence, something that I would think anybody working in number theory would know. I understand the filmmakers were trying to explain the sequence and the patterns seen throughout the film, but that bothered me to no end. I don't study number theory and yet I've heard of that sequence. Hell, I heard about it when I was taking Algebra II in high school. So, it seems that anybody actually studying this stuff would have much more reason than me to know and recognize the term. Some of the other simple explanations bother me as well, but again, they make sense. I was a little confused by some of this movie, and the jump-cuts didn't make it any easier to follow, but I understand. That's the kind of movie the filmmakers were trying to create and it works even though it sometimes makes no sense.

I like the ending of this film, but again, it makes no sense. The thing that leads up to the ending is actually hard to watch... and then the movie ends on a... note? I don't want to spoil it, but it is reminiscent of the beginning of the film. I liked it, but again, it was confusing. This whole movie was confusing, and yet I liked it, and I think anybody who watches this film would like it too if they don't mind being confused.

This film is surreal-horror, of the same genre a movie like Eraserhead would be. It's like a David Lynch film without the David Lynch. It's good, but I could see David Lynch making it both better and more confusing. Great film altogether though. If you enjoyed any of the films I mentioned throughout this review, you'll probably like this movie too.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Movie Appraisal: The Nameless (Los Sin Nombre) (Els Sense Nom) (1999)

The Nameless feels like a very 1990s type of horror film. It actually at first reminded me slightly of Se7en (1995). It started out like a police investigation with an odd body showing up. It was frankly kind of disturbing. The film itself has a quality to it that makes everything feel slightly off. It's a very interesting kind of film that can make even mundane things disturbing.

I don't know exactly why this movie reminds me so much of Se7en, but it does. The plot is almost nothing like it, and most things are incredibly different, but both movies feel very similar to one another. This film is all about trying to find answers much like The Ring is. Actually this movie is like a Spanish version of a mixture between Se7en and The Ring.

The reason this movie first came onto my radar was because it was compared to a psychological horror movie I looked up recently (I couldn't say which one because I don't remember.), and I wanted to see this film. It sounded interesting.

Well, this film is not psychological horror. It is far from the realm of psychological horror. Sure, it wants you to think it's psychological horror, but all it really is is a horror film. Is it a good horror film? Well, that depends. I kind of liked it. I thought some parts were decently done. The problem is nothing in this film is memorable. There are no memorable scenes, nothing that really popped out at me. The whole build up to the ending wasn't disappointing, it just happened. And I'm not entirely certain what to think about that. I kept thinking that this movie would have some awesome payoff kind of ending that would make the whole movie worth it... but it didn't. It wasn't disappointing, as I said, it just... well, was.

There are some very strange, almost nonsensical, parts throughout the film. I'm not certain why the film keeps showing the film "tearing". I've never seen that in a film like this before. It was different, but also distracting. I liked it, but it didn't make sense as to why that was happening by the movie's end.

The way the film is shot is decent, but predictable. The whole movie is predictable, but so many things come up in the movie that are never brought up again. So many plot points seem to be forgotten simply so the ending can happen in the way it happened. I wish they had redone the ending, or just filmed a different one. I would have a distinctly different opinion about the movie is the ending wasn't so... average.

The acting is mostly good, but I can't say it's great. Listening to it in Spanish is perfectly fine, but the subtitles don't always seem to match what the characters are saying. It leads me to think that the subtitles are stylized a bit, and I'm not a huge fan of that.

So, my ultimate thoughts on this movie? It's decent. I'm not angry about it. I'm not disappointed I saw it. It is a forgettable film though, and I'll probably forget the whole thing in a little while and never think of it again. I doubt this movie is anybody's favorite film. There are many better movies in this genre of Cult-Horror... and what I mean by "Cult-Horror" is a horror movie that deals with cults, not a cult film, that is more of an underground type of film that certain types of hipsters and stoners like.

Anyway, I think there are better films out there, but this one isn't terrible. It's better than Reaper or Space Thunder Kids, and, honestly, as long as a film doesn't go out of its way to piss me off, I can't say that it should never be watched.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Movie Appraisal: Sauna: Wash Your Sins (2008)

Sauna is one of the best films I've seen in a VERY LONG time. Sure, I've said good things about 1408, Jacob's Ladder, and Zombieland, but those movies respectively I've either seen before years and years ago and therefore do not count as recent films I've encountered, or count as a really fun ride kind of movie with flaws here and there, but not necessarily worthy of acting awards. There's a "subtle" difference between acting in Zombieland and acting in Sauna that can really be summed up in one phrase: Comedy vs. Horror.

Yes, while Zombieland was an absolutely fantastic film and fun throughout it had this silly curtain hanging over it called comedy. I have nothing against comedy. I'm funny all the time. Some of my best friends do comedic things. Hell, I know a ton of improv comics. My point is, I love comedy. I think comedy is often times just as hard to pull off as straight drama, maybe even harder in some ways. Having a ridiculous film is always fun. having a film that can make you smile and laugh and forget about all your troubles is fantastic and deserves much praise. My problem is that comedy films, even with horror elements, are still comedies. They don't portray things realistically (albeit very few actual films today do portray life realistically). They tend to show funny things in serious scenes therefore ruining the effects of the serious issues. A comedy is a film where the main characters usually come out all right and on top of things. The main characters usually get what they want and it's all very "entertaining". I think Zombieland is one of the best comedy-horror films I've ever seen, but it isn't as good as more serious films in my mind. The acting just isn't as strong... or maybe I'd rather see good dramatic acting than comic acting. It is harder to make someone cry or scream than laugh. That's kind of a fact.

Wow, I was really getting into that. Ahem. So, Sauna, in my mind, is such a wonderful film because it is a very dramatic horror film. Psychological horror film actually. Yeah... I know, I tend to focus on psychological horror... but they're just SO good! (Okay, most of them aren't, but the ones that are good... they are THE BEST.) This film is a bit of a cross between The Lord of the Rings trilogy (specifically the part with the Dead Marshes) and 1408. They are both fantastic films in their own ways and combining them makes this film easily one of the best movies I have ever seen.

Sauna is a foreign film. It's Finnish to be precise. I didn't even know Finland had a film industry. I've never seen a Finnish film before either, but I am going to praise Finland up and down for this underrated masterpiece. The acting throughout this film is phenomenal (although I neither understand Finnish, nor Russian, so I guess it could have been really bad. It sounded good to me though.). The visuals are AMAZING. The story, set in the late sixteenth century after a war between Sweden and Russia has concluded. The tale involves two brothers traveling with three Russians to make a new map of the borders between their two countries.

Historically, I have no idea about any of it or how good it is. I'm not well-versed in my Swedish/Russian history in the sixteenth century... but it seems good to me.

As for the imagery, it doesn't have a ton of imagery in the film, but the images it does have stick in my mind. The shots of the "sauna" itself was fantastic. It really helped to lead to the creepy tone felt throughout this fantastic film. There is very little gore throughout this thoroughly horrific film, and I feel that's a good thing since I thoroughly despise excessive uses of gore by anybody who isn't Sam Raimi. That being said, I think the film is much better without a ton of gore or some villain to take the limelight. There's a real focus on atmosphere. This movie does atmosphere better than most other psychological horror movies, and most psychological horror movies are strictly atmospheric pieces!

If you've ever heard of the phrase "Nothing Is Scarier" than you'll understand what I mean when I say that this movie takes that and runs with it. It uses atmosphere to create dread, but there is very little reason or substance to the dread. It's being built up, but the payoff doesn't come until the film's ending.

And what an ending. I think the last five minutes really sold this film to me. I don't think I'll be able to shut my eyes without seeing... I pretty much doubt I'll be able to sleep without having nightmares is what I mean to say.

I would suggest this film to anybody. It's a wonderful bit of psychological horror with a heavy atmosphere and great characters. Everything seems very cohesive and very well done. In my opinion this is one of the very best films I have ever seen, and I have seen a LOT of films in my time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Space Thunder Kids

I was going to originally call this review a "Movie Appraisal", but you want to know something? Calling this a movie is like calling a brain aneurysm fun. It's not true and it should never be true under any circumstances.

Look, I understand that different kinds of movies appeal to different people, but this movie appeals to absolutely nobody and anybody who says they like it should be taken out into the street and shown the full force of the law of intelligence. Look, there should be some kind of test in watching this movie. If you hate it like any person should, you get to walk away from the test with a nice happy diploma telling you you're smarter than cancer. If you do like it, you should be taken, strapped down to a gurney, and made to watch good movies until the day you inevitably die of awesome overload, you sick pile of STDs.

This is the movie equivalent to every terrible disease there has ever been and will ever be. It's worse than Bovine spongiform encephalopathy. It's worse than being tortured by an angry and eerily repressed transsexual named Bruno. I can't even tell you had bad this movie in-name-only is because you wouldn't believe me. You'd think that I'm on some terrible drugs that mess up one's brain to the point where even coherent thought is not possible. If you've never heard of this movie, I'm sorry to bring it to your attention. If you have heard of it or seen it... well, at least you know my pain and can share it with me. I'm not alone here. 

I'm. Not. Alone.

No, actually... no. You don't know my pain. I AM alone. Even if you've seen this "film" ABOMINATION OF THE SENSES, you don't know what it did to me. It may have made you go crazy if you watched it. It may have even made you eat babies or something kind of horrible like that, but it's done something so much worse to me. I can't even say it because it's that awful. Just think of the worse thing you can think of... that is the equivalent of what this movie has done to me. Ninety minutes of THAT!? How can a human being watch that? How can a human being enjoy it? Impossible. There is no real story. Sure, there is something, but it makes no sense.

NO SENSE.

It was terrible in every way. Loops. Taking stuff from other shows. Loops. Loops. Loops.

Am I crazy yet? Have I lost my mind? I've never seen anything like that. The awfulness of that will never no any bounds. Plot? You actually think there was a coherent plot to that garbage? Characters? I barely know which characters were on screen in more than one scene throughout the ENTIRE MOVIE.

My Darth Maul mug is staring at me and you know what? That's less insane than any second of this film. Why is that weird girl-doll-thing sisters with an anime chick-lady? What? Why is Tron ripped off so badly that Disney should have brought a lawsuit against the entirety of Korea? I don't even know anything about Transformers and I KNOW this movie PILE OF GARBAGE ripped that off too. What is with the everlasting loops? I can't stand it. This movie maybe features thirty minutes of original content. OUT OF A NINETY MINUTE FILM!!!! Just think about that for a second. Do you see what I'm saying? No, you don't understand. You'll never understand. I've seen the face of Hell and its name is Space Thunder Kids.

Don't watch this movie. Hell, forget you ever even saw this review. Go and live your lives happily and freely and understand that I shall be a tortured soul the rest of mine. I've seen the worst thing there is to see and lost all feeling in the process. Thank you, Space Thunder Kids, for making me an emotional wreck of a man. I hope you understand that you've broken me irreparably. I can never go back to the way I was before I saw that movie. I can never laugh or smile again without thinking of that stupid abomination of the arts.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

From the Editor: Saquarry was quickly taken to the mental asylum after he watched this film. He did not have the energy to submit this review himself. I pressed the button myself and dragged him kicking and screaming about the strange things in the movie, unbelievably bad things. I took him and came back, perusing the review, disbelieving that anything could be that bad. And then I found the movie on this website. I think I'll watch it. It can't be that bad...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Movie Appraisal: Zombieland (2009) (Special Thanksgiving Day Review!)

Zombieland is... sublime... fantastic... wonderful... all of those things and more. I'm not the kind of person who goes on and on with gushing remarks about any film that isn't psychological horror or Alfred Hitchcock directed, but this film was just a wonderful experience.

Maybe it was that the last movie I watched before this was The Reaping, which just so happened to be one of the worst films I have ever seen, and I do mean that. I mean, even taking into consideration I watch bad movies on the SyFy (What a stupid name...) Channel all the time and most of my favorite movie most people would probably consider drivel, I hated that movie with a passion I'm not sure even I could equal again.

But this movie, Zombieland, was literally fantastic. Anybody watching this movie who doesn't instantly fall in love with the character of Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) is a cold and terrible person who I never want to know. His character and performance really drive this film to be the best it can be. The other actors are mediocre or kind of good in parts,but Woody Harrelson really brings this movie to the next level. His acting is beyond superb and I'm actually kind of sad I don't see him in more movies with skills like that.

This being a zombie comedy-horror film, there are going to be a lot of parallels drawn to Shaun of the Dead (2004),and they are well-deserved. Both movies are fantastic in their own right and really trump anything else the zombie movie has to offer. I like some zombie films, with Dawn of the Dead (1978) being the best of the genre in my opinion, but Zombieland is a much more enjoyable experience than those other films and really does come off as a better movie than even the staples of zombie films.

The story is fantastic, again very character-driver with the four leads really showing us what the zombie apocalypse can do to people. Tallahassee and his endless search for the last Twinkie, and Columbus (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and his numerous phobias and obsessions are really well-done to the point of being fantastic on almost every level.

As for complaints, I don't really have any. The acting could have been better, but it's a zombie film. Did I go in expecting great Shakespearean performances? No. No, I did not, and I was surprised by the calibre of the acting nonetheless because it was much better than even my wildest expectations. I felt that the only real complaint I have were that the cuts to other times or places were sometimes a little awkward, but even that can be forgiven in a film like this.

The time I spent watching this film absolutely flew by and I enjoyed myself thoroughly throughout. I think that's the most telling part of a good movie,if it absolutely flies past while you're watching it. I laughed throughout this film. It was hilarious and enjoyable and I really think that anybody who enjoys a good zombie film... or you know what?... films in general too... should really check this flick out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Movie Appraisal: The Reaping (2007)

What is it with horror movies and little girls? Little girls are not scary. they have never been scary. I could punt a sixty pound girl and anything that can be punted is not scary. I'm sorry, but it's true. Sure, there can be a certain amount of unsettling imagery just as there can be with anything, but little girls are not frightening. The worst they could do is kick me in the shin and give me a bruise. That is not frightening. That is annoying. So, I guess what I'm saying is that these stupid movie-makers should realize that something so puntable is about as scary as a cute little hamster running around on a wheel-thing.

The plague aspect of the story is much better, unsettling and eerie. I usually don't like religious imagery because I had enough of it going through nine years of Catholic school, but most of the imagery here is pretty decent. I particularly like the red river towards the beginning of the film. It's a nice touch.

The story itself is a little ridiculous. It has to do with crazy Christian cults and appeasing the Devil and, I think, the Antichrist. All these movies seem like they have something to do with the Antichrist. I'm sorry for complaining about this, but the Antichrist isn't frightening either. It's just a silly thing that I don't care about. Most Antichrist stories are pretty ridiculous and I can't stand them.

This movie isn't bad, per se, but it's certainly not good. The imagery is mostly here. The acting is WAAAAAAAAAY over the top to the point of sometimes being a little ridiculous and incredibly unbelievable. The plot is convoluted and confusing, with way too many different plot points and no really enough time to explore any of them adequately. I don't know if this story has a point or if it's just silly for the sake of being silly. It seems to take the worst of the horror genre and mix it all together in a movie that is altogether forgettable and confusing.

Another thing I need to complain about is women ALWAYS having a starring role in these modern horror movies. I feel that a dude should get a starring role every once in a while, but no, it always seems that some half-naked chick is going to run around in all these horror movies bouncing up and down for a full forty minutes, and sure, maybe I'm not adequately man enough or something, but it's kind of disturbing. I don't want to have to watch that in a HORROR film. The problem is that horror films and gratuitous naked chicks seem to be side-by-side in this day and age and it's awful, just awful. Nakedness for the sake of nakedness is stupid. Why can't horror movies focus on horror and not some awful sexual perversion? It's so stupid. This movie isn't as blatant about it as some horror movies are, but it still has it and it's absolutely ridiculous.

The Reaping is... unsettling at points. I'll give it that much. But by the end of the movie it just becomes ridiculous. I watch that final plague come down and I just don't care. Let 'em all die, is the only though in my head. Let this stupid, awful movie end. Oh, and the special effects... damn the special effects... damn them to the furthest corners of whatever hell created them.

This movie is starting to make me angry. It wasn't at first. It didn't seem so bad at first, but with so many better movies out there and with this one stealing away my time forever, I become angry that I wasted my time with this insipid movie. The twists are awful. The acting is terrible. The scenery except for a few small exceptions is awful. The art style and directing are awful... truly awful cinematography. How did I manage to sit through this whole movie without throwing my chair through my television screen? I think I have greater willpower than I have ever known. I can't believe I made it through that whole movie.

This review started off calm and I didn't want to rip this movie apart, but this movie deserves it for the torment it has put me through. Hilary Swank is not going to save this movie by being the sexy action chick. I'm sorry, she just can't. The way she talks in this movie grates on my nerves, as if I'm hearing metal rubbing against a chalkboard continuously for three years of my life every time she opens her mouth and says something.

I feel as if I've aged thirty years in this ninety minute or so movie. Don't watch it, I beg you. Don't watch it or it will steal all the happiness from you and leave only the cold misery of knowing that this movie was ever made. Save yourself from that eternal torment. Be smarter than I. Don't allow yourself to ever watch The Reaping or you yourself will find yourself reaped. (And not in a good way.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Video Game Assessment: Super Metroid (1994)

Here's a game that's a bit random for me to review. It's an older game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and easily the oldest video game I've reviewed yet. Most of the video games I've reviewed so far are much more recent and therefore much more palatable for a modern-day audience. The Super Nintendo is no Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 or even a Wii. It is an earlier video game console with some of the best video games of all time on it.

Now, I'm not saying there aren't some fantastic video games thrown out today. I've actually found a few very good games that have come out in the last few years. Most of them are good for storylines or gameplay... some for their content and some for their characters, but they all have a ton of content, they all have the superior technology of today to work off of. They should be better video games. Hell, I shouldn't even have to compare a game like Super Metroid to games like Mass Effect 2 or Halo 3 or something because those games should be so much better than this game that came out sixteen years ago when video games were nowhere near the cultural media they are today. My problem is, I have to compare this game to modern day game, and you know why? It's because this game is fantastic. It holds up so well to games of today and beats a lot of them senseless with its awesome qualities.

This also happens to be the only Metroid game I have ever played. The main character being a girl, while being one of the most hardcore decisions in all of gaming, doesn't really play into anything in this game. Super Nintendo games, and especially games of this type weren't exactly equipped with stellar stories and character development. But see, the thing is, it didn't need to be. This is the kind of game that the hardship and loneliness of the game are enough to really make you care about all the contents. The story doesn't matter, not really, but it does because of the immersion, because of the feeling that in playing this game, by playing Samus, you are actually accomplishing something awesome as well.

This game used to scare me to no end. I remember when it first came out, I looked at it, played the game a bit and was so freaked out by the first mini-boss that I couldn't move on. There was a pervasive loneliness that really infested your mind as a gamer. The game still does that to this day. Some games try very hard to make the character feel as lonely and as hardcore as Super Metroid did, but few succeed in any way. The most triumphant counter-example would be Portal, but that is seriously the only one I can really think of and that game is nowhere near as difficult or serious as Super Metroid.


Super Metroid starts out in a space station with Samus trying to find a space pirate dragon thing called Ridley, who had stolen the last of the metroids, which are little brain creatures that are supposedly very dangerous. Samus is a bounty hunter, kind of like Boba Fett from Star Wars. She wears some crazy armor and can role up into a ball... for some reason... and she has a missile launcher/beam gun grafted onto one hand of her armor-suit. So, pretty much she about as hardcore as a character can be.

Anyway, Super Metroid is a platforming, side-scrolling, awesome adventure of killing aliens on the planet Zebes, and trying to find that last metroid while avoiding death all the while. It's awesome. The skillset required for this game is huge, and I think any new gamer who has been coddled by many of the current generation titles would find this game quite difficult indeed. It's not a game that is easy in any way. It's challenging and requires so much concentration that it's a little ridiculous.

I love this game though. It's one of my favorite games from the Super Nintendo era of games alongside greats like Kirby Super Star, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's King Quest, The Lost Vikings, and the Super Star Wars Series. Ah, it's awesome and nostalgic and I could play that game over and over again. It's one of those games that's both challenging and plays differently ever time. It doesn't need a clever AI or a crazy story about things that are convoluted and weird. No, all it needed was shooting some aliens, a crazy-awesome bounty-hunting chick, and some of the best visuals and gameplay an entire console had to offer.

It's an old game now, and probably pretty tough to get nowadays, but if you do own it or can find some version or copy of it, it's a game worth playing showing off both the best of the old games and why video games have become such a mainstay in our society today. So, check it out if you can and admire the handiwork of a video game as true art.

I know this review is a little random, but every once in a while I love to review something different... and I might be doing more of that for a while since I'm kind of in the mood to play some older games.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Video Game Assessment: Fallout: New Vegas (2010)

Okay, yes, I am a fan of the Fallout video game series. I love the post-apocalyptic wasteland scenario, as I'm sure many of my fellow male specimens do. It has a certain very neat feeling to it. There's something about wandering around, surviving, and shooting things that makes men feel like they're in their element. Very interesting. Even some of my friends who are the least-likely-to-survive-the-apocalypse kind of people, still tend to be very much for an apocalyptic wasteland. Interesting, methinks.

Anyway, Fallout: New Vegas is the follow-up video game to Bethesda's behemoth of a game Fallout 3, but does it surpass it, or is it merely more of the same? Well, I'll tell you.

I actually really loved this game and I didn't love Fallout 3. That should automatically make you think that this game is a better game... well, not so fast, partner. You're getting ahead of yourself making conclusions like that.

I think that Fallout 3 has many flaws. I didn't mention this in my review of Fallout 3, because I really did want to focus on the horror aspects of the game in that review, but to review Fallout: New Vegas, one must really understand Fallout 3. Fallout 3 is a huge game, with a ton of sidequests and main quests and everything. It has a ton of weapons and enemies... but it only has about two or three different environments not including the DLC. It either has the DC Wasteland or the DC ruins. There are very few other kinds of environments other than Rivet City, and the underground and broken down subway tunnels. The environments have no variability, and that's not a good thing. Fallout: New Vegas on the other hand, has a ton of environments. It goes from New Vegas itself to wasteland, to mountains, to forests, all the way to small settlements and canyons. There are a variety of enemies in all these environments, many more than Fallout 3 supported, and the enemies in this game can be frustratingly hard, unlike Fallout 3, where no enemy really posed a threat past a certain point.

Fallout: New Vegas has the added threat of not really having a ton of ammo or healing packs (called stimpacks in the game) just lying around. It makes the game really hard when there are no easy ways to shoot guns or heal, and I found myself focusing more and more on unarmed or melee weapons as I forged on in the game, simply because of the scarcity of ammo. Fallout 3 had tons of ammo and stimpacks. I never had any problem with that at all. So, Fallout: New Vegas is a much more difficult game.

Now, I'm going to talk about characters. Fallout: New Vegas has some stunning and interesting characters. It really fleshes out companion characters and gives them their own quests and stories and such, whereas Fallout 3 had very little characterizations outside of Vault 101, where the main character came from. I had trouble becoming immersed in the game because the characters didn't feel real. They had no personality, no real emotions and it really took away from the game itself.

Then there's the plot. Fallout 3 had this plot about bringing clean water to the DC Wasteland. They needed clean water because most of the water was heavily irradiated. It was an interesting plot, but the sidequests really had nothing to do with the main plot. Honestly the entire game felt like two very different games. First there was a very serious main plot storyline, and then there were sidequests that were silly and kind of ridiculous. It was jarring. Fallout: New Vegas really fixed that issue by making most of the quests tie into the main plot, and it works really well. I actually liked the plot of Fallout: New Vegas which was simply to choose what to do with New Vegas, if it should be independent, under the leadership of who was in charge before the game started, under the leadership of the big "country" the NCR (New California Republic) to the west, or if it should be given over to Caesar's Legion (a large group of raiders styling themselves after Ancient Rome) from the east. It makes the game interesting because almost all of the sidequests deal with the main plot, and it really immerses the player into the game. It's pretty awesome is what I'm really saying.

I loved Fallout: New Vegas, but I do want to say another thing very quickly. The developer of this game is Obsidian Entertainment, by far my favorite video game developer. They also made Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (which happens to be my favorite video game OF ALL TIME), and Alpha Protocol (which I reviewed and also really liked). I have a hard time disliking Obsidian's video games... so, I might be a little biased here... I hope not. I really did enjoy the game. I had a lot of fun. It isn't necessarily a better game than Fallout 3, but I really do like it. It's nowhere near as long, but the tighter story is kind of nice compared to the behemoth of Fallout 3.

Anyway, if you have the time and a love of video games, go and check out Fallout: New Vegas. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Post Script: One more thing: the game is pretty buggy right now. I mean, I ran into some very strange glitches all around. They'll probably be fixed soon, but until then, it really shouldn't be played with those glitches in the game.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Here's Something to Read 2: Return of the Words

Hey, I've finished my 31 reviews in (about) 31 days.It was quite a ride. I can't believe I actually (kind of) succeeded. So, I'm done with October, but now November is here and December is fast approaching. I'm probably going to take a week to recuperate or so and then get back to reviewing something about once a week or so... although if I see or read something awesome, I'll probably review it without too much delay.

I'm not exactly certain which stuff I might be reviewing coming up, but you can assume I'll do a more in depth review of Fallout 3 at some point for one. I had a few movies I watched or have and haven't watched yet, that I'll probably review as well. These include Ringu, The Jacket, The Night Stalker, Silent Hill, Session 9, The Changeling, The Mist, and others.

I have a few video games that I'm going to review as well (once I have the time to play them, that is). Currently Fallout: New Vegas, and Fable 3 are on my radar for reviewing.

As for other notes: in January I'm probably going to do either a Stephen King or Alfred Hitchcock month. Whichever I don't do in January I'll probably do in June. So, any ideas for reviews are always appreciated.

But so long for now and thanks for reading my 31 reviews in these October Nights!

Reviews:

Salem’s Lot
Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 4
1408
The Keep
Alan Wake
“Hands Resist Him” and Urban Exploring.
The Blair Witch Project
Indigo Prophecy
Event Horizon
“The Colour Out of Space”
Resident Evil 4
The Mothman Prophecies
BioShock
The Evil Dead
Paranormal Activity
Slender Man
The Ruins
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
Cast a Deadly Spell
Jacob’s Ladder
The Machinist
Fallout 3
30 Days of Night
Necronomicon
Half-Life 2
Stay
Sublime
Vampires
Dead End
The Ring


WHOO!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Movie Appraisal: The Ring (2002)

The Ring is probably the best film remake I have ever seen. Most remakes in my opinion are terrible. This one is actually quite good. I was going to review Ringu, the original Japanese movie, but I had absolutely no time to watch it and will review that one at a later date. I've seen The Ring a ton of times and found it to be a pretty easy movie to review for my last review of October (even though technically I'm doing this review a week after Halloween. This is what happens when one has a busy schedule of classes and puts all of this on his plate as well.).

Anyway, this is one of my favorite non-psychological horror films that still is very much a horror film. I love the imagery in this film. I like it better than even most psychological horror films. The haunted videotape is awesome unto itself and actually becomes quite hard to watch since you know what it is and what it supposedly does to the viewer. The film grabs you and never lets you go, and I can't usually say that about most recent, very mainstream films. The story is fantastic. The acting, with Naomi Watts leading it, is fantastic and believable. There are genuinely very creepy moments that will leave you with nightmares for years to come. I've always liked the fact that it rains throughout the entire movie. The fog is awesome as well. And the little girl, Samara coming out of the television screen is one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen in my entire life in a film.

Seriously, if you haven't seen this film, see it. It's absolutely worth it. If you have seen it, watch it again. It's a great film that should be watched as often as possible for its setting, tone, plot, acting, awesomeness, terror, et cetera. It makes most films seem awkward and annoying in comparison.

I love the pacing of this film. I have to say that. I feel that that is something that isn't said often enough about films, but pacing is a legitimate art-form in some ways, and here is one of the best examples of great pacing that I know of. Most horror films kind of need good pacing, but this one is just fantastic. It could be that the film is a bit of a mystery plot that revolves around Naomi Watts' character, Rachel, trying to find out about this videotape. I deem this film of the mystery-horror genre. I know most people call this psychological horror, but those people are stupid and should be ignored. What I've mostly reviewed in movies over these last thirty-one days has been psychological horror. This movie is entirely in the real world. It has no epic dream sequences or anything. This is one of the fines examples of mystery-horror, but not an example at all of psychological horror. Hell, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, is a very definite psychological horror film. This one is not, but that doesn't make it bad at all.

Anyway, this is an awesome film. The visuals are some of the best you'll ever see. The acting is fantastic, the plot is different and pretty awesome, and everybody should see this movie at least once in their lives.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Movie Appraisal: Dead End (2003)

Ray Wise? I love that guy. My first thought after seeing him was that this movie is going to be awesome.

It actually didn't disappoint at all. I found some scenes to be unintentionally (...I think... It's always hard to tell with these kinds of movies) funny, but besides that this movie is solid horror movie best watched alone in the dead of night.

I personally didn't find it scary except once or maybe even twice and only then with jump scares. It was incredibly easy to see where this plot was going. Maybe I've gotten good at identifying what happens in horror movies of this kind. I'd almost call it psychological horror... but it's not quite that. Almost. Actually, the film reminds me of Reeker (2005), which is incredibly similar, but with much worse acting and much better visuals.

Actually comparing this film to Reeker is quite apt. They seriously are incredibly similar films. If you know the plot of one you've seen the plot of both. They do both have pretty radically different ways going about handling the plot, but the plot is still the same. I'd rather not get into spoilers here for either movie. They're both worth watching, although I will say again that the visuals in Reeker are better, while the acting in Dead End (mostly because of Ray Wise, I have to say) is top notch. It really was a pleasure to watch Ray Wise go off the deep end. Have I mentioned how awesome this guy is? Seriously, if you don't know who Ray Wise is, shame on you. Go watch the entirety of Twin Peaks including Fire Walk With Me this second. No, I'm not even kidding. Stop reading this and go watch that series. You've missed out so badly if you haven't seen it, especially Fire Walk With Me, which I have to say is one of my favorite David Lynch films.

Oh... I think I moved a little off topic. My point is that this is a very decent film, and very short for easy access. I really enjoyed it for what it was. If you haven't liked other movies that I've reviewed and liked, you probably won't like this one either, but if you have liked the other films, check this one out. It's worth it.

I do have to mention the visuals and the ideas just quickly. There are a lot of supposed to be gory scenes in this film, but the camera doesn't really show the gore, which I actually really like. I think it makes the film much better in some ways. These kinds of films usually love to show the gory shots, but this one almost has some class not showing those shots. And the whole idea of "nothing is scarier" is shown pretty awesomely in this film as well. A lot of the "scary" parts really don't show anything at all, they just imply things, which is hard to do effectively, but I feel that this film did pull it off from an artistic perspective if not from a horrific one.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Creature Deliberation: Vampires

Vampires, creatures of the night, monsters beyond all horror of imagination who... until recently... had represented terrible ideas of sexuality and life beyond death, and nowadays seem to represent terrible books and movies that should be stricken from all records.

Look, I love vampires. I feel ashamed in saying that, but I find that vampires are among my favorite horror movie monsters. Although... I don't know how many vampire movies are actually "horror" movies especially in the last thirty years or so. Some books and movies that have vampires in them still stand up quite well in the horror genre, such as Dracula (1931), as well as the original novel which is still fantastic. 'Salem's Lot , the book by Stephen King, is also quite good even though the movies made of it are nowhere near as good. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is also fantastic as a very recent vampire novel. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson is one of the first novels to really explore vampires as almost zombies and takes multiple forms of vampires. Then there is a movie like Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922), which is fantastic both as an early film and a starter to the genre.
There are a few other decent vampire stories, but most of them have not been recent. Vampires as monsters are barely recognized anymore. Now vampires seem to all be about lust and sexuality rather than a monstrous force. Anne Rice is the one to blame here. Sure, Bram Stoker kind of started it off with a sexy Dracula back in the Victorian Age, where sexy was not vogue, but try comparing that sexuality to the present-day. It's gone a little crazy. Vampires seem almost to be a fetish nowadays and not one of those cool fetishes like I have, but a disturbing one that makes me shudder every single time I hear a fangirl squee about Twilight. I have really no opinion about Twilight, only because I feel it's unfair to judge something I've never had any part of. I know about it, kind of, but at the same time, I couldn't care less about some teen girl novel, or series of novels, or movie about shirtless men that kind of make me feel very uncomfortable and inadequate... I mean... yeah... if that's what all girls want... You know something? I'm not getting into this.
My point is that vampires are first and foremost, in my mind, monstrous and horrible. That's where the horror of most of these novels and movies come from. The vampire talks like a gentleman (of gentlelady in some cases), and one can never tell what kind of monster lurks beneath the surface until it is too late and the vampire gets to have a late night snack of person neck.

The vampire myths are fascinating, stemming from old time illnesses that were diagnosed as death, and people being buried before death. Hell, maybe the myths even have some bases in reality. I'm not going to rule it out. It would be hella cool if that were the case. It probably isn't... but still, you know?
I guess my problem with modern vampires is that they aren't scary. There is no obvious horror anymore and that makes me very sad. Vampires are such an interesting monster, much more refined than werewolves or zombies or Frankenstein monsters or swamp things or whatever... and it makes them fascinating. They retain so much of their humanity while also losing so much of it as well.

Then there are things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and those kinds of television shows, which are infinitely better than Twilight, but simply awful in comparison to earlier and better works in pretty much any kind of media.

I like the idea of vampires. I really do, but there are so few good forms of vampires (and there really have never been many good ideas out there anyway) that it is very disappointing to see how many failures that there really are.

I wish there could be better vampires, but nowadays vampires, true horror vampires, are fast on the decline, and it shows just how far those monsters have fallen.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Movie Appraisal: Sublime (2007)

Sublime is a movie I've wanted to watch for a long time... mostly because of the poster. No, it's not because of the woman on the poster, or at least I don't think so. I always assumed it was because the poster was eye-catching or some such thing. Well, whatever the reason was, I finally had my chance to see this direct-to-video movie.

Creepy hospital? Check. Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge syndrome? Check. I already like this film long before I ever see it, but let's see what I really think, shall we?

The movie starts off like it's going to be a bad comedy. I'm not even kidding. What is it with horror movies trying to act like comedies nowadays? It's weird. I don't know. I recognize the main actor in the film as Tom Cavanagh, a guy who I've only ever seen in Scrubs before as a very small comic character. Wow, I think, this guy is going to carry this movie?

Well, it was a decent movie of the (kind of) psychological horror. My problem is that there didn't seem to be many psychological or horror aspects to it, which kind of defeats the purpose of that kind of movie, doesn't it?

Tom Cavanagh actually does a pretty good job in this movie playing George. Another few standouts of actors are Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs who played Mandingo and who was fantastic in one of the very few horrific parts of the entire film.

The movie's plot is all right as well, going on in the same kind of storyline as Jacob's Ladder for instance except inferior, very inferior, in every way. This movie couldn't have been better than it was though. With what the plot was and the pacing and whatnot, the movie was about as decent as it could be. I didn't expect better. I pretty much got what I thought I'd get out of it.

Sublime starts off slowly and really doesn't pick up the pace ever. The visuals are not great for this kind of movie, and the best part visually were the tattoos on two different characters and the meaning behind it.

The actual ending sucks quite a bit because nothing has been learned. There are no lessons, no real reason for what happens to happen except fear and... wanting to get away from the pain... unless some of the outside world came through George's unconscious mind, but the movie didn't show it as such.

Overall my impressions of this film are average. Jacob's Ladder is better. Go watch that one a million times before you think about watching this mediocre piece of forgettable story.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Movie Appraisal: Stay (2005)

Stay is an excellent film regardless of what critics say about it. I don't even care. I've found that so many of these movies that I find the best of all time are critically panned and vilified as being terrible wrecks of cinema. Well, you know what? There are movies out there called the best ever that suck. Absolutely suck.

I'll give some examples because I feel like ranting about this. I hate The Godfather films. I hate them so much I've never been able to watch any single one of them all the way through. I will never watch any of them all the way through because they are ALL terrible movies in my opinion. They are unengaging, uninteresting, and altogether drivel. I'm sorry if that insults some people's delicate sensibilities, but it's true. The Godfather and it's sequels are not the best movies of all time. They're not fun to watch. They're awful and deserve to be stricken from the public record. Or at least that's my opinion.

Being a critic I find that most critics never say that these are things they think themselves, not universal truths. I know plenty of people who love The Godfather films... but I abhor them. Nobody is wrong there. It's just a matter of opinion and nothing else. I feel that way too many films get credit for being THE BEST EVER, but aren't... and that just gets me angry. This is all based upon opinion, so no movie could ever be the best. And anyway, why would a person want to go with public opinion over which film is the best ever. Most people are common swine and have no interest in thought, so why would I want to agree with them about a particular film? And most critics are douche-bags who deserve to be punched in the gonads for thinking their snooty selves are so much better than the rabble... and their opinions matter so much more than mine even though they suck.

What I'm trying to say is that this blog I write is really just my opinions on things. I know most people don't love the kinds of movies I love, but that's opinion and not fact. I tend to love psychological horror. It's my genre of choice, so that's what I focus on. It's what I gush over. I love Alfred Hitchcock too, and Cronenberg, and Lynch, and Carpenter, and Gilliam. Those are just the filmmakers I adore, but that doesn't make my opinion more correct than your own. I also think older movies are better than modern movies for the most part. That doesn't mean I'm right or wrong, but it's my opinion.

So, when I saw that this movie had such a low critical rating, I needed to rant about it, because, for a long time, this was my favorite movie of all time. It has since been supplanted by 1408, Jacob's Ladder, and Rear Window, but that doesn't make it any worse. In fact, being counted among those movies is quite an honor in my own mind.

I love Stay. I love it because of the imagery and the director (Marc Forster, who also directed Stranger Than Fiction, another excellent psychologically stunning film.), who did such a great job with every shot... sometimes doubling the actors in certain shots... going far and wide to make this film perfect through perceptions. I'm simply in awe of how well he made this movie. The acting is excellent. The imagery is unforgettable. The story is sublime.

Check out this film if you want to be blown away by the psychological horror (although there is less focus on the horror and more on the psychological sadly, which is why a movie like Jacob's Ladder stands up better than it) of this severely under-appreciated film.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Video Game Assessment: Half-Life 2 (2004)

Look at that face there. That is the face of a video game hero. Some names might be known pretty well by the gaming community, but very few carry the weight that Gordon Freeman of the Half-Life series does.

Half-Life 2 is one of the best video games of all time. To me this game beats out every other first-person shooter I've ever played... by far beats them out. I mean it beats them out so much that they're left bleeding on the ground begging for mercy, but the crowbar that Gordon Freeman carries around with him has no concept of this human thing called mercy. Instead it beats those first-person shooters by sheer betterness. I know that's not a word, but I don't care anymore. Do I look like I care? No. BioShock? Bah. Gordon Freeman beats you to death just by trying to kind of be like him. Any of the Halo games? Don't even make me laugh... because you won't like me when I'm laughing.

Half-Life 2 is simply better than those other games. It's a six-year old game that literally stands up better than ANY game made today... which kind of makes me sad. I mean, you would expect video games to get better over time, but that is just not the case here. This game is just so good that it literally influenced an entire genre of gaming. It heavily influenced almost every first-person shooter out there and is often compared to other apocalyptic games. Although it is always better.

There are some horror aspects of the game as well, which I like. The whole game has an unsettling feel... especially the abandoned areas in which Freeman travels. Ravenholm comes to mind in particular... almost being a zombie apocalypse kind of scenario. Also the prison level of Nova Prospekt, which has some very creepy imagery. The whole game has an oppressive and sinister feel to it. Freeman really feels like a shining light in a world full of unspeakable horrors.

There are headcrabs, barnacles, the Combine, striders, and the zombies... all of which create an atmosphere of dread for the player.

This game has perfect pacing. PERFECT PACING. It needed repeating. So many stories don't have the tight pacing this game has and they suffer for it. Every game developer and story-writer should go and play this game for the simple fact that they can see a masterpiece at work.

I should also speak of the weapon this game is known for: The Gravity Gun. Awesome. That's all I have to say.

I know this game is usually well-loved by critics... and I just have nothing bad to say about it. It's a wonderful experience. It also happens to be in my top five favorite games of all time. I'll probably mention the other games on that list at some point. I find it funny that four of my top five games are sequels to what I consider inferior games. That's always awesome when a developer really gets it and makes the sequel better.

ARGH. Now I want Half-Life 3!

Well, that's my review. This game is so awesome it makes lesser games explode from inadequacy. It should be played by every single person out there regardless of feelings on video games or skill level or whatever. It's a game that deserves to be seen because it's just as good as ANY movie, even the best of the best. It really shows that video games are certainly going to be a lasting medium.